“Zelda IV”

Funny story. About nine months ago, Ian Higton, one of Eurogamer’s video guys blocked me on Twitter because he posted a video that had the wrong aspect ratio and I tweeted #stopaspectratioabuse at him. Fair enough, but it’s a valid crusade. It’s also not like there’s anything else going on in the world that is a bigger cause to work with anyway.

But then last week, Ian needed my help. But he’d blocked me! Oh noes!

He was after scans of an issue of Total magazine from the 90s, specifically the “Zelda IV”, now known as Link’s Awakening, review. And since I have scans of almost every magazine known to man from that era, I was his only hope (well, until someone else piped up with their own copies I suppose).

He was putting together a video and needed them for it. Thankfully word got to him, he unblocked me, and we all lived happily ever after. Here’s the video (with the reference to me at about 5:53 in):

The 2018 Gaming Expenditure Horror

MONEY

I’m sure I get round to this later and later each year. Maybe the 2025 report will be in 2028 or something. Anyway, the figures from previous years and then the 2018 Horror:

2010 – £590.32
2011 – £888.22
2012 – £834.48
2013 – £342.82
2014 – £464.92
2015 – £932.92
2016 – £964.02
2017 – £734.87
2018 – £271.60

Wait what? Less then £300? In an entire year? That’s the lowest I’ve ever spent in a year since I started recording this back in 2010, and I suspect it’s the lowest ever since I got a full time job. So what happened there, then?

Well, the main thing is that I didn’t buy any hardware. No new consoles. Last time that happened was back in 2013, and you can see that 2013 was my previous spending low tide. More than this though, I really didn’t buy very much at all in 2018.

In fact, the biggest expense was Pokémon. As in, both Let’s Go games, and a Pokéball – these totalled £110.90, not far off half my entire year’s spending.

Anyway, time to breakdown the figures.

Not really a surprise to see that in a year when I bought virtually no hardware, the hardware slice is very small.

What about which platforms I spent money on?

The first thing to notice is what is missing. No iOS, 360 or PC/Mac this year. There’s a slight drop (from 74.1% to 63.6%) for the Switch, but bear in mind that figure last year included the Switch itself! The Wii U still being there surprised me, but then I remembered I bought a second copy of Hyrule Warriors as I wanted a physical disk and my existing copy was digital.

Something to bear in mind is that I did actually get games from other platforms – but I didn’t pay anything for any of them. Some were presents, some were bought with digitial store vouchers given as presents, and quite a few were given out free from places like Humble Bundle on on giveaways on Twitter.

A final chart:

This was also a surprise, until I look into it deeper. The vast majority of the games I’ve bought in the last year were indeed downloads, but the majority of those were essentially free. Or indeed, very cheap. Plus those pesky Pokémon games skew things again too – they were both physical copies.

Previously I’ve also looked at the number of games I’ve bought. In 2016 it was 198, and in 2017 it dropped to 155. In 2018 this number fell even further to “just” 96. I also completed 86 games last year, so I’m getting close to completing more than I buy – and this is a target for 2019. Yes: I’m trying to not buy any games for as long as I can hold out, and complete more than I buy. I’ll never make a dent in the Pile of Unplayed, but at least I can try and reverse the trend, right?

It’s also worth pointing out that in 2018 I purchased my 3000th game. That’s a lot of games.

The 2017 Gaming Expenditure Horror

Ruh-Roh

It’s that time again. When I cry my eyes out over the amount of money I’ve wasted on veedayo games in the previous year. Surely I’ve learned my lesson this year, yeah? Especially since there haven’t been any consoles I’ve ne–oh crap the Switch.

Previously on Gaming Expenditure Horror:

2010 – £590.32
2011 – £888.22
2012 – £834.48
2013 – £342.82
2014 – £464.92
2015 – £932.92
2016 – £964.02
2017 – £734.87

Hurrah! I made it! Finally, I’ve reversed the trend, and spending is on the decline. Even though I bought a Nintendo Switch (£279.85), and some stuff for it like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Special Edition (£58.21), a pair of neon joycon (£79.85), a Switch Pro Controller (£54.99) and Super Mario Odyssey (£35.14). In fact, just these Switch items account for over two thirds of the total – £508.04. With a fair few Switch eShop titles on top, it’s been a mostly Switch-spent year.

As always, let’s do some breakdowns. Starting with the hardware/software split:

Given what I said, that’s hardly a surprise.

What about which platforms I spent money on?

Again, not really a surprise. The Switch has had a knock-on effect on both the PS4 (which, compared to 2016, I’ve barely played) and the 3DS (ditto).  The Wii U has virtually disappeared, as I expected once the Switch came out, and everything else remains much the same as before. Which is to say, mostly zero.

PC and Mac are hanging on in there. I played a few more of them this year.

And the final chart:

Last year, I bucked the trend with an increase in the physical purchase percentage, after it previously decreasing year-on-year. I’m back on the trend line now though, with downloads once more taking more of my money.

Looking at how many games I bought last year – 155 – that’s a drop over last year’s 198. A large number of them were free or almost free PC and Mac games from various deals and bundles too. Unfortunately, another dropis the number of games I completed: Just 65 compared to 2016’s 110. That said, there were a lot of very long games (Zelda, Assassin’s Creed, Persona 4 Golden, Stardew Valley to name just four) last year.

Still. There’s no hardware due in 2018, so maybe there’ll be further improvements to this game purchase situation. Maybe.

Ahahaha.

Pokémon Gone

Everybody’s dead, Dave.

That’s it. I’m free. No more walking eggs, no more staring at my phone everywhere I go, no longer will my phone battery need charging five times a day. Pokémon Go is over.

Well, not yet, but soon. Niantic have announced that in February, Apple devices that can’t run iOS 11 will no longer be able to run Pokémon Go. Since I can’t run iOS 11, I can’t keep playing, and I’m damned if I’m buying a new phone just for one “game”.

It’s a shame, but in a way I’m glad. It’s given me a reason to stop. I’d say it’s been fun but actually, has it? Collecting all the monsters hasn’t been feasible, the gyms have been broken so they serve no purpose other than to provide me with coins, trading Pokémon never happened, and raids are impossible (and mostly pointless). I have to wonder why I was playing, and honestly, I can’t think of a single reason.

So I’ve stopped now. There’s nothing to gain from playing for another 6 or 7 weeks and then having it switched off, so why wait? It’s gone.

Goodbye Dave, Dave, Dave and Dave. And Dave. Poor Dave.

2017 Game of the Year, The Actual 2017 Game of the Year

Which is the game of the year, of the year 2017.

I’ve gone done and told you some great games that were not the best games of 2017 (that I played for the first time in 2017, remember) in parts 1 and 2. Some great, great games in there, Brent. But you’ll notice that I’ve already discounted two highly likely winners of the prize – Mario and Zelda.

Which leaves what, then? Did you guess? And don’t think that big picture at the start of this post (or thumbnail in your RSS reader, or in a broken position on the page because you’re reading this in 2034 and WordPress themes have moved on and aren’t properly backwards compatible and anyway who needs images now when your eyes have been replaced with bionic implants that source stuff straight from the AOLWeb?) gives it away, because that’s a decoy. Although oh my, what a decoy.

Continue reading “2017 Game of the Year, The Actual 2017 Game of the Year”

2017 Game of the Year, Part 2

Part 2 of the list of the best games I played for the first time in 2017. Again, they’re in no particular order, but they are better games than those in Part 1. Although those in Part 1 were great too. Erm. After this there’ll be one more post with the Actual Best Game of 2017, which isn’t any of these.

SteamWorld Heist (3DS)

I’ve no idea why it took me so long to jump into this. I like turn based strategy games, I loved the aesthetic of SteamWorld Dig, and the reviews (from people I trust especially) were very complimentary. When I finally did buy it – oh my was it great.

A side-on, platformy strategy turn based shooter was waiting for me. And I loved every minute. Bought the DLC. 100%ed the game. Outstanding game. Just a little too short, perhaps? If I had to choose something negative, I mean.

I’m hoping for a sequel in 2018. Got on it, Image & Form!

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch)

Waaaait a minute, I hear you cry. Zelda wasn’t Game of the Year? Nope, sorry.

It was excellent. It took everything I liked about 3D Zelda games (er, it being Zelda, mainly) and took out or changed everything that I hated about them. It’s open world, it’s mostly completely choose your own path. There’s loads to find, tonnes to do, and it’s slick and clever and just a bit… disappointing.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s one of the best games this year. It’s the best 3D Zelda by a long way. But being unable to climb walls when it’s raining, no proper dungeons, and (Lynels aside) an almost complete lack of any sort of challenge temper that a bit. But it’s really very, very good. Honest.

Life is Strange: Before the Storm (PS4)

I mentioned this on the ugvm podcast, and on my diary so won’t go over it all again here, except to say this: it’s a fantastic, gripping story, but it’s not as epic or interesting as the original Life is Strange. Before the Storm is still absolutely worth your time, though, even if Chloe isn’t Chloe.

Gorogoa (Switch)

This came in late in 2017. Very late, in fact – in the very last week of the year. But I completed it and felt very clever.

It’s a point and click puzzle adventure game with an unusual method of solving puzzles that’s too long winded to explain here. You feel like you’re juggling several puzzles at once in your head, and needing to re-arrange scenes on the screen (and separate “slices” of them out) just adds several layers of confusion and complexity to them.

Mighty Gunvolt Burst (Switch)

I suppose years ago, I wouldn’t have given this a second look. However, you may have seen that a while back I ran through all the Mega Man and Mega Man X titles, and I also enjoyed the (freebie) original Mighty Gunvolt – which was basically Mega Man in different clothes.

Well, Mighty Gunvolt Burst takes Mighty Gunvolt and ramps it up into a full Mega Man experience. With elemental bosses, that provide weapons to help defeat other bosses weak to those element. There’s a massively deep and varied upgrade system for both moves and attacks, and if that wasn’t enough there’s a whole separate character (with different skills) to play as too. Then they added a third character!

One of the best platformers of the year and so replayable. I’ve completed it about 8 times now, if you need some sort of proof.

SteamWorld Dig 2 (Switch)

Also one of the best platformers of the year, is SteamWorld Dig 2.

I loved the first game. I bought it twice, in fact. This sequel improves on it in almost every way possible though – it’s bigger, more varied, has a better story, has more interesting upgrades, has less grinding for money, and, well, is just better OK? OK.

Super Mario Odyssey (Switch)

Also one of the best platformers of the year, is Super Mario Odyssey.

Sure, I’ve been quite dismissive of it. At the end, with the grinding coins to buy moons, I was actively hating it. If you don’t go for 100% though, and stop playing once you’ve had enough (which was around 500 of the 999 moons for me), then it’s hard to fault it.

It looks glorious. The originally un-Mario soundtrack and un-Mario graphics, over time, became “normal” for Mario and what was originally a mess of art styles just worked. It’s creative, Mario is a joy to control, and although it’s not the followup to Mario 64 I really wanted I can’t argue that until it outstays its welcome it’s utterly sublime.

It just has too many damn moons!

Stardew Valley (Switch)

I’d owned this for ages, unplayed, on Steam, but the problem with Steam is that is isn’t on the Switch. So when Stardew Valley appeared on that, I jumped on it.

It’s really just a clone of Harvest Moon, only how Harvest Moon on the SNES would have been if it continued evolving without changing graphically that much. If that makes sense. Everything is – or can be with the right tools or items – streamlined. You open shortcuts to places to save all the walking. You can sell anything by just sticking it in a box next to your house. Crops can be watered automatically. Animals can be fed automatically.

If I’m not selling it, then put it this way: I played it for 120 hours. 120! That’s more than any other game last year.


So then. Can you guess which game I’ve missed? Which title is my Game of the Year, 2017? It’s not Zelda or Mario, look – I’ve already mentioned them. Find out next time! How exciting.

2017 Game of the Year, Part 1

Once more, it is time to declare which game was the best game of all games in 2017. Once more, I will always be right. And, once more, the rule is that the game was played by me for the first time in 2017, rather than came out in 2017.

With that said, here are the games that didn’t quite make it, in no particular order:

Lego City Undercover (Switch)

Already I’ve broken the only rule I’ve given myself, as I first played this a few years ago when it was a Wii U exclusive. However! The Switch version is two player, where the original was single player only, and playing the entire thing in co-op was new. Sort of. It’s still a fantastic game, and mostly fixes the terrible loading times from the Wii U version (which was perhaps the only fault), so it gets a mention here.

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate (PS4)

Like Unity before it, which made last year’s list, Syndicate is a flawed gem. The assassining hasn’t been this good in ages. The missions were mostly pretty good. Jacob wasn’t as good as Evie to control, granted, but still – it’s a step above the already pretty good Unity.

As with all games in the series, there are bugs which threaten to ruin the game but luckily are mainly just of the funny variety here. Being set in London added to the experience, too, I think.

It’s not perfect, but it’s excellent. So good, in fact, that I even went and got all the collectables and did all the side missions, as well as some of the DLC.

Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap

A graphical and aural facelift for a game that was always brilliant. The gameplay is old school, it’s pretty difficult, and plays exactly like the Master System original. Which is exactly what I wanted, really.

Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair (PS4)

Shooting giant insects and robots never gets old. Climbing into a giant robot and punching a skyscraper sized lizard in the face is even better.

Sure, even though it’s pretty much a retread of EDF 2017 on the Xbox 360, and yes – it might look only a bit better and it still suffers from the worst slowdown ever seen despite the extra power of the PS4 – but that doesn’t matter. Shooting giant ants, man. Giant ants.

Kamiko (Switch)

A short, but fun little hack and slash (or aim and shoot, if you choose the archer) game with some simple puzzles and some Titan Souls-looking visuals and bosses. It’s never going to be the best game of the year, but it’s cheap and I enjoyed it a lot, completing it with all three characters and unlocking everything.

Hitman (PS4)

That’s Hitman as in, the recent Hitman not the old Hitman from waaaaay back. After the terrible mis-step that was Hitman Absolution, Agent 47 was properly back in a series of episodes, each set in completely different scenarios and each with a hundred solutions.

The sheer number of ways you can assassinate your targets, by stealth, by cunning, by sniper rifle, by boobytrapping, by proxy… it’s incredible. There were so many “surely I can’t” moments where I found, why yes, yes you can. And it was funny too.

Definitely the best Hitman game.

Bye-Bye Box Boy! (3DS)

It’s not a big name, it’s not a well known series, but Boy Boy’s third title is another excellent platform puzzler that somehow manages to twist the formula a little more over the first two games.

I felt it was a bit easier than previous titles, but I love the art style and the variety in what is essentially a simple premise, and it’s one of the best games on the 3DS eShop.

And that’s it for Part 1. Part 2 will have some more games. Better games than these, even! But will it have the best game of 2017? No. That’ll be later.

The ugvm Podcast is still happening

And I’m just as surprised as anyone.

We’ve done four proper (and one pilot) episodes now. There’s a scattershot selection of ugvm colleagues joining me each time, we’re still tweaking the formula (and the recording method), and the “let’s make it an hour long” goal is now a running joke. But here we are, and I think it’s pretty decent actually.

I’ve no reason to suspect, or even hope for, mass recognition and we’re just one of a billion videogame podcasts, but that isn’t really important. We’ve listeners outside of the ugvm group. We’ve had positive feedback and constructive criticism. That’s not really important either, to be honest. No, I’m finding the best bit is just having a chat about games with some mates. Some of whom I’d never actually spoken to.

Anywho, Episode 4 went up this week. We chatted about lootcrates and Mario and Sonic and all sorts. You can find it here.