The End

Posted: 22nd November 2021 by Jeroen in Endgame

This is a weird feeling. Eleven years ago the first post for this blog went up and even as we expected the train to stop, it kept going for all that time, regularly posting, playing a few games every weekend, dedicating most Sunday afternoons to the blog, and now we’re at the end. Right now my head is spinning at the idea of free time and what I can do with the extra time on Sundays.

That’s not to say it’s been a negative. While I’ve had trouble with some of them, I’ve loved playing most of them and even more, I’ve loved exploring them. Even when a game didn’t appeal, there could be something interesting in finding out why, analyzing and writing down my thoughts. As always, the hardest games to judge were the middle of the road ones – nothing bad, but nothing really good to say either.

In that time, I’ve become a more rounded gamer, where I can say I’ve experienced the highlights in gaming and have tried a bit of everything, without trying to be too prejudiced. I’ve learned a lot, my console FPS skills have gone up, I’ve gotten better at shooters and have been used to a lot more situations. I think I’ve (marginally) improved my writing skills, trying to pick up some tricks to make it flow better. I have also not done that as much as I probably could have, because I’ve just been plugging at what I’ve done, but I hope my introspection has been worth it.

But as I wrote in some notes elsewhere recently is that this also helped me think about games, how they’re constructed and what makes them tick. Why do I like them? Why does something work or not work? How is a game put together? How does it make me feel or play a certain way? How does it teach me how it works? There’s a lot of analysis involved that I think I’ve gotten better at as time went on, going beyond how good it is. And while that development is hard to separate, I did end up getting a job in the video game industry, with the blog proving I like games, at least, but hopefully also helping show that bit of insight that I now have in how they work. Nine years later, I’m not too worried about it anymore, but in the industry it helps to have something to talk about it.

If I get past my awkwardness and show you this as a result: Hi! Hope you enjoyed having a look.

The List

With a subjective list like this, you’re always going to have a subjective cut-off in what it should contain. No two people would agree on this, and I have my own disagreements for sure. Should you really have Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire over Pokemon Red/Blue? Is Mega Man 9 really the most notable game of that massive series, and does it really deserve to be left out of the list in the second edition?  What is Free Running doing on there?

The list is flawed, and I’ve mentioned this several times. First, the selection of games has some dubious choices, and I’ve pointed some out above. There’s a tendency to ignore some big names while dumping every game in a series on there even when it’s not needed – the different Grand Theft Auto IV expansions are decent games, but having every entry in that franchise on the list is way too much. It’s even worse when that leads to remakes being included – I don’t see why you need to have both Metal Gear Solid and its remake Metal Gear Solid Twin Snakes on the list when the latter doesn’t add that much. Yeah, it plays that much better, but in that case maybe the original should have been skipped. Considering the omissions elsewhere, it feels like this is done by someone focusing on their own biases, not quite looking for enough. Similarly, an old school Sierra game wouldn’t have gone amiss and I would probably have traded something like The Dig for it.

This isn’t helped by over 10% of the original list being games from 2009, with another decent chunk being 2008 games. It makes sense because of the way video games have developed – the medium is still growing so quickly that the boundary of a good game keeps moving, but it also meant that a large chunk of that 10% is outdated now. The list is a victim of its own age there, with the rise of mobile gaming and the growth of indie redefining a lot of the landscape. So-called walking simulators are completely missing, but I would argue that something like What Remains of Edith Finch is part of the discussion of video games as an art. Dear Esther and The Stanley Parable are within the time frame of the second edition and are missed out, while the latter’s playfulness with the expectations of gaming are vital in understanding and looking at video games.

The fact that the second edition arbitrarily only changes twenty games hinders it too. To fit the make up of the first edition, they should have changed at least a tenth of the book to keep up with trends, but (I guess because of costs) this series simply doesn’t do that. Instead, it’s a patchwork job that removes viable games, adds in a few indies, but mostly known quantities, but also – and this got me most – left in a bunch of games that have become physically unplayable. City of Heroes had shut down some time before the book was updated. Reset Generation‘s online version was taken down before the end of 2011 and never returned. It took me years to find a way to play that game, as nobody has an N-Gage 2, and I would say that this is effectively a lost game now. The book still says it’s essential to play though, and that feels wrong here.

It’s a flawed list, but most notably it’s a snapshot in time. While that may make some sense for long running forms of media, with music and movies have built up a canon for a long time, video games are still relatively young and, because of the accessibility of modern tools, are now evolving faster than ever.Making a canonical list at one point of time is already nearly impossible, keeping it updated is a feat that should probably not be attempted for a long time.

In the end, the list was a means to an end. It gave me a chance to explore games as a medium, see a lot of its facets and feel like I’ve actually given everything a good go. I might not have covered your favourite game and I will have missed out on games I should have played, but I feel like in a lot of cases, I’ve played something like it, and it feels like that is the most valuable for me. I have a breadth of experience, having had 1021 different experiences (minus a few remakes), rather than a depth of just a few. To judge something, it feels like that breadth is more important, so you can compare it to a spectrum of experiences, rather than just the one thing you’ve been laser focused on where a deviation will seem bad. I’ve succeeded at that, and I think it will positively inform my gaming life going forward. I’m happy with what I got, even if there was a lot they could have done better.

The Games

Probably the most common question I get asked after explaining what I do for the blog is what the best game I’ve played is. And the honest answer is that, to be honest, I don’t really know. I’ve played over a thousand games for the blog and it’s hard to remember all of them. Even then, from longer exposure, Baldur’s Gate II and Planescape Torment continue to be up there and are the first that continue to come to mind. The fairer question is probably what new games ended up in there, with Mass Effect and Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II being great additions that fit in the same mold, as well as a larger presence of JRPGs that I enjoyed exploring. Given that, though, the appeal for me has been breadth, not depth, and properly experiences games and series I hadn’t before, such as Halo, Metroid and Jet Set Radio.

And although I should probably remember more bad games, most of them flowed off me and I’ve mostly forgotten about them. Except for Free Running. That game had no business being on the list, and I’ll say that until the end.

What’s Next

Looking at it a year or two ago, I was wondering whether there were any new projects I wanted to take on. I talked about the CRPG Book project in my Final Fantasy V write up and that’s certainly a list I’m going to use as inspiration going forward, but I want to make sure I get my adventure and strategy games in too.

Over the past few years I’ve been helping Peter with Play That Game, a site that aggregates all sorts of top video game lists and makes a single list out of it. There’s obviously a pretty big overlap between the 1021 games I’ve played so far and the top 100 or top 250 on there, but it’ll let me play a lot of more recent worthwhile games that I’m looking forward to playing anyway.

But right now, I think I’m going to enjoy my time off. If you want to see me tackle smaller bits on some TV and music topics, there are bits on my micro blog, but those come with less research, less words and less care – and no schedule, I’ll just be posting when I feel like it. Right now, that’s the pace I’ll be happy with.

If I tackle another topic, I’ll be sure to post it here, so keep an eye out if you’re interested. We’ll see if I ever get to it.


Before I sign off, I want to thank a few people for their help and support.

Most important, thank you Peter for both indulging me through this blog, for helping out playing early on, setting the tone and style for the blog, and continuing to support me throughout. I hope it hasn’t been too much of an inconvenience and that you enjoyed watching along.

Thanks to Kat and Chris for lending us a whole bunch of great games early on, as well as a Nintendo 64 to play those games properly. They really gave us that early boost we needed.

Thanks to Mike for indulging us in our wild adventures around Manchester and London, looking for specific arcade machines and helping us get a few pictures while we were actually using them.

Thanks to all the arcade owners who kept their weird machines around so we could play games like Final Furlong properly – and thanks to whoever decided to keep a Sega Rally Championship machine at Euro Disney – I did wonder if we could have claimed that trip on expenses if we had been paid for this. Similarly, thanks to the people who sell weird stuff on eBay or to gaming stores, this blog would not have been possible without the second hand gaming market.

And thanks to everyone who stopped by and enjoyed the blog for a few minutes. It never got big, but I always got a thrill out of seeing our numbers crawl up. I hope that you enjoyed reading any post you came here for.

Keep experiencing those games, broaden your horizons, and keep enjoying your time doing it. Goodbye for now!


1021st played so far

Genre: First-Person Shooter
Platform: Playstation 3/Xbox 360/PC
Year of Release: 2013
Developer: Irrational Games
Publisher: 2K Games

It’s weird. I always assumed that I’d try to make the final game a bit of an event. Organize a playthrough with some people, do at least some of it in their presence. Instead, however, quarantine has given me the chance to speed through the list, with at least some of my restored commuting time going towards it, while also not having to plan for weekends with friends or having to worry about other engagements. It was partially the reason I could manage to switch to posting more often.

But here we are. This post is going up 11 years, to the day (though perhaps not time) after we covered our first game, Pong. Our goal was to play the final game in the book as the final game for this blog, after trying to make sure that (and succeeding at) playing every other game in a spot that didn’t match their book position. If you start at game 2, you might as well stay away from that order forever. In the first edition, that would have been Alien Zombie Death, but for all its perceived flaws, Bioshock Infinite feels like a more appropriate end.

There will be a bigger post going up soon after this one, but for now I’m looking forward to diving back into the world of Bioshock. Both the first and second game were an amazing experience that I can go back to now the blog is done, but the third’s introduction is already showing me something new with a lot of living humans. I don’t know how that will link to the lived in but deserted corridors of the previous games, but I’m looking forward to finding out.

First-Person Shooter

I think the first-person shooter is the first where I became aware of a new genre coming into existence, as well as the first time where we got a clear technological leap forward in what games could do. Wolfenstein fakes its 3D, but led to Doom doing it all well in a more drab environment. Duke Nukem 3D created a 3D feeling engine, where through tricks paths could cross and connect, and a level really became a world rather than a collection of rooms and corridors. Then Quake made everything 3D and we got a world where that became the standard. Until that point, it felt rare, while after that this became the standard, whether it was first or third person. The free movement in 3D was amazing.

Personally, I loved the aesthetic and feel of Unreal, although that’s not something you get in the Unreal Tournament series, but as someone who’s now old enough that feeling of wonder with 3D that still hasn’t gone anyway. It’s surprising easy to follow the development of the genre after that – whether it’s the immersive sim route System Shock 2 is set on or the story telling in the Half-Life series, it feels lovely to be able to track the development even in my own memory. I’m not amazing at this game and the multiplayer aspect of these games will never grab me, but I enjoyed some of the better games in the genre… including today’s series of games.

Our Thoughts

Let’s start with the obvious: Bioshock Infinite is a gorgeous game. While that goes for the graphics – as the most recent game on the list and obviously a triple-A title, that is to be expected – it also goes for the set up. The first chunk of the game takes place on Columbia, a massive flying city that has its buildings join and separate as they move around. It’s a great visual effect, it paints a decadent and interesting world and works to change the world on a gameplay level. There are times where the theme park attraction behind it becomes obvious – both when you are flying hanging from rails, but also when the buildings are bopping up and down, following a predefined dark ride route when they’re meant to be flying around. Most of these only really stand out when you’re looking for them (and I got curious how it would have worked) and overall the illusion is great, of this big open world where any jump would have you fall a long time until you splat on the ground.

The world is also a lot more alive. Where previous Bioshock games take place in a mostly deserted world, with plenty of enemies but very few NPCs not aggressive to you and none just living their lives, in Bioshock Infinite you start off in a peaceful city that you just walk around. You have no weapons or any other aggressive abilities and the game changes that when the story kicks off and starts addressing its concerns. When enemies come in, you still go between that and quieter times where there aren’t as many enemies around and you’re trying to hide in the crowd as you learn more about what’s going on and follow the plot. It’s a nice feeling, making for a great contrast to set the game apart from its predecessors. Even though that changes, it sets its tone incredibly well and makes the enemy-heavy, deserted streets you encounter even more powerful.

This is helped by Elizabeth, the companion who joins you with her own powers, but also is able to provide you with a lot of context and banter. It, too, helps fill the world in a really nice way, and while there is plenty of contextual storytelling (Elizabeth knows this world about as well as you do). That doesn’t continually last, but it helps a lot to build more into the world.

The shooting is good, as you’d expect, and the various vigour powers work especially well. By this point I obviously had a bunch of DLC goodies to start off with, which gave me an early power boost that’s always welcome, but the game doesn’t necessarily expect you to be so powerful (it just helps). It all feels good to play, with decent navigational help that’s optional and I felt I didn’t need to rely on most of the time, and plenty of corners to search and find things in.

The story is tough to deal with. Columbia was launched in 1893 and most of the people you see in those early sections are set as being from the southern US and venerate a lot of heroes from the Confederacy. They favour John Wilkes Boothe over Lincoln and have some clearly racist cults that match the ones we have in the world, and their religion is all set around the US founding fathers. The story so far is about religious fervour, nationalism and racism, and the shooting part of the storyline started for me because I didn’t want to stone an interracial couple, which is forbidden. There are a lot of uncomfortable sites in here, where you as a hero are as ambiguous as anyone, but mostly you do get to feel good about taking out the bad guys and occasionally being helped by what seem to be people trying to do better. The conflict becomes quite obvious here, but for me it worked.

Final Thoughts

I know that Bioshock Infinite isn’t rated as highly by everyone compared to the others in the series, especially in retrospect, but it really worked for me. The game looked lovely and had a creativity in how it was put together that older games wouldn’t have been able to pull off with the resources they had. The world building is amazing, to a level you rarely see, and it was fun just getting through these areas, exploring them and interacting with everything that’s there. In finishing this game and seeing what’s out there, I’m genuinely excited about playing new games, seeing what else has been developed and what other games will be out there. What a great way to finish this list!

#215 Final Fantasy V

Posted: 19th November 2021 by Jeroen in Games
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1020th played so far

Genre: Role-Playing
Platform: SNES
Year of Release: 1992
Developer: Square
Publisher: Square

I think I decided quite early on that I would want a Final Fantasy game as my final RPG and, by extension, as the penultimate game on the list. I originally planned it to be Final Fantasy VI, but Before I Kick plans meant I played that earlier and replaced it with Final Fantasy V instead. After all, it’s a series that has stood the test of time and produced a number of RPGs that I loved – whether it’s from our shared love of Final Fantasy X, the great polish and world I’ve been experiencing in Final Fantasy XV, the weird references from Kingdom Hearts or the many spin-offs such as the Dissidia series, there’s so much to enjoy here and a lot of it remains good if not great. While a series like Dragon Quest may have preserved the core of JRPG gameplay better, it’s Final Fantasy that has shown that the genre is as malleable as western RPGs or other genres while being able to stick to some sort of common root.

The fifth Final Fantasy is the final mainline game that initially wasn’t translated for the western market, so instead we’ll play the PC port that was released years later – not as authentic (I won’t do any graphic comparisons this time) but it is obviously more playable even if it lacks some of the options to reduce grind later ports get. Time to finish one of my favourite genres, knowing that I have plenty more to play both by revisiting them and looking towards new games that are on the way.


I don’t think it’s a surprise to readers that RPGs are my favourite genre. I was always interesting in D&D, even if I couldn’t afford the books yet, and when I played my first one, Thunderscape, there was something that connected with me. Both the exploration of the gameworld and its richness, with its sidequests and other distractions, and handling character growth, with your characters getting stronger and feeling that progress in the game (where you can even grind if something doesn’t feel quite possible). I still have fond memories finding out what to do even as now I recognize the game’s flaws.

Since then, my tastes have changed, and when it comes to western RPGs I’ve found some games that I’ve enjoyed for the blog as well, and played since. I’ve done more runthroughs of my favourites Planescape Torment and Baldur’s Gate II and recently overdid it on the Skyrim modding to have a world to mess around it (is it any wonder that Legacy of the Dragonborn works wonders for my completionist brain?). My first post-blog game project is even to finish Jade Empire, as it’s the last old time Bioware game I have left to play.

And while my favourite love is always going to be the western RPG (the CRPG book would be a likely sequel if I didn’t want my life back… and I really do), I’ve really gotten deeper into JRPGs as well. I’ve discussed my love of Final Fantasy elsewhere in this write up, but I’ve really enjoyed getting into a number of others as well. Dragon Quest surprised me by having more to it than I expected it to and Suikoden managed to grab me more than I thought it could. And there’s even Pokemon, the series that grabbed me and never quite left me. In the end, it’s hard to point to many games in the genre I didn’t like, some horrendously action-based ones aside, and a lot are already on my list to get back to soon.

Our Thoughts

With all that praise, how does the final RPG of the list hold up? The basics of the story, visit each of the elemental crystals, get powers from them and in this case see them being destroyed, which then leads into the sequel. There are some orphans of unknown parentage and such, as seems quite common for the series. You can partially forgive that with this being earlier in the franchise, with these standards being set, but it does feel like part of the reason it does this is to make sure the narrative justification for the job system is available.

It felt like there was another layer of the story coming, with the way it sped you through these early bits, and having seen some of the follow up maps I don’t think I’m entirely wrong there. To enjoy the job system, you nee dot interact with those four crystals first so all your options are available, and that takes time. As overdone as some bits were, I have to say that most of the game’s story and its conversations are a lot of fun to experience and that I really enjoyed that process.

Mechanically, the focus is around the job  system. You always have four characters in your party, but you can determine their class and through that their abilities. They learn these more permanently as you go on, giving you flexibility in how you set up your characters. Starting off with the basic warrior, black mage, white mage, thief and so on, later crystals give you more interesting options. The game even starts playing with these jobs in its narrative – although the first two crystals play it straight and give you the jobs straight away, later ones delay some of that until later. Not only is it a nice narrative conceit, it also gives you the time to play with each job more thoroughly rather than scaring you off with the large number of options you get.

Final Thoughts

There is a lot to see and do in Final Fantasy V, as the game has a lot of content, a lot of options to really build your character in a way that’s more like a western RPG than a JRPG, and a list of abilities that seems wonderful to explore. It’s ready to hit all of the beats, with a cast that really stands out as individuals even if they have to be flexible in gameplay terms. I’ve already decided I need to come back to these games, and this game really cements why I love the genre so much.

#915 Empire: Total War

Posted: 16th November 2021 by Jeroen in Games
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1019th played so far

Genre: Strategy
Platform: PC
Year of Release: 2009
Developer: Creative Assembly
Publisher: Sega

Even without the blog, I’ve been getting invested in the Total War franchise. I’ve played the Warhammer variants quite a bit and relatively recently got into Total War: Three Kingdoms, set (I believe) in the Suikoden era of Chinese history. For the blog, I’ve enjoyed both the entries in Rome and Medieval times, although I’ll admit that’s more on the grand strategy scale than the individual battles that I never quite got used to.

Considering the size of the genre and, well, that I’ve played a bunch of other big games, I’ve been ready to enjoy the last game in the franchise. As I’m near the end of the list, I’ve also saved two of my favourite genres until the end so I can dedicate enough time to it. Today, it’s the final strategy game. In three days you’ll read about my final RPG – although in reality I’m playing them a week apart so I’ve got enough time I can dedicate to both of them.


As I said, I enjoy strategy games a whole lot and I’ve had a lot of fun revisiting old favourites like the Civilization series and the original Starcraft. Beyond that, though, I’ve found so many more games in the genre – whether it’s the village building of Anno 1701, the alien invasions of X-Com or the strangeness of Pikmin, it’s rare that it didn’t hit me. Sometimes the age didn’t hit me quite as well, and the conversion to consoles like you get with something like Battalion Wars doesn’t always do it for me, but right now I just have a lot more in the genre to play.

Our Thoughts

I probably don’t need to explain it with the name, but Empire: Total War is set during the empire building era of European history, where its various powers are taking land in the Americas, Asia and work to become global empires.  It works, in part, with the set up I know from the other games – the high level overview where you can take part in smaller battles if you want. It’s the usual thing with a different skin, but it’s a formula that works and does enough to tell the different stories you can find in this world.

Before getting into the large world, though, it’s worth talking about the scenarios and story mode it sets. Rather than having to deal with the entire world, you can start off as a more historically accurate John Smith, establishing English colonies in New England and slowly growing them – fighting against and working with the natives, as well as driving out the French.

Listen – it’s hard to deny that this is what happened at the time. It’s not a good thing that happened, but it’s part of the history this game is trying to emulate.  At least they have a fighting chance, but it’s undeniable that the imperial ambitions of the nations at this time feel awkward now. I’ll get back to this, but let’s stick with the game.

The nice thing about the story mode is how it slowly grows. You can race ahead in mechanics – these aren’t blocked for you- but you deal with a small map at the time and it slowly expands. Your goals grow with it too and the game leads you through building your colony, growing a navy and dealing with diplomatic relationships step by step. It’s pretty neat and works really well to get to know the game’s systems.

After a while I moved to the ‘proper’ game, which is closer to the standard modes of other games – a full world map and a goal to capture certain areas by a deadline. Most empires in this mode are more spread out than in other games – playing as the Dutch, as a medium difficulty option – has colonies in parts of the Caribbean and South America as well as on Sri Lanka, as would have been the case at the time. From that point you battle to gain control of more of the map, often spread out, and your navy is a lot more important in the game – the naval battles are a nice addition to the series.

The different areas are connected solely by naval lanes, creating several parts of the world to manage, but with limits so you can zip everything everywhere. It’s a nice way of doing it, especially as usually only parts of the world mattered in this era. It is also its downside: the game is getting you to spread out between so many areas that it gets a bit much, and with a single gold total, it’s really hard to focus on getting everything in order. It’s exciting once it goes well, but there were moments where it was a bit much for me.

Final Thoughts

In then end, I enjoyed playing Empire: Total War enough to put this on the right side, but it’s not my favourite. In part it’s the scope, with the various areas often being a bit too much to handle. Then after that there are the major issues with empire building as happened during these times. The other games have historical issues, but the way you’re forced to be on the side of the empires in this feels a bit wrong. I don’t think this is the game in the series I’m most likely to get back to – but then again, with the third Warhammer installment coming soon with the announced three game map, I’m not sure I need to!

#964 The Sims 3

Posted: 13th November 2021 by Jeroen in Games
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1018th played so far

Genre: Life Simulation
Platform: Various
Year of Release: 2009
Developer: Maxis
Publisher: Electronic Arts

I don’t think I need to explain why The Sims 3 is my final life simulation game. As I mentioned with SimCity 4, this is the main game that has taken Maxis’ attention and while The Sims was big and The Sims 2 expanded on that, The Sims 3 went all in on the DLC model. It got people obsessed enough that it kept getting expanded. I could see it getting its claws in me, but with three more games after this, I’ve got a good reason to stop playing this time.

Life Simulation

Looking back on it, we rushed through the life simulations so quickly that we had to take a break of a few years before tackling more of them. Quite happily, I’ve seen quite a few takes on the idea of someone living in your system, starting with Little Computer People‘s mysterious man through the various Sims game to games like Flow and Spore that have you create your own creatures. Then you’re the other ones where you end up living a life – whether as a farmer in Harvest Moon, an RPG warrior in Persona 4 or, as the past year of lockdown has shown us works so well, as someone just running an island in Animal Crossing. They all feed into that idea of living a different life, but unlike Little Computer People, they also add on layers of mechanics that make it fun to play around with and try to set goals with, whether intrinsic to the game or ones you set yourself. Again, this genre has blossomed under the indie boom, and Stardew Valley is waiting for me to give it proper attention as I hope I can do soon enough, along with many others.

Our Thoughts

The downside of a blank canvas is that there are so many things you can do with it. As the series has progressed, more options have been added to The Sims, and you can really feel it in this game. Even with only the expansions that we got for free at some point installed – which is just one or two of them – you open up in a city with a lot to do. There are plenty of plots and small houses to start in (once I furnished them), and once you sort a job and regular income, a lot of other buildings, shops and things to go to.

It’s a nice change from the previous two games, having a town simulated around you, with your job being an actual location you travel to, apartment towers and everything else linking. Where previously the lots were there, they are so much more open here and part of a single world. You can go around and get a lot done, with some big goals that you set.

The one downside is the shop. The game really pushes it, obviously wanting to make some money on those, but it is always there and gets quite obnoxious. I’ve done my best to push past it, but it’s certainly annoying.

Final Thoughts

Shop issues aside, there’s a lot of game to play here, a lot of directions to go in and things to develop. It was incredibly addictive and I lost myself in the time. With the fourth game out now, I would switch to that, but I do need to get immersed in this world further.

#627 Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow

Posted: 10th November 2021 by Jeroen in Games
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1017th played so far

Genre: Action
Platform: DS
Year of Release: 2005
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami

We’ve had action games more recently than happened for other genres as we had some mixed genres to end stealth and edutainment with, and the variety of games meant that there was a lot of further choice anyway. I figured I’d finish on a Metroidvania game though, as the Castlevania series is a large enough one that I feel it could stand on its own here. Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow is a direct sequel to Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, the previous game in the series we played, and that game was overwhelming enough that I worry how it will turn out for this one. I’ve got a lot to prepare for.


As came up with shoot ’em ups, some genres really are just generic grab bags. Over a fifth of the games on the list are listed as action games, often combined with some other genre to create action adventure games, action RPGs or one of many other options like that. It really is a catch-all for games that don’t fit elsewhere, but require reflexes or speed to play, or where the systems are modified to require such rather than relying on stats or allowing for thinking.

As such, it’s hard to say much here when it covers so much of the games. Some work better for me than others, but as it’s been around forever, the genre matters. It’s whatever each game wants to be, although what I can say is that the addition of ‘action’ to another genre isn’t my thing – I prefer to plan and think ahead further, which these games stop me from doing quite as much.

Our Thoughts

This game starts off making clear it’s a sequel – the intro text references a lot of things in that game, a lot of it went over my head. The game then continues to play similar – killing enemies and occasionally collecting power of them, as you level up and increase your abilities. It’s quite fun, but after the first boss I did find myself getting lost, at times panicking as I ran around avoiding enemies while not being quite sure where to go. In the end I started pushing ahead, but without story or direction I wasn’t entirely sure where to go every time.

The game features one update that I noticed that tied it to the handheld system. You can learn sigils that you draw on the touch screen at certain point. The first comes in just before you defeat the first boss, and it’s a seal you’re meant to use to seal them away as a permanent defeat. It’s a nice touch, but even as it’s just to draw a triangle, I either kept getting the timing wrong or drawing it not quite right, so I had to repeat the same set of moves several times before I got anywhere with it. It’s frustrating and not really how I feel the game should have responded. These sigils are also only used for a few boss fights and plot doors each, making them seem like even more of a gimmick introduced to justify them being on the handheld.

That first boss was frustrating anyway. It was a real roadblock a few minutes into the game – it has high HP, does high damage, and from a distance. You have a short range only, while needing to hit it a lot, so I ended up using most of my potions just on the first boss. Combined with the repeats from having to redraw the sigil several times, I got to a place where the first boss was too much to take on, really limiting how much further I wanted to get and inducing the anxiety that made me want to run away from them as much as I could.

Final Thoughts

While I like the concept of Castlevania, I’ve been finding it somewhat obtuse to find my way through. The normal parts of the level are fine, if at times feeling a bit too labyrinthine, but the first boss really put me off trying much more. I got incredibly cautious in how I played, which kept me from proceeding much further. There’s something I enjoy in here, it’s just not right here with this game.

#863 Rock Band 2

Posted: 7th November 2021 by Jeroen in Games
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1016th played so far

Genre: Music
Platform: Various
Year of Release: 2008
Developer: Harmonix
Publisher: MTV Games

It feels like the era of instrument games has come and gone – they were really big about a decade ago, as an excellent party game, but it feels like they faded into obscurity again. We’ve been playing various editions of both Guitar Hero and Rock Band and their spin offs like DJ Hero. While they weren’t the majority, of course, they stand out as a fun way to experience them even as the mechanics got a bit similar after a while. In the end it does replicate a lot of other rhythm games, making sure to press the right button at the right time, but actually linking it to the real instrument and doing something similar.

So I left Rock Band 2 until last – really just a random pick from that list, but it seemed right to at least end with another instrument game. I’m curious how well this one will connect with me.


As expected, a lot of music games are a form of rhythm action, where you press a button at the right point in the music. We’ve talked about the instrument-based games, which pull from Audiosurf and Frequency, while many others, such as Vib-Ribbon, just use button presses. The real stand outs of this type are ones that wrap it in a proper story, like Elite Beat Agents, to give some ridiculous context for your actions. And while I’d argue that Patapon follows a similar system, it does have you rely on the music alone rather than giving you button presses and giving you more in put in what you do as you play.

But since it’s such a recurring theme, the exceptions stand out more. Cheating a bit, Auditorium should probably have had a third entry as it relies so much on sound to explain the puzzles.Both Rez HD and Everyday Shooter rely on forming music to set an atmosphere, and SingStar avoids the rhythm game by focusing on the vocals instead. They’re all different takes, even if they’re not always successful. In the end, for me at least, it’s the final result that really matters.

Our Thoughts

Rock Band is going to stay Rock Band. In its sequel, a lot of the game offers more of the same. You get a lot more songs, tour different venues where you play gigs using these songs and earn money as you do. It’s really well balanced, with the songs ramping up well – you start to feel the difficulty further in, but it goes at the right speed as you go through. It helps that I think I’ve gotten better at playing these games, so I needed to step up to medium difficulty to stay challenged, which helps give an extra lever to pull.

There’s a fair amount of customization as well, and all the other modes and features you’re used to – I don’t think the tutorial had much new to tell me – but it stays fun in everything it offered. I guess that after years of playing these games, this fits in with everything else I experienced.

Final Thoughts

I don’t think you can blame the game for this, but having so many instrument based games means that they start to fade at this point. So many games are similar, only switching out songs and customizations. There’s some polish and changes, but they are going to meld together for me in a few months. At least now I can go back and just play them for fun – I think I’ve missed out on doing that before, and I’ll have time now.

#505 Eternal Darkness

Posted: 4th November 2021 by Jeroen in Games
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1015th played so far

Genre: Survival Horror
Platform: Gamecube
Year of Release: 2002
Developer: Silicon Knights
Publisher: Nintendo

As I mentioned with Wing Commander IV a few days ago, I’ve kept a few games that I’ve been quite excited about until the end. Eternal Darkness has that sort of reputation – one that was a decent enough survival horror, but more notably the game messes with you as a player as the sanity of your player drops – to the point where the guide recommends not worrying too much about keeping it up as the game is more interesting that way.

I don’t know whether my length of playthrough will really show me as much of the game as that, but I am looking forward to see how far the game will push me. Back into another abandoned house…

Survival Horror

I know I’ve kept going on about it, but where a lot of other genres describe gameplay, survival horrors describe an atmosphere and style that other genres slot into. Some are more obvious than others – by Resident Evil 5 the series is a clear shoot ’em up while Fatal Frame is more an odd type of adventure game. There’s something in the latter game that describes a number of others though – going from room to room in an haunted location – often a house – as you look for items, take out the occasional ghost but mostly trying to avoid and absorb the horrors. It’s the later Resident Evil games that feel odd with the large groups of zombies, in a place where you are just meant to kill them all. Even Dead Rising‘s FPS set up avoids them.

With Peter’s dislike of zombies, it was up to me to play them for early on, and I’ve shown them through the game at several points even when he needed it for his blog. I have to say that the atmosphere is not always one that works for me, and it comes down to whether the gameplay beyond it appeals to me – the Silent Hill series is probably closest, together with Gregory Horror Show‘s odd, comedic sense of danger. As a genre, though, I have to say that the atmosphere is as useful a distinguishing factor as gameplay.

Our Thoughts

The atmosphere in Eternal Darkness is tense from the start. You’re basically locked in a creepy mansion that you walk around, first of all as you’re trying to find more information about your grandfather’s murder in your family’s estate. In the contemporary day, you’re safe there (at least as far as I’ve seen until now) but it’s deserted, with some creepy sounds and other off putting moments (including a bust whose eyes follow you down the corridor). You’re mostly solving puzzles here to get chapters of a book that tells the reset of the story, often unlocking a new area or letting you solve another puzzle as your powers and knowledge grow.

It’s a framing story of sorts of the other scary events, as you play as several different character exploring several different locations at different points in the past. For example, you start in a desert ruin in Roman times, then come back to the same location a few chapters later as a Persian sowrdsman a few centuries later. You also travel to a Cambodian temple, a European monastery visited by Charlemagne, and the estate a few decades prior. Those areas aren’t all as creepy by their nature, but still feature some disturbing images.

With that said, while as the main character you don’t have to worry about comic, other characters do, and that’s where it falls down. Although you slowly gather magic through spells as you go on, early on your combat is all about swinging a sword around. Even more annoying, in one area your sword breaks and you have to use a limited ammo blowgun to take out the zombies it drops on top of you. You can get the sword fixed if you kill the enemies quickly enough, but I certainly didn’t manage the first time and didn’t really see it until I looked it up. It’s the ever lasting shame with horror games: Why ruin a suspenseful, creepy game with some really interesting visuals with crappy, difficult to handle action sequences? The difficulty of the game isn’t in handling the horror, it’s in action sections, and that’s not the fun thing here.

And that’s a shame, as the story telling is really interesting, with a limited world that is stronger because you repeat those locations. The magic system is intentionally limited, which works as well, with some quite interesting spells you get to deal with in a way that integrates really nicely with the rest of the game. In fact, finding chapters for your book is a really good explanation how Alexandra Roivas, your main character, learns the same spells as the people you play at in other chapters.

Final Thoughts

There were places where this game was quite exhausting, with the action dragging on and trapped corridors not adding anything to the game. There are times where the game really manages its suspense and the more I write this, the more I’d love to see the story mode version of this. Something focused on that would be amazing, while this already brings a good idea.

1014th played so far

Genre: Shoot ‘Em Up
Platform: PC/Playstation 1
Year of Release: 1995
Developer: Origin Systems
Publisher: Electronic Arts

While with a lot of other genres, I tried to finish on a big game of the genre or something like that, for shoot ’em ups my final entry is the only in a series that was massive back in its day and always fascinated me. While Star Citizen is currently known as the biggest crowdfunding success (and possible one of its biggest failures as most of that game has yet to materialize and possibly never will), Chris Roberts made his name with the Wing Commander series. While Hideo Kojima got known for his extensive story telling in the Metal Gear Solid series, Chris Roberts was creating his games as movies, using at first celebrity voice acting and at this point full motion video integrated into the game to tell its story.

It’s also ambitious in its stories, branching them and trying to layer them, and although I believe previous games were not always as successful, the ambition is immense and I always heard it paid off. For this entry, I am now finally going to experience it and see how it ends up.

Shoot ‘Em Up

We have a lot of different types of shooters in the list – where we could have combined driving and racing, the shoot ’em up category includes flight simulation-like plane shooters, platform-based shooters, third person shooters and of course the basic flat shooters that started with Space Invaders. It even has Star Control 3, a hybrid that covers so many genres that the shooting part of it hardly plays into it for me.

It’s a broad category that all involves shooting things, and in particular games where the gun play is the focus, but there are plenty of edge cases. The constant is that for me, it’s also rarely the part of a game that interests me. I’ve rarely gotten excited for a shooter – if I did, it was often because of other things it brought to the table – and it’s one of those mechanics that, for me, is a means to an end rather than something I want to base my entertainment around. As the second-largest genre on the list though, it’s always going to be a grab bag, and a mainstay regardless.

Our Thoughts

Starting Wing Commander IV is quite an intense experience as a video game fan who’s not normally expecting big names in his video games and who’s still excited about hearing David Warner after his turn in Baldur’s Gate II. Wing Commander IV starts off with Mark Hamill walking into a bar, while Malcolm McDowell and John Rhys-Davies talk about the fate of the Terran Confederation. Not all the names are that big, but even as some feel a bit of the absurdity, there is some great action on display in what would have felt like a very niche thing twenty-five years ago.

It feels like you’re playing a movie thorughout. There are both live action cut scenes that look convincing – a bit low budget, but not as much as you’d expect for a game like this – and they integrate fairly well with the prerendered environments elsewhere, as you have different character move through the corridors of your mothership. The gameplay sections, where you fly around the galaxy, is obviously simpler, but having these wingmen with personality around you, chatting as you go through your missions, makes you feel like you’re still connected to the world. The game even lets you use your autopilot plenty of times so it really skips anything vaguely boring. While shooting is part of the game, it feels secondary to the story that’s being told and that you’re always in the middle of. You go from being in a fight to the base you’re trying to reach exploding, with all of that happening in engine.

Although while it feels cinematic, the game also partially embraces its interactive nature. The plot branches and your decisions seem to affect each other – I think loyalty with a character matters, but I also encountered a mission changing because I didn’t make it to another target on time. This isn’t obscure, all the consequences are clear from the story, but the feeling that it branches is really nice. It achieved a certain level in its storytelling that is rare for the era, and it pulls it off in a way that’s rare even now, and that you don’t see in other games that are as action focused as this one.

And I have to say those action sequences work just as well. In a way, having played more shooters like this feel like they have prepared me for this moment – being able to take on these fights so I can see more of the stories. It’s a lot of fun to play – except for the ground missions that still stay quite fiddly to be honest – and it all still felt really good to play.

Final Thoughts

As much as I am down on shooters sometimes, it feels like Wing Commander IV was the perfect one to finish on. Playing dog fighters for such a long time for the list really got my brain in the right place to enjoy them here, while the story just feels immensely fun to play through, while seeing the live action elements work so well. I’m glad I saved it until last, and I’m happy knowing I’ve still got plenty more left to play in the series.

#988 Wii Sports Resort

Posted: 29th October 2021 by Jeroen in Games
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1013th played so far

Genre: Sports
Platform: Wii
Year of Release: 2009
Developer: Nintendo EAD
Publisher: Nintendo

When looking at the remaining sports game, I ended up looking at the various minigame collections as they suited me most. With that, it made sense to me to finish on the Wii sequel, as it feels like these were the types of games that made the Wii as big as it was. Wii Sports did  well, and Wii Sports Resort takes it and pushes it further, in part by supporting the Wii MotionPlus..


As you may have noticed, I don’t consider sports games my favourite games. There’s something fun about the minigame collections like Wii Sports and I enjoy some tennis, but the yearly releases of FIFA, NBA and NHL games leave me cold as I don’t care about the sports and I find them quite difficult to understand – the tutorials aren’t present enough and don’t connect with me. So yeah, while I got some appreciation for pool and golf games, on the whole it felt like the sports games were always obstacles to overcome for the list, rather than something I fell in love with.

Our Thoughts

As we’ve seen in many older and newer games, the minigame collection of sports games work well. The new games haven’t shown up on the list, as the Wii Sports series are the only ones that made it, but games like World Games and Track and Field show that they were an early favourite to use sports that wouldn’t work as a full game. The genre still exists – Mario and Sonic seem to be there for every Olympic year – but the games are pretty similar, with the button smashing gameplay at the core getting a prettier skin and some smaller updates. They don’t do much that’s unique, in part because there isn’t that much more to be done.

The real innovation has come from input, and two innovations there had come with Kinect (and its Playstation equivalent) and VR headsets. I don’t know too much about the latter’s implementation, but having done bits with the Kinect, it’s shown that it didn’t have enough staying power. Perhaps that’s down to the platform as a whole not reaching its potential, but it did feel like it used a lot of minigame type collections. Then there’s obviously the Wii’s motion control, and the subsequent consoles continued to use that as a way to play these things. Ring Fit Adventure is a recent release that seems to use those same control inputs to make an RPG instead.

The latter is, of course, what Wii Sports Resort is build on, and a number of the minigames included are in fact upgrades of those in the previous game. The controls are smooth – while they weren’t an issue in the original game, I was amazed at how they were really smooth considering how I was struggling with them recently. They show off the controller well and use it, but they also expand on the existing games by adding some nice extra modes such as the insane 100 pin bowling – it’s incredibly satisfying while it’s so excessive. Obviously some work better than others, but I really enjoyed cycling, basketball and archery as well, and it feels like the latter especially benefits from the increased accuracy of the MotionPlus.

Final Thoughts

Obviously, Wii Sports Resort is a sequel, and it’s one that makes Wii Sports as an individual game redundant – although that game is far more notable for its cultural resonance rather than its specific play. This really shows the innovation that came in as a result of motion controls, as an improvement over the controls we already knew for decades.