Nintendo Indirect

Evaluating the hidden clues in the recent Nintendo Direct

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Last Thursday’s Nintendo Direct was the one which finally met – and probably exceeded – all expectations. However, there’s a few bits and pieces of subtext to what Nintendo announced:

1. GameCube Virtual Console isn’t happening

Basically any title Nintendo releases in 3D post 2001 is game for a HD/3DS remake. Expect Mario Sunshine and Wind Waker/Twilight Princess to fill in the gaps between the next original incarnations of the series. Why charge £7.99 on virtual console when you can charge £49.99, right? If the games come with modern advancements like wide-screen that’s fine with me.

2. Samus Aran

Smash Bros usually has the most recent iteration of Nintendo characters in its roster so we can expect a few subtle hints to what Nintendo’s underused bounty hunter will be up to in Metroid Prime 4. It would be unthinkable to fathom a Smash game without her; I anticipate more than one tease for her next adventure.

3. Wii U 2019

With Captain Toad, Hyrule Warriors and Donkey Kong hitting Switch this year already – joining Mario Kart 8 – Nintendo seems to be drip feeding the Switch’s predecessor’s back-catalog out over the next few years. Mario 3D World, Mario Maker, Yoshi and New Super Mario Bros will no doubt pop up later in Switch’s lifecycle. OG Wii re-releases are conspicuously by their absence though…

4. E3 is all about Holiday 2018

The Switch has a healthy selection of support going to the end of July. June’s E3 events (whether they be Directs or Treehouse Live) will be all about the holiday season. We know Smash will be there but expect at least three more titles to pick up in time for Christmas. One of those will likely be Labo based and with Metroid Prime 4 and Pokemon looking like 2019 games, we might see HD re-releases or spin offs from these series. Plus we’ll know exactly what Virtual Console/Nintendo Classic/Nintendflix will look like too!

Possibly the most important and exciting piece of information from the Direct was how bullish Nintendo is prepared to be. Q1 was clearly just a chance for everyone to catch their breath before the big guns came out. Crash Bandicoot, Okami, South Park and No More Heroes are the right types of games for Switch: ideally suited to the versatility of the console. Expect even more at E3 to wrestle attention from Spider-Man and (yawn) Crackdown 3. It’s good to see the kind of swagger Nintendo has seldom been willing to share.

Stardew Valley Review

Zip-a-dee-dew-dah!

Version reviewed: Switch

How much you enjoy this game will be dependent on where you sit on the gaming/farming spectrum; more on this later but interpret as you will for now. Stardew Valley is an established indie-darling which has had great success on other platforms. Now, it reaches the golden-paved streets of the Switch eshop. It has held the number one spot on the UK download chart for over a week so let’s see what all the fuss is about.

Without spoiling anything, the premise is you inherit a derelict, forgotten farm in Stardew Valley. For perhaps the most compelling of reasons – which many pennilessdads will relate to – you begin a new life living off the land. The game adopts a faux-16 bit top-down style which charms from the outset. As the game progresses, more farming options open up to you. From humble beginnings sowing parsnips, the game quickly opens up crafting elements; the ability to raise livestock as well as join in with the village-greenesque lives of its residents. Gameplay chunks are split into days (which last around 7-10 minutes) and seasons. What you grow and do is dependent on the latter. But what are you farming for?

Again, without spoilers, the game tells you quite early on how long you’ve got to become the Apple of apples yet the game stretches beyond this boundary. Quests from residents nudge you along certain directions but you are free to ignore – if you want to forge your own path. Each day you drop off your produce to sell and collect your earnings – and so the grid begins! The loop of selling stuff to get money to buy new, better stuff is perfectly balanced in Stardew Valley. It’s loot: akin to Destiny or Diablo – always encouraging you to play just 5 more minutes to get that new shiny thingamajig you need. This is one extreme of the gaming/farming spectrum. Like the brilliant Slime Rancher; or crafting in Fallout 4 or engram farming in Destiny, the farming is almost (as fun as it is) is almost arbitrary. This game’s pull is the constant desire to improve your slice of Stardew Valley and realise your place in its world. Reminiscent of forgotten Wii gem Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles My Life as a King, you become very attached to your homestead which grows along with your pride – and earnings!

So what’s the other end of the spectrum?

One can easily walk past a game of Stardew Valley and write it off as a FarmVille 2017. This would be a great discredit but it is a possible reaction. The crafting, building and exploring this game encompasses either hooks you or it doesn’t. I love it! It’s the perfect game to hop into whilst the kids play next you. Five minutes or five hours – it doesn’t matter. They melt away regardless, making this a perfect fit for Nintendo’s console.

Thoroughly recommended!

The Greatest Games I’ve Ever Played

THE List

Top 10/100 – whatever – lists irk me slightly due to the changing nature of the industry. What was ‘the greatest game ever’ 5 years ago may now seem janky and less favourable as games evolve. This list, which is a working document, is based on the experience at the time. I wouldn’t recommend playing some of the ZX Spectrum games on here but at the time they were brilliant. Hopefully I can remember all the games I’ve ever played; they’ll be added to as and when…

  1. Zelda: Breath of the Wild Switch
  2. Fallout 3 Xbox 360
  3. Zelda: Ocarina of Time N64
  4. Super Mario 64 N64
  5. Resident Evil 4 Wii
  6. Skyrim Xbox 360
  7. Super Mario Allstars SNES
  8. Super Mario World SNES
  9. Zelda: Wind Waker GameCube
  10. Destiny 2 Xbox One
  11. Destiny PS4
  12. Super Mario Galaxy 2 Wii
  13. Bioshock Infinite Xbox 360
  14. Super Mario Galaxy Wii
  15. Zelda: Twilight Princess Wii
  16. Metal Gear Solid 2 PS2
  17. Metal Gear Solid PlayStation
  18. Fallout 4 PS4
  19. Zelda: Link Between Worlds 3DS
  20. Pokemon Gold/Silver Gameboy
  21. Pokemon Fire Red Gameboy Advance
  22. Pokemon Yellow Gameboy
  23. Pokemon Red/Blue Gameboy
  24. Super Mario Bros 3 NES
  25. Metal Gear Solid 5 PS4
  26. Dead Space Xbox 360
  27. Assassin’s Creed 2 PS3
  28. God of War PS2
  29. Sonic Mega Collection GameCube
  30. Sonic Jam Saturn
  31. Sonic 3 & Knuckles Megadrive
  32. Tetris Gameboy
  33. Donkey Kong Country SNES
  34. Metroid Prime GameCube
  35. Arkham Asylum PS3
  36. Bioshock Xbox 360
  37. Firewatch PS4
  38. Arkham Origins PS3
  39. The Beatles Rock Band Xbox 360
  40. Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D 3DS
  41. Pokemon Sun 3DS
  42. Wonder Boy the Dragon’s Trap Switch
  43. Stardew Valley Switch
  44. Zelda: Skyward Sword
  45. Pokemon X 3DS
  46. Metal Gear Solid Twin Snakes GameCube
  47. Super Mario 64 DS
  48. Metal Gear Solid 3 PS2
  49. Sonic 2 Megadrive
  50. F-Zero GX GameCube
  51. Arkham Knight PS4
  52. Mario Kart 64 N64
  53. Super Mario Kart SNES
  54. Yoshi’s Island SNES
  55. Banjo-Kazooie N64
  56. Bioshock 2 Xbox 360
  57. Guitar Hero 3 Wii
  58. Rock Band Xbox 360
  59. Mario Kart Double Dash GameCube
  60. Final Fantasy X PS2
  61. Mario Kart Wii Wii
  62. Doom PlayStation
  63. Bloodborne PS4
  64. Smash Bros Melee GameCube
  65. Sonic Generations Xbox 360
  66. Earthworm Jim Megadrive
  67. Need for Speed 2 SE PC
  68. Sonic 1 Mega Drive
  69. Resident Evil 4 PS2
  70. Mario Picross Gameboy
  71. Assassin’s Creed 4 Black Flag Wii U
  72. Zelda Picross 3DS
  73. Arkham City Xbox 360
  74. Tomb Raider PS4
  75. Grand Theft Auto Vice City
  76. Guitar Hero World Tour Xbox 360
  77. Smash Bros Brawl Wii
  78. Donkey Kong Country 2 SNES
  79. Oblivion Xbox 360
  80. Pokemon Black DS
  81. Pokemon Black 2 DS
  82. Zelda Wind Waker HD Wii U
  83. Zelda Twilight Princess HD Wii U
  84. Sonic Advance Gameboy Advance
  85. Star Wars Ep1 Racer N64
  86. Zelda: Majora’s Mask N64
  87. Zelda: Link to the Past Gameboy Advance
  88. Super Mario Bros NES
  89. Final Fantasy 7 PlayStation
  90. FIFA 18 Switch
  91. FIFA 10 PS3
  92. Pro Evolution Soccer 2009 PS3
  93. FIFA 11 PS3
  94. FIFA 12 Xbox 360
  95. Pro Evolution Soccer 2010 PS3
  96. FIFA 13 Xbox 360
  97. FIFA 14 Xbox 360
  98. Mario Kart 8 Wii U
  99. Megadrive Ultimate Collection PS3
  100. Zelda: Link’s Awakening Gameboy
  101. Wario Land 3 Gameboy
  102. Pro Evolution Soccer PS2
  103. Gears of War Xbox 360
  104. Sonic Adventure Dreamcast
  105. Donkey Kong 64 N64
  106. Jumping Flash PlayStation
  107. Pro Evolution Soccer 2 PS2
  108. International Superstar Soccer Pro Evolution PlayStation
  109. Tetris DS
  110. Street Racer SNES
  111. God of War 2 PS2
  112. Transformers War for Cybertron PS3
  113. Rare Replay Xbox One
  114. Grand Theft Auto San Andreas
  115. Football Manager 2005 PC
  116. Pro Evolution Soccer 5 PS2
  117. Gears of War 2 Xbox 360
  118. Pro Evolution Soccer 4 PS2
  119. Pro Evolution Soccer 3 PS2
  120. Football Manager 2006 PC
  121. International Superstar Soccer 64 N64
  122. International Superstar Soccer 98 N64
  123. International Superstar Soccer SNES
  124. Super Mario Sunshine GameCube
  125. Project Gotham Racing 3 Xbox 360
  126. Goldeneye N64
  127. Ridge Racer PlayStation
  128. Mortal Kombat 2 Megadrive
  129. Streets of Rage 2 Megadrive
  130. Aladdin Megadrive
  131. Donkey Kong Gameboy
  132. New Super Mario Bros U Wii U
  133. Pro Evolution Soccer 6 Xbox 360
  134. Pokemon Snap N64
  135. Super Mario 3D Land 3DS
  136. Tekken 3 PlayStation
  137. Soul Calibur 2 GameCube
  138. Arkham City Armoured Edition Wii U
  139. Beetle Adventure Racing N64
  140. Metroid Prime 2 Echoes GameCube
  141. Grand Theft Auto 4 Xbox 360
  142. Zelda: Four Swords GameCube
  143. Okami Wii
  144. Super Mario 3D World Wii U
  145. Sonic Gems PS2
  146. 007 Agent Under Fire PS2
  147. Tomb Raider 2 PC
  148. SEGA Rally Saturn
  149. Pokemon Platinum DS
  150. Grand Theft Auto 4 Xbox 360
  151. Grand Theft Auto 3 PS2
  152. Football Manager 2007 DS
  153. Yooka-Laylee PS4
  154. World of Illusion Megadrive
  155. Luigi’s Mansion GameCube
  156. Hyrule Warriors Wii U
  157. Super Monkey Ball 2 GameCube
  158. Spyro the Dragon PlayStation
  159. Streets of Rage Megadrive
  160. Golden Axe Megadrive
  161. Lion King Mega Drive
  162. Mortal Kombat 3 PlayStation
  163. Tiger Woods 2003 Xbox
  164. My Life as a King Wii
  165. Crackdown Xbox 360
  166. Resogun PS4
  167. Pokemon Pearl DS
  168. Banjo Kazooie Nutz n Boltz Xbox 360
  169. Marvel Ultimate Alliance PS3
  170. LEGO Star Wars Complete Saga Xbox 360
  171. Motorstorm PS3
  172. Star Wars Battlefront PS4
  173. Nintendo Land Wii U
  174. FIFA 2003 GameCube
  175. Fighters Megamix Saturn
  176. FIFA 2001 PlayStation
  177. Super Monkey Ball GameCube
  178. Rogue Leader GameCube
  179. House of the Dead 2 Dreamcast
  180. Tekken PlayStation
  181. Street Fighter Alpha Saturn
  182. Crystal Defenders PSP
  183. LEGO Star Wars PS2
  184. Worms PSP
  185. Arkham VR PSVR
  186. Marvel Vs Capcom 2 Xbox 360
  187. Star Fox Adventures GameCube
  188. Doom 3 Xbox
  189. Pokemon Stadium N64
  190. Transformers Fall of Cybertron PS3
  191. Spider-Man The Movie GameCube
  192. Pro Evolution Soccer 6 PSP
  193. Olympic Soccer PlayStation
  194. Rise of the Tomb Raider PS4
  195. Shenmue Dreamcast
  196. Final Fantasy 13 PS3
  197. Tomb Raider 3 PC
  198. Master Chief Collection Xbox One
  199. Super Smash Bros N64
  200. Pokemon Ruby Gameboy Advance
  201. Chu Chu Rocket Dreamcast
  202. Shovel Knight 3DS
  203. Rogue Squadron N64
  204. Panzer Dragoon Saturn
  205. Alleyway Gameboy
  206. Halo Xbox
  207. Halo 3 Xbox 360
  208. Halo 2 Xbox
  209. Sonic and the Secret Rings Wii
  210. 007 Nightfire GameCube
  211. Perfect Dark Zero Xbox 360
  212. Return of the King GameCube
  213. God of War Chains of Olympus PSP
  214. The Fellowship of the Ring GameCube
  215. The Two Towers PS2
  216. SEGA Rally 2 Dreamcast
  217. The Simpsons Arcade Xbox 360
  218. Zelda: Spirit Tracks DS
  219. Soul Reaver 2 PS2
  220. Sonic Adventure 2 GameCube
  221. Mario Kart Super Circuit Gameboy Advance
  222. Wii Sports Wii
  223. Power Stone Dreamcast
  224. Donkey Kong NES
  225. Fast Racing Neo Switch
  226. Disney Infinity 2.0 PS3
  227. Football Manager 2006 Xbox 360
  228. Halo Reach Xbox 360
  229. New Super Mario Bros Wii
  230. New Super Mario Bros DS
  231. Power Stone Collection PSP
  232. Mortal Kombat Deception PS2
  233. UEFA Striker Dreamcast
  234. Striker 96 PlayStation
  235. Soul Reaver PlayStation
  236. LittleBigPlanet PS3
  237. Kirby’ Adventure NES
  238. Pac-Man NES
  239. Ninja Turtles NES
  240. Adventure Island Turbo Grafix
  241. Wii Sports Resort Wii
  242. Wii Play Wii
  243. Mass Effect Xbox 360
  244. Sonic Unleashed Xbox 360
  245. Viva Piñata Xbox 360
  246. Basil the Great Mouse Detective  ZX Spectrum
  247. Bejewelled Xbox 360
  248. Columns Megadrive
  249. Football Manager 2007 Xbox 360
  250. Castle of Illusion Megadrive
  251. Super Hang On Megadrive
  252. Batman Returns Megadrive
  253. Street Fighter 2 Championship Edition Mega Drive
  254. Super Paper Mario Wii
  255. Goldeneye Wii
  256. World Cup 98 N64
  257. LEGO Batman 3 PS4
  258. Assassin’s Creed Unity Xbox One
  259. Virtua Fighter Deluxe Saturn
  260. Discworld PlayStation
  261. FIFA Road to World Cup 98 N64
  262. Force Unleashed Xbox 360
  263. Quantum of Solace Xbox 360
  264. Doom 64 N64
  265. Super Scope 6in1 SNES
  266. Pilotwings Resort 3DS
  267. 1080 Snowboarding N64
  268. Theme Park PlayStation
  269. Tomb Raider PC
  270. Ridge Racer Type 4 PlayStation
  271. Top Gear Overdrive N64
  272. The Curse of Sherwood ZX Spectrum
  273. Mortal Kombat SNES
  274. Assassin’s Creed 3 Wii U
  275. Battle Arena Tohshinden PlayStation
  276. Panzer Dragoon Orta Xbox
  277. Batman Megadrive
  278. Loaded PlayStation
  279. Resident Evil 6 Xbox 360
  280. Halo 3 ODST Xbox 360
  281. Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz Wii
  282. Sonic 3D Saturn
  283. Sonic 3D Megadrive
  284. Turok 2 N64
  285. Pikmin 3 Wii U
  286. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles GameCube
  287. PN 03 GameCube
  288. Rebel Strike GameCube
  289. Crisis Core PSP
  290. Medieval PlayStation
  291. Power Rangers SNES
  292. Nights Saturn
  293. Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood Xbox 360
  294. Ultimate Doom PC
  295. Assassin’s Creed Xbox 360
  296. Sonic Generations 3DS
  297. Sonic Spinball Megadrive
  298. Wave Race Gameboy
  299. Knuckles Chaotix 32X
  300. Transformers Revenge of the Fallen PS3
  301. Ristar Mega Drive
  302. Gex 3D Enter the Gecko PlayStation
  303. Mario Kart DS
  304. Metroid Fusion Gameboy Advance
  305. LEGO Batman Xbox 360
  306. Metroid 2 Gameboy
  307. Story of Thor Megadrive
  308. Lemmings 3D PlayStation
  309. Revenge of Shinobi Megadrive
  310. Everyone’s Gone to the Rapture PS4
  311. Commandos PC
  312. Warioware Gameboy Advance
  313. Assassin’s Creed Bloodlines PSP
  314. Turok N64
  315. Arkham Origins Blackgate 3DS
  316. Horace Goes Skiing  ZX Spectrum
  317. Star Wars 32X
  318. Resident Evil Mercenaries 3DS
  319. Batman Begins Xbox
  320. Porsche Challenge PlayStation
  321. Sonic Superstar Tennis Wii
  322. Transformers Dark of the Moon Xbox 360
  323. Star Fox SNES
  324. Metal Gear Solid Portable Ops PSP
  325. FIFA 99 N64
  326. Need for Speed 3 Hot Pursuit PC
  327. FIFA 08 PS3
  328. Link’s Crossbow Training Wii
  329. Sonic Rush DS
  330. Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 Wii
  331. Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 3DS
  332. Kid Chameleon Megadrive
  333. The Flintstones Megadrive
  334. Dark Sector Xbox 360
  335. Vac Man ZX Spectrum
  336. Band Hero Xbox 360
  337. Balloon Fight NES
  338. FIFA 07 Xbox 360
  339. School Daze ZX Spectrum
  340. Wario Land 2 Gameboy Color
  341. Digimon PlayStation
  342. Alien Trilogy PlayStation
  343. Transformers The Movie Xbox 360
  344. James Bond Live and Let Die  ZX Spectrum
  345. Sonic Heroes GameCube
  346. XIII PS2
  347. FIFA 2005 PS2
  348. Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) Xbox 360
  349. Resident Evil Umbrella Chronicles Wii
  350. Resident Evil Darkside Chronicles Wii
  351. Castlevania 64 N64
  352. The Two Towers Gameboy Advance
  353. Vectorman Megadrive
  354. Jurassic Park Megadrive
  355. Fusion Frenzy Xbox
  356. Tiger Woods 10 Wii
  357. Grand Slam Tennis Wii
  358. FIFA 2002 PS2
  359. Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 PS3
  360. LEGO Rock Band Xbox 360
  361. FIFA 12 3DS
  362. Force Unleashed PSP
  363. SEGA Soccer Saturn
  364. FIFA 07 DS
  365. Incoming PC
  366. Metal Gear Solid Acid PSP
  367. Night Trap PS4
  368. Tiger Woods DS
  369. Sonic 2 Game Gear
  370. Celebrity Deathmatch PS2
  371. FIFA 06 Road to the World Cup Xbox 360
  372. Sonic Rivals PSP
  373. FIFA 98 Road to the World Cup SNES
  374. Guitar Hero On Tour DS
  375. Pokemon Dream Radar 3DS
  376. FIFA 64 N64
  377. World Cup 98 Gameboy
  378. Bubsy the Bobcat Megadrive
  379. FIFA 97 PC
  380. Doritos Crash Course Xbox 360
  381. FA Premier League STARS PC
  382. Transformers The Movie PSP
  383. James Bond Junior SNES

Royale Revolution?

Which games should have Battle Royale modes?

The newest in-thing in games is the ‘Battle Royale’ genre; is it a game mode or a feature which should be exclusive to PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG)? The premise is a 100 player death match on an island with an increasingly shrinking playing area – a bit like a digital Hunger Games. Fortnite has been one of the first ‘fast followers’ to the Battle Royale party and has been met with friction from PUBG. The term is here to stay – like Metroidvania or Roguelike – as Alanah Pearce wrote for IGN recently (http://m.uk.ign.com/articles/2017/09/22/pubg-publicly-shaming-fortnite-is-a-terrible-pr-move). But which other games would make for awesome Battle Royals modes?

Destiny 2: Trials Royale

Could you imagine this? The carnage would be incredible: especially if you could drop in as a fireteam. The weapon collecting system from PUBG would be redundant to a certain extent though placing vehicles and/or limited use weapons could make it even more interesting. Destiny 2’s open world style world maps would be ideal for a 100 player fight to the death mode. 

The Legend of Zelda: Battle of the Wild

Unlikely yet simultaneously logical. Drop 100 Links on a region of the map with nothing Eventide Island style and procure weapons on site. Throw a few Lynels in for good measure too. No, wait – let one person be the Lynel…No amiibo!

Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain of Battling Royale 

This game has sat on my shelf for two years now since completion; the mechanically-perfect masterpiece is perhaps the most likely candidate for a Battle Royale shooter. Clearly the blend of stealth and bombastic, Bay-esque firepower would be an excellent template to unleash 100 Infants Terrible upon each other. 

Pokemon: Battlemon Tournament

Hear me out. Choose a starting Pokemon and acquire 5 Pokeballs. Drop 100 Pokemon trainers onto an open, full world map such as Kanto and slowly narrow the map area. Aside from your starter, all Pokemon are caught in the game world and there are no Pokemon Centres. Revives and Potions etc are procedurally dropped around the world. This is the best bit: just like in the core-game RPGs, any trainers making eye contact must battle. Once all Pokemon in your party faint, it’s game over. Only the very best – like no one ever was – will win! 

Mario Kart 8: Royale Dash

100 drivers. 3 balloons each.  Wuhu Island. Done. 

Banjo-Kazooie: Nutz N Battlez

Banjo and Kazooie’s last outing – nearly 10 years ago – suffered from not being what their fan base wanted. The construction tools in this game are simple to understand yet have amazing depth. Drop bear and bird into the battlefield and scour for new parts. Don’t be caught in the menu screens though; budding engineers need to assemble new parts quickly and efficiently. The other 99 players are made up of Banjo’s supporting cast like Bottles as well as long forgotten platform heros like Cool Spot, Zool and Earthworm Jim. Last 90s mascot standing wins. Yooka and Laylee available as paid dlc. 

Which games do you think should take inspiration from PUBG? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter @pennilessdads

Firewatch Review

Version reviewed: PS4

Blowing a lot of smoke on release, story-focused digital darling Firewatch was recently picked up on sale on the PlayStation Store for around £5. The embers of conversation around this game have long died out so is it worth spending a Summer out in the wild, watching fires?

Like many of its peers, Firewatch is in the difficult to classify genre often described as ‘walking simulator’ or ‘interactive adventure’. Regardless of the classification, Firewatch can be described as a first person game which mixes exploration of a vast outdoor environment with dialogue tree decisions. The vast majority of conversation is between you – a newly appointed firewatch tower…erm watcher called Henry – and your boss Delilah. All interaction between the pair is via radio and it is this area – conversation between the two – where Firewatch becomes something special.

Whilst exploring the wilderness of 1980s Shoshone National Forest, Henry is encouraged to contact Delilah to report in curios he finds. The chemistry and banter between the two strangers is well written, generating investment in the characters from the start of the game. Through clever environment design and storytelling, the player is ushered in the right direction to further the story, which has various threads to follow. Going into further detail would spoil the experience but it had us hooked like a good book.

Firewatch is a game with stylised graphics which are used to great effect to create various atmospheres which benefit the story. On PlayStation 4, we did experience some slow down but is certainly not game breaking. The story lasts around 5 hours which is exactly the right length. Even right now though the back of my mind is mulling over the choices which may be made differently on a second run through. Although ‘I’ played the game, my wife became hooked on Firewatch’s mysteries too. Going from pretending to read her book – peeking out at the witty interactions between Henry and D – to being sat on the edge of the sofa is a notable milestone in games (for us!). Rarely does she play games but this one got her. 

Overall, this is an essential experience which is worth the asking price – never mind the bargain price on sail. I have a feeling the five hours spent on Firewatch will be replayed again and that’s before we get started on the extras. A game everyone should play! 

Sonic Mania Mania

What next for the blue blur?

After 20-so years of hurt, Sonic Mania delivered the true sequel to the 16 bit trilogy (& Knuckles). We deemed the game a “masterpiece” (find our review here), which is an accurate description. But where will Sonic go next? With so many false dawns, can we really expect something which has evaded the series for so long; consistency?

For every breath of hope like Sonic Generations or Sonic Advance, we get a Boom or Unleashed. The semi-sequel to Generations – Sonic Forces – comes with careful optimism but what will we see next in the vein of Mania? Time for us to spin past the future signpost a la Sonic CD…

Sonic Mania 2?

The obvious choice it seems. However, consider the following. Between Sonic Mania, Sonic Generations (PS3/X360/PC) and its Nintendo 3DS counterpart many of the ‘original generation’ (OG) Zones have been reused already in recent games. Plus add in that Sonic Adventure 2 is pretty much a 3D version of some of Sonic & Knuckles’ Zones. This means the creativity pool – and therefore future throwback Zones – are limited.

Going from the OG 16 bit games, the unused Zones are: Marble, Springyard, Labyrinth, Starlight, Scrap Metal, Emerald Hill, Aquatic Ruin, Casino Night, Hill Top, Mystic Cave, Metropolis, Sky Chase, Wing Fortress, Angel Island, Marble Garden, Carnival Night, Ice Cap, Launch Base, Hidden Palace and Doomsday. If they were grouped thematically, the scope becomes even narrower:grass/rural, lava/underground, pinball, element-based and mechanical. Arguably the most memorable moments have also been plundered. The epic downhill snowboard set piece which opens Ice Cap Zone was repeated in Sonic Adventure plus the Sky Chase Zone format was aped in Sonic Mania. In other words, would a different direction be a better option?

Sonic Maker?

After Mario’s successful foray into user generated content, one wonders if Sonic could do – as has been seen many times throughout gaming history – the same as Nintendo’s mascot? Mario gets a kart-racer, so does Sonic. Mario gets a board game, so does Sonic. Why not a creation game too? As with the afore mentioned, just imitate. Have a selection of possible ‘skins’ and a collection of level themes (see above). Let the – evidently – hungry Sonic maniacs do the hard work then of creating endless challenge rooms and hard as nails Green Hill variants.

Sonic Mania Adventure

When revisiting the OG games recently, it was clear they haven’t held up well. Mania has done the remarkable job of updating them whilst still feeling modern and relevant. Could SEGA do this for the 3D games? Despite their flaws, some of Sonic’s 3D games have provided some memorable moments. Could these be a source of inspiration for future 2D games? Sonic Advance was heavily inspired by Adventure (and a certain long-armed yellow star sub-mascot…) and was one of the leading lights for 2D Sonic in between Knuckles and Mania. Also, one of the stranger features of the console/PC version of Generations was the 2D white overworld which could be traversed and explored. Could the 3D stages become inspiration for some Metroidvania style exploration within   Zones? Sonic’s seemingly eternal struggle with the 3rd dimension could be sidestepped or – more excitedly – finally be mastered. The collective team behind Sonic Mania understand Sonic is more than just speed, perhaps they could apply this to the sometimes too speed focused 3D titles.

One thing which is for sure though; excitement for the blue blur has not been this high for a long time. Whatever SEGA cook up next, they have a tough act to follow. We look forward to seeing where we’re hed(gehog)ing next…

Sorry.

Night Trap: 25th Anniversary Review

Version Reviewed: PlayStation 4

In the rich tapestry of games history, full motion video (FMV) is a niche chapter – dangling from the narrative along with 90s virtual reality, scratch and sniff (FIFA 2000) and Wii Fit. The advent of early CD-ROM consoles promised great things; CD quality music and…the answer to what extra Mega/SEGA CD et al brought to the table is undefined. FMV is one type of game not possible on the likes of SNES and Megadrive/Genesis and a poster boy for the iteration on the generation. There is a lot that can be said of Night Trap’s colourful history but here we are in 2017 renewing the conversation. What is this game and what is the fuss all about?

On starting the game, a short clip explains the premise. You are working with a military response team investigating a seemingly normal family house in the heart of Americana where five teens have recently gone missing. There are eight video feeds to watch from in and around the house. Pressing triangle or circle activates one of the hidden ‘night traps’ in each room – hopefully snaring some of the mysterious Augers roaming the property. Imagine being Kevin McAllister in Home Alone and you get the idea. I remember Night Trap from the furore around it in the wider press plus screenshots/articles in games media. We’re not going into bans etc but one thing that was never explained at the time was; how do you actually play it?

After giving you a quick taste of how to use the night traps, the difficulty spikes as a colour coded system is layered onto the activation system. Listening carefully to the conversations between the characters gives you clues which colours to use. Let too many augers overrun the house and you are promptly fired from your role of god in the house. Now the difficult bit.

Evaluating Night Trap is a difficult task. The gameplay is obtuse, pushing back on the player. Persistence and patience is needed to access the game beyond ten minutes or so of gameplay. Like all unforgiving puzzles though, the moment you figure out a section, understanding something you couldn’t previously, is rewarding. The game then becomes something akin to Majora’s Mask where you watch, analyse and connect the events unfolding in front of you. Each repeat play through (expect a lot of game over screens FYI) moves you a bit closer to achieving success in the game. We found ourselves edging a little further each time. Ironically considering how cutting edge it was in 1992, the gameplay is more closely related to 70s/80s arcade games – learning patterns to beat it. Having just come off a review of Until Dawn, it shows in stark contrast how much quality of life features in games narrative have evolved over the last 25 years. Anyone looking for this to compete with a Resident Evil 7 will struggle but this edition needs to exist for a different reason. It isn’t here to compete with the bleeding edge of survival horror in 2017. 

Without any doubt, the acting in Night Trap is more Sharknado than Jaws. It becomes a metaphor for what the game is; a game of its time. SEGA’s modular upgrades to the Megadrive/Genesis are too mirrors of Night Trap and its steep accessibility bar. Whilst most 16 bit games are readily accessible through retro consoles, compilations or re-releases, there is a pocket of games like Night Trap from Mega/SEGA CD, 32X and Saturn which are lost to the sands of time or the sands of eBay – with high entry barriers. Collecting these systems and games plus making them talk to modern televisions is a chore (speaking from experience). What this edition presents is the game released all of those years ago. There are options to adjust the display to be in line with subsequent re-releases or in an updated 2017 mode. There are also additional scenes as well as video content exploring the conception of the game. Fans of the original will enjoy the unlockable extras. But the big question is; should you play it? 

When Night Trap released in 1992, the types of game it was surrounded by were the (excellent) Sonic 2 and Super Mario Land 2. Mortal Kombat was also unleashed on the world that year and is perhaps the closest (graphically) to Night Trap. The aforementioned three games are required reading in the history of how this industry evolved. Night Trap should also fall into this category. If you go into this game with your Sharknado hat on or simply want to explore a niche genre with DNA from the past and future it is worth venturing into the game. I am glad this exists on PS4 and hope more of the missing era of games in between the 16 and 32 bit eras can find their way to be released. If you want to see what the future looked like in 1992, give it a go.