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”

Learning to T-Spin: ’89 to Tetris 99

A few weeks ago I caved and signed up for the ‘Switch Online’ service. Sitting in a PC gaming chair for the past few years has meant that I’ve never paid for an online console subscription so the concept was pretty foreign to me. What finally won me over was access to the virtual console NES & SNES games and the vague idea that I might try a few couch online games…

… what my wife and I have actually done is sink a chunk of time into Tetris 99. Or more accurately many many small chunks because Tetris 99 is one of those games that’s delightfully easy to pick up in a spare ten minutes. For anyone not familiar with the concept, Tetris 99 is a Battle Royale version of that iconic soviet puzzle game where 99 players battle it out to be the last one standing. Clearing rows is necessary, not only to keep you in the game, but it also sends those garbage rows (missing one square) to the bottom of a target’s board, pushing them closer to failure. The whole thing comes together to form a satisfying experience that I found, despite not really being much of a Tetris player, is very rewarding even if I’ve yet to claim a victory (4th place being my best performance at time of writing).

One of the cool things about Tetris 99 is that there are no instructions, which means that in order to discover the subtleties of the game (for example how back-to-backs or combos work) involves playing it lots or finding an online guide. This bring me neatly on to T-spins (which, if you’re like me and have only a passing knowledge of Tetris, you’re unlikely to have heard of). I was having a pretty good game. One thing that I did know about Tetris is that a ‘Tetris’ is the clearance of four lines with a single piece and represents the best move in the game… right? In Tetris 99 this sends 4 lines of garbage (not considering other bonuses) to your opponent and I’d had a solid number of them by the time I was finally wiped out. Curious to know how many I’d racked up I checked out my game stats. I noticed an entire stats section devoted to ‘T-Spins’… and was compelled to go away and find out what exactly a T-Spin is, and why I’d want to start filling those columns with numbers. Continue reading “Learning to T-Spin: ’89 to Tetris 99”

Chris Redfield’s Awkward Debriefing

Apologies to all you non-Resident-Evil-Fan-Readers out there, but this is a Resident Evil related post. A little while ago I was once again in a Resi-mood, to I picked the REmake up on the Switch. And yes, it’s a great game and probably one of the best remakes ever cashed-in-in-on by Capcom. So I picked my way through Chris’ and Jill’s scenarios and found myself mulling over the implications of each of these versions of events. More than that, I realised that considering events in the following games, and given the additional questions raised by Resident Evil Zero, It’s Jill’s scenario, and not Chris’, that must be canonical… and that it must’ve been pretty awkward when Chris found out…


“That’s some expensive carpet…” Chris Redfield thought as he tentatively explored the flooring with his socked left foot. He kicked the discarded combat boots to one side and stretched out his body as best he could whilst still technically remaining seated in the cold metal chair. Irons had been gone for hours and his final words before leaving the room had been “…don’t move…” Even so, Chris had just reached a conclusion in his internal debate and decided that boot removal was technically not moving. The Chief seeing his socks was preferable to spending another how-ever-many hours with aching feet. It already felt like a lifetime since the surviving members of S.T.A.R.S. had been manhandled in to separate rooms for a personal debriefing with Irons himself following that nightmare in the Mansion. Continue reading “Chris Redfield’s Awkward Debriefing”

The Switch: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Waaaaaa eeeeeaaaiiaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh…… wwwaaaahhh wwwaaahhhh waaahhhhhhh

An oft unadvertised bit of Hundstrasse trivia is that I enjoy a good western. That cliche mix of myth and reality, tales of a fleeting time in history, and the frequently blurred lines between good and bad make for some ol’ fashioned guilty pleasure viewing. In the last few weeks I’ve replayed both ‘Hard West’ and ‘Call of Juarez: Gunslinger’; two titles that capture everything superbly over the top about the genre in very different gaming vehicles, but I’m not writing about westerns today. Instead I want to talk about the platform that I enjoyed those titles on, and in all honesty, most of my recently played games: the Nintendo Switch.

The Switch has been a fixture in the household for some years now, but aside from ‘Zelda, Breath of the Wild’, I really hadn’t spent too much time clutching the wonkey-eyed-dog. Our Switch was, for the first 2 years in the house, mostly a useful portable gaming vector for excursions away for the weekend, or to take with us to play with friends or family. That was until late August last year when our player 3 arrived. At the time of writing we’re getting in to something of a good routine, but the first few months of having a baby that routine is really changeable and gaming needed to be slotted in as and when it could be; heck, I played most of Golf Story with him sleeping on my lap. I guess the point that I’m trying to make is that the Switch offers me a way to game when sitting down for long spells at the PC isn’t feasible. The quick startup, easily suspended software, and ability to just grab the console and continue in handheld mode all play right in to that need of having to adapt gaming to the current household circumstances. I’ve also begun… until recently of course… to brave possibly judgemental looks from my fellow commuters and started making use of my morning train journeys to get some gaming in.

So with the Switch the device I currently use the most to game, and having now played a good variety of titles, I felt like it was a good time to take stock and reflect on it as a console. In short, outline the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly …see what I did there?…  Continue reading “The Switch: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”

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?”

Doom 64: New Old Doom

Way back in the pages of a physical print magazine some time during the 90’s are the few screenshots of ‘Doom 64’ that were my first knowledge of this game. Despite some more recent interest in the console, at the time when it was relevant I was fairly indifferent to Nintendo’s last big player in the bit-wars. Something about these screenshots stuck with me however; I’d played Doom on PC of course, but this… this looked so… different. Even without my recent exploration of the Doom back-catalogue, I think the grainy memory of those screenshots would have drawn me in to picking up the (very reasonably priced) ‘Doom 64’ re-master-release that appeared on the Switch store a couple of weeks ago. Eagerly I downloaded it on release day, desperate to step in to, what I recall being, some dramatically new and cutting edge re-imaginings of the Doom universe…

… before playing it for about 10-minutes and switching it off, having not been very impressed… 

   … the fact that I’m writing this kind of gives away the reality that I picked it back up a few days later to give it a better shot; even then I had to push through a certain amount of ‘meh’ before I began to enjoy it; Doom 64 hides its true colours behind a pretty lacklustre couple of opening levels. Continue reading “Doom 64: New Old Doom”

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”