#453 Sin and Punishment

Posted: 3rd September 2018 by Jeroen in Games
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721st played so far

Genre: Shoot ‘Em Up
Platform: Nintendo 64
Year of Release: 2000
Developer: Treasure/Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

I’m slowly making my way through series with multiple entries, aking sure that I’ve at least started them – going by the numbers, I should have started them all. There are two entries in the Sin and Punishment series on the list, a Nintendo shooter that started with this entry for the Nintendo 64.

I need to start it, so today I’ll this be playing this. Let’s see where it goes.

Our Thoughts

It feels like there are plenty of rail shooters still to go, and this is not quite the most memorable. Although we’ve played Space Harrier before, it feels like the genre works better when 3D is availalbe, giving some more depth as you travel. Here, for example, it does feel like you’re running down these roads and moving through the environment.

It also highlighted where I struggled. While other railshooters limit your movement, here you had to jump and dodge, both to avoid fire and clear obstacles. It turns it into a twin stick railshooter and my brain really got confused trying to keep track of both the direction of firing and movement.

The levels I saw had quite a bit of variation because of it, though, The environments differed more and movements wasn’t just automatically from spot to spot, they were actually part of gameplay. There was a reason you were moving and it had its own challenge.

Final Thoughts

As a rail shooter, Sin & Punishment gets a bit too chaotic and complex for me to get into. I can see how it would be a challenging game to get into and how rewarding its skill would bet, but its difficulty to me started to lose me.

720th played so far

Genre: First-Person Shooter
Platform: Wii
Year of Release: 2009
Developer: Headstrong Games
Publisher: Sega

I’m jumping between installments of The House of the Dead to cover different options. For this one, I obtained a copy in an office move some time ago and in my quest of getting rid of oddly shaped boxes, I figured I’d play Overkill before part two of the series or its typing variant that will wait until the end.

It’s a variation on the rails shooter that we covered recently on Dead Space Extraction and before that in Silent Scope and other arcade games we played at the same time. At home, the choice of playing is through the Wiimote or, in our situation, the PS Move controller.

Our Thoughts

As with some of the other shooters, the House of the Dead series is about killing a lot of zombies. And this game, in its first chapter, dumps you in a house overrun with them, and you make a long journey through its different rooms (which seems to connect as a real home, with a pretty deep basement and some weird lifts, but it works). It’s a pretty standard setting and follows a lot of the tropes, but it plays these in a very satisfying way. There’s a lot of shooting at the right level while offering a good number of collectibles throughout. Sadly, the boss fight in the house doesn’t live up to it, becoming repetitive and quite boring after you figure out the pattern – it’s still a slog to get to the end, and I felt that happened with all of them. Some variation or changes would have been nice.

The later levels switch up the settings quite well, with a level taking you to a strip club (although only in the extended version we played), then to a hospital, carnival and other settings that feature in horror movies. It really creates the mood of a exploitation movie and the tropes, parodies and references (whatever you want to call it) suit well to create the right atmosphere.

Final Thoughts

There’s no amazing story here. The game sets the mood of the movies it wants to emulate and the rails shooter means you can focus on what you need – shooting in the direction monsters are coming from – without worrying about finding them. Although they won’t pop up behind you gameplay wise, the control the game has of your camera means that it can still surprise you, but in a directed way. It does what it knows it wants to do and does that well.

#436 Diablo II

Posted: 26th August 2018 by Jeroen in Games
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719th played so far

Genre: Action/Role-Playing
Platform: PC
Year of Release: 2000
Developer: Blizzard North
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment

Three years after Diablo, we decided to play its sequel – mostly to help Before I Kick (write up for this game coming a few months late there),but I guess having a gap similar to the original gap between games works.

In my mind, it’s always been the bigger one – larger, more classes, with more dungeons and cities. It’s exciting, in a way, and I’ve been looking forward to jumping into a bigger game.

Our Thoughts

Diablo II felt more interesting than its predecessor. I don’t know if I got bored too early last time, or if something didn’t connect – I thought I got in far enough. The dungeons are a smaller and there are plenty more of them, with a plotline that takes you around a world, rather than just taking you down a single dungeon for a longer time. The quests cover this as well, creating some additional reasons to go around and visit different dungeons. There’s always somewhere to go and something new to do, with systems unfolding over the early chapters to create enchanting, allow for free identifying (if you do the right quest) and so on – which really helps the loop that keeps you playing.

I think that it’s what keeps the game fresher – there are so many more places to go and adds up each time. Add to that a constant loop of better loot and experience improving your skills leading to you growing powerful quickly and you get something that keeps you hooked, if not addicted. I’m not sure whether features like randomly generated dungeons are necessary for it (that’s more the roguelike legacy), but it doesn’t get in the way of anything.

Playing this in multiplayer really helped the experience too. Having someone else around to support you helps even out the odds, taking some of the edge off the random systems and helping with the big crowd scenes. You spend some more time trading and setitng up items, but it is a lot of fun.

Final Thoughts

My Diablo II playthrough was better than that of the first game and it’s both because of the way I played it and because of the additions that streamline the game and keep bringing in more experiences. It’s refined and expanded and it makes for a better game. Now let’s get back to playing it…

718th played so far

Genre: First-Person Shooter
Platform: PC/Playstation 3/Xbox 360
Year of Release: 2007
Developer: Epic Games
Publisher: Midway Games

A while ago, Unreal Tournament 2004 impressed me more than I thought it would, with a singleplayer campaign that was more interesting than I expected. I’ve got another game in the series to cover – and sadly not the original Unreal games, but I guess these are the ones that made an impact on most people.

Our Thoughts

So I didn’t really play multiplayer, because… well, I have no friends who play and those who do are probably killers at the game and would overwhelm me way too quickly. That’s fine though, as the singleplayer mode holds up well enough.

Like UT2004, the game basically puts you in a number of multiplayer modes and has you win that to advance the story. In the previous game (and games, it sounds like), this was in an actual tournament – you’re defeating others who are fighting in an arena so the best can go through to the top. Here, instead we get a longer storyline about an alien invasion, tying into the main Unreal games instead. You start off training to get ready after an injury, then get back into fighting aliens. This still uses the tournament setup, which feels a bit artificial at times, but it works as a way of justifying what you’re doing in a less artificial construct.

As a shooter, the game works incredibly well. There’s a large variety of weapons and the bots were difficult enough for me to handle. My team mates got lost (or, I suppose, I did) and the action got difficult to follow because of that, but that’s part of the genre. You focus on your thing and hope it’s enough.

Final Thoughts

While these tournament games lack longevity for a singleplayer focused gamer like me, the storyline in this game is a good attempt at making it more meaningful and giving you more to do and more of a reason to do it. It’s still a bit clunky and artificial at times, but the Unreal engine performs well here and gives you a good game to play.

#817 Bionic Commando Rearmed

Posted: 18th August 2018 by Jeroen in Games
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717th played so far

Genre: Platform
Platform: PC/Xbox 360/Playstation 3
Year of Release: 2008
Developer: Grin
Publisher: Capcom

For some games on this list, we are playing the remake rather than the original. Bionic Commando seems to have been a rather beloved NES game with some impressive time attacks. I doubt the latter factored into the decision for the remake, but one did arrive and it was considered good enough to end up on this list. This game still follows the original game’s stories and mechanics, apparently with added multiplayer and challenge rooms, so I suppose you can say I’ll cover two games in one.

… yeah, I didn’t believe that either.

Our Thoughts

Jumping is not a mandatory part of platformers and its early days and we’ve seen it in a few games. After Super Mario Bros, though, leaving it out seems unthinkable. That makes this game mor einteresting. In Bionic Commando Rearmed, you don’t get a jump button. Instead, you get a grappling arm that lets you swing around instead. It changes a lot of things about the platforming, both by limiting your options on where you can use it, but more often to allow for more options – chaining swings becomes important soon, as do the different angles you can jump up with and the speed at which you do so. It’s a change that fundamentally changes how you move around and it works incredibly well. It also creates the option for the challenge rooms – additions in this version, it focuses on pure platforming and movement around these rooms, rather than the shooting that was almost mandatory in games of the day – you probably wouldn’t have needed enemies, but they are there.

There is a pretty large variety in weapons that you can swith between, which makes the combat quite nicely, there’s a bit more to it. You permanently unlock and upgrade these, rather than having to keep collecting them, which really feels like you’re growing in strength and abilities as you play through. This is also the case in area unlocks – there are a bunch of areas, with a number of them unlocked at most times, but access to one being restricted by when you complete another, or something feeding back and recommending a replay because you unlocked another. It adds a size to the world that feels good now, but would have felt amazing as the original release. Even now the backtracking makes the world feel more important.

The game’s graphics seem pitched just right as well – stylized thorugh a slight cartoon edge, the graphics are slightly stylized (justifying reuse if nothing else), which works well – it doesn’t distract too much, looking perfect as the backdrop for this action.

Final Thoughts

Bionic Commando Rearmed feels like the perfect downloadable game – released on Steam, XBLA and PSN, it was created to be that. The graphics can be simple to keep it constrained and it seems like a good place to put these remakes – the origins are clear, but it’s all been polished enough to be more playable. The jumping works and fighting is fun enough – and there’s not too much that it gets tiring. The challenge rooms really show where it can lead – there are a lot of different movement options that makes me wonder what more is hidden around the level, and which makes it feel like there are a lot of ways around the level in the first place.

#74 Hyper Sports

Posted: 14th August 2018 by Jeroen in Games
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716th played so far

Genre: Sports
Platform: Arcade
Year of Release: 1984
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami

We’ve been playing a bunch of games based on sports games before, mostly from these earlier eras – Summer Games II comes to mind – but the collection of minigames with a sports theme lasts in the modern day in the likes of Wii Sports. Other modern ones tend to feel like cash-ins, often for the Olympics, and so they’re really just filler that don’t really apply to the blog.

Hyper Sports, today’s sport minigame collection, got the Olympics license and branding in Japan only. As a game, it is the sequel to Track & Field and it introduces a number of different sports.

Our Thoughts

In the end, these games use the same patterns – here, too, there’s a lot of two button mashing to move fast (swimming here), and timed button presses for some jumps. They are simple – minigames or QTEs from modern games – and while they have an immediate rush of being able to get further, they don’t really offer much fun long term. Worse, there are some where the timing felt finicky enough that I rarely got past them – the long horse being one of these – and as there’s no real explanation of what you’re meant to do that I remember, there’s a lot of experimentation to figure out what button press goes where.

There’s a non-gameplay improvement that stood out. While it might not be the first, the game contains some synthesized speech to comment on the action.It doesn’t influence the game too much, but it’s a nice addition and it feels quite special that it’s in there in the first place.

Final Thoughts

Hyper Sports doesn’t offer large changes from the other sports games, but at least the collection of sports is not as standard as the others – swimming as the first speed mini game rather than some type of running feels a bit more special. I wish I could jump between sports more often or do them in a different order, but I guess that’s the difference between a home and arcade game. It’s progress.

#523 Hitman 2: Silent Assassin

Posted: 10th August 2018 by Jeroen in Games
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715th played so far

Genre: Action
Platform: Various
Year of Release: 2002
Developer: IO Interactive
Publisher: Eidos

I guess I’m trying to start the franchises that have multiple items on the list, where I haven’t started them yet. It’s not been something I’ve been actively seeking out, but when I am reminded of one, I do my best. More, at least, than I always do keeping up with them later – SimCity has had one entry covered, two to go, but because management sims are rare and I want to treasure these, they’re taking a while.

Anyway, the Hitman series needed their kick off, and with all the stories I’ve been hearing about the 2016 Hitman game, I really want to try it now. Time to go for it – stealthy assassinations a-plenty.

Our Thoughts

There are two ways to go with this game. The game has a large number of ways to tackle it. Taking the first main mission, for example, where you’re infiltrating a mafia member’s house to assassinate the boss. Sure, there’s the option for a killing spree, which I might have taken in parts of the game when I didn’t want to restart after everything went wrong, but that’s clearly not intended.

Instead, there’s an innocent mailman wandering to the house, a guard steps outside the walls for a wee and there’s a milk delivery. All three seem like valid options to get in, either by giving you a disguise or an unobserved path in. That then limits your next path, the direction into the mansion you’re infiltrating, and how you proceed. You still need to be careful that your disguise isn’t discovered, by staying in the right areas and staying unobtrusive, but sometimes murder isn’t the easiest way to solve that. I’m sure you can do all of it without killing anyone but the assassination target, but again, I struggled.

What got me is that the game was quite difficult and that I found the tutorial sparse in palces. While it mentions non lethal takedowns, for example, it doesn’t explain how to sneak properly (with crouch being a more natural button that doesn’t actually make you stealthy) and it took me a few goes to get it right. Even at the start, the game is difficult, regardless of difficulty level, and in the end I went for the aggressive mode – it felt more satisfying and less frustrating. It feels like this mostly comes down to polish, though, with some improved controls and tutorials taking you a long way.

714th played so far

Genre: Action/Adventure
Platform: Gameboy Advance
Year of Release: 2004
Developer: Capcom/Flagship
Publisher: Nintendo

In the past year or so, I’ve been playing a lot of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the Zelda game that combines the open world of an Assassins Creed game with the world of The Legend of Zelda and then strips down everything it doesn’t need (and adds plenty of bits it does need).

It feels weird, then, that I haven’t played one for the blog in a while (or perhaps not, I might have had enough already). One group I haven’t touched as much are the top down handheld installments, of which the Gameboy Advance and Nintendo DS had a few. Even more important, The Minish Cap is one of the games that came free with my early 3DS purchase, so I really ought to cover it.

Our Thoughts

The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap builds on a lot of elements from its predecessors. A Link to the Past is the obvious inspiration, the colourful graphics and world being closer than Link’s Awakening world which had a stripped down look by necessity. And here, too, it has it unique feature – or gimmick, if you will, and it’s hard to argue this isn’t one. Thanks to the Minish cap, a bird that perches on your head through most of the game, you can shrink to become the size of the Minish, a tiny people that lives in the forests and areas surrounding you. It creates an additional incentive to explore areas and a new way to solve puzzles, as well as some more inhabited areas than you often see in Zelda games. It’s not amazing, but it works quite well and follows on the Oracle series of doing things. Some other secondary elements get introduced as well – mostly focused on learning sword techniques and upgrading swords, as well as additional movement abilities, but it’s not the key focus as much, with the Minish cap really expanding the scope of the world.

This is reflected in the dungeons. The ones I saw, at least, were all small as well. This means, of course, that a lot of the dungeon scenery is more organic, with a barrel in the first dungeon being a clear nod to the size’s origin. The enemies, too, are ‘normal sized’ enemies that look large in this new world. It’s a nice touch and feels better than the inexplicably present, created dungeons in other games.

What’s most convincing are the charming graphics. This game was released after Wind Waker and it shows in the art style. It works well for a smaller screen, creating a clear look at what’s going on. I know it’s not universally popular, but it worked for me.

Final Thoughts

After Breath of the Wild, any Zelda game would suffer, but this is a decent installment – not one I’d necessarily put at the top, but it feels accessible and welcoming. There’s a feeling of some gimmickry being present, but it feels like there’s something for later DS games to build on.

#472 Gitaroo Man

Posted: 2nd August 2018 by Jeroen in Games
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713th played so far

Genre: Music
Platform: Playstation 2
Year of Release: 2001
Developer: Koei/iNis
Publisher: Koei/THQ

Gitaroo Man is a rhythm game that, from its cover, I always peg as a bit of a RPG game. What the cover doesn’t look like is how the game seems to be pegged – one where you become a guitar based superhero who has to fight off invaders by playing awesome tunes. I can do that, right?

Our Thoughts

I mean, it’s a different, slightly more original story for a rhythm game, comparable to the likes of Elite Beat Agents, here saving the world from invading demons and angels using amazing guitar skills. It’s cute, and although the animations repeat plenty in th elevels, at least you’re kept busy enough that you don’t notice as a player. The cartoony graphics also transfer to the characters, and you have the assistance of some incredibly cute musicians to fill your band. It’s fun to play and look at.

However, I found out that I could never be a guitar-wielding superhero. I’m bad at these rhythm games and this one feels unforgiving in places. Rather than just relying on specific button presses – something that happens in some sections, but not all – you need to follow the trajectory of a line with a thumbstick while pressing a button for parts of it. There’s some leeway in the shape of the cone that needs to track the line, but I’m still not fast enough.

I do prefer the latter mode. It has a bit more flexibility and makes it about picking a single direction and pressing a button, not getting confused about which buttons I’m pressing at which time. My joystick skills aren’t good enough for it the whole time, but it’s an innovation I do prefer over other games of the genre.

Final Thoughts

Gitaroo Man is well crafted, looking like a nice cartoon which some fun characters. Its story is fairly simple, but it is presented really nicely and makes for something more than a band… or helping people with their problems through dance. The gameplay works well, the line being a decent twist even if I wasn’t great at it, and it feels like it offers something new compared to the past.

#180 Actraiser

Posted: 29th July 2018 by Jeroen in Games
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712th played so far

Genre: Action/Strategy
Platform: SNES
Year of Release: 1990
Developer: Quintet
Publisher: Enix

I played Actraiser a long time ago, probably by getting through some random SNES games when I had a chance to – I don’t really know what attracted me to it, but I connected with it. It’s a game that combines action levels with a strategy game, which is an odd combination, but works for me. I get to properly review it now – hoping this is the game that I remember.

Our Thoughts

So one half of the loop of this game – building villages, shooting down enemies where they fly in and planning everything out. You don’t get loads of choice, just say what needs to be developed next, but there’s something really attractive about the loop here that kept me entertained. It’s helped by unlocks travelling between villages – when you unlock grain in one level, you also get seeds to bring to another and help them grow. When your villages are big enough, you can move on down to the next level.

The story marries that to the other level quite well – basically, to allow the villages to develop, you need to jump into a statue and clear a level. This is a side scrolling beat em up level – run through, kill enemies, a boss at the end. It’s nothing remarkable and I admit I used cheats to make it easier. The idea works well and I tried some legitimately, but the interplay felt more important than the actual execution of the levels and possibly not quite aimed at me.

The cynic in me sees how this could work as a free to play game – creating a loop of improving your cities and fighting off outsiders, waiting for timers to run out – but the existing ‘port’ removes the strategy elements entirely. Even as a basic concept – action levels surrounding a strategy game – it seems to be almost unique, but a concept worth exploring. I guess it’s a case where genres weren’t delineated enough to matter yet, where you could mix and match, a concept that wouldn’t be easy to sell to a publisher these days.

Final Thoughts

Actraiser is a unique game that probably has two sets of fans – with those on the border being best served, emulation means that straddling the line is easier, at least for the strategy fans. The city building never gets too complex, but it’s fun, and the endorphin feedback loop works amazingly well, considering how basic it is.