781st played so far

Genre: Racing
Platform: Playstation 3
Year of Release: 2008
Developer: Evolution Studios
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

I feel like I’ve played Motorstorm, the first game in the series, fairly recently (about a year and a half ago), but as I am approaching the end of the list these two entry series will need to disappear at some point anyway. I enjoyed it at the time, but the game had its flaws for sure that put it lower down that a game like Colin McRae’s Dirt series that feel like they really reward play.

Motorstorm: Pacific Rift takes the series to a tropical island, including its own volcanoes that will affect the game and race, which could be quite interesting. It’ll be interesting to see whether it fixes the issues I felt.

Our Thoughts

Sadly, Motorstorm: Pacific Rift is still quite brown and there are plenty of times where the darkness and browns fade into the brown and it is difficult to see what’s happening. It wasn’t a constant problem, but I certainly had trouble in some places. Luckily, the game still felt a bit easier, which compensated for that a bit – while some tracks stayed fairly difficult, I did manage to get a win and second places on the brighter tracks, where this made a big difference. It’s a shame too: The game is incredibly pretty, set on a lovely tropical island, but the colours sometimes hide a lot of that detail. The boundaries of the courses don’t help here either – the edges of the track have become pretty unclear in places, where it feels arbitrary where you go out of bounds. You get a sudden reset, not even a warning that you’re going too far, and it feels pretty unfair.

One thing that I felt I got a better grip on was the boost system. It wasn’t just useful for speed, but I found it quite good at correcting my direction and getting out of my drifts. It really started helping me get ahead on the tracks. Another element of this is new to the game. There are heat and water effects, with lava bubbling out from the volcano. Your vehicle can overheat, with water giving you a chance to cool down, but you need to get to that point first. It adds an element of danger and tension to the tracks, where there’s an added risk to taking shortcuts that take you past the heat and adding a different punishment if you go too far off the track. It was a nice addition and while I didn’t always get it right, I feel it’s a neat and unique idea.

Final Thoughts

Motorstorm: Pacific Rift is a clear improvement over the original, but it’s also one that still at times puts form over function and makes for a visually nice game that becomes less playable because of its ‘realism’. Higher definition systems may help this in the future, but at the moment this isn’t it quite yet.

#284 Full Throttle

Posted: 1st May 2019 by Jeroen in Games
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780th played so far

Genre: Adventure
Platform: PC
Year of Release: 1995
Developer: LucasArts
Publisher: LucasArts

I’m still excited to see all these LucasArts games. I’ve played a bunch of them once, but never got Full Throttle. When I was younger, I think the theming put me off a bit, but it’s been cited as one of the best since then and I really should be trying it now.

After Monkey Island‘s insult sword fighting, this introduces some bike fights. I’m not sure how that will work, but we’ll see soon enough.

Our Thoughts

It felt like Loom was a big surprise for us with how effective it was and how far it drew us in. It had some great world building and writing with decent puzzles that felt quite doable. We were compelled to finish it in one sitting. Full Throttle wasn’t quite in a single sitting (dinner intervened) but it created its own world and was mostly as effective. Sure, a rough biker’s world isn’t the same as Loom’s musical magic, but it had its own grounded world. The other thing these two have in common that you don’t get as much in, say, Monkey Island 2 or some acts of Grim Fandango is that it’s set in smaller chunks, a handful of screens at a time, which means that you both get a more focused story to follow and puzzles that have to be solved with everything near you. It avoids the “try everything on everything” problem these games can have and it’s less likely you miss some details. The puzzles in these locations can still be tricky, but usually you know there aren’t too many other variables.

The bike fights are probably the least liked of the options. It feels a bit like button mashing and I don’t think I was that strategic about it. I don’t think the engine is really set up for it and I believe the remake might have excised the worst of it. There are a bunch of other timed sections as well that I think didn’t work as well – it feels like it moves away from the puzzles and change to think, although the end of the game mostly suffered from that and it is quite narratively justified.

The story is probably the most attractive part. There’s some twists and changes that make it less predictable than it could be (although I was getting savvy enough that I saw some of them coming). The characters are well written and have become more three dimensional than the characters in the earlier games are. Most of all, it’s funny and entertaining. which is what I wanted out of the game most.

Final Thoughts

The setting of Full Throttle feels quite different from the other LucuasArts adventures, including style and all. When playing, however, it works well and makes for an effective game – mostly challenging, but not too much so, and with a rich world that works well. I’m not sure it will be my favourite, but it deserves to be in the pantheon of great adventure games.

779th played so far

Genre: First-Person Shooter
Platform: Playstation 3/Xbox 360
Year of Release: 2009
Developer: EA Dice
Publisher: Electronic Arts

Time to get back to the Battlefield series, since I still have two to go and won’t enjoy them much more this time. Especially since, from what I have been able to determine, Battlefield 1943 is online only…

Our Thoughts

As I’m nervous enough about jumping into multiplayer, I thought I’d start by playing through the tutorial, hopefully getting a feeling for the game and especially what new things the game has added. The maps were familiar, I believe the same as one from an earlier game, and the basic controls were similar enough.

The new addition seems to have been an air superiority focused mode and the tutorial has you take a plane in the air to try that mode. That felt like a mistake. The controls for the plane felt impossible to use and I couldn’t finish that section – I barely managed to take off once – and couldn’t get out of it other than quitting the tutorial. It wasn’t fun and didn’t feel good.

That’s where it all fell down for me. I don’t feel the game improves on its successors, the control issues made it feel worse for me without anything to compensate. If I wanted to get into the series, I feel the other entries would work as well, while there are bot optins that let me ease into it instead. It’s a shame, I guess, but mostly feel like the game just never tried for me.

778th played so far

Genre: Puzzle
Platform: Wii
Year of Release: 2009
Developer: Amblin Entertainment/EA Los Angeles
Publisher:Electronic Arts

The Wii is, or was, a popular platform for puzzle games. In part, the controllers allow for a different experience that can tie into the genre well, but the system is also a big hit with the casual audience who usually enjoy them a lot. Boom Blox Bash Party seems to combine them both, as a game where you bash blocks into each other to solve these problems.

Our Thoughts

With a puzzle game like this, it’s the variation that can matter a lot. Games like Lumines can draw on escalation as the game goes on, but Chime‘s time limit creates pressure while something like Planet Puzzle League can start to falter a bit after a while. The difficulty goes up but it doesn’t necessarily work as well in a long term set up.

Boom Blox Bash Party goes for variety. It all revolves around the physics systems, throwing things against blocks that fall over. The blocks behave in different ways – some exploding on impact, others falling with different weights, and some disappearing match three style. When they fall on the floor or other things happen, they give you points, but with the different types of blocks and levels, they manage to create different distinct game modes. Toppling, explosions and other projectiles account for a part of that as well. It all ties into the Wii controls as well, the motion controls helping the system feel really nice.

And if that’s not enough, you can make your own levels. You can’t share them online anymore, but there’s a lot of options that would have created more of this variety. You need to unlock a bunch of features one by one, but it’s a nice extra feature. After all, Mario Maker was based on that principle alone.

There’s not much of a story to the game – you’re going through a circus and seeing different performers do their thing inside. It doesn’t really make that much sense, but the block creatures are nice touches and it’s nice to see them interact with each other and comment on your performance. It’s a cute style, not too complex, but it adds a lot of personality to the game.

Final Thoughts

Boom Blox Bash Party is a puzzle game that does more with its concepts than a lot of others and has a nice fun setting around it. I really enjoyed playing it and while it gets more difficult soon enough, there’s so much to do in the game that it never really matters much.

777th played so far

Genre: Survival Horror
Platform: PC/Xbox/Playstation 2
Year of Release: 2001
Developer: Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo
Publisher: Konami

I was incredibly impressed by the first Silent Hill game. It had its control issues and its age showed, but the setting was good and tense and the puzzles worked quite well. We’ve also seen Fatal Frame in a similar setting, but now we’re returning to the titular town of Silent Hill to see what’s happening there.

Our Thoughts

Silent Hill 2 was a very creepy game. Knowing the weird creatures that run around in the first game, the fact that the game starts with a walk down a misty lane when you have no protections feels scary. From there you do get a weapon, but fighting enemies never seems like the focus – I put the combat difficulty to easy, so that helped, but I felt it helped the atmosphere. It’s not about the action, instead I got to explore this creepy world and see what was going on. It starts off slowly, building up an abandoned appartment building with a big scary boss at the end that you can only run from, never defeat.

It builds from there, with a section in a hospital having been the most effective so far. The mysterious antagonist is around there a few times, but rather than just chasing you, he seems to get to others. The abandoned hospital, with its many locked doors and areas, have padded cells, mortuaries and other places that make you uncomfortable. It’s hard to show that through the blog, but the tension is all there.

That’s combined with a game that plays better. The controls are more manageable, making my way through was a lot better. Again, I really got into the game, and the relative ease of play helped with that. The game felt set up to work for me, and that felt good.

Final Thoughts

Not only does Silent Hill 2 succeed at creating a creepy world, the puzzles are varied enough to keep me interested and I was glad I could tone down combat here. My nerves even held steady enough through out so I wanted to keep playing, the horror was tuned just right for that. It’s superior to the Resident Evil series and I’m looking forward to returning to this world in the future.

#560 Ninja Five-O

Posted: 15th April 2019 by Jeroen in Uncategorized
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776th played so far

Genre: Action
Platform: Game Boy Advance
Year of Release: 2003
Developer: Hudson Soft
Publisher: Konami

Sometimes, you know, I’m just checking boxes. Ninja Five-O is another 2D action platformer, although released a decade or two after they were popular. Still have to play it, we’ll see what’s in there.

Our Thoughts

After games like Bionic Commando Rearmed and Contra III and their arcade predecessors, I’ve started to develop some fatigue with these action platformers. There’s not technically a focus on platforming, but there were some jumping challenges and some of it felt like it stopped me (although I might be wrong on some of them). Most of the time, it’s more of a run and gun thing, fighting a lot of tough enemies and trying to save hostages. That’s more difficult than it sounds, as you need to shoot at the right time and the timing gets difficult.

After the first level, the levels get large, spread out over several rooms (which don’t all matter at my easier difficulties). You’re searching for hostages to try to free, for keys to open doors, and passages through the level. I mostly got turned around later on, missing out on all the different ways to traverse.

Final Thoughts

This game is fine, I suppose. It does the job. It looks fine for a Gameboy game. I see the point. I just don’t see what’s outstanding about it here, which makes it difficult to enjoy – so yeah, it’s not my thing.

#133 A.P.B.

Posted: 11th April 2019 by Jeroen in Games
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775th played so far

Genre: Action
Platform: Arcade
Year of Release: 1987
Developer: Atari Games
Publisher: Atari Games

An APB or All Points Bulletin is a message send to cops and law enforcement officials usually to make them aware of criminals to look out for. It’s a common enough term that finding out about the game isn’t that easy. You’re a cop, sure, but the game resembles Police Quest‘s driving more than it does an investigation to find wanted criminals.

Our Thoughts

The basic gameplay of A.P.B. has you driving along a top down road (think Spy Hunter, but with a graphical upgrade and a lot more less relevant traffic). Your first duty is to arrest certain people breaking the law through littering and otherwise – you turn on your siren, have them pull over and arrest them. Or rather, if you play as I did, you kept your siren on and kept ramming into cars that were suspicious until you got to arrest them. It’s not the only way to arrest or be helpful – you also need to stop to help people with broken cars and to stop hitchhikers, which don’t need sirens but do require you to be careful – and have a bunch of bonuses to pick up to, for example, give you extra time.

Each level also gives you a bunch of requirements which you need to do while looping around the map. This starts off with just asking for a certain number of arrests, but goes up. They help you avoid demerits, for not doing your job, driving dangerously and doing other things you shouldn’t do. It’s a bunch of rules and while they make sense, they drive home the idea that being a cop might not make for the most fun game all the time.

When you can get some good chases in, though, the game really works. Chasing after them, stopping them, when you get the controls right becomes a lot of fun. It’s really a shame, almost, that the arcade elements require restrictions that make the game less fun.

#98 Bard’s Tale

Posted: 7th April 2019 by Jeroen in Games
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774th played so far

Genre: Role-Playing
Platform: Various
Year of Release: 1985
Developer: Interplay Productions
Publisher: Electronic Arts

I only rarely play the old RPGs, even though I enjoy digging into that history sometimes. I’ve played Eye of the Beholder and Ultima VII fairly recently and Bard’s Tale fits the dungeon crawler mode of the former. I’ve heard the stories (and know I need to take a bard with me to actually finish the game) and seen how the series has recently been revived, but I’ve been a bit scared to jump into it after that. Now I’m going to try to see how the game actually works and whether I can get into this one.

Our Thoughts

Bard’s Tale is quite a tough game from the start – probably tougher at the start than it would be later. While you’re navigating the 3D town, things go on in semi-real time and you can get attacked as you walk around. The random encounters, at the very least, have a chance of killing you, and they can jump you before you’ve even had a chance to get yourself equipped. That could be a party killer on its own and it made me struggle. At least the default party comes pre-equipped (and with a bard) so it’s easier to start off and get something done.

What that was, was grinding on enemies walking down the street to get some extra gold (you need to bribe a bartender to get to the first dungeon and need to be able to pay for healing). The system isn’t too difficult. The front row can attack, the back row only with spells or ranged items. Dying means someone else steps forward (and resurrecting is extremely expensive early on, so not a great option anyway) but you usually just want to attack with a few. It’s all from the manual and, of course, FAQs, but it was a decent system, much like you’d expect from the era. It takes time to know the controls – the UI isn’t great – but I managed to figured it out after a while.

While the systems haven’t been too complicated yet – with some walkthrough help on what does what – the world itself is daunting. It all seems to take place in a single city, which is giant and sprawling – again, I had to have a map to follow where I needed to go, as the graphics made it easy to get lost and the battles can make you get turned around. Without a map, finding your way back is impossible. The dungeons are as big, but as they’re more open they feel a bit easier to explore. They’re still pretty big though, and I really could have gotten lost later.

Final Thoughts

In the end the Bard’s Tale hit the right spots: a big world with some good RPG elements. It’s as primitive as its age suggests, but it feels like it’s a step up from what came before and I can see how it might have influenced later games – this style stayed big for a long time. There’s a remake coming up and I think it’s time to try that, to experience the same feel but in a better UI.

#873 Spore

Posted: 3rd April 2019 by Jeroen in Games
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773rd played so far

Genre: Life Simulation/Strategy
Platform: PC
Year of Release: 2008
Developer: Maxis
Publisher: Electronic Arts

It sounds like a Molyneux-like pitch, a game where you start off as a bacteria-like organism, evolve and grow a civilization until you reach space. It was, however, proposed by the other sim genre great, Will Wright from SimCity fame, and other games like it.

It’s a promise nothing can keep up with, but I’m still looking forward to trying it and seeing how it pulls it off – after all, it hits all of my buttons, and at the time the buzz was big enough.

Our Thoughts

The best way to look at Spore is that we’re playing five separate mini games that link to each other. You start with the cellular stage, a version of flOw where you eat creatures, gather their DNA and create your basic creature – including deciding whether you become a vegetarian or carnivore. You take that basic form with you to the next stage, the creature stage, where you ally or defeat other species and set up your own tribe that way. It’s a stage that takes a while, because the power curve isn’t that smooth – I certainly had an hour or two of struggling more than we’d need.

The tribal stage that follows is even more annoying – you have to bribe or conquer other tribes – but the bribe option was easy enough that it felt a bit exploitable. It was a road bump, again, with the fourth stage feeling more interesting. At that point, you enter the Civilization stage, as your tribe is more established, which is a far simpler version of the namesake. You set up cities and start mining funds as you take over others one city at a time. You can do it through military, religion or trade, the former two acting something similarly with some different units and the last mostly requiring a lot of gold investment. It’s decently fun and while at times clunky it was probably my favourite of the phases.

The final stage, into space, broke on my game… and I couldn’t really be bothered to replay the amount I’d need to. From what did work, there’s a large chunk of game here still, with a lot of upgrades and technologies, a decent trade system and more to explore. It’s expansive, but it sounds like there’s not necessarily much of an end to that either.

The nice thing about this is the continuity – your creatures get taken along between the stages and each bit of design you do carries over to the next stage. This lets you make not just your own unique creatures, which is cool enough, but also clothing designs, buildings, vehicles and so on. It’s nice to give it a particular style and even without too much work gives you something that looks decent. Obviously, modders took this much further, but even the base game gives you loads of options.

Final Thoughts

How do I judge this? The individual minigames are from meh to decent. The creature customization is pretty engaging and, in my case, can lead to some horrifying results, and the way it carries over between these is quite nice. It means the sum is better than its parts and Spore is still enjoyable, just perhaps not as much as the promise initially implied.

#146 Operation Wolf

Posted: 30th March 2019 by Jeroen in Games
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772nd played so far

Genre: Shoot ‘Em Up
Platform: Arcade
Year of Release: 1987
Developer: Taito
Publisher: Taito

Sometimes, you realise you just have to play these light gun games, and at that point you realise you’ve got to compromise. I’m about to tackle Operation Wolf, which is one of those, and so I’ll be playing with mouse control. I guess I’ll have an easier time of it, but with the normal difficulty of these games, I don’t mind that too much.

Our Thoughts

I’ll admit that, yeah, I probably had an easier game here than some other lightgun games. I doubt I would have gotten anywhere without it, so I don’t mind it – the game felt right in terms of difficulty this time. I managed to make my first run through the levels – with some deaths, but nothing too difficult – to get to the far harder second round, so that helped a lot.

For the most part this plays as a decent shooter, enemies pop up that you have to shoot while not shooting the occasional friendly. There’s ammo and such to pick up in the same way, there are tanks to avoid, limited ammo (and if you run out that’s a game over) and other things like it. There are some nice differences in how the stages are laid out, but mostly they play similarly.

That was different, though. Out of the six stages, the Japanese version had four available at the start (while the worldwide version forces you to play in order) and finishing each gave you a boost – one giving you access to further levels, others increase your ammo or take away enemies. This still happens in the international version, but you can’t really tell since there’s no choice involved. It’s a nice mechanic and would have helped the game.

Final Thoughts

Operation Wolf was a pleasant surprise. It was originally down as a game I was least looking forward to playing, but it turned out to be a fun shooter, with everything that I could adjust. Not as bad as I thought – I guess I should be playing more rails shooters like this, because they usually work for me!