5 Movie-Based Games That Weren’t Terrible

There was a time in gaming’s long and sordid history when most major films had to have a video game tie-in.  And most of them were terrible.  So terrible that they almost destroyed gaming (thanks E.T.).  We’ve had some that should have worked but were badly made (Fight Club was a wasted opportunity), others that shouldn’t have even been considered (Wayne’s World exists for some reason), and others still that confuse me (Street Fighter: The Movie which is a game of a film of a game).  But sometimes game developers, movie makers, and people with cash manage to get their shit together and make something genuinely good.  Here are five such examples.

Street Fighter
This is either the worst movie of all time or the greatest parody of all time.
As ever, I must have played these games.  Whilst they don’t have to be directly based on a single specific movie, their source material must be clear and there should be a direct link to the movie(s).  Whilst researching this I found far more than I expected, so narrowing it down became tricky, but narrowed I have!  Read on!

Aladdin

Aladdin

Probably my favourite “classic” Disney film, Aladdin is a retelling of the story of a young boy who finds himself in possession of magic lamp containing a genie who grants him 3 wishes.  Aladdin obviously uses it to impress a girl because that’s pretty much always the case in old fashioned stories.  Anyway, magic, murder, marriage and everyone lives happily ever after.  The ones who survive anyway.

Aladdin
Jumping on camels makes them spit. Just like in real life!
As was the case for most games of this era, Aladdin was a platform game retelling some of the key scenes from the movie.  The art and music captured the style of the film perfectly and the tight controls  gave use a mechanically solid game.  The platforming was fun, with simple sword attacks and ranged moves forming the combat (cutting the guards trousers to make them fall down was a nice touch).  Other stages involved magic carpet flights and boss battles to keep the game fresh.  It worked surprisingly well (I played the superior Mega Drive version by the way!) and it’s a pity that most other Disney video games couldn’t match the quality here.

Wolverine

Wolverine

So the film wasn’t great.  At all.  Every character was used badly, Deadpool couldn’t speak(!) and the whole “Origins” movie idea fell at the first hurdle (although I feel it paved the way for First Class).  Still, the Wolverine movie series managed to survive somehow, and the tie-in video game was actually tremendous.

Wolverine
Visually, the game was so much more violent than the films.
Playing as a solid hack n’ slash game, Wolverine follows the plot of the film closely enough but makes it as violent as a game featuring a man with claws in his hands should be.  Logan carves through enemies with his claws, dishing out brutal finishers (the helicopter moment from early in the game proved rather memorable for me) with a surprisingly solid set of combos that can be upgraded.  Solid controls and fun boss battles keep the game from getting stale (plus the fun Easter eggs that parody other games are enjoyable to find).  The visuals are excellent, with chunks of Wolverine being blown away, exposing his skeleton before gradually healing.  It’s a well put together package that was far more enjoyable than its source material.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Scott Pilgrim

I love this film.  I know it’s not great, but I enjoy watching it so much with it’s fun visuals that do a good job of bringing the books to the screen.  Michael Cera looks the part and I still like seeing the man who would be Captain America exploding in a skateboard accident.  It’s what I would call a guilty pleasure if I felt any guilt for liking it.

Scott Pilgrim
A 4-player co-op brawler. What’s not to like?
Feeling very much like River City Ransom, you and up to 3 allies select a character from the story and proceed to fight anyone and everyone that gets in your way.  You’ll collect money to spend in shops along the way to strengthen your character (which you’ll need to, it’s pretty tough) before confronting the boss.  I found the controls a little loose at times but playing anything that reminds me so Streets of Rage and its ilk is alright by me.  Visually it’s great too, using the style of the books combined with a retro graphical style.  I’m hoping this one eventually comes to backwards compatibility, but with all the licenses involved I suspect that’s wishful thinking.

TIE Fighter

TIE Fighter

Right, this hasn’t aged brilliantly (especially as far as visuals are concerned) but it’s story and experience are a wonderful extension of the Star Wars universe.  This doesn’t tie into a specific movie, and tells its own set of stories but it’s a great tale of galactic battle, subterfuge and FLYING ALONGSIDE DARTH VADER.  Sorry, I got overexcited there.

TIE Fighter
It doesn’t look pretty by today’s standards, and it probably doesn’t play all that well either nowadays, but damn was it a great game in its day.
Game’s like this are less common these days.  It’s a narrative driven (with multiple branches in fact) space combat simulation.  You need to manage your TIE fighter’s (or bomber, interceptor amongst other craft) resources to be as effective as possible whilst you crush the Rebel alliance.  The controls were excellent (assuming you used a joystick) and the missions varied.  The graphics do not hold up well, though the sense of scale you get as you fly beside a star destroyer is impressive.  It’s a shame we’re unlikely to see many (if any) Star Wars games in the future, as a modernised version of this could work very well.

Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters

What can I say about this movie?  You all know it, you probably love it, and you’ve probably seen it more times that you’ve had hot dinners.  It’s amazing that there have been so many shoddy games to come from the franchise considering how easily it should translate.  From the fairly shonky Commodore 64/NES/etc. game, to the horrifially overpriced 2016 spin-off, there have been very few good games in the series.

Ghostbusters
For a nearly 10-year-old game it still looks pretty damn good.
Thankfully, the 20099 release fixed that, with an original story (purported to be Ghostbusters 3 in essence) in which you play a new character alongside the original cast.  The story was fairly standard, with ghosts having taken over the city meaning someone’s gonna call the Ghostbusters.  You would control your character, exploring environments (some surprisingly creepy) with your PK meter to find and catch ghosts.  Combat came down to weakening ghosts with your proton blaster (or alternative weapon) before slamming them into a trap.  It all worked really rather well with solid controls and good visuals to go with the fun gameplay.  I loved that crossing the streams with your teammates caused you to get knocked back.  There was even a really rather good mutliplayer mode that died way before its time because it wasn’t Call of Duty.

As ever, there are a few honourable mentions.  I didn’t put Goldeneye above as I feel it has not aged very well at all.  Whilst the single player is still great, with a ton of content, the multiplayer feels pretty shoddy with a horrible framrate.  I suppose I didn’t know any better at the time.  Blade Runner is a great and, for its time, very inventive adventure game with multiple endings.  Alien: Isolation is an excellent survival horror game in which you feel under constant threat; it’s just a shame that it goes on a bit too long and becomes a slog towards the end.  Spiderman 2 deserves a mention for its fantastic swinging mechanics that developes are still trying to live up to to this day.  Finally, a game I rarely see mentioned: Starship Troopers which was a rather fun RTS game that received a lot less attention than it deserved.

Have I missed any?  Are there any movie-based games that you think deserve their time in the sun?  Let me know, I’d love to give them a look!

Desert Island Digital Downloads

Trapped on a desert island? No hope of rescue?! Better get some video games out then.

Have you heard of Desert Island Discs?  It’s a very British thing really.  It was a show on BBC Radio 4, originally created in the 1940s.  The idea was you would be stuck on a desert island for an indeterminate amount of time and you would have to choose 8 songs to have on the island with you.  It’s a really neat concept that’s had a huge number of celebrities on over the years, and I’m very much going to steal it and make it about games.

Now, the assumption here is that I would have access to a machine that could play any game from any system, and would be powered by some unknown electricity source.  There would be no internet though (otherwise I’d just e-mail the nearest boat) so multiplayer only games won’t be allowed.  In spite of the title, these don’t have to be digitally downloaded titles meaning disc based ones are fine but I’m assuming that all currently available content is included with the game.  Also, one game per franchise, otherwise this would turn into a Dark Souls love-in  Finally, I don’t have to have played these games, meaning that I could be flat out wrong with some of these.  So feel free to call me out on my idiocy in the comments.  So, it’s time for me to crash land on an island.

The IT Crowd
E-mailing the emergency services is always the best option.

XCOM 2 + Long War 2

XCOM 2 Logo
XCOM 2 (2016)

Alright, let’s get the obvious one done.  I love this game.  I poured 150 hours into the previous entry (which is a lot for me) and probably even more into the classic.  I would have spent more time on it if this sequel hadn’t arrived.  It improves on XCOM in almost every way.  More content, new aliens, greater challenge, and with the Long War mod this a single game could go on for hundreds of hours.  And I very much doubt I would get bored of it.  Every battle feels different, and allowing your soldiers to die eliminates them forever making every decision count.  And die they will, assuming you don’t save-scum it…

Diablo 3 – Ultimate Evil

Diablo 3
Diablo 3 (2012/2014)

Ok, I know it’s better when played with other people, but I find this quite cathartic to play alone.  Mowing through hordes of demons with your chosen class, forever finding more and more powerful loot to take on greater challenges is really rather satisfying.  This version of the game game with the Reaper of Souls expansion which included a new act and a seemingly endless Adventure mode.  Add to that the seasons (I know it’s online, but it’s still a great feature) that changes the game on a regular basis and you have a lot to play with if you have to time to play it.

Persona 5

Persona 5
Persona 5 (2017)

This is an inclusion that I haven’t played but I’d dearly like to.  In fact I’ve never played a Persona game at all (although I have dabbled in a couple of the other SMT games).  The style of this is what grabs me.  I love the art style, the cutscenes, the story (what I know anyway) interests me, the music sounds excellent, the time management aspect in which you live your double life is right up my street too.  Apparently it’s also enormous, with a lot of high quality content for those willing to spend the time on it.  Perfect for if you have the time to spend on it.

Baldur’s Gate 2

Baldur's Gate 2
Baldur’s Gate 2 (2000)

I know the logo above is for the re-release, but I love this game either way.  Baldur’s Gate 2 is based in the Forgotten Realms world of Dungeons & Dragons and contains a fantastically complex story (I mean, it is Bioware), interesting and varied characters, and dragons!  It’s old fashioned, ugly (by today’s standards) and a bit clunky at times, but it’s a game that I would love to spend the time to go back to this, find all those quests I never experienced and the party members I never spoke to.  It’s hard as hell too!

One Finger Death Punch

One Finger Death Punch
One Finger Death Punch (2013)

This is an odd one, as games like this tend last just a few minutes, but this is one of those that will result in hours being lost.  One Finger Death Punch is based on the old stick figure Flash games from years back, but made so immediate and simplistic, yet challenging and varied that you’ll find yourself in a Zen-like state for hours on end.  Entirely mouse driven, a left click attacks to the left and a right click attacks to the right.  Enemies will approach you from one side or the other and your job is to punch their faces in.  There are weapons to use, knives to deflect and light sabre rounds.  It sounds so simple (and in essence it is) but it can become supremely challenging in later stages, and the survival mode can last hours if you’re good enough.

The Binding of Isaac

The Binding of Isaac
The Binding of Isaac (2011)

So much content!  I suppose a rogue-lite would be perfect for this sort of situation, as it’s forever changing.  The Binding of Isaac has you fighting hordes of grotesque enemies using your tears as weapons.  Along the way you’ll find items to power you up and chances to sell your soul to Satan for even more power.  It’s hard, varied, and unpredictable.  Plus the expansions add a huge amount to the game in the form of new items, characters and game modes.  This game has been out for years and still has a huge following, and with good cause.

Heroes of Might & Magic

Heroes of Might and Magic 3
Heroes of Might and Magic 3 (1999)

There are plenty of games from this series to choose from, but the ones I remember most fondly and the second and third entries.  I’ve played the more recent ones, but they seem to go for a more serious approach and feel less fun.  This is a turn based game in which you improve a stronghold with buildings that generate creatures and items for your heroes.  You then send you heroes out to explore the land, collecting resources, conquering new strongholds and defeating your enemies.  Games can take a huge amount of time (especially if you set up an 8 players game) plus there’s a campaign to play through.  Many an evening was lost to this game, and it may well help me keep my sanity on this sweet desert island.

Civilization V

Civilization V
Civilization V (2010)

I struggled to decide which entry to go for here.  I had tons of fun with the second entry in the series when I was younger and I very much enjoyed Civ IV as well (although the unit stacks made it a pain to play).  I felt that, after a ropey launch, Civ V is the best one that I’ve played.  Taking my empire from fledgling village to world spanning colossus is consistently enjoyable.  Add the fact that games can end up being nigh on endless (this short article sums up how some games can end up if you let them keep running) with that dreaded “one more turn” feeling and you can lose yourself forever in this.

That’s 8!  I wonder how many hours that would keep me going for.  There were others I considered, such as Football Manager, Bloodborne/Dark Souls, and Cities: Skylines but I ended up settling on these.  How about you though?  If you were stuck, what would you take?  I’m sure you’ll have ideas that I haven’t even considered so let me know!  I’ll be sure to pack them on my next flight…

 

5 Utterly Awesome Boss Fights – Spoiler: No Ornstein & Smough!

Bosses don’t have to be tough to be an epic encounter.

So not so long ago I went on a bit of a rant about bosses that beat the ever living crap out of me.  Whilst an absolute pain to beat, they were a fun challenge and satisfying to defeat (apart from that arsehole Capital B).  Whilst challenge should certainly be an aspect to a boss battle – after all they are there to test your skill – a good boss battle doesn’t necessarily have to be tough to be a fantastic experience.  A combination of the right challenge level, sound and visual design, and sometimes doing something a bit unexpected can lead to a tremendous scene that will prove memorable for years to come.

Scarecrow
I’m of the opinion that this is one of the smartest boss fights in gaming. It used Arkham Asylum’s mechanics in unexpected ways and managed to make Scarecrow more memorable than The Joker.

So here are 5 awesome boss battles that have stuck with me.  Usual rules apply: only one game per franchise, only games I have played and bosses I have beaten.  You won’t find a disappointing Vaas knife fight here!  I’m not including Scarecrow from Arkham Asylum though, as that was so good it practically feels like cheating.

Oh, and spoilers obviously!

The EndMetal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

Metal Gear Solid 3
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (2004)

First off, a series famed for its boss battles.  I had this game at university, and I always remember a housemate of mine describing this fight as “a deadly game of cat and mouse”.  Whilst amusing, it’s actually a pretty accurate description of the encounter.  The End is an elderly sniper and member of the elite Cobra Unit that Snake needs to take out.  He can be seen at various points in the game, and you can even kill him before the boss encounter if you’re quick.  But doing so means you miss out on an incredibly tense and varied battle.

Metal Gear Solid 3 The End
You can even eat his parrot if you manage to catch it.

In a large forest arena you’ll need to find and defeat The End, who is trying to put you down with a sniper rifle.  Most of the time you can’t see him so finding him is half the battle.  This is where Kojima and co managed to put together something rather special as there are so many ways to go about this.  You could use thermal goggles, or perhaps try spotting his bird to indicate his location.  Maybe you’ll watch for the sun reflecting off his sniper scope.  Sometimes the camera will shift to seeing through The End’s rifle to hint at his position.  You could beat him by sneaking up on him altogether or, as some players discovered, by not playing the game for a week and having The End die of old age.  Such a smart experience as you sneak, watch, and try to outdo this master sniper.

Flowey – Undertale

Undertale
Undertale (2015)

I was super late to the party with this one and had a lot of concepts in the game spoiled for me.  I put this one off for a long time because of that but I’m glad I finally settled down to play it.  The story was interesting, the characters varied and the battle system very much out of the ordinary.  Talking to the monsters rather than fighting them?  It felt pretty novel to me.  And whilst I haven’t gone for a pacifist or genocide run yet, the final boss of the neutral run was completely unexpected.

Undertale
You go from 8-bit (I think) pixel art to this monstrosity. I genuinely did not expect this boss design, nor how intense the battle would be.

In Undertale, you survive by moving your heart to avoid attacks in a bullet hell style.  The final boss really pushes your ability to the limit in this regard, but also messes with you as a gamer.  You’ll suffer damage from a series of attacks, then Flowey will save the game’s state and load it up again several more times to cause that same damage multiple times.  If you die, Flowey will shut the game down and when you launch it again he’ll taunt you over how many times he’s killed you and how much he’s looking forward to tormenting you forever.  Going from a heart warming game to this insanity was unexpected and unbelievably memorable.

Bell Gargoyle – Dark Souls

Dark Souls
Dark Souls (2011)

I was torn between this one and Father Gascoigne from Bloodborne, but I went with this as the location felt great.  For me, this is where Dark Souls really started and felt like my first real challenge.  Whilst getting here certainly wasn’t a walk in the park for me, the Bell Gargoyle trounced me several times more than any previous encounter.  I suspect that the fact it was the first real hurdle for me helps make it more memorable.

Dark Souls
I loved the feature in this game that allowed you to cut off certain enemy’s tails to acquire new weapons.

The battle takes place atop a church with the city sprawled beneath you.  The gargoyle swoops down to land on the roof and just goes crazy on you.  Once you get through the early onslaught and start causing some damage you feel pretty positive…then his friend shows up and you get a two on one battle to the death.  The environment, the desperate struggle to take down one enemy only to have his buddy show up, and finally surviving to ring the bell atop the tower.  It all comes together as a memorable encounter that tells you what this game is going to be going forward.

Senator Armstrong – Metal Gear Rising

Metal Gear Rising Logo
Metal Gear Rising (2013)

Right, this one is allowed in alongside Metal Gear Solid 3 for two reasons.  Firstly, because this is technically a spin of and is arguably its own franchise.  Secondly, this is my list and I feel like cheating a bit so nyah!  This game is full of crazy boss fights, including building sized mechs, robot chainsaw dogs and ninja cyborgs.  Picking just one of these is difficult enough, but I’ve gone for the final encounter.

Metal Gear Rising
Nanomachines, son!

A loud metal soundtrack, sword wielding robots, an inferno surrounding the combatants and an evil senator with even more bonkers policies than Trump (not trying to get too political here).  This is a boss fight that will really test the skills you’ve developed throughout the game (and took me a while to beat).  Taking down Armstrong is no easy task, requiring skillful use of your blade slicing abilities and well timed dodges.  This is Platinum at their absolute best and I’d dearly love a solid current gen port of this.

Bob Barbas – DmC: Devil May Cry

DmC: Devil May Cry (2013)
DmC: Devil May Cry (2013)

Ok, so this wasn’t the most well received reboot with many arguing (myself included) that the series didn’t really need one.  However, this is actually a pretty damn good character action game, with solid controls, a well thought out soundtrack and a werid interpretation of Dante that I’d prefer not to think to hard about.  It also has some top boss battles!  Ferris wheel demons and underground slug monsters were certainly memorable, but it was the manipulative news anchor that stole the show.

DmC Devil May Cry
He’s certainly not one of the hardest bosses I’ve ever faced, but the it does so much so well!

This is easily one of the most visually creative boss fights I’ve ever seen.  It uses the fact that Bob is a corrupt news anchor and runs with it by having the whole fight be themed around a news report.  You’ll fight through the perspective of a police helicopter’s camera, charging down a path made of news channel logos and listen to Dante’s name being slandered through propaganda infused reports.  Dodging lasers and explosions whilst approaching Bob’s digitised head to cause damage may be the way to win, but the framing of the encounter is what really makes this.  How many boss fights manage to make facing additional enemies interesting?  I certainly can’t think of many.

Some honourable mentions as ever.  I’ve mentioned Metal Gear Solid’s Psycho Mantis in the past as being very creative (that series is just incredible when it comes to bosses).  The Sephiroth battle in Kingdom Hearts was impressive for many reasons.  It was unexpected, challenging and full of fan service.  Jecht from Final Fantasy X is one I found quite memorable due to the catharsis is provides Tidus.  Whilst the encounter itself wasn’t all that incredible, the significance of it certainly is.  And Wyzen from Asura’s Wrath was a sight to behold.  Whilst the fact it was almost entirely a QTE works against it, the visual spectacle more than makes up for it.  Oh, and there was this guy from Serious Sam:

Serious Sam
The scale of this boss was insane for the era!

I notice that many of these are fairly recent.  Are modern boss encounters really more impressive than older ones?  Or did I just not play the right ones as a youngster?  Let me know if there are any I should experience!

 

5 Bosses That Gave Me a Serious Kicking – Bullied by big bosses.

Not so long ago, I talked about how looking at guides for games is absolutely fine.  I even included Dara O’Briain’s remarks on video games being the only form of media that denies you access to more of it unless you prove you’re good enough.  I mentioned how there really should be ways for anyone to experience the stories that games provide.  But that’s not how games work (well, most of them anyway).  There are bosses.  Those big chaps and chapettes placed in your way to test you on everything you’ve learned so far.  Sure, you’ve eliminated those enemies, mowed down the mooks and bested many baddies, but can you face down this ridiculous robot?  That colossal creature?  Those ferocious fighters?  Alliteration aside (ha!), let’s have a look at some of those end of level guardians that have given me a serious run for my money.

Earthworm Jim
Bob the Goldfish was not one of the toughest.  His level was a pain though.

Some rules as ever.  Only one boss per franchise and only bosses I have faced and defeated.  Oh, and if you’re offended by crude language, this is one of very few posts I write that will contain swearing.  Because, seriously, some of these guys are absolute dicks.

Psycho Mantis – Metal Gear Solid

Metal Gear Solid
Metal Gear Solid (1998)

Let’s start light.  Because Psycho Mantis isn’t terribly difficult once you know what to do.  In fact, I technically didn’t find him all that difficult when I played this, but I’ll explain that in a moment because I recognise why this clown is so difficult.  You see, you can’t shoot him.  He dodges everything as though he can read your mind (he can because Metal Gear Solid is insane) and react before you fire.  Not only that, he will also attempt to control your companion, Meryl, and attempt to have her kill herself.  The strategy to defeat him, as I’m sure many of you will know, is to swap your controller from port one to port two on your console, thus confusing Psycho Mantis and allowing you to shoot the crap out of him.

Metal Gear Solid
Sadly, the memory card reading trick didn’t work in the PC release.

In terms of boss battles for the era (or indeed any era), this was very inventive.  And if you don’t know how to beat him, I can see how this could be incredibly challenging.  Now, on to how I managed to beat him.  I played this on PC, in which to defeat him you need to play using the keyboard.  I did not have a gamepad for the PC and used the keyboard for the whole game so he proved to be only mildly challenging.  Still, I thought this boss should be included due to the potential challenge.

Ornstein & Smough – Dark Souls

Dark Souls
Dark Souls (2011)

Alright, let’s get this two bastards out of the way.  The Dark Souls original gank boss.  The multi-man brawl that From Software have tried to emulate ever since.  One of the hardest bosses in the series (I know there are others that people consider harder, but this pair whooped me for hours).  Bosses in Dark Souls are no joke, but here we have two hard ones at once.  One (Executioner Smough) is big, powerful, and capable of destroying the pillars that provide cover.  The other (Dragonslayer Ornstein) is quick, powerful and has wide sweeping attacks that are hard to dodge.  Keeping an eye on both of them whilst trying to land even a couple of hits to whittle down their health is extremely challenging.

Ornstein and Smough
Can you guess which is the slow, powerful one?

Oh OH, and once you beat one of them, the other grows to twice the size and becomes even more powerful.  Just to make sure you get no breaks.  Because letting up just isn’t Souls style.  If you defeat Smough first and take on a doubly powerful Ornstein then prepare for the battle of your life because he is an utter arse once powered up.  The gorgeous journey through Anor Londo up to this point simply cannot prepare you for the pummelling you’ll face here.  Victory is unbelievably satisfying, even though it took me summoning two phantoms to help with taking them down.  I love this series, but there’s no way I’m going back to take them on again.

Lou – Guitar Hero 3

Guitar Hero III
Guitar Hero 3 (2007)

This is a weird one to include, but it is a boss battle.  Guitar Hero 3 had a story mode of sorts, with your band being confronted by the devil (Lou) for a final face-off.  Boss battles in this game were in the form of songs in which you and your opponent you play sections against one another, with powerups allowing you to disrupt the other player.  Attacks could make notes become invisible, or one of your strings to break which makes playing a section correctly much harder.  The final song was a rather creative rock cover of the rather excellent The Devil Went Down to Georgia by The Charlie Daniels Band, with a ton of notes everywhere.  Playing this in the game was hard enough, but throw in disappearing notes and buttons that temporarily won’t work and you have a recipe for plastic guitar breakage.

Seriously, this is rather good, and the Guitar Hero 3 version is pretty good too.

No meaning to brag, but I was pretty good at games in this series.  I could rattle through most songs on expert mode without too much trouble.  But this.  This song with those stupid attacks was near on impossible.  I eventually beat this, but only by swallowing my pride and dropping down two difficulties to normal.  I know, I still feel the shame burning me now.  I really liked the plastic instrument craze, but this boss battle song crap can piss right off.

Shao Kahn – Mortal Kombat 3

Mortal Kombat 3
Mortal Kombat 3 (1995)

I was torn between Shao Kahn and M. Bison from Street Fighter 2.  I went with Shao Kahn because he’s such a cheap git.  M. Bison can be beaten with careful zoning and good positioning.  Shao Kahn needs Sub-Zero and a shit ton of luck.  Shao Kahn can practically dash right in front of you and send you flying.  Over and over again.  Along the ground or in the air.  The dash attack also breaks your block.  Oh, and he has projectile attacks which he can spam.  Plus a hammer attack that can stun you.  So my experience was something like this: jump attack lands on Kahn, hammer to me, dash attack me into the corner then I die.  This happened many, many times.

Shao Kahn
I’m not sure if this is Shao Kahn or Triple H arriving at Wrestlemania.

I know I finally beat him based entirely on luck.  Sub-Zero could freeze Shao Kahn in place, allowing an upperful (one of the most high damage single attacks).  I used that and resorted to staying crouched and hoping an air dash attack would come my way, allowing another free uppercut.  It went like this for a long, long time until I finally bested him.  A dishonourable victory perhaps, but that’s what he gets for being such a wanker.

Yellow Devil – Mega Man

Mega Man
Mega Man (1987)

Oh this guy can just fuck right off.  Cheap, extremely hard to dodge, takes ages and can pretty much only be beaten by luck, glitching, or having more patience than Jesus.  In fact, I’m pretty sure Jesus would just switch the game off and play something else.  Like Doom.  Anyway, the Yellow Devil is one of the final bosses you face in Mega Man and it is a bastard of one.  He starts by flying in piece by piece from the left, and good luck if you don’t know the pattern by heart.  You’ll almost certainly get hit by one or two pieces (suffering significant damage) before he opens his eye for a split second to fire.   I hope you were paying attention in that one second as that’s the only chance you have to damage it before the pieces fly to the other side of the screen.  Repeat until you die.  And I did.  Repeatedly.

Mega Man
Ah, the Thunder Beam. Yellow Devil’s only weakness. Especially if you glitch it…

To be fair, with enough care and attention Yellow Devil can be taken down.  It’s just the number of times you need to face it before you have the patterns down.  And once you lose all your lives its back to the start of a long and difficult level to get back for another go.  That’s the bit that irritated me the most.  Once I got past that, I managed to wear him down.  But getting to that point was a trial.  This was not the last time this boss appeared in this (or other) series.  The music was pretty exciting for the battle too.  At least, the first few times.

Some (dis?)honourable mentions.  Vicar Amelia from Bloodborne took me a long, long time to get through.  She hits hard, moves quickly and could heal most of her health back mid battle.  If you couldn’t out-damage her heal you didn’t have a hope.  Another boss I had to summon for.  Then there’s Capital B from Yooka-Laylee.  I think I’ve made my feelings on this arsehole clear before.

Yooka Laylee
Don’t look so smug you utter bastard.  I got you in the end.

Who’s kicked your ass repeatedly in games?  Don’t feel the shame, share below and feel better about yourself!  Carrying that defeat around will just bring you down, share it with the group…

 

5 Games From 2016 That I Regret Missing – Not enough hours in the day.

There’s an expression which has come to mind more and more for me lately.  When you’re young you have the time but not the money; when you’re older you have the money but not the time.  This applies to so many things in life, gaming included.  When I was younger, I missed out on a lot of games simply because I couldn’t afford them.  Whilst disappointing, it made a lot of sense.  Also, it wasn’t difficult to acquire games by *ahem* other means.  Not that I would advocate that (specially not now).  If my younger self could see the number of games I’ve bought and not got around to playing though…

Lol Limewire
This song still make me laugh.

I find myself buying fewer and fewer “epic” games simply because I won’t have the time to enjoy them.  Work, family and life in general are all more important (to varying degrees…screw work!) meaning that hobbies have to give way.  Regardless, it is still disappointing to intend to play a game but never get around to it.  So here are 5 games from last year that I had every intention of playing, but probably never will.  Oh, and Overwatch isn’t here…

Epic Games
No, not this sort of Epic. Their games tended to be of a sensible length.

Rules are different this time!  Obviously these have to be games I haven’t played that were released last year.  I’ve not included games from last year that I’ve bought and not started yet, as I probably will play them.  Onwards!

Final Fantasy XV

Final Fantasy 15
Final Fantasy XV (2016)

I’ll start with the big one.  I dearly wanted to play this.  It looked gorgeous, had a fun tone, unusual mechanics for the series and a huge world to explore with meaningful content.  Monsters!  Swords!  Magic!  Kick-ass sports car!  Silly hair!  Everything I could want in a Final Fantasy game.  Even an indecipherable story (probably).

Final Fantasy XV
It really is quite pretty.

But the size of it moved it further and further down my wish list.  That ever present issue of time ate away at my desire to finally pick it up.  Even seeing how much reviewers and other bloggers loved it wasn’t enough to save it from the slide.  It’s still on my wish list, so maybe some day.

Super Mario Maker (3DS)

Super Mario Maker 3DS logo
Super Mario Maker 3DS (2016)

I don’t own a Wii U, so Mario Maker was off the table, but the idea of near limitless Mario levels was quite appealing!  Whilst I’m not the most creative of people, seeing and playing the levels other people would make sounded great to me.  So when I heard that there was a 3DS version on the way, I was certainly interested.

Super Mario Maker Bundle
Nintendo have tried to port a few Wii U games to 3DS, but the loss in quality is a problem for me. This is also the reason I did pick up Hyrule Warriors Legends.

Then it turned out the feature set was going to be severely limited by comparison.  You couldn’t access all the levels you could imagine, only the ones that were “featured”.  Levels could be exchanged via street pass, but browsing through the tens of thousands (or more?) of levels that people had created and picking out one that looked and sounded interesting was part of the appeal to me.  Maybe it will get patched in some day, but with the Switch being released, I doubt it.

The Turing Test

The Turing Test Logo
The Turing Test (2016)

I may, may still play this one.  A sci-fi puzzle game with a (supposedly) interesting mystery story certainly sounded appealing!  An interesting twist on the “weapon” as a puzzle solving device (a la Portal and it various imitators) along with inventive challenges made this something I was very interested in.  In fact, Vahrkalla made a very convincing argument for playing it, and I still very much want to give it a go.

The Turing Test
Robots! I want to play this even more now.

This one came along a few weeks after I’d played a few other first person puzzle games in the form of Pneuma and The Talos Principle, so the idea of another one put it to the back of my mind for a long time.  Some day I may well be in the mood to give this a try, but as it stands it’ll just have to wait its turn.

BlazBlue: Central Fiction

BlazBlue Central Fiction Logo
BlazBlue: Central Fiction (2016)

I like fighting games.  A lot.  I am terrible at fighting games.  Whilst I can pick up mechanics well enough, I struggle to put them into action during an actual match.  This is even more of a problem in anime style fighting games most often associated with Arc System Works due to them being so insanely fast.  But they’re so gorgeous!  And the action is so fluid!  Varied characters and bizarre attacks!  Things like Guilty Gear, Chaos Code, and BlazBlue really appeal to me.  Mostly for single player though.

BlazBlue Central Fiction.
A witch is fighting a cat lady and I have no idea what it happening.

The thing with BlazBlue: Central Fiction is that it came out about 6 months after I’d picked up Continuum Shift, the previous installment.  More fool me (perhaps) for not waiting for the newer version, but seeing as I was playing mostly offline, having the most up to date version wasn’t a huge concern.  Having said that, I would have liked to have seen the online community before everyone switched back to playing as Noel and using her silly endless combos.  Like I do.

Salt & Sanctuary

Salt and Sanctuary
Salt and Sanctuary (2016)

I was put onto this one because I love Dark Souls far more than is healthy.  Salt & Sanctuary was sold to me as a 2D Dark Souls, and if you watch it in action it’s pretty clear why.  Every action needs to be planned out to avoid silly mistakes and a resulting death.  The grimy art style is also reminiscent of its inspiration’s medieval world.  I should have picked this one up straight away by all rights.

Salt and Sanctuary.
This really does remind me of the Undead Burg.

I feel that at the time I was a little burnt out on super challenging games.  Since then, Nioh has come along and rekindled my love for those sort of games, but at the time I needed a break from them.  With that in mind, now may be the time to look into giving this one a go.

Some honourable mentions as always.  Hitman didn’t interest me during its development, nor upon its initial release.  But since then I hear all sorts of stories about hits gone wrong, elusive targets and bizarre successes.  I regret not giving it a go when it came out.  The Bunker was a really interesting one, being a throwback to the “interactive movies” of days gone by.  I like a good horror, but I feel this one may be more suited to a Let’s Play for me.  I loved the Attack on Titan anime, so the game was something I really liked the look of.  I got the feeling it may get repetitive quickly though, so I passed it by.  This one’s also still on my wish list though, so maybe someday I’ll pick it up on the cheap.

How about you?  Are there any recent releases you regret missing out on at the time?  Let me know!  I hope I’m not alone on these ones…

 

 

5 Games to Play With Your Partner – Co-op is great. You can blame someone else when you lose.

I’m in the rather fortunate position to be married to someone who not only tolerates my hobby, but also participates in it from time to time.  She blogs about family and teaching things too over here if you’d like to take a look!  Whilst competitive multiplayer is something we don’t really go in for all that often (P.E. teachers tend to be very competitive ;-)), co-op games are a choice that makes it to our systems of choice.

Big Bang Theory Co-Op
Something like this! But also nothing like this.

Now, my wife much prefers short form games that can be picked up and played in short bursts, so don’t expect any long form co-op games.  Instead, you’re going to find 5 games that can be enjoyed with a partner when you have a spare 30-60 minutes.  As ever, these are only games that I/we have played.  These all have local co-op, meaning you don’t need multiple copies of the same game or system.  On with the games!

Gears of War 3

Gears of War 3
Gears of War 3 (2011)

Specifically the third game in the series, yes.  There was a lot of co-op content here (even more if you went online) thanks to rather good campaign and Horde mode, and we made use of a lot of that content.  We completed the campaign (enlisting some online help from a friend of mine for the final boss on Hardcore mode), we finished Horde mode (on casual, because that got pretty crazy), we even ventured into the wildlands of online multiplayer briefly.  As a couple we got a lot of hours of gameplay out of this one.

Gears of War 3
You can just smell the steroids and testosterone.

The game’s fairly simple mechanics that can be manipulated to allow co-op partners to play and support each other in a variety of ways is excellent, and has been for the majority of the series (regardless of my opinions on Gears of War 4).  My wife’s desire to hang back and snipe was often a viable option whilst I got stuck in and inevitably did something silly meaning she would have to leave cover to rescue me.  Regardless of the mode you were playing in, you really have to watch out for each other.  Working together in the same room makes it all the more entertaining too as you shout at each other about where to run to when you can see what they’re doing on the same screen.  Local shooters like this are a dying breed.

Streets of Rage

Streets of Rage
Streets of Rage (1991)

From a game about watching each others back, to one in which you should probably stay the hell away from each other.  Friendly damage was a real danger here.  Streets of Rage is from an era in which playing together in the same room (or on the same arcade cabinet) was par for the course.  This may surprise you, but this game was released before I met my wife.  In fact it was released before I met my teenage years, but thanks to re-releases we have been able to play this one together (I actually prefer the second game, but don’t tell her that!)

Streets of Rage
It’s literally war on the streets apparently. Axel’s special move involves his police buddy launching missiles at enemies, which seems somewhat extreme.

This is a side on brawler, with you beating up a bunch of street thugs using fists, feet, weapons and special moves (such as police officers firing rockets at enemies for you) for justice!  Playing with a partner is great in this, as the two of you fight of waves of enemies.  My better half is pretty good at this one, getting into a good rhythm and never stealing my street turkey!  Just make sure you keep a safe distance from each other, as stray feet and carelessly thrown enemies will floor your partner!  Games Revisited has some great thoughts on how this game has aged here.

Overcooked

Overcooked
Overcooked (2016)

Overcooked is a co-op game about cooking food quickly and accurately.  No, don’t leave!  It’s brilliant!  It’s bonkers and really rather difficult too.  As between 2 and 4 chefs (you can play single player controlling 2 chefs at once) you need to chop, cook, prep, serve and clean in a kitchen to earn the most money in a short time limit.  And it’s very, very hard.  There are more tasks than can be completed by the chefs you have, meaning you’ll have to leave that pot cooking whilst you wash the plates.  Best get back to that pot quick though, otherwise the kitchen will burst into flames.  Oh, and there’s a dedicated “swear” button.

Overcooked Rat
This is fairly easy looking one. Until you realise there are rats that will steal any food you leave unattended.

If that wasn’t difficult enough, sometimes the kitchen will change shape, preventing you from reaching the cooker.  Or maybe there are conveyor belts blocking parts of the kitchen forcing you to send food around to your partner.  Then there are the levels set on ice over water.  Finishing the levels as a pair is quite manageable, but getting 3 stars on each is tortuously challenging.  The local co-op is great and results in shouting of the best kind as your cat chef desperately needs your partner’s racoon to get the plates washed in time for you to serve that damn burger!  Plus the menu music is just gorgeous…

Splinter Cell: Conviction

Splinter Cell: Conviction
Splinter Cell: Conviction (2010)

Ok, I know this is not the most popular game in the series for many reasons, but the local co-op was actually rather fun.  The co-op campaign was pretty good fun, allowing you and your partner to set up traps for your enemies and culminating in (SPOILERS for a 7 year old game!) a confrontation between you and your partner.  I couldn’t tell you what the story was, but the stealth-lite gameplay with the use of various gadgets was good fun when sharing a sofa.

Splinter Cell: Conviction
Co-ordinating take downs in the story was great fun. But famous strategist Helmuth von Moltke once said “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy”. Which in this case means you’re gonna screw up.

Add to this a rather fun survival mode in which you needed to protect an EMP device from enemy waves whilst stealthing around the map and using your gadgets effectively and you have a fair amount of content for local players.  Oh, an enemies can grab you and hold you hostage, giving your partner mere moments to take the shot that will either kill your assailant or you.  Tension!

Rock Band/Guitar Hero

Rock Band
Rock Band (2007)

My wife played the drums when she was younger.  Apparently she had a little stage set up at home with her drum kit on it which is either cute or annoying depending on how close to the drums you were I would imagine.  So obviously Rock Band and its ilk would be a perfect game to play together.  Whilst I had a huge love for the Guitar Hero games, Rock Band had a tremendous track list that allowed her to play the drums and me to play the guitar.  I can’t play in real life, but I could demolish songs in the game, and playing it with my wife (and others during get-togethers) was great fun.  Although our neighbours of the time weren’t always fans.

Beatles Rock Band
One of the problems of the series was the sheer number of different versions released.  Whilst each game was good, flooding the market was probably not the best move.

I have complained in the past about DLC, but this game is one that claimed a lot of money from me.  I would always want more songs to play together and would spend more than I perhaps should have done!  On the plus side, the songs could be played across different versions of the games, including the Rock Band Blitz spin off.  In spite of that though, this is a great game to play together, especially if you both enjoy the music.

Some honourable mentions as ever!  Borderlands and Diablo 3 work well in split screen, but the level and equipment management slow the pace down a bit too much at times.  Left 4 Dead and its follow up work really well in split screen, but you do end up having to rely on the AI a little too much on harder difficulties.  And of course Halo is well known for its local co-op features, but has sadly had them removed in its most recent FPS iteration.  Quite the loss if you ask me.  Thankfully the Master Chief Collection allows all of those co-op campaigns to be played again.

Halo 4
Why would you take such an integral feature out?

And now for some cheating!  These ones don’t follow the rules but are worth a mention. Section 8: Prejudice had a fun co-op survival mode involving diving onto the battlefield from orbit, calling in vehicles and holding off waves of enemies.  We bought 2 copies of this on PC to play together online.  The Jackbox games, and Dance Central (I know, Kinect is evil) are fun to play together but have the competitive side rather than co-op.

What co-op games do you enjoy sharing with your loved ones?  Let me know!  I’d love to give them a try too.

 

5 Brutally Hard Gaming Challenges – Who would do this to themselves?

Games aren’t as hard as they used to be.  I’m old and allowed to say things like that now!  That and that those damn kids should get off my lawn.  But I do think that games being easier now is true in most cases.  Back in the day, games were often hard to get you to drop a few more coins into the arcade machine or to elongate games that were often much shorter than the experiences we have now.  In some cases they were never ending games, getting to the point where they were so hard that it would be near impossible to carry or (or you hit the legendary kill screens).

Pac Man Kill Screen
The legendary Pac Man kill screen.

Today though, games are designed to be finished.  Much of what we play can be considered as stories that we participate in, and stories are meant to be finished.  I find it unlikely that developers would create an experience with a story that they didn’t want people to see the end of.  But sometimes people need that challenge, and if the core game experience isn’t hard enough then people may well turn to horribly difficult achievements or self appointed challenges.  Here, we look at a few of those challenges that us mere mortals are not meant to manage.  Challenges that only the committed (perhaps to an insane asylum) few will ever see the end of.

Bullet Hell
Absolute madness. But this is the actual game and not an additional challenge so it doesn’t count.

Whilst there are many, many options to choose from, I’ve once again gone for games I have played, but certainly not challenges I’ve completed myself.  I’m not even close to managing some of these, and I don’t have the patience to consider trying them.  I’m also not including games that are deliberately designed to be near impossible, so don’t expect any of those crazy flash games on here.  On with the show!

Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter – World Champion

Ghost Recon
Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter (2006)

This was one of the earlier games I picked up for XBox 360.  I liked the old Ghost Recon games on PC, which were hard as all hell themselves and figured this would be a fun game to pick up.  It was not what I was expecting.  Gone were the slow, methodical crawl across huge environments only to be picked off by an enemy you couldn’t even see from half a mile away.  Instead we had a third person cover based shooter.  It was fine, but not what I was hoping for.  At any rate, the achievement in question was called World Champion.

Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter
This is not the Ghost Recon that I played back in the day…

This achievement requires you to reach number 1 in the multiplayer rankings.  So to get this, you literally need to be the best in the world at the online multiplayer mode.  This could be achieved by grinding for a huge length of time with a willing group I suppose, but that’s the sort of time commitment few could manage, let alone want to manage.  Then consider the fact that the longer you wait, the more people will have climbed the leaderboards, meaning more work will be needed!  It’s utterly bonkers.  Plus the multiplayer wasn’t even that good to begin with…

Dead Space 2 – Hard to the Core

Dead Space 2 logo
Dead Space 2 (2011)

I love Dead Space 2.  It was unsettling, horrifying, just the right level of challenging, and had sharp controls.  It rarely felt cheap to me either (although that stupid eye poke machine…); I almost always felt I had a chance to survive every encounter.  And the return to the Ishimura was fantastically well done.  Anyway, back to that thing about surviving.  Hard to the Core was an achievement that required you to finish the game on Hardcore difficulty.

Dead Space 2 straight jacket
Isaac in a straight jacket. I suppose you would have to be crazy to try this challenge.

Now, this game was pretty tough.  Playing through on the middle setting was fairly challenging resulting in me screwing up and dying on more than a few occasions.  Hardcore takes that difficulty, then allows you only 3 saves (4 if you’re a smarty pants on the XBox 360 version) to get through the whole game.  This would be something I wouldn’t even dare to try, not wanting to have hours of progress set back because of a careless mistake or that eye poke machine ruining my day.  A friend of mine actually has managed to do this across two 6-hour sessions.  “Mate, there isn’t one thing I didn’t do in that game” were his words when I asked if he ever managed.  After that, I don’t think I’d ever want to go back to it.

Dark Souls – Guitar Controller

Dark Souls
Dark Souls (2011)

This was just bananas.  You know Dark Souls don’t you?  The one that’s really rather difficult.  Punishing even.  A friend at work has recently started playing Dark Souls 3 and has likened it to banging his head against a wall, but not giving up due to seeing that ever growing crack in it (the wall, not his head).  Well timed attacks, dodges and blocks are the order of the day as well as extensive knowledge of enemies and areas.  So doing all this with a Guitar Hero controller is crazy.

Dark Souls guitar
This was their control set up. Tilting the guitar was the only way to turn left and there was no way to block.

The fact that someone even thought of doing it is odd enough.  The fact that other people have gone on to complete it with ever more creative control methods is even more bizarre.  Taking a challenging game and making it even harder is a ridiculous challenge, but well done to those who have managed to pull it off.  Check one guy out beating Ornstein and Smough using an “axe” here.

Mega Man 10 – Mr. Perfect

Mega Man 10 logo
Mega Man 10 (2010)

I saw this on the trophy list for Mega Man 10 and wondered what in the world would possess someone to try and do this.  The Mega Man series is notorious for being a challenging classic.  Capcom brought it back for the ninth and tenth installment on previous generation consoles, with that level of challenge in tact.  I struggled to beat the levels with the lives given so seeing Mr. Perfect amazed me.

Mega Man 10
Is this from Mega Man or Mega Man 10? In spite of it being more than 2 decades later they managed to keep the art style identical.

Beat the whole game without getting hit.  Not just without losing a life.  Beat all the robot masters as well as Wily’s castle without taking a single unit of damage.  This game is damn hard and the idea of finishing even one level without taking damage fills me with dread.  Yes, you can do this on easy mode, but I really don’t think easy is the right word for this.

The Legend of Zelda – No Sword Challenge

The Legend of Zelda
The Legend of Zelda (1986)

“It’s dangerous to go alone.  Take this.”  Those words are etched into the mind of a great many gamers of a certain age.  The first person you find in the first cave on the first screen utters this iconic sentence as they offer you a sword to allow you to survive the over and under world of Hyrule.  But what if you didn’t go into that cave…

It's dangerous to go alone take this
Oh the nostalgia!

That’s the whole premise of this challenge.  It’s possible to complete almost the entire first entry in this venerable series without the most basic of weapons.  The only time a sword is genuinely needed is during the final battle with Ganon.  Various (probably psychotic) players have completed this challenge which requires patience by the bucket load and very delicate use of bombs and the boomerang.  Here’s Awesome Games Done Quick doing a speed run of it: HERE! but there are others who have managed to do it whilst limiting themselves to the 3 starting hearts.  How do they do this stuff?!

twitch-plays-pokemon
Whoever came up with this is a genius or a maniac.

A quick mention has to go to the Twitch Plays insanity, in which the Twitch chat room controls a game through typing commands into the chat window.  Managing to finish a game of Pokémon with countless people yelling “UP”  “LEFT” and so forth at any one moment is one thing, but finishing Dark Souls?  Unbelievable.  This is less of a player challenge so I didn’t include it in the list, but it is an amazing thing to see in action.

How about you?  Are there any achievements or challenges that you’re particularly proud of?  I for one am pretty happy about getting all the achievements in Mass Effect, including finishing it on the hardest setting.  That pales in comparison to those above though!