Covid-19 Lockdown: the Sequel – Video Game Picks for Survival

Like an inevitable movie sequel, the UK, among many other countries too, are back in Covid-19 isolation. As the virus continues to spread across the globe, many have been told to work from home and isolate where possible. Restaurants, bars and most non-essential shops have closed once again, and many people’s lounges have become their office. For others that may mean not being able to work at all. Staying indoors for long periods can of course take its toll in different ways to all of us. But don’t fear, as in between those Zoom/Teams/Skype meetings there is a plethora of incredible video game across a variety of platforms to catch-up on. Here is a list of suitable candidates to sink your teeth into.

Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom

There isn’t a soul in the world who doesn’t like Studio Ghibli, is there? Whether you have seen just one of their movies or the whole collection, it is easy to see why they’re loved unanimously around the world. So imagine the excitement of many when Ghibli decided to lend their talents to the video game industry. The recently remastered first Ni No Kuni entry, Wrath of the White Witch, adopted the standard JRPG style of open-world adventure with an active-time battle system. Revenant Kingdom retains the open-world aesthetic but with free-roaming battles, for a more action-RPG affair. Add to that a completely new set of characters and story, all animated by the Ghibli team, and you’ve got yourself an adventure well worth your time. It took over 100 hours of mine, and that was before lockdown.

Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom is available on PS4/PC.

Vanquish: 10th Anniversary Remastered

One of Shinji Mikami’s lesser-known titles, Vanquish is an action tour-de-force that is short but oh-so-sweet on the fingertips. You play Sam Gideon, an agent of DARPA (Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency), as he teams up with an army of US space marines to retake a Russian-occupied US space colony. Armed with the prototype Augmented Reaction Suit, Sam can wield three weapons of varying types at a time, from assault rifles to sniper rifles and laser cannons. Against the backdrop of an almost exclusively greyscale colonial fortress, you guide Sam to shoot, run, roll, duck, cover, even slide through six acts of intense, robotic-destruction action. A quick flick of L2 while rolling initiates a slick slow-down feature, which is critical as swarms of sentient soldiers breathe down your neck. Whilst a little dull in appearance, the 60fps upgrade to the speed of Vanquish is a real highlight. And if you’re a trophy/achievement hunter, this is a really fun and often-challenging title to exploit. And for less than £20, its a tough one to ignore if you need a few hours of unadulterated entertainment.

Vanquish is available for PS4, Xbox One, PC. Please check out my full review here.

Fall Guys

If you have access to a PS4, and a PS Plus membership, the likelihood is that you’ve had at least one round of Fall Guys. Visually a vibrant, multicoloured Gang Beasts meets Takeshi’s Castle (including the wacky costumes), Fall Guys pits round after round of sixty online players across several challenge games until just one remains to take the crown (By the way, that first victory crown still eludes me). Simple, fun and on the right side of frustration, a round of Fall Guys is the perfect way to pass on a few minutes.

Fall Guys is available on PS4/PC.

Streets of Rage 4

There are some positive events amongst the shit-cloud that is 2020. The announcement of one of Sega’s most beloved 16-bit franchises receiving a sequel over twenty-five years on was initially met with mighty scepticism. However, all those fears were crushed as publisher Dotemu, on the back of the excellent Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap, teamed up with Guard Crush Games to deliver the finest scrolling fighter since Streets of Rage 2. Ex-cops Axel, Blaze and crew are back. Ten years on from the death of criminal overlord Mr. X, his children have taken over as the new masterminds of crime. Streets of Rage 4 not only delivers top fighting action, it is a sequel that always has its predecessors at heart in all the right ways. Intuitive, challenging, exciting, wonderfully animated with an absolutely masterful soundtrack, Streets of Rage 4 is a retro-revival everyone should experience.

Streets of Rage 4 is available on PS4, Xbox One, PC and Nintendo Switch.

Marvel’s Spider-Man

Spider-Man is the most accomplished comic-book-hero video game ever made. Developer Insomniac Games have come a long way from platforming series Spyro the Dragon. Honing that platforming with a narrative adventure in the Ratchet and Clank series has led to this, a licensed comic-book adventure that is, at times, a storytelling masterpiece. As a long-time Spider-Man comics fan I needed to adjust somewhat to these new takes on Peter Parker and supporting cast. But Insomniac certainly stuck with the courage of their convictions to deliver an excellent Spider-Man tale that is a unique and universal experience for anyone willing to pick up their gamepad and play. It’s open-world Manhattan environment contains seemingly unlimited tasks and missions to complete, and that’s outside of the main storyline. Visually it ranks among the greatest looking games on Sony’s console, with a ton of top action and storytelling that makes Spider-Man an absolute must.

Spider-Man is available on PS4, with a remastered version available for the PS5 also.

There is still a fair amount of time left in this current lockdown, if it even is one (don’t go there now – ed.). If you’re having to isolate or stay home for any reason at the moment, hopefully these suggestions will keep the spirits up as we head towards Christmas and the next generation of consoles. Stay Safe.

My 52 Game Challenge of 2014

2014 was a great year for gaming. Particularly for me, as I decided to undertake the ultimate lonely gamer task: complete 52 games in a calendar year. That works out at just shy of 4.5 games a month. Ouch.

Now I’m typically a gamer who starts many games, but takes forever to finish them. Save points are often my weak point in that I often to decide to call it quits once I reach one. Note to RPG makers: NO MORE SAVE POINTS, autosave all the way please.

Anyway, although late one, I completed the challenge. A simple feat for a lonely gamer such as myself, if I’d not started it in June! Yes, that’s 52 games completed in 6 months. And here they are:-

Xbox Live Arcade:-

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

Streets of Rage 2

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Arcade

Streets of Rage 3

TMNT: Turtles in Time Re-Shelled

Street Fighter III Third Strike

Final Fight

X-Men

Sonic Adventure 2

The Walking Dead Season 2

King of Fighters ’98

 

Xbox 360:-

Lego Batman 2

PES 2015 (Champions League)

 

PSN – Duck Tales Remastered

 

3DS:-

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

Sega 3D Classics: Sonic The Hedgehog

Sega 3D Classics: Shinobi III

Kirby Triple Deluxe

Fantasy Life

Super Mario 3D Land

 

Wii U:-

Super Mario 3D World

Mario Kart 8 (Special Cup)

Bayonetta 2

 

Wii – Kirby’s Epic Yarn

 

Gamecube – Capcom Vs. SNK 2

 

Nintendo 64 – Lylat Wars

 

Gameboy:-

TMNT: Fall of the Foot Clan

Kirby’s Dream Land

Super Mario Land

Super Mario Bros Deluxe

Donkey Kong Land

 

SNES:-

TMNT: Turtles in Time

Mickey’s Magical Quest

Final Fight 2

Excitebike: Bun Bun Mario Battle Stadium

The Great Circus Mystery Starring Mick and Minnie Mouse

Aladdin

Super Castlevania IV

Street Fighter Alpha 2

Castlevania: Dracula X

Starwing

Donkey Kong Country

 

Mega Drive/Genesis – TMNT: The Hyperstone Heist

 

Master System – Sonic The Hedgehog

 

NES:-

TMNT 3: The Manhattan Project

Castlevania

Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse

Where’s Waldo?

Super Mario Bros 2

Duck Tales 2

 

Turbografix – Castlevania: Rondo of Blood

 

Arcade – Sunset Riders

 

Particular highlights from this list have been many, but the standouts are Kirby’s Epic Yarn, A Link Between Worlds, 3D World, Fantasy Life and Bayonetta 2. LOVE THAT GAME. Not many particularly lengthy titles I know, with Fantasy Life probably the longest, but there were some tough cookies, the standout being Castlevania’s III and Dracula X. But that was the beauty of the challenge; it drove me on to finish even those difficult titles, in order to move onto the next one.

I shall once again be undertaking the challenge in 2015, in fact, if I get to 52 in 6 months again, I may well go for ANOTHER 52! I shall keep you all updated on here, plus I shall Instagram and Tweet each game as I finish them.

How about you, are you up for the challenge?

A Short History of Ghostbusters Video Games

Note: This post was originally written back in November 2011, but with the recent passing of Harold Ramis, I want you all to remember the best of the games his characters have taken part in – Kev

ghostbusters_07_thumb1Ghostbusters is one of my most, if not themost, favourite franchises of my life. Beginning with the first movie in 1984, it went onto spawn The Real Ghostbusters, a massively popular cartoon series that continued the timeline, and the successful movie sequel Ghostbusters II. With forums currently rife with speculation and rumours surrounding an allegedly confirmed third movie, and with the release of a re-mastered original Ghostbusters movie for Halloween, has the video game industry done this fantastic license justice over the years?

Ghostbusters (Amstrad, Commodore 64, Spectrum, others)

Fondly remembered for me as one of the first video games I ever laid eyes on, this movie tie-in was actually originally developed at the same time as the original box-office hit, albeit as a different title to begin with, named ‘Car Wars’. The version I had was for the Sinclair Spectrum, which is unfortunately inferior to the Commodore version, in particular the graphics, colours and sound. But still a fine game, for 1984.

The plot was the same as the movie, but a large majority of the game took place driving from job to job with a close top-down view, sucking up any ghosts that came across the screen. From what I remember, control responses were capable but not great, and the sections were mostly very long and quite tedious. Nonetheless, these sections were also engaging and necessary to raise cash for more equipment. It did somewhat improve with the ‘busting’ portions of the game which followed.

Upon reaching your destination you’d control two Ghostbusters attempting to catch the little bugger with your proton streams and then trap it. So it was a case of tactically placing the heroes in order to make the shots count. This was by far the most fun section of the game; quite challenging and the controls were intuitive, too. If the ghost got away, or a trap attempt was missed, the ghost would then proceed to knock over one of your heroes, which in turn triggered the soundbyte ‘He slimed me’, direct from the movie.

On the Spectrum it sounded more like someone throwing up, but hey, this was 1984, remember? Touches like this are great for fans, as was the whole game. For the faithfulness alone, this should definitely be considered a classic.

Ghostbusters II (Gameboy)

Following on from the massive success of the original movie and the cartoon and merchandise that came with it, a sequel was inevitable. As is almost obligatory, particularly these days, a licensed video game was released to coincide with the movie.

Ghostbusters_II_008_US-NTSCI tackled the GameBoy version myself, which was a very fun, although simple and short game, and a welcome addition to a somewhat short list of decent movie-licensed video game releases. Our four heroes were represented as tiny, miniaturised versions of their movie counterparts.

After choosing your character, you then chose a second. However this was an NPC character who followed wherever you went, and this formed the simple but intuitive system for capturing ghosts. Your chosen character performed the proton blasts to hold the ghosts while the NPC held the ghost trap, and activated it on command by the player in order to trap ghosts and progress.

Ghostbusters fit the mould of the perfect Gameboy game with intuitive controls that suited the D-pad and buttons perfectly. With a Zelda-esque view incorporated and its dungeon-inspired levels, you couldn’t go wrong. Great fun.

Ghostbusters: The Video Game (Xbox, PS3)

love this game. Yes, this will be a very biased view of what is critically considered a decent, but far from perfect video game, but I don’t care. I love it. I even got a copy from the US due to the publishing nightmare it endured on the Xbox 360 in the UK, as they kindly left it region-free. For a Ghostbusters fan, this game is the ultimate experience. You play the new recruit to the original team, who are voiced by the entire original movie cast also (fandom EXPLOSION!), as they teach you the “tools and the talent” to be a Ghostbuster. It doesn’t disappoint.

ghostbusters-the-video-game-1Using the ever-popular third person view that makes Dead Space and the latter Resident Evil games so great, you make your way through streets, buildings and spooky cemeteries, flushing out ghosts with the PKE meter. You spend your time zapping then trapping them, using the wonderfully presented Ghostbuster equipment that we all know and love. There are some excellent variations on the norm too. The slime tether is used to pull heavy objects. The stasis stream freezes ghosts in their tracks for a limited time. The zapping and trapping system is everything you could want from a Ghostbusters game; proton beams weaken the enemy enough that they are then dragged to the trap and sucked inside. This looks almost exactly like the movies and cartoon series and you also get a real sense of pulling the ghost around, whether it’s to keep them in check, or guide them to a ghost trap.

This certainly was the game created with the fans in mind the most. As mentioned above, the original movie cast have reunited to provide the voices of their respective characters. The soundtrack is taken from the original movie, which is hardly original, but it’s still excellent to this day and fits in with the game very well. Even the achievements/trophies are named with quotes from the movies.

Overall

Unlike some movie franchises, Ghostbusters has been treated pretty well over the years. Only the most recent Sanctum of Slime seemed awful, so much so I couldn’t even bring myself to upgrade from the trial version. For anyone who thinks that all the Ghostbusters games were sub-standard, the 2009 video game is the exception to the general movie licensed video game mediocrity, and an excellent game in its own right. At £14.99 from Microsoft’s Games on Demand, Ghostbusters: The Video Game is also now a bargain.

Comic Book Games: The Best and Worst

Over the years comic book licences have brought a mixture of fortunes to the world of video games. There are as many treasures as there are turds. On offer here are three of the best and worst for you to experience (and avoid) at your leisure.

3 of the best:-

Spider-Man & the X-Men: Arcade’s Revenge (SNES)

 

Everything an old school comic book based video game needs:-

  • Team-Ups!
  • Amazing characters!
  • Cool theme music!
  • Faithful comic book menace only known to die hard fans!
  • Unfathomably difficult!
  • No continues!

Maybe not the last two so much, but Spider-Man & the X-Men is very challenging indeed. Once lives are all used up, that’s it; there are no saves or passwords. Sounds ominous, but this is a great SNES title, and a must for any comic fan.

The theme song sounds like a 70’s US cop show theme, with a very catchy accompanying soundtrack. Spider-Man & the X-Men is essentially a standard left to right plat-former. It does offer slight variation with each of the character-designated stages.

Spider-Man offers the standard action platformer, with Cyclops’ offering is similar but with much less margin for error thanks to electromagnetic railway tracks. Fan favourite Wolverine must venture his way through a carnival-themed nightmare and escape The Juggernaut. Gambit must use his kinetic-powered cards to venture a maze, while Storm swims for her life with a limited air supply.

Although one hell of a tough game, it is one of the more functional comic book video game ventures of the 90’s. Spider-Man and the X-Men is faithful to the characters of the time, although it was released mere months after the creation of the iconic Jim Lee uniforms that become the mainstay of Capcom’s Marvel series of fighting games. It offers better entertainment than the Sega-produced X-Men Megadrive/Genesis series, in one of many exclusivity battles that the 90’s paid host to.

Marvel Super Heroes (Arcade)

Ever since Capcom made the genius of move snapping up the Marvel license, the characters were pitted against one another in Capcom’s genre of choice – beat-em ups. There have been no less than eight different iterations, the first in X-Men: Children of the Atom, to the latest, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. For me, It was the second of such titles – Marvel Super Heroes – that captured the comic book essence most of all. It also happens to be an amazing one-on-one beat em up.

There are ten characters available, covering different angles of the Marvel Universe. Fan favourites Wolverine and Psylocke were retained from the success of X-Men: Children of the Atom, as well as the chance to play the final boss Magneto. Add Captain America, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Juggernaut and The Hulk into the mix, and you’ve got a truly great selection of Marvel characters on offer. With great boss characters in Doctor Doom and Thanos to back up the fantastic roster, it’s a fan boy/girl’s dream.

What separates Marvel Super Heroes from the crowd is the Infinity Gems system. Loosely based on the Thanos-related Infinity Gems storyline, five of the six gems can be obtained during combat. Each gem (Power, Time, Space, Reality, and Soul) holds different results. For example, if Juggernaut uses the Space gem, his armour turns silver, and will not flinch/fall after being attacked for a short time. These might sound off-putting or skill-quashing, but they occur infrequently, plus be activated deliberately. Gems can be obtained from your opponent after key hits, such as first attack.

Although the Marvel vs. Capcom series has since massively expanded the series, Marvel Super Heroes is a true gem (pun intended). The conversion to home consoles was also notable for being among the better ones,

Batman Arkham Asylum (Xbox 360/PS3/PC)

The arrival of Batman Arkham Asylum exorcised a couple of superhero/video game demons:

  • Firstly, it had been years since a decent comic book related video game had finally been developed.
  • The second? It was so damn good it still stands up with some of the best third-person action/adventure games of this current generation, something unheard of for a comic book license.

Batman Arkham Asylum is a superb video game. It is a perfect homage to the comic to which it is based (Arkham Asylum), and to the excellent 90’s animated series, with its quality voice acting. A clever and intuitive fighting system allows you to take on swarms of enemies at once, to spectacular effect. Batman’s vast array of gadgets is gathered as the adventure progresses, such as the grappling hook, Batarang’s, and so on. Detective mode may have a bit of a naff name, but is a necessity for success; following vapour trails, footprints and clues that would be otherwise unseen. You really feel like you are Batman.

3 of the worst:

Straight off the bat, I am compelled to mention Superman 64. It is widely regarded as not only the worst superhero game, but the worst game for the Nintendo 64. Just to confirm, it is not one of my picks, as I have never played it.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES)

When this, the first TMNT video game for the Nintendo Entertainment System, was released, many flocked to it, particularly kids. I was one of them. I was not going to pass up the chance to be one of my new-found cartoon heroes. Having sampled the fun but brief arcade scrolling beat em up, hopes were high.

Oh dear. A few minutes in, it becomes clear that despite the license, this is a travesty of a video game. Adopting a more platform approach, the gameplay is hideous, and then some. Jumping is so unnecessarily high that small gaps are just near impossible to make, attacks are sluggish and take forever to complete. The visuals barely have more colours than a ZX Spectrum, with lots of flicker and slowdown. The swimming sections will have you wishing your ‘heroes’ were once again pet turtles, just to navigate them successfully. I loved it as a kid, being only eight at the time, and was one of the first NES games I ever played. Unfortunately, TMNT is not one even for the nostalgic, as the video below explains with more subtlety.

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 (Xbox 360/PS3)

I’ll admit I was excited for this one. What a comedown it was.

 

Nope, I’ve no idea what’s going on here either.

I’ve always been a fan of scrolling beat em ups, which Ultimate Alliance 2 is a variation of. But the action itself is a nonstop, repetitive, button bashing hell. You lose as much health as you gain, and most of the time you are not aware of it even happening.

With tedious levels, repetitive bosses, terrible voice acting, it’s difficult to want to be one of your favourite Marvel heroes in this one. Indeed, that’s Ultimate Alliance 2’s only saving graces; the vast amount of playable characters on offer, and the plot, borrowed from the successful ‘Civil War’ storyline. But considering the arduous task Ultimate Alliance 2 is to play, I wouldn’t bother.

X-Men: Children of the Atom (PS1)

Ok, so it’s not one of the worst games, but it is an awful conversion of an arcade classic.

 

The lying bastards.

The pros:

  • A home conversion of a classic. We all welcome that.
  • Its X-Men, therefore cool in my book.
  • That’s about it.

The cons:

  • The frame rate is shocking. 30 FPS in fact.
  • Slow down and intermittent mid game flickering
  • Much slower than even the Saturn version, never mind the arcade
  • Ending has been removed (!)
  • Capcom didn’t develop this version.

PS1 versions of Capcom fighters were generally slower but never this bad. Children of the Atom also arrived 4 years too late to the home market, leaving it a very redundant release.

So these are my picks, but how do yours differ? Any stinkers you feel need reporting, or classics that need addressing? Comments below, please.