#567 SimCity 4

Posted: 26th October 2021 by Jeroen in Games
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1012th played so far

Genre: Management Simulation
Platform: PC
Year of Release: 2003
Developer: Maxis
Publisher: EA Games

I have held off on playing SimCity 4 for this moment. As discussed in SimCity and SimCity 2000, I enjoy the genre even if the series has been overtaken by Cities Skylines in the genre of making pretty cities that work for everyone. It’s unfortunate – as much as I do see the appeal of The Sims, Maxis’ focus on that series led to so many other interesting Sim games simply disappearing. I’d instantly buy SimFarm or SimAnt on any platform that would offer it.

The fourth entry of the SimCity series appeared after The Sims had already established itself. At the time the book was written, it was the most recent entry in the series and… well, the 2013 version was bad enough that it was as responsible for the rise of Cities Skylines as any other.

Management Simulation

The list only covers ten management simulations. While I wouldn’t claim that the genre is massive, it also feels like there should be more considering the wide range of games it covers. Although Railroad Tycoon 3 was on the list, I’ve gotten deeper into later variations on that and Transport Tycoon, such as Transport Fever. Theme Park and Rollercoaster Tycoon are great, but the predecessors of Plant Zoo add just as much.

It’s a surprisingly variable genre, that covers a lot of different options that I think has exploded since then with Infinifactory, for example, spawning its own set of games like it. Sure, they’re pretty time consuming, but I’ve loved playing the ones I have and want to deeper dive in more of them.

Our Thoughts

As a reminder of home, I decided to start somewhere familiar. One of the maps SimCity 4 comes bundled with is one of London, as a region divided up in a number of maps that you actually play on. The tutorial had prepared me quite well – it worked well enough to teach me and in particular drove home the lesson not to do everything at once, but instead to only deal with problems and requirements as they come up. I did not, of course, fully follow that as I still wanted to build pretty cities that do everything, but I was warned about it.

What helps in this system is that you can connect the different maps. While you build up each map, they connect between each other in the region,with stubs appearing for roads and railroads that cross the border. It really makes it feel like you’re working on a large area, even as you can focus on the smaller sections of the map. I didn’t dive as deep into how well these can work together  – could I make one residential and the other industrial and make the two maps work together? – but it already works well enough here.

There are some nice other additions to this. You can drive vehicles around the map, not something that has much purpose, but it makes the maps a bit more alive and real. It’s a neat touch that grows the world a bit further.

Final Thoughts

While later management simulations have deepened a number of the concepts that SimCity 4 thrives on, the game actually reaches a good balance between complexity and playability. In games that go much deeper, it can be hard to keep track of all the variables, but it feels like SimCity 4 cut it off at just the right time to keep the game fun on the size and type of maps you play with. It’s still a lot of fun to play the game and worth going deeper into.

#847 Tetris Party

Posted: 23rd October 2021 by Jeroen in Games
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1011th played so far

Genre: Puzzle
Platform: Wii
Year of Release: 2008
Developer: Hudson Soft/Blue Planet Software
Publisher: Hudson Soft/Tetris Online Inc/Nintendo

I don’t think it’s controversial to say that Tetris is one of the most successful games of all time. It’s the second-best selling video game franchise of all time – and that comes after Mario, who after platforming also went into racing, RPGs, tennis and puzzle games has a lot more ground to cover than Tetris, which just has the variations on the one puzzle game – and according to our Play That Game analysis, reviewers and other people who ranked games it is the best game of all time. And as I’ve seen plenty of times – including with Mario before – there have been uncountable variations on the block dropping genre.

Tetris Party is a more recent variation on the game, and it seemed like a good place to finish the genre – with a new take on the one of the best games of all time. I hope it’ll have enhanced the game, rather than the mess making it worse as we saw with Pac Man Championship Edition.


There are so many different games in the puzzle genre that it feels hard to describe all of them. In fact, although I have almost always enjoyed them, I doubt that anyone will enjoy the genre as a whole. Personally, although I’m finishing on a block dropping puzzle game, I think I’ve seen more than enough to last me a lifetime through this list, and similarly the match three genre has worn me out. Of course, in the genre they are easier to put together than something with set puzzles like Myst, The 7th Guest or the Professor Layton games. It’s nice to see the storytelling that can be combined with these types of true puzzles, some shoe horned more than others.

Next to that, it feels like puzzle games are also a good way to explore new concepts by indie devs. Crayon Physics Deluxe and Grow, for example, aren’t big projects, but they are incredibly engaging games that I keep coming back to. There’s a level of innovation here that, looking back through the games, makes me want to go back to a lot of them to actually see those concepts again.

Our Thoughts

I’m sure I don’t have to go into the basics of Tetris. The standard game mode works as well as it always does, and the various versus modes work as well. The game’s more interesting parts, though, are were they add different modes that use the basic mechanics that change your goals. For example, there’s the climber mode, in which you have to place your blocks in such a way that a climber can get up them and build them a set of stairs to reach the top of the level. It’s a bit clunky – the climber isn’t the smartest – but it’s a neat different puzzle. Another that turns it more towards action is the stage racer mode, where you need to keep your block (using the different shapes) falling down an endless ravine. Having to use the moves that normally feel like the advanced turns at the bottom of the screen is quite nice, but you don’t have the time to think about it.

Special modes aside though – and they feel like novelties that I couldn’t see myself for a long time – I did also enjoy the smaller modifications of the other modes. Just a time limit is quite nice ot have as you can play in a more constrained session.

Final Thoughts

There are two ways in which Tetris Party excels. On one hand, it lets you play Tetris, both in the original form and with several variations that build on the existing gameplay and give you some other options to play. On the other hand, the game has a lot of minigames that play with the formula and engine to give you quite a different type of gameplay. Both sides work, at least to a point, and it feels like it adds to the game without ruining it.

#392 Driver

Posted: 20th October 2021 by Jeroen in Games
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1010th played so far

Genre: Driving
Platform: Playstation 1/PC
Year of Release: 1999
Developer: Reflections Interactive
Publisher: GT Interactive Software

Sometimes I picked these final games based on them being a well known series or being important in another right. Sometimes, though, it’s just the game that’s left over, and in this case one where the name is pretty much the genre. I’m honest not entirely sure whether the game deserves that honour, but it’s in the list and so we’ll see what it does have to offer.


I’m not sure I’ve ever figured out the differences between racing and driving in the book and I suspect that when writing it that they didn’t always look too closely either. The difference that I’ve been able to work out is roughly this: Racing games take place on a set track, and always focus on beating another group of cars. Driving games often take place in a more open world, although that isn’t the case in earlier games, and focus on other goals rather than driving. We’ve seen that with Crazy Taxi 3, for example, where you work to get your passengers from one place to another as fast as you can, as the timer ticks down.

Even so, the distinction is meaningless for a lot of games, but I do appreciate the games that have you do more than just race around a track – the variety and open levels add enough to the gameplay that I usually enjoy it more.

Our Thoughts

I tried, I genuinely tried. The first mission of Driver sets you down in a parking garage and tasks you to perform nine different tasks in sixty seconds – accurate stops, slaloms, reaching a certain speed and so on. It sounds like it’s possible to optimize so you can do this, but this doesn’t feel like a tutorial mission, this is a challenge to try after you’ve been playing for a while. Jet Set Radio did this, but its training montage was entirely optional and seen as a harder, later challenge. Driver, however, has you do this as a mandatory first mission and as a first player with (at this point) decent driving game skills I couldn’t manage it. It didn’t help that some are fairly vaguely defined, and so that was it. There was no chance I could get past that level (and I’m not the only one) so I have no chance to say anything about the main campaign.

I made it into free driving, which doesn’t have this issue, but I can’t recommend that too much either. It’s fine to be driving around, but without a goal the world is fairly empty and boring. Other games have done similar concepts – play Burnout Paradise instead – but this game is too primitive to offer you much joy driving without a goal.

Final Thoughts

Driver was a huge disappointment. I get that they wanted to make you know how to drive the cars, but this was too hard, and I think that some aren’t entirely necessary to start playing the game. Without that content, though, there’s not much to the game and it’s not worth the effort needed to set this up.

#875 Street Fighter IV

Posted: 17th October 2021 by Jeroen in Games
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1009th played so far

Genre: Fighting
Platform: Various
Year of Release: 2008
Developer: Dimps/Capcom
Publisher: Capcom

It feels right to finish the list of fighting games with a Street Fighter game. Not because I would say it’s my preferred series (in the end Smash Bros connects more with me) but because it really popularized the genre as we know it now, with the side-on 1 vs 1 combat. From what I understand, it changed the variety in arcades to almost exclusively feature fighting games, at least for some time (something I can confirm from our trip to Japan a few years ago). It was not the most controversial or the most advanced, but it’s the best known that, at some left, is a trend setter.

I’m playing the fourth numbered entry in the series – with all the remakes and different editions of the game I don’t know who many you’d say you’re really at now – with the fifth having had a slightly shorter wait when it was released about three years after the book’s second edition. I think the main question is still, how does the game hold up compared to its previous iterations?


Peter has always been the fighting game fan. While, as I said, I enjoy the Super Smash Bros series, especially when I can focus in single player, the more serious games grab me less. Over the past decade I’ve certainly gone from button mashing to using some amount of strategy, but it hasn’t entirely connected for me. I certainly prefer the slightly slower, more deliberate gameplay of a game like Soul Calibur over the frantic, stun lock-seeming gameplay of, well, some Street Fighter games.

It’s probably why I had more fun with the various fighting/adventure games, with the likes of No More Heroes and God of War standing out more – similar focus on skill, but in a more controlled and streamlined setting. They’re not always the first that come to mind as a member of the genre, but they’re the ones I’m most likely to come back to soon. Beyond that, I’ll just watch other people play Tekken.

Our Thoughts

I wonder whether the constant Street Fighter remakes and revisions – what is the different between Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting and Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix exactly – hides any real differences between the numbered installment. There’s a roster update, but the storyline, as much as there’s any storyline here – is flimsy and pretty empty, without much going on. In the various iterations of previous games, combos have emerged as a big thing, with there being combo meters just to see which ones you can execute, and it feels like that’s all that Street Fighter IV revolved around to me as a casual player. Your positioning is very static, your fighting skills and standard moves don’t do much as you’re playing, and it felt like it was just about learning your combos, executing them and getting through that way before  your opponent does.

I’m sure it works different as an expert, but for me I didn’t see much in here to hold on to. I can’t quite get to grips with the gameplay and missing out on any real story content, the game feels clinical, missing the personality and charm that other games, in or outside the series brings – this is a far cry from BlazBlue‘s story mode.

Final Thoughts

In the end, Street Fighter IV feels hollow, made for competitive players who are not me while not having anything to draw me in to get me to be a part of that crowd. I get that the series is prbably big enough to afford it, but I wouldn’t recommend it as a game to get someone new to play these.

#1002 Super Mario Galaxy 2

Posted: 14th October 2021 by Jeroen in Games
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1008th played so far

Genre: Platform
Platform: Wii
Year of Release: 2010
Developer: Nintendo EAD Tokyo
Publisher: Nintendo

There are, of course, a lot of platform games on the list. And while there are many big names in the genre, I think it’s indisputable that Mario is the king of the genre. While the original Super Mario Bros. is primitive now, I remember how much of a marvel it was at the time, and Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World are still pinnacles of the genre. After that Mario starred in many other genre games as well, RPGs and kart racing among the most notable.

But most notable for today is how in 1996 Nintendo released Super Mario 64. While there were some 3D platformers before, Super Mario 64 really made them work. There were some camera issues, but the game defined the movable camera as we still know it today, as mixed as it make work these days. The legacy is still there in Super Mario Odyssey, the most recent 3D Mario platformer, and I hope the spirit is there in the second entry in the Super Mario Galaxy series, the most recent one when the book’s second edition was released.


It feels like we’re closing off a big genre with platform games. While other bigger and older genres exist, action games are so fluid that they have no identity while there are various different shoot ’em up variants that don’t overlap beyond that you’re shooting things in them. On the other hand, there’s a difference between 2D and 3D platformers, but beyond that there’s a lot they have in common. There have been some experiments with how you jump – something the first didn’t always have and that Bionic Commando changed, but the core gameplay has stayed the same.

And that familiarity with the core has made the genre one where you can do a lot of experimentation, something that’s shown in the list as the early indie boom starts. Braid‘s strength is built on familiarity with the genre, which you can then extrapolate to experiment with further. Even now, there are a lot of experiments in the genre, and even some that aren’t classified as platformers but take after them, like Spelunky, use that DNA and develop it further. It’s never a genre I felt in love with, but it’s one of the first I played (Super Mario Bros. may, indeed, be the first video game I ever played) and I enjoy going back to it, alone or in co-op.

Our Thoughts

I’m glad I played Super Mario Galaxy before this, as Super Mario Galaxy 2 really feels like a sequel. It builds on a lot of the elements of its predecessor, while adding some of its own. The game is quite aware of that, which means that (thankfully) the explanations and tutorials are kept to a minimum. There is enough help if you need it, with some additional modes to help those who really struggle, but if you already know other games in the genre Super Mario Galaxy 2 really allows you to just jump in and get on with it.

All of that comes from a larger amount of gravity-bending puzzles, playing around with the different worlds and world shapes and letting you do a lot more of what the first game did. There is quite a bit of repetition in it – building on the concepts you already know and changing them up slightly – but the innovation is enough to keep you entertained. One of the big additions, the return of Yoshi, sits at the center of the game, with his house being the first area you visit and him being playable quite often. The controls are a bit weird – I suspect it’s mostly me struggling getting used to it, but it wasn’t as intuitive as the game seemed to assume it was.

Yoshi’s appearance also is part of the charms of the game. Your hub isn’t Princess Rosalind’s observatory, but is instead Starship Mario, shaped like Mario’s head and almost fully manned by the lumas, the star-shaped creatures that you encounter throughout the game. All sorts of smaller features start showing up as you unlock more features of the game, including a floating mushroom nearby with the Toad Brigade. It feels like the game adds that bit of personality to the world, stepping up a bit from the first game.

Final Thoughts

Even as it seems like the difficulty ramps up quicker than the first game – there are some devious worlds available a lot sooner than you’d expect – the charm does a lot to carry you through the game. There are so many different worlds to uncover and things to see that it feels like you won’t run out any time soon, and it genuinely holds up in a way few sequels that hew this closely do.

#946 Need For Speed: Shift

Posted: 11th October 2021 by Jeroen in Games
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1007th played so far

Genre: Racing
Platform: Various
Year of Release: 2009
Developer: Slightly Mad Studios
Publisher: Electronic Arts

The Need for Speed series is one that has been around for a long time now, with (from memory) its 1994 release with its 3D cards impressing us back in the day. It’s been a mainstay in the genre since then, with its street racing and police pursuits adding a lot of excitement compared to just going around a track.

For the list, I’ve only covered Need for Speed: Most Wanted so far, but a set of two games does feel like it’s suitable for a series of this size.


Together with platformers, it feels like racing games are a genre that has been around me forever. Our early PC games had a couple of them, I’ve got a family interest in the genre and it feels like something that developers could do well enough from quite early on. At the same time it’s a genre where the new improvements come easy – graphics upgrades, new cars, improving the controls as you go along, stuff like that. The controls, in particular, made a big difference for me, as the analog joystick inputs allow for more subtle steering as you play compared to the on or off keyboard input I’m used to.

Yet I think the only racing games I’ve sought out are the Mario Kart games. Learning a racing game’s intricacies always feels awkward, slightly unintuitive a lot of the time, and the repetition you need to get into to get through a lot of them never really feels like fun to me. And that’s as someone who doesn’t mind some grinding in RPGs. I appreciated that relatively recently, racing games have started to introduce progression where you don’t have to win, and I enjoyed a game like Dirt 2 a lot more because of it, but overall it feels like it’s a genre that’s still moving towards a place where I’ll enjoy getting into it (again).

Our Thoughts

It’s weird – while I associate this series with its police chases, emphasizing the illegality of the street races you were taking part in from the start, Need for Speed: Shift has you take part in legal street races, where the focus is on pure racing capability rather than pursuits and such. While it makes for a more straight forward race experience, it also removes what sets the series apart from other series.

It’s an odd choice, and considering that I started with a London race, it compared unfavourably to Project Gotham Racing 3. That game had a track set up that partially overlapped with the one in Need for Speed: Shift (after all, you have to drive past the Houses of Parliament if you’re racing through London), but it took me half a lap before I realized where I was in London and that it was Waterloo Bridge that I was driving past. It not only covers the few landmarks you go past with advertising billboards, it also avoids others (really, no trip to Trafalgar Square? I thought that was obvious) and invents a road down from Waterloo Bridge to the north bank that simply doesn’t exist. That felt even more egregious as I worked right there, walked past there every day, and know it doesn’t look like. Aside from that, the streets and bridges are wider than they are in real life, and it all felt like a bit of set dressing to make a track rather than using the constraints of the city to create a good track. I know that may not matter to anyone else, but after my experience with Project Gotham Racing, this tactic felt incredibly disappointing.

Beyond that, though, the game was pretty fun. It made a lot of sense to use the trial lap to set the difficulty, even as I needed to learn the control, and having to go through your first race to get money to buy your first car is just as nice – giving you a bonus on how well you do, giving you an advantage in what to buy, but you earn it regardless.

Final Thoughts

While I’m sure there are a lot of people who are happy to see a more accurate racing game, there are several others that have done the same. The things that make the series interesting – street racing rather than doing controlled laps, while avoiding the police and dealing with those obstacles – have been washed away here in favour of sanitized tracks and it’s hard not to see that as a step backwards. As thing stand at this point, this is a halfway house between different styles, and to get the real Need for Speed experience, you’re probably better off going for Most Wanted.

#664 Nintendogs

Posted: 8th October 2021 by Jeroen in Games
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1006th played so far

Genre: Simulation
Platform: Nintendo DS
Year of Release: 2005
Developer: Nintendo EAD
Publisher: Nintendo

I’ve skipped really dealing with these sorts of ‘pet simulations’, with Eyepet being the other main item on the list (that isn’t a life simulation where you’re influencing humans). Where Eyepet was just as impressive because of the technology of the camera behind it, here we have a game that really is just a pet game that you can carry everywhere with you.


More than any other genre, simulation is just a grab bag of games that emulate some sort of real (or not so real) activity. We’ve covered flight simulators as a genre a few days ago and will be covering management and life simulations later, which leaves us with even more of a grab bag. We’ve got a hacking simulation, a photography safari simulation and a sub marine simulator just to name a few. Action games are similarly vague, but here it really sounds like there’s no link at all.

With that said, I did enjoy all of them for different reasons, and there’s something about the purity of focus that these games have. They know what they’re doing and they focus on making that work.

Our Thoughts

While, of course, I know that the dogs in this game aren’t real, when you see them run up to you on your DS screen they are incredibly convincing. I started with a husky – a happy and fluffy boy – and it’s a lot of fun seeing him run around, play with his toys and being excited about his food. The game obviously has compromises elsewhere – taking your dog for a walk requires you to set out a route after which he’ll walk along a scrolling background, but you share his excited when he discovers something new… and isn’t too grumpy at going the wrong way. You’re dealing with a number of stats, but it’s not something you always want to worry about.

There was one element that got to me while playing though, and it’s why I didn’t end up playing as much as I could. The game relies heavily on voice commands. You need to talk to your puppy, teach it its name and some commands. The voice recognition isn’t entirely great, but I managed to make it work with some tips from the internet. It made playing it more awkward, though. While it’s fine to play in a quiet environment, I usually find these games to be best while having some quiet TV on in the background – an episode of Midsomer Murder for example – and having to shout at my DS is off putting both to watching the TV show and those watching with me.

Final Thoughts

While Nintendogs is awkward to play – I can’t see myself taking it with me on a commute as I like to imagine myself doing with these portable games – ignoring the voice input it makes for a nice little simulation to raise a dog with. It’s adorable and surprisingly realistic and, to be fair, I had to deal with a lot less shedding. It’s a nice enough game.

#716 Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops

Posted: 5th October 2021 by Jeroen in Games
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1005th played so far

Genre: Stealth/Action
Platform: PSP
Year of Release: 2006
Developer: Kojima Productions
Publisher: Konami

I don’t think there’s a better series to look at for stealth gaming than the Metal Gear Solid series. Obviously Metal Gear Solid V wasn’t out when the list was made. It seems to have been, in part, an example of Kojima’s scope and movie inspiration in its storytelling, but clearly with Konami’s compromises in there as well. It felt right, then, to leave the final entry I had to play in the series as my final stealth game.

It does feel like it’s going to be awkward to play this on the PSP, as it won’t give us the time for the lengthy, drawn out conversations that are one of the things that define the Metal Gear Solid series in my head, but I hope that this means we’ll actually get to play the game itself more.


For some reason, stealth games just didn’t end up agreeing with me. In theory, for some of them, there’s a neat puzzle elements – how do I get through this area avoiding guards and other threats, take out lights or other systems and reach your goal. To make it more than a puzzle, there tend to be more complicated systems that raise complexity. It’s neat, but somehow it always ends up as a big mess of bad fighting for me. It might be a lack of patience as well as insight in how the system works. When it works, though, and you can learn the paths through, it’s incredibly satisfying and fun.

Our Thoughts

I wondered how well a stealth game on the PSP game would work and… well, perhaps Portable Ops suffers in part from its existence on a handheld. The controls are awkward and, in a game where positioning and getting a good view of your environment really matters, the lack of a look thumbstick is quite frustrating. It makes it difficult to get a feeling for the area around you and to get the information you need to be stealthy. I just never felt like I really got a feeling for what’s going on in the area and where I should be going. It felt clear even in the first stealth section – while I assumed it’d be easier, I ended up just triggering some violence and running to the end. It doesn’t help that as far as I can see, there are no alternative routes, so you’re just forced down this single funnel.

Similarly, firefights are difficult. You get dropped out of first person view when you get hit, which means you have to re-aim in third person. That’s really hard to do as you get no crosshair or other feedback, so you’re just firing randomly. That felt difficult as well.

It does feel like the game innovates in other ways. The squad system is one that I believe in more recent games, but here it’s quite neat to have multiple options to play to arise from that, although I don’t think I really got to experience that. At least the monologues are shorter and less self indulgent, which meant I at least got the core of the gameplay, rather than having to deal with the story and gameplay diversions I see too often in the series.

Final Thoughts

One of the things I’ve learned through the past decade is that that controls are the main thing that matters in keeping a game playable. There’s a lot you can forgive, but if you can’t play the game (and that isn’t the focus of the game), it gets incredibly frustrating and something I’ll skip sooner.

With that said, the game doesn’t quite feel like Metal Gear Solid anyway. Part of this is how different the game’s storytelling feels from the rest of the series, but it also comes down to the series just not adapting to the PSP as well as it probably needs to.

1004th played so far

Genre: Flight Simulator
Platform: Various
Year of Release: 2009
Developer: Gaijin Entertainment
Publisher: 505 Games/Gaijin Entertainment

Unlike other genres, there was no planning around the final flight simulator. IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey is a sequel to IL-2 Sturmovik, which I played ‘only’ four years ago, which helped contain it, but beyond that this is just the game that was left after having to do a bit of digging to get a copy.

The original dog fighter was quite decent to play, but had a lot going on that I needed to learn. Eight years of development may have smoothed that a bit, but it could have also made the simulation stronger. We’ll have to see where they ended up going with this.

Flight Simulator

I’ve mentioned before that, since we couldn’t afford an up to date computer when I was growing up, I experienced more modern games through borrowed game guides from the library, a genre of book that was quite appealing at the time. One of the ones that fascinated me was Microsoft Space Simulator, an attempt at a realistic simulation of space flight modeled on that of Flight Simulator. I never ended up playing it – my interest taken by other games when I got a machine that was good enough – but the idea of traveling to space and visiting all these wonderful sights I was obsessed with really appealed to me.

I’ve had my space adventures in other games, but the appeal of flight simulators for me comes from the same source. Seeing a world and flying around it is what appeals to me, similar to how I find Train Simulator relaxing, and the dog fighting parts of some other games do less for me. It’s not something I’ve sought out since, but as one of the simulations, the joy for me is in experiencing the system, rather than any major challenges added on top.

Our Thoughts

I guess it’s a bit of a shame then that we finish the genre with a dog fighting game. That’s not to say the game isn’t good at what it does – it looks quite nice as you fly around the British coast in a WW2 plane, but in the end a lot of it involves chasing other planes and shooting them down. They are, of course, mostly smaller targets, which always makes it that bit harder to defeat, and as always it helped that I had other planes with me to help take care of this.

With that said, it feels like Birds of Prey adds a fair bit to the genre as well. Your squad mates have enough personality to add a bit more to the experience, so there’s something there, but your goals have a bit more complications as well. Some are just flying from point to point, taking out the enemies where you do, but you also get to bomb a number of ships – which is harder to figure out than it should be, as the instructions on how they work aren’t always as clear. A nice little improvement is that rather than having to fly back every time when you finish the mission, the game allows you to skip that and just move to the next goal instead.

Final Thoughts

IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey does exactly what you expect for a dog fighting game. You fly around, shoot planes, get to do a bit of bombing and a chance to feel there’s more you can do, and there’s a bit of banter as well. The flavour doesn’t add much to it for me, but in the end it’s fine for what it is – good if you enjoy it or if you want to play a good example of the genre.

#292 The Dig

Posted: 29th September 2021 by Jeroen in Games
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1003rd played so far

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

While I missed out playing some minor titles – Labyrinth and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – I have played all the really known Lucasarts adventure games once I’ve played today’s game. I haven’t quite finished all of them, but the blog has both had me hold back from playing them until they fit into the rotation and encouraged me to play through their various games.

Out of them, it feels like The Dig is seen as one of the lesser games in the LucasArts adventure canon. While it has a notable set of people behind it – part of the game was written by Orson Scott Card while the core idea was by Steven Spielberg – the production sounds like it was messy enough to the point where the game had to compromise and we didn’t get the best it could be. For me, one of the results of that is that it’s a shorter game, which means I might finish it sooner, but there’s still some love for having a more serious sci-fi story in an adventure game, rather than the comedic tales that the studio was known for.


Adventure games are probably my first video game genre love. I was playing platformers earlier and got quite addicted to some puzzle games too, but the narrative pull of an adventure game and its ability to tell a story really appealed to me – I sought them out when I could. In particular, I remember a library book coming with a demo disc that had the Monkey Island demo – which you can’t win by following the walkthrough of the main game. We did figure out eventually though – a real family effort if I remember right.

With that said, I do have to address one failing of the book when it comes to point and click adventures. While it covers almost the entire LucasArts library, it only has a single Sierra entry, and that’s the fairly middle of the road Gabriel Knight II – not a game I’d expect to see as the pinnacle of the studio, but more an example of an FMV adventure as they appeared in the mid-1990s. And while they may not all have been great, it’s hard to argue against King’s Quest being one of the main originators of the genre as we know it now, or that Quest for Glory is an early example of mixing genres that even now is loved.

And, as I went through in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, action/adventures are their own genre. It is often used not to describe a game that provides you the interactive storytelling that comes with most adventures, but rather one where the secondary genre is combined with some amount of exploration and storytelling beyond the basic that come with most genres. It’s a pretty vague standard and term, though, that I still find tricky to distinguish.

Our Thoughts

Any issues with the game’s development aside, I do feel this game succeeds quite well at telling its story. During a space mission, you end up on an alien world removed from any contact with Earth. It’s abandoned and mostly lifeless. You focus both on getting home and figuring out what’s going on in the world – the two mysteries are, of course, related. The game is filled with a lot of detail of the race that used to live there, not all of which is required to finish the game, but all of which is interesting. There are plenty of smaller touches that give you more information on what’s going on and it’s a world that feels that bit more real because of it.

Although the cast is limited – for the most part you’re exploring on your own and in touch remotely with Maggie, a linguistics expert and reporter. The German archaeologist Ludger shows up for the first part, as a sarcastic counterpart, but sadly he comes and goes and loses some of its snarky contributions.

One of the nicer parts of the game’s structures is that the puzzles stay quite focused and often local. While you might move a few items further, the solutions to a lot of other things stay local: you need to fix something that’s right there, with the tools you find there. While it doesn’t always hold up, there are plenty of shortcuts you unlock so the frustration gets less. Your choices also often seem restricted enough that you don’t have to worry too much about what you need to do, again helping the puzzles stay manageable.

Final Thoughts

I don’t think I’d describe The Dig as the best LucasArts adventure. When it comes to more serious stories in an amazing world, Loom feels unbeatable, while it feels hard to draw a comparison to the – often larger – comedic games. It does still create an interesting world to explore that continued to be rewarding throughout and if you like the genre, this is a game worth following up on – even if not the best LucasArts game, in the genre as a whole it is still really good.