NieR: It’s funny how things always seem to come full circle in the end, as you see it was a list very much like this one which prompted me to give NieR a fair chance. I would never have played it otherwise, and now I am going to pass that same piece of advice onto you. If you have any love for JRPGs whatsoever, don’t skip over this recommendation.
NieR is a prime example of a game that tried to be more than it needed to be. On the surface, the game will not appear very visually enticing, but, in its awkward appearance, there is an artistic diversity that keeps the experience interesting and a soundtrack you won’t ever forget. It technically fails as an RPG, but, at its core, it undoubtedly succeeds as an adventure game; you just need to be willing to step around some fat to get the most out of it. Above all else, playing NieR is about the story. The cast of characters is unique and diverse, with one character in particular who is used to raise awareness for some heavy real world issues. Nier himself is a great protagonist, who, despite all of the epic boss battles and narrative twists, never loses perspective on his own motivations. It’s an unconventional tale for a JRPG that will certainly surprise, and utilises a unique new game plus mode which portrays an alternative perspective on events that will blow your mind. You must play it at least twice to see its genius. It’s absolutely worth it!
No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle: Yeah, I know, it has an 84/8.7 Metacritic rating, and almost anyone you talk to who’s played it will say it’s amazing. Just shut up for a minute, you smarmy, hypothetical bastard. Think about how many people you know who’ve played No More Heroes 2 (NMH2), form an actual number in your head. Now, how many of those people have played it because you showed it to them? I stumbled on this game by accident, probably a year or so after its release, having never heard of the series and only a single soul among all my friends knew about it already. That’s right, all four of ’em didn’t know what the hell it was, which is an absolute Travis-ty because this game should be everyone’s go-to title when you think about what best reps the Wii.
Travis Touchdown is a nerd who, in the previous game, fought his way to the top of the world’s deadliest ranked Assassin’s – because it was cool. NMH2’s story loosely follows on from there, with a revenge plot thrown in, and some other weird shit, but that’s not what makes this game so awesome. The whole premise is delightfully absurd: You’re a world class assassin because you won a beam katana in an auction. You work part time jobs as mini-games when not murdering other world class assassins for jollies. The game’s name even comes from a British punk rock band album name – and those mini-games are pretty fun!
NMH2 was also just a better version of NMH; better graphics, better side missions, and a worse story (but in that so bad it’s good way). Which is fine, since NMH was already a hilarious riff on gaming and geek/otaku culture in general, with awesome gameplay that made good use of the Wii-motes while still making you look stupid. Seriously, you “jerk off” with the controller to recharge your beam katana and yes, that is a thing in the No More Heroes series. I… Do I need to say anything else? Go play the damn game!
ArmA 3: The most helpful Steam review for ArmA 3 says it best: “Children play Call of Duty. Boys play Battlefield. Men play ArmA”. This is a game for the hardest of the hardcore, tailored for a creed of player accustomed to the finest of tastes. ArmA has provided me with some of the most satisfying gameplay of any game I’ve ever played, even if I did need to restart twenty times to succeed. It may be synonymous with DayZ, but ArmA is so much more than a mod platform (it’s pretty good at that too, though).
Unlike the mainstream tripe filled with 14-year old no-scopers, ArmA is concerned with realistic simulation of infantry combat. To that end, it doesn’t care how you achieve your objectives, just so long as it happens. If you want to go north, go north. Want to head south and try coming in from behind? Great, do it, it’s your choice. The game’s realism and freedom offer gameplay unrivalled by its peers, and yet no one seems to drool over it quite like me.
Maybe it’s the game’s pace, maybe because it’s too good for casual plebeians to appreciate, but you never see anyone using ArmA as a benchmark for all other FPS’s to reach. In a world filled with corridor shooters, ArmA dares to dream a little bigger, and for that, it’s gotten little recognition. To me, though, the game is an unparalleled achievement in gaming, letting the player approach the situation as he or she chooses, rather than lead them with a carrot on a stick. I love me some ArmA, and it baffles me that so few others do too.
Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse: The first time I saw the box art for Stubbs the Zombie, I knew it was the game for me; the cover art oozed cheesy B-movie stylishness and didn’t look to take itself seriously. I never saw any adverts or any strong reviews for the game either, which is a real shame; because it’s an entertaining and ridiculously over-the-top horror comedy blood-fest that deserves attention! You play as one of the most fun characters in all of gaming, a brain eating zombie named Stubbs; who’s ready to wreak havoc on the civilians of Punchbowl.
Set in a retro-futuristic in the 1950s, Stubbs is a traveling salesperson turned zombie. He’s out to get revenge from being murdered by his killer, Otis Monday, and to find his love of his (undead) life, Maggie Monday. This game gets blood-spattering real quick as you must devour people’s brains to recruit help and create crowds of undead comrades to combat police and militant factions of the city. Stubbs has many offensive moves at his disposable including the standard melee attack, but he can also best his enemies in a variety of comedic ways. You have the ability to take your head off and bowl it at enemies to detonate a bomb blast. A gut grenade where you pull out your stomach, lob it at your enemies to produce a gas cloud of death. Lastly but most outstandingly is that Stubbs’ hand is also a weapon; it adds an element of stealth to the game and is an amusing way to possess the living.
Everything about this games presentation is picture-perfect from its character models and locations; all designed with a cartoonish 1950s flair. Even the soundtrack captures that era dreamily with classic 50’s and 60’s tunes covered by bands such as The Flaming Lips and Ben Kweller to name a few. It’s a fun voyage of blood-filled humour and utter mayhem that was criminally underrated and a quality game that everyone would enjoy. It’s a must-have to track down; even for the only reason to play as a freaking brain-thirsty zombie!
Bomberman Land Touch! 2: In the early days of the Nintendo DS, games were developed with either an emphasis on narrative or a focus on mini games. Then in early 2007, developer Hudson Soft said ‘Por que no los dos!’ and Bomberman Land Touch! was born- sans tacos… or any Mexican theme whatsoever…
Anyway, with a name that rolled off the tongue like most other Japanese- conceived franchises (anyone for a spot of 2nd Super Robot Wars Original Generation?), Bomberman Land Touch! 2 was Hudson Soft’s excellent response to the other puzzle/ party games on the market (e.g. Mario Party DS and the lesser remembered Crash Boom Bang!)- all of which seemed to be achieving low to middling review scores. Bomberman Land Touch! was well received by critics but Bomberman Land Touch! 2, which dropped 12 months later, was overlooked due to its close release date and lack of originality.
In reality, the game is brilliant! It is a finely tuned version of its predecessor that put (and still puts) other puzzle/ party games to shame!
Bomberman Land Touch! 2 has three main modes- story, mini-games and battle mode. In the story mode, players take control of ‘Cheerful White’/ Bomberman; solving puzzles and playing mini-games in order to save his friends at the theme park. The unique and interesting mini-games can be played in single-player or multiplayer mode, and use of the stylus is heavily integrated rather than tacked on as an afterthought.
Though where this game really shines, is the battle mode- a maze style, strategic bombing free for all. Nothing in the face-to-face multiplayer sphere comes close to replicating the blasting good time that Bomberman Land Touch! 2 battle mode can consistently bring. With one game cartridge serving up to 8 players at once via DS download play, it is my ‘go to’ Nintendo DS multiplayer game for beginners and seasoned pros.
Bomberman Land Touch! 2 is under-represented in Australian playing circles- maybe because the franchise is not well known in the western gaming market, with many titles Japan-exclusive. Regardless, if you have not played this game, I highly highly recommend it.
Age of Mythology: My contribution to all this is the criminally underrepresented Age of Mythology & its expansion, Titans. Released several years after the enormously popular Brood War, it flew under the radar with hardcore RTS fans in part because they were busily playing Starcraft and in part because AoM was balanced like a like a fat gymnast with vertigo and an eyepatch. But none of that mattered because it was genuinely fun and captured the imaginations of myself and my friends because manticores are sweet as and the God powers were visceral and ragdolly in the way that only 2002 physics engines can provide.
Age of Empires has come upon a bit of a resurgence since people started posting wololo webcomics and Age of Mythology got a rerelease in 2014 as an Extended Edition but there’s a disappointingly low number of people who give it the proper respect it deserves as an imaginative, functional, and fun game that might have never had a shot at roping in the entire nation of South Korea, but it definitely kept a little room of nerdy kids entertained for many, many hours – and more recently, a little room of nerdy adults. Except Killjoy Callum. Who really cares about CoH, Callum? Who?!
Anyone hunting for light LAN party entertainment, pick up an amusing RTS with a well-written singleplayer campaign, LAN multiplayer (Hi, SC2!), and game-breaking (but undeniably AWESOME) God powers. They’re like, 10 bucks from EB Games and there always seems to be one buried under the Diablo 2 expansions.
LPT: In multiplayer chat, type “999” without quotation marks. Literally worth the sale price for the multiplayer taunts alone.
Karmaflow is a jump and run puzzle exploration game recommended for those who are lovers of heavy metal, more specifically the sub -metal genre, symphonic. The sensational graphics are visually entertaining and artistic. In conjunction with an amazing metal soundtrack (composed by a number of talented well known, amazing artists and accompanied by an aurally phenomenal orchestra), you can tell that a lot of effort and time was put into the development of this game.
You play the “Karmakeeper” who journeys through different worlds restoring balance. The “aim of the game” is to extract “karma” from your surrounds to infuse upon an object without “karma” to progress to the next save point. There are also gems shattered throughout the world which comprise of their own song upon discovery. Unlike some games, Karmaflow doesn’t really provide the gamer with “hints” as to how to complete the puzzle, meaning you are required to explore your environment (and enjoy the art) to figure out how best to solve the paradox.
I believe it is underrated simply because most people play the game expecting some sort of first person shooter or action based game and become sorely disappointed. This game is more about skill calculation than conflict. It’s about problem-solving to the main focal point which is the music and each song tells a different story in relation to the game. It feels like you’re at a metal fest rock concert where you are required to use skill presented by challenges (that make you think) in order to hear the next song portrayed by compelling characters.
The game is just as it is titled. A “Rock Opera Video Game.” A game that focuses more on the dark themed aural porn than the schematics of “what the majority wants.” The developers created a unique game with a specific target audience in mind, wavering mainstream notions. For an indie game with a small budget, they created a beatifically crafted adventure game for the casual gamer or someone looking to play a game without a high level of violence.
PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale: I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited for a game as I was for PlayStation All-Stars. I love Smash Bros to death, but I’ve always been a PlayStation boy. Just the thought of a party brawler with Ratchet & Clank and Sly Cooper gets me giddy. Admittedly, the final product came with a fair share of disappointment. No Crash, Spyro or Snake, no unlockable characters at all, and fairly underwhelming single player content.
What Battle Royale did have though, is excellent, unique gameplay. How is a Smash Bros clone unique at all, you ask? Well, despite the premise of All-Stars being near identical to that of SSB, the entire aim of the game isn’t just unlike Smash, but unlike anything. You don’t win by knocking enemies off the stage, or by beating their health down to depletion, but by executing special moves. Each hit you land builds a meter, affording the use one of three specials. Fill up one bar, use a level 1 super, fill two for a level 2 or save up for a level 3 – the most likely to steal you some kills. It encourages a completely unique type of strategy and interestingly scales from 2 to 4 player matches.
On top of great gameplay, PSASBR totally nailed the characters it DID include. Everyone has at least 12 unique attacks that chain together for some wonderful combos when used effectively, and each feels perfectly fitting. If the square button does something in a character’s own game, it’ll do the same thing here. If you’ve got some God of War combos mastered, go ahead and use them here while playing Kratos. SuperBot (RIP) did such an excellent job of digging up attacks and abilities from each characters history that aren’t only pertinent to each fighter, but have real utility in a fighting scenario. Pretty please give it another shot Sony. Throw in some The Last of Us stuff, a bit of Tearaway, maybe some Bloodborne. I think it’s a better time for it than ever, don’t you?
Rise of Nations appeals to the RTS gamer that enjoys feeling like a grand strategist. Its main feature is an immensely complex economy packed with non-linear ways to optimise your income. Rise of Nations is ripe with constant decision making and opportunity cost.
The best part about Rise of Nations is the unique pacing. Starting off at the dawn of civilisation, you gradually progress and advance through the ages until arriving in the present day. It’s implemented so well because it’s more than just Archers turning into Musketeers; the age advances create entirely new unit types such as Planes and Submarines. On top of the expanding combat, the economy also receives more layers of depth. New resources and technology are introduced which completely change the dynamic of the game.
Through combining an ever increasing economy with the constantly expanding strategies and mechanics, Rise of Nations delivers such an exciting experience with an immensity of continuous management and actions per minute. It’s so fun to play because every action is a careful and strategic choice, rather than just a mundane chore. Alternatively, for those that don’t share my love for the rush of a fast paced RTS, players can pause at any time to issue commands at their own pace.
Featuring some fantastic campaigns, plenty of replay ability and an amazing soundtrack, Rise of Nations is a great pick up for a Single Player RTS challenge.
Astro Boy: Omega Factor: Arguably one of the best games to appear on the Game Boy Advance, the developers at Treasure, (responsible for titles such as Ikaruga and Gunstar Heroes) worked their second-to-none game design skills to create this side scroller-beat em’ up masterpiece, Astro Boy: Omega Factor.
Using the GBA’s limited inputs to their advantage, Treasure developed a simple yet extremely stable and satisfying combat system used to fight waves of enemies. The player will fly through the level using rocket boots, allowing Astro Boy to position himself to unleash a combo of melee attacks. A handful of special attacks is also at Astro Boy’s disposal, such as body machine gun or a laser cannon that fires a laser about twice the size of Astro Boy. Each feature has its own use, and from the way enemies spawn to the design of the level, the player is encouraged to play with all abilities and use them with each other.
As well as the gameplay, the aesthetic is absolutely gorgeous. Using some very clever tricks, Treasure was able to get the most out the GBA graphics and create very dynamic scenes full of enemies or bosses three screens high. The boss fights are a highlight of the game as these battles often require the player to think outside the box with the abilities in Astro Boy’s arsenal in order to find the weak points. As the player fights their way through the game, the story unfolds as Astro Boy tries to mediate between robots and humans; fans of the anime will be delighted as various characters that span the anime appear to play their integral part in the story. Once the game is completed, the player can then be sent on a journey; jumping between various parts of various levels to 100 percent the story. Astro Boy: Omega Factor does an excellent job to represent the Astro Boy IP and tells a great story with some of the most fun gameplay and boss fights I’ve got to experience.
The Unfinished Swan, published in 2012, is Giant Sparrow’s first game and was released for the Playstation 3 and later, for the Playstation 4 and PS Vita. You play as Monroe, an orphan boy left with one of his mother’s unfinished paintings (of a swan) in his room. After discovering one day the Swan has disappeared, it is up to you to travel through the painting, splashing paint about to uncover the clean, canvassed world.
Firstly, this game was beautiful. From the art style to the writing to the music, all of it just made me smile in awe. Now, I am a sucker for pretty games so I may come off as a bit biased but for what was made, it did a pretty good job.
It’s a short game – only 3.5-4hrs long – but for you artistic game lovers out there, this one tickles in all the right places! It’s got a beautiful soundtrack, a gorgeous art style, and the writing is so good. It’s written in the form of a story book and it just works perfectly. It looks like a storybook too, art wise. It’s got a beginning, a middle, and an end. And I love it! From the way the narrator speaks, to the easy comfortable pace and progression of the story, it’s a game anyone can enjoy sitting back relaxing in your chair, taking in the scenery and the sounds.
Also, Terry Gilliam makes a sneaky appearance in it too which made it that much more loveable.
It does have a few puzzles, but they’re not brain hurting at all which is a nice change. I often find games like this are ruined because of the ridiculous puzzles they may have, and the fluctuation of difficulty too.
Overall, I’d definitely recommend this to any art, indie game lover, or even someone who wants to experience a piece of art – because that’s essentially what it is. An interactive piece of art.