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What games did you complete? 2021 Edition


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So far:

1. Alba (Apple Arcade)
2. Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity (Switch)

3. My Friend Pedro (Switch)

I don’t know why I bounced off this on launch. Maybe too much hype? The break has done wonders and I now appreciate it’s a really silly, fun and enjoyable game. Kicking a frying pan into the air and spraying it with bullets that ricochet and kill enemy goons is too much fun. It’s only 3-4 hours long so give it a go. 

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Just the one so far, but it’s taken me a while.

 

1) EDF 5

 

My, what a game. 100% completion on normal as the Ranger, although weirdly the second last level was the last to fall — I got really annoyed with it on normal and tried easy, sailed through that to the last level which I cleared on Normal first go. But the second last took some serious weapon grinding to finish off. Added fun and hilarity with my (adult) daughter declaring that the enemies were all filled with purple jam (she’s not wrong, either), and of course that satirical audio track that runs throughout the game. Top class stuff. Don’t know that I’ll go for 100% everything completion mind — 4 character classes times 111 levels times 5 difficulty settings = who has time for THAT?

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14/02 - Concrete Genie

 

First one from February. A delightful little game. Looks stunning (makes me wish I had a 4K TV) and a lovely story to go with it. It's on PS Plus now and I hope everyone has picked it up.

 

Spoiler

January

10/01 - Spiderman: Miles Morales

23/01 - Yakuza Like A Dragon

 

 

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So far:

1. Alba (Apple Arcade)
2. Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity (Switch)
3. My Friend Pedro (Switch)

4. Don't Look Back (iOS)

A really short, free game (15-20mins) by Terry Cavanaugh of VVVVVV fame. Simple, provides a fair bit of challenge and really good fun.

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Spoiler

1. Sonic the Hedgehog SEGA AGES (Switch)

2. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 SEGA AGES (Switch)


3. Panzer Dragoon Remake (Switch)

I really enjoyed this once I got the controls set up to my liking. Better on the big screen than in handheld mode too, I reckon. I’m a fan of the original and although the new art style lacks the wonderful Mobius influence, it’s perfectly fine. I played through on both easy and normal with the original soundtrack. Next time I will try the new arrangements. Here’s hoping the superior Panzer Dragoon Zwei is in the pipeline. 

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February 

 

2. - Forbidden Siren 2 (PS2) 02/02/2021

 

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I've started creating a backlog of completed games to write up so I've got a few, but the main game I finished a few weeks ago was the PS2 game (on the console itself) Siren 2. In fact I'll talk a bit about both Siren 1 & 2 because I went through that later on last year but never updated the thread. 


Siren is quite an obscure, in fact very obscure and forward thinking survival horror title that's mostly forgotten about or unknown generally, however is in some respects an amazing series, but at the same time super frustrating. Interestingly it was created by one of the original guys behind Silent Hill 1 and is very obvious once you start playing as the general atmosphere, designs and even some of the enemies (such as the nurse in 1) are all reminiscent of that title. The difference here though is that they have added a lot of innovation and abstract thinking when it comes to game play and really tried to make something different. In some ways it's good but definitely won't appeal to many unless you're quite a hardcore survival horror fan of the older stuff. Siren 2 also only ever got localised in Europe and didn't make it to the US so it's quite rare really. 


The general way both games work is that you play out a series of individual stages which represent a part of the bigger story, although they are always played out of order and regularly switch between different characters each doing their own thing but merging towards a common aspect to the overall story where often they pair up with one another. Sometimes you'll be on your own and other times with a second character guiding them along a dangerously cautious path. It's very hard to get your head around even after completion but there's a village in 1 and an island in 2 which both end up suffering from some mysterious goings on where the cast of characters get dragged into and end up between worlds just like in Silent Hill with there being a dark and sinister world. There's even a warning "siren" sound just like can be heard in Silent Hill (from what I vaguely remember). The game play involves a really interesting concept where you "sight jack" into other people's vision including enemies and see their point of view as you stealthily attempt to make your way past them or take them on at the right time. It's really well done and adds a massive fear factor which genuinely comes across extremely effectively, but the biggest problem is that general movement and actions in the first game are extremely slow. Factor in the fact you mostly have to restart the whole mission if you die or you're spotted by a rifelman and shot dead instantly. Fortunately, the sequel manages to improve on a lot of things as there are many issues that let the game down but I still really enjoyed the first a lot. One thing for sure though is that it takes a huge amount of patience to get through especially if you aren't using any guides which is pretty much what I did. 


Both games have very similar styles of game play with very similar menu navigation and level select methods, but it took me forever to figure out how everything properly worked in the first game. There's far too little to aid you in that one and it's led to me playing levels and being stuck for a couple of hours only to realise there is no solution available until a condition is met on a different stage first. The sequel never allows you to fall into this trap and purposely goes out of its way to give you more guidance and hints. Not only are you playing lots of stages out of sequence and jumping between characters, but each stage also has a parallel alternative mission which differs a little from the first run through as though something new happened in the story which didn't occur the first time round and can only be activated by carrying out a specific task on another level. Essentially there's a lot that really hadn't been properly thought about in Siren 1 and it makes the game much more of a chore and a headache as a result. 


Another massively frustrating thing about Siren 1 is that when you die, if you happen to have found any collectibles, you lose them all and have to find these again. What's more annoying is that say you reach a checkpoint, if you start the checkpoint, you can restart it but will still be missing those items. This comes across like bad design more than anything else and all of this was fixed in the sequel fortunately.I have to point out that from what I've heard online, it's known as one of the hardest survival horror games out there. Siren 2 is definitely easier but still can be tricky but the first one is ridiculously frustrating and will require lots and lots of attempts like a dark souls game until you really get to know the level and what's going on. I love though how every character is different and control different, has their own weapon or no weapon at all. The rifle on Siren 1 is ridiculously bad to control, like the worst I've ever known for a sniper style sight shot because of the speed and lack of finesse of control. They fix this a great deal with Siren 2. 

 

I have to point out the really unique character model aesthetic design choice to go with modelling real japanese faces onto characters. It can often look goofy and hilarious but also often it really works well, especially in Siren 2 and the fact their faces are animated smoothly, makes it look very real and radiates that emotion perfectly, you know that emotion technology they always talked about (whatever that was) well this is better. There are some brilliant moments that will leave you in tears of laughter. The voices in the first are an odd mix of English over Japanese characters and it does feel out of place, but the sequel has Japanese voice actors who try to do the English in some odd accents. 


Despite the negatives, I was absolutely fascinated by them both and really got sucked into them and the atmosphere. There are several endings and each can be found by just trying to complete all the missions for each stage. It was really odd when I got the first ending the first time though (in Siren 1) because I'd just finished a stage with an 8 year old girl hiding and trying to escape somewhere, only to suddenly be greeted by a cutscene which had nothing to do with her at all and instead a bunch of other characters who played out a scene I'd not even known about so had no idea what was going on. Only by playing other levels afterwards did things start to slot together. It really messes with your head the whole time. I got every ending in the first game but the second one was a massive kick in the balls as I'd just finished the first ending with a few more sections to work on and the save file suddenly corrupted not to long after. These are long games and I must have spent about 50-60 hours on the first one alone. I've ordered another PS2 memory card anyway but it's a shame as I don't think I can be bothered to go through it all again, still I got credits rolling. 


Siren is definitely not going to be for the majority so I probably wouldn't advise playing it, but it's one I'm not going to forget at all and really think it's brilliant. The enemy designs of 2 are really mental and there's a secret made up mini game you find on a fictitious console from 1982 called Kunitoris. I haven't played Deadly Premonition, but I can imagine this being somewhat similar in the way it's portrayed (from what I understand it) as a genius mess. You just never know what to expect as you make progress and it will often pull some really crazy stuff out of the bag. Siren also came out on the PS3 and this is supposed to be a complete remake of the first game. I'll definitely have to check that one out one day but I'm going to leave the series for a while. I'd just bought the first two together from someone on here which is why I played them both. I wonder if we'll ever see a return to the world again in the future?
 

Siren 2 - I'll give it an 8.5 out of 10. 

 

 

Previously completed... 

 

 

Spoiler

 

January

 

1. - Summoner 2 (PS2) 15/01/2021

 

I really fell off this thread last year for the first time since I started recording my completions and part of it was due to building up a back log of text I needed to write but ultimately couldn't face. Therefore I've started afresh for the new year. At some stage last year I decided to go back and return to my PS3 for a few titles and that then led me to go back further and start buying for and resurrecting my original PS2 again. I've been through Siren which was strange, extremely slow paced but fascinating and Drakengard 2 and more recently, Summoner 2. 

 

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Some years back around 7 or so I played the first PS2 RPG Summoner game and while it was clearly dated, I did really enjoy it, and now I've had chance to take a stab at what the 2002 sequel has to offer. Overall it's pretty good once you get past the fact it's from 2002 and evidently quite dated and jankey. There are definitely improvements over the first game graphically as it feels as though there's much more variation in locations and more vibrant colours and better looking environments. One of the biggest changes though is the action which presents itself as a straight up action RPG. The original game from what I vaguely remember was more of an automated battle system where your characters would engage in battle but there was a system which allowed you to chain together multiple successful hits by timing presses. You'd physically walk but not attack in the same way as you do in the sequel which is straight up typical action orientated, allowing you to strike enemies with equipped weapons, use items and scrolls and various types of magic abilities. I did quite like this change and it pauses the game while you are in selection mode for whatever item or magic you are choosing to use. This adds an element of strategy. There are a bunch of characters that quickly get involved in the storyline and usually you'll have up to 4 on the go at one time whilst having several reserve characters in the wait. 

 

I'd say there's definitely quite a bit of challenge going on as it wasn't a breeze to get through, but there's a particular way it has been made that can really land you into trouble if you aren't prepared properly and happens a lot. Generally the game, while open to visit areas you've previously been is quite linear. In many cases once you start the next section of the main story, you're often prevented from going back until the whole segment is complete and this can vary as to how long you'll be unable to do things like shop for items or change characters. It allows you to save at any time apart from when there are enemies around and this can be dangerous as you'll end up saving but then realising you can't turn back to better prepare unless you've got a second recent save. This is made worse when it decides to split you up sometimes even solo or have you cycle through small teams making you utilize character who may be unprepared. Sometimes it auto assigns roles but others you get to choose and if you make the wrong choice I can see this leading to problems. There was a bit near the end where the main character has to leave and I was left with two characters who couldn't use any support magic including healing. Luckily I had heal items, except within moments of tackling some fairly difficult enemies, you end up in a scripted fall scene and suddenly it tells you all of your magic potions and health potions have broken, literally ALL of them so you have nothing. Fortunately one of my characters had a weapon equipped which caused 20% instant death (luckily) and it worked on the enemies I was fighting at the time. I think I'd have massively struggled if I didn't have that. One of my characters during the second to final boss was constantly healing the enemy just by fighting and I had to keep him dead in order to get by. It just felt like the sort of thing generally that wouldn't wash these days, but getting by felt good. 

 

It contains a lot of lore and things you can read and there are some references to the first Summoner game including one of the characters being from the old game, albeit the one I kept dead at the end as he was trying my patience. The cinematics are pretty good such as the opening sequence and the final showdown is great, although I wasn't too sure about the sudden twists in characters you fight at the end as they make a sudden entry into the action very unexpectedly and don't feel as though they are integrated well, especially the last boss character who is barely mentioned in the game at all and so has no real connection and impact. Still it's a pretty decent game with a lot of quirky sidequests, many of which I've not fulfilled but can often almost feel like a point and click in the way you try to suss them out with very little hand holding, but often you'll feel really great when figuring out something unexpectedly. 

 

It's not an overly long game at I'd say probably around 40-45 hours, but still enough to get involved. There are some really quirky moments like the city of masks which has you changing what mask you wear in order to speak to specific people in a strange world beyond. I'd probably have not bothered with this game except of my curiosity since having played the first and knowing it's also the last in the series, however I'm not quite sure which of the two games I prefer. I had really fond memories of the first and pretty sure that one lasted a bit longer. The more I got into it, the further away it felt from the first, but I liked how the first started from the perspective of a guy who had nothing compared to how you're a queen who has a lot of allies and power at her disposal. It felt like it could have been longer in some ways too where as I felt it was about right in the first game. They aren't the sorts of RPG I usually tend to go for as I'm more of a JRPG person when it comes to RPG's as a whole, but it's pretty good.

 

I think I'll give it a 7/10. 

 

 

I've got a few more to add but I'll do that incrementally over the next week or so. 

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18/2 - MegaMan 11

 

Continuing through my backlog of games. Bought this last year and like a lot of Mega Man games, I reach the Wily/Sigma stage and realise that the inevitable boss rush is coming and give up. I did that with 11 and only just picked it back up this month. Ended up playing on an easier difficulty because I just cannot be arsed with difficult (cheap?) games these days and really enjoyed it. Interesting new double gear system, good level design, and I do like the art style. Hopefully a continuation of the X series is next.

 

Spoiler

January

10/01 - Spiderman: Miles Morales

23/01 - Yakuza Like A Dragon

 

February

14/02 - Concrete Genie

 

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Genshin Impact - Late to games as usual, but I really enjoyed this, basically a massive open-world game with great exploration for free*!

 

Hooking exploration (one of my favourite things) into advancement is a bloody potent combination, and this took quite a few of my evenings, and this also has one of the best handlings of an "endgame" that I've seen, rather than the usual game thing of asking you to stop what you were enjoying and start a completely different experience, this starts to weave in resource gathering from bosses and dungeons early, and just has it grow in prominence as you reach higher levels.

 

There seem to have been a bunch of quality of life things added since launch, along with a new area, but I'm most interested in their plans for the future.

 

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In the datamined beta maps they seem to already have started on the next couple of regions, and even if the whole thing will probably take five years to appear, I can see myself popping back in whenever a new region drops. Recommended.

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20/02/2021 - Life is Strange (PC)

 

Well the blistering pace of January's completions was never going to be replicated throughout the rest of the year, especially with some long titles on my mental 'to play' list, but it's still nice to get something crossed-off.

 

Just a shame it was this.

 

I started reading the thread for this last night and know it got a lot of love (though I haven't got to reading what people thought of episode 5 yet) but I properly - and very strongly - disliked nearly everything about it. I hated Max & Chloe, I thought the script was poor, it looked quite ugly and it was full of those long (and some might say) pretentious shots of nothing in particular that the camera lingered on for too long. And the actual plot never really got going for me - is it a story about a missing girl, a tornado, powers over time or rekindling a lost friendship? In the end it's a bit of all of them, but all feel a bit diluted and every thread ultimately got wrapped up via a little vignette.

 

Despite it being over 6 years old, I'll spoiler some specific thoughts (including the ending) anyway:

Spoiler

Getting the ending out of the way first, I got rid of Chloe without a moments hesitation - not just because I didn't like her anyway, but because any other choice would've been incredibly selfish and prove what 'double' Max said in the diner - that she twisted the powers to effectively manipulate all those around her into liking her - powers she felt the need to also use on her supposed best-friend. And of course the fact that Chloe would've died in a number of ways without your interventions was telling you she wasn't meant to survive, so the dangers of Max messing with time were already demonstrated way before the end of episode two twist (though I don't claim to have seen that exact outcome coming).

 

 I really didn't like Max's sanctimonious air about her, either, especially the way she lectured those around her and that, paired with Chloe's massive chip on her shoulder meant, for me, they were both quite unlikeable. I don't think the game did a good job of establishing that crucial friendship between them, either, so when the 'kiss me' moment came up (which came across as incredibly juvenile and something a 40+ something man might write) it didn't feel earned even if the game really wanted you to choose it.

 

The script in general never gripped me, either. I thought it veered all over the place, from overwrought to childish to heavy handed, often within the same conversation - and Max's internal monologue was like the worst US tv shows at times, pointing out the obvious in extreme detail and also explaining things without any logical reason for thinking so.

 

It was also laughably bad at points, too - particular 'highlights' were the chats with Frank outside the RV: "Hey, I hate you both and am all grr, but you like dogs so I like you now, here's my book of drug deals and good luck!" and Warren's "Oh, you have time travel powers, huh, that I just believe without any surprise within 10 seconds of you telling me. Oh, the tornado *obviously* is your fault for messing with time! How did you not get that, dumbo?" and Chloe's "Right, so I know you can travel through time so have seen what happens and can't be wrong, but I'm not going to listen to you right now and have to be convinced before I go and get myself killed."

 

There were some good points - at times it did set a scene of small-town USA and it occasionally did look very pretty. It had some decent twists, too - Chloe's accident and Jefferson (though something did seem off that the game let you blame him for Kate based solely on her crying after speaking to him - compared to the stuff you had on David and Nathan, that felt a bit contrived.) It did do cause and effect so much better than Tell Tale, too, and made their games look very dated in comparison.

 

These were mere lulls in the storm though and the ending destroyed any hopes of redemption. I actually thought they might've gone the whole butterfly effect and had Max sacrifice herself to save everybody else, and Flub wrote a good summary of why that would've worked, but alas they went for a cheap shot approach that actually robbed everybody of their development and left me shrugging my shoulders and just glad it was done.

Ultimately this was an incredibly disappointing experience for me, one that - if I had Max's powers - I would happily rewind to never have bought.

 

Previously completed:

Spoiler

02/02/2021 - P.O.W. (Arcade)

28/01/2021 - Devil's Hunt (PC)

24/01/2021 - A Mortician's Tale (PC)

19/01/2021 - The Touryst (PC)

19/01/2021 - Druidstone: The Secret of the Menhir Forrest (PC)

15/01/2021 - A New Life (PC)

05/01/2021 - Vostok Inc. (PC)

02/01/2021 - Call to the Sea (PC)

01/01/2021 - Suikoden (PS1)

 

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Linked to my rant above, whilst Life is Strange: Before the Storm is definitely off the table, is it even worth me looking at LiS S2, Tell Me Why and Twin Mirror?

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2 hours ago, Gabe said:

Linked to my rant above, whilst Life is Strange: Before the Storm is definitely off the table, is it even worth me looking at LiS S2, Tell Me Why and Twin Mirror?

I don’t think so. More of the same really. Can’t speak for Twin Mirror, but I’ve played the others.

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Bit of an odd one, to be sure, but my second finished game of 2021 is

 

Pac-Land (PC Engine)

 

Like I said, odd — both as a choice for my brain to kick towards, and as a game itself. Imagine it’s the mid 80s, and Pac-Man is as hot as he’s ever going to be. Cartoons, cereals, bedspreads, and of course, arcade games. But you want something new to entice the kids, so you make him a platformer.

 

OK... I guess. But then it’s a platformer with run right and run left buttons, and REALLY awkward physics. Also ill-explained springboards, ghosts who drop smaller ghosts on you, ghosts driving buses... oh yeah, and there’s a fairy in your hat, BECAUSE THERE IS, and you’re helping it get home. At which point a bigger fairy gives you some magical flying sneakers that you use to go home, except this time it’s left to right rather than right to left.

 

Naturally, you leave the magic sneakers at home when you set off the next day to DO THE EXACT SAME THING, even though they’d be super handy. Repeat over 8 courses and you’re done. Although some of the stages in course 7 and 8 especially are right bastards designed to suck up your coins en masse. I don’t want to think how many Pac-Men drowned, fell into chasms or were captured by ghosts on my watch. Let’s just say that it would be a big, BIG yellow stack.

 

And now I’m done with it. Cute cut scenes, mind. But having finished it, I don’t think I’ll be back.

 

 

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February

 

Hitman 3

 

A thoroughly enjoyable finale to what is one of the most entertaining trilogies of any generation. 2016's Hitman was so on the (blood) money that only incremental improvements were really required in the subsequent two games. The overblown 'World of Assassination' story is perfectly tongue-in-cheek, only enhanced by David Bateson's deadpan delivery as the iconic Agent 47.

 

On the downside, while importing previous levels, replete with the improvements of the current iteration is an admirable inclusion, it is a shame the route to doing so is at best cumbersome. While there is still value in the previous games, a 'deluxe' version of H3 with everything included, without the need for multiple downloads and the worry of inconsistent server connections in hindsight feels like it would have been a better route for IO.

 

However, that is a small stick with which to beat an otherwise stellar series. IO deserve much more credit than admonishment, not least for producing something so delightfully playable (and streamable) amid concerns over the studio's own future. Hard work and effort paid off for them, and it is pleasing to know H3 turned a profit in pretty quick time.

 

As the dust settles on this conclusive part, and attention turns to what IO might do with a James Bond licence, it's probably fair to say Agent 47 will be back in quietly methodical murderous business some day in the future. The trilogy may be done but Agent 47 is a man built for retirement of others, not his own.

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21/02/2021 - The Room

 

I've been flitting between games quite a lot recently, and landed on this when I was after a puzzle game. The whole series seemed very highly regarded on Steam after all.

 

I quite liked it, but it was very much a sort of junk food example of the genre. It presented a bunch of puzzle boxes with a very light story to uncover as I progressed. It was often more of a challenge to figure out what I was supposed to interact with rather than solving the puzzles themselves, which were often a case of just doing the only thing possible rather than trying to really solve anything. A great puzzle game needs to push you along just far enough in the right direction, so you feel like you're figuring things out on your own without being completely directionless, but this takes things a bit too far I think.

 

It also suffered a little from being a mobile game ported to PC, as some interactions felt a bit fiddly with a mouse. This wasn't a big problem though.

 

Overall it was pleasant enough but left me feeling a bit unsatisfied, like junk food, but I'll probably check out the rest of the series at some point. I've even got the VR one to try, which I hear is excellent.

 

Spoiler

January

25/01/2021 - Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

February

21/02/2021 - The Room

 

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6. Return of the Obra Dinn (2018) - PC

 

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This is just as brilliant as everyone says it is.

 

My full review for MHG, also copied below with screens. I really appreciate any clicks or feedback :)

 

Spoiler

‘Early 19th century British naval uniforms’

 

‘Where is a lazarette on a ship?’

 

‘Is a bosun higher in rank than a steward?’

 

These are just a few of the things I searched for in my efforts to solve the many mysteries of Return of the Obra Dinn, the second major release from Lucas Pope, creator of the equally fantastic Papers, Please. Like in that game, this one presents players with a completely unique and compelling experience. You play as an insurance inspector for the East India Company investigating a ship that has reappeared off the English coast. The only problem is that all 60 of its passengers and crew have either mysteriously died or gone missing. Your job is to determine the fates of these lost souls. Armed with the crew manifest, a notebook and a pocket watch that allows you to revisit the dying moments of the corpses scattered across the ship, you take your first steps aboard.

 

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What follows is like an interactive and very elaborate game of Cluedo mixed with Guess Who? You wander around the ship, picking over bodily remains and using your magic watch to try to determine who died, how they died and who (or what) killed them. Occasionally, during these moments when you are warped back to the past, you’ll hear a name or a title. These allow you to match at least one of the people in the tableau you’re presented with in each memory to a name in the manifest with some degree of certainty. Such instances are rare, however, and discovering the fates of all sixty of these names won’t be so easy. You’ll find yourself revisiting the memories, over and over, to sniff out more clues, observing characters’ eye-lines and their proximity to one another in an attempt to determine their relationships. Later, you’ll try to figure out their nationalities from their appearance, their rank from their clothing, their identities from their tattoos.

 

Once you think you have a good idea of who someone is, you can match their corpse to a name, a means of death and a killer, but all of this is left up to the player. Beyond a few brief tutorials at the beginning of the game, there’s next to no hand-holding. The order in which you visit each of these memories is also up to you, and, indeed, the first flashback you’re likely to see is taken from the very end of the story. Often, in fact, you’ll find two corpses near each other and assume they died at the same time, only to discover they suffered very different fates on entirely separate legs of the Dinn’s doomed voyage.

 

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In the hands of another developer, you’d suspect the experience could become overwhelming, so it’s to Pope’s credit that it never does. There’s always some clue to go on, detail to double-check or hunch to drive your search forwards. Through a combination of keen observation, logical deduction and multiple processes of elimination, you start to uncover the grisly fates of more and more of the crew. It’s all immensely satisfying, and this is underscored by the way the game pauses and congratulates you every time you manage to correctly figure out what happened to three of the crew members. In these moments, a dopamine-triggering audio cue plays, the words ‘Well done’ appear on screen, and the speculative entries you’ve pencilled into your notebook are replaced with reassuringly permanent typed records. 

 

Each one of these eureka moments feels wonderful and will have you regularly fist-pumping in triumph. This is especially true towards the end of the investigation, once the more obvious mysteries have been solved and your tentative theories about some of the more obscure seamen – a nameless deckhand or mute steward – suddenly come to fruition. As all the best puzzle games do, Return of the Obra Dinn frequently makes you feel like a genius.

 

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What’s striking upon initially playing the game, however, isn’t the way it makes you feel but rather the way it looks. The ship is presented to you in a series of monochromatic lines and dots that resemble early Macintosh games like Dark Castle or Déjà Vu. This aesthetic does a lot to contribute to the ship’s eerie atmosphere – you spend the first couple of hours convinced something is going to lunge at you from a shadowy corner as you poke around the cabins and cargo stores. Despite the apparent simplicity of the graphical style, the 60 different characters who you meet in the memories all look different enough from one another to be recognisable, and by the end of the adventure you’ll be able to spot most members of the crew by sight. Their facial expressions are particularly well-drawn, whether they’re open-mouthed in amazement or grimacing in agony.

 

As distinctive as the game’s art direction is, though, it’s trumped by the sound design. When you first step aboard, save from the occasional creak as the wind tugs at the rigging, or the sound of the waves gently lapping against the ship’s hull, you’re met with silence. Activate a memory, however, and the game launches into a medley of moody strings, scant percussion and blaring brass notes. Each of these short arrangements (all composed by Pope) perfectly frame the flashbacks they play over, successfully inducing awe, shock or horror depending on what you’re shown. The fully-voiced script is similarly evocative, and one of the game’s masterstrokes is to prevent you from seeing the moments before a person dies, forcing you rather to hear them instead. You’ll listen intently to the conversations of the crew, the baying of a storm or the clamour of screaming sailors, all the while looking at a blank screen, letting your imagination fill in the gaps for you. Then, when the scene suddenly appears, capturing the exact second someone met their end, the reality of what occurred is often even more surprising than the pictures the preceding sounds painted in your mind.

 

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It all comes together to create an original and genuinely memorable adventure that delights as often as it disturbs. You can actually finish the game as soon as you’ve witnessed all of the flashbacks, even with only a third of the notebook filled in, but suffice to say that this will earn you the worst of the three endings. Should you persevere, however, and unearth the fate of every last soul, by the time you come to leave the Obra Dinn you’ll have enjoyed a profoundly fulfilling experience that respects your intelligence and rewards you handsomely for discovering the truth of what transpired on this most haunted of ghost ships.

 

Completed this year:

Spoiler

1. Hades (2020) - PC/Switch

2. Ori and the Will of the Wisps (2020) - Xbox Series X via Gamepass

3. Tetris Effect/Tetris Effect Connected (2020) - Oculus/PC/Xbox Series X via Gamepass

4. Black Mesa (2020) - PC

5. Astro's Playroom (2020) - PS5

6. Return of the Obra Dinn (2018) - PC

 

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21 hours ago, Gabe said:

Linked to my rant above, whilst Life is Strange: Before the Storm is definitely off the table, is it even worth me looking at LiS S2, Tell Me Why and Twin Mirror?

 

I loved Life is Strange and Before the Storm but I bounced hard off LiS 2. I think the first chapter is free now but I never got off the first chapter. I'll try again this year. I loved Tell Me Why eventually but I think you might very well hate it. But it's on gamepass so you can give it a try.  I didn't even know Twin Mirror existed.

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So far:

1. Alba (Apple Arcade)
2. Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity (Switch)
3. My Friend Pedro (Switch)
4. Don't Look Back (iOS)

5. Bowser's Fury [Story] (Switch)

Seen the credits roll but, as with most modern Mario games, that just unlocks a load more content. The run up to the end of the story is pretty stressful and I thought the last boss was great fun and, now I think about it, it's rather reminiscent of the boss at the end of Sonic Adventure. I think it's a great game and it made me smile, which is what we all need. 

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21 hours ago, Pelekophoros said:

03/01: Night Slashers (Arcade)

13/02: Ghosts Of Tsushima (PS5)

20/02: Kitty Letter (Android)

 

21/02: Concrete Genie (PS5)

 

Teaches the frankly embarrassing lesson that all you need to do to solve bullying is (a) understand that everyone has their own pain, even those who are nasty bastards and (b) you can all bury the hatchet and be best buddies provided there are magical terror demons everywhere that you get to fight and save them from because you've been imbued with a magic paintbrush. It also helps if your addition to their group makes them an even number so they can play b'ball together.

 

There's a more interesting commentary about the impact ecological disasters have on communities in here somewhere, but the developers didn't seem to want to tell that story much at all.

 

Having quite enjoyed the first two thirds of the game, the final bit devolves into absolutely generic action platformer nonsense and does its best to ruin all the highlights by making you do that in the areas you filled with your cool artwork.

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21/2 - Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Remastered

 

Some games are best left in the past. I remember loving this when it originally came out. Not just the multi-player, but the single player story I found stunning. Fast forward many years later and it's a victim of the COD formula being played out in the years since. More frustrating than fun. And the set piece gameplay has obviously been bettered as the series went on. Also, in the era we live in now I wasn't exactly thrilled at playing an "OO-RA! USA! USA!" type game. Still completed it though as it's fairly short and mindless, which is what I wanted on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

 

Spoiler

January

10/01 - Spiderman: Miles Morales

23/01 - Yakuza Like A Dragon

 

February

14/02 - Concrete Genie

18/02 - Mega Man 11

 

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Spider-Man: Miles Morales (2020)

In this follow up to 2018s Spider-Man, Miles Morales gets his own side story where he has to save New York - or, more specifically, his neighbourhood of Harlem - from a variety of bad guys.
 

This is a super-sized DLC, both in terms of length (longer than an expansion, shorter than a sequel) and the way the missions are lifted and shifted across from its predecessor; if you’ve played Spider-Man, you know exactly what you’re getting here, and that’s no bad thing: that game was one of the PS4s top titles.
 

The fat has been trimmed, so the slightly dubious stealth sections from the 2018 game are gone, which is a relief. Likewise, the villain roster has been slimmed down and the story takes place on a more personal scale, so while the game doesn’t thrill in quite the same geeky way the original did, with its epic fights against Vulture and Doctor Octopus, the impressive visuals and facial capture bring extra life to Miles and his friends, family and neighbours.
 

There’s also lots more detail down at street level in Harlem now, which is really welcome - it feels more distinct from the rest of New York and less spartan than previously. Not anymore, with lots of colourful street art adorning every other building and recurring characters popping in to say hello. 
 

There’s plenty of side missions to do, VR training to complete and you even get to rescue a cat at one point. Web swinging through Manhattan is still as joyful as ever - a strong recommendation for any PS5 owner and a feather in Sony’s cap for launch. 
 

Spoiler

 

09/01/2021 - Bloodborne

10/01/2021 - Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

10/01/2021 - Halo 2: Anniversary

13/01/2021 - Little Nightmares

26/01/2021 - Donut County

27/01/2021 - Astro’s Playroom

06/02/2021 - The Medium

13/02/2021 - Paper Mario: The Origami King

21/03/2021 - Spider-Man: Miles Morales

 

 

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Control (PS4)

 

It won't be a popular take on here but I found this equal parts interesting and equal parts frustrating.

 

I've got to applaud the visual design, innovative structure and ability to stretch the medium in terms of narrative design but it never quite clicked with me. And then it was abruptly over just when I started to get into a groove.

 

The most frustrating aspect was trying to navigate the largely grey and confusing bureau corridors. I spent more time trying to find my way to a location and getting lost than I did fighting enemies. This wasn't helped by the worst map since my geography teacher drew a plan of Filey on the back of a ticket stub.

 

The skill tree and abilities were decent enough but those endless mods and upgrades, what a load of old guff. That kind of shit is bad enough in an Assassins Creed game but here it was tiresome and irritating.

 

I enjoyed large parts of it, I really did. But ultimately it was like a mid-ranking Nolan movie: clever and engaging but emotionally unnafecting.

 

6/10

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21 hours ago, loathsomeleopard said:

Bit of an odd one, to be sure, but my second finished game of 2021 is

 

Pac-Land (PC Engine)

 

Like I said, odd — both as a choice for my brain to kick towards, and as a game itself. Imagine it’s the mid 80s, and Pac-Man is as hot as he’s ever going to be. Cartoons, cereals, bedspreads, and of course, arcade games. But you want something new to entice the kids, so you make him a platformer.

 

OK... I guess. But then it’s a platformer with run right and run left buttons, and REALLY awkward physics. Also ill-explained springboards, ghosts who drop smaller ghosts on you, ghosts driving buses... oh yeah, and there’s a fairy in your hat, BECAUSE THERE IS, and you’re helping it get home. At which point a bigger fairy gives you some magical flying sneakers that you use to go home, except this time it’s left to right rather than right to left.

 

Naturally, you leave the magic sneakers at home when you set off the next day to DO THE EXACT SAME THING, even though they’d be super handy. Repeat over 8 courses and you’re done. Although some of the stages in course 7 and 8 especially are right bastards designed to suck up your coins en masse. I don’t want to think how many Pac-Men drowned, fell into chasms or were captured by ghosts on my watch. Let’s just say that it would be a big, BIG yellow stack.

 

And now I’m done with it. Cute cut scenes, mind. But having finished it, I don’t think I’ll be back.

 

 

I played this a lot in the arcades as a kid, even though I wasn't very good at it (don't think I ever made it past level 3). It's one of those games like Manic Miner where I feel I should go back and exorcise the ghosts ... quite literally, in this case.

It would grind my gears though whenever I saw another kid playing it in the arcade, if he didn't understand how to get Pacman to start running.

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Spoiler

 

1. Forza Horizon 4 - Lego Speed Champions & Fortune Island DLC packs - XB1 - 8.5/10

2. The Gardens Between - XB1 Game Pass - 8/10

3. Sea of Thieves - XB1 - 10/10

4. The Legend of Zelda - Breath of the Wild (Switch) - 10/10

 

 

5. Luigi's Mansion 3 (Switch)

 

The BEST thing about being a parent is when you buy things for your offspring that you really really want to use yourself.  I can't honestly say that I told them that the Switch was just for them, but I bought my daughter Luigi's Mansion 3 with the intention that it was HER game.  So.... I had to borrow it.  I'd never played a Luigi's Mansion game before and I had to ensure it worked correctly, didn't I?

 

Well - it definitely works properly with the exception of some frustratingly fiddly control issues.  I've spent 15 hours on this and the vast majority of LM3 is fantastic.  It looks, sounds and plays like a dream - it's funny, the gameplay is varied, it's just the right length and the way the hotel is designed is very clever indeed.

 

I'll be honest - I'd LOVE to stay in the hotel in which this game takes place - 17 floors of mayhem!  The formula is pretty standard - each floor is its own themed level, with a boss ghost to defeat at the end.  Each boss ghost is in possession of the button for the next floor on the hotel's lift, so the more you progress, the more you can explore.  I thought it started fairly normally, but by the time I'd managed to collect all of the buttons for the lift, the themes become far less hotel-centric and more into batshit mental territory.  This is not a criticism because some of the themes are fantastic.

 

Early on, you're told that a key part of LM3 is collecting ghosts in a similar way to Dr Venkman and co - suck them up into your backpack.  The subsequent 'combat' style of bashing the ghouls using the A button until they submit to the vacuum NEVER gets old, and there are a small variety of spirits which require different methods to capture.  There maybe could have been a few more ghost types but sometimes, they are armed with extra items that mean you have to adjust your strategy accordingly so the lack of ghost types isn't a massive issue.  

 

Luigi has a decent array of tools at his disposal to help him in his quest - aside from the aforementioned backpack, he has a plunger, a special light which can find hidden items/doorways and Gooigi - a very helpful clone made from goo who can squeeze through bars/grills, and help Luigi with some puzzles, a bit like the Lego games.  I didn't go back and collect all the hidden objects (I don't think some items are collectable until afterwards anyway, due to extra abilities/perks you pick up along the way), but I'm sure there must be another 5 hours worth of gameplay to be had for the completionists out there.

 

The boss ghosts found at the end of each floor/level are all very unique, wonderfully designed and - MOSTLY - good fun to work out how to defeat. 

 

One exception can fuck right off - I've looked in the dedicated LM3 thread and it seems I'm not alone in detesting the design of one particular level that almost had me pulling my hair out in frustration.  The boss battle at the end of this level was even worse.  There are also a few rather tedious run ins with a pesky cat which overstayed it's welcome.  Not a bad idea, but grew tedious by the end.

 

Other issues include some poor controls - you can't invert them which I know for some people is a bit of a deal breaker.  Personally, I found it really annoying trying to aim Luigi's light/plunger devices.  During some of the more tense boss battles, this can make a difference between completing the level or dying.  Also, there's a huge amount of coins/notes to suck up pretty much everywhere from the very beginning of the game.  Some puzzles reward you with giant wads of cash which is all well and good, but there really isn't enough to spend this on.  Aside from 'buying' extra lives or the locations of rare ghosts or gems, there's nothing more you can spend this money on which means that by the end of the game, you have way more than you can spend.  I think I had in excess of 25,000 coins which is a bit daft when the extra lives (by far the most useful thing you can buy) only cost 1,000 each.  This could and should have been improved as you spend so much time collecting coins - I'm not the kind of player who sticks the challenge up to the hardest setting, but even so - I'm not going to want 25 extra lives to complete this!  (Disclaimer - I originally had 3 in reserve and completed it with 1 extra life remaining....)

 

But honestly, these frustrations within LM3 can be forgiven because it's such a funny, entertaining game.  There's also a decent multiplayer option in which a friend can help in the main campaign by controlling Gooigi, as well as some cool mini games you can play with others.  They're not exactly essential to get the best out of LM3 but they're a decent addition.

 

It's one of the prettiest Switch games I've played thus far - the cartoony style, the lighting effects, the tremendous character animations.  The sounds are just as impressive - so with the perfectly pitched game length (roughly 15 hours) it's a tidy, well polished title you can enjoy solo, or with friends.  Or indeed your daughter who is pretty annoyed that you've pinched her Christmas present.

 

8.5/10

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The only achievement I have left to get in this one is to get a lifetime score of 5 million points, which is basically just legwork, so ...

 

Streets Of Rage 4

As a kid, back in the days of the arcade, I was never very good at this type of game, so I was cautious about starting this, despite the glowing reviews ... but I turns out I needn't have worried. Gorgeous graphics and music, simple yet effective mechanics, bite-size levels that don't outstay their welcome, and an very rewarding combo system that makes you feel like a badass. A terrific package of pick-up-and-play arcade brilliance. 9/10

 

Spoiler

 

01/01/2021 - Syberia

07/01/2021 - Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince

11/01/2021 - Fe

13/01/2021 - The Touryst

19/01/2021 - The Gardens Between

22/01/2021 - Donut County

22/01/2021 - Virginia

23/01/2021 - The Witness

08/02/2021 - Trials Fusion

22/02/2021 - Streets Of Rage 4

 

 

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January -

1) Spider-Man Miles Morales

 

February - 

1) Horizon Zero Dawn

2) God of War

3) Detroit Become Human

 

started all of February's completed games when they were first released but stopped due to the noise of my PS4 Pro, it's a tough one between Horizon and God of War as to which i preferred but Detroit was actually really enjoyable as well.

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