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 Cases of Terrible Voice Acting – Speak friend and enter!

That’s Charles Martinet up there you know.  He’s Mario.  That is not how I expected him to look.

So there was that voice actor strike a little while back.  Is that still going on?  I’m pretty sure it was to do with pay and conditions.  I’m not going to get into the rights and wrongs of it, but I am going to take the opportunity to mock some genuinely terrible voice acting in games.  Bad voice acting really can take you out of an experience when it’s so jarringly bad.  Even in a game that isn’t very good to start with can suffer even more at the hands of bad vocal work.  On the other hand, there is the occasional “so bad it’s good” set of vocal lines that can occasionally work if you’re going for a B-movie style.  But more on that later.

David Warner
David Warner played Jon Irenicus in Baldur’s Gate 2. I can’t think of many “real” actors being used in games well, but this guy is Irenicus as far as I’m concerned.

Anyway, you know they rules by now.  Games that I have played only, one game per series etc. etc.  I normally wouldn’t post videos, preferring to go for screenshots, but to fully appreciate the sheer awfulness (is that a word?) I feel a video is somewhat necessary.  Enjoy!

Resident Evil

resident_evil_logo
Resident Evil (1996)

A classic!  In so may ways.  It brought survival horror into the mainstream.  It was genuinely unsettling at times.  The graphics (for the time) were excellent.  That first meeting with a zombie!  But the voice work was cheesy beyond belief.  This is what I meant with “so bad it’s good” B-movie style.  The cheesy dialogue actually works for the game.  But that doesn’t change the fact that the line was delivered so badly.  I accept the writing being wonky, but considering the context of the scene, it comes across so badly acted.

Almost crushed to death, having been confronted by zombies, and we’re giggling about being “a Jill sandwich”.  Plus Barry not managing to say Jill correctly.  Apparently the voice actor started laughing during the reading of the line, resulting in it sounding like “Jiggle”.  But obviously doing another take is something other game studios do, so it was left in.  Then there was the “Master of unlocking” quote later on.  Just cringe worthy.

Mega Man 8

Mega Man 8 Logo
Mega Man 8 (1997)

Mega Man 4 is my favourite in this series.  This is most likely due to it being the first one I played, but I still stand by the fact that it was a good entry to the series even though it was a touch easier than some of the others.  Mega Man 8 was released on the Saturn and PlayStation complete with animated cutscenes featuring voiced characters.  Whilst there were some laughable ones, none quite takes the crown of “Most Terrible Voice Acting” like Dr. Light.

I’m not one to make fun of someone with a speech impediment which may account for the mispronunciation of “Dr. Wily”, but the lines are just delivered so poorly.  There’s utterly no emotion to them, and at various points the person delivering them sounds as though they’re drunk!  This didn’t really effect the main game too much as they were confined to animated cutscenes outside the stages.  But good god they were annoying and stuck out like a sore thumb.

Dynasty Warriors 3

Dynasty Warriors 3
Dynasty Warriors 3 (2001)

The Dynasty Warriors games are something of a guilty pleasure for me.  I’m not under the illusion that they’re excellent games, but they can be extremely cathartic.  Taking out hordes of enemy units before confronting their commander is rather satisfying.  Battles are often interrupted by by brief cutscenes of the commanders taunting each other before engaging in battle and it is some of the most terrible, cheesy vocal work I have ever heard.  But it somehow makes the game better for it.

Just listen to it.  I don’t think I even need to say anything.  It’s hilariously camp nonsense, with lines delivered as though they’re sitting in a living room mocking each other over a game of Street Fighter rather than fighting to the death on the fields of battle.  “Feel the power of my maaaagiiiiiiic!” sounds as though it’s being said by a character on South Park rather than a Chinese mystic.  The thing is, I think the game would actually be worse if the lines were delivered seriously.  This is the perfect example of “So bad it’s good” in video game voice acting.

House of the Dead 2

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House of the Dead 2 (1998)

I love light gun games and I love this series.  House of the Dead is one of those go to light gun games for me, alongside the likes of Time Crisis and Area 51.  Well paced with interesting boss fights (linked to Tarot cards apparently) and typing tutor spin offs of all things!  There aren’t all that many voice lines in the second entry in the series due to the plot being completely meaningless; but those that are there…

I’m not sure the voice actors knew what the characters were going to be doing in the game.  It’s as though each person was given just their own lines and recorded after reading it once.  No one seems to have a single emotion.  Maybe the real zombies are the humans!  Is that what’s happening?  Is the game that deep?!  No.  No it isn’t.

Shenmue

Shenmue
Shenmue (2000)

I feel bad for including this.  I really enjoyed the game in spite of some bizarre lines that were repeated far too often (“Do you remember the day the snow turned to rain?”) or delivered in such a stilted way.  The bad voice work did break the immersion from time to time, which is a shame as it was pushed as being an immersive experience through its day night cycle, genuine weather transitions and it’s time based system that I only really recall seeing in Dead Rising since then.

The lines from some of the characters are delivered in such a forced way.  Nothing feels like a genuine, flowing conversation.  It’s more like they’re a conduit for information (which I suppose they are) and nothing more.  It’s an issue that came up quite regularly in the era, but when this game was supposed to be so immersive, badly delivered voice work sticks out a great deal.

A couple of honourable mentions.  Earth Defense Force has some absurd lines that result in more than a few chuckles.  This may be due to translation showing cultural differences between territories.  Sonic Adventure is also a fairly poor one at times.  The line delivery isn’t always terrible, but the sound mixing is a mess meaning some lines can’t be heard over the background music and sentences are cut off part way through.  This is compounded by some of the characters having such grating voices.  Also: Big the Cat…

How about you?  Can you remember any dreadful voice work from some of your favourite games?  Has it ever ruined the overall experience for you?  Let me know.  I could always use a laugh!

 

 

Top 5 Games of 2016…and a couple of let downs.

Look, everyone does a game of the year thing these days.  And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that you should totally jump on the bandwagon.  There wouldn’t be a bandwagon if it wasn’t worth it!  So here’s me, joining the party this year with 5 games that I totally think are worth your time this year.

Usual rules apply.  One game per series (which is pretty easy to stick to here), and games that I’ve played.  My opinion and my opinion only and all that.  Before starting though, here’s a couple of disappointments.  Games that I would have thought a little while ago would have been a shoe-in for this list until I actually played them.  Gears of War 4 is something I was looking forward to being a fan of the series, but it just didn’t hit the mark for me.  I think its time has passed, and other games have very much surpassed it.  Virginia was the other disappointment.  It looked like a Twin Peaks inspired Firewatch, but I couldn’t have been more let down.  A story line I couldn’t begin to follow (even more so than Twin Peaks itself!), next to no interaction, and silent characters who made the plot even harder to understand.  I can’t abide it in games when a character has worked something out that’s relevant to the plot, but what they worked out isn’t communicated to the player.  Anyway, enough moaning, on with the cream of the crop!

Layers of Fear

Layers of Fear Logo

Starting off with something nice and festive here.  Layers of Fear was a really interesting horror game released fully in February.  Rather than being full of jump scares and “scary” monsters, this one plays with your perception of reality.  As a troubled artist, you return to your family home to complete your masterpiece and in doing so travel through a nightmare fueled memory of your past to gather what you need to complete it.

Layers of Fear Art Work
Weird artwork obviously plays into the game quite often.

The story is quite engaging as the bizarre images hint at the madness that happened here in the past.  The house changes when you aren’t looking which leads to some interesting puzzles as doors appear where there was a fireplace before, and disturbing child-like sketches appear on walls behind you.  Whilst there is some light puzzle solving, this would come under “walking simulator”, so if that sort of thing puts you off then this isn’t for you.  But if you’re looking for a unique horror experience, give it a shot.  Don’t bother with the DLC though, it really didn’t add anything of value.

DOOM

Doom logo

I was torn between this game and one that will crop up later on for my favourite game of the year.  I was rather apprehensive for a DOOM remake, as I’m sure many other were.  But id knocked it out of the park with this one, it took what made the original game fun and modernised it without giving into the temptation of applying modern FPS tropes.  No regenerating health here.  Only being allowed to carry 2 weapons?  No, sir!  Press F to pay respects can stay where you left it.We’ve got fast paced, gorgeous looking one man warfare against the forces of hell.

Doom shotgun
I can’t think of anything to write here. I feel this speaks for itself.

Pretty much the only nod to modern gaming sensibilities is the glory kill system for executing weakened enemies, but even that serves a purpose in terms of gameplay.  The story, whilst simplistic, is told well.  This is an example of a game that does the silent protagonist well; everything the Doom marine does presents him as someone who doesn’t care what is going on.  He exists to kill hellspawn, and nothing is going to slow him down.  Crucially, the game is mechanically excellent.  Everything feels sharp and fun to use with a movement system that makes traversal and combat fun but also lets you use glory kills in different ways.  Typing this makes me want to play it again.

XCOM 2

XCOM 2 Logo

If you’ve seen my Facebook profile before, you may be aware that I love XCOM.  From the original game way back when, to the remakes in recent years.  I even liked XCOM: Interceptor, the space combat/base management fusion game.  The 2012 remake was fantastic and I poured a lot of hours into it, so it should be no surprise that I was very happy to see a follow up.  Interestingly, this game assumed you failed to finish the original (which was pretty hard) and the aliens took over the world.  You now lead a guerilla fighting force, developing weapons to take the fight to the aliens and reclaim Earth.

XCOM 2 Faceless
Obviously the best thing to do is rename your soldiers after your friends. And then fail miserably to keep any of them alive.

Annoyingly it didn’t have the best initial release, with there being framerate issues, but a few updates later and it became a lot more stable.  The game itself is as good as before, with some new features including new units, weapons and mission types.  The enemies are smarter and more varied (the terror mission shapeshifting creatures are evil!) demanding new strategies to defeat.  A great addition is the concealment and ambush feature.  Being as you are a secretive rebel force, you start most missions in hiding which allows you to set up the perfect ambush for enemy patrols.  This makes the missions have a better balance than the previous game’s gradually inching forward, as you need to scout the area and plan your attack rather than try to trigger a group of enemies then hide and pick them off.  I’ll probably do a fresh run of this game in the new year.

Firewatch

Firewatch Logo

Another walking simulator I hear you cry?  Yes, yes it is.  Walking simulator has been used as an insult for this genre for various reasons.  Normally that there isn’t much in the way of interaction.  I agree with this in games such as Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture and Virginia, in which the story happens to you and you just move the camera.  Limited interactivity in a medium built on interactivity almost defeats the object of what you’re doing.  Firewatch gets around that pretty well by allowing you to interact in a number of ways.

Firewatch tower
Your safe(?) haven.

The story is gripping (although some felt the ending was a bit of a let down) as far as I’m concerned.  Your relationship with your fellow ranger, who you communicate with through radio, is the real centre piece of the story.  You will often be given options of what to say to her, which will change your relationship for better or worse.  The way you approach certain situations will alter future moments in the game, and whilst those differences are only in the dialogue, the characters are so well written and acted that you will find yourself caring about how you are seen by others in the game world.  It’s not a terribly long experience, but it’s one that has stuck with me since its release over 10 months ago.

Inside

playdead-inside-screenshot-logo

The other game in the running for my favourite game of the year, and with damn good reason.  I described this as near perfect a gaming experience.  Everything in this game is expertly crafted, from the art style and animations, to the puzzles and overall atmosphere.

Tue_Jul_12_18-15-50_UTC%2B0100_2016
The entire story is told through details you observe for yourself.  A silent protagonist (and near silent world) done well.

Playdead, who previously made Limbo, have outdone themselves here.  Not only is it gorgeous, it’s also mechanically excellent.  New ways of interacting with the world are introduced to you, but you won’t find any of them used over and over again to pad out the puzzles and game length.  Mind controlling other characters happens a number of times, but never in the same way keeping the game fresh throughout its play length.  The story is intriguing and open to interpretation, with a secret ending that makes you question everything you’ve experienced so far.  I can’t overstate how excellent this game is.  Go and play it.

Some other games I enjoyed this year.  Pony Island was an interesting game about a satanic arcade game.  Finishing it was certainly not the end of the story, and there are a lot of secrets to be found in this deceptively simplistic world.  Oxenfree was fantastic as far as I’m concerned.  Another walking simulator, but done in a different style with a wonderfully creepy atmosphere and great story about coming to terms with loss.  Dark Souls 3 was an excellent final entry in an excellent series.  Horrifying bosses, exhilarating combat, and high challenge make this a satisfying experience for those willing to face its brutal world.

Oh, and Superhot is the most innovative shooter I’ve played in years.

Not a bad year for games all in all.  Are there any from 2016 that you particularly enjoyed?  Or am I flat out wrong?  Let me know!  And here’s to 2017!  I’ll be taking a break for the Christmas holidays, so don’t expect much from me in the coming weeks.  I’ll be back in the new year though, with plenty of words about games for your eyes to consume!  See you then!

 

 

 

 

5 Games That Almost Made Me Rage Quit – Hand me that strategy guide.

I’ve been playing games for a pretty long time.  I remember playing a lot of games on our BBC micro, using the old 5 1/4″ disc drive.  I remember The Philosopher’s Quest (although never getting very far due to being so young when I tried it) and Galaxians being loaded up more than a few times.  I received a NES for my 7th birthday which still works to this day.  I think my point is that I’ve, for better or worse, played a lot of games.  I feel I’m fairly good at them and can pick up the rules and do fairly well in most pretty quickly.  Some though…some are just a little too much.  This week I’m listing 5 games that were I found so difficult that I almost gave up.  I made it through eventually, but it was a slog at times.

Broken Controller
I’ve never quite gone this far, but it’s come pretty close.

Usual rules!  Games I’ve played, one game per series.  I must have had a problem finishing it, wanted to give up but eventually came back to it to finish, even if I had to use a guide to help!  On with the list.  A list of failure and redemption if you will!

Metal Gear Rising

Metal Gear Rising Logo
Metal Gear Rising (2013)

Starting with, to my recollection, the most recent game I wanted to give up on thanks to its difficulty.  The thing is, it wasn’t even that hard really.  At its heart, this is a third person brawler/character action game.  You would use your sword as cyborg Raiden to cut your way through enemies, using your ability to slow down time to slice up enemy robots, stealing taking their energy to restore your health.  There was also, for defence, a parrying system…

Metal Gear Rising Blade Wolf
That’s him! That’s the guy! On the right! Screw that guy.

Good god that parrying.  You could deflect an enemy attack with a well timed move to the analogue stick along with a button press.  There was even a prompt on the screen to hint at the direction you should move the analogue stick.  I reached one of the earliest bosses, Blade Wolf; a robot dog with a chainsaw on its tail (which is pretty cool all things considered).  Put simply, if you couldn’t parry you wouldn’t have a hope.  I tried this boss repeatedly for several hours before giving up and walking away.  A few days later I decided I would give it one more go before retiring it completely.  It took a few more goes, but somehow the timing for parrying came to me.  Maybe it was practice, maybe it was going away and coming back later.  Whatever it was, I’m glad I didn’t give up on this, it turned into a hell of a game, full of thrilling moments and absurd bosses.  That’s Metal Gear for you though.  NANOMACHINES, SON!

UFO: Enemy Unknown

UFO Enemy Unknown
UFO: Enemy Unknown (1994)

Don’t know this one?  You might do, but by a different name being as this was the European title for the game.  Elsewhere it was known as X-COM: UFO Defense and I bet you recognise that name.  The return of the XCOM series is well known in gaming as something of a major success.  I count the remakes among my favourite games, and I regularly return to them for fresh playthroughs.  The original game was a different story though.  It was so hard.  Ridiculously so.  The fact that I hadn’t even reached teenager status when I first played it may suggest that I wasn’t ready for it, but I disagree.  It was just plain difficult.

UFO Enemy Unknown
Mmmm, look at those classic graphics. And that heap of buttons for controlling the game…

This was the first game of its type that I had played, but i had enough of an idea of how to play it.  The turn based missions anyway.  I would normally do reasonably well at those, but on the global level I didn’t know what I was doing, what to research, what to build, where to build bases.  Most of the time it ended up a mess.  But I played games of it over and over for a long time.  I’m pretty sure I gave up and came back time and time again.  Maybe it was through dumb luck, maybe through enough experience but one day I managed to make it to Mars and finish the game…on easy mode.  I never went back to try anything harder than that.  Thankfully I seem to be much better at the remakes.  Either that or they’re easier.

Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles (1990)

Yes you read that right.  In the UK it was called Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles.  The TV show too.  There was a time in which anything related to ninjas was considered to be a risk of corrupting the youth of the country.  Anyway, this game was one part side scrolling brawler, one part top down exploration game.  You could travel about the over world, fight enemies, then go into a building or sewer where the screen would switch to side scrolling.  All 4 turtles could be played, each with their own advantages.  These also doubled as your lives, and when a turtle was defeated, you couldn’t play as him again unless you found them in a level and rescued them.  It was a rather good game for its time, with plenty of variety, although the enemies were a bizarre mish mash of different creations that seemed unrelated to the Turtles series as a whole.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Sewer April
One of the earliest levels, featuring Beebop and Rocksteady capturing April.

If you ever played this game, you know where I’m going with this.  That damn dam level (see what I did there?) was near impossible.  The idea was there were 8 bombs underwater, and you had to swim around and disarm them all within a time limit.  A very, very strict time limit.  That time limit, combined with floaty swimming controls and it being very easy to die meant that this was the end of my journey one more than one occasion.  I was fairly young at the time, but I’m pretty sure that I didn’t finish this game until well over a year of starting it.  I don’t remember the specific point at which I somehow managed to get through it, but it happened.  I remember the next tricky point being fighting the Technodrome, which wasn’t all that difficult by comparison simply by virtue of the fact that you could take your time.  Underwater levels are regularly some of the worst in any game.  Please don’t stack dime limits and instant deaths on top developers.

Dark Souls

Dark Souls
Dark Souls (2011)

Well obviously at least one of these games would be in here.  This was the first game in the series I played, I had been looking forward to it for a while and was excited to have a go at it thinking “This era of ‘hard’ game won’t be that tough for me”.  How wrong I was.  This was punishing to say the least.  I like a good hack and slash game, which I suppose this technically is, but I wasn’t prepared for just how slow and methodical you had to be.

Ornstein and Smough
No. NO! I’m not doing it again. Absolutely not!

Dragon Slayer Ornstein and Executioner Smough.  If you’ve played this you know exactly what I mean.  Taking on one boss in this series is often tough enough, but two at a time was near impossible.  Couple that with the fact that once one is defeated, the other becomes considerably tougher and you end up with a recipe for rage quit.  I hammered away at these two constantly over the course of several days before vowing to never go back.  That didn’t last though, this game has a way of drawing you back for another suicidal run.  I decided to swallow my pride and summon a player to help me and managed to just eke out the victory about a week after first meeting these two beasts.  By comparison, everything after here was pretty simple!  Although Bloodborne certainly had its moments…

Ikaruga

Ikaruga
Ikaruga (2001)

This is a bullet hell shooter.  If you aren’t familiar with that term, it means a top down/side scrolling game in which you fly a ship along, shooting down enemy ships.  Think Gradius, R-Type or 1942.  Then add a thousand bullets on the screen all at once.  Ikaruga does something to give you a form of defence other than shooting enemies down.  You can change the colour of your ship between blue and red.  When blue you are immune to blue bullets (in fact, they charge up your super weapon when collected) but vulnerable to red, and vice versa.  An excellent form of protection, but…

Ikaruga Bullet Hell
This is what you have to deal with during a boss fight!

This is absolutely bananas.  There are so many bullets on screen at once!  Just so many!  Look again!  Have another look!  Switching between colours at exactly the right moment, weaving between shots, and managing to hit the target is near impossible at times.  I recall getting through the first 3 stages before getting utterly destroyed on the fourth over and over before giving up.  Months later I came back, wanting to play a shooter of this style.  After a few false starts I managed to make a full run through, from start to finish.  I’m not sure if it was luck, or some sort of moment of Zen, but I managed to make it through.  As it turned out, the bosses will retreat after a while, meaning you didn’t have to actually destroy them.  With that pressure off, this suddenly became a lot more manageable.

Some honourable mentions as ever!  FTL was very difficult, but being short meant having a couple of failures meant that having another couple of games was no huge time commitment.  Still though, after I started seeing the same events crop up I decided to leave it for a while.  I had another go at it one day and managed to get through after a couple of goes.  I feel that having a lucky run of events is a big part of winning this game.  Ninja Gaiden 2 is a bit of a cheat for me, as I technically didn’t finish it.  I put it to one side after finding it just far too hard to manage, but came back to it one day.  I managed to get a fair way through before the game kept crashing at the same point.  I think the disc was damaged and it was far too late to take the game back.  I think I might have been able to beat this if not for that!

And that’s the list!  Do you have any to add that you managed to beat after constant failure?  Let me know about your successes!