915th played so far

Genre: Sports
Platform: Playstation 3
Year of Release: 2007
Developer: Clap Hanz
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

Out of the golf games on the list, this one probably just escaped my notice most. Mario Golf ties into the full Mario sports franchise, while Golden Tee Live stood out most as one I rushed around several bars and places to find an arcade version before settling for a home version. There have been a few more games on the serious end, but while Everybody’s Golf: World Tour has been in my vision for a while, it sat in between everything else, and without motion control or other gimmicks.

Instead, I’m just expecting a decent golf game… although with the Tiger Woods PGA Tour offerings, I’m not sure it will manage to appeal.

Our Thoughts

While Everybody’s Golf 5 plays a lot like standard golf games, its controls are just different enough to be more interesting and useful. You can pretty accurately use the character animation to determine the strength of your hit, which works a lot better than looking at a bar, and on the whole it feels that much more intuitive. There are the aim and club set up options, but it feels like the whole game plays a lot quicker than other golf games – the controls promote it, but also the pacing and movement of the game is better. Shots get resolved quicker, your approaches are, it just feels a bit better and cleaner and from that it becomes more addicting. I played better than I would in other games, which feels like an improvement in it.

What helps is that the game looks quite fun. It’s a somewhat stylized art style, but it’s one that has a lot of character in them – your golfers are not all interchangable, but feel different, and they are quite good with the slight anime style of those looks. The comments and vocals, which are quite encouraging from the caddy I got to used, help as well.

Following that, I must admit the game touches the right areas to encourage you to keep coming back to it. There are several missions on each course – individual runs, in a group or against a specific opponent, with their own differences in scoring. These then unlock various cosmetics, new golf equipment and such, some of which has more of an in game effect, but all of which creates a nice bit of variety and extra thing to keep going for.

Final Thoughts

Everybody’s Golf 5: World Tour feels like it deserves to be the last covered here, as I believe it might be the best golf game out there – it looks good, is accessible but also leads to a decent amount of challenge. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, but you can feel the real challenge is there. Out of the list, this is the one I’m most likely to get back to.

#1015 Hotline Miami

Posted: 8th December 2020 by Jeroen in Games
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914th played so far

Genre: Action
Platform: PC
Year of Release: 2012
Developer: Dennaton Games
Publisher: Devolver Digital

It feels like Hotline Miami is one of those indie darlings that started off the indie explosion that mostly happened after the list, where smaller games had a bigger scope. I’ve heard people say good things about it for a long time and I’m not sure whether I would have played it earlier without the list – I certainly would have tried it, even if it wouldn’t have been my thing, but I’ve held off for the blog.

It also feels like one of the main games that put Devolver Digital on the map – we covered Serious Sam before, where they released the HD remake, but that’s their only notable set of titles before this time. Since, though, they’ve published plenty of other big games, including a number of them that former colleagues of mine worked on, so the team certainly stands out here.

Our Thoughts

The closest immediate reference I have for Hotline Miami is Grand Theft Auto – the original, top down action game rather than the later 3D sequels. It also has the same hyper violent feel of its gameplay – bloody with plenty of weapons and enemies to kill. That’s where it ends though, as Hotline Miami takes place in small stages, rather than a large city. You go into a building and use stealth to defeat enemies and reach one of several goals. The stages are a puzzle of sorts, where you play through section to figure out how to deal with the enemies a few at a time. You iterate on the levels to get a bit further each time, while also dealing with the random changes that you get on each playthrough. For a lot of levels, this is quite fun – it takes time to learn the last few sections, but they are often small enough that it’s not that frustrating. Well, most of the time – sometimes it really got to me.

With that said, there was a limit to my patience, and that was at a boss battle where the boss was chasing you as you tried to get a golf club from a bag. Only part of the bag could be interacted with, which felts rather arbitrary as there was no indication you couldn’t pick up the club. You then have to trick it to knock itself out and beat it several times to kill it, without checkpoints in between. It moved to being repetitive to a point where you know the trick and have to dance to repeat it a bit too often. It became a bit much, and seemed to be the best point to leave the game.

Final Thoughts

When Hotline Miami follows its own rules, it’s an interesting action game, a puzzle on how to best execute your violence without being caught and offering lots of methods and modifications to do so. The story it tells seems bizarre so far, and I’m not sure it will explain much more as I go on as it draws enough David Lynch influences to keep things ambiguous. I’ll need to go back, just figuring out how to get past the most annoying bits.

913th played so far

Genre: Shoot ‘Em Up
Platform: PC
Year of Release: 2002
Developer: Illusion Softworks
Publisher: Gathering of Developers

While Mafia was in development before Grand Theft Auto III was released, it’s hard to shake the impression that this came is building on that game from the first look. The open world games were sort of around, but this does look like GTA‘s 3D installments shifted to the twenties with a mafia bent.

Our Thoughts

I guess the intention of the game becomes clear from the opening set up, where you are a cab driver ferrying people around the city. After you help a mafia member escape, you slowly end up getting involved with them, first as their getaway driver but where you end up deeper down the line.

Starting there, I couldn’t always get to grips with the driving. Not necessarily the driving itself, but finding my way around the city. I know we’re now very spoiled with driving lines, but I do think I managed to get the “drive to a place” down… which then got frustrating when the game gave you a place to go, but expected you to follow random waypoints along the way. Sure, I’m meant to go across a certain bridge, but nowhere in the game specifies where that bridge is, and in these modern days I don’t have an easy map available. It’s an annoying feature of the early part of the game, which later gets sort of fixed by not having any other waypoints other than the direct ones, but I never found it intuitive.

The other big failing, which made me think I had to read the developer’s minds, came during the first bit on foot. You’re being chased by a rival mob after having been recognised, but before having properly joined the mafia. You really need to read the developers’ mind for this one, as there are a lot of dead ends and different directions to take, with no cinematic segments where they feel like they’d fit in (jumping over a fence, that sort of thing) and then randomly get killed because you didn’t zig zag the right way. It’s a frustrating start because all of this happens before you start the game and get the tools to actually play the game and have fun with it.

It feels like it continues through tthe rest of the game though. Driving around and handling missions is fun when the pressure is gone, and it’s nice to see the world. Too often, though, you need to figure out how the pieces of the puzzle are meant to fall into place, and too often they rely on randomness or are unclear. There’s meant to be a power fantasy in these sort of games, but it feels like that’s just never there.

Final Thoughts

There’s a good driving game in here and I feel like this game’s missions could be tuned to be more survivable – a modern day remake likely would solve the sign posting issues. At the same time, it’s hard for me to really be positive about a game like this when I feel like it blocks me this early on. It’s unfortunate, but you need to be willing to take your time with the game to get anything out of it.

912th played so far

Genre: Action/Adventure
Platform: Nintendo DS
Year of Release: 2009
Developer: Nintendo EAD
Publisher: Nintendo

Thanks to the Book of Mudora podcast, I’ve been steeped in Legend of Zelda lore recently  – something that seems way deeper than the games justify, but it’s fun anyway. I’ve been waiting some of these out as well as the later entries in the series have really appealed to me – including Phantom Hourglass recently, which this game builds on. Then there’s the train angle – aside from the Railroad Tycoon planning segments, I feel there’s something similarly relaxing about those systems. You are constrained in where you go and what you do, and there can be something reassuring about that focus.

The two will come together in The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, and it feels almost immediately intuitive how the constraints of train transport could  focus the world – you can unlock chunks by building new tracks and possibly build some puzzles around that. I’m not expecting miracles, but I am expecting something good here.

Our Thoughts

It feels like both this and Phantom Hourglass (as well as Wind Waker, although I’m struggling to remember that more) fundamentally change how you interest with the world in a Legend of Zelda game. The first game is defined by its large map and traveling and exploring it is a large part of the game, especially when you need to find the more hidden dungeons. The later games pull back on this a bit – Link to the Past is huge, but also have more content per screen while feeling like it has less of them – while the Nintendo 64 entries like Ocarina of Time have less of it as well.

Spirit Tracks completely divorces the concept of the overworld from the rest of gameplay as you travel along train tracks between towns and dungeons, fighting or scaring off enemies as you do but without the more complex mechanisms of the normal Zelda worlds. It means that opening new areas comes down to you laying or unlocking new tracks, which makes for a more organized experience that forces you down a funnel more but does make it clear when backtracking is needed, while the actual action segments are similarly delineated. Even aside from my interest in trains, it’s a really neat way to handle the world and it feels like a good way to set up the areas in the world without having to put in worldmap elements in between that’d be otherwise unnecessary – sure, it’s a good way to place collectibles, but they feel more organic here.

The dungeons and similar elements are pretty good – standard of the series at this point, but expanding on the control element that we had in Phantom Hourglass by having a ghost Zelda with you who can inhabit certain other creatures. It’s a neat twist on how to solve dungeons that pays off, while having a snarky Zelda present creates its own view on the world and the continuing commentary works well. The combat is still awkward and the graphics seem a bit blocky for the DS, but on the whole they’re really interesting to reach and go through, and not always as unfair as other games can be.

There’s just one thing though – there’s a terrible stealth section at the start, that relies on you drawing a path for Zelda to follow. While it partially pays off later on with controls, here it’s so awkward that it got in the way – especially considering you didn’t get to see most of the actually fun features of the game. Stealth sections in games not designed for it just don’t work a lot of the time (another reason why I still haven’t beaten that final beast in Breath of the Wild).

Final Thoughts

Sure, Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks would always grab me, and more than other fans of the series would do. The 2D iterations of Zelda are my favourite, over the 3D iterations, and I think this game is using all of that to the maximum effect. Sure, there are bits that are gimmicky – that’s what seems to happen to these long-running franchises – but I enjoyed how it did all of it here.

911th played so far

Genre: Fighting
Platform: Playstation 1
Year of Release: 1997
Developer: Light Weight
Publisher: Square/Sony Computer Entertainment

I’ve not heard of Bushido Blade before the blog, and I don’t think I will after – there was a sequel, but it does look like it didn’t go anywhere. It feels like it fits in withe the stylings of the early Dead or Alive and other PS1 fighting game, with a weapon based focused.

Our Thoughts

Bushido Blade’s twist comes out quite early. While other fighting games take some time to get your health down, regardless of whether you fight unarmed or with a weapon, Bushido Blade is a lot more lethal – one or two hits with your weapon and the opponent goes down. It makes for a fast paced game, with blocks and avoidance being far more important, and adds to the tension. You can score quickly by going aggressive, but the risks are there because there is no second chance in here.

In addition, while technically you choose a fighter, the selection is really for the weapon each of them use. It’s the usual combination between a few factors – reach and speed and such – and really becomes the distinguishing mark between the fighters. I played on easy, which really seems well tuned to the level I’m at (an absolute fighting game novice). I got through a few campaigns, which felt good on its own.

Final Thoughts

This game pushed past of my preconceptions of the genre. Despite the PS1 era graphics, the game still looked pretty nice and stayed readable. It was also a game that’s brutal, but well balanced in provide fair, short rounds of fighting, which feels better than the drawn out fights other games offer.

#761 Halo 3

Posted: 22nd November 2020 by Jeroen in Games
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910th played so far

Genre: First-Person Shooter
Platform: Xbox 360
Year of Release: 2007
Developer: Bungie
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios

It feels weirdly apt to cover an older Halo game now, as the anniversary edition has been recently released as I type this. It’s the last in the series that’s on the list, although Halo 3: ODST and Halo Wars were released after – we had some scheduling quirks there. Given that we played the first game roughly as far from the start as we’re near the end now, so it feels even more appropriate to try it now.

Our Thoughts

One of the big advantages of the Halo series at its best is its scale and colour – the way it takes on a large, green planet invaded by enemies, when something like Gears of War has a brown destroyed city landscape that is less inviting. Sure, it’s also not as much of a cover shooter, but for an FPS it creates a more pleasant world to move around it. The downside is that you spend a lot of time traveling from place to place, so these are often small set pieces that you don’t really get to know as well. I’ll be honest, similarly, the invasion of aliens on the halo world is as predictable, but it works quite well to keep you motivated through.

The gunplay itself is good – sometimes, I guess, with a few too many enemies, and I was caught out with the weapon scarcity once or twice. You spend a lot of time swapping out weapons you pick up from enemies. I know the scavenging is part of current (console?) games, but it was a bit frustrating to have to plan and move around for. Even so, the rest of the shooting feels good enough and so often manages to fulfill the power fantasy when you can take out a lot of enemies at once on your vehicles.

Final Thoughts

The Halo series under Bungie is deservedly loved and this entry holds up as well as the others. Halo 3 presents a nice world that feeds into the power fantasy that the series offers.

#854 Race Driver: Grid

Posted: 18th November 2020 by Jeroen in Games
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909th played so far

Genre: Racing
Platform: Playstation 3/Xbox 360/PC
Year of Release: 2008
Developer: Codemasters
Publisher: Codemasters

I’ve played plenty of racing games,and I’ll be honest, with only a couple more left to go I feel like I need something more to set them apart. At a certain point, a lot of them are the same, street circuits through fairly build up areas except where you drive past a sea or through a ravine – or you go through generic English country landscapes. At the very least, I hope for a decent progression mechanic – the Colin McRae: Dirt and Forza series have done that quite well. Most others, however, seem to thrive on a difficult tutorial, let up a bit in gameplay, but still require you to win from the start without a chance to build your skills. For Race Driver: Grid, I’m not sure whether it will go one way or the other, but it seems like the chances of this being done right are still low.

Our Thoughts

The verdict? In short, I felt this was a game that looks nice, but unless you’re a hardcore fan you’re not going to get far in – you’re probably better off trying to find a game that actually wants you to learn as you play it.

As with so many racing games, you start off with a set of cars with no grip, leading to you spinning out of control at the least notice. Even on your first lap there are some annoying turns that you end up struggling with. This means that on the first race, where you just have to finish, not even get first, I struggled to complete the race. It took me about five tries because the controls were so floaty and it put me off. You’re not helped here by the dark tracks that make it difficult to see where you’re actually going. After that first lap and race, I tried the other races, but I couldn’t make it to the end of any of them. It’s incredibly hardcore, which doesn’t work for a casual player like me.

Final Thoughts

So the game looks nice and they clearly put a lot of work into it, but as I said, they aimed this at an audience that’s not me or anyone else who hasn’t gotten deep into this type of game. I don’t think it’s necessarily as much of a must-play as the list might suggest, as it just don’t reach that playability.

#152 Carrier Command

Posted: 14th November 2020 by Jeroen in Games
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908th played so far

Genre: Strategy
Platform: Various
Year of Release: 1988
Developer: Realtime Games
Publisher: Rainbird

I’ve been in control of planes and cars for this lists, very immersive mechs and various different spaceships. One thing that I don’t think I’ve touched, however, are aircraft carriers and similar massive ships. That’s all about to change, though, with Carrier Command, which puts you in charge of a massive one. It feels like having to manage all of that indirectly, rather than just fighting directly, would be enough of a strategy game, but it sounds like there are campaign maps involved with the game as well. It sounds like an interesting challenge that’d be getting far more streamlined these days – or be an obscure indie game somewhere.

Our Thoughts

There’s a very interesting idea here in Carrier Command. As I said, you’re in charge of an aircraft and tank carrier. You go from island to island and as you get close you launch various drones to take control of each island – defeat the enemy if necessary and setting up a supply base in between – several different ones depending on the lines you want to create. You set up a supply and defense network through your ‘half’ of the area, then fight the enemy backed up by the network. It’s an interesting strategic set up that combines your slow movement speed with a constant urgency as you need to outspeed your enemy. It’s a very decent set up, helped by some speed up options to get past the boring parts.

The one downside is the constant for the era – because of all the complex options, the controls are quite opaque. There’s a lot going on, not everything is possible in every situation, and it takes time just to figure out where you are. I don’t know whether I always figured out the best options, and even having a manual next to me didn’t always get me that far in. It’s a barrier to enjoyment, but it feels like a proper update – possibly a step up from the 2012 sequel – would be a lot of fun.

#212 The Legend of the Mystical Ninja

Posted: 10th November 2020 by Jeroen in Games
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907th played so far

Genre: Action/Adventure
Platform: SNES
Year of Release: 1991
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami

I think The Legend of the Mystical Ninja is another game that I’ve only heard of because of the list. Sure, it’s had some sequels, but even now this list is the only association I’ve had with it. With it looking like a primitive, for the SNES era, side scrolling brawler, I’m not in high hopes territory today.

Our Thoughts

There are some interesting ideas at play in this game. It’s a game of two halves. Starting the game, you wander through a town area where you beat up other people Double Dragon style, with less fighting options, to get gold and such to upgrade your attacks and get other items. Part of this is exploring the village, getting some background information while looking for the different shops and options – there seem to be a lot of additional mini games later on. It’s clearly the main focus of the game, with a lot of bits that happen in there.

Then the second part is a simpler fighter platformer where you travel tbrough areas, fighting more supernatural enemies and defeat the big boss of the chapter. This part is more standard and boring, similar to other games I don’t enjoy as much, and was difficult enough that I struggled with it from early on. Then again – it’s also the boring half, which makes it more difficult to do the work.

Final Thoughts

There are some nice ideas in this game, with both the cartoon graphics and town options being really appealing. However, the other side are action levels that aren’t nearly as interesting and, as in Actraiser, are really mostly annoying filler.

#574 R-Type Final

Posted: 6th November 2020 by Jeroen in Games
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906th played so far

Genre: Shoot ‘Em Up
Platform: Playstation 2
Year of Release: 2003
Developer: Irem
Publisher: Irem

R-Type Final is the final of the three R-Type games that we’ve played, with R-Type Delta being the middle game. They were both good looking horizontal shooters that were difficult – but I could make enough progress with the help of some extra lives to see some good shooters.

The last one will build on that – a generation of hardware later as well as, I assume, a build up on the systems… and maybe less of a reliance on arcade life counters.

Our Thoughts

I did enjoy playing R-Type Final. It’s a horizontal shooter that has the graphics that you expect to get from the Playstation 2 era, with 3D models for your ships and enemies and semi-3D, I guess billboard backgrounds that give some illusion of depth, but where that element isn’t really played with. I understand that there are a lot of ships, but I don’t quite know how that worked, but early on you end up with a lot of weapon options anyway that combine together, which means it feels like you can often have many projectiles flying around. With that you have a droid item you can eject that will give you some extra range in your attacks. The only thing I’m missing is some form of backward attacks, which felt like an annoying omission.

That came out especially strongly with the bullet sponge bosses, who’ll crawl around the entire screen. It means you can’t hit them for part of the time, but with the size of their health bars it takes a long time to get through. It feels like it makes it unnecessarily difficult. At least the game is generous in the number of retries it provides, but its checkpoints could have been placed closer to the boss. The amount of time you need to get back to the boss is a bit too long, and that crab-like boss I got blocked on was a bit too much.

Final Thoughts

While I enjoyed R-Type Final, that final boss was a killer and I feel I could have had more fun if it hadn’t been so much of a road block. It’s certainly a step up in the genre and it works especially well here as a good game.