52 Games a Year 2021 Edition/ Game Record 2021:
  • 9. Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble! (SNES) - 4hrs 55mins

    It's taken me 25 years but I've finally got around to seeing this through.

    First off a couple of minor gripes. Kiddy Kong plays exactly like Donkey Kong (apart from the underutilised bouncing on water), his inclusion feels kinda pointless. I'd much rather have played as Dixie and DK rescuing Diddy instead. It does feel a bit odd that you only play as DK in one of the three games in the original trilogy.

    Secondly, the overworld map is more free roaming than the previous games. Your not exactly gonna get lost but again for me it doesn't add enough, following the dotted lines would have been sufficient.

    Now these aren't gamebreakers and the main bulk of the game is top notch stuff, but you can kinda tell RARE's top staff were busy with N64 development. Its a little samey and safe.

    In 1996 the gaming World was at peak hype for the 3D evolution, and rightly so imo. This must have felt like a relic post Super Mario 64 and to be fair, it's not as good as DKC2 or Yoshi's Island, both of which released a year earlier.

    Thats not to say its a bad game though, far from it, and thankfully we now live in a world where 2D games get a bit more respect than when most of us were obsessed with polygons. I was one of those so I can't say I regret passing this by in 1996, but the reality is this is a great platformer and easily one of the best of the era.

    Very happy to have finally completed it, and would highly recommend to other fans of the series who it may have passed by.


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  • 23. Super Mario 3D World (Switch)
    Played this solo a couple of years ago and either gave it a 9 or a 10 (10 seems a touch high if it was that). It was in my top 5 games of the 2010s. But this run was co-op with the sprog. And Jesus Christ Nintendo. You can't just add more players to a game and expect it to work. This is atrocious. Very little fun to be had at all. Kid loves it obviously but what does she know. 

    So many of the things that earned it a high score originally are absent when you chuck other players into the mix. I've been mopping up stars and racing through levels on my own for unlocks (as there's no chance of getting some of them in regular play with the kid). It's slick and great and occupies this sweet spot in the brain of gentle concentration and enjoyment. 

    But in MP, you'll get pelted by enemies you can't see, someones always got a visibilty problem, the camera gets confused who its supposed to be following. It's not the person who is further along the level path. It's not the person bringing up the rear. It just flips a coin and decides who's going to end up on screen and who isn't. 

    Some of the things in the game just can't be done with more than one player. Maybe there's a group of four people in the world that enjoy going along those green, two-directional pressure platforms that travel on rails, with cannons on their heads that can hurt each other, having to stand right on the edge of the platform and fire at an exclamation block to switch the rails before quickly, in complete synchronisation, switching back to the other side of the platform before falling off the edge, while being fired at by other cannons and having indestructible flying skeleton koopas bob around. Maybe people exist that enjoy that and are capable of doing it. That's classic Mario in SP. In MP, it's a catastrofuck. Admittedly, that's a post-credits bonus level but there's a lot of that sort of shit throughout. If you want to make a casual mario party platformer, fine. But you can't just take a normal Mario and start chucking extra players in. I properly hated playing it this way so it gets a spite-fuelled co-op only score of 50%.
  • I don't mind it in co-op but it's a very different beast. It's less tacked on than something like Rayman Legends but it definitely doesn't always work.

    I'm a couple of hours into It Takes Two with Yoss and the overall quality has really surprised me, it's a proper co-op experience for sure. It'd be too fiddly for Tilly, the bosses especially, but I'm looking forward to eventually playing it with her.
  • Part of the problem is the kid really just wants Odyssey-style wandering around. Time limits and lives and the rest of it aren't restrictions she cares much about. Two decent players communicating and knowing what they're doing is a different proposition. But even then they'll still be working around the problems a lot.

    Bought tropical freeze today and had an hour or two on that with her. It's just seems so much better at this stuff. Although the difficulty seems like it might be an issue later on.
  • I really didn't like 3D world at all. The lady didn't like it either. Easily my least favourite Mario game by some margin. The co op is just an awful time. Put us both off ever playing it together again.
  • TF difficulty probably will be a problem eventually (Tilly got bored on the last world and mostly just watched) but letting her use Funky Kong and keeping a good red balloon stock (which might require 10 mins of solo play to collect coins) should help for a while.

    Odyssey in co-op is the one I dislike. Love the game but I can't stand being the hat. It's better than firing starbits I guess. 3DW is best with one player but fine with three or four as it helps you embrace the different experience.

    It's interesting which games work well in co-op and which ones don't. I think retroking swears by the NSMB games in co-op, I thought DKC:TF was the best for two similarly skilled players. Quite a few games offer it now, often as tacked on DLC - Shovel Knight, for example, or Captain Toad, to varying degrees of success.
  • 35. Narita Boy - Xbox Series S (5-6hrs)

    Ultra stylish blinkers-on Metroidvania that flatters to deceive throughout.  Neon-soaked pixel art is a good look, and if it's twinned with a quality soundtrack my thumbs will stand to attention.  The audiovisual package is a big win, it's just a shame that the controls are a little off.  It plays well enough to enjoy without being worthy of significant praise.  The fighting is solid, with a good rhythm and a nice mix of enemy types, but it's polite golf clap stuff rather than standing ovation material.  The floaty jump is mitigated by a downward drop, but still feels a little wafty throughout.  Vehicle sections are mostly weak (and in one case terrible), but on the whole the bosses maintain a fairly high standard.  It's all very simple pattern learning stuff, I died plenty of times but I wouldn't call this a difficult game because everything can be learned so quickly.  The Guacamelee style colour coding didn't really work for me as it felt easier to either concentrate on patterns and dispatch the enemies normally, or use the high damage buddy powers.  

    In terms of exploration there isn't much, your path is mostly linear and is chiefly made up of clearing rooms, killing bosses, finding keys and unlocking doors, and the rote rot sets in after a few hours.  I'm all for a repetitive loop if the basics are tight, but they're a wee bit wobbly for such a funnelled adventure here.  I didn't care for the story either, which is a shame as the characters are quite chatty.   

    I thought this was in cruise control aiming for a nailed-on [7] for the majority of the game - I've probably made it sound worse than it is - but something snapped in the home stretch and I'm downgrading it to a hugely mean [6].  I blame the penultimate boss, which asked a bit too much given the floaty controls died with a 'fuck off then!' from me rather than a feeling that I'd passed the test with hard-learned l33tness.  

    It's quite good, are really does look and sound the part, but its shortcomings are hard to swallow at times.  

  • Moot_Geeza wrote:
    I think retroking swears by the NSMB games in co-op, I thought DKC:TF was the best for two similarly skilled players.

    They're both miles better than 3D World. Your last statement is what matters though, the more equal the level of skill the more fun you'll both have.

    As soon as one person is of a noticeably higher level, it becomes a bit of a slog/bore for them.
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  • 10. Resident Evil 3 (PS4) - 7hrs 25mins

    Does for RE3 what 2019's remake of 2 did for that.

    A tad shorter than 2, but that could be seen as a positive when it comes to multiple playthroughs. Felt a bit easier too, that might be down to me having played 2 last year though.

    Overall its pretty much perfect for what it is. Not quite as good as 2 though, even if the Nemesis was no where near as annoying as Mr. X.


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  • 36. Star Wars Pinball - Switch (10+hrs)

    Niceprice on cart pinball game with a generous amount of tables, some of which are very good.  It's 60fps, supports tate mode and makes plenty of satisfying Star Wars noises.  I'm not a huge SW fan (as evidenced by the fact that I quite enjoyed The Last Jedi) but there's no denying how huge some of the music is - it even got in the way of my standard mute game music/play own tunes setup for pinballing more often than not.  It's an offshoot of Pinball FX3, which explains the solid engine, and also means there are a ton of options and challenges plus a very welcome (and fairly in depth) set of table guides.  It's a solid collection.  

    The campaign mode starts well, with a handful of different tasks to complete rather than the standard 3 ball high score chase thing.  Unfortunately it's ridiculously long and descends into mundanity after a few hours, then goes on for what felt like half a dozen more.  I've been playing it on and off for over a year now.  Still, I didn't have to play this mode, and there are plenty of alternatives if I fancy going back.  [6] for the main quest, which threatened to do something a bit different with a single player pinball game then seemed to fizzle out, [8] for the overall package.  I didn't spot any genuinely top tier tables but I'm not great at picking out worldies myself, I like to scope for recs and focus on what's considered the best, which I didn't try here thanks to the neverending campaign mode.  One more thing: I do love my FlipGrip.


    37. Paper Beast - PSVR (3-4hrs)

    A sort of oblique narrative, in-the-trenches God game that frames its puzzles in a VR sandbox.  Not my typical gaming experience, I think it's fair to say, but something I was willing to experiment with in VR - especially for free, thanks to the generous Days of Play promotion.  Created by Eric Chahi of Another World, the recently mentioned Heart of Darkness and From Dust fame, it's so different from anything I've played that even with umpteen quality indie games jostling for acclaim each month this deserved more attention than it seemed to receive.  It's not perfect, presumably especially with the Dual Shock (which is how I experienced it), but the overall experience constantly papers over the cracks.  I'm not ready to start stroking my long scarf just yet, but I do seem to enjoy a good headset journey.

    Condensed to the basics, you'll either be working out how to get yourself to the next section or shepherding the wonderful paper creatures into a position that triggers an event that allows progression.  Solutions are inventive, mostly satisfying, and often take a few minutes of pondering before the penny starts to drop, during which time you're left to your own devices rather than having a NUDGE NUDGE bowled at you from stage left.  From Dust was a game I watched with big sulky green energy as I was convinced I wouldn't enjoy it (I think I even bought it and never played it), but I'm less obstinate these days when it comes to keeping an open mind with non comfort zone genres.  This is a strikingly beautiful game too; the slightly unsettling dreamscape creature design is out of this world. 

    I've said it before and here it is again - I really do like VR done well as the games are often short, inventive and (thanks to the extra immersion) can feel like genuinely original experiences.  [8]

  • 11. Sega Rally (Saturn) - 20mins

    Had an urge to play this for a few weeks now. Didn't take long for the muscle memory to kick in and blast through.

    Hard to rate these days. As an early 32-Bit game its still one of the best imo. It controls so well and is just so satisfying and fun to play.

    The lack of content is hard to ignore though. Even by the end of its generation it was unacceptable, and there are demos these days that have more playtime.

    Gonna let nostalgia win out though. The fact I would pay for a Sega Ages remake/re-release should count for something.


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  • Yeah
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  • 38. Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse (Master System) - 35 mins

    I always considered this superior to its bigger brother and my opinion hasn't changed.  It's too easy and far too short, but this was one of the defining side scrollers of my platformative years.  Excellent music, vibrant graphics, solid level design, decent bosses and a good feel to Mickey make this one of the best Master System offerings.  Probably just missing out on a top 5, but there or thereabouts.  The length didn't bother me as a kid as I just played it repeatedly, and it's perfect for a swift retro runthrough.  90%

  • Great game. Pretty sure its the only MS Disney game I've played along with Castle and World on MD.

    I really should get around to Quackshot.
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  • Quackshot was great at launch but dated fairly quickly when compared to subsequent primo 16-bit platformers. I'd wager it's perfect for a first time retro playthrough though, given your tastes.

    The Lucky Dime Caper was a personal fave, but I doubt that would fare as well without nostalgia.
  • 39. Good Job - Switch (5hrs)

    Eyebrow raisingly bad knockabout nepotism sim with a Metacritic average that has me questioning my own sanity.  I'm reasonably well versed in the slapdash physics types, having either completed or dabbled with Octodad, Moving Out, Phogs, Manuel Samuel, Human Fall Flat, The Stretchers and (shudder) Totally Reliable Delivery Service, to varying degrees of thumb judgement angle, but this was easily the most infuriating example of that particular sub-genre.  The fact that it's published by Nintendo makes it all the more confusing as it's precisely the sort of experience I'd imagine Mr. Miyamoto - or whoever was roped into the the Zoom call - shutting down with a brutally delivered SHUT IT DOWN, SHUT IT DOWN NOW.  

    As the child/children of the CEO your job is to complete various tasks on themed floors of an office building while dealing with the hilarious control deficiencies.  But.....it's no fun whatsoever.  Unless your idea of fun is playing the Going Live! touch tone caterpillar game with Boglins on your hands, in which case (try to) grab it while it's down to £12.  Certain stages are so astonishingly laborious it feels like the generally positive and occasionally glowing reviews must be some sort of industry in-joke; a secret TikTok challenge after games journos had so much fun tee-heeing at their inflated Horace scores, perhaps.  For every half enjoyable job (place the WiFi boxes, guide the paint vacuum bots home) there are three tedious tasks (not the lasers!) and half a dozen reasons why even the good ones are frustrating.  Those bots that follow the paint are neat enough until they get stuck on the corner of a table and staunchly refuse to budge, or decide not to follow paint trails (you had one job...), or smash through a wall in a randomly triggered physics explosion.  I've been watching some game design docs on Youtube recently, and while that doesn't make me Johnny Expert on level construction I reckon anyone with the slightest bit of nous could have a field day deconstructing the way this game has been assembled.  Even something as basic as the way the screen splits to track the second player is broken, as one side of the split often wanders around looking for scotch mist while both characters can be seen in the other half.  Toejam & Earl got this right thirty years ago, FFFS.  And with a game this slapdash, that presumably revels in being slapdash (otherwise, Jesus Fucking Christ) the full completion requirements for most stages is a terrible decision.  Water the buds is an acceptable task, but if you've watered 39 buds and can't find the 40th for 16 minutes because everything looks like it's bloomed, that's Bad Design.  There's a colour assist mode that switches to an appealing B&W image with pertinent items colour coded, but the fact that this exists proves the devs knew the standard game has major issues.  See also: any game that has a 'reset character position' option, imo, although at least that goes with the territory to an extent.  This has one, and we had to use it loads.  We also experienced a stage where an item disappeared, leaving us with 34/35 packages delivered and no chance of success after 19 minutes of tedium.  The basic mechanics are needlessly cumbersome too.  The layouts appear to be built around dual analogue control, where you'd grab hold of items with a shoulder button and move/rotate your character to manoeuvre whatever you're holding, but instead it uses a sometimeish A button to hold onto things - often preferring to pick up something else, of course - and one analogue stick, which just isn't fit for purpose when it comes to pivoting things as you have to keep repositioning yourself to do it.  You get stuck behind things, in things, on things, under things or just randomly sit on things without the space to stand back up again, and honestly, it's the most frustrating experience I've had since videogames were still a novelty. 

    When we first started playing I was quite taken with the stop motion effect on the characters in the lobby, mistakenly thinking it was a bold design choice.  Everything smoothed itself out once we entered a level though, so it turns out the visuals were just stuttering throughout the opening section.  Other than that the graphics are somewhere between serviceable and appealing.  There are only eight proper floors, so it's not over-long.  Or as some reviews might have you believe, 'doesn't outstay its welcome', which of course it does, by six or seven floors.  

    That's more than enough life wasted on this game anyway.  I honestly wouldn't chase S ranks in this unless I was forced to take part in some sort of irl Saw torture challenge.  Genuinely awful for the most part, do not buy.  The Stretchers is infinitely superior, grab that for co-op funtimes instead.  Please understand. [4]

  • Love me a 'shut it down, shut it down now' reference.
  • 10: What The Golf (Ipad) 8/10

    Really liked this goofy little thing.  I like to think Triband went into this wanting to make a good golf game and instantly got sick of it and went a bit silly.  That's probably not the case.  

    WTG is full of ideas mostly based around aiming a thing at a golf flag.  It got more mileage out of that than I'd have assumed.  I don't like them all but the vast majority either made me laugh or smile.  It's laid out so that you can spend a lot of time with the game, or if you're like me and don't mind a quick run through you can do it in a couple of hours.  Lovely little game.
    When you got movies like Tom Cruise in them, you can't lose
  • It's worth checking out the head to head mode too.  It's a bit lightweight but great fun for two.
  • I'll have a look!  Cheers.
    When you got movies like Tom Cruise in them, you can't lose
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    9. Monster Hunter Rise

    Whilst I'm not actually anywhere near "completing" this (can you clear a mohan?) I did take down the big baddy and see credits yesterday, so onto the list it goes.
    It's Mohan but faster and more streamlined (and probably easier) than it has ever been. None of those are bad things for me. Flying through the air with my dual blades has now become a power fantasy, less about getting one hit in and more about now we are going to mess u up pal. The "real" game starts now obviously, but what a ride through to get the hooks in.
  • As soon as I'm done with Tsushima I'll be ready to hunt (and probably hate it, but I am ready).
  • 40. Scott Pilgrim vs the World: Complete Edition (Switch) - 3hrs

    A favourite from the 360 XBLA days, which was when gaming started to really get its claws into me again after a few years of keeping up with the Joneses/going through the motions.  I still like it, but on reappraisal (and in light of the appearance of superior games in the genre since) it's a merely adequate brawler under the still-glorious surface.  It's a scrolling beat 'em up in the River City Ransom mould, with a levelling system for the characters and the vast majority of juicier moves locked behind the XP wall.  Once you've managed to grind up to an agreeable level it's great, but it's slow going for a while.  Plus you need to level up each character individually so it would take a lot of donkey work to get this prepped for a good local 4-player session, which is clearly the best way to play it.  

    As a fan of the genre there's a lot to like, but it's on the simpler side - going from Streets of Rage 4's Wood Oak City to the streets of Toronto would be a yikes for many.  Even with all the moves unlocked the basic brawling doesn't compete with the best - the much maligned Battletoads 2020 pips it, for example.  It's a bit glitchy on Switch too, with exits not registering for me on a couple of occasions, and I'm sure something's up with the sound mix as I don't remember the sound effects being totally drowned out by the (mostly excellent) music on 360.  Still, it has style coming out its ears and is mostly good fun.  [6] solo, whack a few cheat codes in and get a group session going and I expect you could add two points to that.  It's also not fair that I'm giving this the same score I gave Bud Spencer & Terrence Hill's Slaps & Beans earlier in the year as this is a much better game, but I don't make the rules.       

  • 12. Rastan (SMS) - 1hr 30mins

    Played this for about half hour and was a bit disappointed compared the the memories, and subsequently gave up after running out of continues. It got its claws in though as I quickly went back for another go.

    I'm glad I did, as overall I enjoyed it. Its still not as good as I remember it though, the controls are a tad stiff, but worse still is the jumping.

    There's numerous times in the game where the normal jump won't get you out of a pit and the high jump will overshoot you to the opposing pit. There is a wall jump but coupled with the stiff controls it can turn what should be simple platforming into pad throwing frustration.

    Its a shame as everything else about it is excellent. I got through to level 4-1 on my second playthrough much easier, which goes to show that overall its definitely a playable game, even if the best thing about it is its obvious inspiration for the excellent Volgarr the Viking.

    Still, good stuff overall, just short of 8-Bit greatness.


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  • I've got a few to catch up on so will be spamming the thread this evening. 

    24. & 25. R-Type 1 & 2 (PC)
    Another run through R-Type Dimensions. I played these last year where I seemingly went insane and decided that 2 was better than 1. It's clearly not. 1 has all the stand-out moments. Still not keen on the Dimensions wrapper around these games but it's ok for scrubs like me to try and beat their total lives used compared to previous runs through levels. Disappointingly, I did about the same or worse. Great for a quick blast but it's a very shallow experience playing them like this. Won't repeat in this way. 89%
  • 26. Metroid Fusion (GBA)
    Having played Zero Mission a couple of months back means all I've got to offer are the inevitable comparisons. Being led by the nose through a Metroid isn't exactly my cup of tea. Even though managing the player's path through a funnel gives them a chance to expand the story (ie actually having one, albeit a complete rip off of Alien) and do more interesting things with the environment. Found all the 'now go here, now do this, now do that' to be quite stifling. 

    But that all fades away in the second half. The nose-leading all but stops. The funnel widens to the point where you don't notice or care where the edges are. Zero Mission manages the same rapid clip to its progression but with outstanding level design but this is a taste thing really. End of the day it's excellent. Both games I started and then spent every spare minute on until completion. It's got that full-fat, powered-up Samus, Metroid blasting action that you love. Great weapons, puzzles, dick bosses, great tunes (although again not quite touching the highs of ZM's Brinstar theme). 92%
  • 27. Megaman 2 (Switch)
    Ain't no one got no time in 2021 for working out Megaman boss orders from scratch. But that creates a bit of a problem. Played MM1 last year and just ploughed through them in any order, but was so reliant on saves and rewind that it sucks the fun out of it. For MM2, I plumped for getting the order from a walkthrough. But 2 has got huge problems which this amplified. The first boss has a metal blade that uses hardly any energy, slices through most baddies, and can decimate 5 of the other bosses in seconds. So not very satisfying there either.

    If I'd bothered looking at some of the extras in the Legacy Collection, I'd have found the perfect solution. Alongside the copious galleries of concept art and jpeg scans of retail boxes, there's a database of all the enemies, and their weaknesses. And you can play each boss direct from there, going in with a full loadout, to work out the strategies yourself. So that's the sweet spot between assistance and doing it yourself for the rest of the games in the collection. If I get round to them. 

    2 is fine. Tough levels and mostly easy bosses. Some real fuck you level design sometimes. Drop into a void at the bottom of the screen and instantly die on some spikes on the next screen because you didn't fall down the right bit. Rewind eases the pain though. 76%
  • I only got into mm games about 5 years ago but really like them now, although I've only played 2 for more than a bit (I'm no save/rewind scrub tho so it's a bit of an undertaking for me). I should dip back into them.
  • Yeah it’s a big effort doing them properly. I definitely had one and borrowed one of numbers 2 and 4 on the Nes. But can't remember which way round that was . Didn't finish them. Only one I've played properly since then is 9, the comeback one that came out on the 360, which I remember as being great. But again, floundered somewhere in Wily's Castle on that one.

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