If someone told you that 2021 was the year they got into Housemarque, you’d assume it was because they fell head over heels for the Finnish video game developer’s newest product, the brutal, beautiful Returnal. That game is a technical showpiece for the PlayStation 5; arguably one of the hard-to-get system’s must play games from its first year on the market. And yet, I have no firsthand experience with it but this was STILL the year I got into Housemarque. So, how’d THAT happen?Continue reading Nex Machina [PlayStation 4] – Review
We’ve all done things we’re not proud of. We’re human, after all. For achievement and trophy hunters, there are plenty of temptations. Nowadays, games whose rewards are not hard-earned are bountiful. Take Pacific Wings, for instance. It’s a shameless clone of Capcom’s 1942, developed Sprakelsoft, a German purveyor of similar clones on mobile storefronts.
Debuting as a free-to-play app on Google Play in 2010 – the digital storefront for Android devices – it has since seen release on a number of other platforms, such as the PlayStation 4. While lacking a platinum trophy – the most coveted trophy of all on Sony platforms – it nonetheless contained a few gold trophies, the next best thing. Even better, obtaining them required little effort, and less than a half-hour!
Now there’s a downside, and in this case it’s playing Pacific Wings. The game’s twenty stages go by with little difficulty, little change in scenery, and thankfully, little time to ponder if it was worthwhile. Those gold trophies are front loaded in the first half, leaving only a measly bronze for folks with little shame. But like they say, go big or go home.
Tell me if you’ve heard this one before. An indie developer gets their start making and publishing digital games for the Wii U. Yeah, I never heard that one either, but apparently that’s just what happened with Petite Games, the maker of Super Destronaut DX and Super Destronaut: Land Wars.Continue reading Super Destronaut Games
You know that feeling when you’ve just finished a movie or book and feel like you had some grasp of what happened, but know another round would benefit you’re comprehension immensely? Well, Nier: Automata sure as hell produced that feeling in me!Continue reading Nier: Automata [PlayStation 4] – Review
As someone who browses the video game section nearly every time I enter a Walmart or Target (sorry honey), I know from experience that the former never really puts games on clearance. Heck, in the year of our lord 2021, the closest Walmart to me STILL has a few licensed PlayStation 2 games. And they have the GALL to charge a ten spot for them! Listen, Walmart, I don’t think anyone is going to drop ten bucks on The Naked Brothers Band: The Video Game at this point. That game came out in 2008 – 13 years ago! The developer has gone out of business in the years since; THQ, the publisher, went bankrupt and has even come back in the intervening years! Just discount those games, or trash them, there’s no point in having them take up shelf space!
This is all to say I was surprised to actually see Walmart put a handful of games on clearance. And no, not THOSE games for some reason, but actual good games, like Indivisible. Being slightly familiar with the game’s Valkyrie Profile inspired battle system, and the prospect of a couch co-op RPG, the nine dollars practically flew out of my wallet. Unfortunately, the co-op didn’t wind up being as much of a draw as I had hoped; just as with the SNES Final Fantasy games, the second player really only participates in battles, so the non-combat sections leave them… waiting to play. BUT! It’s an otherwise enjoyable, refreshingly brief-for-an-RPG, video game.Continue reading Indivisible [PlayStation 4] – Review
Last week was pretty great, and not just because I played through a different Metal Slug game each day. No, it was pretty great because I spent the week with my three month old son. My wife’s FMLA was scheduled to end and accordingly, we had planned for me to use up some accrued vacation time to prolong daycare one more week, and you know, get some quality time with our little tree frog. I had taken off the week when he was born, and of course we had plenty of bonding time in the evenings and on weekends when my wife would get a break, but nonetheless, spending so much unbroken time with him was immensely fulfilling. At this stage in his development, he seemed to make noticeable improvements with his motor skills daily; and I may be a little biased, but everything he does is so fascinating!Continue reading Metal Slug Anthology [PlayStation 4] – Review
Who else but Housemarque could’ve perfectly melded arcade-inspired twin-stick shoot ‘em up gameplay with class-based multiplayer, RPG character progression, and an addictive loot system? The Helsinki-based developers are after all, in their own words, the torchbearers of the classic arcade game ethos. They’ve been riffing on Asteroids since the early 1990s with their Stardust series, paid homage to Defender with Resogun, the best title to play on the PlayStation 4 at launch, and even collaborated with Eugene Jarvis, the man behind Defender and a few more of the most iconic arcade games of all time, on 2017’s Nex Machina. Fast-paced, responsive, good feeling gameplay is at the core of their best works, some of which represent my favorite games of the last couple of console generations. And now, after a few dozen hours with it, I can add Alienation to that list.Continue reading Alienation [PlayStation 4] – Review
I’m competitive, always have been. I spent my youth playing organized soccer, and the desire to win was real. This translated to other activities, such as Monopoly, or anything else that had an element of competition to it. I wanted to win! In terms of my schooling back then, my parents instilled the importance of studying, that the effort I put in would result in good grades, which in my mind was a competition of sorts. Not necessarily against others in this case, but against myself. Competition was a means of self-improvement. It was the mechanism that gave me the drive, the motivation to succeed. Heck, even Pokémon encouraged competition, whether through the core trainer battles in the video games or via the infectious theme song of the anime.
And speaking of Pokémon, I can make a case that that franchise influenced my completionist tendencies. As I’ve mentioned before, when I experience something, I want to experience the whole of it. Similarly, when I play a video game on a modern PlayStation or Xbox, trophies and achievements materially impact my experience. If I’m digging the game, I’ll do my best to unlock as many as possible. When crafted well, they can complement the gameplay experience by rewarding experimentation or offering up unique challenges. Even when they’re not crafted well, I still feel compelled to obtain them, or at least do a cost-benefit analysis to determine which are worth my time. They’re a fun element of modern gaming; a nifty way to compare progress with and compete against friends, and an element that I care way too much about.
It was a brief comment in Dave Halverson’s review of Dragon Quest VIII from the November 2005 issue of Play Magazine, and not especially relevant to the full review, but it’s stuck with me ever since: “…given the detail, that the lead character is not dynamic to steps and slopes does take a bite out of the realism.” I wouldn’t say I’ve paid attention to the functionally irrelevant detail of characters walking on stairs in every game I’ve played since, but sometimes I notice. In Shenmue III for instance, whenever the protagonist Ryo walks up or down a flight of stairs, his feet hit every step. Every. Step. I know relatively little about the rigors of game development, but it seems ludicrous to offer such attention to detail for something as banal as navigating a flight of stairs. And yet, Shenmue III is in many ways a game about embracing the banal, for better or worse. Continue reading Shenmue III [PlayStation 4] – Review
As its full title suggests, Home is a unique horror adventure. The 2D side-scroller wasn’t scary per se, but the disturbing story at its core was chilling. Created and published by Toronto, Canada-based indie developer Benjamin Rivers, Home debuted in 2012 and is available on a variety of platforms including the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita, where I played it. Blending nostalgic pixel graphics and creepy, minimal sound design, the game emanated a sinister vibe that kept me on edge as I uncovered a series of murderous events.
Assuming the role of an unlucky fellow awaking to find himself away from home and not sure why, I retraced his steps, exploring unsettling scenes along the way in the hopes of finding clues. They didn’t bode well. But maybe things weren’t all that bad, either. Taking certain items, putting others back, answering yes or no questions influenced the game’s outcome in a “choose-your-own-adventure” sort of way. Regardless of the choices I made, the endings were somewhat ambiguous, leaving plenty open to interpretation and further rumination.
It took me anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour to complete a playthrough, depending on how thorough I wanted to be. Because of dual trophy support on the PS4 and Vita and the game’s brevity, I played through the entirety of it twice, like a madman! It looked and sounded great on the big TV, but man was it perfect for the Vita. I can’t say that Home blew my socks off or anything, but its dark tale and interactivity was novel and thought-provoking.