Spider-Man: Remastered: The City that Never Sleeps: The Heist (PS5): COMPLETED!

That’s more colons than a tin of cheap dog food.

I won’t go into the mechanics of this DLC chapter as they’re the same as in the main game, but the story is much more low-key than what went before. It follows the return of Black Cat and how the Maggia (definitely not the Mafia) are resurging into Manhattan to fill the void left by Kingpin’s incarceration and how one of the Maggia family dons, Hammerhead, is trying to seize power from all the other families.

It’s more of the same, but there are some additional mission types (including side missions involving Screwball which are… unusual), and any more Spider-Man is good news so that’s just fine. Oh, and I unlocked Spider-Pants.

Spider-Man: Remastered (PS5): COMPLETED!

The most important thing in any Spider-Man game is the web swinging. What’s the point of being Spider-Man without it? Sure, he could swing in some of the 2D 8 and 16-bit platformers, but when the Gamecube-era Spider-Man 2 game came out the freedom of 3D traversal round New York was a massive wow. The rest of that game… not so much.

Well, much time has passed since then and this, the PS5-improved version of the PS4 exclusive, is very much the same game as that Spider-Man 2 of yore only even more impressive and gets almost everything right.

In the same way that Arkham Asylum made you feel like you really were The Goddamn Batman, in this game you feel like you really are the, uh, Goddamn Spider-Man, in a way none of the previous games quite managed. Peter Parker is light and agile, he’s quick and flexible both physically and in his fighting style. You have a lot of control over ground, air and distance attacked, both with kicks and punches and with his webs, which can be used to both slow down enemies and grab nearby items to chuck at them. You can attack from walls and ceilings, slide between legs to attack from behind, and have a number of gadgets with which to web up, electrify or otherwise incapacitate foes, and you can even jump in the air then grab a baddie via a web shot and drag them up into the air with you. It’s so fluid and easy to mix up your attacks and dodges. Plus, of course, there’s all the swinging between buildings in Manhattan.

It does borrow more than a bit from those Batman games, however. Frequently you’re dropped in a room with patrolling guards or thugs, and you have to take out as many as you can without being seen before all hell breaks loose, and these sections are ripped straight from Rocksteady’s games. You can even grab baddies and leave them hanging from gargoyles, if that’s how you want to play it. Of course, being Spider-Man, you can do the same from walls and ceilings too, which Batman couldn’t. Also borrowed from Batman is the “detective mode” type scanner, where you can highlight objects and enemies that are behind walls, or discover clues to follow.

The plot OK but it’s played out in an uninteresting way, as it’s basically “these guys are bad”, followed by “now you’ve got rid of those guys, these guys have come in instead and they’re worse” followed by “the guys we sent in to deal with those guys are actually worse still and you’ve now got to deal with them”. All the while there’s the Kingpin in prison trying to run his empire from his cell, a load of escaped super criminals like Vulture and Rhino to take down, and the gradual change in Otto from Peter’s mate and employer to Doc Ock. There’s also the Not-Green-Goblin Norman Osborn who has sent his son (and Peter’s friend) Harry “away” because he is “sick” who starts off as mayor and becomes increasingly evil as the game progresses, but never actually embodies it completely. Sequel, perhaps?

The voice acting and characterisation is excellent, with J Jonah Jameson being especially good with his radio show rantings that you frequently listen to. Although this instance of Spider-Man and his Assorted Friends and Foes is in a separate universe to both the comics and the MCU, there’s obviously similarities but it still manages to remain its own thing. And luckily it’s not yet another retelling of his origin story. Graphically the game is impressive, especially the draw distance, but it didn’t feel as PS5 as I felt it probably could. Perhaps I was expecting something a bit more realistic? Or more lighting effects? It doesn’t subtract from the experience, and is probably down to being a touched up PS4 game, but still – I was hoping for a bit more for the eyes.

Something which came as a surprise is that you get to play a few missions as people other than Spider-Man himself. There are a few as MJ, sneaking into (or out of) buildings while trying to find evidence. She gets the ability to incapacitate and distract guards, but can’t actually fight so it’s all stealth. You also get a couple as pre-bite Mile Morales, which are similar but he can hack devices remotely to cause distractions. To be honest, none of these missions are very good but they’re all pretty short.

There are also loads of side-missions for Spidey himself, with various challenges and a wide variety of things to do, from using spiderbots to defuse bombs to chasing pigeons. All of which I completed, as I very much enjoyed the game and so merely finishing the story wasn’t enough – I went back and did every optional mission and challenge too. And then? Well, there’s the DLC!

Little Big Planet 3 (PS4): COMPLETED!

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?

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.

Overcooked 2 (PS5): COMPLETED!


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Although I enjoyed the original Overcooked, it was much too hard. Sure, I could get one star on each level, but that wasn’t enough to progress. With the “All You Can Eat” pack a free rental on PS+, my daughter and I gave the sequel a go and it’s much, much easier. To the point where we got 3 stars on most levels first time.

The main change seems to be that you have much more time to complete dishes. Previously it was all too easy to get a meal almost ready before the customer complained (which also wasted the meal, in most cases), but I don’t recall there even being a time limit in Overcooked 2. That does sort of remove any challenge from the game, but then, that made it more enjoyable for us and we managed to reach the end without ever having to return to earlier levels to try and scrape an extra star or two to unlock the next level.

Earth Defense Force 5 (PS5): COMPLETED!

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!

One Piece Pirate Warriors 4 (PS5): COMPLETED!

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.

Star Trek Online (PS5): COMPLETED!

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?

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life (PS4): COMPLETED!

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.

Kiryu and Akiyama fight some Triads in the sewers. Pretty standard.

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.

In Hiroshima, Kiryu doesn’t wear his jacket. Big news!

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…

Yakuza Kiwami 2 (PS4): COMPLETED!

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:

Maneater (PS5): COMPLETED!

At first, Maneater is a great fish-chomping game with slightly annoying combat (with crocodiles and barracuda) and a funny faux Deadliest Catch style narration, but it soon starts to become tedious and repetitive. And then, even though the game doesn’t change, it becomes fun again. I’m not sure why.

You’re a baby shark, who eats to get bigger and evolve, ultimately to take down Scaly Pete, the fisherman who killed your mother. The waters you swim in are broken down into areas, with you starting in a swamp and moving through an industrial area, a nightlife filled city, the open sea, and so on. Each is opened up by completing tasks, such as munching a number of humans on a beach or destroying a fishing boat or culling some seals. Bigger water creatures attack you, and if you cause enough damage or eat enough people, the humans start to hunt you down.

There are RPG elements, as each thing you consume gives you certain “nutrients” which are spendable on upgrades such as gnashier teeth or a whippier tail. You also get different types of body part, such as bone or electric, for progressing. As well as this, you’ve 10 increasingly difficult hunters to coax out and eat as a sort of side story, and a number of Tony Hawk style floating objects to collect or Assassin’s Creedy hidden chests to smash open.

As for why I tired of the repetition before getting back into it and having a whale (a sperm whale, actually – I ate a few) of a time – perhaps I just switched off a bit of my brain and embraced the simplicity? There’s not much depth (except in the open sea, ho ho), and it’s not very hard (although I had a couple of hurdles that required levelling up a bit), nor is it very long, but don’t go in expecting Skyrim with Sharks and you’ll probably enjoy it too.

Maquette (PS5): COMPLETED!

Maquette is a very clever idea married with a nice story but neither has much to do with the other. It’s basic premise is that you’re in a world and in that world is a miniature representation of the same world, and at the same time the world you’re in is a small version of a larger world. It’s turtles all the way down.

But they’re not just models – items that exist in one sized world also exist in the other sizes, and you can pick them up and move them from, say, the smaller world to the “normal” world, and then they become tiny in the small world. Or vice-versa to make them big. Puzzles revolve around this, with you needing to make keys for doors bigger or smaller, or place items on the other side of the small walls so they’re there in the larger world where the wall is too big to jump over.

It’s very clever, but flawed. A number of times the physics thwarted me by bouncing an item out of reach. Or I fell through a floor that had no solidity. A later puzzle involves slotting Tetris-like shapes into a partly populated grid, but the controls and “snapping” of items made dropping them in exactly the right place incredibly frustrating.

Much like what I thought of the game itself once completed.

The final chapter involves the you being able to move the domed structure you’re in (the maquette of the title, presumably) by moving a smaller version of it already inside it. While the brainknots this causes are impressive, it all seems a bit too much for the, uh, feeble PS5 as it carrying the dome around makes the game chug along with sometimes more than one frame per second. And it crashed twice, once taking a saved game with it – thankfully I had a “spare”. Not what I expected from The Most Powerful PlayStation.

The story, which has no real bearing on the game bar the basic tone and the odd object that’s referenced, is actually about the chance meeting of two people, them getting together, moving in together, and the relationship stagnating. It’s not twee, nor is it sad, but it doesn’t fit with the game.

So, Maquette is a clever puzzle game ruined a little by technical issues, while you listen to a podcast about a young couple who met in a cafe.

Concrete Genie (PS4): COMPLETED!

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.

LocoRoco Remastered (PS4): COMPLETED!

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.