676th played so far

Genre: Strategy
Platform: PC
Year of Release: 1996
Developer: Westwood Studios
Publisher: Virgin Interactive Entertainment

While I originally focused on playing Command & Conquer, the Red Alert series never held quite as much of an appeal to me. Partially it’s because World War II settings don’t really interest me a lot of the time, while the sci fi side works so much more, but I think I build myself up more for the original, while this felt like a more boring sequel. I only got to the series later – mainly remembering playing the second game in the series with friends.

So while I know I enjoy the series, I just never quite made the jump and have been holding off a bit. Not helping is that the original C&C didn’t hold up as much as I hoped. Let’s see whether it works here.

Our Thoughts

I must say, Red Alert looks older than I remember – another reason to show I played a later game in the series – but it still plays really well. The maps still feel expertly crafted and it’s all a lot of fun to play.

Although there are some base building maps, it felt like there were more puzzle levels, where you get a set number of troops and have to reach a place or a few of them. This isn’t exactly unheard of in these games, but where in others you still use some force to overwhelm them, here you are fragile enough that they feel like puzzles – sneaking around an area and blowing stuff up from a safe place. It’s stealth in an RTS engine and is an incredibly interesting way of approaching these levels. I’m not sure I always quite got the point of the puzzles, but it’s a nice counterpart to the big base building that usually dominates these levels. Because it’s so much trickier, it’s more fun to play.

I got most of the base building by jumping into a few multiplayer levels, where you obviously get to have access to everything, rather than the steadily rising level of technology seen in the single player campaign. And man, there are loads of options here, especially with the different ways of summoning units, some side effects (more than in Command & Conquer) and a whole setup of naval units that are still hit and miss in a lot of games. It’s quite overwhelming and not getting the build up, I don’t think I used them to optimal effect – but there are clearly a lot of tactical options here.

Final Thoughts

Red Alert was a definite surprise – while building on a now proven great series, the levels are some of the most creative I feel I’ve seen in the genre. The mechanics themselves feel like a reskin of Command & Conquer, with some cut and additional content added, but the way it makes use of these in the campaign is quite different and very interesting to play with. A step up that I hope we can actually experience more of.

#285 Bioforge

Posted: 3rd March 2018 by Jeroen in Games
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675th played so far

Genre: Role-Playing/Puzzle
Platform: PC
Year of Release: 1995
Developer: Origin Systems
Publisher: Electronic Arts

I’m not sure quite where I stand with Bioforge. Graphically, and in vague theme, we have something that resembles an older version of System Shock, but it’s billed as an RPG/Puzzle/Adventure while the manual lists a bunch of combat options… A lot of this is going to depend on where it wins out for me.

Our Thoughts

What genuinely got to me while playing this game is that quite a bit of it was let down by the game’s age and the consequences it has on the controls. We have a third person perspective with a camera per ‘room’ or area and with that, we get tank controls (with no WASD!) that are slow and awkward. I can accept it, up to a point on Grim Fandango, but for the most part, that game isn’t about the timing.

Here, imprecise turning meant that running down a hallway to avoid a cannon you cannot take on yet becomes very difficult. Combat feels too complex and difficult and, so far, hasn’t added much to the game beyond being an HP drain – which feels annoying considering it’s a very limited resource in the game. The controls feel too imprecise to really play the game, and I couldn’t bring up the patience for it.

And if this game were remade – something that seems unlikely as EA doesn’t care much and it’s not really a big name – that would probably do it. The world seems interesting, a dystopian feeling space station where you are landed and have to escape while being threatened and so on. The puzzles are pretty fun – quite obvious, when the controls aren’t a hindrance to solving them. It makes some good use of computer interfaces, manipulating the world through all of that, creating a real sense of the possibilities here. The project was also developed as an interactive movie – something that sounds a bit like a buzzword, but it inidcates the story it’s trying to tell. It didn’t quite work on me, but I do feel there’s a clear greater effort taken in the storytelling here that we don’t see elsewhere.

Final Thoughts

It’s hard to feel like there aren’t games who did this better – Quest for Glory combines a similar set of genres but feels playable as it’s based in a point and click adventure instead of a 3D engine like we get here. The System Shock series trades on similar themes, although with less adventure game puzzles. Here, it challenges you, but not quite to the point as it could have when the 3D control issues would have been worked out.

#69 Bomb Jack

Posted: 27th February 2018 by Jeroen in Games
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674th played so far

Genre: Platform
Platform: Arcade
Year of Release: 1984
Developer: Tehkan
Publisher: Tehkan

Here’s a simple one – again one of the oldest games on the list. The screenshots look a bit like Pang, but clearly you’re moving around what feels like a superhero rip off – Astro Boy with a Bat Man mask or something. But there’s bombs involved – loads of bombs – so we’ll see what happens.

Our Thoughts

There really is a big difference between how platformers look in the arcade and how they look at home at this point – compare this to Bounty Bob Strikes Back, released in the same year, for a big change in graphics. It is also, however, a single screen game without any scrolling, which means it’s some distance away in gameplay from Super Mario Bros, which doesn’t look quite as good but feels bigger.

So the game looks nice for its day, colourful with some pretty backgrounds for the five different levels. You collect all the bombs on a screen before you move on to the next one, getting a bit of a power boost as you collect some of them. There are several enemies around that you can’t touch, where the game becomes mostly about avoiding them.

What makes the game feel unique is that your controls are different from normal. While you can’t quite fly (never mind the cape) you have a very high jump and can descend quite slowly, giving you a lot of vertical control that really changes how you approach the game. You want to be up a lot and steer your way around, meaning you go up and down a lot more collecting bombs than you normally do. At the same time, when you hit enough bombs and your enemies turn into coins, getting to them before the timer runs out is more difficult, in part because the horizontal control gets trickier with the vertical levels. For the same reason, platforms are as much of a hindrance as they can help – they stop you going up, while often keeping enemies on top meaning you want to stay out of the way there.

Final Thoughts

Bomb Jack is a charming game that does its things quite well – a clearly defined goal with decent mechanic that feel like they shake up the platform standards enough to stand out. It follows the tropes of its days – collecting rather than advancing – but it makes it feel fun and exciting to do so.

672nd played so far

Genre: Adventure/Shoot ‘Em Up
Platform: Playstation 3
Year of Release: 2009
Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

On our first outing in the Uncharted series, we had a good time exploring some great venues, but had some issues with the shooting in the game. We felt strengthened hearing it would be better in the sequel and that’s what I’m looking to explore today.

Our Thoughts

When a game starts in media res, like this game does, it really needs to show off what it does best. And in that, Uncharted 2‘s opening scene succeeds well. It starts with a climbing section that felt so satisfying previously, made cinematic by the train and its cold surroundings. There are a few secrets hidden early on, some small gains to be made, and after that some decent gunplay.

After that, we got to what’s really a tutorial break in – stealing an artifact with plot relevance from a museum. It repeats a few bits about jumping that you’ve done before, but then shows up more of the climbing, breaking in and, more important, stealth and gun fighting sections. The latter have improved a lot, with a lot more small groups and far less infinite respawns – even where they exist, there are better end conditions than reaching a point on the floor.

But as the break in into the museum shows, stealthing through the game is a lot of fun and works decently well. A lot of it overlaps with the climbing and free running sections, so you’re relying a lot on movement to take out your enemies. There are some really tense moments that use it and it makes the game’s combat sections mostly far more palatable.

Beyond that, the story is fine and the characterizations are good again. The interactions between Nathan and the other main characters are well written and relatable, making for a game that’s a lot of fun to play through. The animation is also really good – in particular where Nathan is concerned. He looks really good and moves so fluidly, it’s clear they spent a lot of time on it and man, does it help leave a good impression of the game, especially when he walks through these lovely looking, varied environments.

Final Thoughts

It feels like this game improved on the issues that were a problem in the first game. Combat still isn’t the game’s strongest point – exploration and climbing work better – but it’s smoothed over a lot, and having seen the more complicated combat areas as Peter played through them, it was a fun option to watch.

#820 Burnout Paradise

Posted: 15th February 2018 by Jeroen in Games
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671st played so far

Genre: Driving
Platform: Playstation 3/Xbox 360/PC
Year of Release: 2008
Developer: Criterion Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts

I mostly remember Burnout 2 as a chaotic racer whose big selling point was a big crashing mode that felt especially exciting and plainly fun to play. The racing was supposed to be its focus though, and that’s what we get in the better regarded open world big brother that we get to play today.

Our Thoughts

Burnout Paradise is a large, attractive open world racing game. Unlike others, you never leave your car (although I believe there are one or two places where you can hop between them) and instead focus on driving through a large city. Early on there’s a lot of exploration – first of all to find all the different challenges you can take on (more or less one per crossing), but just as valuably to find shortcuts, occasional additional cars, collectibles and, most important, repair shops.

That last one becomes very important, as they’re not marked on the map by default, but a number of activities seem to require them. Breaking your car is never good, but since a bunch of them involve others actively trying to ram you, you want to get a repair in but don’t initially know where to go. A bit more help would have been extra – I ended up seeking them out early to get rid of that handicap.

It still marred my enjoyment of the challenges and, at least for this playthrough, I focused on finding those where I wouldn’t be held back too much by this. That was fine anyway – there was a lot to explore, and driving up to the observatory was a fun enough challenge. Playing more would likely see me make even more use of that.

Final Thoughts

The difficulty curve is a bit counteracted by having to learn your away around – not to learn the different (main) streets, but because the location of repair shops matters a lot and you can’t easily find those. It’s a negative I felt all the way through, but it was a lot of fun regardless.

#169 Final Fight

Posted: 11th February 2018 by Jeroen in Games
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670th played so far

Genre: Fighting
Platform: Arcade
Year of Release: 1989
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom

Final Fight is not a one-on-one fighter (as I thought for some time) – instead it’s another beat ’em up like Double Dragon. I guess it’s just one to experience.

Our Thoughts

This mostly felt like a pretty straight forward beat em up. You get your enemies storming you, you beat them off and keep going until they’re dead or you move ahead far enough. It uses props – showing how there’s more sophistication and use of the environment here – including chandeliers, but it’s not extensive enough to really have an impact. I never felt they helped me much, it was just an extra hit that got me.

It didn’t help here that I felt locked into my animations several times, with the game forcing animations to finish before I could continue acting. It made the game feel sluggish and frustrating, rather than fast as you want in situations where you get swarmed. Add to that a slightly awkward control scheme with not enough buttons – attack and pick up on one button being one of the compromises that don’t feel right  – and I had were a bunch of times where the game just felt frustrating.

There’s some interesting things – health pickups in the form of food feel a bit rare in this game – but despite some good ideas and a good basic setup, the game never took me from fine to memorable. To me, that’s unforgivable for this list.

#986 NBA 2K10

Posted: 7th February 2018 by Jeroen in Games
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669th played so far

Genre: Sports
Platform: Various
Year of Release: 2009
Developer: Visual Concepts
Publisher: 2K Sports

I’ll be honest, I feel like a lot of these sports games are ones I have to cover – the yearly entry of the time was put on the list as the best representative of football, hockey, baseball or football, but it’s partially because that happens to be the one that was out then, rather than completely the best. It’s fine, but not being a big player of sports games, they are always a bit more awkward.

I’ve already played NBA Jam, which was an older, but seemingly streamlined basketball game. This is years later, of course, but I’ll see how this works out.

Our Thoughts

So as all sports game do to me, I had to take my time to get into it. Unlike other games in the genre, though, I did get there. I mean, I started off with big name teams I recognised – like the Chicago Bulls – so the game was clearly on my side, but that’s what I needed to start. The controls and gameplay felt incredibly intuitive, and while I’m sure I missed some tricks, I managed to do okay getting through the game – far better than I expected and certainly better than I did in other sports games.

I didn’t jump into career mode as much, which is mostly again because I’m worried about not making it, and not being able to make it through these is what put me off the games earlier. The quick play mode feels so good to play and really rewarding, which was a good reinforcement and a good way to show how these sports game can stay accessible, even to first time players – and it’s something that carries through to these game modes.

It still feels like a good basketball game as well – at least as far as I can judge – and from other games, I feel like they might be perfect as an introduction to the genre. Here, however, it’s pulled off well in a way that doesn’t force you to deal with a legacy of years.

#578 Half-Life 2

Posted: 3rd February 2018 by Jeroen in Games
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668th played so far

Genre: First-Person Shooter
Platform: PC
Year of Release: 2004
Developer: Valve Corporation
Publisher: Valve Corporation

The Half-Life series is one of the big ones that revolutionised story telling in games and really pushed the FPS genre forward. We noticed this when playing the first game already and I know it’s been said about its sequel as well. It’s also the second part of a trilogy that will likely never be finished, but it seems like it has reached heights that might be difficult to equal at this point.

This game also required Steam and was responsible for getting that on every PC, meaning it gave it to chance to change and dominate PC gaming as it does today. That, however, has little to do with the actual quality of the game – whatever that quality might be.

Our Thoughts

I enjoyed jumping into this world. I still feel that, on some level, the train ride of the first game sets up the world better than the loose fragments of this game. At the same time, we’ve moved from starting in an industrial complex to an occupied city. It’s very dystopian, different from what I expected and showing the larger, open areas we’d been encountering in this game.

What follows, initially, is a story in this dystopian world where you are constantly chased. You meet up with the resistance, but need to get from location to location without help while under attack from the army. There’s some neat gadgets that come in – a lengthy vehicle section that feels really good – but the real highlight comes with the gravity gun, at which point the game’s excellent physics move from a puzzle implementation (which happens several times and work incredibly well) to being a great combat option.

I did have trouble with some combat encounters, as progress isn’t always as clear while enemies keep respawning. It’s focused a lot on creating cinematic and exciting moments, which is annoying when you miss an entry and assume it’s a physics puzzle. While I get it’s part of the game and it can be a good thing, it’s usually so seamless that it feels weird when they get it wrong.

Final Thoughts

Half-Life 2 provides a nice cinematic experience in FPS form, combining the two pretty nicely. The seams do sometimes show between the two, with some less impressive bits when they join – some of it felt quite empty or tedious, while others are still pretty exciting and fun to play. Still, for the most part it connects and it does create a bunch of great moments.

667th played so far

Genre: Strategy
Platform: PC
Year of Release: 2007
Developer: Massive Entertainment
Publisher: Sierra Entertainment/Ubisoft

See that number up there? Two thirds of the way through. Making progress y’all!

It feels like a while since we last covered an RTS. We’ve had some games, like the amazing Star Control 3, that mixed it with other genres, and there have been tactical games like Faselei! with a smaller unit count, but the last one focusing on large scale battles with plenty of units and unit building would be Age of Empires, maybe, although that too is focused more on the economy than games like this are.

It’s good to come back to it, though, as I do feel a lot of affection for the type of play.

Our Thoughts

World of Conflict is a game focused on tactics, dense with objectives – rather than the one or two I am used to from most RTS games, you have several per map as well as optional ones. There’s a feeling of this forcing you down a path at least, leaving no room for exploration, but that works with the setting.

Imagine if the cold war hadn’t ended, but instead led to a third world war. And imagine that in this, the US got invaded by the Russians. Here, you fight that off – working in friendly territory and, at least initially, your role is defensive – trying to stop the invasion and save civilians.

One of the interesting parts of this story is that you have a definite protagonist who shows up in in-engine cutscenes. Always from the back, mind you, so they can stay faceless, but it is interesting to actually see you get addressed in some way. It does well in setting up the illusion you’re dealing with something more real and personal.

So the game itself then takes place in these city areas and large towns. You don’t actually have to deal with the whole map at once – AI players keep the enemy at bay in other corners, while you deal with the problems in a specific area, shifting as the level goes on and creating multiple smaller sections that flow into each other. There’s no real base building – nor would there need to be – but there are varying options for reinforcements, which still gives you control over the units you use for parts of the game.

Final Thoughts

World of Conflict was a lot of fun to play, moving the RTS focus to strategy rather than economy while still creating the large scale battles I want from it. The setting feels a bit odd and too real at times, but it tells a decent story and lends it to far more variety that I would have expected.

#734 Tony Hawk’s Project 8

Posted: 26th January 2018 by Jeroen in Games
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666th played so far

Genre: Sports
Platform: Various
Year of Release: 2006
Developer: Neversoft
Publisher: Activision

We’ve played a Tony Hawk game before, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2. That was fine, a skating game in preset arenas that felt mismatched – not that natural and, even though you’d always want to create a setting with some good elements to skate off of, it wanted to make you feel like you were in an environment, which you simply weren’t.

Now there are six years between the release of that game and this one, and it’s been six years since I played the previous game. It’s a nice analogy, and I feel like I’m going in fresh because of it.

Our Thoughts

While playing this game, I was starting to wonder whether we ran into the same problem as we did with Parappa the Rapper. I found it really difficult to get the timing of the combos right, even in the tutorial, and I am wondering whether the game wasn’t adjusting enough for modern TV latency. It could be that I couldn’t quite get the timing right, but struggling with this in both the tutorial and early levels of the game, I hope it’s that rather than the game being set to too high a difficulty.

It meant that I struggled to get beyond the first area, instead I mostly explored the initial area. That was a lot of fun, finding the different places where you can do tricks and where you can interact with different challenges. But again, when I struggle to spin for long enough in the starting area, what lies beyond doesn’t matter, and you do run out of stuff to do in the initial area (which leads to me trying to break the game’s physics… multiple times).

Final Thoughts

The game’s potential is there, but – through either difficulty or technical changes – the game doesn’t give me a chance to actually see where it ends up going. It’s frustrating, because I tried and it couldn’t get out of my way.