Gaming Memories #1 – RC Revenge

Want an audio version of this blog post? Click here.

Whenever I think of the phrase “favourite childhood games”, my brain immediately goes to RC Revenge. Not necessarily because it’s number one on my list of games I grew up with, but because it’s not the kind of game that exists today. It hasn’t been remade or remastered, not since the Playstation 2’s RC Revenge Pro, in any case. If I want to play it, I have to dust off an old console or figure out an emulator. It’s truly a relic of the past.

So… what is it? Well, it’s an arcade racer based on RC cars. You’d start with a number of options to race with – I always chose RC Action, the car on the box art – and as you went through the Championship cups, you’d always race against one car you didn’t have the option to select. Jungle Ranger, Yella, Sarge, Skull Duggery, these cars had a special presence in races, and unlocking them at the end of each championship felt highly rewarding. Two cars I never figured out how to unlock, one of which was a UFO, always remained a mystery to me, though I later found out you were supposed to unlock them by completing Time Trials. Hilariously, the thought had crossed my kid brain, but I figured they’d never force anyone to unlock them through boring Time Trials and they must have been unlocked in other ways instead, like beating championships without losing a single race or taking a single hit. Ah, the days before the internet.

My favourite thing about this game was the varied tracks and the structure of their championships. To start with, you have five themed worlds – a horror theme, a jungle theme, a space theme, a monster theme and a wacky theme – each of which had two main tracks. Those two main tracks also had two longer variations for the Gold and Platinum cups, which means that tracks you were once familiar with suddenly had new pathways which opened up and let you see another perspective to the world. This may not sound particularly crazy now, but it blew my little 5 year old mind.

I vaguely remember spotting RC Revenge Pro on the shelf of a completely non-game related store on a trip to town on day (I want to say it was in a shoe store?), and my dad rolling his eyes, knowing it was an essential purchase. RC Revenge Pro brought the game to PS2 with enhanced graphics – and they really did look enhanced to me then – alongside a new pirate themed world and more unlockable vehicles with special abilities. I remember thinking that the pirate tracks were somewhat boring to play, and I never fell in love with any of the new cars, but I certainly got something out of seeing the game on PS2 with better graphics. It was truly ahead of its time in this way.

With old games like this, I often wonder how many hours I put into it. Did I play for hundreds of hours over the years, as a kid with little else to do? Or does it simply feel that way because I have a lot of fondness for those memories? If it was released today, would I give a crap about it? It’s worth noting that the PS1 version received average reviews and the PS2 version did worse, which is an argument against taking review scores too seriously, as I clearly enjoyed it plenty. I’ve revisited the game in my adult years too, and still had a good time.

One last thing I’ll mention is that I only recently discovered that RC Revenge is actually a sequel to a far more popular RC Racing game named Re-Volt. Some years back, Re-Volt launched as an iOS game, and the entire time I played it I couldn’t shake the sense of familiarity I felt. Much later, I looked up RC Revenge on Wikipedia out of interest and found the link there. Curiously, I don’t find Re-Volt nearly as enjoyable as RC Revenge, which is super interesting given that the general consensus is that people prefer the first. In this way, I feel I’m able to conclude that if I discovered RC Revenge for the first time as an adult, I probably wouldn’t get much more enjoyment out of it than I did out of Re-Volt, which is something to think about.

Either way, if somebody were to come out with a spiritual successor to the series, I’d be on it in a heartbeat.

Guildies Over Game Design (A World of Warcraft Classic Review)

Audio Version

After several minutes of wandering up and down the small stretch of coast where Murlocs appear, I see him – the final Murloc Warrior that I need for my quest. Four types of Murloc have been plaguing Westfall’s beaches and I’ve been tasked with killing seven of each, a task which has taken me about half an hour so far. Targeting the creature, I begin to cook my Fireball – a 3 second long cast – and just as I finally let loose, a Dwarf Hunter from the middle of bumfuck nowhere opens fire and steals the rights to the kill. I seethe.

WoW Classic is a specific experience. If you’re after an MMO which respects your time, which recognises the way players behave and adjusts systems to benefit your average player accordingly, WoW Classic is not the game for you. However, if you’re after an experience which feels like a grand adventure, which creates communities out of the necessity of teaming up and encourages people to explore every avenue of the world including cooking, then WoW Classic is absolutely the game for you.

This was one layer… of one starting zone… of one realm… of one region.


Everyone’s origin story of how they discovered WoW is different, and I’m very lucky in that I get the best of both worlds when it comes to enjoying the game as it used to be. I levelled a Druid up to 20 in the Burning Crusade expansion, which hardly touched the original levelling experience, so I have the nostalgia of returning to a pre-Cataclysm Azeroth and re-discovering the game’s systems as they used to be. At the same time, though, I only properly got into World of Warcraft for good during the Mists of Pandaria expansion, a time long after Looking For Dungeon and other oft-maligned quality of life improvements had been added to the game, so I also get to play the version that hooked so many people and thoroughly explore the pre-Cataclysm world for the first time.

Classic can be frustrating. It was, of course, rather naive of me to try to tag that Murloc Warrior with a 3 second cast during the intensely busy launch period of the game, but having gotten used to the ability to share kill credit with non-party members of the same faction in the modern game, I’ve grown complacent. But the game is often more rewarding than it is frustrating, like that moment the second after that bastard Hunter tagged the Murloc, when I saw the three other Murlocs he had aggroed along the way chase him down and make swift work of him before he could finish the kill. In his hubris to snatch a quest objective from out under my nose he had acted recklessly, and he thoroughly deserved my /applaud before he released his spirit to begin the long corpse run.

They let me into the city dressed like this?

Most community interactions aren’t ones of conflict, I’m happy to report. Typically in a situation like this, strangers will party up together to share quest objectives, even on quests where you have to loot items from corpses, which take longer in groups due to the way group looting works. On several occasions I’ve had party members stay back and help me finish my quest objective, despite having finished their own, simply because we got to talking and they wanted to be friendly. In fact, at the very start of my WoW Classic journey I found myself re-grouping with a priest from an earlier party to kill kobolds. The area was incredibly over-populated with players, making the quest take far longer than it otherwise would have. During that time I struck up a friendship with the priest and joined her guild, who I am now increasingly familiar with as I log on each day. And that is honestly the quintessential vanilla experience I’ve heard tales of for many years.

The game’s been out for a little over a week now, and I have about 3 days /played… and that’s with a job that I’ve not taken a week off from. And despite all that time playing, I’m only level 23. If I was playing modern WoW for that much time, I’d easily be level 110 or higher already, and I likely wouldn’t have spoken to a single person on the way there. And I feel like it should be said, I do like modern World of Warcraft and I likely will go back to it. I enjoy the narrative, the more thoroughly built world, and the quality of life updates. But while the evolution of the game was cheered on as these features were introduced to ease player frustrations over quest objective stealing, the time it took to form a group for a dungeon, that sort of thing, the community spirit of the game also began to fade, and it sort of happened without most people noticing until later. So while I’ll always be attached to the modern game to see Jaina, Thrall, Baine’s story unfold, I’m also very much attached to Classic, where the focus of the story is about how the highest level player in our guild right now is a Warrior, about one of our officers who got two blue drops in one day, or about how it took forty dead bears to inexplicably drops six bear asses.

Seriously. How many assless bears can exist in one place?

New Allied Race confirmed.

The Death of Club Penguin

Bloody hell, remember Club Penguin? I decided to revisit it with a friend just last week after being thoroughly surprised to find it still going. To my surprise, the game was very recognisable and largely unchanged since I’d last logged in sometime around 2008…ish. Well, anyway, apparently the servers are shutting down at the end of March so that Disney can focus on pushing their new mobile version for the iPhone kiddies of today, which is sure to be riddled with more microtransactions than you can shake a flipper at. So I’ve decided to reboot this gaming blog after it’s unplanned month’s hiatus (sorry about that) to take a trip down memory… berg?

Ugh. That was terrible.

My original penguin was called KrazyK3000, and as that name is currently available for registration and I couldn’t log into it, I’m willing to bet it’s been deleted. I’ll never know for sure, seeing as the password recovery email was sent to my Dad’s old AOL email account… god knows that’s lost to the ages. I did, however, use my own email account to write in ideas for the game, and I still have access to that one. Here’s one of the two ideas I sent:

Hi. This isn’t exactly a BIG enquiry – if anything, a suggestion – but there’s no other place to ask.

I was a member for a month, and I can’t be one anymore. It’s really frustrating not being able to uby any clothes so I was wondering – maybe make the clearence sales available to all players? Or make a section for all players?

Think of it this way – the players of club penguin would wear these clothes, and think – hang on, I want the modern clothes/normal clothes. I’m becoming a member!

I’m not going to ask for furniture in igloo’s – that’s too much to ask.

Please take my idea into thought ūüôā

Club Penguin had – and as far as I’m aware still has – a membership feature, allowing players to buy clothes and igloo (player owned housing) decorations with in-game coins. Free to play penguins had to suffer a life of nudity and empty igloos no matter how many coins they made, and as such membership was highly coveted by those without it. They sent me back a very polite no:


You certainly sent your suggestion to the right place!  We will consider your idea but I cannot promise that free penguins will be able to purchase clearance items.  If you can think of any other ways that we can improve Club Penguin be sure to let us know.

Don\’t forget to collect the pin because the next one will be hidden on January 30th!

Have a great day,

Club Penguin Support

That was fine though, because the real fun to be had in Club Penguin was in the minigames. My favourite memory of the game is playing the Gone Fishing minigame until 1am as my father had fallen asleep on the sofa and failed to order me to bed. I was also a big fan of the pizza making game, and knew a secret that let you change the game so that you made chocolate pizzas instead of normal ones. I also vaguely remember the launch of an in-game dojo, and some sort of card minigame that went with it. You could beat other players and earn different coloured belts to show your prestige.

My favourite place to hang out in-game was the Coffee Shop, despite the fact that there really wasn’t much to do there. I remember particularly enjoying the soundtrack:

It reminds me oddly of Spyro the Dragon, retrospectively. At the time I thought the music was peaceful, though now I’d say it’s oddly funky. And the mere usage of that word makes me sound too old to be reminiscing about Club Penguin.

After what I somehow interpreted as a positive response to my first suggestion, I went on to send a much more enthusiastic email to the Club Penguin Support Team regarding one of my wilder and more original ideas:

Here’s another idea for you =] (Amn’t I great?)

Rockhopper Back – With ORANGE puffles!
“Yeah, yeah, another puffle, so what?”
-Available to all players¬†(even if they already have 2) hwile they’re on sale on the migrator.
-Only available to members in the pet shop afterwards.
-Special trick – Burns an orange doorway in the air, and emerges through another orange doorway on the other side of the igloo.
-Special trick on full stomach – burns an orange doorway in the air just above the ground, and appears out of one higher up, falling repeatidly.
-Eating food: Opens mouth wide open, eats the bowl whole with the food, an orange doorway appears, the bowl slides out.
-Taking a bath: I dunno, sorry.

Or you can think up your own cool tricks, at least go with the orange puffle?

Idea colours for future puffles:

– Light green
– Dark Blue (not purple)
– Rainbow/Colour shifter
– White (Maybe turns invisible?)

Please take my ideas into consideration ūüėõ

If anyone is lost, a “puffle” is a kind of furball which can be bought as a pet in Club Penguin. Free players could buy a red and a blue one, whereas members had a few extra options to choose from. The odd thing is, I was never a huge fan of them, and I’m pretty sure that I submitted this idea more as an attempt to influence the shape of the game than being legitimately excited for them.

Anyway, here’s the pacifying response:

Hi there,

Thank you for your fantastic idea.¬† It\’s so great to see how creative penguins can be.

It is always so exciting when Captain Rockhopper returns with surprises for all his penguin friends and orange Puffles would be quite a find out at sea! You have clearly put a great deal of thought into what orange Puffles would be like, and I especially like the part where they could burn orange doorways in mid air and then use them to transport around. Your truly an inspiring penguin and although I can not promise we will be able to use your suggestions, I will definitely share them with the rest of the team at our next meeting!

Keep sending in your terrific thoughts and have a great day!

Waddle and imagine on,

Club Penguin Support

Very professional and complimentary, and I can only guess as to whether this was actually brought up in any meeting, but as yellow puffles were introduced a short time later I think it’s only fair to say that I belong in the credits as a Lead Designer with the Most Original Idea Ever in the History of Anything.

All joking aside, it’s a shame to hear that they’re shutting the game down, and I’m sure I’ll log on during the Great Penguin Doomsday soon to come. As childish and memefied as the game is, it provided legitimate hours of fun for young Kristian, and I’ll miss being able to revisit it during bouts of nostalgia.

Racing Games

As somebody who grew up playing predominantly PS2 games, I witnessed what many people have since deemed the ‘Golden Age of gaming’. And whilst that applies to a whole host of different genres, some of the games I look back on most fondly when remembering the PS2 are racing games.

I grew up playing Need for Speed Underground and Midnight Club, typically on my own, but sometimes with my friends or family. I have good memories of me and my sister booting up the London level in Midnight Club 1 and spending the entire time pushing cars into a particular tunnel and trying to cause a massive traffic jam, and seeing how the game responded with spawning new cars and the like. I’ve spent countless hours just in free roaming, doing nothing more than driving around and jumping off big ramps in Smuggler’s Run. RC Revenge and its successor, the somewhat remastered RC Revenge Pro was basically my Mario Kart growing up. Whilst I never considered it at the time, I was kinda into racing games back then.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the more realistic racing games, though. I played some Gran Turismo, but I’d never truly get into it until I decided to try Gran Turisomo PSP about a decade down the line. When I was little, I was content with watching my sister play Gran Turismo 3. As I recall, she built up a huge garage, and her favourite car was a Chevrolet Corvette of some description, though she often made her in-game money but Yaris racing around a circular circuit over and over again. She also had this system where she’d sort her garage by the amount of miles a car had been driven and rotate out which car she used to try and keep them all in a similar area. Me, I just used cheat codes to get all the cars and took the fastest one out for a few minutes until I got bored.

I don’t typically make time for racing games anymore, until I’m finally in the mood for it, and always forget how much fun I have in them. Whilst I have transitioned into some more realistic racers such as Racedriver GRID, I do still try the odd arcade racer. One somewhat different racing game that I’ve been hooked on for years now is Trackmania 2: Stadium. If you’re interested in it, look up Trackmania Nations Forever, Stadium’s free predecessor which admittedly isn’t all that different. It’s a great game to chill out to when you get the hang of how it works and the general flow of the tracks.

I’m one of the few people who enjoyed the 2012 version of Need for Speed: Most Wanted. The cars didn’t exactly handle the way you’d expect them to, but as somebody who enjoyed Burnout: Paradise and the way the online integration work, Most Wanted (which was made by the same people) was a welcome change for me. I originally owned the game on Playsation Plus, but after I stopped doing that I pretty much gave up on the idea of playing it again until it showed up dirt cheap on Origin one day. In fact, I think I’ll go download it now…

The reason I bring this up in the first place is because I’m currently playing the aforementioned Racedriver: GRID, having wanted to play GRID: Autosport but with the car and team ownership and management that comes with Gran Turismo. (Well, not the team part but you get the idea.) Problem is, I can’t find jack to write about on a specific racing game like GRID. It’s good. The cars go fast. The handling is handleable. The tracks are tracklike and the graphics are a little brown for my liking. There, review done! So I decided to just go on about the genre in general instead. There’s plenty I could say about some particular racing games – such as Road Trip Adventure and RC Revenge Pro – but perhaps I shall do so in future blog posts next time I revisit them.

Why Runescape?

Let’s go back to the summer of 2007. My friend had been getting on at me about trying out this game called Runescape, which I assumed was like any other flash game on the web, and subsequently didn’t bother with. I vaguely remember being confused by the world select screen. In fact, I also remember having to get my friend to log on to my account and complete tutorial island for me because I couldn’t figure out how to play the game. I was apparently not the brightest tool in the shed.

Okay, okay, I’ve discussed Runescape before, but I’ve been playing it again recently and I don’t feel like that blog post did it justice. I want to give an idea as to what my journey through Runescape was like. I have many fond memories, old and new.

Taken in Oldschool Runescape. This is the kind of Lumbridge I’d have seen! It’s usually slightly busier but screenshot was taken in early morning.

I clearly remember my first impressions of the game when I started back in August, 2007. I thought Lumbridge was huge, and at the time, it was bustling with people wearing different coloured armour. As a fresh, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed level 3 adventurer, my friend suggested I follow him, and so we went to Al Kahird. I’m not entirely sure why we went there, but I remember being attacked by level 2 Man NPC’s, and confusing them for players, and trying to convince my friend that I’d been attacked by players in a non PvP area. That was some confusion.

From there, I started to carve my own path through the game, and as I slowly got to grips with things I realised with awe how perfect this game was. Perhaps it’s something lost to either childhood or game quality (I’d wager the former), but the feeling of discovery and awe from finding a game you love doesn’t seem to happen anymore. I can still remember with vivid clarity how excited I was when I started playing Runescape and how huge the game felt to me. I remember the 2007 Halloween and Christmas events with ease, and even recorded so game footage through Unregistered Hypercam 2 which I’ve got archived away somewhere for instant nostalgia.

osrs 2
The area of my assault in 07. Also, the progress on my main OSRS account. More on that later.

I convinced my dad to buy me membership sometime in 2008, and I had to migrate to a new account because for some reason it wasn’t letting me use membership on my first one. (I recently tried to log in to that account – it was hacked and subsequently banned for macroing. Well, that’s what happens when you don’t change your password for nine years.) This spawned what would be my main account for years to come, until we couldn’t justify the membership fees anymore sometime around 2009 or 2010 and I became demotivated by the severely handicapped free-to-play portion of the game (for instance, I had exceeded the possible bank limit for f2p players by hundreds and couldn’t store anything anymore). I’d log in every now and then over the course of the next few years, but I’d never really do much.

So let’s forward-wind to late 2013.

In late 2013 I began my university course, and alongside it, got a student loan. So of course, young and naive and reckless as I was all those 3 years ago, I was spending money on whatever the hell I wanted – notably a laptop that could handle Minecraft (as was my biggest wish at the time), Minecraft, a whole bunch of Steam games (Worms was so cheap!) and eventually a subscription to WoW. And wouldn’t you know it, my attention just happened to fall on Runescape.¬†I could afford it now, couldn’t I?

(Disclaimer: I learned a lot from burning through my first student loan payment and am nowhere near that reckless with money anymore. Not that you care, but, you know… thought I’d clear that up.)

Foolishly, I made a completely new account. Why foolishly? Well, I made a new account with the intention of being called Kritigri instead of the somewhat outgrown username I’d had previously. I somehow overlooked the fact that members can change their in-game names once a month, and so the old account’s mementos from old holiday events and its ability to buy a veteran’s cape have fallen by the wayside as I immediately levelled Kritigri far past the old account’s progress of 3 years. This was partially because the game was easier, but also because I didn’t spend as much time ‘wasting xp’. I did log in to that old account recently to see if I could reset him as an Ironman account (no trading with players / using the auction house system, status symbol + fun modifier to the game), but you can only do that to newly created characters.

rs3 2
My original (well, 2nd) account and my original skill progression. Also, veteran cape emote.


Fun fact – I paid for membership entirely so that I could play Old School Runescape, which had been out for around 6 months at that time and didn’t have a free-to-play section yet. My first impressions of Runescape 3 were that I couldn’t get my head around the new UI, and that it had changed too wildly for me to bother playing. Needless to say I’m glad I gave it another go, as the nostalgia of Old School soon ran out and the quality-of-life updates to RS3 became sorely missed after a while. It’s nice to be able to run for more than 30 seconds without having to walk everywhere for an hour waiting for your run to recharge. I inevitably transitioned from OSRS to RS3 and didn’t look back.

My account today, and my progress. How times change.

Well anyway, with the release of NXT – Runescape’s new client and engine, ported over from Java and making the game far more smooth and optimised – I decided to buy a month’s RS3 membership and start levelling my character again, this time alongside a friend who has also been playing recently. I’ve almost gotten all of my skills to at least level 50, as well as pushing my highest skill to level 80. I’m just generally having a good time. I mentioned in my previous blog post on the game that it was a bad game due to most skills needing a click and waiting for resources to be gained, but there’s really more to it than that. The feeling of achievement and accomplishment is unmatched in any other game I’ve tried, and I’m sure I’ll continue to play and return to Runescape for as long as it exists.

Ratchet and Clank: A Retrospective Ramble

(This blog post is not a review of Ratchet and Clank for PS4. Unfortunately, I do not own a PS4… yet!)

On what was probably my seventh birthday, I was joyfully tearing into the presents in front of me, likely anticipating some PS2 game or another that had been on my radar for the past year. It was within one of these presents that the first Ratchet and Clank game resided, and to this day I still remember how I felt when I opened it.

“Oh… uh… thanks. This looks… cool.”

I’d never seen the game before in my life, and therefore didn’t hold much hope for it in secret. And of course, I was very wrong. The day I popped that disc into the PS2 marked the beginning of a long and satisfying relationship with the franchise from Insomniac, who ever so recently released a re-imagining of that very first game onto PS4.

The reviews have been excellent, earning mostly 9/10 ratings across the board and even succeeding that on certain occasions. It’s a very heartwarming feeling to see a franchise you’ve loved for so many years return to the spotlight, as even though there were some fantastic PS3 titles, none of them ever received quite the same attention as their PS2 predecessors, for whatever reason.

Ratchet and Clank 2 was my favourite game in the series, as it introduced the ability to upgrade all of your weapons once (and a subsequent two times in your second runthrough of the game). However, Ratchet and Clank 3 was objectively better, with more incremental upgrades and better level design. Ratchet: Gladiator (or Ratchet: Deadlocked as it’s known in the US) was a stray away from the norm, with more emphasis on the shooter side of the game and less on the platforming. When I was younger, I remember not liking this type of gameplay as much, but as I got older this quickly fell into line alongside my favourite Ratchet and Clank games in the series. This was also the last Ratchet and Clank title for the PS2, and the last one I’d play for years.

One of my vivid memories outside of the actual game regarding Ratchet and Clank was reading a pre-release review of the third game in a gaming magazine during a long car trip. The review showed some screenshots of the second level of the game, and I remember getting very, very excited. However, when I actually got my hands on the game myself, I couldn’t get past the last level. As somebody who had played the previous games many times over, this was a point of embarrassment for me, and it wasn’t until sometime after Gladiator released that I went back and finished it.

I didn’t own a PS3 until 2013. Having arrived late to the game (so to speak), many of the next-gen Ratchet and Clank titles had already been released, and indeed I bought the first 3 as soon as possible. To this day, I’ve still not beaten Tools of Destruction or even played Quest for Booty, though! This is partially due to the fact that those two games didn’t have achievements, and I’d already been sucked into collecting them at this point. It was also, however, due to the fact that A Crack in Time was almost on par with Ratchet and Clank 2 for my favourite in the entire series. I plan on replaying this sometime very soon, and look forward to having a great time doing so.

So what of the next 3 titles? Insomniac tried something different with All-4-One and Q-Force, trying out party-platforming and MOBA gameplay with the two games. I did try out Q-Force, but it didn’t quite stick with me the way previous titles had. Nexus, however, was a return to form, and remains to this day one of the only games I’ve ever pre-ordered. I cannot comment on it here, however, as I’ve only played the first level and a half or so before being distracted by PC gaming, for I’d sort of accidentally switched over to PC as my main gaming platform by that point. Worry not, Nexus, you’ve not been abandoned. I’ll return to you someday. I promise…

They also released HD remasters of the PS2 titles for PS3. I’ve played a fair amount of each (having 100% completed Ratchet and Clank 2), and unfortunately have to report that they are riddled with bugs. It doesn’t exactly detract from the overall enjoyment of the games, but it’s definitely an annoyance that one could live without. It’s also amusing to note that I’d 100% completed Ratchet and Clank 3 on PS2 sometime before the HD remasters were released, having decided to fully dominate this title which had caused me such trouble over a decade before.

So… there we have it. I’m aware that there wasn’t really any coherent line of thought in this blog post, and for that I apologise, but I’m currently knee-deep in dissertation… and I just had to say something about my love for the born-again franchise of my childhood. It’s great to see people experience this game again for the first time, and I’m curious to see how the movie will be.

Les’ Go Start Wars! (Lego Star Wars)

So yesterday, TT Games announced Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and frankly I am ecstatic… if a little apprehensive.

Let’s rewind a little. ¬†The year is 2005. It’s my birthday. I’m ten goddamn years old. I’ve seen the Star Wars movies but have retained very little information about them. Enter¬†Lego Star Wars: The Videogame. It does the impossible: it makes the prequels an enjoyable experience. As a hardcore¬†Ratchet and Clank¬†fan, this game feels familiar to me, and with a ton of content. Picking up studs like there’s no tomorrow. Jumping into free play and Darth Mauling it up in Episode III.

What I spent the most amount of time doing, however, was running around Dexter’s Diner and warping between characters, inciting battles and pitting enemy against enemy. Whilst it was typically an excercise in boredom, I probably did spend countless hours in the game’s hub world, destroying droids and watching their Lego pieces crumble to the floor with satisfaction.¬†Lego Star Wars II: The Original Saga¬†used the Mos Eisely Cantina for its hub, but it was never as good as Dexter’s Diner. In fact, the entire second game was somewhat lost on me, as I always preferred the first, though from what I can gather this is not the popular opinion.

But soon any and all conflicts regarding the better of the two games was solved as they were combined into a better game that launched on the (then) newer consoles, as well as PC. The PC version is the one I play to this day, and the only thing it’s really missing is achievements. As an avid collector of achievements, I’m still somewhat sore that this game misses them, as I’d surely go for 100% completion. Sure, there are other Lego games, and I do own them, but they’ve never really grabbed me like Lego Star Wars did.

Anyway, back to the present. (Or should I say a long time ago? Eh? Ehh?) I’m thrilled (though not surprised) at the eventual existence of Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens. What perplexes me, though, is that it’s coming out so soon after the movie’s release. Whilst it may be possible that TT Games worked alongside Lucasfilm or Disney to secure work on the game prior to the movie’s release, I could find no hint of such early access in their announcement. This means that, assuming we’re going from the fact that they’ve been working on the game since December, it should be finished and ready to go in… seven months? I don’t mean to be doubtful, as¬†Ratchet and Clank¬†games were made within a year of each other back in the PS2 era. I just hope this isn’t going to be rushed.

The other interesting thing about this is that they’re doing this per movie, instead of waiting for the trilogy to be over. I worry that there’s enough content in Episode VII to make a full Lego game. Or perhaps they’re using this one as a base, and will add the next two episodes as DLC? Which would make things awkward considering that the base game is named “Episode VII”. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

The Diversity We’ve Lost (Darksiders and the Gaming Industry)

Yesterday, my friend brought Darksiders 2 over for me to try out, thinking I’d like it. And he has good taste! It’s now on my to-buy list, after I play the first game. For me, the game hearkens back to the PS2 era, where games held more of a unique flare¬†to them.

I only played the first few hours of Darksiders 2, but it was brilliant. That game is an intertextual haven for other genres, and it pulls it off flawlessly, without falling into the trap¬†of trying to be too many things at once. It has the combat of Devil May Cry, the dungeons and lock-on combat of Legend of Zelda, the loot system of games like Dark Souls and Diablo; galloping through open fields and finding gigantic bosses is reminiscent of Shadow of the Colossus. It even has a portal gun, if my friend is to be believed. And it does this all without feeling like it’s stealing from other games, or being unoriginal; it’s taking the best of other genres and blending them into the most delicious smoothie you’ve ever tasted. Unless you don’t like smoothies, in which case you’re like me, and we should head for the milkshakes immediately. And if you don’t like milkshake? Well, you’re beyond saving.

This game is more than just a love letter to the gaming universe, however. It has its own unique plot involving the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, multiple realms of existence connected through one world tree, that kind of thing. Similarly to its gameplay, its story takes influences from all kinds of places, whilst still making it unique. They have dwarves who are huge and built like tanks! Like I said, I only played around in the game for a few hours so I can’t exactly do a review on it as such, but even within the first few hours I was able to identify the game’s shining features.

And the art design! That is how you do art design. Not just the weapons you wield, but the very world around you is just delicious. From the vibrant green fields to the luminescent lava pools, this game will make your eyes pop out with happiness. And I was playing this on a PS3!

When I mentioned the PS2 era of gaming earlier, I was talking about how diverse the game library was for that system. Sure, you had your Need for Speeds and FIFAs, and Call of Duty was still making its baby steps towards competitive multiplayer… on console, anyway. But then you had Motor Mayhem. And Ratchet and Clank. You had Jak and Daxter transition into Jak 2 of all things, you had RC Revenge and Fur Fighters and Shadow of the Colossus, you had Wipeout and Smash Cars and you had god damn Road Trip Adventure, a game which I will surely cover in the future; it didn’t know whether to be Penny Racer or an RPG. And, hell, does anyone remember Herdy Gerdy?!

I’m not discounting the games we have today. Borderlands was a brilliant mesh of gaming genres. But it was an FPS. And in my eyes at least, Destiny is a different flavour of Borderlands, with a little bit of Halo mixed in there, asking me to buy ridiculous emotes as opposed to unnecessary character skins. And these games are all first person shooters. When I was a child, I used to read gaming magazines – my favourite was Games Master – and I used to enjoy reading through the many varieties of upcoming games that looked interesting and fun, and new. And I remember buying one of those gaming magazines for the first time since the 360 and PS3 came out, a few years after, and being disappointed that everything had descended into gritty shooters. Although the grittiness, to be fair, is something we seem to finally be leaving behind, as can be seen from the transition between Fallout 3 to Fallout 4, between CoD: World at War to CoD: Advanced Warfare.

Indie titles have been a step back towards this era of gameplay, and it’s something that’s really taken off in the last four or five years. We’ve had Bastion, for example. We’ve had Super Meat Boy, we’ve had The Binding of Isaac, we’ve had Trine. But these games are noticeably smaller in size, which is understandable given the limitations of independent resources and the lack of funding. When are we going to see an influx of unique games on the scale of Okamiden?

Probably not any time soon. Much as I’m sure we all hate to admit it, the gaming industry is an absolute mess right now. We’ve got DLC and microtransactions being enforced by corporate greed, ruining the integrity of the gameplay; we’ve got an oversaturation of half-baked indie titles burying truly talented games, and early access allowing developers to lose motivation after recieving a released game’s worth of money for an unfinished¬†product; we have publishers rushing out titles before they’re finished, leading to broken and buggy gameplay. ¬†The free-to-play model has leaked off of phones and into our consoles and computers, providing the most expensive, paywall-ridden games to date. We’re in a new age of online discussion and vocal minorities, harassing developers to make changes to their upcoming games which show of overly ambitious, unique changes that we don’t like because we’re already invested in the series. Seriously, never has game development been so public to its consumers, and people now more than ever are falling prey to the trap of judging a game many many months before it has been polished and balanced into its final release. And the developers understand this, but the pure visceral nature of community backlash is what forces them to change things.

But as long as games like Darksiders 2 can exist, there’s hope. And it’s not all bad; there are new indie titles which are brilliant, and early access games which have been a huge success. Hell, once in a blue moon we may even see a triple-A title like Darksiders emerge. It’s just a vastly different gaming world to the one we’ve known before, and whilst modern games shouldn’t be discounted for their progress in furthering entertaining gameplay, I, personally, would certainly welcome some miraculous transformation back into the diversity of the PS2 and previous consoles.

Music To My Thumbs

When I was younger, I scoffed at the notion of soundtracks and sound design being an important aspect of video game development. I’d never taken the time to appreciate what it adds to the atmosphere, to the aesthetic, and therefore dismissed it as a minor piece of the puzzle. But growing older, as I came to learn more about what’s behind the screens (sorry) of video games, I finally realised why playing a game on mute makes it less enjoyable.

I can actually remember the first time I sat up and took notice of soundtracks. I was watching Youtube Let’s Player Chuggaaconroy making note of the soundtrack in the game he was playing, and it occurred to me for the first time to pay attention. (I think it was in his Super Mario 64 Let’s Play, but this was a very, very long time ago, so I may be wrong.) I must have been about thirteen or fourteen. I don’t know why, but it acted as some sort of switch, because every game I’ve played since then, I’ve picked up on whether the soundtrack is good, or even good enough to listen to independently of the game. I’ve even bought a few soundtracks; Robot Roller Derby Disco Dodgeball’s soundtrack isn’t my typical choice of music, but it’s very nevertheless much enjoyed.

One of the great things about a good soundtrack is the way it stays with you, eventually drawing you back to the game. I’m sure most of us will be able to hum Sonic’s Green Hill Zone under our breaths with hardly a moment’s hesitation, revisit Pokemon’s Lavender Town or evoke the Legend of Zelda with a good ol’ rendition (see: butchering) of the Song of Storms.¬†I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s been dragged back, kicking and screaming after being hit by waves of nostalgia or that creeping realisation that you never truly 100% completed that game.

And then there’s those soundtracks that stand on their own. I’ve not played any Final Fantasy games, but one dosage of One Winged Angel was all I needed to become interested in the character and story of Sephiroth, a character whose demonic tendencies were introduced to me immediately through the frankly outstanding soundtrack. It led me to find the somewhat more metal version of the song, found amidst the Advent Children animation of Cloud vs Sephiroth. (I’d go ahead and listen to the original game soundtrack first. It’s excellent by itself, but the metal version adds a whole new layer of sound that will make the original feel lacking if you listen to them back to back.) In fact, in writing this, I’ve now become addicted to the damn song again! It’ll take an absurd amount of time to break out of this.

Right, well, if you survived that sea of hyperlinks and still have the remaining attention span to finish reading this blog post, then I have the ability to finish writing it.

Whilst I have my issues with narrative-driven game Life Is Strange (some of which are born from the fact I’m not exactly the target audience), I also have many commendations for it, one of which is the soundtrack. Without it, I’m not sure I would have been interested in the story so much; the songs chosen to portray emotion in the game are sometimes whimsical, sometimes deeply resonating and usually a combination of both. Whilst I may not have liked Chloe and didn’t identify with colloquially-defunct Max, something about the setting and plot of going through life challenging issues during teenage education reached out to me, and the soundtrack was the rope that tied me to it. And for all of its flaws, both critically and personally founded, I’m glad I was able to experience it. Again, the soundtrack to this game isn’t the kind of music I’d usually listen to, but I highly value it and regularly go out of my way to listen to it outside of the context of the game.

Well, anyway, I believe I’ve left you with enough music to listen to should you be so inclined. If you’d like to hear more about my typical choice of music and thoughts considering the matter, click here. Or, if you’d like to read up on my thoughts considering narrative driven games such as Life Is Strange and its contemporary counterparts, click here.¬†Or do none of those things. It’s up to you, honestly. You’re probably all hyperlinked out by now.

Wait… This Isn’t Mario Kart (RC Revenge Pro)

Halloween is just round the corner, so without further ado, let’s fail to capitalise on this holiday in any way whatsoever and discuss a game from my childhood.

RC Revenge Pro has been something of a wonder for me. It is an arcade racing game made by Acclaim, originally without the “Pro” and as a Playstation One game. Its next generation sequel was essentially the same game, but with better graphics and a few new cars and courses. A HD remake before HD. A remake before remakes. Having spent many hours playing its predecessor, I soon abandoned it in favour of this new edition and spent countless hours driving around the thematically charged tracks.

Jungle Ranger was your main enemy all throughout the Bronze and Silver cups until you unlocked him at the end of the Silver cup.

Many years later, after having a bizarre dream in which I discovered that the series had been blessed with a sequel, I decided to scour the internet for any hints of this being the case. Instead, I found that RC Revenge was in itself a sort of spiritual successor to Re-Volt. More than that, I found precious little news of RC Revenge’s existence in the first place. A quick Youtube search yielded no playthroughs, and hardly any videos in the first place. I’d find out later that there were a few more games from my childhood that fell into this dramatically underrated category, a category born from¬†curse of copious quantity.

I can’t quite explain my thirst for this game. It’s good, don’t get me wrong, and if it was made nowadays I’m sure it’d be a fairly successful indie title which you could sink a few hours into. But as a child, I was obsessed with fully completing the game and unlocking the last two cars; the Concept 3000, and, more importantly, the UFO. Being a child, however, I determined that I could do this by completing the Reverse Platinum Cup by finishing¬†first in every single race. When this failed, I turned my attention to completing all the mirrored tracks, and the mirrored reverse tracks (Acclaim knew how to milk their content). Of course, they were unlocked by completing the Time Trials, a fact which should have been obvious to me had I not be so vehemently against racing through the track by myself.

Cars Attacks was one of my favourite levels of the game, providing interesting scenery and adopting a fun track layout.

I suppose this was my Mario Kart. I didn’t discover Mario Kart (or any Nintendo, really) until I got a Nintendo DS in 2005, at the ripe old age of 10. I loved Mario Kart DS, and my old original DS (none of this Lite or DSi business) is still going steady. I bring this up because it might be amusing to hear that my first impression of Mario Kart was that it was too cartoony; too bright; too dull in its weaponry. There was something boring about throwing koopa shells at people when I’d previously been sending rockets; something bland about throwing banana peels down when I’d been dropping¬†mines. I felt that this was too obviously a pre-existing brand slapped onto a kart racer, whereas RC Revenge was its own beast. And yet, today I’m playing Mario Kart 7 and RC Revenge is but a nostalgic blog post.

I’d love for there to be a sequel, but we’re two console generations ahead and Acclaim is a distant memory. Judging by the lack of footage and the reviews, this wasn’t a game that found its way into mainstream popularity, and for that I am sad. It is worth mentioning, however, that if it were to be remade today, it would likely be condemned as another wannabe kart racer that brings nothing new to the table. If you ever get the chance, though, give it a try, and tell me what you thought of it. If you’re interested in seeing the game in action, here is some gameplay I managed to find of my favourite track in the game.

Thank you and for providing the images; I do not have the technology to capture my own when it comes to console games.