551th played so far


Genre: Action
Platform: Nintendo 64
Year of Release: 1998
Developer: DMA Design
Publisher: Gremlin Interactive/Midway Home Entertainment

Body Harvest has been on our radar for quite some time. The developer above may look familiar to you… Although they are now better known as Rockstar North. And while they might be best known for their Grand Theft Auto series, Grand Theft Auto 3 wasn’t their first open world game. That honour goes to this Nintendo 64 gem.

I actually recently read an article about the creation process. It ended up a lot more serious than originally intended, with a B-movie flavour. There’s also a lot of time travel for no real reason (I think). We’ll see what we’re in for.

Our Thoughts

Body Harvest clearly knows the constraints it needs to play in. It doesn’t look too complex, but provides enough detail in the environment to show you what’s going on. It’s not quite minimalist, but instead of going for detail, it goes for broad strokes so it can have a bigger world.

And the start of the game does feel like your standard open world set up – get in a car, drive for a bit, kill some enemies. Rinse, repeat, go for the build up. You need to go across a bridge, so go into the house and close it. Go here, find something, and so on. Slowly, the game introduces additional objectives and things to do – a timed side mission lets you get to a town to put out fires, but if you can’t get there on time it’s not game ending.

It’s a nice build up that introduces you to a bunch of lore as well. You find out more about people and weapons that are hidden. I’m not quite sure how these weapons and how this equipment ends up in 1910s Greece, but that doesn’t seem to matter as much. Still, it’s mostly about B-movie sci fi attacks happening throughout time and you have to fight off these alien bugs.

The fights work decently well, iwth some differences between weapons and different options. Unlike later games in the genre, having a car is clearly superior for fighting – it gives you more protection and the controls actually make fighting easier. It often ends up being entertaining, even if the on foot controls are more likely to get aggravating.

Beyond that guided exploration is a big thing. Parts of it have the game mostly tell you where to go, but there are still spots and sights (such as they are) to discover on your own. Some of them you would get past anyway, but it still makes you feel the freedom far more than other contemporary games.

Final Thoughts

If you look at this as a fully formed open world game, you’ll be disappointed. The game clearly stays quite level focused and isn’t quite as open. It is still hiding more than most level based games and simply feels huge. A game that I had to play and did enjoy a lot.

50 Game Round Up: 501-550 (Jeroen)

Posted: 20th October 2016 by Jeroen in Uncategorized

Another fifty gone – the one where we crossed the halfway point and started moving down the hill – it makes the project seem more attainable now. We also did the one game that felt impossible for a long time – another milestone met. Just another five years to go!

Best Game I Had Not Previously Played

I’ll be honest – while there were a lot of good games in this batch, they didn’t always leaving me raving about them quite as much as in some other batches (but then, as of the moment of writing, it’s not been the best few months, so that might influence things).

That doesn’t mean it was all bad, as I still enjoyed plenty of games. One notable entry on my shortlist is Thirty Flights of Loving, a great ‘walking simulator’ style game that impressed me with its structure and detail.

What really got me, though, was Yakuza 2. It was a bit more constrained in world size than true open world games like we see in the Grand Theft Auto series, but that meant the world felt more detailed and authored. It still felt like there was a lot to do and find, while providing the best simple hand to hand combat system I’ve seen in any game I’ve played so far. I absolutely loved it.

Worst Game

As is made clear above, not everything was a success either. Green Beret felt like a rather uninspired brawler/shooter/platformer. NHL Hockey was yet another sports game.

This is very personal, but Tecmo Superbowl felt the worst. For a game about a major sport, I found it impenetrable, thursting options in my face that I had no hope of understanding while not giving me any hints about what I’m doing or where I’m going. Half the time I didn’t know who I was playing as. It turned it into a guessing game that mostly had me sitting there watching it would go somewhere.

Most Surprising Game

Luckily, there were some happy surprises in the fifty as well. Alter Ego sort of was – I had played it before, but coming back to it now, it was far more addictive than I would have expected it to be. And while survival horror can be a bit of an odd genre to get on with here, Fatal Frame 2 did everything right – tense enough without overdoing it.

But man, rail shooters always seem a bit boring and unnecessary to me. However, Dead Space Extraction worked so well. Not as much survival horror as its main series (although there’s still plenty of it), it had a great story and somewhat more varied gameplay than other rail shooters I’ve played. It was a lot of fun to play through for all of this.

Biggest Disappointment

To be honest, looking at this list, there weren’t actually that many disappointments. It might have been a bit more middle of the road, but few things stood out. Mechwarrior 2 wasn’t the blast from past that I was hoping it would be, and that stung a bit – it is true that I’m less accepting of certain game aspects than I used to be.

The game that really disappointed me was one that had a long build up and really was one of the most difficult to get. Reset Generation wasn’t a bad game – in fact, it was quite enjoyable – but I hit a skill barrier a bit too soon. Combine that with the difficulty to get it, and the way the game was praised where we could find it (and we searched a lot) that made the whole thing feel a bit too disappointing. Was it worth the effort? Probably, in the end financially at least it wasn’t that bad. I just wished it could have entertained me a bit longer.

Best Blast From The Past

I haven’t been playing quite as many familiar games in this run, or so it feels. Day of the Tentacle was great for me to go back to, although clearly the puzzles I enjoyed were just as much nostalgia as actual quality.

Even more fun to come back to, however, was Black & White. Sure, the game is flawed, but we spent hours sitting next to each other exploring the world, dealing with our various creatures, finding some bugs but mostly just enjoying ourselves. It might have have its flaws, but it really hit the right spot for us both, and playing together is always the best.

Games We Kept Playing

You know, I have this odd relationship with Minecraft. On a technical level, I love it, I want to investigate the generation mechanisms and where they lead. I want to see the results of it. But the crafting system feels like it works against my interest sometimes, requiring too much knowledge and investment. Even so, I don’t necessarily want to build and craft these elaborate things, and I don’t want to have to keep thinking about recreating tools. I want to go out and explore and adventure instead. The game supports that, but it’s not what it is known for, and that’s what put me off.

Even so, despite this love-hate thing we have with the game, I did come back a few times to explore the area. Always with a bit of reluctance in the back of my head, but still unavoidably fun.

#659 Mario Kart DS

Posted: 18th October 2016 by Jeroen in Games
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550th played so far


Genre: Racing
Platform: DS
Year of Release: 2005
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

About a decade ago, on my first holiday to London, I met up with a large group of people from the Pokemon site I did/do work on. We used our DSes to trade for the fairly recent Pokemon Diamond/Pearl, but in the evening, as we sat in the pub, our DSes came out for other games. Mario Kart DS has shared play – where if you don’t have it, you can download part of the game to play multiplayer. Only one person needs to have the cartridge for a bunch of people to race.

It was my first exposure to the series in years (possibly since the SNES days of Super Mario Kart) and was a lot of fun to play together. I sucked – probably – but that just didn’t matter. And now it’s time I play it for real.

Our Thoughts

Mario Kart DS really follows the formula of other games in the series – it feels like a handheld version of something like Mario Kart Wii, obviously with weaker graphics, but as it mostly just uses the bottom screen for a map and general status, there’s no real difference there. Controls pretty much match those of others.

It’s a good formula, and as much as an update is to be expected, it is the superior handheld version (the 3DS version was released too late to be on the list anyway). That part is pretty plain though. What really adds to the game and makes it stand out is what I referred to earlier – the expansion of multiplayer. Rather than just having split screen play – effectively an impossibility on the DS – both download play and online play is supported and play becomes even more seamless. The Mario Kart games thrive most when played as multiplayer anyway, which pays off here by offering the superior appearance. There really is something special about being able to play the game while you’re sitting in the pub, using the various multiplayer modes.

Another interesting feature that I found this time are the different challenges in the game. Running through gates in order, collecting a certain number of coins, that sort of stuff. It’s a known idea, but works well to add longevity here, especially when the difficulty really ramps up.

Final Thoughts

The Mario Kart series isn’t always one that jumps ahead in leaps and bounds. Mario Kart DS is a very good game, but after that you do compare it to others in the series that are just as good. Still, this is probably one of the staple DS games everyone should play. If only for the party modes.

#606 Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy

Posted: 14th October 2016 by Jeroen in Games
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549th played so far


Genre: Action
Platform: Xbox/Playstation 2/PC
Year of Release: 2004
Developer: Midway Games
Publisher: Midway Games

Psi-Ops: Mindgate Conspiracy isn’t the first game that combines an FPS with psychic powers – a few years ago we played Second Sight, which played with the same basic idea. It’s probably not a coincidence they are right next to each other on the list – something in the air.

Even beyond that, you start off captured and need to escape a facility. From there on, powers will be discovered and explored. Let’s go.

Our Thoughts

Psi-Ops has a similar feel to Second Sight, but there are certainly big differences. Story wise, here you’re an agent of a government agency, fighting to take down the terrorists. A mindwipe drug kept you in the dark, but soon your memories start coming back as you uncover your powers.

The power selection seems most significant during gameplay. Not the ones you’d expect – telekinesis is fun, but nothing that far out of the ordinary for these games. Instead, both remote viewing and mind control add a bit more strategy, the former creating some fun semi-stealthy exploration aspect that makes the game more strategic than most shooters. The help it gives you is really useful, advance warning being needed in some cases (and even then not always being enough).

Final Thoughts

As a shooter, this game is not too inspired, but the powers add a decent enough twist to the mechanics that it becomes more enjoyable that way. That’s most of what it has to recommend it though, sadly.

#92 Green Beret

Posted: 10th October 2016 by Jeroen in Games
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548th played so far


Genre: Action
Platform: Arcade
Year of Release: 1985
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami

Green Beret is a side scrolling platformy beat em up also known as Rush’n Attack. That’s most of what I know about it – it feels like the description blurs together with so many other games like it on the list.

Our Thoughts

I can’t really point to what part of this game is special. You run around, strike down enemies (with a knife at first, using guns when you get them). There’s some nice strategic switching between levels as you proceed, partialy enforced by mines. Beyond that you slowly make your way forward after facing off against wave after wave of enemies.

That’s all it does, and the game is fine at doing that. There’s some variety in the enemies, but most of it feels a bit boring. Samey, perhaps, as it never really switches things up that much. Maybe I shouldn’t ask for that much, but I got bored.

Final Thoughts

Green Beret is a beat em up of its time, straight forward, uncomplicated and possibly a bit more difficult than it should be. It does all of it well enough, but not enough to really wow me.

#832 Bangai-O Spirits

Posted: 6th October 2016 by Jeroen in Games
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547th played so far


Genre: Shoot ‘Em Up
Platform: Nintendo DS
Year of Release: 2008
Developer: Treasure
Publisher: ESP Software/D3 Publisher

Right. So I know on some level that we’ve played Bangai-O before, but it took me some time to recall what it was like (the weird storyline style is probably most of what I remember). It’s a bullet hell shooter that gets insane.

This, the game’s sequel, seems to have far less story, and mostly just more shooting. Loads of shooting. What fun we’ll have.

Our Thoughts

Bangai-O Spirits does what it does really well. You shoot loads of bullets to kill enemies n the area, with different bullets having different effects. Levels are small, focusing on short periods of action and sometimes simple puzzle solving. Mostly, though, it feels like insane action.

This time, there’s no (weird) storyline or anything to make it seem coherent. They’re just levels with simple goals, mostly related to killing things. The big selling point of it, really, is that the game allows you to create your own level, while having loads of them predesigned.

And that’s all there is. Loads of shooter levels, no link between them, you can do them in order or skip to see which ones you can finish. True bullet hell, and a game made to match what has worked for decades.

Final Thoughts

I tend to find these sort of shooters a bit boring – they need some filler to work, or some measurable sense of progress. Here, however, it’s just the small levels that, by the nature of the thing, are all challenging without giving you much of a chance to catch your breath in between. It felt like a bit too much to handle.

#177 Wonderboy III: The Dragon’s Trap

Posted: 2nd October 2016 by Jeroen in Games
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546th played so far


Genre: Platform
Platform: Mega Drive
Year of Release: 1989
Developer: Westone
Publisher: Sega

The late 80s and early 90s were filled with platformers, which is probably the reason why it still seems like main mode of gaming. Even early 3D consoles focused on it, combining it with 3D graphics to create a mix – Mario 64 still has a lot of the DNA, as does something like Banjo Kazooie. It took quite a while to really get away from it.

The Wonderboy series comes from this mold, one more franchise of what seem to be platform games of some sort. I’ve not had any exposure to it (although as it had multiple number 3 entries alone, it clearly has some significance.

Our Thoughts

Wonderboy III is less of a standard platformer and has more of an open world feel – Wizards and Warriors is my closest touch stone, exploring a village, visiting houses, finding secrets and paths to venture deeper into the world. It has some light RPG elements – equipment and abilities are gained to unlock more parts of the world. Although there are several jumping sessions, and plenty of enemies to defeat, it feels more strategic than standard platformers.

The game has a variety of levels early on too. You start in a standard castle – apparently the final level of the previous game, which you’re playing in abbreviated form (although I obviously can’t verify that). After the plot developments that turn you into a lizard man, the town you use as a base is brighter, and you first go to a slightly more tropical sea level. It’s colourful – not overly so, but enough to make it stand out, more Super Mario Bros 3 than Super Mario Bros 1. It’s what you’d expect from a Mega Drive game, really – I wouldn’t call this challenging for the system to run (but I don’t know the system’s limitations to really judge that), but it can still get somewhat repetitive.

One of the things that helps is that death isn’t too punishing. You lose your place in the world (unless you have a revive) but it doesn’t feel likeyou have to travel too far back and it’s not a complete game over. It helps encourage exploration, which is a great boon to getting into the game.

Final Thoughts

I started this game as a simple checkbox game – another platformer to get done. I was pleasantly surprised. While the start was a bit unclear – why am I in the castle, where do I go – the game did take off once I got to out of that into the “open” world. There was quite a bit to do from the start, and plenty of unreachable areas that promised some more interesting further areas.

It might do now with being sped up a bit, but as a platformer with light RPG elements, this is a good game.

#45 Tron

Posted: 28th September 2016 by Jeroen in Games
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545th played so far


Genre: Action
Platform: Arcade
Year of Release: 1982
Developer: Bally Midway
Publisher: Bally Midway

I was listening to a podcast yesterday that talked about movies made from video games, and movies made concerning video games (even if they’re not real) and somehow Tron didn’t come up. This is the videogame of the film, but that’s a development that’s natural, considering a lot of Tron already feels like a video game.

So we’ll certainly see some light cycle racing in this game, and whatever else comes up. My main question is – how do they put in the elements you expect and make them work together.

Our Thoughts

Tron is, in essence, a minigame collection. There are four games repeated for each level (each level increasing difficulty). The famous light cycle race is in there, top down but working pretty much as you’d expect. There’s a battle to defeat the MCP (the big bad guy) by breaking through shields, which is faithful enough for a video game. A tank fighting minigame… not as much, but that’s the way it is.

A few years earlier these would have been four different games. What’s impressive here is that these additional games are involved, not sharing much with each other, but linking to create something that feels like you’re part of the movie for a bit. Not as much, perhaps, as you’d expect now, but you can see how it would work great as a tie in at the time, covering more than just a single bit of it (again, the light cycle race would probably been the most obvious section to port).

Final Thoughts

Each of the Tron minigames are simple – not as much as a Warioware minigame, but not too complex. They work together nicely, however, to create a feel for the game, randomly determining what you’d face. Not something I’d stick with for ages, but enoug as the diversion it would be. Just not as good as the film, really.

544th played so far


Genre: Action/Adventure
Platform: Playstation 3/Xbox 360
Year of Release: 2010
Developer: Rockstar San Diego
Publisher: Rockstar Games

Even before it appeared on this list, Peter had played this wild west Grand Theft Auto. It won’t be the first Rockstar-penned or -influenced that takes from other sources. Bully went for a similar open approach, but with a smaller world.

So yeah, I know what I’m getting into with Red Dead Redemption, and I’m vaguely excited about it. I struggle a bit more with the controls – sitll a PC gamer at my core – but my more recent adventures in Grand Theft Auto have gone better and I hope that’s enough to carry me through.

We’ve played Red Dead Revolver before, by the way, a more area-based shooter. This is a sequel, in the same world, same style, but this time the gameplay will be somewhat different.

Our Thoughts

Red Dead Redemption was, indeed, enjoyable. There were certainly areas where I struggled, but that was more part of the game. From the experience I had, and Peter has before, random exploration is (at least initially) deadly. There are bandits around who want to take everything you’ve got and several dangerous animals who will kill you if you’re not careful.

The game still encourages you to explore, though. Early on, going a bit off track during a mission, I found a treasure map for an area nearby (based on some rocks I recognised from earlier scenery). Even though it’s not necessary so far, I followed it and started a side mission with, well, some neat loot. Others came even more natural – picking some herbs started a set of sidequests to learn to use them, skinning animals started another.

In the mean time, the early missions are the usual tutorial mixed with story exposition. Part of it takes you through the features – driving herds, taming your own herds – all the cowboy jobs you’d expect. You also start taking out a gang, setting that storyline in motion.

The world is big and interesting. While it might not have the ongoing street scenes of GTA, it has the different nature settings, people traveling between cities and doing their things in corners of the world. They trigger some interesting, varied mini quests and it makes for a still living setting, even when you’re out there in nature.

Final Thoughts

In a way, I’ve jumped ahead to a “better” open world game by skipping a bunch of GTA entries. So far, Red Dead Redemption has felt more refined than the Grand Theft Auto 3 follow ups – never mind its official previous game, Red Dead Revolver. Well crafted, well put together, in a setting where open world games don’t generally go. Sure, deceptively difficult in places, but I’ve managed – it’s fun enough for me.

#206 Tecmo Super Bowl

Posted: 20th September 2016 by Jeroen in Games
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543rd played so far


Genre: Sports
Platform: NES
Year of Release: 1991
Developer: Tecmo
Publisher: Tecmo

Time for another sports game I don’t know much about! I’ll be watching the Superbowl at some point, but until then most of my knowledge of American football comes from the theory of how it’s meant to work, bits I’ve picked up from rugby and more.

These sports games make me wonder why it’s that one in particular. Tecmo Super Bowl is listed as a game that was a good, accurate simulation that isn’t too difficult to get into – the latter something that has thrown me with other sports games. I hope this will do it for me.

Our Thoughts

Tecmo Super Bowl works well enough. It feels simple enough that I’m not missing out on loads of systems that I just haven’t had explained. At the same time, the core of the game is about all these different plays, which are mostly unfamiliar to me – and where I’m not sure of my role during any of them. I realise that won’t make a difference for fans, but as a newbie to the sport, it didn’t help. I got my yards, but slowly.

I tried a few matches to get to grips with it, and it sort of worked. It never quite won me over, but played better than the later games that might look prettier, but also became more complex. It’s a bit of give and take, really, and if I had started playing this when it came out, I presumably would have done better.

Final Thoughts

This was good enough for a sports game. It was simple, without too many in depth systems, while still giving the impression it is close to the original game. Maybe at some point it’ll actually connect.