Round-Up: Console Controller Comparison

Why does a controller matter?
The controller is an oft-forgotten but key part of the gaming experience. At the end of the day it’s the only thing where the player is physically connected to what’s happening in-game so it really is significant! I’m surprised that more isn’t made of controllers when new games and new consoles are considered and reviewed, so I thought I would collect together my thoughts on the three main console controllers; Xbox One, PS4 and Switch – just looking at the standard ones that some in the box. I believe there are two main things that make a good controller: responsiveness and comfort.

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Responsiveness
The controller needs buttons that feel completely responsive, to remove as much of the barrier between the player’s actions and what happens on screen as possible. Any disparity, such as latency between button press and action, or even just the feeling that the button is harder/easier to press than it should be and the immersion of the gamer in the game is lessened.

Comfort
The controller needs to be comfortable simply due to the length of time that it will be held by the gamer. Even a quick 5 minute thrash around a track in a racing game it a fairly long time to tightly hold on to something like that, let alone the multi-hour sessions that a lot of us get involved in. If the shape, weight or feel of the controller isn’t great it’s ultimately going to hurt!

Controller Comparison: Xbox One

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The Xbox Controller has evolved over the years from the massive ‘Duke‘ controller that came out with Halo in 2002 all the way through to the recently released ‘Elite‘ controller for Xbox One. I believe that the Xbox controller is the best available right now because it really nails one of the above criteria – responsiveness. The basic feel of it in the hand is fine, if nothing remarkable, but every single button, be it face buttons to triggers just feels right in-game. The triggers are smooth for accelerating and braking vehicles and also quick for firing weapons. The shoulder buttons are easy to press for changing settings but also solid for throwing punches and other melee attacks. The face buttons are heavy enough for precision timing without being too heavy for quick button-bashing. They really have nailed it!

Controller Comparison : Playstation 4, ‘Dual Shock 4’

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The current Dual Shock excels in the other stipulation above – comfort. Although I have some issues with the buttons being slightly spongy and their placement being odd (why are the triggers the bottom of the controller? They often catch on things) these minor gripes are made up by the great feel in the hand. The wider size compared to previous Dual Shocks is a better fit and the weight and depth of the controller feels great even after extended gaming sessions.

Controller Comparison : Nintendo Switch, ‘Joy Cons’

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These are a totally different beast from the two controllers above. They are designed for a different purpose as the need for them to be easy to take off and used in multiple ways – on the console, by themselves or together on the grip – is more important than their responsiveness or comfort. In some ways the Pro Controller for Nintendo Switch would be a closer comparison but I really wanted to compare only what you get in-the-box here. What’s great about the Joy Cons actually is that they don’t have to skimp too far in order to achieve their versatility. Whilst in a direct fight they would be third best here in both responsiveness or comfort they actually get remarkably close considering all the things they need to be able to do.

Verdict
All three of the controllers that you get in the box with these current consoles have their strengths. And all three are decent in the other areas too. It’s crazy to think how far we’ve come: 15 years ago I would have been putting down the original Xbox controller and picking up a Dual Shock 2 and not enjoying the feel of either in my hands. With these controllers available today we really are spoilt!

What about you? Which is your favourite controller on consoles at the moment? And which is your favorite ever?! Let us know in the comments below.

Click here to purchase the Xbox Controller from Amazon.co.uk:

Click here to purchase the Dual Shock 4 from Amazon.co.uk:

Click here to purchase the Joy Cons from Amazon.co.uk:

In addition, click here to purchase the gGrip for the Joy Cons from Amazon.co.uk:

And lastly, if you’re interested, here is the Pro Controller for Switch from Amazon.co.uk:

Sequels – Addition or Replacement?

Sequels usually fall into two camps for me. Those with storylines like adventure games or first person shooters I consider an ‘addition’ to that franchise – even if the gameplay is improved and tweaked, the story gives you reason to go back to the previous entries. On the other hand, sequels in franchises like sports games or racing games are more ‘replacements’ – they bring advances to the gameplay and give you no reason to go back. Occasionally though, a sequel will transcend these definitions and give you enough new gameplay outside of a story to be a great experience without stepping on the toes of it’s predecessor.
One such example is SSX 3.

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The game before it was SSX Tricky, which was just amazing. It was just outrageous in every aspect – the characters, the tricks, the speed, even the soundtrack. This is still the best game I’ve played in terms of pure fun – no complications or distractions, just massive tricks and massive points.
So where could SSX 3 go? There was no narrative so they couldn’t just tweak the formula and put a new story on it. What they did though, was retain enough of the gameplay – the crazy tricks and the races – whilst placing it in a new setting. Here you had a more complete structure to the events in the game, more organised tracks and mountains and just a little bit of an open world feel. It was a stunning game in it’s own right without diluting the simplicity and, frankly, preposterousness of Tricky.

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I originally played this games on Playstation 2 but have recently picked them up on the cheap for the original Xbox. I’m surprised and pleased to report that they are still fantastic games all these years later! Normally I would only consider one game in this kind of franchise for my All Time Top Games List. If I didn’t use that policy that list would be full of 6 Forza Motorsport games, multiple Mario Karts and a multitude of FIFAs and PESs. But SSX Tricky and SSX 3 are both worthy enough, and different enough, to get separate places on that list.

SSX Tricky Intro from The Gamer Boys on Vimeo.

Now I’m going to head back to Garibaldi and see if I can get back to when I could get well over 1 million points on the way down there!
What about you? Which other sequels have been great without just replacing the game before? Let us know in the comments below.

First Impressions: Horizon Zero Dawn

It has taken me a while to get into this game. Perhaps because I spent so much time in Hyrule playing Breath of the Wild earlier this year. Perhaps because that game was so good. Perhaps simply that Horizon doesn’t start all that well, relatively speaking. I stuck at it because basically everyone loves this game, so I assumed it must get good sooner rather than later.

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And oh boy, it certainly did! Without spoilers, there is a section early on – for me it was between 5 hours and 6 hours play time – where the little you know so far is torn up and wildly discarded as you are set on your quest and sent out into the full game. It’s a wonderful, spectacular and gut-wrenching section that somehow manages to be different from what is immediately before or after it and yet still feel like a natural part of the game.

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So far I take this to be a mashup of Breath of the Wild and Mass Effect. You have the same exploration and crafting stuff going on as in the Zelda game but the story and the missions are dealt with much more like Mass Effect – even down the way conversation choices are chosen. This is not a bad thing! Both those games are in my Top 10 Games Ever – maybe by the end Horizon Zero Dawn will be too.

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

REVIEW: Old Man’s Journey

  • Released: 2017
  • Played on: Android
  • Also available on: iOS, PC, Mac
  • Time to get into: 5 minutes
  • Time to complete: 1.5 hours
  • Multiplayer: No

The idea of paying for a mobile game up front can seem odd these days. The vast majority of games on the Play Store and App Store let you get started initially and then either demand that you pay up to continue or put regular road blocks in your way and make it clear that paying money would make your life easier. Old Man’s Journey acts more like a console game in this aspect, expecting you to pay just under £5 before letting you download. Don’t let this put you off – this is very much a ‘mobile’ experience but it’s very much worth the money. There are two aspects in play here – the gameplay and the narrative – and it’s mainly the latter that takes this from brief distraction to great experience in it’s own right.

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Gameplay
The game is very simple at it’s core. Most of the time you are altering the landscape to allow the eponymous Old Man (we never learn his name, or those of the other characters) to travel from one side of the screen to the other. This involves working out, for example, how to get sheep to move to another hill to let him past or joining up train tracks to allow his train to keep moving. Whilst it is all very basic the game retains your interest by a combination of gentle guidance and simple charm. Anything that needs to be clicked on is usually moving or lit up slightly or something else that let’s you know to interact with it without taking you out of the experience. If you ask your Man to walk somewhere he can’t get he’ll react with a sort of ‘huh?’ with a question mark over his head – letting you know you’ve done it wrong without actually saying that or punishing you at all. In terms of charm it drips from every pore of Old Man’s Journey. Even aside from the storyline, the cute graphics, the endearing body language of the Old Man and the wonderful soundtrack all add up to a well made and engaging game.
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Narrative
The gameplay is really just a vessel in which to place a delightful and meaningful story and tell it in a subtle and wonderful way. I’d venture to say I’ve never come across a mobile game with such emphasis on the story – certainly not one that does it so well anyway. I don’t want to give anything away here in order to not ruin it but if you’ve seen the Disney movie Up then you’ll know the kind of tender, bittersweet storytelling you can expect. If not you’ll just have to trust me that it’s wonderful and you should experience it without any preconceptions!
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Verdict
Without the fantastically engaging narrative Old Man’s Journey would probably not have enough gameplay to stand up. However, that gaming is in fact the perfect compliment to the most wonderful storytelling I’ve come across on mobile. Totally worth the price of entry.
Review5

First Impressions: NBA Playgrounds (Nintendo Switch)

I nearly picked up this game on it’s initial release but then when I read a couple of reviews, I paused. No online play they said, poor graphics they said, game felt unfair they said. Despite that though, the idea of having a sports game on the Nintendo Switch was interesting enough that it never fully left my thoughts and then I got it a few weeks ago as a Father’s Day present. My initial experiences have made me glad I did – smashing your opponent to the ground as you nail an alley-opp slam dunk is a joy that could cover multiple issues!

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Let me tackle those issues that gave me pause. Firstly, there is indeed no online play on the Switch version. As yet that hasn’t really annoyed me as I’m still getting to grips with it offline. Hopefully it will finally arrive before I get bored of the single player mode. Secondly, the graphics. I’m not sure what other people are seeing but it looks great to me. It’s not really a game that I am expecting amazing visuals from. What I want is a smooth-running game with tons of spectacular animations – that’s exactly what we have here.

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Lastly, the gameplay. I can see why some people feel the game is unfair. The scoring system is quite varied – a basket can count for 2 points to 12 points depending on what else is going on in the game. Really though, it’s not unfairness that is the issue, it’s inconsistency. Many games are ‘unfair’ (just recently we have had a new Mario Kart game – possibly the best example of not getting what you deserve in gaming, ever) but at least they apply that consistently so you know what to expect. Here you have things like the ‘perfect shot’ mechanic, whereby an extra point is awarded for timing your button press perfectly. However, the window for this perfection is so small that I have never found it. Indeed it is different for each different player you choose on your team so you have even less chance of nailing it intentionally. As such, it then feels unfair when the opposition gets a +1 for a perfect shot but really its the inconsistency of what happens when any player is shooting that causes the issue.

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They are promising a patch that will fix things like this (as well as giving online play) so hopefully that will materialise before I am ready to do a full review of this game. In the meantime I am just going to have to get better to try and counteract these dramas – and I’m happy to do so because I’m having a lot of fun with the quick gameplay, the spectacular slam dunks & blocks and the quest to collect all the players from my favourite NBA team, the Toronto Raptors.

Round-Up: Top 10 original Xbox games

The recent announcement that we will see some games from the original Xbox brought to Xbox One via backwards compatibility has got me thinking about which games I would want to see on there. I actually have an old Xbox in the house at the moment that I’m borrowing from someone because I fancied having a play through of the first Splinter Cell game again.

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I have mainly enjoyed backwards compatibility of Xbox 360 games to mop up the ones I missed at the time (eg SSX) or to play through a game again before it’s sequel was released (eg Mirror’s Edge). So I don’t know if I actually would go back and play all my favourite original Xbox games if they came up on backwards compatibility but if I did, it would be the ones below. I remember very fondly that console and that time in my gaming life, here are some quick memories from my Top 10 games I played on it:

#1: Halo: Combat Evolved

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‘Shall we do The Silent Cartographer on Legendary?’ I never said no to that.

#2: Splinter Cell

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Knocking out the light bulbs in a room and sneaking past all the NPCs without them ever knowing.

#3: Moto GP 2

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However much I’ve enjoyed gaming there has rarely been anything special about my skills but for some reason I was unbeatable on a bike.

#4: Jet Set Radio Future

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Just spending the entire game grinding on rails and it almost becoming a dance/rhythm game!

#5: Project Gotham Racing 2

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Throwing a Porsche Cayenne around roads at unreasonable speeds.

#6: Forza Motorsport

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I discovered Bathurst for the first time – what a track!

#7: NHL Hitz 20-03

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Having more fun from the violence than the sport! And the crazy character customisation.

#8: Buffy The Vampire Slayer

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Best ever conversion of movie/tv show into a game. Felt like being in an episode!

#9: Sega GT 2002

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Proper handling – even gave Gran Turismo a run for it’s realism-money.

#10: Colin McRae Rally 3

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Being really closely matched in multiplayer with a friend of mine – great racing even when not technically on the same track. N.B. I know this photo isn’t from this game specifically, please forgive me, they are hard to find and I no longer have it myself!

What about you? What are your favourite memories of the original Xbox?

REVIEW: New Super Mario Bros 2

  • Released: 2012
  • Played on: Nintendo 2DS
  • Also available on: – (3DS of course)
  • Time to get into: 30 minutes
  • Time to complete: 8 hours
  • Multiplayer: No, although someone else with another console and copy of the game near you can play co-op

I’m not going to labour this review too much for two reasons. Firstly, this game first came out in 2012 and secondly you already know what I’m going to say! Let’s be honest; a) it’s a 2D side-scrolling platformer, so how good can it really be? But then b) it’s a Mario game, so how bad can it really be? It had 4 stars written all over it before I even started and that is exactly where I am at the end as well!

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It’s more of the same… but that’s ok
You know the drill: Bowser and his minions have kidnapped Princess Peach and you are going to get her back. Here you’ll be chasing them down across 6 ‘Worlds’ of varying types facing all the usual different kinds of enemies and other hazards. However old this formula gets there is something about Mario that means it never gets tired! What Nintendo have done to try and differentiate this iteration is an abundance of coins. New Super Mario Bros 2 is all about collecting coins and there are all kinds of mechanics to increase the number available to you. Ultimately this doesn’t really change the gameplay significantly although there is also an additional ‘Coin Rush‘ mode, where you have to dash through a selection of levels quickly whilst collecting as many coins as possible.

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It’s hard… but we’ll make it easy
The most noteworthy thing about this title is it’s odd take on difficulty. Back in the day games were often rock hard – I regularly started games knowing that I would probably never make it through to the end because having to do 30-odd levels without losing all my lives would prove more or less impossible. Compare that with modern day games where after taking a bit of damage you only need to hide briefly to get back to full health. Neither of those extremes is ideal but what this game does to try and bridge the gap is also not ideal.
On the one hand the game doesn’t go easy on you – outside of collecting power-ups (that you then lose when hit), it’s basically a one-shot-kill concept here. Each shell or flame or anything else that you run into will kill you and send you out of the level. As such, particularly when learning each new level to begin with, there is lots of restarting here. Not only that but the game only allows you to save progress every few levels, so if you were to run out of lives on the level before one of those you actually get sent back 3 or 4 levels, not just to the start of that one.
All of this could seem frustrating to your modern day gamer but what Nintendo have done to mitigate it is essentially give you a cop out option. Any level that you have failed at least five times you are thereafter given a White Raccoon power up for Mario. Whilst you can still fall down on levels without a floor this otherwise allows you to sail through each level – busting through each creature trying to get you as if they weren’t there. This even applies to the boss levels. It more or less removes any challenge from the level in question as you can just rush through to the end leaping over the gaps without a care in the world until you see ‘Course Cleared‘.

It’s a free pass.. but that’s not a bad thing
For me, this is a messy solution. It’s basically the same as being given a free pass on any level you are struggling with. I took to trying to ignore the shiny gold boxes until I really did start to get frustrated with a given level, when I did sometimes give in to the temptation. However, my opinion of this changed when I watched The Boy play. For him White Raccoon Mario was not only a fun thing to be given in and of itself but was actually a progress – and thus interest – saviour. He would start to get frustrated if he was stuck, close to the point of giving up on the game entirely but then the White Raccoon box would appear and his enthusiasm would return. For The Boy it wasn’t just level-skipping solution, it was a genuine aspect of the game, just like any of the other power ups. He would probably say it was even his favourite part!

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Verdict
It’s a fairly simple decision whether you want to play this game. Whilst a whole ton of fun, it’s not going to change your world at all so if you are looking for your next great game you can give this one a miss. On the other hand, if you are looking specifically for a game to pick up and play when out and about with your 2 or 3DS, but would like a decent amount of challenge, then this is one of your best options.

Review4

Click below to purchase New Super Mario Bros 2 on cartridge from Amazon.co.uk:
Click below to purchase the 2DS + New Super Mario Bros 2 from Amazon.co.uk: