It’s 2015, and for some reason current gen games are still coming out on last generation hardware. Part of why I only early-adopted the Nintendo console was because I was waiting for must-buy games to launch on the Playstation 4 or for Microsoft to apologize for the Xbone by giving me literal money. It was kind of hard to look forward to either new console though, when their new games kept launching on the platforms I already owned. Things definitely started to change this year however, and there were definitely games launched in 2015 that absolutely wouldn’t work on the PS360. So without further bashing, here’s my list of the good, the bad, and the meh, but not in that order:
Have you ever wanted to play a three minute long demo of classic NES or SNES games? I don’t see why you would say ‘no’ as those platforms have fantastic games on them, and with Amiibo Tap: Nintendo’s Greatest Bits you can do exactly what I described in that first sentence. There is a fairly large, gangrenous asterisk attached though, for you see Amiibo Tap: Nintendo’s Greatest Bits may be a free software download, however all of the content is locked behind paywalls. That may sound bad at first, but microtransactions are the expected price to pay when you download something for free. To sweeten the deal, the demos you can buy access to, while only being 3 minutes long, can be set to one of several different 'scenes'. So you could play through the prologue of Super Metroid, or you could fight against Kraid, or you could fight against Crocomire, and if you’re good enough to beat those set pieces in under 180 seconds you can explore further on until time expires.
I’ve teased this enough, and I know that you know the punchline; you’re not spending microtransaction money to play a strict demo of Super Mario Bros. 2. You need to own or purchase amiibo. Once you register an amiibo it unlocks one game, and tapping it while in-game will change the scene. If you have a Samus amiibo for example, scanning it in will unlock one of the 30 games at random. If you had your heart set on playing the demo of Super Metroid but unlock Yoshi you’d better go onto Amazon and buy another Amiibo, because I guarantee the stores are sold out of them in this horrible Hellscape that is 2015. Another terrible aspect of this thing is the sheer volume of NES games compared to SNES; I said there are 30 game demos you could potentially unlock, and of those only 8 are from the Super Nintendo. At this point Amiibo Tap: Nintendo’s Greatest Hits is barely even a bad memory. If you pay for Nintendo Online you can play far more NES and SNES games as of June 2020 from beginning to end, no Amiibo supported (let alone necessary). I’m beating this horse skull with a bottle of glue because in 2015 I did have Amiibo, I did play this, and even then I thought it was insulting. Offering a discount on the eShop would have been great, but Nintendo doesn’t do discounts.
Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival is kind of like Mario Party but without the mini games and with an emphasis on amiibo. If you want to play the game at all you’re required to use amiibo instead of any of the face buttons or motion controls to roll your virtual dice. I like that Nintendo wanted to put their amiibo to use outside of Smash and collection purposes, but Amiibo Festival has hardly any gameplay to begin with. At best, Amiibo Festival could be seen as a $60 box set with 2 amiibo, and for Nintendo that’s unacceptable.
Batman: Arkham Knight is the fourth entry in what is very much not a trilogy of games following what’s generally accepted as the Arkham line of Batman canon. It takes place sometime after the devastating ending of Arkham City, where the death of someone major has left a power vacuum in Gotham City’s criminal community. Before all-out gang wars can begin though, Scarecrow launches a literal terror attack and threatens more to come.
I love the set up to this story, but once you’re given free reign to engage with it, you’re forced to run through tutorials. Arkham Knight plays almost exactly the same as a majority of the other games in this series (I can’t speak for the Blackgate games), so being forced to engage with tutorial content felt off-putting at first. They just kept coming though, so I went from feeling put off to feeling annoyed, to feeling patronized. This is before the introduction of the Bat Tank, which has its own set of tutorials that need to be completed before the story can begin to unfold properly. You get access to the Bat Tank fairly early on, but not early enough to change my mind in any positive sort of way. The way combat works in the Arkham games has always been functional, but this is the fourth time I might have had to go through it. Fatigue has well and truly set in; the tutorials didn’t engage or endear me, and the tank portions of the game felt wildly out of place. Batman driving around Gotham, launching rockets at other tanks feels as out of place and wrong as a story where Batman quits. I don’t like the idea of something getting better later, it may apply to Arkham Knight, but I don’t have the good will to go back and find out.
(This was the only Arkham game with good cover art)
Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is a Wii U exclusive that heavily relies on the touch screen of the Wii U gamepad to control the in-game action. I think that’s the most damning thing I can say about this one. Holding the gamepad in one hand while drawing on it with the other is awkward at the best of times, and painful since I'm left handed. A best-case scenario would have been a Sonic the Hedgehog type game where you draw slopes and rely on momentum to get Kirby from point A to point B. Instead, momentum doesn’t seem to apply very often, and when it does it comes seemingly out of nowhere. The presentation of Rainbow Curse is pretty good, but this isn’t the first time that the best thing about a Kirby console game is the aesthetic. Instead of being made out of yarn though, Rainbow Curse seems to have constructed everything out of highly detailed clay. You can make out fingerprints on certain assets too, and it’s really charming, but if this game didn’t focus on how it looked it could have been launched on the 3DS where it likely would have turned out better. The size of the gamepad, and how it’s completely disconnected from the TV you’re also going to be watching as you play this, make this game really awkward to play. Out of all of the Wii U games I could still play now, that aren’t yet available on Switch, this is one of the few that I don’t see myself ever going back to.
(I would watch an LP of this as it's hard to dislike the aesthetic)
Life is Strange is a hideous, narrative-driven drama about a bland character with terrible taste in music messing with time and being pulled around by the nose by her horrible peers. That might be a little harsh on Life is Strange, after all I’ve only played the first chapter but since that’s the only one that’s free I won’t be playing any of the others. You play as Max, she’s a college student who majors in taking selfies and after class one day, while debating on whether she’s going to cry or completely break down, she witnesses a murder. I’ve read ahead and based on how everything can end, I chose to believe that Max witnessing a murder was a catalyst that drove her into a catatonic state and into a dream-world. This would explain why she suddenly has the power to rewind time at will. It would also explain the importance put upon the blue-haired murder victim as the story begins to unfold.
Mechanically, Life is Strange is an adventure game. You’ll need to interact with set pieces or use items on things to progress the story. You can also talk to people, and if at any point you mess something up you can rewind time and try again. It makes me wonder why certain puzzles are on a strict time limit, like an early one where you need to pull a fire alarm before a bad thing happens, but then another one involves breaking and entering doesn’t have a time limit at all. A really annoying aspect of Life is Strange is how imprecise the controls are. It’s recommended to play using a controller instead of a mouse and keyboard and my dumb ass went along with it. Playing with a controller, it was really difficult to get Max to focus on and interact with interactable items. There were times when I wanted to examine an item, but she used the thing instead, despite my button input. Then there were instances where I needed to take an item that was directly next to another intractable item, so of course I couldn’t grab what I needed without going through intense frustration. All five episodes of Life is Strange launched in 2015, but I only played through the first one and my interest was completely drained by the end. I hated the characters, the story wasn’t in any hurry to explain itself, the game itself is utterly hideous, and my head canon saves me the trouble of watching a let’s play.
(This thing made me want to watch Juno again; a good movie with well-acted characters)
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain asks you to create a character before you do anything else, just don’t think about that too much afterward when you’re guiding a fully bandaged Big Boss out of a hospital bed and to freedom. Ground Zeroes ended in such a way that you would be forgiven for assuming that Big Boss died, but depending on how much Metal Gear you’ve played you would know that would cause a time paradox. I gave Phantom Pain a massive benefit of the doubt; I didn’t like Ground Zeroes but I forced myself past the prologue and through the first mission or two. The prologue mission, escaping from the hospital, seems straightforward at first and acts as a nice enough tutorial. You’re taught how to hide, how to velcro yourself to cover, how to shoot guns, and it suggested that there were no consequences for murdering your pursuers even though this is a modern Metal Gear game so I know that’s a lie and I’m constantly being monitored and graded.
As the prologue unfolds things get weird as a floating psychic boy begins setting things on fire with his mind. You eventually find a motorcycle and ride through what I recall was a desert as the skeleton of a whale chases you (it too being on fire). I understand that Metal Gear plots eventually devolve into madness, so it feels weird to start one like this. That kind of momentum is going to be hard to maintain after all, and Phantom Pain succeeds in maintaining that insane start by not even trying and sending you to a desert sandbox soon after the prologue. By this point I was already feeling annoyed with Phantom Pain, and I don’t recall sticking with it through to the end of the first mission or so. I recall being in a massive desert, and I recall there being a handful of buildings being patrolled by guards, but I don’t recall anything else. The plot, motivation, why this game exists at all, is completely lost to me. According to my head canon, the character who escaped the hospital and who definitely is Big Boss just did his thing in Outer Heaven until the Shadow Moses incident happened a couple of decades later. I can’t put my finger on why exactly I hated these games: They’re objectively better than Metal Gear Solid 4, the movie that thought it was a game, but everything about it just vexed and annoyed me. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the more time that passes the more clearly I see that Metal Gear Solid was a fluke.
(In this game's defense, I didn't actually press the 'make horse poop' button)
Star Wars: Battlefront is absolutely gorgeous, and has fantastic sound design. It’s a shame the game itself was so bare and bland. I almost exclusively play games by myself. I don’t have an issue with multiplayer in general, and I’ve definitely had fun playing multiplayer games in the past, but if a game doesn’t have single player I won’t generally play it. Battlefront was marketed as having solo play options, but it didn’t have a story mode and what solo options that were there were essentially just bot matches, the likes of which I recall from games like Duke Nukem 64. There were a number of different modes you could choose from, but they all boiled down to a variation of capture points or death matches. For the most part you either played as either a foot soldier like a Storm Trooper or Rebel Alliance soldier, but a dozen heroes and villains from the movies could also be used in specific match types. Battlefront 2015 could have been the best FPS of its time, but one of the major issues with it is how you’ve likely seen everything there is to see within your first hour of gameplay. This was a title I played because a housemate had it, and it definitely felt like I had experienced everything this game had to offer soon after my first few matches. When Disney bought Star Wars, I feel like there was at least one red flag that people saw as a major issue, and for me it was the revelation that EA would have the sole publishing rights to Star Wars video games. Star Wars Battlefront represents one third of EA’s output since they were given those rights, and it definitely seemed like a sign of things to come.
(It was a really pretty game, but like all modern Star Wars that's all it has going for it)
Before I move on to games that I consider to be Meh and games that I consider to be Good from the year of our Luigi 2015, I’d like to talk about Super Mario Maker and why I don’t think it really counts as a game at all. Super Mario Maker absolutely features gameplay, that is it can feature gameplay, but as a product it’s not a game so much as it is very limited game making softwear. Directly out of the box, you get the tools to create Super Mario Bros levels, and you get about three assets to work with. You unlock more assets and backgrounds to work with as you spend time making levels. Within about an hour or so you’ll have just about all of the familiar enemies, King Koopa himself, several backgrounds, and texture packs that represent the original Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, and New Super Mario Bros. I call these texture packs because they all share the same physics, and those physics come from the New Super Mario Bros era.
This doesn’t mean that you can use wall-sliding from the newer series with an older texture pack though, but it does make those older styled levels you make feel off if you’ve played those games recently. Once you’ve finished making your own level and posted it up on the Nintendo network, it may or may not be played by your favorite youtuber. It may or may not be played by the vast, unseen public and liked. Unfortunately, it’s more likely going to be lost in the ether with a million other Mario Maker stages. There is a sort of story mode in Super Mario Maker where you’ll play through either 10 stages crafted by the developers, or 10 randomly selected stages that were created by the Mario Maker community. There’s also a 100 level marathon mode, but there’s basically no difference aside from the numbers.
There will be one of three problems you’ll run into when playing user created Mario Maker levels: They’ll either be recreations of classic platformers levels you’ve likely played before, they’ll be I Want to be the Guy style levels that kill you almost instantly and for no good reason, or they’ll be novelty levels that rely on you not touching the controller at all as you’re pushed through a rube-goldberg style set of tracks, springs, and bounce pads. It’s hard to say how much value a maker-type game is going to have. Maker-games on the PC can be used to produce a product, but by 2015 the Wii U was selling so poorly that the number of people who would be producing and playing content based on this software was always going to be a relatively shallow pool. That’s not even taking into account the fact that fans of the Super Mario Bros. franchise have used other game making software to construct full games for decades already. It’s hard to say who, ultimately, this software is for. I wouldn’t call Mario Maker bad, or good, or meh, but it’s hard to even see this as a game in general. Whatever it is though, I spent a hundred and four hours playing around with it.
(I'm surprised Builder Mario isn't a Mario Kart character yet...)
Axiom Verge disappointed me. It looks like it would be right up my alley; a Metroid style game but with more of an H.R. Giger influenced art style and modern quality of life features (like a map screen) that wasn’t at all present in the original Metroid. From what I remember of the plot, weird science turned into downright horror and it’s up to you to try and repair the damage that’s been done as you explore a mutated facility. As you explore the facility you find more tools that will help you access new areas and defend yourself from the creatures lurking about. Exploration in Axiom Verge is interesting, but ultimately frustrating to me. I love the NES graphical style, but the problem is that solid walls that you can’t get around and walls that you can break if you want to progress are virtually indistinguishable from one another. It’s really easy to lost track of where I’ve been, and even with a map I had a lot of trouble navigating in general. I didn’t make it too far in this game; I may have fought two bosses but I was just too frustrated to stick with this one. I wouldn’t call it bad though, because of how different it is from other Metroidvanias I’ve played. I would have stopped sooner if I wasn’t so intrigued to see what the next weapon or boss I found might be.
(Fantastic aesthetic, but I just don't care for the game)
Broforce is a really simple side-scrolling shooter, unless you’re playing as a brawling character, but for the most part you’re playing as a dude with a gun-like weapon. While I played it, I recall it being a whole lot of fun, but then I realized that I haven’t played it in a few months and when I checked it on Steam it only looked like I played it for 18 minutes. I can’t even remember if I’ve fought any bosses or not, but anyway; Broforce has you play as a random, recognizable, action hero who you might recognize if you’ve watched an action movie from about 1982 up until about now. Each of the heroes has their own moveset and special attributes: Blade for example using a sword, the T-800 is highly durable (watch out for bottomless pits though). Thinking about it further, the main thing that kept me playing Broforce was the novelty of seeing which recognizable character I would be able to play as next. It’s a satisfying enough game to play, but what kept me playing was essentially just a bunch of references when I could just turn off my PC and watch They Live or The Evil Dead again. Broforce isn’t bad, it’s just kinda meh to me.
Codename S.T.E.A.M. is a tactical, turn-based, over-the-shoulder strategy kind of game. It takes place in an alternate-past where the United States went steampunk and here’s the thing: I’ve played this game for a few hours and I can’t remember anything about the plot. I’m fairly certain it has to do with aliens invading the Earth and President Lincoln fighting against them using a very XCom style group of specialist warriors. You can use Lincoln in your group too after a while, as well as Henry Fleming, John Henry, Tom Sawyer, and a number of Fire Emblem reps if you have their corresponding Amiibo.
Looking at the wiki, the story seems to go to some really strange places and involves other obscure characters like Dorothy of Oz and Shoggoths. The issue at hand is the way the game plays out: turn-based strategy shooters like this and Valkyria Chronicles don’t normally appeal to me. I really wanted to give this game the benefit of the doubt because of how different and interesting it looked, but the mechanics just didn’t engage me. There’s a level of management to keep in mind; you can only move and act if you have enough steam to do so, but as I understand it that’s standard for games of this genre. You characters get stronger as you complete missions with them, but this is an RPG so that too is standard. I don’t remember Codename S.T.E.A.M. being a bad game, I just don’t remember it being a standout example of its genre like Fire Emblem Awakening was. There’s a good chance Fire Emblem Awakening is one of the reasons I didn’t stick with Codename S.T.E.A.M, that is I went on to play more engaging 3DS games and never came back.
(I'm slowly getting into this type of game, but this one didn't do too much for me)
There are some games, like Theatrhythm, Guitar Hero, Hatsune Miku’s Project Diva, that makes me think I have a decent sense of rhythm. Then there’s Crypt of the Necrodancer, a game that I straight-up, flat-out, can not play. Yes there are visual aids, yes I do my best to follow the beat, but I haven’t been able to play for more than a few minutes before I lose the rhythm and watch the failure cascade. For the most part I downloaded this game as a curiosity, but at the time I couldn’t figure out how to import my own music into the game. I couldn’t handle the music that was specifically composed for this game though, I wouldn’t have lasted 20 seconds if I played with Cradle of Filth or Seal. I understand the appeal, and I know this game is well received; Hell they don’t make sequels and Legend of Zelda tie-ins out of bad games. My issue with Crypt of the Necrodancer begins and ends with me and my inability to keep up with the rhythm. It isn’t just attacking to the beat, it’s also movement and management. Everything you do needs to keep in time with a beat, and once I lose that rhythm I have to stop everything to try and get back into the rhythm. This happened to me a few times which was more than enough to make me stop playing and stop thinking about this game.
I’ve put about 50 hours into Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin, and I definitely plan on playing it again, but that doesn't stop this game from being less than good. Scholar of the First Sin is different from the initial release of Dark Souls 2 by having slightly better graphical fidelity, and being available on generation 8 consoles like the Playstation 4. Whether or not it looks like the initial E3 demo is a factor that I’m not completely sure about, but I’m sure this version is closer to what people were expecting before the initial release. Like with the previous game, you can build a character in Dark Souls 2 to be just about anything from a tank, to a pyromancer, to a miracle-slinging knight, or if you’re patient enough all of those things and more. Combat works the same here as it did in the previous game too in that it’s mostly about management: You need to make sure you have enough stamina to attack or dodge, you need to do your best to fight enemies one on one, and if you can’t manage that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Being overwhelmed can happen very easily here too since each location is highly populated by mobs of enemies. In fact it’s not uncommon to enter a new room and be set upon at multiple angles by a half-dozen enemies or more. If you find yourself having a lot of trouble with a specific area, but you’re able to take out an enemy or two before you fall, you may notice that over time fewer enemies spawn in. This is because Dark Souls 2 is unique in that enemies will stop spawning in if you kill and respawn them 10 times. This is in addition to certain enemies who disappear if you take them out once. Going in for a genocide run is therefore possible, if not potentially tedious.
Tedium is essentially why I’m calling Scholar ‘meh’ instead of ‘good’. Dark Souls had a reputation of being hard and it seems for Dark Souls 2 the developers made the game harder simply by adding more enemies, bosses, and traps. As I mentioned before, most enemy encounters in Dark Souls 2 are made up of groups of enemies who, while not necessarily being individually difficult, rely on overwhelming you through sheer numbers. This is an issue that bosses share with normal encounters; of the 32 bosses in the base game, 15 of them do (or can) feature multiple enemies. Bosses like The Skeleton Lords, Prowling Magus and Congregation, and the Royal Rat Authority are pathetically easy to beat on their own, but what makes them dangerous at all are the additional enemies who accompany them. The Royal Rat Authority is such a blatant example of this that most guides will tell you outright that if you get hit by one of the toxic rats in the Authority’s lair, you’re almost definitely going to succumb to the status effect rather than the damage that could be dealt by the boss itself. Compare that to Dark Souls, where only 8 out of the 22 bosses in the base game do (or can) feature multiple enemies per boss encounter. They may not even be noticable at first, like the archers who are set up on the tower behind the Taurus Demon or the Spell Casters who can buff the Gaping Dragon. In that original game they were there, but they never felt like they were there to specifically make up for the shortcomings of that boss encounter (except for the Capra Demon, who is a joke without the Dogs).
Despite the overwhelming number of trash mobs, Dark Souls 2 is very, very forgiving when it comes to health management. Like in the original, you have an estus flask which heals a lot of health. It can be upgraded to make it heal more, and also upgraded to give it more uses before you need to rest at a bonfire and recharge it. So far, so standard; but Dark Souls 2 also uses Life Gems, a resource that heals you a bit more slowly, but which you can grind by killing certain enemies and which you can purchase infinitely from a vendor after killing the first boss. There are different levels of life gems, but the larger ones just heal more HP per use. Unlike estus, life gems can be used preemptively and heal potentially lethal damage. For example, if you’re exploring a swamp area and come down with a bad case of poison, it’s possible to negate potential damage by using life gems if you have enough of them. If you take a few life gems and take fall damage, it’s possible to survive otherwise lethal drops. Life Gems are so effective that they almost overshadow the estus flask entirely. There’s even a stat that you can level up called Adaptability which, at the higher levels, allows you to use healing items more quickly. That’s not all adaptability can do though; raising adaptability raises agility and the higher your agility the more invincibility frames you get while rolling. When starting out, you could choose a build that has fewer frames of invincibility while rolling than what you may be used to from Dark Souls (where I-Frames were standardized), but now in Dark Souls 2 that’s a stat that can be leveled up. In spite of all of the factors that make Dark Souls 2 potentially frustrating, it seems like there are systems in place that undermine that difficulty. On the whole, Dark Souls 2 is a game that feels really easy to break. It can be overwhelmingly difficult in the beginning and towards the end, but it only takes a relatively short amount of time to grind beyond those difficulties. I have fun playing Dark Souls 2, but it’s a fairly inconsistent experience for me. I like Dark Souls 2, but it has a lot of issues and is definitely a ‘meh’.
(The Shrine of Amana and DLC areas are hairy taints)
I had enough fun with Devil’s Third that I kind of wanted to mark it as a good game instead of a meh game, but there are some factors that made me decide to backtrack a bit and reevaluate my opinion on this game. You play as a character who definitely isn’t Duke Nukem or Riddick, but if they were to fuse the result would likely be this or someone similar. You’re locked up in Guantanamo Bay, but since you’ve helped the US government in the past your cell is more of a penthouse apartment. You’re called into action when the dastardly terror cell SOD detonates an EMP and threatens to take over America! Devil’s Third is something of a hybrid game: at times you’re first-person shooting, but you also have melee weapons that you use in third person. It’s easy enough to head-shot grunts, but then you’ll have to hit heavy enemies and bosses with melee combos before you can start doing real damage with a gun. Then there are boss fights which I don’t remember ever requiring gunplay of any kind.
Both the gunplay and the melee combat were perfectly functional, but neither were really exceptional or particularly deep. Devil’s Third isn’t Wolfenstein: The New Order, nor is it Dark Souls, but neither system felt terrible either. That’s kind of the case for Devil’s Third as a whole: It’s fine, but it isn’t great in any way. There are better stories out there, there’s better shooting out there, there’s better melee combat out there, but this is a Wii U game so it filled a slot that was only half-filled to begin with. The main character is reminiscent of Duke Nukem, but he isn’t particularly funny or clever and probably would have worked better as a blank slate, but the story demands he have some personality given his relationship with the SODs. Devil’s Third was a game that I liked enough to have played through once, I even did a let’s play of it, but I’m struggling to recall much of anything about it. The boss fights were really challenging, but other than that I couldn’t tell you what the set pieces were. I hope this game gets another chance eventually, but even if it doesn’t I count this as a reason to get a Wii U.
Dirt Rally is a simulation of off-road racing and I wasn’t expecting that. I thought the Dirt series was more of an arcade racing experience, but I was completely wrong about that. I don’t necessarily regret buying this one, but it’s not at all a genre that I usually get into. I don’t have enough experience to say if this is a good representation of the series or its genre, all I know is I couldn’t get the hang of driving quickly enough to make good times without also careening off of hairpin turns and utterly demolishing my car. This entry is a great example of my ‘meh’ list representing games that I’m sure are fine, or maybe even quite excellent, despite me not getting into it.
At first glance Fallout 4 seems to be very similar to Fallouts 3 and New Vegas. For one thing, it looks like it should run perfectly well on last gen hardware. Aesthetically, the biggest differences between Fallouts 3 and New Vegas, and Fallout 4 seems to be the expanded range of the color palette available now. That’s a bit superfluous compared to the amount of role playing elements which have been torn out of what used to be an RPG franchise. Fallout 4 has you play as one of two established characters, the lawyer Nora or the veteren Nate. You witness the nuclear event that turns The United States into its post-nuclear equivalent first hand, and after a short tutorial your main goal is finding your infant son. I’m not now, nor do I intend to become, a parent, but I would assume finding your infant son is the kind of set-up that works better in a strictly linear setting not in an environment that will stop you every five minutes to encourage you to build a settlement, or find some other NPC’s non-infant relatives.
Like in the previous games finding new locations, completing quests, crafting, and killing enemies earns you experience points. Unlike the previous games leveling up gives you perk points which can be used to directly increase your S.P.E.C.I.A.L. skills or unlock perks governed by those skills. Instead of the old method of putting skill points into small guns or speech, you unlock a perk that gives you a percentage-based bonus to shooting specific gun types, or bartering or what have you. There isn’t really a level cap in Fallout 4, but there are an unlimited number of procedural quests so it’s possible to unlock every possible perk if you play for enough hours. This sounds pretty good, but if you look at the altar of sacrifice you’ll find the corpse of unique character builds. Remember how New Vegas had traits which would give you bonuses in some areas while limiting you in others? Small Frame for example made your bones easier to break while giving you higher agility, and Wild Wasteland would sometimes cause unique occurrences to happen. Traits are completely absent in Fallout 4, so if you want to be bad at anything your best bet is to just not play the game at all. This isn’t completely true though since the dialog has been completely overhauled and it’s absolutely terrible.
For one thing it’s completely derivative of Mass Effect’s conversation system whereby you can respond to NPCs with either an affirmative, a negative, a request for more information, and a fourth response which is either sarcasm, one of the other replies but worded slightly differently, or one of the other responses but not worded differently at all. Thankfully one of the first mods available for Fallout 4 simply, and literally, spells out every word that comes out of Nora or Nick’s idiot mouth before you make a fool out of yourself because you didn’t know what “yes but” means in the context of accepting a new quest. Unlike the previous games Fallout 4 has made it worth your while to collect all of the garbage that litters every square inch of every settlement, dungeon, and gas station you wander into. You can still use resources gathered from garbage to repair your weapons and armor, but you’re going to need the screws from clipboards and the adhesive from crusty socks to build better armor, augments for your weapons, components for power armor, all the way up to shops for the town you’re basically forced to build. I don’t know where this came from, and I wouldn’t have bothered with it at all if missions and achievements didn’t force me to, because town building is tedious and I never understood what it did for me other than bloating the amount of time I spent playing Fallout 4.
I played Fallout 3 for over a hundred hours because I liked playing through the different stories. I played New Vegas for over a hundred hours because there were more plots and alliances and builds than I’ll ever realistically experience. Fallout 4 wants me to nail plywood to 2X4’s so that an NPC won’t work as an arms merchant even if I repeatedly tell them to get the Hell to it. I’m expected to start 2 dozen small farms, and build up multiple towns, but all I want to do is use the power armor you forced me to grab during hour one to cleanse Deathclaw and Cazadore nests with nuclear fire. Unfortunately cazadores aren’t in this game, and I have more memories of being told that another outpost needs my help than I have of interesting characters or quests. I complained about it a bit ago, but there is some level of decision making that needs to be considered in Fallout 4; the factions who you can choose to join or screw over are The Brotherhood of Steel, The Railroad, The Institute, and The Minutemen. I don’t think it’s possible to completely betray The Minutemen now that I think about it, and I really tried because Preston Garvey is the most annoying quest giver I’ve encountered in this franchise.
The Railroad and Institute are diametrically opposed since one of them builds synthetic entities to use as free labor, while The Railroad helps the ones who have gone sentient to free themselves of The Institute. The Brotherhood are against The Institute because they’re technophiles who need to have all of the technology for themselves. The Minutemen try helping wastelanders and see The Institute as bullies who need to be given their comeuppance. This all begs the question; why should Nick and Nora care about these factions and their personal squabbles when they have a baby to find? It’s an important enough plot point that the game forces us to watch our spouse get Ted Kord’d (spoiler alert for Countdown to Infinite Crisis) in between cryo sleep and more cryo sleep. The overarching plot, ie: find your baby-child, surely comes first and foremost and it’s possible to skip over the faction wars. No, the plot sets up your son’s abduction as being the main motivating factor for your character’s journey, but every other plot point just seems to undermine it. Then there’s a twist which I had mostly guessed before the screen faded to icy-black before the tutorial kicked in, in earnest. If I wanted to play a game where I build settlements, I’d play Minecraft. If I want to play a fairly decent shooter with a story that gets bored of itself, I’d play Bioshock 2. If I want to play a Fallout game, I’ll play New Vegas, or 3, or Id try getting into Fallout 2 again. Yes, I’ve put dozens of hours into Fallout 4, but it feels like a Fallout game in name and set dressing only. I had fun with it at times, but it’s not a game I see myself playing through to any kind of conclusion any time soon, and not just because there's technically no conclusion.
(It's my fault for assuming the 4th game in an RPG series would be an RPG)
Fallout Shelter is a mobile game where you set up a Vault in the Fallout universe. Unlike a majority of the Vaults in that franchise though, you seem to be trying your best to optimize space, resources, and overall vault-dweller happiness. I just can’t engage with games like these: I gave it a chance since I like the Fallout setting, but the mechanics are just so passive and hands-off. I think I may have built up a handful of rooms before I lost all interest. I’m not going to call this a bad game for the same reason I’m not calling Dirt Rally a bad game: this isn’t my genre at all but since it didn’t beg me to spend money on microtransactions I guess it’s one of the better clicker-type games.
This is probably going to be a controversial take but I’ve never really liked The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. The 3DS remaster launched in 2015, and despite my general apathy toward the title I picked it up. Ocarina of Time 3D was an excellent upgrade, so I assumed the same would be true of Majora’s Mask. I was right too; Majora’s Mask 3D fixed the save system, it added a quest journal, it doesn’t look like cheap origami anymore, but it’s still not a title that I see myself playing again any time soon. I’m high strung and easily stressed out, so the fact that the premise of the game centers around a 72 hour time limit counting down to celestial armageddon keeps me from wanting to get into this one in general. At any time you can play the Song of Time and go back to day one, but that undoes any progress you may have made in a dungeon or in the side quests. Even if you beat the boss of a dungeon and save a district of Termina, going back in time undoes that and basically re-dooms that area. I don’t recall if this was a feature in the original, but after you beat a dungeon you can go back and re-fight the boss via a warp pad, thus giving you a chance to save the entire Principality of Termina when you’re ready to wrap everything up.
I know this was in the original, but key items you collect like weapons and masks go back in time with you so you don’t have to re-collect those when you mess about with time. There’s a bank where you can store money and it somehow transfers back in time, but that didn’t make sense in the year 2000 either. For me, there are two changes that really keep me from saying this is a definitive improvement: The first is that the Zora mask was significantly slowed down in this version. In the original, using the Zora mask to swim was fast and my favorite way to get around. Rolling as a Goron is as fast now as it was on the N64, but the Zora was made to slow down? That’s unfair, and possibly racist. The other thing is how Boss fights were changed. In the original, you use the dungeon item and most recent mask to fight bosses. None were really spectacular, and the Fierce Deity mask trivializes all of them, but they were simple enough puzzles to get through and fairly satisfying. In the 3DS version, they’re all given blatant eyeballs that you need to target to do any significant damage. It’s a little change, but it goes a long way to make the bosses all feel more homogenous. I can’t say I hate Majora’s Mask, it may not be the darkest Legend of Zelda story anymore (indeed, it may not have been if you consider the original to take place in a post apocalypse) but it’s got some engaging side quests. I understand why so many people love it, I’m just not one of those people. I’d play this before Skyward Sword any day of the week, but I would still count this as one of the lesser games of the franchise.
(The promo art was probably my favorite thing about this game)
Ori and the Blind Forest was a game that started incredibly strongly, but which I lost interest in as I played it. I eventually lost all interest when I read ahead and found out how it ends. The opening shows a picturesque world that seems like a lovely place to live until an encroaching darkness appears and seemingly sucks the life out of everything and every animal there. You play as Ori, an adorable thing that could be a handful of animals mashed into one. Your task is exploring the world, finding the source of the corruption, and hopefully reversing all of the bad things that conceivably can be reversed. In terms of gameplay, Ori is a fairly standard platformer. You need to get into tough-to-access areas to unlock new abilities, navigate around enemies until you’re able to attack them, and try not to be killed by deadly hazards such as spikes. I can’t say where exactly Ori lost me, I played it for about two hours but at some point I just lost interest. There were instances where I would get stuck on a platforming challenge, but nothing really stumped me outright. I really liked the story bit in the beginning, but I don’t recall any other substantial story beats after that while I played. I guess I was just bored by the core gameplay. The platforming isn’t bad, and unlocking new abilities to make you a more robust fighter is alright, but it wasn’t enough to keep me invested. I know this game has a great reputation, and it looks absolutely fantastic, but I just couldn’t maintain interest in what this game was offering.
Puzzle & Dragon is apparently a long-standing series of mobile games, and in 2015 the 3DS got its own entry, Puzzle & Dragon Z + Super Mario Bros. A part of me was expecting Kakarot with a title like that, but no it’s just the Mario boys and some cute creatures. I’m sure there’s a story here that ties everything together, but that’s not why I wanted to play this, I just wanted to play a simple match-3 on the 3DS while I was on breaks at work. You get that too, but it’s just different enough to what I wanted that I only played it briefly before I played something completely different on the 3DS. The puzzles are presented as turn-based fights; you build a party that gives you different abilities or elemental strengths and your enemies have their own strengths and weaknesses. On your turns, you pick one icon and move it somewhere else on the grid. While you move that icon, other icons will move around it and once you set the icon, any matches of three or more are counted. Those matched icons disappear, the grid refills, potentially more matches happen, and once everything settles damage is dealt. It was an unexpected way to play, but it made good use of the 3DS touch screen. What I didn’t like about it though is how unpredictable it could be. I guess that’s on me though, since I have trouble with lateral thinking, but to fully optimize a move in P&DSMBE you need to keep in mind where exactly your chosen icon is going to go as well as where every other icon you’ll be moving past is going to end up. When I was interested in playing this, I was working nights and the demands of this puzzle game were, at the time, just a bridge too far for me. I think this game might be a good one, and I might give it another shot if I get my hands on another copy, but I was happy to pass on it after a short time.
(It was pretty alright)
Until Dawn is a game I could just as easily experience on Youtube, and frankly I would rather take that route since I’m positive I can guarantee an all-death run of the story as well as a true, best ending run of the game without having to worry about failing a horrible motion-based QTE. First thing’s first, I don’t believe Supermassive Games for a moment when they say Man of Medan is the first in their Dark Pictures anthology, because this game fits perfectly and might as well be added in, similarly to how people consider Bloodborne and Demon’s Souls to be part of the Dark Souls continuity.
The story begins with a party in a house in the middle of the woods on a mountaintop. Since the people there are all hateful, they bully a pair of them into the woods and the evening ends with a tumble down the mountain and death. A year later, the surviving friends return to the house for another party, only this time the death is premeditated. Unfortunately escape is going to be difficult because of inclimate weather, a creepy old woodsman, hormones, and a literal monster. In terms of gameplay, there isn’t too much to worry about; at points you’ll be asked to choose between path A or path B, sometimes you’ll be asked to take one of a few actions, and at times there are quick time events that you’ll need to pass or else risk getting a potentially lethal outcome. I don’t remember the names of the characters, I haven’t seen all of the potential outcomes or endings, but there are some fairly entertaining set piece moments in this story. I would recommend watching a let’s play or two rather than playing it though.
(Tick Tock, it's death-o-clock)
Going by the Steam page, Velocity 2X looks like a metroidvania type of game with some space-combat. What it actually is, is a casual arcade-type game where you need to get through the levels as quickly as possible by mastering movement. The stages are fairly small, out of the first ten none of them took me longer than about 3 minutes to get through, and the main emphasis is on moving as quickly as possible without getting caught on the scenery and being killed by the scrolling screen. Enemies and shooting are introduced about 4 or 5 stages in, and exiting your vehicle to run through indoor areas is introduced much sooner. Velocity is a game that I didn’t dislike, but it wasn’t what I was looking for. I didn’t dislike it, and there’s nothing really wrong with it, but it didn’t pull me in. When I realized what it was, I told myself I would play the first 10 levels and see how I felt about it then. By the end of the 10th level, I concluded that this game wasn’t for me. I may reinstall it and play some more of it.
Viscera Cleanup Detail has a really interesting premise, and for that alone I can’t call it a bad game. Imagine a very M-Rated action game: the kind of game that features intense violence, gore, and gibbing. Now imagine what happens to those levels after the ultra-violent hero has moved on to pastures new. There’s a lot that will need to be cleaned up, and Viscera Cleanup Detail puts you in charge of that job. There are a bunch of levels that require cleaning up, and each one tells a very interesting story of adversity, death, and ultra-violence. The thing is, you’re not being paid to follow up on intrigue, you’re being paid to mop up the floors (and walls, and ceiling).
As you mop up pools of viscera, you’ll need to use your mop on a water bucket to clean gore off of it, failure to do so can result in you making more of a mess than what you initially had to deal with. Be careful where you walk too, because you can track blood if you just run around carelessly. There’s more to cleanup detail than mopping too: you’ll need to gather up debris like shell casings, incriminating documents, and body parts for incineration. The levels you need to clean up are huge, and it’s not uncommon for me to think I’ve done a good job cleaning only to see on a report card that I’ve only satisfactorily cleaned up 60% or 70% of each level. Luckily for people who aren’t me, Viscera Cleanup Detail has a seemingly robust multiplayer feature that I haven’t seen but which I’m sure makes cleanup much more manageable. I love the concept of this game, but it’s so demanding that I just can’t stay in it when I try getting back into it.
('s more n' me' job's worth...)
Wasteland 2 isn’t a game I’ve put a lot of time into, and that’s probably why I can’t say if this game is good or not. I recognized in the first few minutes that Wasteland 2 is going to need a massive time investment, and I’m not ready to give it that yet. In the 80 minutes that I’ve spent in the wasteland so far, I created a couple of characters who I assume have complementary skills. I’ve explored a tower, killed some raiders, and realized that I failed to properly manage my ammunition. I need to get this tower back online, but I just don’t have the firepower to do that right now. I just know I’m about to lose somebody to murderous, mutant rats.
I tend to have difficulties with CRPGs in general; when I played through Fallout 1 (a very similar game), I did so with the help of a guide. When I do get back into Wasteland 2 I’m almost definitely going to be guided. I’ve already experienced some trial and error when my first party lacked a healer. I didn’t understand who could use which weapons or why. What’s with the toaster repair thing, and what’s the story behind this room I stumbled upon where people seem to be worshipping cats? I’m intrigued, but Wasteland 2 has been in my “I’m going to play this later” list for nearly a year now and when Wasteland 3 comes out it may be shifted into my “I plan on playing this eventually, no really” pile.
(Toasters need repairing)
Xenoblade Chronicles X features the same boring, tedious, passive, auto-combat as Xenoblade Chronicles, but since there’s gunplay it isn’t as distracting as the previous game was. Chronicles X kept me playing, not because I fell in love with the world or characters, but because I was just engaged enough to want to unlock a battalion of Mecha. Once I had them, I quickly realized that the Mecha combat was just as automated and boring, but at least now I was huge and imposing. The plot isn’t terrible; I like the idea that Humanity is on the run from a genocidal alien fighting force, but the stakes are fractured when you realize that Earth has been destroyed and there’s no reason to assume you have a chance now that the population is a single-digit fraction of what it was with even fewer resources, on an alien world and being hotly pursued.
The game should have ended before it began, but in this context I guess Humanity is like The First Order from Disney’s Star Wars: The more of our stuff gets destroyed the stronger we get...I guess. Since we’re on an alien world, a big part of the game centers around surveying and resource gather, the gameplay of which is just tapping on the gamepads touch screen and setting probes up in the most resource-rich areas. Aside from the inconsistency I mentioned earlier, I think the plot is the strongest aspect of Chronicles X: dying and respawning is contextualized in a way that I don’t recall having seen before, and I wanted to see humanity rebuild, but I just can’t say I remember too many of the story beats or even any of the character’s names. I know there are people who are into auto-combat JRPGs, and this game looks great, but I’m just not feeling this one. I played through it to the end, which is more than I can say of the first Xenoblade Chronicles, but I wouldn’t call this a good game.
(Also it's open-world, which is pretty okay)
It seems I've smashed the upper limits of the word limit, so stay tuned! I'll be posting part two of my 2015 retrospective on Thursday the 18th. There's one more pile of Meh I need to talk about, then a cavalcade of positivity to follow!