Tagged: of 2015

Of 2015: The Mobile Games

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Bad as my eyes are these days I did play some actual mobile games in 2015. Most of them were free, only a couple were on my phone and some were barely games at all. In the course of dilly-dallying on this post I also came up with these crude ASCII symbols for each handheld so enjoy those as well.

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Early in the year I finally hopped on the crazy hype wagon for Crossy Road. Sure enough, it was a fun Frogger-like with voxel graphics and a bunch of goofy skins. Quick and fun and sometimes infuriating, I poked at it for a few months. Much, much later I happened upon Horizon Chase thanks to digging up news for OSV. It excels as an update and homage to classics like Top Gear and they even pulled in Barry Leitch, the original composer, to revisit the music. It’s fabulous looking, fast and fun to play but I think I’m going to hold out for the upcoming PS4 release to really dive in.

Honorable mentions go to Tori Watch and Neko Atsume!. Both are similarly peculiar Japanese phone “games” that simulate sitting outdoors and waiting for birds and cats, respectively, to wander into your yard. There isn’t much that you really do but they were both cute and free and very, very Japanese-y.

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Thanks to PlayStation Plus and PlayStation Mobile, the Vita continued to get frequent use through the first part of the year. OlliOlli 2 brought more 2D twitch skateboarding but even though it’s vastly improved from the original it didn’t grab me as strongly. The same month, Flame Over debuted exclusively on the Vita and I spent a few weeks throwing myself against its challenging mashup of firefighting and roguelikes. I’ve since picked it up on Steam where I enjoy it much more but I was happy to support the game early on.

Finally was Oh Deer! Alpha which has the distinction of only being available to buy for a few short weeks. It was one of the last releases to Sony’s Android-powered PlayStation Mobile marketplace which was home to all kinds of cheap, knock-off, and illicit apps and games over the years. As an alpha, Oh Deer! is a basic game, one that apes the art and gameplay of OutRun but replaces the Ferrari with a station wagon and traffic with deer. Lots and lots of deer waiting to be mowed down or avoided. It’s up to you and the game’s music — marking a return to the scene for Motohiro Kawashima — changes in intensity depending on how you play. I’m still hoping it becomes a full game some day.

 

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Serving as experiments in Free-to-Start design, and to tide people over until a proper sequel, Nintendo went nuts with free Pokemon games in 2015. I skipped Pokemon Picross because I will never understand picross in a way that makes me feel good playing it. Instead I kept up with Pokemon Shuffle and Pokemon Rumble World for a while.

Pokemon Shuffle is an oddball matching puzzle game with almost no rules and a lot of grinding if you want to catch and train all the ‘mon. On the game board you can move pieces just about any which way to make matches while daily energy limits introduce the “challenge”. Without paying real money there are few Pokemon you can catch so I just poked at its fun and colorful fringes before bed for a while.

Pokemon Rumble World is a Free-to-Start iteration of Nintendo’s long running but mostly overlooked Pokemon action series. It’s a little like Dynasty Warriors in that the fun comes from demolishing hordes of simple-minded fodder on the way to slightly tougher boss battles. I was hoping this would be the Rumble game I finally got into but I ditched it even before grinding up against its microtransaction wall.

Finally is Nintendo Badge Arcade which I’ve somehow spent the most time with. It’s simply a nefarious arcade claw game that desperately wants you to pump real money into it for a chance to grab Nintendo branded trinkets. You then stick these badges on your 3DS Home screen… to look at. That’s it. I have more to say in my Dailies of 2015 post but I’ll sum it up again here: it’s so well designed that it makes you feel great even when you’re scamming it for free plays every day.

Of 2015: The Might’ve Been Cools

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A new category this year for some of the games I didn’t have the time, energy or money to dive into. I mostly try to get through one game at a time so there’s a lot of stuff that gets pushed to the side. Here’s a few of them to serve as a handy checklist for myself in 2016 and beyond, if I should ever be lacking something to play.

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Deception IV: The Nightmare Princess (PlayStation 4)
A lot like the Dark Souls and Metro games, Deception has always been a series I’ve appreciated but never gotten into at the right moment to really get hooked. Playing a demo of Deception IV nearly had me with its bizarre dialog and even more bizarre traps but I still wriggled free of its clutches once again. Some day Deception, we’ll go steady.

Helldivers (PlayStation 4)
The idea of a grueling, highly technical, isometric-shooter-meets-roguelike is really appealing to me. I was waiting to see if it would be a PlayStation Plus “free game” but deep down I know it requires a fully engaged party of online players to succeed and I’m probably never going to find that.

Lara Croft: Rise of the Tomb Raider (Xbox One)
Sure enough, I skipped this one without a thought because it launched the same day as Fallout 4. I’d love to check out Lara’s latest adventure, especially given the praise, but who knows when I’ll get to. Maybe the all-inclusive, GOTY, Hardened, Ultimate, Survival Tomb Edition on PlayStation 4 will release right when I’ve got the free time.

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Murasaki Baby (PlayStation Vita)
It’s really sad to own a game you really want to play and just never take the time to play it. Hell, that’s 90% of my Steam library right now. I really should quit my job and full-time it on YouTube for a while just to motivate myself to get through these games. Anyways, Murasaki Baby is ultra weird and does some intriguing things with the Vita’s unique combination of touch and traditional controls. One of these days I really should try it.

Just Cause 3 and Mad Max
Mad Max launched right around Metal Gear Solid V and Just Cause 3 around Fallout 4. There’s just no time for more open world madness in 2015 so both of these are on hold. My main man, Rob, hooked me up with Mad Max on PC so we’ll see how that runs on my laptop someday. Just Cause 3 will most likely be played on a console so the longer they have to polish up its performance issues, the better.

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture (PlayStation 4)
I was really looking forward to this mysterious “mild apocalypse” exploration game but I wound up giving it a pass. Like The Vanishing of Ethan Carter in 2014 it seemed really appealing at the time but the whole sub-genre is starting to wear thin for me. At least Rapture might be a PS+ freebie one day.

Of 2015: The Best Old Games

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I spent a lot of time in 2014 digging up old games thanks to my collection of GameFan magazine. I spent months re-reading old issues and it turned me on to games I would never have given a chance in my youth. In 2015 I didn’t have many issues left to read and far less time to devote to research so the list is pretty thin this time around. It’s also surprisingly heavy with Dreamcast titles.

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I finally played more of Super Magnetic Neo, Genki’s bewildering and vivid action game that plays like the Ikaruga of platformers. Jumping from platforms isn’t enough, you have to manage red and blue magnetic polarities to keep up your momentum or die… a lot. I also returned to my beloved Sega Swirl to record its soundtrack and finally — finally — completed Super Runabout: San Francisco Edition. It’s not my favorite Runabout game but it was full of vehicular hijinks, funky jank, and the requisite surf rock.

Though I started it late in 2014 I played the majority of Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker in 2015. About 95 hours later I emerged with a new favorite Metal Gear game thanks to the HD treatment on PlayStation 3. It was a perfect primer for The Phantom Pain which tweaks what Peace Walker established into a broader, but not nearly as memorable, experience. Peace Walker has all the base building and tactical diversity of Phantom Pain but it also has that traditional Metal Gear weirdness in tow, and lots of it.

I wouldn’t have guessed it but the 1995 polygonal fighting game, Zero Divide, is the thing that finally overheated my PlayStation 3. I played through it as Zero — the “Ryu” of the game — because it had come up in a few YouTube or Instagram comments in the Spring. I didn’t spend long with it but it was great rekindling my love for its soundtrack and the awesomely goofy interpretation of the Internet from the mid-90’s.

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With the PlayStation 3 out of commission in July I had to revert back to the PlayStation 2 for my Unironic 4th of July Fantavision Appreciation Stream. Nobody watched it but I really love that mediocre old puzzle game and am always ready to run through its FMV story of an interstellar playdate. Just recently I was surprised to find the game got brought over to the PlayStation 4 where I bought it again and ran through it once more for a silly weekend stream.

And then there’s Putty Squad. From development to gameplay, that’s one weird game. It was developed for the Amiga 1200 and SNES but only released for the PAL territory Super Nintendo in 1994. The Amgia 1200 version wouldn’t be released until late 2013 at which point System 3 had also updated the game’s graphics, music and sound and brought it to just about every console out there.

The gameplay is just as mind boggling as the story behind its development. It’s a fairly straightforward platformer of the 90’s Euro PC variety but every element — the sounds, the backgrounds, the enemies, projectiles and pickups — create a cacophonous explosion of stimulation. I can’t tell if I’m dying or invincible or completing objectives but I kinda love it. I’ve played it off and on since picking it up for $5 on PS4 and there are many, many more levels left to go.

P.S. The PlayStation 3 got repaired at a local cellphone shop and it works great! I’m a little worried it’s going to overheat again so I keep the top cover off and I got a cheap Chinese USB fan to help pull more heat out of it.

Of 2015: The Dailies

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I think Trials Frontier was the only game I played in 2014 with a daily login bonus. But as free-to-play design continues to seep into console games it was only inevitable that even I — the type who avoids MMOs and Multiplayer Modes — would get sucked in by their promise of free junk. I know the idea is to get me hooked on a boost or a bonus and for me to then spend a bunch of money chasing the high, like they’re some kind of e-Pusher. But I can play the long con too and I’m content to load up a game every day to eek my way towards upgrades and bonus currency. Here are the ones I ran into most frequently.

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Nintendo Badge Arcade (Nintendo 3DS)
The winner for the most addictive, most elaborately designed Daily has to be Nintendo Badge Arcade. It’s a whole experience designed around playing claw/catcher games to win badges to decorate your 3DS Home screen. I don’t even do anything on my 3DS anymore in order to see my Home screen but I’m still hooked on taking a shot at the free Daily Play.

You don’t just go straight at it either; you play a practice catcher once a day and if you nab enough wooden practice badges the shopkeeper gives you a free play for keeps. It’s definitely the most satisfying Daily because the entire thing exists just to suck a few dollars out of your eShop wallet. I’ve collected over 100 badges and even had some mysteriously topple out of the machine without spending a single e-Penny. It’s the virtual equivalent of banging on a vending machine or running up the Skee-Ball lane when no one’s looking and it feels just as great here. So to that end Nintendo deserves credit for creating a realistic and devious arcade experience… but not my credits.

Guitar Hero Live (PlayStation 4)
One of the reasons I was interested in the new Guitar Hero was for the always-on streaming music video mode. It should have been no surprise to see them doling out increasing amounts of daily coins with each login but it did make me pause the first time it popped up. The surprise that continues to linger is that I can never get it to progress passed the first daily login bonus. Loading it up every day for a week, the game still thinks I’m on Day 1.

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Spelunker World/Minna de Spelunker Z (PlayStation 4)
Forget what I said about Nintendo Badge Arcade, Spelunker’s daily login bonuses were downright crucial to helping me understand the game. With only the busted engrish of Google Translate, it took a long time to figure out how the various upgrade/synthesis systems worked in the game. Each Daily would reward me with another freebie to experiment with. At the time I had no way to put real American dollars into this Japanese game to buy upgrades or currency so the free daily bonuses felt especially useful.

As I continued to play, and with the release of Spelunker World in English, I would realize the Dailies were just like any other Free-to-Play game; hooks. It’s totally possible, even fun, to play the game without paying for big chance draws of gear, using the daily bonuses to slowly fuel your upgrades.

Metal Gear Solid V (PlayStation 4)
This one was just a bonus as I fully expected to be online and playing Metal Gear every day for weeks anyways. I didn’t expect to be hit with so many news messages and event notices before I even got to the title screen but none of the F2P hooks so much as grazed me. It’s also memorable for having some of the weirdest daily bonuses like handfuls of flowers, Rare Earth Elements and free Men.

Four Kings Casino & Slots (PlayStation 4)
Very, very last minute was Four Kings which we discovered shortly after Christmas. It’s a Free-to-Play virtual casino world that’s almost a replacement for PlayStation Home. It’s full of ugly 3D models, terribly overpriced costumes, and it would love to take all your real world money in exchange for chips. Along with a daily spin of the fortune wheel, every 15 minutes you’re logged in the game dishes out a few hundred chips and even hides some around the casino to hunt down. There are also daily/weekly lists of objectives and free games that all reward you with free chips and currencies. It’s almost overwhelming how many ways you can get free stuff in the game; it’s been surprisingly captivating even for a gambling hater like myself, and we’ve stopped back a few times over the last week of 2015.

Total Real World Dollars Spent on Free-To-Play Games in 2015: $0.00

Of 2015: The Best Game Music

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Pardon my link bait but I already did a recap of my favorite game music from 2015 over at Original Sound Version. I even think it turned out pretty well so you should probably check it out over there. If, for whatever reason, you just can’t bring yourself to leave GameLuv I’ll do you a quick recap of my picks.

Game Soundtrack of the Year: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
By: Ludvig Forssell, Justin Burnett, Harry Gregson-Williams, Daniel James, Rina Yugi, Steve Henifin (Kojima Productions), Donna Burke, Stefanie Joosten

If you still love listening to a soundtrack after spending 200+ hours with it, you know it’s something special! While the storyline of MGSV may be all over the place, the music — from original score to mood-setting ambiance to licensed 80’s pop songs — holds true to the game’s themes of pain and revenge. Even the licensed tracks used only in trailers leading up to its release stick to the overall vibe of the game.

Runner Up: Minna de Spelunker Z/Spelunker World
By: Ken-ichiro Iwasaki, Maro Miyakawa

I don’t know how many hours I spent with Spelunker in 2015 but I kept up with the Japanese and U.S. versions almost every single day from April on. It’s a peculiar combo of punishing retro platforming and modern, free-to-play design that I can’t seem to get enough of. As such the infectiously catchy music has been in my head all year long and I love and hate and LOVE it!

Arrangement Album of the Year: V-Jams by V-Jams

V-Jams’ style hit me so hard back in August that it made me feel like a video game music virgin; as if no one had ever rearranged a video game tune before. It’s not because V-Jams’ renditions are ultra-authentic to the source material, far from it. V-Jams pushes familiar themes to the edge of recognizability and then noodles over them with amazing jazzy style as the minutes unravel. There’s also a bit of mystery around the collective which I’m eager to see revealed in 2016 because it means more of this astounding music won’t be far behind!

Runner Up: Volume III by DJ Cutman

While I love the wildest deconstructions of music I also appreciate the simple art of adding fat beats. It really was that simple on Cutman’s earliest works but for 2015’s Volume III there’s a lot more going on. Chopped and looped with layers of fresh drums and beats, he’s reinvigorated some of my favorites and introduced me to so many new soundtracks. Volume III is simply his most polished and professional work yet and well worth checking out.