A little more than nine years later, I’m finally making good on the parting words from my review of Blue Toad Murder Files’ first episode. That is, a review of the game in full. In actuality, my friend and I did see the game through to the end back then, but I failed to follow up. And I suppose it’s because there really wasn’t much to add. Rereading that review all these years later, I’m surprised above all else that I didn’t cringe. There are some things I would change were I to write it now, but I honestly think it summarized the game pretty succinctly.
To recap, the multiplayer orientated, puzzle solving whodunit was rich with British charm and a variety of brain teasing puzzles. Each episode followed the same formula, and in replaying them all for trophy cleanup last week, the experience wore thin. This is definitely a game best experienced with others, and with a day or week break in between each hour-long episode.
Even now I don’t have much to add to my original thoughts, but one point I didn’t touch on back then, and this is the accountant in me speaking, is how efficient the developers at Relentless Software were. At the time of this game’s release, they were making a go at independence after a number of years developing the Buzz! games for Sony. The concept for this game allowed for a single setting, a small number of environments that didn’t need to be overly detailed, characters that didn’t require much animation (including no visuals below the waist), and relatively simple interaction for the puzzle gameplay. And still, it was an enjoyable experience all the same. Brilliant!
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Considering I finished Return of the Obra Dinn a couple of months ago now, this review isn’t particularly timely. A lot has happened in the meantime; most notably my wife gave birth to our first child! The typical rigors of early parenthood – lack of sleep, deciphering the baby’s wants, etc. – have been accentuated by the COVID-19 pandemic, so this will undoubtedly be an especially memorable time for us. Unlike this review however, my playthrough was quite timely. Every year around Halloween, I like to play a thematically appropriate game, and conveniently this particular game, which had been on my radar for a while, was having an anniversary sale. The choice to purchase it was a no-brainer, although the game itself was anything but.
The tradition continues. Another year in the books, and another list of the favorite games I played in said year, in alphabetical order. This list omits Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Go, both of which I’ve poured a ludicrous amount of time into this year.
Suikoden II lives up to the hype. Having heard its praises sung for years, I’ve long been interested in playing it, and the series as a whole. The recent announcement of a spiritual successor reignited my desire to jump in, and I found the first game quite enjoyable. Suikoden II though, is an improvement in almost every regard. Like its predecessor, the developers adapted gameplay systems and formulas common to traditional Japanese role-playing games – think turn-based battles and town-dungeon-town progression – but did so with their own twist.
After beating Suikoden, the thought of jumping right into Suikoden II left me salivating. That game’s status as the best in the series, and one of the best JRPGs of all time is pretty much universally agreed upon . But, I slowed my roll. Typically, I sandwich a few shorter games in between playthroughs of role-playing games, considering they generally take thirty hours to complete, at a minimum. After all, I’m a grown-ass adult, with grown-ass adult responsibilities, so I don’t have the time to just sit around playing video games all day. Rest assured though, they do occupy way too much of my thoughts.
Anyways, collecting myself, I laid out the three games I’d be playing. The futuristic, yet mechanically ancient first-person shooterCodename: Tenka wasn’t a total bust, but after a couple of hours, I couldn’t justify playing it anymore. In contrast, the one-of-a-kind insect simulation Mister Mosquito only took a few hours, and was right up my alley. Finally, there was Mars Matrix. Spurred on by intriguing compliments delivered by Brandon Sheffield on Twitter (that I can’t seem to find now…), and the realization of how much the Dreamcast version sells for in the secondary market, I figured I ought to give it a shot, or a second one, since it turns out I played it back in 2011, an experience I’d all but forgotten about.
As I’ve explained before, I’m a sucker for achievements and trophies, at least on the home consoles, where most of my game time is spent. It was disappointing then, to learn that Army of Two had achievements tied a piece of DLC that was no longer available. Now, I wasn’t going to be able to obtain all of the achievements for Army of Two anyway, since many were tied to the game’s long defunct online multiplayer mode, but it was still disheartening to learn I’d miss out on some associated with the game’s single player/cooperative campaign.
When Jeff and I started Kirby’s Epic Yarn a few months ago, we were just looking for something to play cooperatively. Little did we know then, that would set us on a path of playing the game’s spiritual successors: Yoshi’s Woolly World and Yoshi’s Crafted World. Since we enjoyed that first game so thoroughly, it just made sense to hop into the follow-ups. They offered us hours of inventive platforming and charming visuals, in addition to a sense of relief of knowing what we’d play next. Like figuring out what’s for dinner, deciding what to play next can be tough, especially when the deliberations include multiple individuals. With the completion of Yoshi’s Crafted World, the most recent of Good-Feel’s oeuvre, we were once again hemming and hawing about what to play next. We’d been on a kick of playing games with full-on cooperative campaigns and decided that was the only criteria a candidate needed to fulfill. Scanning the shelves of games before us, we vetoed proposals and backlogged others, agreeing that “yeah, this one is good, but maybe later,” before striking on one that was tailor-made for our situation: Army of Two.
The middle class Japanese family just couldn’t catch a break in the late 1990s and early 2000s, could they? Besides having to deal with the economic ramifications of the Lost Decade, many were put in situations that caused them to risk life and limb. Take the Tanamatsuri family, as highlighted in Incredible Crisis. On a very special day – grandma’s 80th birthday – the family had to deal with all manner of ludicrous obstacles. Their day-to-day routines were interrupted by snowboarding bank robbers, kaiju teddy bears, and so many sinking boats. Other families had their interpersonal relationships put to the test, such as the Yamada family. In the particular summer highlighted in Mister Mosquito, they were plagued by the eponymous bloodsucking pest. For them, he brought about more than itchy bites; he nearly tore the family apart!
It took four hours and thirty-three minutes, but I was done. After hours spent slowly strafing around corners so I could safely shoot enemies, all the while futzing with unintuitive controls; after getting blown to smithereens by yet another enemy missile that seemed like it shouldn’t have even affected me; after multiple attempts trying to complete the same stage, learning enemy layouts and just what it was the game wanted me to do, I had had enough. Codename: Tenka had been on my radar for years, ever since I read about it in an older issue of OPM or PSM in the early 2000s, but I couldn’t justify playing it anymore.
If you could glean anything from my Kickstarter pledge history, it’s that I’m fond of video games. A closer inspection would reveal a narrower common thread: I’m especially fond of Japanese video games! Following a string of high profile campaigns in 2012, the crowdfunding site saw its legitimacy grow in the industry. In the years since, a number of well known Japanese designers have turned to it to revitalize the types of games they once made, such as Keiji Inafune with Mighty No. 9, or Koji Igarashi with Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. The latter is still on my backlog, and from all accounts is a worthy successor the Castlevania series while Mighty No. 9… well, the less said about it, the better. In a similar vein, Yu Suzuki was able to bring Shenmue III to fruition, which I loved! And that’s probably the most important aspect of these campaigns in particular: they’re reviving something beloved, that’s been absent for one reason or another. Well, as of August 29, 2020, there’s one more project can be added to that list: Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes.