Sniper Elite III: Chewing Gum for the Thumbs

Step in to the shoes of Buck ‘Elite Sniper’ McSniper-Elite the most elite sniper in all of the sniping elite sniper division. Armed only with his elite sniping gun he must snipe more elite-ly then the other elite snipers to become the most elite sniper in all the sniping world of elites to prove once and for all who the most elite sniper is.

I mean, I assume that’s the general gist of the game. I wasn’t paying too much attention; oh, and you have to shoot nazis because it’s WW2 times, except in Africa which is slightly different to all the other WW2 times games that involve shooting nazis in mainland Europe. The problem is that, despite the amount of sarcasm that I’ve jam-packed in to that opening few sentences, I’ve sunk a fair few hours in to ‘Distance-Shooty-Number-3″ which probably says more about my current state of gaming than being a reflection on the game’s quality… and for the record, if spending all your ingame time crouched to the point that your back starts to sympathetically ache is something you enjoy, then knock yourself out because there’s kind of nothing seriously wrong with Sniper Elite III, it’s just that I’m struggling to tease out what qualities made it worthy of the hours I’ve personally played it for.

Continue reading “Sniper Elite III: Chewing Gum for the Thumbs”

Night Trap: Awww Grrrrrrr…

Spoiler Warning: This article contains plot spoilers for the game ‘Night Trap’

Call me childish, but there’s a small part of me still smirking at playing ‘Night Trap’ on Switch; a game that Nintendo’s North American President once said would “never appear on a Nintendo System”. Even stepping away from that, it’s clear that the game wears the controversy that surrounded its original release like some robe of state and that without the original drama it’s fairly questionable that it would have received a 25th anniversary re-release. Now, I know that it’s a title that has an unquestionably vast library of opinion pieces, critical breakdowns, and impact articles already associated with its name, but now that I’ve finally experienced the game myself, something that my eight year old self would have been super jealous of having seen those futuristic FMV graphics splashed across the pages of Mean Machines Sega, it’s a good moment to throw out my own views on the controversy surrounding it and how it actually stacks up as a game.

Night Trap is one of those titles where the events surrounding it are at least as (if not more so) interesting as the game itself. Graphics are mainly comprised of live action FMV video that is cut and changes depending on your actions as a player and represents that weird time when CD based games were young. With this new physical format developers were presented with a vast amount of storage space compared to the cartridges that they may have been used to, and like all new tech, they didn’t seem to quite know what to do with it. Thus games like ‘Night Trap’ were born, and for a brief instant were going to be the direction that all games were going; real actors in live action video where the player gently influences the actions in something more like an interactive movie than a traditional game. It was released on the MegaCD (or Sega CD), Sega’s CD drive add-on for that 16-bit blast-processing fuelled monster the Mega Drive (… sigh… or Genesis), in 1992 at arguably the height of Sega’s presence in the home console market on a system that was at the time one of the more widespread CD based platforms. This relatively high level of exposure to the general public arguably led to what happened next, but the twist is that this game was originally meant for a completely different (and more primitive) technology.

Continue reading “Night Trap: Awww Grrrrrrr…”

Trüberbrook: Pointing, but not Clicking

Spoiler Warning: This article contains major plot spoilers for Trüberbrook

Point-n-clicks are one of those genres that has found a home in the arms of small and indie developers. Whilst mainstream triple-A releases focus on increasing levels of action and frame-rate, the humble PnC offers gamers something at a more sedate pace which I almost completely ignored growing up only to uncover their charms when I was a little older; and there’s a lot for me to like about PnC’s give my gaming tastes. One of the reasons I enjoy classic survival horror is that feeling of exploring, unravelling and gradually unlocking an area which a good PnC encapsulates. I also enjoy a good story and that certain brand of gaming where you don’t need to have twitch reflexes to play.

It was with this thirst for a story and world to explore that I picked up Trüberbrook, a PnC adventure that drops the player in to the scuffed shoes of a Quantum Physicist, Hans Tannhauser. Arriving in the small remote German village of Trüberbrook in the 1960’s, under the unquestioned circumstance of having won a competition that he didn’t enter, Tannhauser is drawn in to the mysterious local activities of the Millennium Corporation and ends up saving our reality. The visuals, made up of hand crafted model shots, are probably the most immediate draw with its intricate diorama-like presentation and an almost claymation quality to the onscreen cast of quirky characters. Regular readers will know that ‘small town mysterious events‘ and ‘diorama-like‘ are two of my triggers to an almost instant purchase, so it seemed like I was on to a winning formula already. Continue reading “Trüberbrook: Pointing, but not Clicking”

Ringfit Adventure: Gamification Done Right

… or WiiFit RingVenture as I like to call it… 

TLDR: It’s pretty good at doing what it does

Longer Version: I’m a long time dabbler in the gamification of exercise so I really know what I’m talking about. My relationship with the world of physical exertion is a complex and haphazard affair, especially compared to some of my family, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate the gradual gains and progression that exercise can bring… it’s just that I want some flashing lights and numbers… ideally in graph form… to go with seemingly endless reps. So I’ve tried all sorts of things, I’ve logged exercise through fitocracy and given the Google.. erm.. fit/exercise/active/whatever app a shot during my last sustained gym going effort (over a year ago now), but really nothing has stuck. The common problem with these types of apps for me (and I appreciate that they work for many people) is that they don’t really get to the heart of gamification. They tend to revolve around the idea of the user being happy with a sense of knowing that they’re doing exercise without really providing any sort of structure to do that; goals are self imposed and the experience of ‘logging your hours’ is largely the same on day one as it is in day 100.

… and let’s face it, if there aren’t unlockable costumes involved then I’m just not invested..  Continue reading “Ringfit Adventure: Gamification Done Right”

Sunset Riders: Deserves More than Arcade Archives

I get it, I really do. Hamster Corporation’s ‘Arcade Archives’ series is all about emulating some beloved and well known… along with some much less well known… arcade classics. Bringing the coin-op pleasures of yesteryear up to date with faithful console ports is indeed a laudable goal, it’s just that Konami’s early 90’s western run-n-gun, Sunset Riders, really deserved more.

It’s a game that I’ve been interested in since I borrowed the Mega Drive version for about a week from a neighbour at some point during the early 90’s. Being mostly a platform gamer I hadn’t ever really played many run-n-gun titles, let alone one that was as vibrant as Sunset Riders. That wild west town of the opening stage with its saloons, bandits popping up from every location and … bulls running through the streets?… drew me in to the extent that, despite never owning it, I’d often fire it up at times when I’ve indulged in a bit of sneaky 16-bit emulation over the years.

With all this in mind I was delighted to see it inconspicuously tucked away in the new releases section of the Nintendo Switch e-Shop under the Arcade Archives banner recently and barely paused before parting with the necessary funds to start it downloading. Continue reading “Sunset Riders: Deserves More than Arcade Archives”

Good Job! – Missing the Office Life?

Have you been working from home? I’ve been working from home. I’m guessing a whole load of you have been working from home, and if you’re one of those key-workers who have been heading out there day after day to keep the rest of us safe and sound then you absolutely have my gratitude and assurance that I have been doing whatever I can to stay the heck out of your way.

It may not be much, but the best that most of us can do in the current situation  is to think about how our actions impact everyone around us 

… but, whilst I’m normally a fan, working from home does deny me the simple pleasures of being in the office or lab. Pleasures like mashing the buttons on a vending machine and sending canned beverages flying out across the room or merrily driving a forklift through a warehouse wall. Luckily a short while ago, a super-accurate workplace simulation game, ‘Good Job!’ was released on Switch and, as most jobs are better with a colleague in tow, my wife and I picked it up on a whim after watching the trailer in order to enjoy a bit of couch co-op workplace recreation. Continue reading “Good Job! – Missing the Office Life?”

Realm of the Dead (PS2): A Random Game Encounter

A few months ago, the fabulous Kim from Later Levels and I had made plans to meet up at March’s London Gaming Market. Being on a bit of a retro kick recently, but not having access to a rich vein of retro-gaming shopping where I live, she suggested the market as a place where I could enjoy some good o’ fashioned spending and judgement free revelling in my own retro tastes with the promise of giving in to some impulse purchases for items that were unnecessary, but nevertheless ‘necessary’. After chatting about me almost definitely giving in and buying yet another obscure port of a certain game, Kim hatched a fun retro-plan: We would set a price limit and during our market visit buy each other some obscure retro game to play; the weirder the better! (and bonus points if neither of us had even heard of it).

… and then, you-know-what happened and we both ended up cancelling our London travel plans… Continue reading “Realm of the Dead (PS2): A Random Game Encounter”

Return of the Obra Dinn: Brain Nod

The backstory is set; characters parade out one-by-one, each with their own motives and shady affiliations; the intrepid detective studies the clues and picks apart alibis; a red herring; summation and accusation. A master of the detective story, Agatha Christie had this formula perfected and, alongside the escapades of a certain Baker Street dwelling detective, our well thumbed copy of the adventures of Hercule Poirot is a favourite of mine. There’s a comforting completeness to the story: the mystery is laid out, we get to see all the clues, and finally the pieces are all put together. Unfortunately, satisfying translations of this premise to video-game form are few and far between. Sure, there are some good attempts; LA Noire and Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments all take a crack at the detective formula in a more interactive setting, but inevitably the story tends to linearity (or very limited outcomes) largely because of the implausibly large number of permutations that even a few small decisions can produce. It’s impossible to give the player entirely free reign of the deductions, dialogue, or direction of the story, so we’re guided down specific paths inevitably meaning that sign-posting of the correct solution becomes painfully obvious. Continue reading “Return of the Obra Dinn: Brain Nod”

Heaven Dust: Esidentray Evilway

‘Heaven Dust’ is a game that makes me smile. It’s a game made by fans. Not just any fans; fans after my own heart, whose affection for the original Resident Evil games shines through in every polygon. Some twenty-x years after Capcom’s seminal survival horror hit the scene, this tribute made by ‘One Gruel Studio’ manages to hit all the right notes needed to evoke the feel of that first tentative shuffle through the Spencer Estate whilst still doing it in a new and distinctive style. Given how much the series has evolved and diverged, there’s something refreshing about a game that rewinds time back to what hooked-us in the first place.

HD_4

…oh, I’m sorry, you wanted an objective review?? Nope.. none of that here thank-you very much… 

Of course this type of thing is so in my wheelhouse that it’s basically an oak panelled part of the decor, but I ended up playing it mostly by chance after some fortunate browsing of the Switch store. In recent months, the Switch has become a staple gaming platform for me and I’m perpetually on the lookout for new releases that are compatible with my commute. ‘Heaven Dust’ was a delightfully stumbled upon discovery that has appeared on the store in the past few weeks and fills the super-niche of being a great choice for anyone who wants to play ‘Resident Evil’ on the go, but wants something just a little more causal than just playing ‘Resident Evil’ on the go*. Continue reading “Heaven Dust: Esidentray Evilway”

Doom 3: Hello Darkness My Old Friend…

… the dropship touches down on Mars and you tentatively step out. That murky gantry over some deep chasm your first taste of this isolated research outpost. Up ahead two shady characters mutter and plot; they’re altogether too suspicious. Unbeknown to you the suspicious characters go and talk to an even more suspicious and sinister character whilst you make your way to a suspicious commanding officer and…

Oh heck, everyone you meet in this damn game is suspicious & sinister. Someone desperately needed to tell the writer in Doom 3 that writing tense dialogue doesn’t mean each character tries to out gravely voice the other and that if you make everyone sinister then it kind of loses its impact. Anywho, where was I in the plot synopsis…

You get sent off to investigate some missing workers and then one of the sinister people does a thing that releases… “Doom”… (I guess) which possesses most of the humans in the local area and starts spawning in demons. Sadly for the demons their spawning accuracy is a little off and many end up trapped in a tiny cupboard waiting for some hapless space marine to touch the pressure plate just outside the hidden door and set them free. From this point on you are playing chase the objective, being sent hiking across the Mars facility to meet up/find/stop any combination of some people/evil force/object. It’s one of those games where whenever you get it the place you were trying to get to, you find an empty room, or a dying person, who lets you know that you just missed the person/thing/entity you were looking for and they’re now on their way to some new location about 5 levels away.  Ultimately you go to hell (because it’s a Doom game) and retrieve an object which helps you destroy all the demons.

… and if it sounds like my plot summary is a little thin on details I’d like to remind you that this is supposed to be a Doom game and plot really isn’t the reason that I picked it up; not that anyone told Doom 3 that. If you really want to know what’s happening then you’ll need to sift through the mountains of PDA’s that belonged to the crew reading though emails and listening to audio logs (most of which revolve around ‘strange goings on’ and ‘crew members behaving oddly’) to get hints as to the reasoning behind the path you’re inexorably being sent along. Whilst Doom 3’s plot might not be the reason it has had a mixed reception over the years, the very fact that it has a plot attempting to be more complicated than shoot demons could be indicative of some of the underlying difficulties it faced finding its identity. Continue reading “Doom 3: Hello Darkness My Old Friend…”