100th Post & Anniversary of 1st Post – A whole lot of gaming!

So this is my 100th proper blog post on here! And it has taken me almost an exact year to get there – the first was on May 19th 2017. So what has this year held in my, and The Boy’s, gaming world?25904685490_b8747e5fe4_o.jpg

Well, for a start, it has brought amazing games! There have been no fewer than 16 (sixteen!) titles that I have given a 5-star review to in the last 12 months, which is just an unprecedented number. What a time to be a gamer! And there are some I still haven’t got around to from that period as well, like Super Mario Odyssey, that might well be that good too. The best game of those 16, and the whole reason I was inspired to start a blog in the first place, is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild! I was pretty excited about the design of the Nintendo Switch when it was announced (see my post about loving it’s portability here) but it was when the reviews for Breath of the Wild started rolling in and suggesting that it was one of the best games ever that I new I had to pick one up as soon as possible. The reviews were not wrong. 120 hours later I didn’t want it to end and went into the final battle against Ganon almost sadly, as I knew it meant my time with it was over!2017051218114200-F1C11A22FAEE3B82F21B330E1B786A39

Perhaps unsurprisingly the most read post on this blog so far has been the review of Breath of the Wild. The next two on that list are the review of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (in itself a reason to own a Switch) and, randomly, my first impressions of Madden NFL 18! That also turned out to be a spectacular game, but why that one post garnered so much attention is odd. Perhaps folks were just desperate for the annual refresh of all the sports games to bring something new – that is exactly what Madden NFL 18 did this year.07-10-2017_22-39-27

So, where do The Gamer Boys goes from here? Well, I’m enjoying writing this blog, so it will continue almost regardless of it’s success but of course it would be nice to get more readers and more followers. I’ve tried to step up my game with regular series and posting on consistent days and times etc, but there’s always more and better to come! Of course the real key is that I am enjoying playing lots of games and The Boy is getting better and better at them all the time. Thanks very much for being with us through our first year and here’s to the future – bring on the games!2017100218043300-993B0B446253E7FDAAC3C1A7681F46FE

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My introduction to PSVR

I have recently picked up a Playstation VR headset, alongside the camera and move controllers that complete the kit needed for the full experience. I have briefly dabbled in virtual reality before using the Samsung Gear VR but there simply wasn’t enough good gaming content on there to keep me interested once the novelty had died away. Time will tell if the same thing happens with PSVR, but I hope not since it is primarily designed for gaming and powered by a games console!

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The PSVR Starter Pack comes with a copy of VR Worlds. This is really just a collection of 5 mini games to demonstrate the capabilities of the PSVR. I avoided Ocean Descent due to my fear of water! VR Luge and Scavengers Odyssey are pretty average. The highlights are London Heist and Danger Ball. London Heist has you playing as an East London gangster trying to steal a diamond. Essentially it’s an on-rails shooter, but it is better than that description makes it sound – it very short but it’s definitely worth playing through. Danger Ball could hardly be more different – you are hitting a ball, using a paddle controlled by the movement of your head, back at your opponent. If they miss you get a point – first to 5 points wins. It’s simple and the fun isn’t that long lived but it’s decent. I’m glad that this game is included with the console because there’s a bunch of fun to be had, but there’s not enough here to justify a full price game. Here’s a video of one of my rounds of Danger Ball

There aren’t that many of the top games that have VR experiences. I don’t see that as a bad thing because, similarly to mobile gaming, the best virtual reality is going to come from games designed specifically for that, rather than re-purposed. This theory is born out from my experiences with a couple of the big games that have made an effort to do something with VR; Gran Turismo Sport and Resident Evil 7. Gran Turismo has gone down the route of having a specific mode for the headset but unfortunately I had one significant issue with it: motion sickness. Playing GT Sport in VR made me feel so sick I had to put it down and go for a walk in the fresh air and leave the headset off for a few hours. I valiantly tried again a couple more times but again, the motion sickness was setting in, so I stopped and then gave up. To be clear – this hasn’t happened at all in any of the other games I have played in VR so far, so I would recommend you avoid GT Sport. The fact is there isn’t a lot of VR content in the game anyway, a problem that isn’t new to GT Sport, as you’ll see from my review.Gran Turismo™SPORT_20180401130514

Resident Evil goes a different route but also has issues. Here the entire game is playable in VR. This is an admirable aim and if they embraced VR with the idea that it would make the game even scarier, then they have succeeded there. It’s a game full of foreboding anyway and the level of immersion in VR ramps that up to the max. I have to play this game in short bursts as it is absolutely terrifying! Unfortunately, it falls down due to a few small niggling issues. Moving around and shifting your head around to look about are fine but you can only change the way you are actually facing (ie turn your body, not just your neck) in sudden 30-degree chunks, not smoothly. This is rather disorientating to say the least. Secondly, it just doesn’t look very good. I’m not expecting VR games to have top graphics really but by making the entire game in VR, Capcom has made the comparison obvious. It lacks the clarity to really be that great.RESIDENT EVIL 7 biohazard_20180402120410

Going forward I am ploughing through the absolute ton of demos that are available. It’s great to find demos for games – they are a rare thing these days! I’ve particularly enjoyed Thumper and Fantastic Contraption so far. I have already picked up Super Hot VR too, so look out for full posts and reviews of these games and more going forward! What about you, do you have any VR games? And if so, what games would you recommend? Let us know in the comments below.

Click here to purchase the PSVR Starter Pack from Amazon.co.uk:

Click here to purchase the Move Controllers from Amazon.co.uk:

Click here to purchase Gran Turismo Sport from Amazon.co.uk:

Click here to purchase Resident Evil 7 from Amazon.co.uk:

How To Do Difficulty: Cuphead vs Celeste

I said in my First Impressions of Cuphead that the review might be a long time coming. Well, it’s finally here. Sort of. Actually, I haven’t, and don’t intend to, complete it. And that has as much to do with a little game called Celeste as it does my own crapness. In short: why would I fight against the challenge of Cuphead when I can enjoy the challenge of Celeste? Madeline’s adventure is difficulty done right.23-03-2018_15-34-24

Ready?
Before I come back to comparing them, let’s look at Cuphead. There is a huge amount that is great about this game. Putting questions of difficulty aside for now the other thing that Cuphead is all about it the retro look and feel. The 1930s vibe is fantastic. The visuals are wonderfully reminiscent of those old cartoons but particularly the sounds – the music is amazing and all the sounds effects are perfect to back up the graphics. This presentation then combines nicely with the gameplay. It’s a huge amount of fun shooting, jumping and dashing over and over again. All of these movements are smooth and consistent – the game would fall apart quickly if the controls were in the least bit janky but they are solid as a rock.23-03-2018_15-43-05

You Died!
So, it looks great, sounds great, plays great. What’s wrong with it? It’s just so damn hard! Not tough. Not retro-tough. It’s I-hate-you-and-want-to-make-your-life-a-misery tough. Every single level is relentlessly hard and unpredictable. You know that feeling in Mario Kart when you have made your way into first place through a combination of good driving and great use of your items, you’re only half a lap away from winning and then you spot that little blue shell speeding towards you? Now imagine that on every single lap of every single race. In the end, the effort stops being worth it.23-03-2018_15-43-39

Celeste Mountain
Madeline‘s journey is equally tough in terms of the literal gameplay. There are parts where you have to string together huge sequences of moves perfectly to order to complete that level and move on. Then there are boss battles (which are more easily compared to Cuphead, which is essentially a stream of boss battles) that are relentlessly tricky whilst demanding that you still pay attention to traversing the environment at the same time. It’s also a complete joy to play and super rewarding when you manage to battle through each section. I promised myself I’d go back to Cuphead once I finished Celeste but after doing so, I really can’t be bothered. I think there are two aspects that make the difference between a super tough game that is not worth the fight and one that is.2018022017580100-75A32021BE3512D7AA96B2D72F764411

Fairness
The first in the sense of fairness. There are parts of the boss battles in Cuphead that can feel like they are inconsistent – you have figured out a way to get past a certain attack but then all of a sudden that attack changes and your plan falls apart. It should be noted that I don’t actually think the game is inconsistent – it’s not a sentient being that is deliberately out to get you! But the game is designed in a way that there are enough variables that you get to the point where you are just running through the level again and again waiting for the time that it all works out in such a way that you win. Celeste doesn’t take this approach – it asks huge amounts of you, but each battle always remains the same so you can develop your plan and your skills and eventually execute well enough to complete it – this is much more rewarding than just ‘oh, it let me through that time’.23-03-2018_15-44-39

Story
Cuphead and Mugman‘s story is fun but it’s really just a framework for the gameplay. On the other hand the story in Celeste is wonderful. No spoilers here but Madeline‘s journey is something everyone should experience. Without making the gameplay any less engaging, or easy, Celeste has a further string to it’s bow – another aspect to give you a reason to keep playing and keep battling.2018021613564700-75A32021BE3512D7AA96B2D72F764411

Conclusions
As I have not completed Cuphead then this doesn’t count as a full review but you can clearly see my conclusions – I am kind of disappointed that Cuphead isn’t more forgiving because it looks, sounds and plays wonderfully. But it demands such time from you, first to get good enough to win each and every fight and then to keep playing until you get that one lucky run. All this without giving you enough reasons so keep going back into the heat of the battle. Fair play to anyone who is just better at it than me – I expect you are really enjoying Cuphead. But for me, I have got a bunch more strawberries to find on Celeste mountain and that is a more enjoyable and rewarding task.

Impressions of Doom on the Nintendo Switch

Normally when I title a post about a specific game ‘Impressions’ rather than ‘First Impressions’ or ‘Review’ that means that it is awful and I am about to say a whole stream of horrible (but true) things about it. That is not the case here though! In fact this post it to tell you that you should play Doom… just maybe not on Nintendo Switch.2018022218041500-CF035A1DEF1D6DADE285B7ACA9873642

Regular readers will note that I said a similar thing about Rime on the Switch recently – so, is this a general problem with porting games that are fine on other, more powerful, systems over to Nintendo‘s hybrid console? No, it’s not that either. Doom runs like a dream on Switch – it is as smooth as butter (vital for such a fast-paced game) and it looks great. The screenshots you are seeing in this post don’t do justice to how good it looks in action. It’s everything you could want. Porting to the Switch can and does work.2018021623270100-CF035A1DEF1D6DADE285B7ACA9873642

So, enough beating about the bush saying what this post isn’t about – what is it about? The fact that, however much I love it, I don’t believe the Nintendo Switch is suited to every type of video game. At least, not to a first person shooter as visceral and instinct-stretching as Doom. I would really love to just say ‘Nintendo Switch is all you’ll ever need’ but I can no longer say that honestly.2018021707301100-CF035A1DEF1D6DADE285B7ACA9873642

Simply put, Doom doesn’t make any sense in your hands. When using a controller to play video games there is always a disconnect between you pressing buttons on a gamepad in your hands and the actions your character is taking on screen – you just have to suspend your disbelief enough to play anyway. This is usually no worse when the screen is also in your hands. In fact sometimes it is better – I’ve just finished Celeste on the Switch as well and I loved that handheld much more than on TV. But with an FPS, when the screen is supposed to be your face, it just doesn’t ever quite sit comfortably. The disconnect is too big. Add to that the speed at which everything happens in Doom and it can be difficult to keep track of what’s going on as intuitively as you need to.2018022722240700-CF035A1DEF1D6DADE285B7ACA9873642

So, stop fussing and playing it docked I hear you say! And yes, this is a totally good option if you only have the Switch available to you. To be clear: if you just have the Nintendo, you shouldn’t miss out on Doom – just play it on the TV! But for people that have another option – Xbox One, Playstation 4, PC – then get that version instead. This is in fact, exactly what I intend to do – play it on Xbox One (the controller is better for such a game) as I am only about an hour in on Switch, so I can restart easily enough.2018021707361300-CF035A1DEF1D6DADE285B7ACA9873642

What about you, do you think there are certain types of game that work best on certain consoles/controllers/etc? Let us know in the comments below.

Click here to purchase the game for Switch on cart from Amazon.co.uk:

Click here to purchase a download code for the game on Switch from Amazon.co.uk:

Click here to purchase the game for Xbox One on disc from Amazon.co.uk:

Click here to purchase the game for PS4 on disc from Amazon.co.uk:

Be More Pirate!

So, Sea of Thieves has been released and thanks to the joy of an Xbox Game Pass subscription I was able to play it on release day yesterday. This is an important game for 3 reasons:

  • Microsoft wants more top quality exclusives on Xbox One, to shift consoles.
  • It’s the first game available on the Xbox Game Pass subscription service at the same time as it’s release.
  • It’s developer, Rare, was once a legendary company but has recently been making things like Kinect Sports. They need a return to form.

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Having played it for a few hours I can give you my initial thoughts on the game and how likely it is to have the kind of impact that it is intended to have. In short: this seems to be an absolute home run! The game plays well in every aspect, matchmaking is lightening fast and perhaps most importantly for Microsoft, Rare and the Game Pass service it is a thoroughly modern game; Sea of Thieves is absolutely perfect for streaming and to become a persistent multiplayer experience for months and years to come.20-03-2018_21-50-48

The word experience is key. Sea of Thieves will play out differently every time you play depending on who you are with, what tasks you look to tackle and what you run into on the way. It also let’s you play your own way – either with a big crew on a big ship where communicating and working together is essential, or even alone on a smaller ship. I had a quick sail on my own so that I could grab the screenshots for this post and it was fun trying to manage all the different aspects of navigating and sailing the ship myself. However, I can imagine that this would get boring much quicker than multiplayer. With good support from Rare over the coming months it should be possible to dip into Sea of Thieves over and over again and not get tired of it. This is what Microsoft is counting on – that consistently fun experiences will mean that word of mouth causes groups of friends to all have to have an Xbox One to have those experiences together.20-03-2018_21-50-19

Having Sea of Thieves on Xbox Game Pass is also a great way to build this up. It lowers the barrier of entry significantly and having access to a library of some of the best games on the system will also help move consoles. For those who already have an Xbox One, why pay £40 for the game when you can pay £8 a month to play it? And get a some other games on the side as well. It’s all planned perfectly to succeed – it just needs a great game to back it up.20-03-2018_21-50-05

Of course, I cannot speak to longevity after only a few short hours but everything I saw was positive. Sea of Thieves looks great, from the great character models to the rolling seas. It plays really smoothly and intuitively. It’s also really funny – both in terms of the fun characters that you find in the world and the exaggerated design but also the attempts of you and your crew to work together. All this said, I’m not sure I’m going to play it much! But that is all to do with me and not the game – water-based games, or water-based anything to be honest, freak me out and Rare has done such a great job with the sea here that I am not going to be able to play it that much. But for anyone else (who doesn’t have an irrational fear of drowning!) I definitely think this is worth checking out – its an incredibly crafted world built for fun above all else!

 Click here to purchase the game on disc from Amazon.co.uk:

Click here to purchase a code for a month of Xbox Game Pass from Amazon.co.uk:

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.

 

An ode to Forza Motorsport cover cars

It’s been a recent tradition for me, since the Xbox One was released, that I fall in love with the car on the cover of each Forza Motorsport game. Is it that they just always choose a great car to adorn the artwork, or is is that something about the car being on the cover tricks me into enjoying the drive? Which came first, the chicken or the egg?!

With Forza 5 it was the McLaren P1. A thing of beauty that went like a rocket and other than some brakes that struggled to slow the thing down, handled very nicely as well.

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Then came Forza 6 and the Ford GT. Even more beautiful, particularly in blue. And although it didn’t have quite the acceleration of the P1, it flowed round fast corners like it was flying, a joy to drive.

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But now we come to Forza 7 and the Porsche 911 GT2 RS. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a fine car to drive. But on this occasion it is not my favourite.

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Instead that title goes to the Porsche 918 Spyder. As you’ll see below this car is very similar to the 911, which probably supports the theory that it’s all in my head! I really can’t think of anything I can complain about when driving this beauty. Speed, agility, balance. I’m going to be looking for 918s in future racing games for sure. And yes, I do have a thing for cars with those little wings on the back that go up and down!!

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What about you, what are your favourite cars from the racing games you have played? Let us know in the comments below.

Click here to purchase the disc from Amazon.co.uk:
Click here to buy a download key from CDKeys.com: