762nd played so far

Genre: Action
Platform: Gameboy Advance
Year of Release: 2003
Developer: Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo
Publisher: Konami

I’m moving on with the Castlevania series – two handheld titles left, one of which I’m covering today. The second is the DS Dawn of Sorrow, so I assume there’s a link between the two games.

It’s another Metroidvania, a side scroller with another trip into Dracula’s castle – the storyline is pretty predictable, but it’s the journey through the massive palace and its supernatural inhabitants that matters.

Our Thoughts

While they were present in Symphony of the Night, this is the first Castlevania game I’ve played where the RPG elements stand out more. I still described it as RPG lite, but there is XP, you level up to gain HP and MP and there’s a bunch of equipment to gather. This matters because it felt like exploration was more worthwhile than in other Castlevania games, with detours always bringing you something and rooms having a purprose beyond exhausting your resources.

The game feels more accessible anyway. I struggled previously with the long gaps between save and heal points, but they felt like they occured more frequently playing through this – or at least you were directed there more often – and the stronger RPG elements meant that it was easier to push through a bit longer.

The added feature are souls. As you defeat enemies, there’s a random chance they’ll drop a soul. Each enemy type has its own and they have different ways of enhancing your stats and abilities. It’s a neat system, more appropriate to the setting than just gear, but the random nature of drops makes it difficult to really rely on it – I’ve had to replay sections multiple times, and whether or not I got a soul made a big difference.Still, it’s been a neat idea.

Final Thoughts

As I get further into the series, the Castlevania games keep working better for me. The additional convenience systems keep making the game easier to get through, which gives me more of a chance to explore the areas instead. The difficulty still goes up, which really started to opay off, but there’s a lot more in the game here that gets me roped in. That’s what I really want of it.

#96 Tehkan World Cup

Posted: 14th February 2019 by Jeroen in Games
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761st played so far

Genre: Sports
Platform: Arcade
Year of Release: 1985
Developer: Tehkan
Publisher: Tecmo

It’s amazing how many football games are in the list and in particular how far they are spread throughout the years – other sports may have had their recent game stay on while FIFA 10 was booted off, but there are plenty more waiting in the wings.

Tehkan World Cup, the effective predecessor of Sensible Soccer, is an early game to go isometric, unlike soccer-like Ballblazer that played with a simple version of the rules but went first person. It feels like that perspective change alone would be revolutionary.

Our Thoughts

Tehkan World Cup is a football (or soccer) game that plays like it. It’s also an arcade game that is, by now, over thirty years old, and it lacks the more complex features of later soccer games – you steal the ball by running into it (a tackle animation sometimes plays), there’s no need for passing and throwing in the ball is very simple. It is a lot more accessible than the new games, but in this case to the point where it lacks the slight complexity from the mid-era games like Sensible Soccer.

Although simple doesn’t necessarily mean easy, the game is simple enough that there were some exploits that made it easier to get through when the game got to the right point – get in the right position and you were guaranteed to score. It made it a bit nicer to get through, as otherwise while this is a nice basic football game, there’s not as much meat on these bones – at least it can give you that endorphin hit.

Final Thoughts

Tehkan World Cup is a straightforward football game, with limitations as you’d expect them from the era. It’s fun if you want that sort of game, but there’s games that just cater to that feeling so much better, even one that don’t go quite as in depth as many others.

#335 Blast Corps

Posted: 10th February 2019 by Jeroen in Games
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760th played so far

Genre: Action
Platform: Nintendo 64
Year of Release: 1997
Developer: Rare
Publisher: Nintendo

Finishing my Rare Replay games, Blast Corps feels like an odd dead end. It was built to be a building destroying game, and so that’s what we’ll be doing. We apparently have a variety of vehicles to work with, but I’m not sure what a jetpack will do for us here. At least we’re not shooting ourselves out of a catapult like we did previously in Pain.

Our Thoughts

For a game that relies on destruction, the controls need to feel good. Unless you’re playing a game where awkward controls are the point of the game, you need to make sure you have decent control so you can aim your destruction at least somewhat accurately. While this might have been the switch from Nintendo 64 to Xbox one controllers, there’s something awkward about the controls which didn’t feel quite camera or vehicle relative and changed a bit over time.

This is of course vehicle dependent. Blast Corps has you take several vehicles through the game, most of the levels limiting you to a subset of the eight available. A carrier makes its way through the level, its course blocked by several buildings. You need to destroy them by bumping in them somehow – driving bigger vehicles into them, stomping them or in at least one case, launching yourself into the sky and landing on top of these buildings. Some of these are easier than others, not helped by some needing fuel or ammo to keep doing their thing.

Control of these aside – and there are obviously clear differences – the levels are quite cool. The graphics are not hing complicated, but there’s a lot to destroy and enough secrets to keep things entertaining even after you clear the path for your carrier. Not only can you increase your score, there are some secrets to be found as well.

Final Thoughts

Blast Corps is one of those games that sounds simple, but creates enough variety to stay playable and create challenges. The difficulty curve is decently balanced, always giving you multiple levels to go to while not feeling out of reach. Some vehicles get too difficulty to control, which turned into roadblocks for me, but it takes a while before we reach that point.

#433 Banjo-Tooie

Posted: 6th February 2019 by Jeroen in Games
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759th played so far

Genre: Platform
Platform: Nintendo 64
Year of Release: 2000
Developer: Rare
Publisher: Nintendo

Rare Replay time! We got the collection some time ago and two final games in it had been laying dormant for a while, so now it’s time to get through it – ticking them both off around the same tie makes things easier for me.

I’ve played Banjo-Kazooie a long time ago – as game 29! – and more recently played the building-focused Nuts and Bolts that was a more recent release. Banjo-Tooie is the contemporary sequel to the first game, which considering the gap of over seven years should be an interesting challenge to pick up on again!

Our Thoughts

One of the things that I think sets a lot of Rare games apart from other developers is the character the games tend to have. I’ve mode a note that the dialogue is quite corny – pun filled and such – which sets the atmosphere for a game that leans towards the goofy. There’s a focus here on making a family friendly, fun gmae, and it pays off to create something charming.

Add to that the large, colourful and animated worlds that you move around in. As per the usual style, there are a bunch of collectibles and quests, here yielding puzzle pieces, that give you a lot to do in each level. As you learn moves as you go on, you have a good reason to go back to them to get some of the extra items. It can be a lot to keep track of, but it’s usually worth it.

One of the big ways in which Banjo Tooie expands on its predecessor is in how it adds those abilities. Not only does it give our heroes new movies, It also allows you to take control of other characters in the world with their own skills. Sometimes this is more or less as long as you want, but others are limited time which adds some urgency on the puzzle solving you need to do. And then there are the FPS-like action segments that are clunky, but so different and out there that they feel amazing on their own.

Final Thoughts

Banjo Tooie takes Banjo Kazooie and expands it quite naturally, with the original first level seeming small now. It’s quite well done, without overextending itself, but it feels like there’s so much to it. It doesn’t always all work, but this game controls well, plays well and has so much charm that I can forgive that it might not be perfect.

#909 Death Tank

Posted: 2nd February 2019 by Jeroen in Games
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758th played so far

Genre: Shoot ‘Em Up/Strategy
Platform: Xbox 360
Year of Release: 2009
Developer: Lobotomy Software/Snowblind Studios

I remember playing a turn based tank shooter called Scorched Earth when I was younger, a game where you move tanks across a plan and shoot them with different weapons – the latter offering some strategy and choice. It clearly took after Worms (or Worms took after it) with that feeling of shooting each other.

The original Death Tank took after this, making it real time instead, and it was remade for the Xbox 360, which is the version featured today.

Our Thoughts

Obviously, we’re getting a decent graphics update here compared to those games, but that’d be the obvious change. I feel like the turn based strategy works a bit better for me – there’s more strategy to it, while here I was feeling amore frantic about defeating the enemies.

You get to pick weapons in between rounds, buying more as you want them, with a huge variety. I don’t think I really got to grips with all of them (just as I don’t think I quite got to grips with the aiming), but there were some good tricks to pull with them. Sadly the reload time was fairly high, which meant there was a lot of driving and waiting to be done rather than getting into the action – I suppose it’s weirdly defensive, but not in a way that made it flow better. Still, it got to be quite fun, in part because the AI is biased to let you play as long as possible – they took each other out first on the basic mode – and so what it really gives you is that full on shooter experience. That was all I really needed.

#115 Rebelstar

Posted: 29th January 2019 by Jeroen in Games
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757th played so far

Genre: Strategy
Platform: ZX Spectrum
Year of Release: 1986
Developer: Julian Gollop
Publisher: Firebird Software

I’ve been staring at the Rebelstar series for a while. The list has a sequel in name only, in that it’s a tactical game with the same name, but not necessarily many other links between them. I start off with the 80s Spectrum version though, and just looking at the screenshots it seems clumsy – we’re still far away from the elegance of Final Fantasy Tactics or even the tactical combat from the original Fallout. Instead, I guess we get the next stepping stone to that level.

Our Thoughts

So the basic idea behind the game is that you have a strike team infiltrating a base to destroy it or get something out of it? Most of this would be in the manual, which I didn’t really see, so I mostly just ran around. It was also the two player version of the game I got my hands on, so there was no AI enemy. It meant that I just ran around trying things anyway – although that’s not really that different from most games I play for this list.

Either way, the options here seemed a bit vague – you need to infiltrate and shoot things, until you can destroy the cores, but it feels like a bunch of things would be interactive if I could get that far.  It feels like it should be more interactive and give you options, but I couldn’t spot any in there and struggled to comprehend the game. Obviously, the interface hasn’t aged well – I feel like a decent remake would make this an interesting game that wouldn’t be too long, but sadly that option isn’t here now.

#669 We Love Katamari

Posted: 25th January 2019 by Jeroen in Games
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756th played so far

Genre: Puzzle
Platform: Playstation 2
Year of Release: 2005
Developer: Namco
Publisher: Namco/Electronic Arts

I remember really getting into Katamari Damacy, with dodgy controls, but a decent concept that appealed enough to me. In fact, I keep looking out for news of rereleases for it as that might solve those problems.

The game’s sequel is on the list as well, though no others, and it sounds like it added a bunch of polish that would be great – I’ve certainly been looking forward to try this.

Our Thoughts

First of all, this game is as weird as it was before – possibly weirder, even, and we were wondering what drugs they would have been on when making this. The plot is self referential – after the success of the first game, it’s gotten to the characters’ head and the storylines riff on that. In part, you’re trying to help out people who have heard of you and want your help again. It’s bonkers at times, but suits the tone of the game throughout.

The game’s formula stays the same too – start rolling this ball, make it bigger until you get to a certain size, often within a time limit. There’s a few different areas with a bunch of changes, which make it a lot of fun, and the controls felt better this time – I believe they improved some of these as well.

The one feature that’s missing from this game that would have been nice is an endless mode. It’s going to sound like a smaller thing, but I wish I could have the option to see how far I’d get without the time pressure. It feels like an odd omission from the game and one I’m glad only seems to have been done for this entry in the series.

Final Thoughts

I only get more charmed as I play more Katamari games. The concept is weird enough anyway, but the story and execution are so bonkers that it’s amazing even without having to gather small dogs on your katamari. But since you get to do that as well, this is just even more amazing.

#904 Forza Motorsport 3

Posted: 21st January 2019 by Jeroen in Games
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755th played so far

Genre: Racing
Platform: Xbox 360
Year of Release: 2009
Developer: Turn 10 Studios
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios

The Forza series is one that has been growing in prestige, standing out as the Xbox’s racing series and with ongoing prestige – the release of Forza Horizon 4 got a lot of people excited.

For me, after playing Forza Motorsport 2 I have to move on to the third game in the series. The second game seemed decent enough and I hope that will hold up.

Our Thoughts

The basics of the racing game are, as always, good. The controls are decent enough and as boring as it sounds, this really meets those basic requirements. The question always becomes what the differences between them are.

One feature that’s mentioned early is the ability to rewind. Basically, if you make a mistake, you can rewind the game to retry parts of it. As much as that would be helpful, though, it only rewinds a limited amount of time and, in my experience, not far enough to actually make a difference. If you’re on top of it, I guess it might be better, but the system felt a bit too limited for me, when as a starting player I assume I’d be someone this was focused on.

The assists beyond that were a lot more useful. Breaking help especially helped me a lot – I tend to struggle with the low grip in the early cars and they help a lot with not needing that, with getting the right line and overtaking where necessary. Besides, they gave a decent idea of what the AI would do, so if you were going to overtake, you knew where and why.

One of the nicer features is that there’s XP in the game to sort out unlocks. It means that progress through the game is less skill based – you could grind your way through, which means that it feels like you’re always moving forward and not wasting your time. The same with always earning credits – you can always get a bit further to upgrade your car.

Final Thoughts

Forza Motorsport 3 is a good racing game. I can’t judge it for advanced player, but it’s accessible for beginners while there were clearly ways to make it harder and had some space to improve my times. There’s still a lot to unlock, too, so a lot more fun to be had.

#679 Ninja Gaiden Black

Posted: 17th January 2019 by Jeroen in Games
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754th played so far

Genre: Action/Adventure
Platform: Xbox
Year of Release: 2005
Developer: Team Ninja
Publisher: Tecmo

The video games list has a sad group of repeat entries, Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes being the most quoted remake on the list. Ninja Gaiden Black is another – a remake of the original Ninja Gaiden 3D action/adventure that we played a long time ago. More notably, this was released about a year after the original game and it mostly has an easy difficulty combined with a higher difficulty on the other difficultty settings. Right now, that feels a tad much already.

Our Thoughts

It’s been six and a half year since I played the original Ninja Gaiden and it probably shows in how I enjoyed the game. I recognised the route, including the tough first boss fight, but not enough to notice the differences between the two. The game was still as good and I enjoyed fighting my way through. I played on the medium difficulty – it seemed wrong to go with the easy one – and yeah, it was difficult, possibly more than the first, but it felt doable. I got some hints for the first boss, but as it’s known as (one of) the hardest first bosses, I was glad how it was possibly to beat it. Once I knew the tricks, it was straightforward enough to go ahead. The challenge is enjoyable, rather than frustrating, which is a high bar to clear for me.

There are a few places where the camera gets in the way as well. There’s no free look – the camera follows you, sometimes changing between rooms, and it got a bit frustrating. I don’t think it ever got completely in my way, but it could have been a bit clearer.

As far as the remake aspects go, the game looks fairly similar to the first, and there seem to have been few upgrades. The remake really focuses on some gameplay enhancements and such. It’s fine and the game looks nice, playing fluidly, buit mostly suitable for its era.

Final Thoughts

As the game is a decent rebalancing of the first game, this is probably the better game to play. At the same time, having both on the list feels redundant, as this game doesn’t move that far beyond the original – even less, it seems, than with most remakes. It’s an odd change, but if you have a choice, this is the version to go for.

753rd played so far

Genre: First-Person Shooter
Platform: PC/XBox
Year of Release: 2004
Developer: Starbreeze Studios/Tigon Studios
Publisher: Vivendi Universal Games

Although tie in games are usually seen as bad, we have seen some good ones – Goldeneye is the one that everyone loves, while Star Wars arguably has some games that are better than the movies. Still, a spin off of a random action flick that didn’t make much headway critically doesn’t feel like a great base to build on. Still, Vin Diesel helped out making the game and it clearly was good enough to have two entries on the list, so we’ll see how that works out.

Our Thoughts

While most of these adaptations would have focused on the action points of their movie, Escape from Butcher Bay creates its own plot around the titular Butcher Bay – with the help of Vin Diesel, who consulted on the game.

I mean, I haven’t seen the movie, so I’m not sure how much overlap there is, but reading the summary of the movie’s plot doesn’t really trigger any recognition, so while I’m sure there are some references, it’s pretty standalone – probably to the game’s advantage.

The game starts with a lengthy escape sequence that serves as the game’s tutorial. You still end up failing, but the way the game plays it works incredibly well and felt strangely more satisfying than you getting recaptured. It fooled me, for sure, but there’s no need to spoil that.

After that, the game drops you in an action adventure hub. You help people with missions, there’s some fighting, but also exploring and finding items. The game starts alternating between these adventure hubs and action focused segments, but it all breaks up the monotony and adds character to the areas, especially when prisoners start to interact with each other. It gets lost a little after the first area, but shows signs of showing up again – a decent back and forth.

Final Thoughts

This game shines in those adventure segments, when you get a feeling for a real world rather than connected rooms. Those action segmets are fine, but it’s that world that stands out as much as it can, with the situations and options it creates.