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Some games I played in 2017

Sneaking in a quick Bomberman update with Bomberman 2001, a game that barely existed as a game. Any chance of finding new information it via search engines had already been squandered when at least three forum threads sprung up about it, so I might as well chuck this up. If someone happened to have raided that E3 booth seventeen years ago and done a runner with its contents, maybe we’ll learn something!
Despite no intentions of another yearly review article, I still keep track of the media I consume. I played nearly sixty games this year and watched eighty-something movies… and I’ve, like, barely anything to say about any of them. I’ll try and squeeze out some thoughts on the noteworthy ones under the cut!

Metroid Prime 2: Echoes (GameCube)

I was giving the first game a test-spin again just for a lark, and it got me a fixin’ to finish off this one, which had been left unfinished since 2009!
Well, it was nice to see it through to the end. Metroid Prime has a really terrific ‘feel’ to it: even with only one analogue stick the controls and movement feel perfect for me, and something as simple as moving and jumping with Samus in first-person is a lot of fun. Unfortunately, Prime 2 is a very demanding game that kind of doubled down on all my beefs with the first game, with the additions of worlds that feel never-ending and an ever-present health-draining atmosphere. I already hated the boss fights in Metroid Prime, now most of them have impromptu time limits because of that!
It still looks lovely and controls like a dream, though it was that and the Metroid charm that kept me going. In all honesty, I’m not sure if I actually enjoyed this at all! I’m still tempted to try out the third one sometime, though. No rush!

Congo: The Lost City of Zinj (SEGA Saturn)

I was always aware of Congo through various pop culture websites, from its crazy action figures to the unreleased SNES game, but I’d not actually seen the film (until midway through this year)… or even knew a video game actually got released! The Best Friends Play video showed me the light, but there was no good info of it online, not even a full playthrough. “Somebody’s gotta do it” seems to be my motto this past year, no matter how much it makes me want to destroy myself, so I decided I had to take it on myself.

A truly dodgy FPS where you explore labyrinthine levels while getting clobbered constantly by mosquitoes and rock-throwing gorillas. A real throwback to the game design of Doom and Duke Nukem 3D, only this one isn’t heralded as an iconic part of gaming history, and probably for good reason. It’s got some interesting bits, and there’s a certain novelty to fighting winged gremlins and giant laser-shooting monkey face statues, but it’s most certainly not a recommended game; the fact I bashed my head against it for six straight days makes me a little bitter, sorry!
I wrote a rough guide for myself and planned to finish it in text for the site and video for YouTube. Maybe sometime…?

Kero Blaster (PC)

A game from the creator of Cave Story, and that’s a heady phrase to throw around: Cave Story was the original indie darling, a passion project of six years that’s got story, exploration and oodles of challenge – and oodles of content! Kero Blaster looked nifty, but hearing it was a short, linear blast-em-up was a bit discouraging at first. Cave Story got you stacks of game for a free download, and they’re charging more money for less game?!

I wish I could say “I came to my senses and bought it”, but it got gifted to me for free on Steam, so ooer. Still, it’s a surprisingly enjoyable little game, and for all my grumbling about less content, it’s all the more playable because of it. Levels are a decent length and well-paced with challenge, and a basic playthrough still has reason to revisit to upgrade different weapons or learn new techniques. It’s got stacks of charm, and I still haven’t seen it all – the hard mode actually has an all new story (and is very hard), plus there’s two free games on Steam starring the protagonist’s co-worker that I’ve still yet to play. Glad I got to play it!

Shovel Knight: Spectre of Torment (PC)

This again! I still find myself falling into this game every few months, if only because I open Steam with the intention of trying something new, get tired of looking at the same old library, and end up playing Shovel Knight as a fallback. It’s just a solid piece of work!
This new campaign mixes up the playstyle again, feeling like it’s injected a dose of Ninja Gaiden into the moveset. It’s a blast blazing through stages as Spectre Knight, running up walls, slicing through foes and skateboarding on his scythe. Plague Knight had some satisfaction in mastering his peculiar style of play, but Spectre Knight is just so visceral, for lack of a better term. Everyone sings the praises of this game and I’m just another part of the choir, I’m afraid. It’s good, though!!

Blast Corps. (N64)

I’ve said before how I’m never sure of what Rare games I’ve finished, and that applies to Blast Corps. as well – so I made sure of it! A really imaginative and entertaining puzzle-destruction game, where you have to carve a path for a nuclear warhead in the quickest and most efficient way possible – though is it really efficient if it requires giant mecha and missile-equipped motorbikes? I’ve gushed about it on ONM Remembered before, surely.

The level of mastery on some vehicles is a hurdle, Backlash especially, and the game gets shockingly tense as it progresses, with real nail-biters as you have to work out puzzles on the fly as the warhead’s about to crash – but it’s so, so rewarding to make it through. Some missions can be real roadblocks until you work out the kinks behind the vehicle, but I always felt rewarded for pushing on, with quirky bonus stages and smartly-designed missions lying ahead. And if that’s still not enough, there’s some some bonkers time trials if you’re just that mad about it. I won’t be touching those, but seeing this game to the end with all gold medals felt good.

Pokémon Rumble World (3DS)

Also known as the reason I bought a 3DS. Er, yes, I had a sudden and inexplicable hankering for Pokémon Rumble on the go, and plunked down £80 for the privilege. I won’t pay the £200+ for a Wii U and the six games I want to play on it, but £80 to play one single game on the shitter? That’s where my priorities lie, it seems.
It’s… Pokémon Rumble. You run around and bash other Pokémon with your whopping two moves, acquire new ones with better stats, and repeat endlessly. It’s completely brainless and nigh-bereft of tactics and strategy… but gosh darn it, something about the game just tickles me the right way. It was already ideal for short pick-up-and-play sessions and being on a handheld aids that, making collecting all the critters a fun distraction rather than a foreboding life drainer, and the missions you get from the king are a decent change of pace (although not as intense as the WiiWare version’s battle royales).

I’ve been meaning to write a big piece on the game for ages (I forgot I briefly addressed it yonks ago); I’ve so many quibbles with its game design, and I’d hoped the WiiWare game was basically a proof-of-concept that they’d flesh it out in later games. I want to level-up my critters, to be able to fine-tune their abilities and have more than two moves, to have a gameplay balance that wasn’t just a ridiculous numbers game… but all they’ve done in each instalment is change the set dressing. I wish it were a game with an incentive to master it, instead of hinging exclusively on its random-drop gacha system. Still, I’ve sunk way too many hours into the game as-is so I’m still getting a dumb amount of fun out of it. Maybe I’ll just have to make that game myself!

Wild Guns Reloaded (Steam)

I discovered the original on the Wii’s Virtual Console back in 2012 and had a blast, and just had to pick up the much bally-hooed rerelease. Well, it’s not exactly a rerelease, nor is it a full-on remake; it’s the original game with some extra bits and bobs. It’s got two new player characters with whole new movesets, supports up to 4-players and rejigs the stage layouts to better support the widescreen display. Some bosses have new graphics and maybe a new trick up their sleeve, but it’s very much the same game with a couple of bonuses.
(… at least, that’s what i thought until i looked through the steam community screenshot gallery for imagery. whoops! there might be a brand new boss on harder difficulties!)

And that’s not a bad thing, it’s still rock-solid, and the new characters are a heap of fun. They both have their own twist on the established crosshair-shooting gameplay – Bullet, the dachshund with a robot assistant, can move freely while their shooting crosshair is locked in place, while Doris emphasises being rooted to the spot to charge up her score-multiplying bomb blasts. Doris’ sheer power and fast ground movement are right up my alley (plus she’s a fat chick who’s all about explosives, her design could not be more geared towards me), but the variety of play styles is an incentive to give everyone a shot.
I’ve only completed it on Easy and while I’ve managed to 1CC it, it does feel harder than the original. Some visual cues aren’t as immediately clear as the original (particularly the shadows of incoming mortars), and the larger screen means there’s a lot more information to absorb than the comparatively compact SNES version. It’s perhaps a bit overwhelming because of that, but it remains a solid-ass game that I truly recommend.

And a quick look at movies!

Beyond The Pyramids: Legend of the White Lion (1988)
A Japanese film based off a Japanese book that got adapted into a Japanese Famicom game… that eventually reached English shores as Legend of the Ghost Lion. I’ve got Drew Mackie of Back Of The Cereal Box to thank for writing about this, prompting me to track it down because clearly this was my year for spending money on the stupidest things.
I livetweeted a recap of the film and made plans to cover it for Random Action Hour… and I can barely remember a lick of it, so I may have to! The locations are lovely, but boy it is a kids’ film. A novelty in some regards, but I’d struggle to recommend it. Would people be interested in a full write-up for RAH…?

Tintin (2011)
I hated the look of this film from the trailers. I’ve had a history of beefs with how movies adapt otherwise cartoony source material, and this bizarre photorealistic mutation didn’t really win me over at first glance. Look at the Asterix live-action films! Surely it’s a mistake waiting to happen!
… well, I’m gonna have to eat crow and say I really enjoyed this. The art style looks so much nicer in motion when you absorb everything at once, the movement and lush environments and whatnot. It’s more madcap than a traditional Tintin story, but everything’s more madcap these days – even bloody Paddington, the most beans-on-toast of character franchises, is surprisingly madcap (but also a surprisingly good watch imho). The character and humour and mystery-solving is all there, and having watched it I’m gutted the plans for a sequel were scrapped. It’s light family entertainment, and that’s right up my milquetoast alley.

King Solomon’s Mines (1985)
& Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold (1986)
Indiana Jones on a budget. These films coulda been something, but are both let down by something. The first film is exceptionally dodgy, featuring neat setpieces let down by crappy cinematography (hands up who likes fight scenes with only two camera angles!) and a hero totally lacking any memorable qualities. What makes it worth watching is its cartoon sense of humour and the baddies, played by John Rhys-Davies and Herbert Lom, who easily carry the film. Their bombast and bickering makes for better entertainment than the heroes, and the finale has their feud come to a head with some darkly hilarious stand-offs between each other. I could gush about those two all day.

The sequel has a better handle on its cinematography, featuring some truly epic battles and setpieces… but I can’t give a damn about any of these characters! The heroes barely exchange dialogue, the villains don’t show up until late in the game and are literal nobodies, and there’s no personality among a cast of eight. James Earl Jones plays Umslopogaas, the bombastic leader of a badass tribe who’s constantly swinging his axe around… and despite stealing the show in his introductory scene, he manages to do nothing note despite being on-screen almost all the way through the rest of the film. What a snooze!
Also, the films are kind of really racist? It’s old-fashioned, though I’ve hardly the credentials to judge and I haven’t seen a review that didn’t mention it, so woof.

Sing (2016)

I mention this only because it’s this year’s film that nearly made me choke up. Pete’s Dragon ran away with that prize last year – that scene near the end where it flies away from the bridge had me want to bawl! – and Eight Below nearly claimed it because dying dogs are my go-to topic for crying in public, but Sing just sneaked it out. Something about Johnny coming to terms with obeying his dad and following his passions by singing “I’m Still Standing” just stuck with me. Who knew a gorilla belting out Elton John would give me the chills?

Although my year’s been relatively uneventful, for a lot of other folks it’s been truly banana sandwiches. I wish I could offer a sappy sentiment like “Random Hoo Haas will always be there for you” but it’s barely updated all year, so, um. Will you accept some quoted song lyrics? Try some “Platonic Long Song #1” from The Inbetween by Lauren Bird on for size.

“Life gets us down
But at least
We are here
We might not be tomorrow
Or next year
So let’s decide
That we’ll be alright”

That’s probably not an appropriate quote. I’m lousy at firsthand sentiment, I can’t even do the second-hand variety right. Hoping everyone has a good new year one way or another!

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  1. Random Hoo Haas › Wild Guns: Live & Reloaded on Friday, February 9, 2018 at 9:02 pm

    […] I’m still kicking myself for short-changing the game’s new content in my last “Some games I played in 2017” post, though I’m shocked there still isn’t a good list laying out all the […]