Retro Games, Presentation, and Gatekeeping

For those of you who are white collar workers, imagine the following scenario. It’s happened to me more than once in real life, and perhaps it’s happened to you too …

A new bit of jargon recently crept into your industry. For now, let’s just make up a word, like … “scropely.” 

Everyone starts to use it, slowly at first, but it quickly builds momentum. At first you think you understand what scropely means, but then a few people use it in a new and seemingly contradictory way. Now you’re back to square one.

At some point you’re in a large meeting. The new jargon is being tossed around freely – everyone is talking about how something is or isn’t scropely. At some point it’s your turn to talk, and you bravely (or foolishly) state:

“I’m not sure about you folks, but I honestly don’t know what it means for something to be scropely.” →  Readout 3: Takedown

Review – Tyranny

Not long ago – it feels like yesterday – I put Tyranny on my New Year’s resolution list.  It’s still 2022, right?  I’m happy to report that I completed Tyranny.  I’m not sure I’m happy that I chose it for my list.  It looks unique, and starts out feeling different from other CRPGs, but by the end it feels like a reskin of other games.

Tyranny starts out on a high note – the animated style of the narration and Conquest portion of character creation mesh to give a very different feel from the typical beginning of a CRPG.  The backstory (fleshed out in Conquest), in which you are effectively middle management for the conquering despot Kyros, also feels fresh.  Not enough games have you start as middle management, assigned to a failing project and expected to turn it around.  →  Read it your way.

Awful Boss Fights

What do Wolfenstein: Young Blood and Halo: Infinite have in common? If you guessed that they’re both mediocre games, you’d be right, but that’s not what I was thinking of.

No, what I was thinking of is that they both have similarly terrible final boss fights.

The basic rules of each fight are as follows:

  • They both take place in a vaguely circular arena. You’re exposed if you go into the center, but you can find some protective walls if you move toward the outer edges
  • The boss flies and/or teleports around hurling projectiles at you, some of which can be difficult to dodge when you’re also trying to shoot back
  • Multiple waves of enemy mooks spawn in to try and distract you
  • The boss has multiple phases

It is uncanny how similar (and similarly terrible) these fights are. →  Call me game-shmael.

The Quest to Make Everything Playable

I have been on a long, expensive, two pronged quest to (1) make all games playable with original hardware (2) on my modern television. The two huge caveats are that it may all stop working at some point when the HDMI standard is replaced by something good, and “all games” actually means a lot of games, not “all games” as you would reasonably infer by my choice of the words “all games.” I covered some of my journey setting up old consoles for my OLED months back, so it is time to discuss the game portion. I will spoil it for you now – the answer is piracy.

Just joking, obviously I have cartridges and CD/DVDs for anything I have in ROM or ISO form because I deeply respect copyright law. →  Read Band 2

Gamifying Exercise – An Exercise in Patience

Like a lot of middle class white collar workers, I should exercise far more than I do. It’s a  challenge that my spouse and I have been trying – and failing – to conquer for years now.

I’m not going to go into detail about why it’s challenging. Anyone with a modicum of empathy, with a modicum of experience with the stressors of modern life, and who isn’t an Instagram fitness influencer will understand that finding consistent time, motivation, etc. with which to regularly exercise is easier said than done for a whole lot of people (and if you have established a successful routine, it was probably really challenging to do so, regardless of what Survivorship Bias might tell you).

(For better or for worse, I’m also not one of those white collar workers who is obsessed with endurance sports because it’s the only way they can feel alive in their otherwise soul sucking existence. →  Katamari Damaread

Gacha by the Nostalgia – Fanservice, or Predation?

I’ve played Gacha games – only four or five total – off and on for years.  I’ve rarely spent money on them, but I know they are – by design – predatory.  I find them relaxing and they offer just the right level of engagement for 10-30 minutes a day – sometimes more, sometimes less.

On some level, I know it’s a bad idea to play them.  Having played for years, I know the feeling of spending all your “free currency” on summons and getting nothing of value (where value can mean either a useful unit or a favorite unit).  It was tempting to spend real money – maybe $5 or $10 – to “support the game” and try for one last chance to get something good,but I managed to resist the temptation.  →  A delayed article is eventually good, a rushed article is all we post.

Maximum Spoilage: Inscryption Loses its Edge

The Maximum Spoilage series of writings is focused on discussing aspects of a game that would spoil said game to any normal person. Please continue reading at your own riskryption.

Inscryption is a great game that perhaps begins with more greatness than it ends. If you have any interest in playing, and you should, I would really not read this. Anyway, after being forced to “Continue” a game from the top menu when you start the game for the first time, you realize your character is playing a card-based board game under some duress. The game is legitimately unsettling when it dawns on you that you’re a prisoner and the in-game game you are playing likely has mortal consequences. The Frog Fractions-esque ability to step away from the board game – where you play the in-game board game – and examine your gloomy confines, all while your captor remains invisible sans his eyes, lends the game an ambiance of true horror. →  Prince of Postia: Article Within

Resident Evil 3 Remake Review

The 2020 remake of Resident Evil 3 is one of the most disappointing games I’ve encountered in years. It is the very definition of a cash grab, and now that it’s out, it’s doubtful we’ll ever get a version of this game that reaches its full potential.

But before we get into the game proper, we should start with a little history lesson.

A History of Stalkers

The original Resident Evil 2 not only featured two playable characters, but also two different story scenarios. In one of the scenarios, the player character is stalked by a Tyrant popularly known as “Mr. X.” He’ll show up to attack you in certain rooms, and is both stronger and faster than regular zombies. However, just like any other enemy, he can’t follow you through doors. →  [put on your VR headset now]

The Last of Us Rereleases and Remasters

I’ve seen some … complaints about the fact that Sony is planning yet another re-release of The Last of Us.

To be clear, I get it. On the surface, it does seem nuts that a single game would get three different releases, across three different consoles, in less than a decade. And these are distinct products – with their own unique changes, features, and additions – rather than straight ports of the original code to new hardware.

At a certain level, it feels bad. Maybe you consider it a cynical cash grab for Sony to do this. Maybe you think it points to a general lack of creativity and new ideas. Maybe it seems bizarre because the original, PS4-based remaster works on PS5.

However you feel, I get it. But – and I can’t believe I’m saying this – I also get where Sony is coming from, at least in regards to this new, upcoming release. →  Monster Reader 4

Aesthetic Gachaism

Here’s a pretty cool post from indie game developer Keith Burgun. It’s about a concept he labels as “aesthetic gacha-ism”, which he describes as follows:

The core of my conception of aesthetic gacha-ism is the commodification of games: both in how they are produced, the rules, the experience, the way it’s talked about. At nearly every level, the experience of games gets put more and more onto an assembly line, alienated from human experience, connection and meaning.

He then goes on to list some of the core tenets of Aesthetic Gacha-ism:

  • Extrinsic-reward driven (AKA “the metagame is more important than the base game design”)
  • Elements feel copy-pasted a lot, and/or “subdivided” to increase length
  • Compulsion-driven design
  • The (dreaded) crafting system
  • Commodified quests
  • More and more things “level up” in some way

(The author elaborates on all of these bullet points within the actual piece, so I encourage you to read through it.) →  Finger lickin’ read.

Switch Mario Party Games Compared by a Dad Who Would Rather Play Something Else

I’ve played Mario Party games off and on in the past. Sometimes I even enjoyed them. When you’re with a group of friends or family, and the down-time between turns and minigames doesn’t matter as much, they’re a great background game.

As a parent to a child who loves playing them, I have officially played enough Mario Party. The good news, for you, is that I have played enough Mario Party on the Switch to go in-depth on which one you should play, when you would really rather be playing anything else.

Super Mario Party

Although it’s a few years old now, there are several points in Super Mario Party’s favor. It has a large variety of gameplay modes – including 2v2 and 4-player co-operative modes, in case your gameplay companion is really insistent about winning. →  Game. James Game.

Out Run, I Mean Outrun Culture

A few months ago I found myself buying (and playing) the Sega Ages version of Out Run on Switch. It’s a great port with some interesting new features, and it made me appreciate the game all over again. Eventually I found myself doing some historical research on the game to learn more about its development and legacy.

Unfortunately, this was easier said than done. My search results were dominated not by Out Run, but by …. Outrun.

As far as I can tell, “Outrun” is the name of both a subgenre of synth music, and a surrounding subculture. According to the Outrun subreddit’s description, Outrun is:

Dedicated to the synthwave music scene, a revisionist 80s music style of synthesizers and pulsing beats, and the retrofuturist 80s aesthetic of fast cars, neon lights and chrome. →  Read, I am your father!

Top 5 Most Likely Video Games of All Time

After the recent scandal wherein President Carter revealed that the classic WonderSwan game Knuckle Justice: Fist of Freedom, Face on Fire (KJFoFFoF) was not an actual video game but rather an elaborate ruse perpetrated by stock insiders to bolster their Bandai holdings, the game industry has been looking inward and has not liked what it has found. With a key pillar supporting the entire enterprise of gaming now left crumbling into the ocean of deception below, it is unclear even to game historians if any actual video games have ever been produced or developed. It is against this tumultuous backdrop that we present you with our intensive research on the Top 5 Most Likely Video Games of All Time.

5. Rival Turf

With its overt graphics and controller support it is hard to deny this is a game. →  Post of Tsushima

Affordable GOG Game Recommendations Part 2

More GOG recommendations, continued from Part 1 here.

More Strategy games

Knights & Merchants: The Peasants’ Rebellion – If you’re into sims, this sure is a sim. When I had the time to play the original release (which had no fast-forward) I reviewed it. I find myself mostly agreeing with my earlier self; it’s an interesting game if you’re into the idea of building a supply chain from scratch, sort of like a peaceful, less dangerous cousin of Dwarf Fortress. I’d probably recommend the more recent Banished over this one, if only for the clunky combat K&M requires you to engage in – but if you want to build a medieval ant farm and then leverage it to crush your enemies, this might be your game.

Seven Kingdoms 2 – This is a deep, relatively slow-paced RTS that was largely ignored at release. →  Frankly my dear, I don’t read a damn.

Affordable GOG Game Recommendations Part 1

Since videolamer has begun the process of following in Buzzfeed’s esteemed footsteps, it’s only natural that we reach for the low-hanging fruit of picking out games we played and telling you to play them. GOG (www.gog.com), briefly branded as Good Old Games, is stacked with tons of games created by incredibly talented developers years ago, most of whom will never see any of the money you spend because the rights have been sold and resold dozens of times over. But at least if you spend money on these 20-year-old games, it will assuage the slight twinge of guilt you might have felt if you pirated them.

Many of these games are more than 20 years old. Some run in DOS/DOSBox, but many have fan patches available. Check the corresponding GOG forum first – there is typically a stickied topic for mods/patches. →  You reading at me?

Last Minute Nintendo 3DS and Wii U Virtual Console Game Recommendations

With eShop purchasing for the Wii U and 3DS set to end next year, and the majority of releases for the Wii U coming out in the 2012-2016 timeframe, it seems appropriate to bring up the immense loss of availability that we’ll see once the eShop is closed.

Digital-only releases are already only available to those brave few that bought a Wii U. There are fewer systems and games available on the Wii U VC than the original Wii VC (RIP), so even what is still available until next year is a stripped-down version of what once was. But many of the games available on Wii U VC are still unavailable to owners of the Switch via the Switch Online apps – so once the shop closes for new purchases, the selection will be further stripped down. Given →  God of War: Readnarok

Some Favorite, Disappointing, and Interesting Games from 2017-2021 Part 3

Jay

Night in the Woods: This is part of a trilogy (in my mind only) of left-wing games that also includes Disco Elysium and Kentucky Route Zero (Cart Life and some others would also qualify). It may be a little twee at times but the darker themes give it an actual edge that separates it from normal precious, hipster writing. Writer Scott Benson has criticized other games for using political stuff as background scenery for games without actually saying anything meaningful in the specifics of the game. On the other side of that coin, how many times have EA or Ubisoft developers created something that is plainly political in some way and then in interviews explicitly stated the opposite? Even the Fallout creators took this publisher approved position while doing the PR rounds for Outer Worlds. →  Read Theft Auto 4

Top 10 Trends I Ignored – An Old Man is Prideful of His Ignorance

In the dozen years since I used this site as a platform for bad jokes, Wii apologia, and po-faced discussion on design, many gaming trends have come, and in some cases, gone. Having ignored most of these shifts in the industry, I will now document these trends and explain why I am better than each of them.

  1. MMOs

These already existed when this site launched in 200…something. As I am competing with my dead grandfather at having the fewest friends, I worried social gaming would lead to comradery and therefore defeat. This fear was unfounded, however, as years on gaming forums have led me to accumulate exactly zero new acquaintances. “Who is that condescending guy who only posts single sentences that are obviously sarcastic?” is what I assumed people would say. →  [do not click]

Some Favorite, Disappointing, and Interesting Games from 2017-2021 Part 2

Chris

Pathfinder: Kingmaker: In many ways Pathfinder: Kingmaker is like an ultimate successor to Baldur’s Gate – it adapts a well-known, popular tabletop system, has a wide-ranging campaign, lots of side areas to explore, companions to recruit, and the now-typical CRPG base building is present (thematically a main focus, in this game, although your interactions with your kingdom may feel pretty stilted).

At release it was notoriously buggy.  When I played a few months ago, it still ran slow, but I encountered only a few crashes.  I like Pathfinder: Kingmaker a lot, but the vast variety of classes, feats and spells available, to say nothing of all the magical artifacts, is positively intimidating.  And that’s as someone who ran through this module in an actual tabletop setting, so I already knew the mechanics and part of the plot.   →  Prince of Postia: Article Within

Some Favorite, Disappointing, and Interesting Games from 2017-2021

Resident Evil VII

There is so much to love about this game. I love that it is an unashamed homage to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and to a lesser extent The Blair Witch Project and other “found footage” films. I love the RE Engine, which looks gorgeous while running well on all modernish hardware.

I love how it feels both new and old at once. The first person perspective and overall tone are different, yet it repurposes classic Resident Evil gimmicks (ie. the villain who stalks you throughout the game), and it is still plenty goofy when it needs to be.

RE VII was a sharp way to revive the series, pushing it in a slightly different direction that doesn’t abandon the series’ roots.

Fallout 76

This is probably my favorite game from 2017-2021. →  Xenosaga 2: Jenseits von Gut und Pöst