I don’t know where I got this. PS+, perhaps? I certainly would never have bought it what with not really liking the first game. Oh sure, it was clever and it looked pretty and you could make your own levels, but they forgot to make it controllable and fun and the physics are all over the place and the moving in and out of the screen is hit and miss. But they’ll have fixed that two sequels later, right?
Sadly, no. They have not. Everything is still too floaty. Sackboy still jumps like he’s on the moon. In-and-out of the screen is still fiddly and often broken. Only now there’s more to complain about! I was playing co-op, which adds a whole new set of issues, such as prioritising who the camera should follow when you’re separated (most of the time it’s the one who isn’t in the middle of pixel-perfect jumping). And grabbing hold of each other instead of objects.
I don’t remember if I had problems with checkpoints previously but in Stupid Sackboy Game 3 they’re badly spaced out. It’s also too hard to see how many “lives” you have left, as the checkpoint shows you but is frequently obscured by stuff or – in several cased – seemingly invisible.
On top of all that, the game is much too easy. You could say that the difficulty is finding all the secrets, or all the items, or whatever and that may be true, but aside from one phase of the end of game boss, the game is a complete walkover. In fact, the only difficulty was caused by the two-player mode and the aforementioned camera nonsense.
Luckily, it was short and I didn’t have to endure it for long. My daughter, however, loved it. Kids these days know nothing.
I realised for the first time while playing EDF 5, having played all (I think) of the previous titles in the series, that I think the reason I enjoy them so much is that they’re basically musou games only with guns and aliens. Sure, there’s less base defence and area capture, but the gameplay is surprisingly similar.
After I’d played a few levels, my daughter noticed it was two player and so asked to join in, which made it even more like musou games like Pirate Warriors and Hyrule Warriors that we’d played together.
If you’ve played an EDF game you’ll know exactly what to expect from Earth Defense Force 5. Millions of giant insects, cities that get levelled, hundreds of weapons and the best worst voice acting ever. Only this time round, it’s all with a rock solid framerate rather than sometimes dropping to seconds-per-frame, even in split screen. I suspect running this PS4 game on my PS5 counts for some of that though.
The game also adds new enemies to the series. The “Hector” robots are gone, replaced with giant frog soldiers (that your teammates refer to as ”just like us” – are they blind?”) and armoured giant alien soldiers. There are also a few more varieties of ants and spiders and stuff. Otherwise, it’s basically more of the same. Which is no bad thing of course, and exactly why I bought it!
Not that long ago I picked up One Piece Pirate Warriors 3 on the Switch because it was cheap and I was after a fun musou game. Turned out that, despite not knowing anything about One Piece, it was really rather good. So, when the sequel was cheap on PSN and I’d just bought a second PS5 controller, I thought I’d pick it up.
It’s more of the same, really. There’s a few different story arcs, characters who were not in the previous game, and a new skill upgrade tree method which is easier to make use of this time round, but ultimately it’s a prettier looking (thanks PS4), faster loading (thanks PS5) expansion to Pirate Warriors 3.
As before, I played it from start to finish with my daughter in co-op. Well, aside from the few levels which are bafflingly single player only despite there being a second AI character that could be player 2 in each of them. We also completed all 120+ of the “treasure mode” scenarios, which are vaguely analogous to the Adventure Mode in HYRULE WARRIORS, and I even unlocked every single trophy, which is pretty unheard of.
It’s mindless and mashy and repetitive, sure, but it’s also a lot of fun.
As it turns out, it is possible to complete Star Trek Online, and it’s possible to do it without paying any money at all. Because that’s what I did.
I know that for many people, the game here is all the endgame content, playing with others, doing the same missions over and over and collecting all the ships and stuff. That’s not for me. I reached the cap of level 65, then finished all the single play missions remaining, and that’s it. And it was mostly OK?
I’m still baffled how buggy it is, especially since some of the bugs I came across were there and reported on the official forums three or four years ago, and how clunky it all is. The menus are unwieldy and the menu navigation controls clearly suffer from controller rather than mouse use. The animations are PS2 level woodeness, characters randomly stand on chairs and tables (or sometimes, inside walls, doors or furniture), and getting stuck inside asteroids or rocky outcrops in caves is such a frequent issue that rather than fix it, they included a “warp somewhere nearby” option in the menu called “I am stuck”.
It’s repetitive. It’s broken. It’s ugly. And, although this isn’t the game’s fault, it doesn’t even fit into the Star Trek universe any more. But I enjoyed it enough to spend what is probably 125+ hours on it so I suppose it must have done something right?
And so, the Kazuma Kiryu saga is over. That’s it. Done. Well, until they decide to make another one which I’m 100% certain they will at some point.
Yakuza 6 isn’t a radical departure from the series, nor is it the pinnacle, but it is more melancholy, more complicated, and more based in seeming realism than previously. The story is very important, what with it being the last episode, so I dare not spoil it for you, but it involves Kiryu going to prison (again) for his part in the events of Yakuza 5, during which time Haruka vanishes only to reappear just as Kiryu finishes his sentence and is then coincidentally (or not) hit by a car and hospitalised. Oh yeah, and she has a baby, which The Dragon of Dojima decides to look after while Haruka lies comatose – meaning for several hours of play you have a baby to carry round everywhere too.
The first half of the game is mostly about Kiryu trying to track down both where Haruka has been for the last three years, and who – and then where – the father of the child is. With some of that resolved, Yakuza 6 returns to more Yakuza’y traditions, with gangsters and rival clans and Triads and the Korean Mafia and some off-track vigilantes all getting involved in the story, and it transpires that Haruka’s accident was much more central to the all out war in Kamurocho than it seemed at first.
As usual, there are twists that would make a Chubby Checker sweat: allegiance swapping, surprise reveals, backstabbing, spying, double-crossing and lots of fake respect. As agendas are revealed the plot gets more complicated, not less, and it isn’t until the final chapter than things finally start making sense. If there’s anything Ryu Ga Gotoku can do, it’s tell a gripping yarn.
And, interwoven is the regular series nonsense – arcades, side quests, bizarre events and even more bizarre characters. In the more rural Onomichi region of Hiroshima, where Kiryu spends half of the game, you come across references to a number of Studio Ghibli films – a boy and a girl swapping bodies when they fall down some stairs, and a girl who claims to have leapt through time, for example. Onomichi reminded me a bit of Okinawa from Yakuza 3, and combined with the local Yakuza family – who are key to the story – it feels a little like a re-tread of that game. Even one of the voice actors appears as characters in both.
Visually, it’s the most stunning Yakuza game to date. It’s running the same engine as Kiwami 2 and that looked incredible too, but having new locations helps even more here, I think. Playing it on a PS5 meant loading times hardly existed, which was much appreciated.
There isn’t much else I can say which doesn’t also apply to the other games in the series too, or that would ruin the excellent story here. As I said, it’s not my favourite Yakuza game (I think that might be Zero?), but it’s still absolutely fantastic. The surprises and the wait for the end reveal kept me hooked all the way through, and the gameplay is solid, the fighting meaty and enjoyable, and the nonsense turned up just enough. The characters in Yakuza games are some of the most well written, fleshed out and acted in the media, and that’s no different here. I particularly liked the unexpected appearance of Beat Takeshi, and his character arc.
Most importantly, if you’ve any affinity for Yakuza games, you absolutely must play this game. Or you could watch my playthough below, although that won’t tell you everything as Sega like to block the recording of the final chapters of Yakuza games…
If you’re a long time reader of this diary, or you follow me online generally, you probably know I don’t play games online very often, and I never play MMORPGs at all. Well, not since a brief dabble into Anarchy Online some 17 years ago, anyway. Why, you might ask, am I playing Star Trek Online then? And I would answer you with, I Really Don’t Know.
As a free to play game, I did a bit of research first. Mainly to find out how free “free” was: Are later bits impossible without spending money? Are you limited to just a few areas/missions/etc. unless you subscribe? That sort of thing. It turns out that Star Trek Online is surpisingly generous – there are something like 15 main “stories” (at least if you play as a Federation character – I think they’re different if you choose Klingon or Romulan) which are fully playable without paying for anything, and you can reach Level 60 with your character before you hit the “endgame” content which may require some outlay. In all, it looks like you get a good 100-odd hours out of it for nowt. Not bad.
But why would I play an MMO? Again, research suggested it’s all playable single player. And, having reached Level 30 and the rank of Captain, I can confirm I’m yet to see anyone else in the game at all. Apart from a strange impromptu party which happened on the space dock at Earth, but that hardly counts:
What I’m saying is, I’m playing a big ol’ Star Trek RPG, on my own, for free. So it’s not really an MMO at all, is it?
Not that you get the best things ever for free, of course. There are compromises, and it’s hardly Mass Effect levels of slick or Fallout New Vegas in Space in terms of combat or plot. It’s clunky, it’s jerky, it’s wonky and it’s fiddly. There are so many menus and items and options that it’s overwhelming. There are bugs galore, which seem to break quests for people frequently enough that they give you a “skip quest” option. It screws with Star Trek lore, although it does try to reference everything Star Trek has ever done, and some of the voice cast are actually straight from the various Trek series. There’s LCARS everywhere and all the ambient Trek noises you’d hope for – ship hum, door swish, computer bleeps, etc., so it’s trying very hard at least. It’s also set some time after TNG/DS9/Voyager.
As a single player RPG it’s a Numbers Go Up game. A boggling array of weapons, shields, upgrades and technologies for you, your crew and your ship ensure that at least 10 minutes of every hour’s play is poking around in the inventory checking to see if the DPS of your latest gun pickup is 0.1% better than the one you’re currently carrying, or if the 414 DPS antiproton phaser bank with a 250 degree firing arc and a 2s cooldown is better or worse than the 382 DPS plasma bank with a 360 firing arc but a 3s cooldown, or if you should ditch one of your quantum torpedo launchers so you can have both the antiproton bank and the plasma bank together instead. It’s like a complicated optician’s appointment.
In terms of gameplay, missions are split between space and ground events. Those in space usually involve dogfights or scanning stuff, and those on the ground are typical Star Trek away mission fare, albeit without dead redshirts. You explore planets and caves and derilict space ships and board the odd vessel to assault it from inside. As I said, there are about 15 stories in total available, each with around 10 missions. The stories link together too, with the overall plots involving Romulan rebels, the resurgance of the Klingon Empire, and Iconian gateways. It’s interesting having new Trek stories, if nothing else, and it’s certainly better than the nonsense Discovery came up with.
I’ve completed six or so of these stories, with my randomly generated Bajoran officer who looks just like Major Kira from Deep Space 9. I have a ship which looks a bit like Voyager only is black and translucent and has 4 nacells, and it’s called the USS Shootyboi. I think I’m having fun, but I’m not entirely sure why. The Numbers Go Up draw, perhaps. There’s always a new ability or target to reach. It’s how they getcha.
Returning to the clunkiness though, it’s hard to ignore. From the terrible animation and collision detection, to the PS2 graphics and environments, to the overly complicated systems (especially the seemingly superflous crafting and duty staff management), let alone stuff like the video below, it’s not a well game. The camera is wild, the controls unresponsive, and your away team frequently get in the way or get stuck in or under things. One mission I had to complete five times because the final “trigger” to send a report back to Star Fleet never appeared. If I’d paid money for this, I’d be somewhat miffed. As I understand it though, “clunk” is pretty synonymous with MMOs, and this one is now over a decade old (and free, I think I mentioned), so I shouldn’t be too harsh. Plus, being on my PS5 rather than PS4, the loading times are virtually removed, so that’s something.
Anyway, I could just walk away, right? Right. After the next mission.
Another PS4 game played on the PS5. I’ve not given this a go on an actual PS4 so I don’t know how much of this is the PS5, but having no loading is excellent, and it’s all in 4K and Kamurocho looks incredible.
Kiwami 2 is a remake of the original PS2 Yakuza 2 game, which I’ve never played. I knew some of the story from flashbacks in later games in the series, but none of the detail. Like the other Yakuza titles, the plot is all over the place – in a good way. People aren’t who you think they are, quite literally in several cases, and your allies have a tendency to swap sides. The story is mainly about the Korean mafia returning to Japan – having seemingly been wiped out 26 years ago – to take revenge on the Tojo Clan who killed them all on behalf of the police. More or less. Obviously, it’s not as simple as that.
As in the other Yakuzas, gameplay is a mixture of punching people in the face, and wandering round the city (well, cities – you return to Sotenbori too) finding people, places or avoiding things. There’s also the usual array of side missions, from the sensible to the nonsensical. In one, you might have to hunt down a kidnapper, but in another you’re a voice actor for a Boys Love video game. In the arcades there’s a fully working Virtua Fighter 2 machine next to the UFO Catchers, and you can play a golfing minigame, darts, or even run a hostess club should you not have enough to do in the main story. Oh! And best of all, a toilet arcade game called Toylets:
It’s Another Yakuza. It’s a very, very pretty Yakuza, and as always the voice acting and the characters are both fantastic. And, although I enjoyed it very much, if Yakuza isn’t for you then this isn’t going to change your mind.
If you want to watch my entire playthrough (bar the final chapter which Sega doesn’t let you broadcast), then you can here:
I didn’t know as much about this game, aside from people saying it’s a bit like Fallout only in space. That in itself was enough to buy it, but I didn’t realise it wasn’t just a bit like Fallout in space, it was Fallout in space.
OK, so the main story is shorter, and areas are smaller, and you have to use a spaceship to get between them, but everything Fallout (New Vegas, mainly) is here. Factions. Companions. Weapon deterioration. Scavenging and stealing from containers. A form of VATS. Consoles to hack and doorlocks to pick. Skills and perks. A similar run-down retro-futuristic aesthetic. Your character waking up from a long time in suspended animation. Power armour. In fact, if it had a radio station with 50s songs to listen to, it’d be indistinguishable.
And you know what? It’s really bloody good. The plot starts with you, having been awoken decades late on a space ship heading to a new human colony, trying to obtain the things necessary to rescue (or not) the rest of your frozen friends. The colony you were supposed to be setting up is already well up and running by another ship that wasn’t left floating in space, and everywhere is run by a group of corporations, each with their own agendas.
What this comes down to is standard Fallout stuff. Go to a factory or abandoned library to clear them of creatures or bandits in order to get a vial of something or a reference book for someone. Help one faction defeat another faction. Find lost people, avenge dead people, help injured people, upset powerful people, and kill evil people. If you’ve played Fallout 3, New Vegas or 4 then this will be very familiar,
But that’s OK, because I like those games. And I very much liked this one too. For the record, I was a Very Good Girl, helped as many people as I could, and saved all my ice lolly chums. And I only did stealing when nobody could see me, so that doesn’t count, right? Oh, and I played it on my PS5 which no doubt made it look a bit nicer and mostly obliterated load times, which probably added to the enjoyment a bit too.
Oh yeah, and there are loads of toilets, but sadly they’re almost all the same as each other.
I thought this game was going to be about painting murals on walls, which then come to life. And, for a while, it is. You paint genies who can help you move objects, activate power or open doors, and you can paint random stuff on most vertical surfaces. However, it’s a lot darker than that and the first third of the game involves a lot of hiding from some not very nice bullies.
There’s quite a bit of Assassin’s Creed style traversal, which I wasn’t expecting. Not sure how Ash, the boy you control, has the skills needed to use the underside of a crane arm as monkey bars without freaking out he’s going to die. There’s a lot of collecting scrapbook pages that float around the rooftops, again giving the feel of Assassin’s Creed III.
But it isn’t Assassin’s Creed of course – it’s a painting game as I said. Until it isn’t. The final part of the game introduces attacks, a skating mechanic, and a health bar, as you suddenly have enemies to fight. It also introduced a bug where one of the enemies wouldn’t move and was invincible. These bits of the game, and the final boss, aren’t really what I signed up for and don’t really fit. It doesn’t help that the “lock on” button very rarely actually locks on to the baddies, and when it does it doesn’t stay locked on for long. I don’t know if that’s a bug or by design, but either way it hampers beating them and just adds annoyance to the end of the game.
Concrete Genie is a very pretty game (perhaps more so as I played it on the PS5), with some clever bits and a nice world and story, and the painting bits are enjoyable, but the world traversal is clunky and the game style switch was a bad idea.
Let me preface this by pointing out that I won’t be going into detail about the game itself. Enough has been written elsewhere about the premise, and to mention too much about the plot will just be spoilers anyway. Instead, I’ll tell you why it has taken me OVER A YEAR to complete it.
Well, the main issue was the loading times. After all the DLC was installed, it took more than ten minutes from turning on my PS4 to being able to control Kassandra (like I’d play as Alexios) in the game. Fast travel was anything but, with horsing my way across the map genuinely feeling faster (and although most of the time it wasn’t, at least I could pick up wood and ore on the way). To be honest, after a few months of hour-or-two sessions, I’d started to not play it most of the time just because it took so long to get into. In August 2020 I made another stab at it, but again after a while the loading got me down so I stopped.
And then I bought a PS5.
Playing Odyssey on that has been a revelation. OK, so the load times aren’t instant but fast travel is a few seconds now, not minutes, and from boot-to-control is under two minutes. Plus I’ve taken to using suspend and rest on the PS5 so really, loading has mostly gone. And it’s like a different game.
There are probably graphical improvements and fewer frames dropped too, but I wouldn’t notice. They’re much less important, anyway.
So finally, after a couple of months, the achievement popped for completing Kassandra’s Odyssey (and an email from Ubisoft – in real life – came through congratulating me, which just feels weird). I’ve not killed all of the Cult yet, although I’ve made a good go at it, not least because after finishing off Deimos and doing a few forts, I discovered I’m completely invincible, thanks to (presumably) a bug:
This means I can take down anyone with impunity, and attract as many mercenaries to attempt to kill me as is possible because, well, they can’t. Turns out one of them was a cultist too – bonus.
The game itself is fun. It’s more of the same as Origins, albeit with lynxes instead of hippos and with more boating. Kicking people off cliffs with my Spartan Kick never gets old. The problem is, it’s too big. There’s too much to do. Although I’ve completed the main questline (and a handful of side quests), and I’ve spent over 85 hours on it, there’s still about 1/4 of the map completely unexplored. There’s still 27 open quests (plus however many I’ve not even found yet). There’s two entire lots of DLC I’ve not touched. I still have some cultists to assassinate. I’m level 47 with a cap of (I think) 100. And who knows what else. Sure, you can’t complain you don’t get your money’s worth here, but I’ve other games that need playing!
I bought this at the same time as Lego DC Super-Villains, as it was cheap to get them both together. And we started playing soon after we’d 100%ed that. Despite both being Lego superhero themed games, they’re actually pretty different.
Of course, this is based on the two The Incredibles films – although you play through the second film before the first – rather than DC properties, but the hub world in particular is quite different. There’s a whole city, split into districts. One of them will be the scene for a crimewave, and you pop over and deal with the crimes: bank robberies, bombs to defuse, goons to beat up, and so on. Once you’ve cleaned up, another area gets hit but also you unlock a special thing to build and the locations of all the collectables in that region are unveiled.
The story mode is as good as ever, but doesn’t really differ from other Lego games. Unlike other recent Lego games there’s quite a low number of unlockable characters, as although there seems to be hundreds, most are just reskins of the main Incredibles family and associates. You can unlock guest characters from other Pixar films though, like Dory, Lightning McQueen and the kid from Up.
So it’s the same, only different. And very short – we 100%ed it in less time than it took to do just story mode in DC Super-Villains – but that’s OK as we enjoyed it anyway.
Yes! It’s yet another Lego game. I’ve played a lot of them now, and they’re all basically the same. The thing with this one, is you play as all the DC Comics bad guys who have to save the world from an alternate universe version of The Justice League who are bad. Which basically means smashing everything and solving the odd puzzle.
It isn’t the best Lego game, but none of them are bad and this is pretty high up in the list. As well as lots of varied levels and the usual humour, DC Super-Villains has a decent hub world (albeit one where Gotham City, Smallville and Metropolis are all smooshed up together instead of being hundreds of miles apart) with lots to do. In fact, that’s where around half of the game – if you’re going for 100% – takes place. Find lots of things, do tasks for citizens, and lots of time trials. Too many time trials, truth be told. They’re not a great deal of fun when you have a million of them.
As usual, I played the lot in co-op with my daughter, and it was a lot of fun. The two of us chipping away at all the hub challenges separately with the odd two-player requirement for some is always great.
It’s been a while since I played this back on the PSP. I noticed it on PSN, with other PSP games PaRappa the Rapper and Patapon for about £3 in total, so picked them up. PaRappa, which was the main reason for buying them, is actually unplayable but luckily this is fine.
It’s a lot easier than I remember. Sure, if you’re going for 100% then yes, it’s tricky, but I didn’t even have any issues on the final level like I did before. Maybe they made it easier in this remaster?
And I say remaster. Apparently it’s just running on a PSP emulator and at a higher resolution during the game. The video sections are poorly upscaled and grainy with black bars, but they don’t really matter.
Sonic Forces is an exceptionally bad game. I knew this before I even started, partly because I’d played two different demos in the past, plus I knew it was “like Sonic Generations, only Worse”. I was never going to buy it, but then it was a free PS+ rental. But I was never going to play it, but then I did.
Here is a list of everything that is good about Sonic Forces:
Is it very short
I tried to find a 2 but I’m struggling. I could list everything that is bad about Sonic Forces, but I can do that with one word: Everything.
Special mention, however, could be made for several particularly awful things. Firstly, there’s the fact you can create your own character. Why this is necessary when Sonic games already have a cast of millions of terrible, terrible creatures you could have chosen, I don’t know. What it does here, though, is allow you to have a mute protagonist – referred to only by the name “rookie” – for some but not most of the levels. Every time you finish a level, a billion clothing items (all of which are useless) unlock for you to pointlessly change your character’s outfit in those few levels you don’t play as Sonic.
Secondly, there’s the inertia and physics. They’re all wrong. Yes, I know it’s not supposed to be realistic, but they don’t work in the game. The worst bit is when you’re playing a “2.5D” section, the way the screen scrolls too much when you make a slight landing alteration, screws up the jump arc. So, if you’re jumping right, but tap left a little, the whole screen moves the opposite way meaning you miss the landing.
Then there’s the fact that you’re waaaaay too small. The Green Hill, Chemical Plant and Death Egg levels especially feel like you’ve been shrunk.
And there’s more! All of the 3D into-the-screen levels are little more than rubbish “autorunner” games. You even tap the shoulder buttons to choose which “lane” you’re in. Several of the bosses are on these autorunner levels too, so they all feel exactly the same.
Finally (well, for this post at least – there are a million more things wrong with it I’ve not mentioned), it’s just not fun. At all. It’s not even worth what I paid for it (which was nothing). At least in Sonic Generations, the “old Sonic” levels were decent, but here they’re few and far between and have the broken inertia thing. Sure, they’re the best bits of the game, but that’s like saying you have a “best bit” when involved in a car accident.
Well, this has been a long time in coming, hasn’t it. Even longer than that, since I stopped playing before Christmas for a while so most eager fans have already completed it. Was I getting bored? No – it’s just a million other games came along and having to turn the PS4 on is so terribly tedious. Why couldn’t this have been on the Switch?
I’m partly serious, but of course I’m very glad we have Shenmue III at all, and I’d have bought whatever system was necessary to play it, if that was what it would have taken. The question is, was is worth the two hundred and seventy Earth pounds I paid for it? The answer, of course, is yes.
As a game, it certainly isn’t worth that amount of money. No game is. But this wasn’t paying to play just any game – this was paying for a game I’ve wanted to play for 18 years to actually get made, and that’s a different thing entirely. So here it is. And it’s exactly what I wanted. With just one issue.
Many people have complained that in terms of mechanics, controls, graphics, voice acting, and so on, Shenmue III is a relic. They’ve not improved anything in the gameplay, whereas other games have moved on. Some have said that it should have played more like Shenmue’s spiritual successor Yakuza. Others said it looks like a Dreamcast game with nicer graphics. To those people I say this: This is Shenmue III and to do it any other way would not be Shenmue III.
I won’t go into the story, events or characters – they have been covered by many better game writers than me. It’s no blockbuster film, in any sense, but it is a valid, seemless, continuation from Shenmue II to the point where the end of that game is the very beginning of this. The story keeps things ticking over, but ultimately the one real thing that we’ve waited all this time to happen… doesn’t. That shouldn’t be a spoiler at this point, by the way, but it’s the only negative thing I really have to say about the game. We now have to wait an unknown amount of time for Shenmue IV, should that ever come to light at all.
It’s difficult to explain why Shenmue III is so good when each of it’s parts – especially these days – is clearly below average. It might be a bit of nostalgia. It could be that despite there being a murder at the heart of it, it’s a gentle, slow-paced game about Ryo Hazuki training his kung-fu, gambling all his money away and (my favourite bit) hunting down fat chickens hidden in all the shops.
If you were never a fan of the games, you won’t enjoy this. But if you were a fan, Shenmue III should be both exactly what you were expecting, and exactly what you wanted.