The Liebster Award – Discover New Blogs

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So this seems to be something that’s flying around WordPress blogs at the moment and it’s been a nice way to find new blogs that interest me.  The premise is similar to that of a chain letter, or one of those Facebook posts that asks you to answer a bunch of questions before passing it along to other people.  Normally I’d ignore those sort of posts, but this has helped me find other blogs I like that I might not have found otherwise.  So I’ll pass it along.

I’ve been nominated for this by pine717 of The Maximum Utmost, which is one of the first blogs I found when I started doing this.  You should check it out too!  Anyway, I’ve been given 11 questions to answer.  I then need to write 11 new questions and nominate others for the award for them to answer.  Maybe you’d like to check their blogs out too!  Anyway, here we go.

1. What made you want to start writing a blog?

I’ve always wanted to be involved in games journalism, but I’m pretty bad at writing!  I saw a friend of mine writing a rather successful lifestyle blog, starting with just writing for the love of it and thought that it was something I could try as well.  It was a way of writing about something I love without any real commitment.  I’m enjoying it!

2. Outside of blogging, what hobbies do you cultivate?

Aside from the obvious one of playing video games, I also enjoy board games a great deal.  I’m quite partial to running too and am a rather keen cook.

3. Night owl or early riser?

Both!  I like to stay up fairly late but need to be up early to get to work.  I prefer to subsist on next to no sleep.

4. Book or movie that had the greatest influence on you growing up?

I’m actually not sure on this one, but if I had to pick something, I’d go for The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett.  I loved those books, especially the Rincewind series.

5. Favourite beverage to relax with?

Scotch!  Talisker to be exact.

6. Favourite character from a game?

Tricky one this.  There’s a difference between ‘memorable’ and ‘best’ I think, as many of the most memorable aren’t all that deep in terms of character.  Mario is memorable, but is he a good character?  Commander Shepherd springs to mind as he/she was what you made them and had as much depth as you were willing to them.  If I had to pick one, I might go for Max Payne as he’s very well written for the stories he’s in especially by the third game in the series.

7. Favourite season of the year?

Winter.  Easy.

8. What was the first game that made you like computer games?

Not sure I can remember far enough back, but Galaxians on the BBC was pretty great.  I think the first game I seriously played would be The Legend of Zelda though.  There was just so much to explore, and finding a secret felt like genuine discovery to 7 year old (I think!) me.  And the overworld theme.  That’s stuck with me to this day.

9. Beatles of Led Zeppelin?

I have time for both, but Beatles.

10. Pie or cake?

Cake!  Especially cheesecake.

11. Favourite number?

I’m a maths teacher.  So my favourite number is i.

Now for some nominations.  I don’t know that many bloggers yet, so I’m sorry if you’ve already been nominated, or if this sort of this doesn’t interest you!

The Modern Gamer: Father, Husband and the Family

Vahrkalla’s Video Games

MMLeonard

Baud Attitude

The Word Dump

Here are some questions should they choose to answer!

  1. If you weren’t blogging about your chosen subject, what would you blog about?
  2. Bacon or cheese?
  3. What’s the most expensive thing you regretted buying?
  4. Who’d win in a fight between Master Chief and Marcus Fenix?
  5. What is your go to game?
  6. What’s the longest gaming session you’ve had?
  7. Single or multi player?
  8. Is mobile gaming good or bad for the hobby as a whole?
  9. Will there ever be a truly good video game movie?
  10. Worst game you’ve ever played?
  11. Beer or wine?

Thanks for reading, I hope I get to see some responses!

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5 Games that Hurt their Franchise – Suicidal Sequels!

How do you feel about sequels? Are you of the school that can’t wait to scarf down another slice of FIFA? Or do you prefer a one-and-done approach more like Grim Fandango? I personally quite like sequels, so long as they do something a little braver than their predecessor by altering the game whilst remaining true to their origins. Bioshock Infinite is a good example of this. It advanced the overall story in interesting ways, kept its core gameplay but developed how it went about the experience. I feel it’s a much better sequel than Bioshock 2, which played a little too close to home.

Whatever your thoughts, a good sequel can be an excellent thing. A bad one though, can cause serious damage to a game series. Occasionally they can be so bad that the series is abandoned altogether. Here are 5 games sequels that did more hard than good!

Resident Evil 6

I could have gone with either this or Resident Evil 5 to be honest, I went with Resident Evil 6 in the end though as it was just so tedious I gave up before I finished. Whilst games need to evolve with their sequels, they shouldn’t lose sight of what they are. A horror series, known for its slow but tense pace that becomes a flat out action game is probably guilty of losing its identity. Going from exploring a mansion desperately fending off a handful of zombies in previous games to running through streets mowing down hundreds with a machine gun made me feel like this was a completely different series.

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Not even Leon’s campaign could save this mess of a ‘horror’ game.

It’s clear that Capcom have listened to people’s criticisms of this game, as if the demo of Resident Evil 7 is anything to go by, the series may well be returning to its roots. Maybe this game hasn’t caused too much harm, but was a wake up call to the development team.

Assassin’s Creed: Unity

Assassin’s Creed 3 was pretty dull, but not broken. Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag was a pirate adventure through the Caribbean. Assassin’s Creed: Unity was a mess. The first game in the series to be ‘truly next-gen’ was pretty much a disaster. We had a boring plot, an unlikable protagonist and bugs. Oh the bugs! Falling through the ground, characters disappearing, and the infamous invisible face bug. It felt like it was utterly untested at times. The co-op only missions locked out content in a series known for its single player campaign unless you were willing to play online. The map was a clutter of collectable items that was hard to navigate. I could go on and on about the flaws in this.

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You cannot unsee this.

The gameplay was about the same as ever, which whilst getting a little dull by this point was perfectly serviceable. The graphics were fairly nice too, but there was just so much to dislike here. It seems that Syndicate, Unity’s sequel, suffered as a result of this as early sales of the newer game were much lower. They have since evened out thanks to the fairly positive critical reception of Syndicate. That initial dip in sales would certainly have been a knock though. Ubisoft could be working a bit harder on ensuring their games in this series are fit for sale now as they won’t be releasing a new game in the franchise this year. Here’s hoping the play testing is a little better with this additional time.

Duke Nukem Forever

By the time Duke Nukem Forever came out, I wouldn’t be sure you could say it was still a franchise. It had been so long since the announcement, let alone a Duke Nukem FPS, that the series had been all but laid to rest. Still, it eventually made it to release and what a disappointment it was. The huge length of time it had taken to make was evident in all the wrong ways. It was a relic of the past that poked fun at new gaming conventions whilst simultaneously attempting to ape them. The shooting was floaty, the weapons ordinary (which is something of a crime for this series) and the jokes horribly outdated.

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This could be any ordinary game, which is a failure when you’ve had 13 years to perfect it.

You could argue that this game was released in the wrong era, and had it come out when it was originally meant to it would have been received better. That may be true, but gaming had evolved a lot between DNF’s announcement and release. The Duke Nukem license is still held by 3D Realms after a legal fight from last year, so it’s possible they may attempt to resurrect the franchise. I think it may be best to leave this series to rest in peace though.

Legend of Zelda 2: The Adventures of Link

This is a bit of a contentious one as the game wasn’t exactly bad. In fact it does have its fans. It was just very, very different from the previous game in the series (one of my all time favourite games as it happens). The overworld became little more than a way of getting from A to B whilst combat and speaking to NPCs moved to a side scrolling perspective. This change in particular was pretty jarring as a fan of the original.

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In spite of its age, the game doesn’t look too bad during the side scrolling sections.

There was also the odd decision to add a levelling system. It actually fit the game rather well, but vanished for future games. But most who played this will remember it for its punishing difficulty. From the start you could die quite quickly, even with a good sized health pool. Iron Knuckles became synonymous with death for me as they defended so well and attacked relentlessly. It felt like a much darker, more brutal game than the lighthearted tone of the original. It alienated fans of the first game, but the franchise persisted and went from strength to strength. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing what Breath of the Wild brings.

Sonic the Hedgehog (2006)

I don’t think you can have a list on this topic without bringing up this crime against gaming. I liked Sonic Adventure and its follow up. I know they’ve not aged well, but I have fond memories of them. This reboot tried to use a similar style as them, but got utterly everything wrong. The story was…bizarre to say the least, mixing realistic style human characters with cartoon characters in a horribly jarring way. Roger Rabbit managed to do it right, this did not. Sonic gets a little kiss in with a human lady, which is not in any way weird. The enemies were unbalanced, especially the bosses (the fight with Silver could be considered a form of torture). The stages were chaotic and hard to navigate, as was the hub area which made it difficult to get to the next messy stage.

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No Sonic.  You have nothing to smile about.  Bad hedgehog!

Then we have the bugs. Oh, the bugs! Graphical glitches, falling through the stage, level geometry stopping you in your tracks, broken physics allowing you to stand upside down. I could very easily go on. It also has the problem of being too fast, which sounds like an odd thing to say for a Sonic game. There’s a fine line between having a fast character go fast, and having a fast character be too fast to control. Developers should really remember that the character is fast, but human reactions are only so quick. A messy, messy game. The series really started to lose steam after this, with entries being more miss than hit. There were a couple of good releases: Sonic Colours was alright, and I actually quite enjoyed Sonic Generations but there were so many other bad games, culminating in Sonic Boom. It might be time for Sega to let sleeping (hedge)hogs lie.

Some (dis)honourable mentions. Devil May Cry 2 was less than stellar after the brilliant original, but its combat was alright and kept it fairly interesting. Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts was an alright game in itself, but was a huge departure from previous games in the series. Metroid: Other M was again, an alright game that lost sight of what made its predecessors great.  There’s also Super Mario Bros. 2 (the weird one, not The Lost Levels) which was just a damn weird sequel.  I decided to discount this one as its a reskin of another game.

That’s my list! What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Think something should be added that was utterly horrible? Let me know.

Resident Evil 7: Beginning Hour – P.T. Returns?

So this is actually a demo of sorts.  A demo for a game that isn’t out until next year.  A demo that shows gameplay that won’t actually be in the final game.  Supposedly this is showing the style of the game rather than what the game is about exactly.  It seems to be taking on the concept of the hugely viral teaser demo P.T. for Silent Hills before Konami went mental (because Konami is the worst) of showing a theme to build hype without spoiling the main game.  I grabbed this demo as quickly as I could so that it didn’t disappear into the ether if Capcom suddenly decided to go mental too.  And I have to say, it’s pretty good as a 20 minute demo.

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Part of the demo takes place with you wearing a camera, somewhat like Outlast.

The story is a little unclear, but you wake up in a room in a shabby house with the instruction to get out of the house.  What follows is a simple puzzle about finding a key to open a door.  Thinking about it, that’s fairly standard for a traditional Resident Evil game, but without the horribly convoluted puzzle elements of the past.  There’s no silly chess piece keys, or secret crystals that activate magic statues, just common sense.  You also get what I assume is a flashback scene with you controlling a camera man.  There’s a fairly small area to explore, but it’s absolutely dripping with atmosphere.  The sound, or lack of it at times, goes a long way towards giving you a sense of isolation in this creepy, seemingly abandoned home.

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It looks lovely.  Although perhaps lovely is the wrong word to use.

There’s no combat in the demo, although you can find a weapon if you look around very carefully.  This makes sense based on what the developers have said regarding the full game: there will be weapons but combat is not the focus of the game.  Supposedly you’ll be better off avoiding fights in the full game which will be a nice change from the more action heavy recent entries in the series.  The first person perspective seems to be a reaction to the success of games such as Outlast, Layers of Fear (which I loved by the way) and P.T.  This and the lack of zombies do make me question how much of a Resident Evil game this will be in the long run.  I’m all for modernising a series, but sometimes it can feel like the developers are making a game and slapping a well known name on the cover to get additional sales (I’m looking at you Syndicate).  This is a demo for a very good game in my opinion, but if you’re after more Resident Evil, this isn’t likely to scratch that itch.

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A little Blair Witch influence here?

Resident Evil 7 is being developed and published by Capcom.  I played the demo on PS4, and would recommend you take a look at it if you’ve got a spare 20 minutes.  And Playstation Plus.  As a final thought, I bet this would be fantastic in VR!

5 Games That Could Consume Your Life

Depending on the person, a video game can take up as much or as little time as you’d like. There are games good for a quick session, and ones that could last days. Then there are those that you could practically play forever; games with so much content that you could get lost in them for hours (or more!) at a time. Here are 5 such games!

[See the list at I Played The Game’s site]

Switch Galaxy Ultra – Acid Addicted Ninja Simulator

Do you have the reflexes of a ninja?  Are you partial to dropping acid to enjoy some cool colours?  Then this may well be the game for you!  Switch Galaxy Ultra was given out free as part of Playstation Plus.  Whilst it’s not entirely free (you have to pay a subscription for PS Plus), it didn’t cost me any more money than I had already been spending.  But it did cost me time, and that’s something I don’t have much of at all.  I often see comments on the internet along the lines of “You can’t complain too much, it was free!”.  A punch in the mouth is also free and I reckon you’d complain about that.

In case you couldn’t tell, this is going to be less than complimentary.

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Sometimes the game can look alright, but it’s really more down to the background details than anything you’re involved in.

There’s a story apparently, but the comic book presentation didn’t even try to engage me with its uninteresting characters and cheap jokes about diarrhea, so we’ll skip straight past that.  The basic idea of the game is you’re flying from system to system along preset tracks.  You switch left and right between tracks to avoid coloured gates and other ships.  That’s it.  The whole game is moving left and right along set paths.  No room for finesse or clever maneuvers.  The game does get insanely fast after a while though, requiring perfect memorisation or absurdly fast reflexes as the game throws gates and ships in your path over blind hilltops.  The challenge feels extremely cheap.

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The spaceships are pretty impressive to look at, but their design is all the variety you get.

Occasionally you’ll fly along a tunnel of crazy colours collecting some mineral that progresses the game (which I’m going to refer to as Arbitrarium).  This is where an utterly bizarre design decision comes in.  You play from behind your ship which is fine during the racing segments, but in these tunnels you have to collects items.  The rear of your ship blocks most of the screen making it near impossible to see what you’re doing.  Annoying to say the least.  To compound this, you need to collect this Arbitrarium to advance the game.  You can’t fail any of the stages, just perform badly; so to add “challenge” to the game you can only advance if you’ve collected enough of this resource during the previous stages.  This leads to you having to replay stages to earn enough to advance further.  There’s no reason for this other than to lengthen the game time.  And, most egregious of all, I reached a point in the game where it stopped saving my progress.  Every time I went back to finish the game, I found my progress set back to a few days ago.  Unacceptable!

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Sweet acid trip, man.

BUT.  There is one positive.  My daughter saw me playing this and was quite mesmerised (possibly due to all the bright colours) and asked if she could play.  She’s not even 3 yet so I was a little reluctant, but I put her on the first stage and let her poke at the buttons.  She enjoyed it and wanted to try again.  She’s not always been the most confident with ‘left’ and ‘right’, but after 5 minutes with this she was responding to directions correctly and quickly.  Much as I disliked this game, it has had at least one positive effect: my daughter is better a knowing left and right.  Also, it should be noted that they have released a DLC pack for the game and all profits from it go to charity, which is a nice gesture.

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One of the enemy spaceships isn’t even on the track.  I’m not sure if that’s deliberate or a bug.

Switch Galaxy Ultra was developed by Atomicom Limited, and published by Green Man Loaded.  I played the game on PS4 and wouldn’t recommend it, even for free.  Unless you don’t know your left and right, it might be a good trainer for you.