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.


REVIEW: Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 PLUS

  • Released: 2018, 2016 in original form
  • Played on: Switch
  • Also available on: PC, Xbox One, PS4 without the ‘PLUS’ 2-player mode
  • Time to get into: 1 Hour
  • Time to complete: 15 Hours
  • Multiplayer: Yes, local only

My enjoyment level and feelings towards this game fluctuated from high to low as I played it – some parts of it are excellent, some are fine and some simply make you wonder why anyone thought they were a good idea. At it’s best Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 PLUS is a fast, intense, and immersive action/puzzle game. You’ll be playing ‘just one more time’ to try and get a higher score and push yourself to move Pac-Man, faster, smoother, more efficiently. Unfortunately, these moments are surrounded by plenty of other modes and levels that are poor to middling and the overall package falls down as a result.2018031913530200-0103C1801C62C21D9770DA79C7FBBF1F

Ringing in the changes
This is no longer your grandfather’s Pac-Man. I haven’t played every iteration of the franchise over the years so I’m not exactly sure when each change was made but outside of the very basic components – Pac-Man, pellet-filled mazes and ghosts – pretty much everything has changed now. As examples, consider these: ghosts no longer kill you instantly on contact, not every maze is completely full of pellets and often the fruit and power pellets run away from you as you try and collect them. Whether these changes are for the better seems to depend mostly on which mode you are playing.2018031313442200-0103C1801C62C21D9770DA79C7FBBF1F

Score Attack and Adventure
In the main Score Attack mode, it works wonderfully well. This is where PMCE2P really shines. As the name suggests the purpose is no longer to simply survive each level until you have collected every pellet, but to get the highest score possible. This requires an entirely different focus than classic Pac-Man. Given that you can now get away with a degree of contact with the ghosts they no longer seem quite like an enemy and more like an, admittedly dangerous, tool to get higher scores. Likewise collecting every pellet is not always necessary but it’s better as you can get higher scores if you do so. This mode does a great job of staying fresh by tweaking the rules of engagement slightly on each different maze. It all adds up to a mode that is fast and furious. You find yourself straining every sinew to move faster and faster – as faster means more pellets, more ghosts, more fruit and a higher score. It’s one of the best top-score-chasing games I’ve played in years.2018031208414900-0103C1801C62C21D9770DA79C7FBBF1F

Adventure mode however, doesn’t work so well. Calling it an adventure really is misleading. Perhaps ‘challenge’ mode would have been fairer as this mode sets you various goals that can take a little as 45 seconds or as much as a few minutes. It’s just a stream of slightly different tasks but none of them are particularly engaging and more problematic is that there is no thread that connects them. The gameplay is pretty similar to Score Attack but without any of the enticing reasons to keep playing or improve your scores. In fact, the last few levels of Adventure mode are set to the same rules as Score Attack, which really brings it into focus: there’s nothing all that wrong with this mode, it just doesn’t add anything good to the game.

Change for change’s sake
The two-player PLUS mode, however, really takes this to new depths. Why, oh why, did anyone think this was a good idea?! If the game as a whole stretches the concept of Pac-Man then this section stretches it to breaking point and beyond. The fact that there is a really, really long tutorial when you first head into this mode probably should have warned me. They have added so many bells and whistles that they have become like chains holding the fun at bay. The Boy started playing this mode with me and lasted all of about 10 minutes before the confusion and weirdness put him off the game permanently. I was still able to play it for a bit as you can play with an AI partner if you don’t have a second real person but I didn’t find anything good here. For example: you collect things like fruits or eat ghosts by pinching them between you and your teammate but all that happens in practice is that you bump and bash the ghosts towards each other until they are all in a nice convenient line just waiting to be gobbled up at your leisure. Or how about this: in the boss battles you are confronted by a single massive ghost and jump – yes that’s jump – repeatedly into it to bash it to death. It’s bad in and of itself and inexplicable as a Pac-Man game.2018031908305300-0103C1801C62C21D9770DA79C7FBBF1F

If this game was just the Score Attack mode and cost half the price it would be easy to recommend. However, the rest of the game weighs it down and it’s not good value for money as a result. Maybe pick it up if it comes on sale, but for now, spend your cash elsewhere.


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!


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

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

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

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

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.

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Click here to purchase the game for Xbox One on disc from

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REVIEW: Celeste

  • Released: 2018
  • Played on: Switch
  • Also available on: PC, Mac, Xbox One, PS4
  • Time to get into: 3 Hours
  • Time to complete: 13 Hours
  • Multiplayer: No

No individual part of Celeste is all that amazing. Instead, it’s a masterpiece of complimentary game design – every aspect of it comes together to create something that rises high above the sum of it’s parts. The gameplay, the story, the music, the difficulty, the visuals, the progression etc etc etc. All of it is very good, but it’s the combination that makes Madeline‘s journey up the mountain so wonderful. It’s an indie gem that every gamer should play.2018021918131200-75A32021BE3512D7AA96B2D72F764411

Celeste is, at it’s core, a simple platformer. You play as a character called Madeline, who, for reasons she’s not entirely sure of, has determined that she must climb Celeste mountain. You achieve this, in the main, by navigating your way across a stream of different screens, each effectively a mini-level. You have a fairly standard jump and can also use Madeline‘s two unique skills; the ability to grab and hold onto walls and other flat surfaces, and her ‘dash’ – a mid-air burst of acceleration that can get her over larger gaps. As you progress through each chapter there are further mechanics introduced that give you other ways to use these things but essentially that is it – one analog stick, two buttons and a trigger will get you through the entire game. Similarly, the story is very simple. A grand total of five characters and one central question – is Madeline fighting the mountain, or really herself – carry through the duration of the game. There are a few minor twists and turns but it is really the themes the story deals with that are more important – from anxiety, depression and self-doubt to determination, selflessness and cooperation. As always, I will avoid story spoilers on this blog but I can’t see how anyone wouldn’t be able to relate to large parts of Madeline‘s personal journey.2018022221083800-75A32021BE3512D7AA96B2D72F764411

Therein lies the key to the genius of Celeste. Playing through this game is as much a journey through Madeline‘s personal battles as it is a journey from platform to platform. They are two sides of a mirror. Much like Madeline‘s trial, the game is viciously difficult at times. When Madeline has the opportunity to give up her quest to reach the summit, the game is really asking you, the player, are you determined enough to get there yourself? If you caught my first impressions of Celeste you’ll know that I wasn’t convinced for the first few hours. At that point I wasn’t totally sure why it suddenly clicked with me thereafter but after completing it, I believe it is this synergy of all the game’s elements. There comes a point when you stop thinking about the gameplay, or the characters, or the music and find yourself fully immersed in the battle to reach the top of Celeste mountain. It’s so great to play I didn’t want the game to end – a sensation I’ve only previously experienced with last year’s Breath of the Wild.2018022013301600-75A32021BE3512D7AA96B2D72F764411

Let’s take a moment to consider the technical aspects of the game though, as I don’t want to damn them with faint praise. The graphics are undeniably retro, but the visuals are absolutely stunning – from the animation of Madeline‘s movements or her hair to the many and varied parts of Celeste that you traverse. The music too, is a perfect fit. Retro enough to fit with the graphics but modern enough to chart the journey’s highs and lows with the same grace as the narrative. I have also really enjoyed playing it on the Switch in handheld mode. The controllers rumble with each dash and each death and having it directly in my hands has furthered that total immersion into the game that I mentioned above. Once again, another aspect plays into the greater whole.2018022618122100-75A32021BE3512D7AA96B2D72F764411

There are no real problems with Celeste, built as it is. Perhaps the only place it could fall down would be in it’s appeal to certain types of gamer. It’s a 2D platformer, it looks decidedly retro, it’s incredibly difficult at times, it starts slowly, it has deep themes woven into it’s narrative. All of these aspects could be off-putting to certain people. Heck, the first few of those issues nearly put me off the game. But thankfully I played it anyway and I implore you to do so too.2018021917581300-75A32021BE3512D7AA96B2D72F764411

The best parts of Celeste are those when first, you weren’t even sure how to make it across a level. Then, you weren’t sure if you could do it. Then suddenly – you have! I regularly wanted to jump up and exclaim at my achievements, whether at home, on the train or in coffee shops etc. It’s asks serious questions via both gameplay and narrative but ultimately leaves you filled with joy. 2018’s first game of the year contender.


Top 5 Mario Kart 8 Items: Monthly Roundup March 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
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is such an amazing game. In fairness, all the Mario Karts have been since Super Mario Kart on the SNES. It doesn’t seem to matter how much I play it – I still want to play it. That’s a lot of racing! The Boy is just the same – he has started multiple new accounts on our Switch so that he can play all the way through the single player game again and again. So, after all that time, between us, we have come up with our Top 5 items that we are hoping to get when we smash through those item boxes on each track.2018012508053000-16851BE00BC6068871FE49D98876D6C5
#1: Banana
The lowly banana! At #1! That’s right! Why? Because if you want to win that means you need to be at the front and when you are in 1st place you are most likely to get a banana. As such, we’ve come to rely on it, not for attacking but for defending. Driving around pulling it behind you – not even a red shell can stop your ride to glory!2018012508005500-16851BE00BC6068871FE49D98876D6C5
#2: Red Shell
The red shell is easily the best attacking weapon in the game. You can still get them in 2nd or 3rd places, unlike the really powerful items, but they are a sure fire hit on someone in front of you, if used well. And there’s no way they can backfire on you. They’re perfect!2018012507540500-16851BE00BC6068871FE49D98876D6C5
#3: Super Horn
So you’re driving around with your banana already imagining the glory of the top step on the podium. But then on the map you see that little blue blur zipping towards your position. Impending doom! Or is it? Not if you have a super horn – blast that blue shell to smithereens and carry on your way to the winners circle. #smugface2018012507582000-16851BE00BC6068871FE49D98876D6C5
#4: Mushroom
This was The Boy‘s idea – the boost needs to be in this list because of the shortcuts it opens up. He’s absolutely right. There’s a reason that you are given one for each lap in Time Trial mode. Used at the right time they give so much more than a boost – they mean that you are racing on a different track to everyone else.2018012508000300-16851BE00BC6068871FE49D98876D6C5
#5: Star
Da da da da da da da da da da da… You know you are singing this in your head! The Star doesn’t just make you invincible and give you a slight speed boost – it brings musical joy to your life as well! Lovely.2018012508001200-16851BE00BC6068871FE49D98876D6C5
Bonus: Spiny Shell
Ah, the demon. The evil weapon of all that is wrong in the world. The very symbol of how unfair Mario Kart can be. It doesn’t make the Top 5 because you don’t really ever want to be so far behind in a race that the game ever gives you one! But it has to be mentioned. It’s both the best – when you are anywhere from 2nd to 12th – thing in the game and, of course, the worst, if you are in front. Surely the most well known Mario Kart item – but not one of the best when you are racing.2018012513254400-16851BE00BC6068871FE49D98876D6C5
What about? Which if your favourite Mario Kart item? Or your most hated? Let us know in the comments below.
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