The Boy’s Top 10 Games Ever: Monthly Roundup May 2018

Please see here for previous Top 5 Round Ups from 2018:
January: Top 5 Rocket League Showroom Battle Cars
February: Top 5 Open World Games
March: Top 5 Mario Kart 8 Items
April: Top 5 Underappreciated Games

The Boy and I recently had a conversation about what his favourite video games ever are and he said that his second favourite was Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. I wasn’t buying it! For sure it’s a great game and we both enjoyed it (and are looking forward to enjoying it again when the DK DLC comes out!) but I said to him there’s no way he liked it more than Mario Kart 8 Deluxe or Rocket League. However, despite my insistence (or maybe because of it!) he wouldn’t budge, so we ended up doing a whole Top 10 of his favourite games. No surprises for guessing what #2 is but here they are in reverse order:

#10: Super Mario Run – iOS
He played this game on his iPad and for a while was ahead of me on it and was advising me where to find the black coins!screenshot_20170525-162126-e1524734181386.png

#9: NBA Live 16 – Xbox One
We played NBA together a lot in the year this iteration was out. Our team is the Toronto Raptors because, you know, dinosaurs!25-09-2017_22-10-07

#8: Super Lucky’s Tale – Xbox One
The most recent addition to this list. I just recently finished it and The Boy is well on his way too. This is a kid-focused game but don’t sleep on it – it’s well made.08-04-2018_20-17-43

#7: Trials Fusion – Xbox One
We have spent hours playing the Speedcross multiplayer tracks in this game. He almost always wins due to using the, easier to drive, quad bike. Much trash talk follows.23-02-2018_07-25-14

#6: FIFA 17 – Xbox One
He never quite got into FIFA 18 in the same way, despite us having that on the Switch. We have PES 2018 now via Xbox Game Pass, so time will tell how much he enjoys that.2017120508093500-062DD3BC3CF59885A6762E5A30A14CD1

#5: Jurassic World The Game – iOS
The first game on this list that is entirely his rather than ours. I never got into it but The Boy has spent hours and hours battling dinosaurs in it.IMG_0839.PNG

#4: Rocket League – Xbox One and Switch
I don’t want to look at the number of hours we have both sunk into this game on the Switch. It will probably make me wonder what I’m doing with my life!2017112017512100-6F4D679ED7D2A016B654B265B956C5F0

#3: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – Switch
The Boy loves this game so much he has created multiple new accounts on the Switch just so he can play through the single player modes again!2018012513254400-16851BE00BC6068871FE49D98876D6C5

#2: Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle – Switch
Here it is. The Boy has never even finished this game, although I’m sure he eventually will. But apparently it’s the 2nd best ever!2018010308503700-9600BAE614E6833B1A261F5FB229CDBA

#1: Hot Wheels Race Off – iOS
Hot Wheels Race Off has been indisputably his number one game ever since he got it. I have never played it and at the beginning he used to ask me to play it when he got stuck. Quickly he realised he was better off by himself!IMG_0819

I’m looking to pick up Super Mario Odyssey this weekend, so we will see eventually if that makes it into this list. The Boy does seem to love Mario above most other things!

What about you, do you have small people you play games with? What are their favourites? Let us know in the comments below.

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Top 5 Underappreciated Games: Monthly Roundup April 2018

Please see here for previous Top 5 Round Ups from 2018:
January: Top 5 Rocket League Showroom Battle Cars
February: Top 5 Open World Games
March: Top 5 Mario Kart 8 Items

Recently I was in a discussion about games that you love that no one else seems to like so much. They just don’t get it, right?! So I got thinking about a way I could be sure that these games were actually less appreciated than I think they should be: Metacritic scores! If you haven’t come across Metacritic it’s a site that gathers together all the reviews of each game (and other things like movies etc) and gives them an average score out of 100. So I looked through my All-Time Top Games List and found the ones that had an average of less than 80. There were 6 in total, so here are the Top 5, plus a bonus:

#1: Mirror’s Edge – Xbox 360/PS3
Metacritic Score: 79
I played a demo of Mirror’s Edge when it first came out in 2008 and immediately knew I had to get it! I was surprised later when it didn’t get glowing reviews. It had a decent and engaging, if generic, story line and the gun play was only OK but all of this was brushed aside by how fantastic the free running was. I played the whole game quite a few times on 360 and on PS3 – it was a joy just to run through the world at top speed. If I was picking any single game to replay it would be this one, without doubt.24-03-2018_21-53-46

#2: Quantum Break – Xbox One
Metacritic Score: 77
Another game that I picked up without really seeing the reviews. I saw a couple of videos of it in action when it was released and went out more or less straight away to pick it up. I’m so glad I did. The gameplay – a combination of 3rd person shooting and controlling time – was great, it looked fantastic and the plot was far more complex than most games. Quantum Break also had 3 or 4 ‘TV episodes’ in it that advanced the story, which was something I really enjoyed but I guess maybe that concept wasn’t for everyone as it certainly hasn’t caught on!25941057304_18a8a9e06b_o

#3: Super Mario Run – Android/iOS
Metacritic Score: 76
This is one of my favourite Mario games ever. Made completely for mobile, it could be played with one thumb but still had all the elements required of a Mario 2D platformer. Perhaps the short-sharp bursts of gameplay didn’t work for people that came to it as Mario fans but as a mobile game it was perfect and the chance to play against others in the Toad Rally mode was great fun too.screenshot_20180326-160206.png

#4: Buffy The Vampire Slayer – Xbox
Metacritic Score: 79
Forget all the usual – and mostly correct – comments about cross overs between video games and other media never working. This game fit into the Buffy mould perfectly, whilst also being a superb game in it’s own right. Story-wise, it had a lot of the same actors from the TV show providing the voices and it didn’t try and reinvent the wheel, playing out like an extended episode. On the gameplay side the platforming and fighting were both top notch. It all came together nicely.Processed with VSCO with  preset

#5: Super Beat Sports – Switch
Metacritic Score: 68
This is the most recent game on this list and to be honest, unless you hate fun (?!), I cannot imagine how anyone wouldn’t love Super Beat Sports! It’s not particularly deep and the quality of it’s mini-games does vary but at it’s core it takes common gaming tropes – rhythm and sports – and combines them into something that prioritises fun above all else. I am mystified by the negative reviews.2018011618031600-B5326B1E58931254287CB2E8DA86D794

Bonus: P.N.03 – Gamecube
Metacritic Score: 63
This game only just squeezes onto my All Time Top Games list, so I can more understand that it didn’t work for everyone. P.N.03 certainly had it’s flaws – the story wasn’t really engaging at all for a start – but I just loved the smoothness and grace with which you could move your character Vanessa around. Somewhere inside it is a basic shooter but on top of that you have elements that feel like a dance game. It had that same feeling of joy from just playing it that Mirror’s Edge has, but in a less complete package. It’s hard to explain so just watch this video!

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REVIEW: Frederic: The Resurrection of Music & Frederic 2: Evil Strikes Back

  • Released: 2012
  • Played on: iOS
  • Also available on: Android, PC, Mac, Switch
  • Time to get into: 5 Minutes
  • Time to complete: 3 Hours
  • Multiplayer: No

An entirely bonkers story, occasionally odd voice acting and a lack of variety in gameplay simply cannot stop Frederic: Resurrection of Music from being fun. Playing some great musical numbers on a touchscreen keyboard is an enjoyable experience that simply doesn’t get old and that holds up some of the slightly more lacklustre parts. I don’t intend to sit through the animated story ever again, but the game has definite replay value – I shall not rest until I have 100% accuracy on every song.img_0022.png

Frederic
The game is split almost exactly into two parts; watching the animated story and playing the actual music. Let’s look at the story first. Simply put; it’s not bad. It really doesn’t make any sense – I always try and avoid spoilers here but I could explain the whole story and it wouldn’t make any more sense to you! Suffice to say that the legendary Polish composer Frederic Chopin has been brought back to life and travels the world having musical duels with various enemies.

I know, just go with it.

The whole thing is animated in a distinct, comic book-influenced style complete with full voice acting. I can imagine that building this part of the game took as much, if not more effort that the gameplay itself. In that sense, it’s pretty impressive. Overall, I found that the story did just enough to keep me engaged and entertained. I wasn’t loving it, but I did want to find out what happened, so I didn’t take the option to skip at any point. Frederic himself does enough to make you sympathetic for him, if not empathetic with him.IMG_0041.PNG

Resurrection of Music
If you wish, all of that can exist completely separately from the game itself. Here is where Frederic: Resurrection of Music hits it’s stride. The set up is a touchscreen keyboard and the songs you play are remixes of actual Chopin works, complete with the original title of the work in question. The only relation this bears to the story is that each work is remixed into a different genre, as befits where Chopin finds himself in the story. It must be said though, that it feels like the story comes after the music – I didn’t feel that any of the tracks had been artificially changed to fit into a certain style of music for the purposes of the narrative. For the vast majority of the time, I really enjoyed the music and really enjoyed playing it. It also inspired me to go and listen to recordings of some of the original compositions!IMG_0023.PNG

The game is very responsive to the touchscreen inputs – more than most rhythm games I really felt like I was playing the music. It should really be considered a ‘melody’ game, rather than a rhythm game as a result. It works really well and keeps me coming back to tackle better and better scores. So far, I have 100% accuracy on a few of the tracks but it’s going to be a lot more effort to really nail the harder settings. I apprecate that the difficulty settings are ‘Too Easy’, ‘Normal’, ‘Hard’ and.. ‘Chopin‘! Easier than trying to explain the gameplay: here’s a video to demonstrate it:

A quick sample of Frederic: Resurrection of Music from The Gamer Boys on Vimeo.

 

Frederic 2: Evil Strikes Back

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Please note that I had originally intended to fully review the sequel – Frederic 2: Evil Strikes Back – as well. Unfortunately, that game turned out to actually be the horrible mess that the original could have been, so it’s not worth it. See the end of this post for more details if you really wish!

Conclusion
A somewhat enjoyable story, that is easily skipped after the first time, is the backing to a really fun game of playing music across different genres. It’s best played on a large touchscreen but otherwise I’d recommend it to everyone. It’s half the price of a coffee and will keep you entertained for a long while.
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Frederic 2: Evil Strikes Back
This game is simply not worth a full review. Everything that I have said is good about the original is conspicuous by its absence in this ill-advised follow up. I won’t bother with details but basically, this just plumbs the depths to try and keep the formula going and it fails. The story and the voice acting go from OK to horrible and the music falls apart – they are now ‘Chopin-influenced’ pieces and the difference is like night and day. I have kept Resurrection of Music on my iPadEvil Strikes Back I deleted the second I’d finished it. This game only cost me £1 and yet I still say: avoid avoid avoid.Review1

Hot Wheels Race Off – drive to get HW Poppa Wheelie

This post comes to you courtesy of The Boy! He has recently started over on Hot Wheels Race Off on his iPad and he wanted to make a video to put up on the blog. He recently discovered that a cousin of his has Hot Wheels Race Off as well and that has rekindled his excitement for it. IMG_0810

On his first play through I remember saying to him that one particular car – HW Poppa Wheelie – was ridiculous! It stretches the boundaries of the phrase ‘toy car‘ to breaking point. But one way or another he was looking forward to getting it and he let me know that he had only had one more race before he could unlock it. So, without further do – here is the race, enjoy seeing Poppa Wheelie at the end!

Let’s Get HW Poppa Wheelie from The Gamer Boys on Vimeo.

 

First Impressions: Frederic: Resurrection of Music (iOS)

Another day, another rhythm game! I love them! This one is arguably even more random than Super Beat Sports, that I played recently. The gameplay is nothing unusual but here we have a story mode!IMG_0011.PNG

You play as the resurrected Frederic Chopin, who was a 19th century composer of piano music. For reasons yet unknown (I’ve no idea how far I am through but I doubt it is a long story mode) he has been brought back from the dead to fight the good musical fight against horrible modern music. Obviously!IMG_0015.PNG

Gameplay wise it’s essentially a piano-based version of the standard Guitar Hero/Rock Band where you see notes coming down towards you and tap on the screen at the right time to play the melody. The songs are all remixes of Chopin compositions – the remixes are in different genres to match who Chopin is meeting in the story, from reggae to hip hop. So far, I’ve really enjoyed the music – perhaps classical piano fans would be horrified but for me they’ve done a good job of combining recognisable piano motifs with more recent beats.IMG_0010.PNG

I picked this up to play on my iPad as the appstore were selling a bundle of this game and it’s sequel at a bargain price. It’s a perfect game for a large touchscreen, so I’d recommend that if you have that option – I think it’s also on Android and it’s definitely on Nintendo Switch.IMG_0016.PNG

I’ll play through both ‘Resurrection of Music’ and ‘Evil Strikes Back’, assuming they’re as short as I expect, and then I’ll get a review up. I can already see that the game’s strength, much like any good rhythm game, is going to be in it’s replay value but I will try and resist going back for higher difficulty settings and better scores until I have finished Frederic’s story.IMG_0012.PNG

REVIEW: Magikarp Jump

A common issue with mobile games from gaming franchises is that they end up basically being stripped down versions of their regular cousins. Think Sonic Dash or every mobile EA Sports game ever.
Magikarp Jump has such charm that for a while it seems that it might defy that stereotype. Ultimately, however, it remains exactly that: a throw-away mobile version of a proper game – all surface and no substance.

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Much like every other Pokemon game Magikarp Jump involves levelling up your Pokemon and battling against others. It’s Magikarp only around here and the battles are to see how high each can jump – hence the name of the game. You fish for a new Magikarp, train it, feed it and then take it into battle. Eventually that one will retire and you’ll fish out another and go through the same process again.

So far so good. The training, battling and the ‘random encounters’ that pop up after each of these things are all light-hearted and goofy. The graphics are bright and simple. What the game does particularly well is not have any natural stopping points – there are always more battles or training sessions or even just food to eat, so it can be quite addictive.

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Eventually though, the novelty wears off and the charm runs out and you realise that fairly early on the game has run out of ideas. Classic mobile game problem! Magikarp Jump’s issue is that it shows it’s hand too early. Just when the game should be going up to another level it becomes a grind of continually repeating screen presses. It moves from being a game you play to being something you tend to, like you would a plant on your window sill.

Verdict
Whether it’s that Magikarp Jump shows you everything it has to offer straight away or whether it is simply that it doesn’t have enough to offer in the first place, it’s an experience that simply doesn’t last long enough to justify the level of enjoyment it brings. ‘Briefly amusing’ is not what good games are made of.

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Hot Wheels Race Off

The Boy has really discovered playing games on his iPad in the last 12 months or so. Where before any time he spent on it was passive time watching cartoons he now splits his iPad time evenly between playing games and watching videos – mostly of other people playing those games so that he can pick up tips!

One of his other main past times is playing with Hot Wheels cars and tracks so imagine how perfect it was for him early this year when this game arrived:

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Hot Wheels Race Off is available on iOS and Android. The controls are simply accelerate and brake so it’s easy for a child to initially pick up.

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However, that’s where the simplicity ends. It’s turned out to be a reasonably deep and difficult game requiring skill and also a great memory to remember what any particular race course has for you next. In addition all the cars in the game are also available as actual toys so The Boy can match up the in-game vehicles with his real-life ones.

 

There’s a first time for everything

When he first started playing it The Boy would often ask for my help with different levels but as he has now completed every track (and has set his sights on the fastest time on each) I can no longer help.

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This is the first game in his life that he has been very literally and demonstrably better at that me. I guess it’s all downhill for me from here! Soon I’ll be asking him for tips on the latest Mario or Halo games.