Stuart’s Steam Summer Sale Recommendations

July 2, 2016

There’s this belief that people just waste their money in the Steam Summer Sale.

Let’s be honest; that’s probably true. I know that in the past I’ve bought games without much thought because they are going cheap and then have either never played them or played them once and realised they weren’t for me. Certainly for me the Flash Sales resulted in me panic buying.

The good news this year is that everything that’s on sale will stay at their reduced price for the duration of the event, meaning you can take your time deciding what to buy.

And while it might be that you purchase a game for £3 on a whim and don’t like it, who really cares? Think of it like this; a couple of months ago I bought Dirt Rally for the PS4 for £42. I didn’t like it and despite trying a few times to get some utility out of it, I soon threw in the towel and uninstalled it. Earlier this week, I bought 7 games and a DLC pack from Steam for £21. I’ve already played some of these games for longer than Dirt.

So on that note, here are some games that I think are safe bets for anyone who likes gaming.

BIT.TRIP Presents… Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien: £2.19 (80% off)

This is a side scrolling platform style running game where you have to jump, slide and burst through obstacles in time with the rhythm of the game’s sound track.

It looks good, it’s colourful and it’ll take up around 9 hours of your time based on how long it took me to complete. Like everything else on my list, it’s a bargain.

http://store.steampowered.com/app/218060/?snr=1_5_9__205

Civilization V – The Complete Edition – £8.06 (92% off)

Unquestionably the greatest bang for your buck in the Steam sale comes from the complete edition of Civilization 5.civ5

Along with the bare bones game, you get the Brave New World and Gods & Kings expansion packs and all the other scenarios. It turns out to be a saving of almost £90.

I’ve always considered the Civ series as one where I’ll play it non stop for a weekend and then not return to it for about a year, and at that price, it’s definitely worth it.

My only note of caution would be that you need a decent PC to be able to run it. If you don’t have that, why not buy the complete Civ 4 for £3.74?

http://store.steampowered.com/bundle/575/

Cook, Serve, Delicious! – £1.74 (75% off)

You run a restaurant, choose the menu, buy different types of food and then you have to cook and serve it to customers either using your keyboard or with the click of the mouse.

The aim is to turn your restaurant into a 5 star establishment.

It’s addictive and challenging, but good fun.

http://store.steampowered.com/app/247020/

FTL: Faster Than Light – £2.09 (70% off)

You take charge of a spaceship and try to get it as far across the galaxy before it inevitably gets destroyed by asteroids, fires or space pirates.ftl

It’s a ‘roguelike’ game which means you play until you die and then you start again with a new randomly generated map.

Great for a quick game now and again.

http://store.steampowered.com/app/212680/?snr=1_5_9__205

LEGO… (33% – 75% off)

Whether it’s Batman, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, Marvel, Star Wars or The Hobbit, there’s probably a LEGO game out there for you.

And most of them are currently on sale for £3.74.

http://store.steampowered.com/tag/en/LEGO/#p=0&tab=NewReleases

Pac-Man Championship Edition DX+ – £1.99 (75% off)

I’m going to assume you know what Pac-Man is.

This is pretty much the definitive version and it’s available for a mere £1.99 at the moment.

Buy it now, thank me later.

http://store.steampowered.com/app/236450/

Papers, Please – £3.49 (50% off)

You might think that a game where you play as a guard at a Soviet border checkpoint wouldn’t be that much fun, but then you’d be wrong.

Garnering praise from all corners, this is a surprisingly deep, wonderfully written and executed PC gem.

http://store.steampowered.com/app/239030/

Party Hard – £2.59 (75% off)

Most of the games on this list are ones that generally review well, and if I’m honest are games that I’ve bought on the strength of hearing that they are good.partyhard

But I bought Party Hard in spite of mediocre reviews because the premise seemed interesting.

Basically you play as a guy who goes to various parties and must kill everyone there without being caught. You need stealth and patience, and it can be frustrating to have to try 100 times to beat a certain level, but I really enjoyed it.

http://store.steampowered.com/app/356570/

Pinball FX 2

The best pinball game out there, this is all about buying the right table for you. And right now, most tables are available for at least 75% off.

Trying to beat your own score is one thing, but for me the fun in Pinball FX 2 is competing against my friends for the best score.

So whether it’s Family Guy, Star Wars, Marvel or any other themed table you’d be interested in, buy some now convince a friend to as well.

http://store.steampowered.com/app/226980/

Plants vs Zombies GOTY Edition – £1.06 (75% off)

It’s over 7 years old now and the chances are you’ve played it, but just incase you haven’t, this charming Tower Defence strategy game is available for just over a quid.

And you can’t say fairer than that.

http://store.steampowered.com/app/3590/

RISK Factions – £1.99 (75% off)

It’s the classic board game brought to your PC, but with a story mode and bit of a modern spruce up.

You can play through the single player mode on your own if you want and you’ll still get more than your money’s worth, but I reckon playing it with friends either at home or online would be even better.

http://store.steampowered.com/app/47800

SpeedRunners – £2.74 (75% off)speedrunners

I only just bought this game today but I feel strongly enough about it to recommend it to you.

It’s a running racing game where you must overcome obstacles to get far enough ahead of the other players to knock them off the screen; a bit like the old Micro Machines games I suppose.

It’s fast, it’s stylish and it’s fun.

Like most games on the list you can play it on your own or with friends.

http://store.steampowered.com/app/207140/

Worms Reloaded: Game of the Year Edition – £2.84 (85% off)

Leaving probably the best for last, this is the definitive version of the long running Worms Franchise.

It’s six years old now, but every version of the game that has come out since has paled in comparison to this, as Team 17 try to make it more modern or 3D.

Worms doesn’t need that; it needs colourful, cartoonish 2D graphics and simple varied game modes.

That’s what Reloaded gives you.

http://store.steampowered.com/app/22600/

The sum total of these 13 games I’ve recommended comes to £36.26. Dirt Rally on the PS4 costs £38.99.

I know what I’d rather spend my money on…

Have you got any recommendation? Let me know.

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Games – Gone Home Review (or ‘Why You Should Never Buy A Game On Review Scores Alone’)

June 7, 2016

If you’ve read this blog before, you’ll notice I don’t ‘score’ anything I review. The reason for that is because scoring is meaningless and often misleading. It’s the reviewer picking some arbitrary number out of their head from a scale of 1-5, 10 or 100, based on their own personal opinions and skewed to ensure everything either finishes in the top or bottom 25% of that scale.

But as much as scoring is meaningless, it’s also dangerous to you as the reader of the review. Why? Because if you are honest, if there’s a score in a review that’s pretty much the only thing you’re going to read and you’ll base your decision to buy/consume the product based on that.

I bring this up because if you google the ‘acclaimed’ PC and Console game, Gone Home – one of two free games available with your PS Plus subscription this month – then the first thing you’ll notice is that it gets gonehome9.5/10 from the well-respected gaming site IGN.

9.5/10?! “Wow”, you might think ,“that must be a great game; one of the all time classics.”

People will buy that game blindly based upon that score alone. I know I’ve done similar in the past, and even though I got it as part of my subscription to PS Plus today, I’ll also hold my hand up to being interested in playing Gone Home without knowing what it was, because of it.

But then I played it.

And after playing it for half an hour I dug a little bit deeper and actually read the review on IGN and – more tellingly – the comments from the public underneath it.

There were a lot of angry people.

Why?

Because the score doesn’t tell the story of what Gone Home actually is.

What it involves is walking around a house, picking up items, looking at them and putting them down. Occasionally picking one of those items up will trigger some narration from the woman you are controlling as she reminisces about her childhood friend-turned girlfriend.

But that’s all there is to it.

You wander around the house, you pick up every item and once you’ve been into every room – finishing in the attic – it ends. There’s no objectives, no quest, no danger, no actual gaming involved.

Bell to bell, Gone Home lasts for about an hour.

Full price, it costs £14.99.

£14.99 for an hour’s worth of gameplay – such as it was – and no replay value.

And yet it was given a score of 9.5/10 on the same scale that IGN use for reviewing every game in the world.

I genuinely cannot understand it. Even if the guy reviewing it really liked it for what it was and even if it’s the best walking-around-and-picking-things-up simulator there’s ever been, he must also have to accept that the lack of any sort of challenge and the cost of game versus the length of it means that there’s no argument to support that score, arbitrary or otherwise.

But he didn’t and so his 9.5/10 is what Gone Home’s reputation will be enhanced by forever.

And I don’t think that’s right.

I’m just thankful I didn’t pay for it…

 


Games: Kopanito All-Stars Soccer (or ‘Surprisingly Challenging Pick Up & Play Fun’)

May 28, 2016

I don’t often feel compelled to write game reviews, which you’ve probably noticed seeing as I’ve not done one all year.

But when I do it’s because a game is either very special or isn’t well known and deserves some credit.

In recent weeks I’ve bought and played some big name games which have reviewed very well, such as the recently released Overwatch (which I think is decent but not deserving of the level of praise it’s been getting), Dirt Rally (which is a bit too repetitive and ‘realistic’ to offer the pick-up-and-play fun I wanted) and Far Cry Primal (which I sunk around 20 hours into but was lacking in comparison to its predecessors),

Its Guatemala vs Venezuela. Yay.

Its Guatemala vs Venezuela. Yay.

but none of them have stood out.

Instead it’s a game that cost me a mere £2 on steam that I want to write about…

A game called Kopanito All-Stars Soccer.

Now I’m a big football fan as you probably know if you pay attention to this blog or follow me on twitter (@sgmilne) and as a gamer that means I dedicate a lot of time to both FIFA and Football Manager. But I accept that my enjoyment of these games comes from knowing a lot about the sport. If I didn’t like football then FM would just be a load of words and numbers, while FIFA would probably end up being too complex to grasp. I feel like that about games such as EA’s Madden, NBA and NHL efforts.

For me, the best sports video games are often the simple, arcadey ones. The likes of Mario Tennis, Golf, Baseball or Strikers, or the NFL Blitz series.

And this is where Kopanito All-Stars Soccer is great.

It’s cartoonish graphical style and simple 2 button approach to the sport makes for a quick pick up and play experience for the PC. And unlike the more serious sports games, there are also power ups such as missile shot and magnet ball that add that extra sense of barmy fun.

But it’s also surprisingly difficult, and I mean that in a good way.

Once I’d won a tournament on beginner mode I tried the next level up and I kept getting pumped. So I adjusted my style of play to stop chasing the opponent every time it had the ball and ended up getting some success. And do you know what? It felt very rewarding.

The strength in Kopatino is that you don’t really need to appreciate football to appreciate or understand the game, while at the same time, it’s challenging enough to make you want to play it over and over again.

Steam says I’ve played it now for over four hours since I first had a shot yesterday, and that’s far more enduring than my desire to go back to Overwatch or Dirt.

And the beauty of it is that it cost me far less money.

I’d urge you to give it a try yourself; it’s great.


Shovel Knight Review (or ‘Hits The Sweet Spot’)

December 3, 2015

If you’re reading this on the day of publishing, you’ve probably just had a look at my review of Tearaway: Unfolded.

For me, it was symptomatic of modern video games; it looked nice, but ultimately offered no challenge and its supposed value was bolstered by pointless and repetitive side quests that made up more than 50% of the overall experience. And really, who has the time or the inclination to bother with that?

On the other side of the coin now we have Shovel Knight (available on almost every platform but I played it on the PS4).

Shovel Knight is a game that I’ve had my eye on for some time but was slightly put off  of because in spite of glowing reviews from the video game press, many gamers seemed to find it too difficult.Shovel_knight_cover

I decided to take the plunge though, and I’m glad I did.

Though it’s not the longest game in the world and is designed in that 8-Bit NES style (which I have to say I love but I’m aware that some developers seem to use it as a crutch to hide bad game design) this is everything that modern games like Tearaway: Unfolded are not; it’s challenging and it’s fun.

To complete Shovel Knight requires skill. You have to be able to make use out of the weapons you buy and there has to be a certain amount of ability to learn when to use moves and how to traverse the many potential platform dangers in the game. And that’s great.

You won’t just complete Shovel Knight by putting it on and sitting there for ten hours going through the motions; you have to work for it.

On the other side of the coin though, this isn’t ridiculously difficult like some games, or at least not for my skill level. In the past similar styled platformers like Ms. Splosion Man 2 have seemed like a frustrating exercise in muscle memory; the sort of game you just want to break your control pad over. You might have to replay a part of the Shovel Knight five, ten or even twenty times before you get past it but when you do, you’ll feel you’ve earned it.

Similarly, bosses aren’t too hard, nor do boss fights last 20 minutes. For me there’s nothing more frustrating than spending ages on a boss fight only to have to die and start again from the beginning. This gets boss fights right. Hard enough but not too bad.

And there aren’t hundreds of pointless side quests either,

Really, this was a single player platform game that ticked all the boxes and hit the sweet spot in terms of difficulty and enjoyability.

Unlike Tearaway: Unfolded, this is a game that absolutely deserves the praise it gets.

The only thing I would mark it down on is that having tried it on the PS Vita (the game is a cross-buy so if you buy it for one Sony console you buy it for them all) and on that, the controls seemed fiddly and frustrating. That’s a problem with the Vita rather than the game though I think.

So if you’re going to buy it then play it on a your PS4 or Wii U rather than on a handheld.

Either way though, make sure you do buy it. It’s fantastic.

 

 


Tearaway: Unfolded Review (or “Charming But Devoid Of Challenge”)

December 3, 2015

Sometimes I think developers forget what makes a video game an actual game.

What’s involved in it? Is there a challenge? Is there a reason to make you want to play on?

And on what basis do reviewers consider a game worthy of praise or criticism?

Let’s take Tearaway: Unfolded as an example.

Every reviewer seems to love it, but the reasons given are that it looks great, it has innovative gameplay and it has a certain charm about it.tearaway

All of that is true, it really is, but is that what a game should be judged on?

While innovation like being able to create a gust of wind in the game by swiping your finger over the touchpad certainly makes optimum use out of the PS4 controller, that in itself does not make me want to play a game.

And if looks were what counted then Dragon’s Lair would still be one of the best games of all time 30 years later.

The problem with Tearaway: Unfolded is that it just seems like a very safe saunter through a world of paper played over a massive safety net.

There’s no difficulty to speak of and any time you do die you revert to a checkpoint from two seconds beforehand.

So really – and this is certainly not something unique to this game – rather than being challenging, it’s just an experience that you go through for as long as it takes to get to the end. And you will get to the end as long as you put the hours in. I did.

But then when I did get to the end, it said that I only completed 45%.

The reason for that is that the perceived value of this game includes these daft and unnecessary little side quests that very few people will be truly interested in.

Pfft.

Just like the lack of difficulty, that’s not a problem exclusive to this game, but is rather symptomatic of what modern video games are often like.

Well, anyway, apart from that there are some functional issues that it should be marked down for. On three seperate occasions, I found that I had to restart a section of the game due to glitches preventing me from going any further. Though we live in an era where games developers can continually update any problems, it still felt annoying.

I don’t just want to moan though; it did have its charms and despite my issues, I did get to the end.

But as a full price (or at least it was full price when I bought it; I’ve just checked and it’s not £12.99 two months later. For fuck’s sake!!!) game this doesn’t really cut the mustard.

One to avoid.


Games: Five Things That Bug Me About FIFA 16.

October 20, 2015

FIFA 16 has been out for about a month now, and having had plenty of time to play the modes I like, I thought I’d share some thoughts.

First off, I’d like to say that I’m enjoying it and the tweaks to the gameplay system seem to suit my style of play. This isn’t going to be a rant based on me not being very good at the game, because in truth I’m doing pretty well. I won the annual tournament I have with my friends when we go on holiday in early October, I’m doing well in Ultimate Team, I’m undefeated against anyone I know who I play online with and I’m even scoring FIFA16regularly from free kicks for the first time ever.

There are moans about the passing system from some, but I’ve got no problems with it. Never being one to spam the lofted through ball, the slow build is how I want to play FIFA, so that’s fine.

The actual player ratings can be a bit dodgy though, especially for the leagues EA deem to be less important, but considering my job, maybe I’m being fussy.

Anyway, while it’s going great so far – I say so far because last year I found that Ultimate Team mode seemed to handicap my team once it became too good and it meant I lost my enthusiasm entirely – there are still some issues I have with the game. Some are fair, some are maybe a bit nit-picking, but here they are…

Online Matchmaking Is Broken

This is a big one.

My working hours mean that mid-afternoon is the best time for me to play FIFA. But can I get an online game at that time? Can I buggery. Hell, it’s even difficult at times to get a game sorted out at night. Often the game just hangs there while it tries in vain to sort you out with some opposition. This never used to be a problem in previous FIFA games and EA’s response to this – asking people to tweak the ports in their router – is unacceptable. Sort it out EA!

The Ultimate Team Transfer System

Before the game came out I read some stuff about how they were going to sort out the transfer system so that player prices wouldn’t artificially inflate, but that was just bluster. As you might expect, certain players are out of the reach of anyone who just wants to play the game as a bit of fun. I’ve played around 50 games in Ultimate Team mode and have made my way up to Division Six, and in that time I have earned 58,450 coins. Despite the long slog and the hours, a quick check on the transfer market means shows that if I hadn’t spent a single one of the coins I’d earned, I still wouldn’t have enough to buy players like Arturo Vidal, Sebastian Schweinsteiger or Giorgio Chiellini, who are being sold for 60k. It would cost double the amount I’ve earned to sign Sergio Ramos, and if I ever wanted to go for the likes of Messi I’d be paying over 1,000,000.

Now this doesn’t bother me too much, because the difference between signing a guy like Sergio Ramos (118,000) and Stefan Savic (800) is negligible to the game, but I still don’t see the point of prices like that, nor do I understand who actually manages to sign these guys on the transfer market.

The funny thing is that occasionally I’ll play against a team full of stars and the person controlling them is absolute shit. A couple of days ago I found myself up against a team with a veritable World XI, replete with the likes of Ibrahimovic, Di Maria and Thiago Silva and I pumped them 5-0.

How did this person manage to build that team? He must have spent a fortune in buying pack after pack of Premium Golds, and for all the good it’s done him in terms of results, he’d have been better off playing with bronze players.

Like I said last year in this article, it’s like people have a gambling addiction with this stuff, but when these same people could just go into online seasons mode and play as PSG or Barcelona for free, you almost think they deserve to have their money taken away from them.

Of course, the irony is that when I play these guys, I know I’ll win comfortably with my modest team of Liga BBVA players, and yet if I’m ever put up against a team of silver card players, the chances are that I’ve got a far greater challenge on my hands.

People Who Lack Imagination

Staying with FUT mode, if there’s one thing that irrationally winds me up it’s playing against people who call their team ‘Liverpool’ or ‘FC Barcelona’.

You can name your team anything you like as long as it’s not rude, and the best some people can muster is the name of the side they probably like to watch on TV? Oh, and they also buy that team’s badge and strips.

Get some fucking imagination!!

Nobody Is Scoring From A Corner Again

Away from FUT, I’ve noticed that it’s now almost impossible to score from a corner. Of the hundreds I’ve taken and defended against, my record is scored one, conceded nil. And the one I scored was a ridiculous, unrealistic one where my player headed in to the near post from the edge of the box.

Now fair enough, corners shouldn’t always result in a goal, but that’s ridiculous.

Scripting

Ok, now I sound like a conspiracy theorist, but I do think there’s an element of scripting in FIFA that perhaps shouldn’t be there.

I’m sure you’ve all had a situation where you’re comfortably defending an aimless long ball with your fullback and then suddenly your AI controlled goalkeeper has decided to run out of the box to almost the halfway line to clear the danger without you calling for him to do so, bumped into you and let the opposition in for an easy goal.

Similarly I’m sure you’ve had situations like where the opposition keeper comes up for a corner late on, and you know that no matter the outcome of the corner, whether you clear the ball or not, you’re not going to get possession of the ball whilst he’s in your half of the pitch.

And what about the games where no matter how many chances you create, you can’t score?

That sort of thing bugs me.

It shouldn’t be there and it feels as though just occasionally actual skill comes secondary to luck and how the game engine wants things to play out.

Or is that just me?

Like I say, in the main I think FIFA 16 is great, but there are still issues that need ironed out.

If you agree or disagree with any of these points, be sure to let me know.

 


Stuart’s Entertainment Review July 2015 (Inc. WWE, UnReal, Nashville, N++, Rocket League etc)

August 4, 2015

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of my Entertainment Review articles, but seeing as I’ve been playing plenty of games and watching a few different things on TV throughout the month of July, I thought I’d exhume the format.

TV

As you’ll know, most American TV shows run between September and May, with the US market seemingly believing that nobody watches TV during the summer.

However, you will get the occasional programme running almost unopposed around this time, and one such example of that is UnReal, which finished its first season last night.

A drama about the behind the scenes running of a reality TV show called Everlasting (which is basically The Bachelor), UnReal ‘exposes’ the reality format and captures not only how stage-managed everything that goes on in these shows actually is, but also the ruthless and selfish types of people both in front and behind the camera.

Whether I truly enjoyed it is something I’m not all that sure of. Yes, I watched every episode and it kept my attention, but I’m struggling to understand how it can go beyond a single season without retreading over old ground. Now we know that everyone involved is an arsehole and that the show will always be run a certain way, surely any new season would just be a repeat of what we’ve already seen.

What’s also interesting is that there isn’t really a single character in it who is likeable. Everyone is out for themselves and though they try to portray the main character Rachel (Shiri Appleby) as sympathetic, she’s arguably the biggest prick of the lot.

Viewers of Entourage and House of Cards watching this must also come to the conclusion that Constance Zimmer has managed to become typecast as the very niche character of ‘Single Minded Woman In The Media’.

Apart from UnReal, here’s what else I’ve been watching…

Nashville: I took a punt at watching Nashville on Sky On Demand after unsuccessfully trying to be interested in the dull as dishwater Ray Donovan, and I was surprised at just how enjoyable it is. Not only does it

Seriously, look at the size of her forehead.

Seriously, look at the size of her forehead.

have a wide range of characters who are all written with some amount of depth, but the storylines are also interesting and it’s all supported well by catchy tunes. And I previously didn’t even like Country music. I think the biggest surprise of all is that previously wooden actress Hayden Panettiere – who I thought ruined Heroes by the time I stopped watching – is actually really good in it. I’m currently on Season Two so I don’t know anything about the most recent episodes, but I’m in this for the long haul.

Under The Dome: When I reviewed the first season of Under the Dome, I took the view that it was shit, but I forgave it because it was so unintentionally amusing. When Season Two came out I gave up after about three episodes, but with the news that it’s on its final season this year, I went back and watched the rest of the second one. Wow, was that a mistake. Season Two of Under the Dome is shit, but it’s not unintentionally amusing, it’s just shit. I don’t really know where to begin. Is it the tenuous way a host of new characters managed to come into it despite the confines of the setting? Is it the terrible acting, not least from the girl with The Largest Forehead In The Universe? Is it that the new science teacher character  is written so one-dimensionally ‘sciency’ that she doesn’t come across as a genuine human being? Is it that the plot became so garbled and confusing that I honestly have no idea what it’s even about anymore? Is it that they have situations like Julia getting stabbed through the leg one week and only surviving her predicament by literally dying of hypothermia so her blood stopped pumping and then in the next week she’s running around with a bandage over her jeans and not even a hint of a limp? Or is it all of the above? I will finish Under the Dome, but only because I feel I’ve put in too much time for me not to. But it’s really shit, so if you haven’t seen it, don’t bother.

Out of the Unknown: Ok, so I was doing reviews of Out of the Unknown, but I’m throwing in the towel. But for one or two episodes, it was just really boring. I couldn’t face watching another one.

1997 Editions of WWE Raw: I’m a subscriber to the WWE Network, and despite the fact that it must not get as many subscribers as WWE clearly wants it to, I would say it offers fantastic value for money for any wrestling fan. But what it also does is serve as a reminder that in almost all ways, wrestling in 2015 is rubbbish compared to what I personally feel was its heyday, 1997. On the Network at the moment is every single episode of Raw from 1997 (and indeed I think it has everything from 1993 up until 2000) and I have been happily sitting through episode after episode from that year. With the exception of the athleticism of the wrestlers involved, everything about that era – from the recognisability of the wrestlers through to the quality of the storylines – was just so superior to what we’ve got now, it’s quite sad. Most wrestling fans will point to 1998 – the year the Attitude Era came into full swing and when WWE turned the tables on WCW – as the best of times, but not me.

There’s just something – and pardon the pun here – raw about 1997. In March of that year they moved to the new set and thetwo-hour format that the show is most synonymous with, and yet at the same time

Part of the appeal of the 1997 Raws is seeing incongruous stuff like Steve Austin squaring up to Gorilla Monsoon. Naturally, not one for taking shit off of people, Monsoon doesn't back down an inch. Legend.

Part of the appeal of the 1997 Raws is seeing incongruous stuff like Steve Austin squaring up to Gorilla Monsoon. Naturally, not one for taking shit off of people, Monsoon doesn’t back down an inch. Legend.

it feels a completely different era has been placed in that setting. Everything about the environment will remind fans of Austin vs McMahon, DX vs The Nation, The Undertaker vs Kane and everything else associated with Attitude, but for the most part, 1997 isn’t about that at all. There’s Vince McMahon on commentary, Gorilla Monsoon as the President who is not in the least bit intimidated by Steve Austin (who plays the heel for much of the time and is at his best at this point), voiceovers by Todd Pettengil and appearances by guys who you’d be forgiven for forgetting were still around, like Sid, The Patriot, Barry Horrowitz and The Honky Tonk Man.

The Hart Foundation storyline – and everything that came along with it – remains my absolute favourite wrestling storyline of all time. I said earlier that it felt raw, and this is the best example of it. Bret Hart’s attitude towards the way his character was no longer accepted as the hero in the US was genuine. His dislike for Shawn Michaels (and vice versa) was very real, and the exchanges between the two hit so close to the bone that with hindsight (especially knowing how Hart would be screwed at Montreal and forced out of the company) it makes for compelling viewing. There’s nothing they could do now that could touch this for authenticity.

Like I say, I believe 1997 is wrestling’s heyday. Every episode starts with a reprisal and ends with a cliffhanger, just like a good TV show should. It’ll never get this good again, but at least for $9.99 you can relive it and remember what it was like when wrestling was actually entertaining.

The Last Ship: Another show I’ve attempted to get hooked on is The Last Ship, but it’s failing to keep me interested. It’s just a bit corny and it’s difficult to take lead actors (Eric Dane of Grey’s Anatomy and Adam Baldwin from Chuck) seriously because of their past playing more comedic characters. Also, knowing that it was renewed for a second season which is currently airing just makes me think that the overall plot will just end up being stretched much further than it should.

Games

Meanwhile, I’ve been fairly busy on the gaming front as well. Here are some examples of games I’ve played over the last month.

N++ (PS4): Here’s a game I’ve been waiting to come out for years. The sequel to the Xbox 360 game N+, this was supposed to be released around the same time as the PS4, but the developers just kept holding it back and holding it back, Now this is a top game, and has a single player mode every bit as good and challenging as its predecessor, which came in at #8 in my Top 100 Games Of The Last Generation article series, but I won’t lie; I’m a little disappointed with it. One of the best parts of N+ was the ability to play online Co-Op mode with friends. That’s gone, and it’s a shame. The developers came up with a long-winded explanation for why they didn’t add it in, which seemed reasonable, but considering the game came out two years later than it should have and considering it’s not exactly inexpensive for a PS Store game at £15, I just don’t have much sympathy for them or their ‘woe is us’ excuses. All I know is that if the games developer I work for released a game two years late and with expected features missing, we’d be slaughtered.

Rocket League (PS4): Contrast N++ to Rocket League, which came free with July’s PS Plus membership and has been accepted with open arms around the world. Yes, I totally accept the difference between

Looks great, plays great. Fantastic.

Looks great, plays great. Fantastic.

one developer getting support from Sony and another having to go it alone, but Rocket League doesn’t come with a sob story attached (N++ literally does have a sob story which you can click on on the main menu). A simple concept of rocket fueled cars playing football, it’s fast, furious, frustrating and fun. And you can play it online with your friends, not just on the PS4 but on the PC too, which is a breakthrough in cross-platform gaming as far as I’m concerned. My only problem with it is that sometimes struggles to cope with my network connection and can be a tad laggy when playing online. Still great though.

Splatoon (Wii U): I love Nintendo, but I’m going to go against the grain here and say I don’t find Splatoon as enjoyable as I think I’m supposed to. I should love it; it’s bright and colourful, it’s a Nintendo game and it gets fantastic reviews from all corners, but there’s just something about it I struggled with. It felt samey and the controls were a bit awkward. Plus, more than the likes of Call of Duty, I felt that the weapons that more experienced players had unlocked made it nigh on impossible to triumph against with the entry-level options. I’ll try to give it another go, but it feels a bit disappointing to me.

Kirby And The Rainbow Paintbrush (Wii U): I was also surprisingly disappointed by this game, but for a different reason. Kirby is challenging and does what it’s supposed to well enough. It’s never going to be as good as a Mario game but it provides you with a few hours of solid platforming fun. The thing is though it has a huge design flaw; while it looks fantastic, you get no chance to actually enjoy how it looks because the need to use the touch screen on the Wii U Gamepad the entire time. This means that you don’t get a chance to lift your head up to actually see the beautiful graphics on your expensive 55″ TV screen. Madness.

The Secret of Monkey Island 2 – LeChuck’s Revenge (Xbox 360): First released in the late 80s/early 90s heyday of LucasArts adventure games, Monkey Island 2 is regarded by many as one of the all time great games. I take issue with this. It’s amusing and it has been lovingly remastered to look swish on the 360, but I just don’t see the point in a game that you can’t complete without reading a walkthrough. Now you might come to me and say “Stuart, maybe you’re just not clever enough to work out some of the puzzles” but I’d argue that point. Maybe I’m not, but maybe it’s that these games were designed with the post-purchase money-spinner of getting players to phone up hotlines or buy guidebooks to get help finding solutions to these puzzles? Maybe also people had a greater tolerance to devoting time to thinking about all the possible tenuous ways to complete some of the more obscure brain teasers? But put it this way; there’s a puzzle where to get money you have to get a job. To get the job you have to get the cook in the pub sacked. How do you do this? You’ve got to pick up a rat. How do you pick up a rat? You have to pick up a cheese puff, a piece of string and stick and add them all together to create a trap with a cardboard box that’s sitting in a corner in the same screen as the rat. Without any hints, how is anyone supposed to conclude that’s what you have to do to move on? People who have too much time to think most likely.

Professor Leyton and The Miracle Mask (3DS): Speaking of puzzles, the Leyton games are famous for their brain teasers that require actual thought and cognitive reasoning. And that’s fantastic. The Leyton games however are also famous for being absolutely bogged down in layer upon layer of uninteresting storylines that you have to sit through before getting to the next puzzle. I suppose without the storyline the game would feel utterly bare-bones, but for me the puzzles are the only interesting part, so it made it a real struggle to get through it.

TwoDots (Android): My current go-to game for a quick fix is TwoDots, a sort of Bust-a-Move/Zookeeper/Candy Crush affair available on mobile platforms. It’s good, but success is entirely random. Sometimes the way the dots fall (you have to link up the same colours to clear them) means there’s just no way you can complete a level in the required moves while other times it just falls into place easily. After a while you realise there’s no skill involved. I’m guessing this is a deliberate ploy to sell in-app purchases like extra lives and weapons. You can do well without them of course, but you just need that little bit of patience. It’s free and it’s fun, but my advice is to keep calm and avoid paying out for these extras.

Assuming I remember, I’ll be back with more next month!

Calls to Action

Remember to…

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b) Read about my books – focussing on reviews of Doctor Who from the very beginning – here

c) If you appreciate my sense of humour, go ‘Stuart’s Exciting Anecdote of the Day’