Monthly Archives: August 2017

RACING GAMES

  • Forza Motorsport 7

While crosstown first-party rival GT Sport is dialling back on its “car-PG” origins and shifting the spotlight from the usual scale of its virtual garage, Forza Motorsport 7 is doubling down on it. As such, Forza Motorsport 7 will ship with over 700 cars and a renewed focus on collecting them, experimenting with them, and learning about what makes them interesting. Some of that 700-strong list is bolstered by a few same car-different livery instances (plus some pre-tuned Turn 10 variants of existing cars) but for the most part it’s set to be a broad smorgasbord of cars from all kinds of countries and categories.

  • WRC 7

Developer Kylotonn turned a corner with WRC 6 last year, producing a strong rally game with a respectable career mode, well-designed stages, and a responsive handling model. It was definitely the most fun I’d had with a licensed WRC game since the PS2 era and it made for a credible companion game to the technically stunning Dirt Rally. WRC 7 will now arrive in the wake of Codemasters’ very good Dirt 4 – which launched earlier this year – and seems set to make a similarly strong case for itself. WRC will feature split screen multiplayer and 55 official teams, including a “large selection of WRC 2 and WRC Junior drivers.” It’ll also feature modern rally beasts from Hyundai, Citroën, Ford, and, yes, Toyota (a brand that has developed a sudden aversion to some, but apparently not all, racing games). It’ll even include a Porsche 911 GT3 RS R-GT, which is a first for the series (the R-GT Cup is a fledgling championship for rear-wheel drive GT cars held across five tarmac rally rounds in Europe).

  • Gran Turismo Sport

It’s easy to forget when there are such vast gaps between instalments but the Gran Turismo series remains Sony’s biggest-selling first-party franchise, ever. But even though Gran Turismo Sport will be the first GT game on PS4 – and the brand still carries plenty of cultural cache amongst car fans – the pressure is definitely on. Sales of Gran Turismo 6 dipped more than 50% from Gran Turismo 5, and the PS3 generation itself was a self-described “nightmare” for developer Polyphony Digital. To make things even more difficult, the competition has never been fiercer.  In the face of this challenge Polyphony Digital has re-invented Gran Turismo. It’s not a 1000+ vehicle, car-PG collect ’em up anymore; the focus is now esports. There’s still a solo mode, but the purpose of the 150-or-so drills in ‘Campaign Mode’ is really just to prepare players for the iRacing-inspired ‘Sport Mode’, which is the scheduled, online multiplayer side of the game.

Old Video Game Systems

  • Super Nintendo’s Satellaview

The Satellaview was an add-on subscription service for the Super Famicom (the Japanese version of the SNES) that allowed you, via satellite, to download games and stream satellite radio—in 1995. Through Satellaview, Japanese gamers had access to a bunch of exclusives, including a Chrono Trigger “visual novel” sequel (Radical Dreamers) and two new Zelda/Zelda-related adventures, presented with so-called “SoundLink” live audio voice acting. That’s right: live voice acting. Many of the games, in an odd and early example of DRM, could only be played during designated times, much like watching live TV, enabling actors to perform live voiceovers during cutscenes experienced by all gamers simultaneously, like a radio play.

  • Virtual Boy

A re-released Virtual Boy would also be a big hit at barcades, where many patrons are planning on waking up with headaches, eyestrain, and nausea anyway. It just so happens to be the rare console you could comfortably play (relatively speaking) while seated at a bar or high top table, so it’s a perfect fit. Keeping tipsy gamers from chucking it across the room after a frustrating round of Teleroboxer could be a challenge, but all things considered, it’s a hell of a lot cooler than a sticky old Megatouch machine.

  • Gamecube

The Nintendo 64 was such a popular console it will almost surely get a re-release at some point, but its successor, the GameCube, isn’t as safe a bet. It’s the third worst-selling Nintendo console of all time, with only 21 million units sold in its lifetime.  But its fans are fervent: GameCube owners bought more games for the console than other Nintendo system in history, and the controller design is legendary. Even in the Wii and Wii U eras, Smash Bros. aficionados, for example, kept using GameCube controllers, thanks to backward compatibility on the Wii and a game-specific adapter for the Wii U. Nintendo recognized the desire to use the controller for other Wii U games, because it created official GameCube-style controllers for the system—an unprecedented move. Considering the rabid fanbase and insanely popular controllers, a budget-friendly re-release of the GameCube with wireless, Wavebird-style, Switch-compatible controllers would be an excellent bit of fan service—especially considering the baffling lack of GameCube titles on Nintendo’s Virtual Console.

Great video games

  • Mirror’s Edge

Parkour never looked so good. When Mirror’s Edge came out in 2008, the free-running, climbing, jumping game made movement exciting again, instead of just something you have to do between battles. It even worked the whole “travelling by foot in a futuristic city” thing into the game’s narrative. Alas, critics were quick to point out that the game was just way too short, with some calling it the “first chapter” in a new franchise, which would at least have made the quick intro forgivable. What nobody knew was that the next chapter wouldn’t be out for at least another eight years, and it would be a reboot. Even time trial modes didn’t really rescue the Edge universe from being a four-hour, one-playthrough experience.

  • The Order: 1886

Even before The Order: 1886’s release, Destructoid was already reporting that the full game ran shorter than the average workday. On the one hand, eager players would only have to call in sick for one day. But on the other …. damn, that thing was sixty bucks. Generally, overly brief games are accompanied by an online multiplayer mode to kill the time, but The Order is a self-contained story. There’s a lot of be said for a coherent, conclusive narrative … except developers Ready At Dawn kinda bristled at the implication that their game was too short. Vampires are forever, but this vampire game is so short, you won’t even have to take a bathroom break.

  • Marble Madness

If ever there was a game built for speed runs, it’s Marble Madness. After all, the game rewards you with extra time for completing levels quickly. Impressing people in the arcade in 1984 was certainly worth all of the quarters plugged into the machine, but not so much at home. For roughly $50, skilled home players had about three minutes of solid marble maze enjoyment, and players who sucked had all the joys of repetition and practice … until they reduced Marble Madness to a three-minute game. That’s time better spent learning the clarinet or eating half a sandwich, but certainly not worth everything in your piggy bank.

  • Trine 3

The beautiful Trine series wouldn’t have made it to a third game if the series sucked, but it might just be the threequel that drove the nail into its coffin. After developer Frozenbyte spent over $5 million developing the game, they were still unable to realize all of the ambitious ideas they’d started with. The result was a game that was immediately panned for being too short, according to PC Gamer. Frozenbyte went on to say that in order to make the game any longer than it already was, they’d have needed triple the budget. Further DLC hasn’t been planned, and despite otherwise positive reviews, the studio remains unsure about the future of the franchise after Trine 3’s weak reception.

  • Brutal Legend

A unique theme, innovative and unusual gameplay, multiple awards, a top-notch cast of voice actors and musicians … and about six hours of actual gameplay. Brutal Legend presents an interesting mix of action and strategy, plus a pretty awesome, heavy metal-themed story. Soon after release, however, word spread about the game’s length. Fans quickly realized that the game was a weekend rental, rather than an all-out purchase, and sales numbers suffered. Also, casual game buyers couldn’t figure out what the game was actually about, aside from Jack Black and metal music.

Children’s video games

  • Ecco the Dolphin

Developed by Novotrade International for the Sega Genesis, 1992’s Ecco the Dolphin looks, from the outside, like a harmless children’s game. After all, what could possibly be creepy about playing as a bottlenose dolphin? Fourth-grade girls like dolphins. Heck, everyone likes dolphins. Ecco the Dolphin undoubtedly creeped out many unsuspecting children in its day, but there’s something even more creepy about it when viewed through the eyes of an adult. And it’s not just the aliens that are unsettling. As Andy McDonald described in Vice, it’s the “Pink Floydian soundscapes” and oppressive sense of loneliness throughout — the game hints that humans no longer live on the planet — that really make this game feel properly disturbing.

  • Lemmings

Many people are at least vaguely familiar with DMA Design’s puzzle-platformer Lemmings, which originally appeared on the Amiga, Atari ST and PC in 1991. The iconic, blue-clad, green-haired lemmings are cute and cartoony, but don’t let the title’s outward appearance fool you. It’s a dark, twisted game, in which your sole objective is to minimize these hapless creatures’ suicidal death count.  Furthermore, the game hides one hidden gem of a horrorshow in the form of Level 14 of the “Tricky” difficulty tier, appropriately named “MENACING !!” The level is indeed menacing, and definitely not the image anyone conjures up when thinking of the game. The level is basically Hell, with bloody entrails, skulls and limbs hanging from the ceiling, a long snake comprising the floor, and a bottomless pit of death. It looks like something straight out of a late-’80s satanic death-metal music video. Though the level is apparently designed after fellow DMA Design title Menace, that doesn’t change that it’s out of place, hellish, and certainly not very kid-friendly.

  • Taboo: The Sixth Sense

Perhaps one of developer Rare’s least-known titles, the Nintendo Entertainment System’s 1989 fortune-telling, tarot-card simulator Taboo: The Sixth Sense was the first game of its kind developed specifically for the American audience. Though many kids probably played the game during sleepovers with their friends, taking baby’s first steps into the occult and giggling at the naughtiness of it all — it being one of the few licensed games to feature nudity, if you’re lucky enough to draw one of the three cards showing breasts or behinds — the game was technically directed at adults. Not that anybody cared.