It’s a whole new year, a whole new decade, MY BIRTHDAY, and 2 Steam sales affected what games I played this month...and realistically, next month too, and the months following that. Anyway, I hope you’ve all had a good New Year and I hope the first month of the new decade has served you well! I’m waiting for all of my tax forms to get delivered to me so that I can see exactly how much I owe and how depressed I should be for the rest of the year. I’m also waiting for the first Nintendo Direct of the year, and to see what games I should be looking forward to this year other than a couple of remakes and Keanu Reeves: Cassette Futurist. While I wait on all of that, I’ve played these games;
(I really liked the Piano easter egg in Bloodstained)
Horizon Zero Dawn is a really pretty game, and I’m not just saying that because I secretly hate the game. Nor am I saying that because it’s the first PS4 game I started playing on my new TV. Horizon really is a pretty game that takes place in a gorgeous post-post apocalypse. You play as Aloy, an outcast who stumbles upon an ancient facility and finds a working Google Glass which allows her to access other technology made before the apocalypse. It also allows you to track enemy movement. Before you do anything else, you’re shown Aloy being named, and the first time you’re given control of her she’s a child being taught how to move around the world. It’s a pretty good way to contextualize a tutorial! You’re literally a child, this is how you interact with the world. It’s during this section that you find the Google Glass off of an ancient corpse and thus begins the intrigue: What happened to humanity, why is everybody living in a tribal society now where it seems so easy to pick these old things up and try rebuilding, what’s with the robot dinosaurs? After the childhood tutorial (which also shows you a sort of moral choice thing) you’re shown a montage of Aloy growing up and training to do...a thing (I think it’s called The Proving) that will allow her back into society should she succeed. As a young adult, before the proving, you’re allowed to wander the open world and take on side quests if you’re not interested in following the main story. I wasn’t interested in following the main story at first, and while I was working through side quests I lost interest in the game as a whole. The gameplay loop isn’t bad though: you gather materials while wandering to craft equipment, you gather materials from robot dinosaurs to craft weapons and other equipment, you gather materials from animals to craft even more equipment. Everything you do gives you experience points and those points are used to unlock abilities, like whistling. Completing quests also gives you experience points, and I’m sure you can get items from completing quests too but part of why I didn’t want to do these quests is because the NPCs freak me out. The NPC’s look great when they’re still but when they start speaking and trying to emote, I get that uncanny valley feeling that something isn’t right. I’ll watch one smile but their eyes don’t crinkle. I’ll watch them move, but there’s stiffness and lack of subtlety to it that makes me very aware that I’m playing a game. It almost feels like the story segments and the side quest set-ups are being played by someone making his real dolls talk. I know where the story goes; Horizon Zero Dawn was covered extensively by youtuber Chris Davis so I know where the plot goes and where it started. I don’t think I’m missing out by putting Horizon down; it’s not a bad game, but ultimately my attention was taken by other games this month.
The novelty of playing Halo: Reach on PC didn’t last long for me. Since I downloaded it, I played through the campaign once, played multiplayer until I unlocked the Stormtrooper helmet (I think it’s the EOD helmet), then I started playing the campaign again but on Legendary. By that point though, I was ready to move on. I mostly played SWAT while I was playing multiplayer because I like the higher pace of that mode. There’s also the thought that playing SWAT makes me a better player in general since you have to consistently get headshots if you want to succeed. I’ve uninstalled Reach from my PC, but I may put it back after Combat Evolved launches on Steam and I need something without Flood to cleanse my palette.
(Looking like this makes it more entertaining to me when I die 50 times in 5 minutes)
Holy Crap, the remake of Resident Evil 2 is fantastic! I spent about 24 hours playing it (if Steam is to be believed) and in that time I played through Claire and Leon’s A and B stories. After Leon A I started Claire B, then I got freaked out, and tried Claire A, but that still freaked me out so I stopped playing for a little bit. When I went back it was because I’d bought the all things DLC key (please stop laughing at me) and even with the unlimited rocket launcher, there were moments where I failed, and moments where I was nearly killed by mobs. Besides, I beat Leon A without cheating and that’s farther than I expected to make it. I’m a bit annoyed at how easy it is to identify which rooms are safe from Mr. X, and I didn’t really like using any of the fully automatic weapons, but those are nitpicks. I didn’t come across any areas where Mr. X would bust through a wall (aside from that one where you’re playing as Leon and Ada saves you), but again, nitpick. Playing as Sherry was really tense, the way familiar set pieces from the original release were remixed in the remake was interesting, the notes you find in the orphanage are horrifying, and even though I don’t see any major reasons to replay it at the moment (I literally just finished the 4th story mode about an hour before I started writing this), I’m not quite ready to uninstall Resident Evil 2 from my PC yet. That 14,000 step achievement seems insane, but I’m feeling kind of insane myself right about now.
(This is my favorite item in REmake2. I'm serious)
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is Casltevania: Curse of the Sympnohy of Sorrow. I knew from the first moments of gameplay that I was playing an excellent game, and I’m kind of surprised with myself because Steam says I only played it for 19 hours. Last year, I played through Curse of the Moon, the prequel game that sets up Ritual of the Night while also playing like Castlevania 3, that really good NES game. I don’t remember too much of Curse of the Moon which is great because it seems like all you really get by playing that are “oh yeah, I remember that” moments that happen in Ritual of the Night (usually when boss fights happen). The main game centers around Miriam, a shard binder, trying to save her friend Gebel from the demonic influence which possessed him. Also, a castle has appeared and it’s spewing hundreds of thousands of monsters so that needs sorting out. Miriam, who is a shard binder, is perfectly equipped to take on such things as monster-spewing castles because what it means to be a shard binder is that she’s capable of stealing the shard (definitely not a soul) of monsters she kills and thus gaining their power. The shards Miriam collects can allow her to throw axes, double-jump, summon a familiar to help her in combat, and even change into a bunny girl outfit. Collecting shards and unlocking new abilities will also enable you to explore more of the castle and thus, unlock more of its secrets. The more you learn about the castle and the world around you, the more likely you are to avoid the bad endings. Looking at my notes, it looks like I’ve found 2 bad endings before breaking through and getting the good ending. I haven’t completed this game to 100%, and I don’t plan to because going for 100% completion on games like these require a much larger time commitment than I’d realistically like to give. There probably is a secret ending for true completion, and past games made by Igarashi go beyond 100% so I feel like I’m definitely missing out by putting the game away. As much as I enjoyed my first playthrough of this game, I mostly booted up Bloodstained to wind down after Resident Evil 2 stressed me out. Going for 100% completion would go against my laid back approach to this game. One last thing: did anybody else notice a massive framerate drop during the Valefar fight? There was one specific attack, his mash attack, that just killed the frame rate for me.
Spacechem was developed by Zachtronic, the indie who I fell in love with last year when I played through Opus Magnum. Like that game, Spacechem is an open-ending puzzle game where you take a given resource and make it into a new product by setting up an automated track. This gameplay is expanded in the second stage, where you must produce resources in more than one factory and use those resources to make another resource in another factory. I don’t think I’m doing a great job explaining the core gameplay of Spacechem here, and I only really played it for a couple of hours. Unlike Opus Magnum, the puzzle solving didn’t click for me so I wound up uninstalling the game relatively quickly. I made it through the first world, but when it came time to make products and time their production to the production times of other products, that was a bridge too far for me.
Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor reminds me a lot of Arkham Asylum. It also reminds me a lot of Assassin’s Creed. Shaodw of Mordor sees you playing as...a human whose name I don’t remember, but that’s alright because he and his entire family are killed within minutes of meeting them. You must avenge yourself and your family from beyond the grave by jumping on Uruk and murdering the entire army of Mordor one general at a time. If there is a story I ignored it because I just wanted to wander around the open world and kill things. Wandering around killing things feels pretty good too, espeically when you jump down from on high or snipe from afar. What’s even better is when a high-ranking general murders you, makes fun of you, then gets promoted. Sometimes an Uruk who gets promoted will kill another general for you since there’s rivalry and discontent in the ranks. I played Shadow of Mordor for an hour or so; to be honest, the combat and gameplay didn’t do too much to engage me. After watching my influence on the ranks of Uruk was novel at first, but the lustre didn’t last very long. Besides, the playable character is already dead, so what’s the worst that can realistically happen if I put the game down for the rest of forever?
Ironcast is a ton of fun, and I recommend it to anybody who likes match-three puzzle games. Matching three or more of the same icon in Ironcast doesn’t give you the gift of anime tiddies though, rather each set of colored icons you match corresponds to one of the systems that keep your mecha upright and battle-ready. Unlike other match-three puzzle games, you and another mecha take it in turns matching three or more three times before you get locked out of the matching screen. The resources you earn by matching can be used to power up your shields, make yourself move (thus increasing your evasion stats), fire your weapons, or repair damaged systems (though you can’t restore lost HP unless you have a specific ability). You and your opponent take it in turns, matching three or more, until you destroy them, they destroy you, or you meet a mission-specific goal (like matching far-more-than-three crates, or staying alive for X turns). Ironcast is set in an alternate past, Steampunk London that’s being invaded by France and their steampunk Mecha army. You need to gather resources over the course of several missions in preparation for an attack on London. If this sounds familiar, then you may have played FTL: Faster than Light, which has a similar setup but a longer game cycle. Like with FTL, I haven’t actually defeated the invading French Gundam, but luckily even in failure, you unlock new pilots, new mecha, new abilities, and thus you have a better chance of making it through to the end. I ended up uninstalling Ironcast though because after a while, it feels like you’re playing a slot machine more than a game that requires skill. It’s a fun slot machine, and I get more out of Ironcast than I do FTL, and I absolutely recommend both games, but I’ve had enough after about five or six hours this month.
Dirt Rally is a racing sim. I didn’t realize this at first, and now I’m stuck with it. I enjoy arcade racing games, but simulation style games frustrate me more than they engage me. It’s a really good looking game, but I don’t have the patients to play this game. Buyer Beware I guess!
I don’t remember when I bought Double Dragon Neo, but I didn’t want to play it until I could afford to get an arcade stick. I used a PS4 controller to play it instead, and after about and hour or two I’ve had enough. The first thing that annoyed me, and the thing that I had a lot of trouble getting over, is just how stiff the controls felt. The fighting was alright, but it took me a while to give up and look at a guide to see how to punch people who are on the ground, how to pick up and throw weapons, and other such things. I played as far as the space station level, after the boss who is Skeletor. I initially stopped after the fight with Skeletor, but I wanted to give Double Dragon Neon another chance. By that point though, I was already swapping between this, Resident Evil 2, and Bloodstained, so the odds were stacked against me playing Neon. A cool looking antagonist with a stupid voice didn’t endear me, combat that felt the same in hour two as it did in minute 1 didn’t make me want to keep playing. I’m not angry, I’m not even annoyed really, I just have another reason to shell out for Double Dragon on the GBA.
I don’t remember why I did it, but I booted up Yoshi’s Wooly World this month. I didn’t plan on doing a playthrough, nor did I. I remember playing the demo for Yoshi’s Crafted World on Switch last year, but all I remember about that is a very easy level with a train, and a very easy second run of that level where I have to find 3 dogs. Playing Wooly World didn’t feel as easy. I didn’t start from the beginning, I actually had a save from years ago where I stopped in world 2 for some reason. I finished up that part of the game and played a little bit of world three and boy did it feel like more of a challenge than that demo for the Switch sequel! For one thing, I didn’t 100% any of the levels of Wooly World that I played this month. Finding collectibles is a damn challenge, but not getting hit (or not falling into a bottomless pit) is more challenging than I was expecting. The world 2 boss actually killed me once too because I had trouble figuring out how to hit it, but it didn’t have that issue when it came to hitting me. An issue I have with Yoshi games is that a lot of them feel like a remake of the SNES classic, but Wooly World feels like its own thing. It’s challenging in a way that Kirby’s Epic Yarn wasn’t, and I feel tempted to go back and play it some more. I’m not going to right now, but it’s definitely a game worth playing if you still have a Wii U lying around.
I downloaded some Switch demos this month! One of them is for Ghostbusters remastered; it’s a re-release of the last-gen game about a new recruit busting ghosts with Bill Murray, and Harold Ramis. It’s called a remaster, but this game is ugly, it looks like it was ported directly from the Playstation 3 or Xbox 360 and onto Switch. While trying to wrangle ghosts with your proton pack, breaking things all the while, and while another Ghostbuster is also firing their proton packs, the frame rate didn’t stand a chance. During cutscenes, the character models look very light on detail, and there’s a weird greasiness to their models. Finally, I could have sworn I noticed texture pop-in. None of that really matters though, and that’s because the gameplay bored the Hell out of me. The set pieces were alright; the flooding of a hotel hallway, fighting living lamps was alright, but all Ghostbusters did was make me want to play Luigi’s Mansion; a game that I enjoyed more but didn’t care too much about in general. If you want to try this demo for yourself, you have to get it off of the Japanese eShop. The text and audio is all in English though, so you should be fine if you’re interested.
I don’t usually do well with horror, but this month when I wasn’t playing Resident Evil or Bloodstained, I played Metro 2033 Redux. I tried playing this game last year, when I was surprised that my old computer could run the original Metro 2033. On the lowest settings though, it ran like a slideshow, but on my current rig I can play Redux on relatively high settings so that I can be freaked out by Nosalis at a decent frame rate! I only played through Metro 2033 once, and I haven’t installed the sequel Last Light yet, but this has been my favorite game-based narrative in a long time. You play as Artyom, a young man living in Exhibition Station under Moscow. He lives there because Moscow proper, like most of the planet, is an irradiated death zone following what was probably World War 3. Exhibition Station was attacked by creatures known as The Dark Ones, and Artyom is tasked by Hunter to go to Polis (the capital station of the Metro) to get help fighting against the Dark One threat. Metro 2033 is an odyssey, taking Artyom through haunted tunnels, infested tunnels, stations where life seems to be normal, stations ruled over by Nazi’s, or communists, or the ghosts of the long dead. The world building in Metro 2033 is fantastic, and I’m not doing it justice here. As you explore the tunnels, stations, and even surface of Moscow, you can find journals which explicitly tell you Artyom’s thoughts at that moment. I feel like your decisions as you play the game dictate what some of them say too, but I don’t have proof of that. There’s more than one ending, but the way this is done is strange: the good ending is difficult to get if you don’t know about it, but it isn’t canon if you do get it. As well as having more than one ending, Metro 2033 is fairly accommodating when it comes to playstyle too: if you really want, you can murder every enemy you come across, or you can sneak around them to conserve your valuable, valuable ammo. There are certain enemies you can’t really sneak by (like every single animal that isn’t a Librarian), and there are a couple of set piece arenas where it seems like stealth isn’t an option, but more often than not stealth seems to be an option. I’m not being hyperbolic when I say ammo is valuable either: you can either use military-grade ammo to kill enemies (it’s very effective, highly recommend), but those military-grade rounds are used as currency in towns. You trade that ammo to buy or upgrade your guns, stock up on air filters, or any consumable items that you think you might need before heading back into enemy territory. Metro 2033 is based on the book of the same name, and it left such a positive impression on me that I’m going to be picking up a copy as soon as I’m able to. I have Last Light in my Steam library, so maybe by the time I play that and read the books, Exodus will be on Steam too. I’m excited to explore more of this world and read more into its lore.
I’m one of the last people on the planet who carry my 3DS with me everywhere I go, or at least it seems that way. Even during its heyday, I would rarely tag other 3DS players. I just feel weird when I don’t have it on me, and the game currently in it at the moment is the remake of Fire Emblem 2...or Fire Emblem Gaiden, a Japan-exclusive NES game (or a Famicom game, if you’re a nerd). I play 3DS games at a glacial pace, so I’m still fairly early on in the story. At the moment, I just made it to chapter 3. Celica has just defeated all of the pirates to the west of Zofia, and she’s had her emotional reunion with Alm. Unfortunately war is brewing, Celica is in danger of being kidnapped, the childhood friends had a tiff, and a mysterious masked horseman just saved Celica for the second time. In terms of gameplay, Echoes plays almost exactly like Awakening: your side takes a turn, then the enemy side takes a turn, and this goes on until one side or the other is all dead. I think part of why I’m not as into this one as I was with Awakening is the weaker cast: Other than Alm and Celica, I only really care about Mae. I realize I’m still early into the plot, so I’m sure I’ll meet my ideal waifu sooner or later.
(I like Echoes, I don't love it, but it's good anyway)
Jikkyu Powerful Pro Yakyu is a Konami-developed baseball game! It’s stylized in a way that reminds me of what Mii’s would look like in the River City Ransom universe (or Kunio-Kun, I guess). The demo I downloaded only has one mode available to play, and it’s the homerun challenge mode. Unlike Ghostbusters, everything in this game is written in kana so I had no idea what I was doing until I was actually in-game. I knew enough to pick out certain rules: I played with one computer player, on a lower difficulty, and without items (or power-ups, I think). I assumed pressing the “A” button would swing my bat, but holding A bunts, and it took me a while to figure out that I needed to use the B button to actually swing. I wish I could have played more modes from this game, but the homerun challenge was an effective de-stress experience. It was fun just hitting some balls and watching them fly. I’m not a baseball fan, but I appreciate that the teams used here are based off of the actual Nippon Professional Baseball league. I’m curious enough to try checking out a game if I’m able to (go Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters!)
The final Switch demo I downloaded (and all three of these came from the Japanese eShop), was a demo for SD Gundam G Generations Cross Strike. The gameplay is very similar to Fire Emblem’s, but with the addition of an energy meter which depletes as you use weapons (and probably take other actions, but I didn’t notice). What’s most striking about this demo is that everything was in the English language, which I wasn’t expecting at all. Since I was able to understand everything that was going on, I went ahead and played through the first chapter of two of the four campaigns that was available to me. I’ve never watched Dual Story G-Unit or, Mobile Suit Gundam 00F, so I can’t say how closely the stories here match the anime. Truth be told, I skipped the story bits so I could get into the SRPG action. G Gundam is my favorite iteration, and since that’s not here I wasn’t feeling too keen on engaging with the story. The emergent story that comes from watching Mark Guilder, Goat Logan, or Chapea Cherenshi destroy an enemy and use the momentum of that first kill to take out another two. It also seems like each chapter will ask you to perform a certain action with a specific character for a bonus, and by doing so you’re reenacting a scene from the show, which is neato! The gameplay is enough to make me want to play more, I don’t feel too bad skipping story beats because I could always just look up the source material and watch that. Cross Strike left a massively good impression on me, and I see myself getting the full game sooner or later. I’m pretty sure my save data from the demo would carry over onto the full version when I do decide to get the full package.
The last game I have listed that I’ve played this month is Devil Daggers. When you boil down any-given first person shooter, you can usually say that the point is to murder things until there are either no more things to murder or until you, yourself, are murdered. Devil Daggers is that. There is only one stage, you only have one weapon, and there are only a handful of enemies of which I’ve only seen about five. If you get touched once, or fall off of the edge of the map, you die. There is only one achievement, and it’s to survive for at least 500 seconds. The percentage of players who’ve unlocked it are less than 1% and I am not among those who have unlocked it. In fact, I’ve only survived for about 90 seconds. The high score screen and leaderboards don’t show points, but rather, they show how long other players have survived. It’s easy to be killed within the first 5 seconds, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, but it’s also easy to tell yourself you’re only going to play Devil Daggers for a few minutes only to look up from the game and find that two hours have passed. It’s been a few days since I last booted up Devil Daggers, but this isn’t a game I’m going to be uninstalling any time soon. For as stressful as Devil Daggers can get, it’s also eerily calming. I would start a new round, get into the game, swear upon death, but I wouldn’t necessarily feel stressed out. Devil Daggers has been a highly engaging, high-stress, stress relief game for me this month.
I don’t have it on my list but I tried playing Star Wars: Shadow of the Empire this month. I wasn’t able to because trying to get the controls sorted out is a challenge in itself. I feel like I’m close to a breakthrough, but I concluded that I would rather be playing Resident Evil than playing with the configuration screen trying to get a good N64 game to work on my PC. I’m sure if I looked, I could find a download that would make Shadow of the Empire nice and playable for me, but I’m not too bothered at the moment. I’m surprised by how many games I made it through this month! Metro 2033, Resident Evil 2, Bloodstained, these are massive games and now that they’re out of my way I can possibly make a dent in that backlog I’ve built up recently. I’m still working on my decade project, so I’ll be trying to refresh myself on games from 2011 - 2019 in addition to possibly playing 2020 releases. At this point, I don’t have any yet, but Kakarot looks pretty okay. Ah forget it, I’m going to install and play something completely different like...well...I haven’t decided yet.