Category Archives: xbox one

Search Anoxemia’s horrific ocean floor for a way out

I purchased Anoxemia at the same time I got Subject 13, and I played it for a bit before quickly losing interest. Both were relatively cheap, in terms of money, and so it didn’t weigh too heavy on my shoulders that I barely gave this a shot. Well, I’m trying to clear up some space on my Xbox One–y’know, so I can download more games I won’t get to right away–and I popped back into it the other night to see if it could hook me. Alas, it did not, and that’s a shame, because I love spooky underwater exploration, and this has that in droves. It’s just not fun to either play or control.

Anoxemia, which, for those that don’t know, is a condition of subnormal oxygenation of the arterial blood. It’s also a story-driven exploration game from BSK Games that puts you in control of scientist Dr. Bailey and his operations drone ATMA. Together, you’ll search the ocean floor as you discover and extract samples from the bowels of underwater caves. However, danger lurks in each passageway, everything from poison drifts to powerful ocean currents, leftover mines from the war, and mobile machines running haywire. Oh, and there’s also the ever-present risk of running out of oxygen. Fortunately, ATMA can help guide you to your destination using a few special tools and upgrades.

Initially, Anoxemia greets you with some stylized 2D drawings with some simple pan and scan animation, which does a good job of setting up the horror-driven story. Here’s a twist though…you don’t really control Dr. Bailey directly, instead using ATMA like a mouse cursor to make him follow along. Your main goal now is to steer ATMA forward and collect oxygen, energy, and contaminated plant samples. This all happens in a 2D platformer-esque fashion, except you are underwater, so everything is slow and swimmy, and there’s a lot of waiting for Dr. Bailey to catch up and perform the desired action. He needs to also dodge water mines, cannons, rocks, and lasers, which is not easy because, again, you aren’t controlling him directly.

The levels are relatively short, but there aren’t any clear instructions on what you are supposed to do. Death comes quick, and there is no checkpointing–at least not where I was early on–so you have to replay the level all over again from the start. Imprecise controls were mostly the reason Dr. Bailey bit the big one. As far as I can tell, you need to collect everything to proceed, while also not running out of oxygen or energy. Or getting hit by laser beams or heat-seeking machines. It’s a pretty tough game, and I think it knows that; throw in the dark, murky visuals, which do look great at times, but often obscure a lot of the environment, and you have a recipe for frustration.

Anoxemia also greatly lacks in giving the player any sense of progression. In any game, whether it is a platformer, an RPG, a first-person shooter, giving players the sensation that they are moving forward, making progress, is key to creating a successful game and keeping people hooked for more. Unfortunately, Anoxemia counters this by providing players with little variation in the maps and activities performed in them. Honestly, I couldn’t even tell when I was moving from one level to the next, and it felt like Dr. Bailey and ATMA were stuck on a ocean treadmill, going through the motions but ultimately getting nowhere. Also, the Achievements don’t provide any clues as to what you can or cannot achieve.

I’ll never know Dr. Bailey’s fate…though I suspect he’ll go through a good amount of torment before his finds the surface and makes it out alive. If that. Me? I’m not a masochist by design, and so Anoxemia has been uninstalled from my Xbox One. Maybe I’ll watch an online playthrough down the road, but for now I’m content with what I know, which is that ATMA moves forward and then, ten seconds later, Dr. Bailey faintly follows; I do not like that.

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, a big ol’ boring collectathon

I started playing Assassin’s Creed Syndicate when I came home from the hospital last August; I’m still playing it. It’s a long one, bloated with things to collect and many uninspired missions that I no longer even care about completing the way the developers clearly want me to, but I like finishing things that I start, and so I’ve stuck with it still despite it being really boring. Those are both my words and Melanie’s word; the poor thing has had to endure watching me run around like a maniac in search of every single collectible. I’m currently in sequence 8, with one more sequence to go, along with a few Achievements to unlock because, at this point, I’ve put in a good chunk of work to unlock them already…might as well see them pop.

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is set in a fictional history of real-world events and follows the centuries-old struggle between the Assassins, who fight for peace with liberty, and the Templars, who desire peace through order. The story is set in Victorian-era London and follows twin assassins Jacob and Evie Frye as they navigate the corridors of organized crime and take back the city from Templar control. Naturally, this being an Assassin’s Creed game, you’ll run into many a notable figures as you stab and loot your way to victory, such as novelist Charles Dickens, biologist Charles Darwin, inventor Alexander Graham Bell, political theorist Karl Marx, nurse Florence Nightingale, Duleep Singh (the last maharajah of the Sikh Empire), Sergeant Frederick Abberline of the Metropolitan Police Service (known for his investigation of Jack the Ripper), and Queen Victoria. Phew.

It’s an Assassin’s Creed game, which means it does all the same things previous ones have done, but on a grander scale, this being on the Xbox One and not the Xbox 360. It’s got main missions, side missions, a thousand collectibles, gear to upgrade, income to earn, gangs to upgrade, skills and perks to unlock, and so on, just like Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag–maybe the last one I’ve truly enjoyed–Assassin’s Creed II, and Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. I wasn’t thrilled with Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, and all I remember from it is that is focused heavily on bombs. Anyways, taking place in a bustling place like London, the buildings are bigger and more closely connected to each other; to help get around somewhat faster, both Jacob and Evie have access to a grappling hook device that shoots a zipline from one place to another. This still doesn’t make all the running around fun or that much quicker, as climbing can still be iffy, with the occasional leaping off of rooftops to your swift death below.

Here’s something funny I’ve been doing while running around from one place to another simply to collect a pressed flower, a poster, a beer bottle, or a chest full of crafting/upgrade ingredients. I’ve been telling Alexa–that robot lady everyone seemingly now has in their house–to play a playlist of polka music. Honestly, it makes all the to-ing and fro-ing much more enjoyable, because it’s not like any interesting dialogue is happening at this time, and getting from A to B can often take a couple of minutes, depending on where you are and whether or not there’s a fast travel viewpoint nearby. At some point, I have to give up the notion that I’m going to open every single chest in this game because…there are just too many.

Combat in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is still a button-mashy mess. You can string together a couple of combos, as well as counter an incoming attack from a different enemy, but only if you time it just right. Then, some enemies, require you to break their stance by stunning them before you can begin a new combo. This sounds par for the course, and it is, but things go sour real fast the minute you have four or more enemies attacking you at once, as well as snipers on rooftops that you have to dodge. I eventually began using hallucinogenic darts from a distance to get enemies to fight each other, with me sneaking in at the end to finish off the remaining survivors. It’s not the coolest way to go about it, but it works. Also, while the skill trees make it seem like Evie is the sneaky one and Jacob is the more aggressive combatant, both play exactly the same way and can unlock the same abilities for fighting…so there’s really no point in having two playable characters other than for story-related reasons.

Looking at my games to install list on the ol’ Xbox One, I still have Assassin’s Creed III to play. Also, this month, we’re getting a free copy of Assassin’s Creed: Rogue from Games With Gold. Ugh. I’ll never be done with this series. Plus, there’s the newest ones, Origins and Odyssey, which, according to podcasts I’ve listened, sound like they are too big for their britches. Can’t wait. Part of me enjoys the idea of a collectathon, but maybe only one that is both not this big or a bit more fun to play. Heck, I enjoyed collecting 10 eggs recently in Dear Cousin more than anything I’ve accomplished in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. Please pray that I’m finished with this beast sooner than later.

Murder once more and slide in style with Apex Legends

I’ll just start this post off with a humble brag: my squad won on my fourth go at Apex Legends, a new free-to-play battle royale game where legendary competitors battle for glory, fame, and fortune on the fringes of the Frontier. It comes to us from Respawn Entertainment, as well as EA, which previously made things like Titanfall, Titanfall 2, and Call of Duty, all of which I’ve never played. Well, there was that one time I tried a demo for some Call of Duty entry on the Xbox 360, but it didn’t go well; heck, it went so poorly that I never even bothered to document it on Grinding Down. Wah.

Anyways, the battle royale genre is looking like it is here to stay, at least for the near future, and I’m okay with that. I don’t really play a lot of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds these days, though I did hop into it recently to check out the snowy map, but I am still dipping into Fortnite Battle Royale mode to eat up all the various in-game challenges and level up my Battle Pass. This one, this Apex Legends, does a lot of neat things for the blossoming genre, many of which I fully expect to see show up in other games as soon as they can implement them, and I’m having a pretty good time overall despite not being the greatest guns-blazing attacker. Thankfully, there are support classes to rock and other ways to help out your teammates.

The setup is, more or less, as expected. There’s an island full of buildings, weapons, and differently named locations, and you’ll land on it with the goal of being the last team standing. Ah, see, this is a three-squad game, and there’s no solo mode. I really like that there’s a jumpmaster–basically, one person on your squad is randomly assigned this role, and they get to decide where to land–and everyone on your squad jumps together, locked in, though you can veer off if you want to, but Apex Legends stresses staying together, even offering numerous ways to, ahem, respawn downed teammates. A ring slowly closes over time, forcing squads to face off in smaller areas, and there’s a bunch of high-tech weapons to pick up, along with ammo, attachments, and health boosts.

Apex Legends stands out by offering a playable roster that’s more like what you’d find in a hero shooter like Overwatch, which, again, I’ve still not played, despite there always being a free weekend event for it like every month. Characters called Legends include a robot scout named Pathfinder, a hulking heavy known as Gibraltar, a skirmisher named Wraith who is surrounded by inter-dimensional sparks, as well as several others. They all play different roles, like stealth, healer, or scout, but no one character is faster or stronger than anybody else from the get-go. In addition to a special passive ability, Legends have a tactical move and an ultimate power, both of which are on cooldowns.

So far, for me, the neatest thing that Apex Legends is doing differently is based around reviving your squad members. When you die, your squad has a certain amount of time to get to you and revive you as you are bleeding out. If they don’t make it in time, they can still collect your “banner,” a customizable image that represents your character. At any point during the match, they can then run to a respawn beacon and insert your banner, which will respawn you in a dropship up in the sky. Naturally, there’s a risk to this—using the beacon takes time and leaves you exposed—but it’s a welcomed chance to get back into the game. Usually, in Fortnite or PUBG, after dying, I’d just drop back to the lobby, not caring what happened to my remaining teammates, but now there is more reason to stick around and see if you can rejoin the battle.

I’m real curious to see where Apex Legends goes. Maybe more maps and new characters to play as down the road? I wonder if it’ll make dramatic sweeping changes every season like Fortnite or stay more familiar like with Call of Duty: Blackout or PUBG. Time will tell, but it’s certainly off to a strong start. Also, if you must know, I’m most inclined to pick Pathfinder if given the chance; what, I like cheeky robots, and yes, that includes Claptrap.

2019 Game Review Haiku, #14 – Assassin’s Creed Syndicate

Ungodly boring
Hate tail missions, save the Queen
At least there was cake

And we’re back with these little haikus of mine. Go on, gobble ’em up. However, if you want to read more of my in-depth thoughts about these games that I’m beating, just search for them by name on Grinding Down. As always, enjoy my videogamey take on Japanese poetry, even if they aren’t instant classics, such as the works of Matsuo Basho, Yosa Buson, or Kobayashi Issa. Hey, not everyone gets to be that great.

I can’t be alone in thinking Never Alone is cute yet disappointing

It was supposed to snow this past weekend, and while it did, all we got was a snusting, a new word I’m pushing to get into the OED. It means a light dusting of snow, in case that wasn’t clear. Anyways, this put me in a mood to play something snowy, and after scanning my list of games still to install on my Xbox One I saw it, the perfect winter weather game–Never Alone (Kisima Inŋitchuŋa).

Ultimately, Never Alone is a puzzle-platformer developed by Upper One Games and published by E-Line Media based on the traditional Iñupiaq tale, “Kunuuksaayuka,” which was first recorded by the storyteller Robert Nasruk Cleveland in his collection Stories of the Black River People. I realize that is a lot to take in at once, so please, give yourself a moment before moving on. In terms of gameplay, you swap between an Iñupiaq girl named Nuna and her Arctic fox companion to complete puzzles and navigate the wintry landscape. There are a total of eight chapters to get through, and the game was the result of a partnership between the Cook Inlet Tribal Council and E-Line Media. It is evidently one of a growing number of videogames produced by Indigenous people, and that’s really cool. Too bad I found the whole thing frustrating and disappointing, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t keep creating games that celebrate and explore different cultures. I do want more.

You can play Never Alone co-op, but I went through it by myself, which meant manually switching back and forth between Nuna and her fox companion. At first, during the early stages, this was fine, but later you have to take timing into consideration and it can be tricky to get both characters to work in unison. I wonder if the controls would have been better if they followed Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons or ibb & obb. Anyways, Nuna can push/pull boxes around, as well as use her bola to destroy chunks of ice while the fox can jump higher and let down ropes from ledges. There are action sequences where you are being chased that require quick jumping, but most of the game is about moving from platform to platform, often using spirits as ledges to help Nuna get where she needs to be. This does become tougher later on when your fox changes and requires the two to work much more closely to get things done.

Look, Never Alone‘s story and its structure is based on the inter-generational transference of wisdom, and that’s mega neat. It is told in the form of an oral tale, and players are rewarded for collecting “cultural insights,” which are ultimately video vignettes of Iñupiaq elders, storytellers, and community members sharing their stories. These are all well done and produced, and this isn’t the norm when it comes to puzzle platformers, but I’d love to see more of collectibles like this. I ended up missing one by the game’s end, but the majority of them are along the main path, so you’ll find ’em easily enough and should dedicate some time to check them out.

Alas, here’s what I ended up disliking immensely about Never Alone. At first, the platforming and puzzles were rudimentary and simple, but became more time-based as the levels went on, which, when coupled with the fact that you had to switch between characters in a flash, resulted in many annoying deaths. The game is also glitchy, and I’m specifically talking about a tree I ran into during the last level that refused to walk forward; I had to return to the main menu and hit “Continue” for it to truly awaken, but this was only after 20 minutes of attempting to figure out if I just wasn’t doing something right. Ugh. Also, jumping and grabbing on to ledges with Nuna felt seriously inconsistent, and that’s a big part of the gameplay, so boo-hoo to that. I honestly thought, based on the first few chapters, that Never Alone was going to be a breeze, but found myself shouting curses at the TV screen near its conclusion.

It’s a cute game, doing really great things for the Iñupiaq community and culture, but it isn’t the most fun thing to play in the world. Sorry about that. I’m just as bummed as y’all.

2019 Game Review Haiku, #8 – Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna)

Stop source of blizzards
Learn indigenous culture
Inconsistent jumps

And we’re back with these little haikus  of mine. Go on, gobble ’em up. However, if you want to read more of my in-depth thoughts about these games that I’m beating, just search for them by name on Grinding Down. As always, enjoy my videogamey take on Japanese poetry, even if they aren’t instant classics, such as the works of Matsuo Basho, Yosa Buson, or Kobayashi Issa. Hey, not everyone gets to be that great.

LEGO The Incredibles needs to be a bit more flexible

Hey, remember when I played The Incredibles on PlayStation 2 and mostly hated everything it had to offer? Well, the good news is that LEGO The Incredibles is forty-five times better than that hunk of junk…though it still has its own issues to deal with. That said, it is one of the better LEGO games of recent memory, and I’m looking to hit 100% completion on it real soon, which is a lot more than I can say about LEGO City Undercover.

LEGO The Incredibles is a fairly fun-filled adventure that puts you in control of your favorite characters from the franchise, along with a bunch of familiar faces from other Pixar films, such as Sulley from Monsters, Inc. or Merida from Brave. You’ll have to team up as the superhero Parr family to conquer crime and relive in LEGO form the unforgettable scenes from The Incredibles and The Incredibles 2 movies. Strangely, the game starts with levels from the second movie first, but I guess that’s because this game was tied with the theater release of The Incredibles 2. I greatly enjoyed the sequel, but my heart will always call home that first flick…so it was a bit of a bummer to have to go through the game backwards.

It follows the standard format of most modern LEGO games now, which means there are long-as-heck story-related levels to complete, each with their own collectibles to find, along with a large hub world to run around in and complete other smaller tasks, such as time trial races or defusing bombs. A part of me feels like the hub world is quite small when compared to things like Middle-earth from LEGO The Lord of the Rings or even the multiple islands in LEGO Jurassic World, but maybe that’s because you can zip around it rather swiftly if you use any character that can fly. You can purchase a number of vehicles too, but again–why drive when you can zip through the skies, with or without a cape (no capes!)?

Something I did enjoy greatly in LEGO The Incredibles is getting to play as all the different superheroes, not just the Parr family, most of which are long dead by the time things get going in the first film. For instance, the game mixes things up so you can have a partner on Nomanisan Island, and your go-to-pal is none other than Gazerbeam. Sure, sure, he’s definitely dead in the movie due to taking part in Syndrome’s droid’s battle education, but at least now you can put a voice to the character and see how his powers work. Others to definitely try out include Dynaguy, Apogee, and Firebreak, who I used the most to fly around New Urbem. There’s a wealth of lore to dig through, and I got excited every single time I unlocked a superhero from the past; that said, Voyd is kinda cool too.

One of the elements of LEGO The Incredibles that gets truly repetitive is clearing out crime waves in each district. Basically, to rid the city of crime, you have to complete teeny side missions out in the hub world, such as “put out 10 fires” or “defeat three gangs of X’s goons,” and then beat up whatever iconic supervillain is behind it all. Once you do that, that district reveals all its collectibles on the map, gives you a Pixar Incredibuild to do, which just consists of a lot of button mashing, along with a red brick. The only beam of bright light among all this is that it is presented as a breaking news report, and the TV anchor uses every pun in the book to get the job done. I love puns.

LEGO The Incredibles is a good amount of fun, but some of that fun is watered down by really long loading screens, story levels that never seem to end, and repetitive elements, like crime waves, mindless combat, or doing Incredibuilds solo and having to mash the build button for four separate characters. Ugh. Still, I’m having fun with all the various superheroes (Old Lady is fantastic, too) and a few of the Pixar characters, though now I just want a LEGO Toy Story. That might actually be a thing that could happen with the forthcoming film on its way, and they already have a Woody model, along with three other films to build off of and–sorry, sorry, you caught me monologuing!

There’s beyond plenty to do in LEGO City Undercover

For Black Friday this year, I purchased three games digitally for my Xbox One–LEGO City Undercover, Batman: Arkham Asylum, and Batman: Arkham City. Go me. And yes, I’ve technically already played Batman: Arkham Asylum on my PlayStation 3, but this came as part of a two-game bundle, and the price was too good to ignore. I think it was about $5.00. But I’m not here to chat about the Batman…instead, let’s get into Chase McCain and his big-city antics.

Naturally, LEGO City Undercover takes place in the vast LEGO City, with players controlling an undercover cop appropriately named Chase McCain. Chase goes on the hunt for criminals, with various moves at his disposal, such as swinging across poles and performing wall jumps. He can also gain disguises throughout his quest to take down Rex Fury that give him additional abilities, such as a robber disguise that lets him break locks, a miner that can use dynamite, or a firefighter to put out fires and chop down boards on doors. Chase can also pilot a number of different vehicles, such as cars and helicopters, and use loose bricks to build various special structures. It’s basically a severely toned-down version of Grand Theft Auto, but with more building and people jumping out of the way of a car driving down the sidewalk.

This is a totally original LEGO story, for once not based on any sort of previously established universe and/or characters. Upon McCain’s return to the titular LEGO City, the mayor reveals the city is in the grips of a crime wave, which she suspects to be the work of Rex Fury, a notorious criminal that Chase initially helped to arrest, but who has since escaped from prison. Chase is tasked with finding him. To assist him, Chase is joined by dim-witted rookie Frank Honey and police technician Ellie Phillips. However, McCain’s grand return is not welcome news for Natalia Kowalski, Chase’s ex-girlfriend, who was forced into the witness protection program after he inadvertently revealed her as the witness in Fury’s trial. I mention all these characters by name because they truly make the story work, fun, and engaging, and Frank Honey is just so goofy and dumb as LEGO bricks that you have to love him.

LEGO City Undercover is packed with humor, references, and silly gags, as one might expect from the folks at Traveller’s Tales. Some of these I think might go over many children’s heads, but I spotted several and smiled constantly. There’s an early level that is entirely a pastiche of The Shawshank Redemption, complete with a Morgan Freeman impersonator. Later, you have to follow the instructions of a construction worker who sounds exactly like one Arnold Schwarzenegger, with him even mentioning that we need to “get to the chopper.” The game definitely has its own voice and sense of style, and the writing is engaging and goofy, even when attempting to hit some emotional beats. There’s a redemption arc for McCain, but it falls a little flat with all the goofiness around his actions.

And now, the most daunting aspect of LEGO City Undercover is just how much stuff there is to discover. I’m talking collectibles here, and LEGO videogames have just continuously gotten bigger and bigger with each new entry. However, this feels like a bit too much, yet sadly I will have to collect every single one of them or forever not sleep soundly again:

  • 39 Red Bricks
  • 305 Characters
  • 120 Vehicles
  • 450 Gold Bricks

Now, those 450 gold bricks are tied to at least over a dozen different types of activities, such as punching ATMs, destroying boulders, doing time trials, chasing down aliens, watering flowerpots, and so on. Basically, if you do something special or attached to a specific character disguise for McCain, you get a gold brick. Hooray. Since beating the game the other day, I am just a smidge over 100 gold bricks and somewhere in the 35% completion total rate, which means I have a long road ahead of me.

Other than LEGO City Undercover glitching out on me a few times, I’ve generally had a good time with the game. I wasn’t too keen on having to collect building bricks along with studs, but it hasn’t been an issue, and once you beat the game you get an automatic x2 multiplier to the activity. Still, there’s lot of things left to build, so maybe I’ll end up hating the grinding for building bricks by the end. If you don’t hear from me in a month’s time, please send help.

The Top 10 Videogames I Didn’t Get to Play in 2018

Well, here we are once again…the end of a year, and boy howdy has this been one strange, life-changing year. For those that don’t know, this past July I was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. At the ripe age of…35. With no family history of this disease or long-showing symptoms. Yeah, it sucks, but I am still positive and fighting it like heck and even drawing a journal comic about my journey through this bastard of a disease so far.

Still, there’s been some good to enjoy as well. For instance, Melanie and I are engaged and getting married next year. Plus, because of my cancer, I’ve now met so many amazing and genuinely good people, people I would have never interacted with before this disease, and they have helped tremendously to make this battle not as scary as it should be. There is so much support out there, you just have to be willing to embrace it. That’s been hard for me, but also rewarding.

That said, this blog of mine is supposed to be all about videogames, not this super serious stuff–that’s not to say gaming isn’t serious; evidently it is now cool to play games, so says the almighty Ninja–so let’s get on with it…

I’ve been doing this Grinding Down feature of mine starring pictures of dogs looking sad and sighing audibly for a while now. Don’t believe me? The proof is in the pudding…or rather the bulleted list below, dating all the way back to 2010, which somehow got featured on the WordPress home page and saw many, many comments. Never happened again since, but maybe this year it’ll get noticed. Anyways, here, go back in time and play the fun game of figuring out if I still haven’t played some of these yet:

Wow, wow, wow…that’s a lot of games I didn’t play then, and might still not have played now. Of course, the brand-spanking new list below is beyond complete, and here are a few other titles I would have liked to play this, but just didn’t find the time: Yoku’s Island Express, WarioWare Gold, Lost Sphear, Octopath Traveler, and The Swords of Ditto.

Okay, here we go.


10. Fallout 76

I pretty much knew right from its announcement at E3 2018 that Fallout 76 was not for me. Still, I held my breath and waited. As it turns out, this game is super not for me. I’m not against online-only games, but I come to the Fallout universe for its strange stories and eclectic characters, and it seems like Fallout 76 has none of that. Just audio recordings and NPC vendors and no V.A.T.S. combat. I get that some of the fun is you doing your own thing and maybe running into another player, which could be friendly or a new foe to fight off, but that doesn’t sound all that entertaining to me. A shame, as West Virginia seems like a cool place to explore shortly after the nukes went off. I’ll keep my eye on it, as Bethesda will probably continue to update it for a good while; here’s hoping they eventually add a campaign.

9. Donut County

Donut County, a wonderful name on its own, is about controlling a hole and filling it with stuff. The experience just seems super chill and silly. The hole gets bigger as you put more stuff into it, and you have to solve some puzzles along the way while dealing with a rude raccoon named BK. The game takes inspiration from Windosill and Katamari Damacy, so you know it has to be stellar. Shame on me. Deep, deep, dark shame on me. Evidently, the game just came out on Xbox One recently…so, no more excuses, I guess.

8. Minit

I own a copy of Minit. I got it fairly recently from the Humble Day of the Devs 2018 Bundle, which also contained a number of other sweet indie titles, such as Burly Men at Sea, RiME, and Hyper Light Drifter. It’s installed on my laptop via Steam. I just…haven’t had the time to sit down and play it, which, when you think about what this game is and how it was designed, is rather humorous. I hope to get to it real soon, but it’ll mostly likely be an early 2019 playthrough at this point. Look out for a future blog post with the ultra clever title of: I’m in it to win it with Minit.

7. Into the Breach

I’m usually not one for strategy games, but there is something cool about Into the Breach. I can’t decide if the cool thing is the game’s title, its general aesthetic, the different mech teams, or the way the battlefield is shown on a tilted angle. Either way, it seems both neat and tough, and I’m thinking this might be a great one to have on the Switch…y’know, next year, when I end up getting a Switch to mostly wait for whatever the new Animal Crossing thing is.

6. Unavowed

I’ve really fallen down on keeping up with the many point-and-click adventure games from Wadjet Eye Games. There was a time in my life where I was obsessed with these things, but then something major happened on the day of Resonance‘s release, and I was soured on just about everything that I enjoyed at that very moment. Since then, I still haven’t played Shardlight, Primordia, or Technobabylon, all of which I own copies of, but it sounds like Unavowed, the company’s latest release, is a good one to jump back into, with its multiple protagonists and ancient society dedicated to stopping evil. Here’s praying I get to it, along with others, somewhere in 2019.

5. Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age

I’m still bummed to heck and back that the Nintendo 3DS version never made it to the United States, as that is where I like to do most of my Dragon Questing these days, on a handheld device. Still, maybe that will change down the road with enough hooting and hollering. The game is pretty traditional and follows the perilous journey of a hunted Hero who must uncover the mystery of his fate with the aid of a charismatic cast of supporting characters. In short: it’s Dragon Quest, and it looks absolutely gorgeous. Alas, I believe the game is currently only available on PlayStation 4 and Steam, and my laptop is most definitely not able to run such a beautiful beast. Boo to that.

4. Return of the Obra Dinn

I played a decent amount of 2013’s Papers, Please, but it was tough and challenging and often made me sad. The next game from Lucas Pope is called Return of the Obra Dinn, and it puts you firmly in the role of a detective. The crew and passengers of a fictional East India Company ghost ship have all mysteriously died, with the game’s objective being to discover how. The player must use a combination of deductive reasoning and a Memento Mortem stopwatch to return to the exact moment of each crew member’s death to determine the identity of the sixty crew members, how and where they died and, if killed by human hands, the name of their killer. Sounds freaking amazing; plus, the 1-bit monochromatic graphical style inspired by games on early Macintosh systems really gives the whole thing an eerie as funk feel.

3. God of War

I have a secret to reveal: I never finished the original God of War. I got real close, and by that I mean…I basically stopped at the final fight against Ares. I don’t recall if I found the whole thing too tough or just didn’t care to see Kratos end his rage-filled journey. Either way, that’s all the God of War I’ve ever played. Missed out on everything since that 2005 debut, but this new God of War seems to be striking a much more somber and serious tone, and that has my interest piqued for sure. I like the mechanic behind throwing your axe and then recalling it. Too bad this is only on PlayStation 4.

2. Red Dead Redemption 2

I’m never going to play this. Also, I’ve still not played the original Red Dead Redemption. The cowboy life just isn’t for me, I guess. Unless you count things like SteamWorld Dig 2 and Call of Juarez: Gunslinger. That said, this game sure is pretty, and I love all the attention you can put into Arthur’s look, from his outfit to facial hair to even how stinky he stays. It sounds like too much focus on animation priority really slows things down, but to each their own. Again, I’ll never know, because I’ll never play Red Dead Redemption 2.

1. Marvel’s Spider-Man

One of my favorite demo discs from back in the PlayStation 1 days contained a demo for…Spider-Man, an action-adventure game based on the comics that followed an original storyline and featured narration from the recently departed Stan Lee, rest in peace. I remember it being set on rooftops, and there was some swinging action, some punching of bad guys, and Black Cat was there too. It used the same engine from Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, so it has this speedy vibe. I played it a whole bunch, and to me, then, it felt awesome being in control of the Spider-Man. Since then, a whole bunch of other Spider-Man games have come out, and not all of them have been winners. From the sound of things, the latest one from Insomniac gets it right, and truly makes swinging around New York City feel amazing. Alas, once again, not having a PlayStation 4 has cut me off from some solid gems; too bad I’m only planning to get a Nintendo Switch in 2019.

Space is totally the place for Starlink: Battle for Atlas

I’ve been itching for a space game lately, and two kept floating in front of my eyes as top choices–No Man’s Sky and Starlink: Battle for Atlas. Now, I promised myself I wouldn’t purchase one of these until I rung Mark of the Ninja: Remastered completely dry, which I did recently, and so it was upon me–the decision. Also, part of me felt guilty about purchasing a new game when I knew that I’d be picking up Spyro Reignited Trilogy in just a few days. Anyways, I went with Starlink: Battle for Atlas, the digital non-toy version, and I’ll explain my reasoning below.

No Man’s Sky is a big game, possibly endless, and it’s gotten a number of major updates since it originally launched to help expand it into something more. This is both cool and daunting. To me, it feels both a little too open and a little too much to take on; I love the idea of flying around a planet, examining the flora and fauna, and getting into a few dogfights, but that game now also wants you to be creative and build bases and really show off your imagination. I’m not ready for that, with my limited gaming time and attention. All I really want is a checklist of things to do, and the ability to go forward and do them. So far, Starlink: Battle for Atlas is accomplishing that greatly.

Starlink: Battle for Atlas is an action-adventure title developed by Ubisoft Toronto and published by Ubisoft for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. The game also features optional toys-to-life elements. For those not in the know, toys-to-life uses physical figurines or action figures to interact with the game of choice. These toys generally use near field communication, radiofrequency identification, or image recognition data protocol to determine the individual figurine’s proximity, and also saves a player’s progress data to a storage medium located within that piece. However, toys-to-life has been losing popularity over the years, so to ensure that the game is consumer-friendly, this aspect of the game was made optional, meaning that players can play the game digitally without purchasing any of the toys. That’s what I did as I do not need to clutter up the townhouse with plastic stuff.

Right, let’s get to it then. Starlink: Battle for Atlas has a story y’all. After an amnesiac alien fell to Earth, a secretive benefactor named Victor St Grand forms the Starlink Initiative to search for its origins, leading them to the Atlas system. Alas, Victor St Grand goes and gets himself kidnapped, and you, as part of a group of heroic interstellar pilots, are now dedicated to free the Atlas Star System from Grax and the Forgotten Legion. This will involve traveling to a number of unique planets, pushing back the Legion, and growing alliances with allies to bulk up your chance to take down Grax for good. The story, so far, is well told, through a mix of CGI cutscenes, art stills cutscenes, and solid voiceover work. Also, this has been driving me mad since I started playing, but I finally just figured out that the character Kharl Zeon is voiced by George Buza, mostly known to me for his work in the early 1990s on X-Men: The Animated Series as Beast/Dr. Henry “Hank” McCoy. That’s one iconic voice.

Swapping is a thing you do a lot in Starlink: Battle for Atlas. Now, I’m mostly only swapping out my weapons based on enemy types or a specific puzzle to solve; I prefer to stick with one pilot, namely Razor Lemay, a trained fighter pilot and self-professed metal-head, and one ship, namely the Zenith, and level them up as much as possible instead of having a bunch of lower-leveled pilots and ships. This may or may not put me at a disadvantage later, but so far it hasn’t been a problem on the default difficulty. For weapons, I really like the Flamethrower and Shredder, and Razor’s pilot ability, which is called Power Chord, can clear an entire screen of enemies in all its beautiful Guitar Hero-esque glory. Playing digitally makes this quick and easy; sure, having the toy in front of you to reflect these changes might be neat at first, but I could see it also becoming cumbersome to change things around every few minutes, especially in the middle of a big battle.

Everything is pretty chill in Starlink: Battle for Atlas, all in all. You can zip around a planet, scan animals, collect strange fruit and resources, upgrade refineries and other buildings, clear out imp hives, protect something as hacking begins, do missions for strange, alien-people, and simply discover everything there is to discover. If you want, at any time, you can fly up into space and go to another planet or get into some Colony Wars-like skirmishes, taking down raiders with style. Each planet contains a list of things to do, and the more you do, the more that planet’s people like you and will support you in taking down Grax. Honestly, it’s been a great game to pop into for an hour or so, do a few things, and see that you are making progress, inch by inch.

Currently, I’m trying to gain support from a bunch of planets before I take on the Dreadnought, a large enemy ship that Victor St Grand is hiding out in. I’m sure he’d like my help as soon as possible, but I’m not in a rush. Thankfully, neither is Starlink: Battle for Atlas, and there’s always something else to do if you don’t want to take on a campaign mission. Heck, at any moment, you can even generate a random mission to do…though they are mostly fetch quests or something easy like that. I do wonder how much I’ll play after completing the storyline and checking off each planet’s list of things to accomplish; I’d love to try out some other pilots and weapons, but not enough to max out each one. Or maybe I will…later in 2019. For now, I’m having a great time zipping around these strange, new lands.