And here I rank the games I played in the first quarter of 2021

30. Superhot (PS4, via PS Now)

Insert annoying repeated line here.

A good game ruined by an obnoxious story. The core gameplay is really good. Time is “frozen” (well, very, very slow) and you can look around and aim while things are still. As you walk, time progresses. It’s a wonderful gameplay system and is a joy to play.

The problem is everything else. It’s all about “hacking” and you have to mash buttons to “type” (just repeatedly tap X) every now and then to get to the next level. It’s incredibly tedious and just attempts to be “edge”. The really loud SUPER HOT repeating constantly after every level actually led me to muting the game. 

Take this gameplay, add a simple Quantum Leap story where you’re saving random people at different points in time and it could be a brilliant game.

29. Bound (PS4, via PS Now)

Dance away your issues.

An interesting platformer. Representing the childhood trauma of a pregnant woman, you dance around wonderfully abstract environments to “remember” your past. 

There are multiple routes to take, you collect more “pieces” of an image if you take the hard route but don’t miss out on much if you decide to go easy. It’s more about the surreal experience than the challenge. There’s no attacking in this game, instead you dance around to protect yourself from being attacked by tiny paper airplanes. 

A curious experience, one I’m glad I went though.

28. Grim Fandango (PS4, via PS Now)

There are Manny funny lines in Grim Fangando

In terms of characters and story, Grim Fandango is a brilliant game. It’s very charming and has some good humour.

Unfortunately, it was made at a time where some people felt games wouldn’t sell if they weren’t 3D, so instead of clicking, you walk around to try and find each object. Thankfully, this version isn’t as bad as the original’s tank controls, but it still impacts the puzzles. Sometimes, Manny will not interact with something because you’re slightly off. I ended up using a guide (Universal Hint System is a good website for games like this as it will give you a series of clues instead of just leading with the solution) and for a lot of them it turned out that I had already attempted the solution, but I was just slightly angled the wrong way when I tried to interact with something.

A 2D remake (or just restylised as a more point & click game) would be fantastic.

27. Final Fantasy VII Remake (PS4, via PS Plus)

This is genuinely one of the nicer parts of the game.

Final Fantasy VII remake shoves you into the role of a terrorist, blowing up stuff and causing lots of people to be hurt, murdering guards who are just doing regular jobs and protecting civilians. Alongside the stoic, bland Cloud are a bunch of really annoying characters, after a short period I just wanted rid of them. Your reason for doing this is money, as Cloud is a wanabee merc/mass murder-for-hire. 

You then get a more relaxed section with Tifa, doing odd jobs around a town (including looking for kitties that you can’t pet). Tifa isn’t as annoying as the other Avalanche people, but it’s kind of odd that she’s gushing over Cloud’s abilities with a sword when she’s killing giant scorpions, dragons and other creatures with her bare fists. In this section you’ll start noticing some strange graphical issues. All main characters look amazing, but for some reason all signs are really low quality so you can’t actually read them, and the mirror/sink in Cloud’s room looks like it could have been ripped directly from the original game.

The next few missions are all far too long, getting to another reactor to blow up (with a really bad bike section). Lots and lots of very long corridors and tedium. There’s potential for a nice view, as you get to look at the city below…but the skybox is so sloppily done that everything is distorted and is really distracting to see. After these long sections, you blow up a reactor and it bigs up a big boss…but you have to go through more tedious corridors to get to it.

Then you get separated from the annoying characters and get to meet someone new: Aerith. She’s immediately far more interesting than anyone else so far. The next section is also extremely nice, just doing missions for people, helping kids, picking flowers. It’s all just nice. There’s a tunnel section (which has oddly pumped up amazing music) and then get to the Walled City: a place where criminals run amok. This section is amazing. The combat sections have some wonderful commentary, and the Honeybee Inn is just a wonderful segment of the game. 

Shortly after this, it goes back to tedious corridors and sections that outstay your welcome. There’s a significant moment (which uses one of those annoying “win in gameplay, lose in cutscene tropes) ruined by a random out-of-place kat king creature (even for fans of the original game who know of this character, this must be an odd moment to place it). 

The rest of the game is mostly more tedious corridors, although walking around the Shinra Building is actually interesting. Then another bad bike scene and a final section that doesn’t really make much sense. 

26. Day of the Tentacle (PS4, via PS Now)

Weird Science

One of the LucasArts games I didn’t play when I was younger. It was very enjoyable. The controller er…controls..are similar to Monkey Island 2, and are surprisingly easy and relaxing to use on a big screen. Call me crazy, but I think I prefer it to a mouse. Day of the Tentacle is split between three main areas, the past, present and the future. I really enjoyed having to alter things to how I needed them, as making changes in one era will impact future ones.

As you don’t have a shared inventory between characters, it’s sometimes really annoying figuring out what is needed in which era, there’s a lot of combinations and you have to return to the Chron-o-John to transfer them between each character.

25. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter (PS4, via PS Now)

Just a nice, peaceful lake.

Out of the various “walking simulator” games I’ve played, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is the one I’ve enjoyed the most. Set in a really beautiful environment, you have to figure out what the mystery is and what is happening in this lovely area.

The game takes a “hands off” approach, so it doesn’t give you much idea of how to play. For the most part, this works well, although some indication that you have to “solve” something rather than just figure it out in your head would have been nice – I had to backtrack a long way to an earlier section because of this.

Outside of finding bodies and working out how they were killed, you’ll encounter “stories” with some supernatural experiences, often requiring solving some interesting puzzles to complete. It was definitely an interesting experience, with some stunning sights along the way.

24. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (PS4, via PS Now)

There are a lot of benches to sit and admire the view.

Starbreeze Studios’ first “go” at a kind of two player experience. This isn’t strictly a two-player co-op game as you control two people on one controller, but you technically can share a controller. You have to solve puzzles using both characters. The game has a very charming style but is a surprisingly depressing game, with lots of deaths and even suicide. 

The game manages to create a surprisingly emotional moment due to use of controls, even if the moment leading to it isn’t particularly well done, it’s still a very unique thing to experience. 

23. WET (PS4, via PS Now)

Slow-mo Murder

Over the top, silly action. This takes Matrix “bullet time” and uses it to a ridiculous degree, everytime you wall run, jump or slide it activates slow motion for you to blast enemies with. 

WET styles itself as a low budget B-Movie, complete with reel changes and strange “adverts”. It adds to the ridiculousness of it all. It’s very much an arcade style shooter, you get points for style and keeping combos (which can be spent on upgrades). It’s very much a silly mix of styles, including gaming trends of the 2000s (this, unfortunately, includes Quick Time Events). It’s a really fun game. Plus you get to be Eliza Dushku, which is always a bonus.

22. Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown (PS4, via PS Now)

Sneaking through a valley. Just pretend that all the guards are deaf.

The biggest issue I had with this game was the “main target” reticule. I find it difficult to see, and it’s practically invisible to me when it’s over ground. That said, I still found some ways around it, such as focusing on the “next target” instead (which I can see fine) and swapping to that target once I was close. Still, some options to help colourblind people would be nice.

The campaign of Ace Combat 7 is surprisingly varied, as objectives help the game feel fresh. I do wish that the aircraft choice was limited for the first time playing, as choosing from a selection of unlocked ones doesn’t make sense for a lot of the story – there’s one mission where they make a fuss about scounding ships from broken fighters only for your choices to not change at all. 

Flying around is a lot of fun, weaving around targets is satisfying. The campaign is a very enjoyable experience.

21. Donkey Kong 64 (Wii U, via Virtual Console)

Grant Kirkhope’s music is still fantastic.

I got Donkey Kong 64 when it first came out. I remember being annoyed as the game cost extra due to bundling in the Expansion Pak (which I already owned). It took ages, but I managed to collect all 201 Bananas…but I never got to the final boss. The reason: the original Donkey Kong arcade. 

You have to complete the original arcade game once to get a banana, which took young me a very long time. Then you had to beat an even harder version of it for the N64 coin. The Rare coin from Jetpac wasn’t too difficult to collect. So I never got to see the final boss. Fast forward 20 years, after my yearly christmas playthrough of Banjo-Kazooie, I decided to also play Banjo-Tooie and Donkey Kong 64. 

The Wii U version of DK64 has one major issue: the widescreen mode doesn’t work properly. The N64 widescreen functioned by providing a squished image and relying on the TV’s “fit to screen” feature to put it in the correct resolution, but the Wii U version outputs the black bars as well. Thankfully, my TV had a manual stretch feature so I was able to sort this out. 

The framerate is much, much smoother, which also has a couple of issues, as a couple of minigames were timed around the slow framerate, so in this version you need to constantly pause in some minigames to be able to react in time. I also found the camera a pain and walking across narrow planks to be a nightmare. One additional issue to me was the colours of the bananas: two combinations were a pain for me to see: yellow/green and blue/purple, which meant sometimes I picked the wrong Kong when returning to a bunch I had seen as another character and had to swap and go back.

That said, it’s still a mostly charming game, lots of interesting platforming and some fun puzzles. The “save state” feature alleviates some issues the original had as some parts required a lot of time to restart a section, whereas with the save states you can just save at the start and reload when you fail. 

Leave a Reply