Animal Crossing is the game we need right now

Hello boys and girls.

As you may have noticed, the world is a bit of a mess right now. Aside from the usual troubles that effect our lives on a daily basis, we’ve been hit by a new fright, this time in the form of COVID-19. So with all the doom and gloom around at the moment; in both our real and internet lives, I just wanted to take a moment to highlight something good. And that something good comes in the form of Animal Crossing: New Horizons

I’ve always been a bit hit-and-miss with Animal Crossing as a franchise. I’ve enjoyed it greatly, but the joy never sticks around for a very long time. Eventually I grow bored of the routine, tired of the constant grind to upgrade my home or somewhat distracted by other, newer games hitting stores. All of that may prove to be true once again, but right now I think I need Animal Crossing in a way I’ve needed few games in the past. The world is on fire in a way that the vast majority of people have never seen before. Everywhere we look we’re bombarded with graphs, tweets and news conferences telling us how bad the world is, or how its going to get much worse. It’s important, but frightening and fucking exhausting too.

Animal Crossing New Horizons is an escape route. It’s brightly coloured world oozes cuteness, it’s characters are all unique and yet all equally vibrant and cooky and friendly and just, you know, nice. And I think we all could use a bit of Niceness right now.

It’s not a game that wants you to worry about it too much. I mean, if you’re really into it you can absolutely do that, but if you’d rather just spend an hour or two walking around the island, catching some bugs, pulling some weeds or I dunno, gazing out over the horizon, that’s absolutely okay too.

That’s not to say it doesn’t reward players for coming back and really committing themselves to the work to be done. Since release I’ve put upwards of ten hours into the game. Collecting, digging, gardening and fishing my way to a nice little home with just enough inside to make life comfortable. I’ve got to know my neighbours, sent them some postcards. I even spent a little time over on a friends island, gathering resources and leaving little notes. Again, the game is just nice.

So I’m not saying that everyone will enjoy Animal Crossing, or that it’ll give others the same sense of calm that it does me, but I think if you’re in the right place for this unique form of escapism, Animal Crossing has definitely got your back.

And The BAFTA Goes To….

I’m a sucker for an award show. And an award show that also happens to feature video games? Mmmmm put that deliciousness directly into my mouth hole. Luckily for me, BAFTA just announced their nominees for the 2020 BAFTA Game Awards.

I thought it’d be a fun little thing for me to sit down and go through some of the awards that are most relevant to me, and pick out who I’d give the gong too. Let’s begin.

Animation

CALL OF DUTY: MODERN WARFARE – CONTROL – DEATH STRANDING – LUIGIā€™S MANSION 3 – SAYONARA WILD HEARTS – SEKIRO: SHADOWS DIE TWICE


I was kind of ho-hum on Luigi’s Mansion 3. It’s a touch repetitive and maybe even a little boring. However, it’s one of the more joyous games I’ve played in recent years. much of that joy is found in just how beautifully charming Luigi as a protagonist is. Each and every cut scene is packed full of detail, each individual movement animated in a way that welcomes the player into his world. It’s Nintendo at the top of their game, and for that reason I think it deserves this award.

Game Beyond Entertainment

CIVILIZATION VI: GATHERING STORM – DEATH STRANDING – KIND WORDS – LIFE IS STRANGE (EPISODES 2-5) – NEO CAB – RING FIT ADVENTURE


I truly believe that sometimes, a person just needs a venue to unload all of their troubles into a safe space. Kind Words is that safe space.

Maybe you’ll get a message of encouragement back, or maybe you’ll have some anonymous stranger tell you it’s going to be okay, or that it’s normal for you to be feeling like this. Maybe you need that, or maybe you just need to get it out in the open and off your chest.

Kind Words gives it’s players that chance, and if there’s any justice in this world, it should be rewarded for it.

Narrative

CONTROL – DISCO ELYSIUM – LIFE IS STRANGE (EPISODES 2-5) – OUTER WILDS – THE OUTER WORLDS – STAR WARS: JEDI: FALLEN ORDER


I think you’d be doing Outer Wilds a disservice by limiting what it’s done to ‘good storytelling’. The way they interweave dozens of connected threads into a beautiful parchment that ultimately leaves the player questioning everything they once thought true is truly outstanding. And all with little more than a few transcripts and a translation tool is something truly unforgettable.

It’s a game that will stay with me forever, not because its mechanically interesting, or because it looks cool. No, it’ll stay with me forever because it challenges the way we as human’s view the universe we live in and perhaps more important, our place in it.

Best Game

Control – Disco Elysium – Luigi’s Mansion 3 – Outer Wilds – SEKIRO: SHADOWS DIE TWICE – UNTITLED GOOSE GAME


If you’ve gotten this far, it should come as no surprise that Outer Wilds gets my vote to win this award. Simply put, it’s a masterpiece.


My Month in Games: February 2020

Presidential primaries, Coronavirus, and the fruit of Boris Johnson’s loins continue to dominate the news-cycle, but as we enter bravely into the month of March, let’s take a quick look back at a few of the games I’ve been playing in February.

This is My Month in Games.

Kentucky Route Zero – PC

I first learned of Kentucky Route Zero (KRZ from here on out) way back in 2013. The game had just launched its first chapter and was getting nothing but rave reviews from some of my favourite gaming people. Naturally I decided (as a frivolous 25 year old with no responsibilities) to throw some money at the game, and it duly arrived on my computer in the form of a download.

Had I known that 7 years later, I’d finally get a chance to play the game to completion, maybe I’d have held fire on that purchase, but I didn’t…and so here we are. I know what you’re thinking. Was it worth the wait?

Truthfully? Probably not. I enjoyed KRZ, but it never elevated itself above that of its kin, at least for me. It’s obviously an insanely pretty game, and it offer some truly breathtaking sequences, alongside some really memorable moments, but too often the game fall’s victim to its own hype, and loses its way.

That’s not to say I can’t enjoy what it’s trying to say, just that I wish it could get there in a faster, maybe less…..pretentious (?) manner. Maybe that isn’t fair, but it’s true to how I feel and so?

I’ll certainly remember my time with KRZ, fondly for the most part. However if you’re asking me if it’s worth the hype it got upon it’s initial and final release? I’d have to say no.

The Suicide of Rachel Foster

The Suicide of Rachel Foster is trying hard to mimic games like Gone Home, and to a lesser extent, Firewatch and What Remains of Edith Finch. However, for all it’s good intentions and interesting flourishes it never truly gets where it wants to be.

Rachel Foster clearly, and inescapably uses The Shining to mold it’s overall feel. And whilst that does elevate it to a certain extent, it also causes the game to feel trapped by it. At times you can almost sense what’s coming. Not necessarily by bad writing, or voice acting, but by the nature of the game’s setting itself. Although I guess that’s a testament to how successful The Shining was in maintaining that atmosphere.

Along with The Shining, the game also uses genre defining game, Gone Home to establish itself. And whilst it succeeds in certain ways, it also falls massively short in others. The story isn’t nearly as subtle as that of Gone Home (which in itself wasn’t all that subtle in the first place), the voice acting is up and down and the games core method of delivering it’s plot is a contrived and forced; leaving you wondering why everything in this ‘scary’ place feels so very staged.

Rachel Foster is to Gone Home what Room 1408 is the The Shining. An imitation of something greater.

We’re a long way removed from when the ‘Walking Simulator’ was the genre de-jour in indie games, so pickings are relatively slim. Fans of the genre may find something to enjoy in Rachel Foster, but for my money? There are many better experiences to be had out there.

Democratic Socialism Simulator – PC

Without wanting to give too much away about my own politics (there’s better places for that), I was immediately intrigued by Democratic Socialism Simulator had to offer; think Reigns, but with less Monarchy and more Universal Healthcare and Social Housing, if you will.

Thankfully the game doesn’t disappoint. It’s pretty much exactly what I was expecting, and exactly what I wanted from a game titled as such.

Also Played

Mario Maker 2, Rocket League


So there we have it. My Month in Games. What have you been playing in February? Maybe you’ve got a game you’d like to shout out, maybe you just want to rail on a game you spent too much time banging your head against? Drop us a comment and let’s talk about some video games.

Photo Mode: Kentucky Route Zero

I’ve just finished my play-through of recently released point and click adventure game, Kentucky Route Zero. And whilst the games overall look aren’t its main selling point, I think its safe to say that it’s one of the more interesting looking games to be released in that genre. Below you’ll find a few of my favourite screen grabs from the game.

My Month in Games: January 2020

January. It’s been a month. We’ve seen sporting greats tragically killed, Brexit and Trump once again dominating the headlines and a worldwide health panic…but it’s not all bad, oh no because Games!!!!…..I’ve played them, and guess what? They’re still pretty damn good.

Here’s My Month in Games.

Outer Wilds – PC

I tried to love Outer Wilds on three separate occasional, and yet, it wasn’t until I loaded it up for a fifth time that the game got its tentacles into me. Truthfully, I’m not sure why that’s the case. All I know is that Outer Wilds is a video game that I’m still thinking about even now, a good three weeks since I finished it.

I don’t want to spoil anything here, because what makes Outer Wilds such a special game is how it trusts the player to figure it out. So if you are interested in discovering what all the fuss is about, give it a go. If you need to jump in with a guide at first, then go for it, but the second you feel even a remote interest in the games story, I ask that you leave the guide behind, climb aboard your ship and just……go.

SuperhotVR – PSVR

Superhot is without a doubt one of my favourite video games of all time. I love almost everything about it. So when the I finally got a hold of some PSMove controllers it was only a matter of time before I took a look at this.

I don’t want to say I was disappointed, because I did enjoy my time with the game. I just kind of feel like the idea of SuperhotVR was better in our heads than it was in reality, which is a shame because if there was ever a game that was built for VR it was this one.

Control – PS4

Horrendous load times, a frankly baffling check-pointing system and frame-rate hiccups that take you out of the experience more often than they should. I guess you could say that Control gets in its own way a lot. Which sucks because away from all those rather large niggles, there’s something really special at the heart of Control.

I rarely spend much time looking around for side quests and in-game lore in my video games, but that’s where Control shines brightest, throwing tonnes of endlessly fascinating world building at you in the form of a television show, thousands of letters and in-house staff correspondence. Every time I found a new note, or stumbled upon a new video from the games Doctor, I spent the time to take it in, and that’s what Control does so well.

It’s just a shame that the stuff around it isn’t as interesting. The games main plot falls away pretty quickly, and the combat whilst enjoyable at times often results in nothing but frustrating barriers to the games overall flow.

Virginia – PS4

I don’t think Virginia got a fair shake upon release. It’s far from perfect, but if you’re looking for a Walking Simulator (sorry) that boils the formulae down to its barest of bones, Virginia is it.

There’s zero dialogue in the entire game, and whilst that does at times cause it some issues I don’t remember ever playing a game that so perfectly edited (yes, edited, like a movie). The way the game lures you in with its plot, and then captures you with its snappy editing, incredible score and frankly stunning visuals is something to behold.

Virginia is a game that many will bore of quickly, but if you’re looking for exactly this sort of game, I think you’ll adore it.

A Fisherman’s Tale – PSVR

A Fisherman’s Tale is tantalizingly close to being the perfect VR game, it just falls short because of a few issues with the PSmove tracking that went a little further than ‘annoying’.

It’s a real shame because the game itself is one of the more unique titles I’ve played in a long time. It’s charming and funny, has a good message and doesn’t overstay its welcome, which believe me, is something I place a lot of value in nowadays.

If you’ve got a few hours to kill, and don’t mind spending a few quid on a small little VR puzzle game, I don’t think you can go much wrong with A Fisherman’s Tale.

Beat Saber – PSVR

Imagine Guitar Hero, only the Guitar is a Light Saber and instead of playing in front of a few badly rendered audience members, you’re playing in front of a blinding display of dazzling lights, lasers and strobe lighting…all whilst trying to keep to the games thumping techno beat. It’s truly something else indeed.

Beat Saber is one of, if not VR’s most mesmerizing games to date, and if it doesn’t sell you on the potential of VR, nothing will.

Also: Super Mario Maker 2, Rocket League

Game of the Year 2019 (Updated Edition)

Hello again. You’re probably wondering why on the first day of February 2020, I’m putting up a post about my favourite games from 2019. Well, truth be told I don’t really have a valid reason, other than the constant need to have people validate my opinions and I dunno, maybe have a discussion about those opinions. Either way, here we are.

Below you’ll find my top 10 games of 2019. As per my own rules, these games were all released in 2019 (sorry Rocket League; Beat Saber), and they’re ranked in order from 10 to 1 (duh). Enjoy.

Game of the Year 2019: Super Mario Maker 2

My other favourites (ranked 2-10)

  • Cuphead
  • Outer Wilds
  • Apex Legends
  • Observation
  • Resident Evil 2
  • Control
  • Legend of Zelda: Links Awakening
  • Untitled Goose Game
  • Star Wars: Jedi – Fallen Order

And there we have it. My favourite (new) games from 2019 ranked, from one to ten. Congratulations Super Mario Maker 2. A game I wasn’t sure I even wanted to play that has since gone on to totally dominate any and all free time I find.

Hi.

Hello. Long time no type eh? Turns out becoming a parent for the first time is sort of all consuming, who knew?


I’ll cut straight to the chase. Things are starting to return to some semblance of normality (in that I’ve become better at managing my free time since Mila turned 1) and as such, I’m thinking about reentering the world of video game writing. I’ve played some games, I’ve got some opinions and experiences that I’d be very interested in sharing with you all, so don’t call it a comeback.

Going forward I’m not overly interested in writing to a schedule, but I do hope to be able to keep you up-to date with a rundown of the games I’ve been playing each month, and maybe even write a few opinion pieces here and there. I’m also interested in talking about what it means to be a gaming Dad, and how video games can, and will influence the time I spend with my daughter over the next two decades or so.

So again, I probably won’t be putting content out at the same level as I was two years ago, but I am looking to get back into it once more.

If by some miracle you’re still following me, thank you. I know all to well the temptation to purge your following list every few months. If you’re a new reader then…Hey I guess.

That’s all for now. I’ll see you on the other side.