The Best Games I Played in 2014

Instead of trying to rank the games I played that were only released in 2014, I decided to take a different approach and include non-2014 games as well. Since I’m not the type of person who is always playing the latest and greatest (in fact, that’s rarely the case with me), I would have been doing a disservice to all of the amazing games I played this year had I not included them.

What I’ve done below is break down everything into A-, A, and A+ categories, and listed the games in the order in which I played them. That way the overall quality of the game speaks louder than the ranking, which seems to always be the main point of contention with internet lists.

Anyway, with that being said and out of the way, let’s get started!


Games Scoring an A-

Drill Dozer (Game Boy Advance, 2006) — This is a really fun puzzle/platformer from Game Freak, the company behind Pokemon. I wish they would experiment with non-Pokemon games more often, since I believe this and HarmoKnight (3DS) are the only ones they’ve done, and they’re both good! This game has nice, layered level design and terrific production value, but it has some awkward control issues in some stages that made them more tedious than they should have been. It has expressive animation and upbeat music, and is definitely the type of game that is just aching for a sequel.

Crashmo (3DS, 2012) — Speaking of sequels, this is the direct follow-up to the fantastic Pushmo, which is one of my favorite puzzle games on the 3DS. This one adds several new game mechanics that really switches things up, but Intelligent Systems didn’t do a whole lot with the game’s presentation, choosing to focus more on the puzzles and camera controls. It’s really challenging nd super-polished, but I didn’t stick with it through to the end like I did with Pushmo.

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune (PS3, 2007) — This was the second time I played through the first Uncharted, doing so this time to experience the story again and to collect all of the artifacts that I missed my first time through. Although its visuals suffer from some rough animation and lack of V-sync, it reminded me of why I fell in love with the series in the first place: it has lots of energy, the characters burst with fun conversational banter, and the story — although a bit ridiculous at times — is entertaining and keeps you going to the very end.

10,000,000 (Android, 2013) — This “match three” puzzle game really surprised me with its RPG-like leveling up system and combat, which made it feel unique in a sea of Bejeweled clones. Its simplistic 8-bit graphics are effective, but sadly, the whole experience is over within a few hours. Although a grind-fest would have made this wear out its welcome, I do wish that there would have been more content to keep me coming back for more. It’s still worth playing, though, and the fact that I completed it really says something, since I rarely finish mobile games.

The Room (Android, 2013) — Did I say I rarely finish mobile games? OK, well, I finished a few last year, including this one, which was very short, but of incredibly high quality. It has a dark, mysterious atmosphere, and while the puzzles aren’t that difficult, everything in the game world has a very satisfying, tactile feel, so I found myself really getting into it, and I didn’t stop playing until I had solved them all. A great paid app that has very nice graphics and sound design.

Broken Age: Act 1 (PC, 2014) — This is Double Fine Productions’ legendary Kickstarter success story. The original scope of what they wanted to do and what they actually ended up with were two very different things, but it’s a good example of how a modest start, huge support, and aiming for the stars can result in a very organic and open game development cycle. While they might be criticized for not delivering on their original vision, I think most people will agree that the end result was worth the wait, and supporters will be getting Act 2 for free when it eventually comes out. It’s a pretty simple, old-school point-and-click adventure game, but it’s made with love, and has some great voice acting, writing, art, and a cliffhanger ending that makes the wait for Act 2 that much more painful.

Batman: Arkham Origins (PC, 2013) — I played all three of the Arkham games last year, and out of those, I thought Origins was the “weakest”. I put that in quotations because it’s still a really darn fine game. It makes solid improvements to boss encounters, and I thought the story was pretty good too. I think it catches a lot of flak for not being developed by Rocksteady themselves, but I thought WB Montreal did a worthy job filling Rocksteady’s big shoes, and the vocal performances by Roger Craig Smith (Batman) and Troy Baker (Joker) do an equally good job replacing series veterans Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill. It’s more of the same, but that sameness is still very fun to explore and play. REVIEW LINK

Monument Valley (Android, 2014) — Criticized by many for being too easy and too short (and I can’t disagree with that, because it is easy and short), I instead chose to look at it as an example of good visual and audio design. In many ways, it reminded me of Thatgamecompany’s excellent PS3 title Journey, since it has a very solitary — but ultimately positive — feeling and outcome. Out-of-this-world colors, nice animation, and pathfinding that is almost too good, to the point where the game seems to auto-play at times. It might be over in about an hour, but it’s an hour well spent. REVIEW LINK

The Room Two (Android, 2014) — The sequel to The Room, this game took the ideas from the first game and made them bigger and scarier. I liked the more complex puzzle design, but the game felt less intimate and focused than the first game because of its expanded scope. Still, it’s a great example of a high-quality, premium mobile game experience. I can’t wait to see what Fireproof Studios does next. REVIEW LINK

Electronic Super Joy (PC, 2013) — I love difficult platformers, and this is certainly a tough one, without falling into masochistic territory. I love the retro visuals that pulse in time to the absolutely terrific soundtrack. It’s worth playing just for the music, if you like techno and its various sub-genres. It’s a little on the short side with only 40-some-odd stages, but getting all of the collectible stars will give even the most seasoned veterans a nice challenge. It’s really funny at times too. REVIEW LINK

Aban Hawkins & the 1001 Spikes (Wii U, 2014) — After Electronic Super Joy, I continued my platforming kick with this, which was a fun and super-challenging game to get through. It seemed almost unfair at first, but once I got the hang of the controls and the level design, I started to progress through it a lot faster. Some of the later stages almost broke me, but I made it through all the way. Unfortunately, there were lots of audio bugs, and at the time I played it, there was no second screen support, so it felt a little unfinished compared to what I’m used to. REVIEW LINK

LEGO City Undercover (Wii U, 2013) — Earlier in 2014, I finished my first pair of open-world games: Tomb Raider and Grand Theft Auto V. I had heard good things about this one, so with my interest in the genre high, I picked this up and jumped right in. What a game! Although it does suffer from some slow UI and performance issues, it’s still a great game with tons to do, lots of fun humor, superb level design, and some truly standout pieces of music. There are opportunities for improvement, though, so I hope that this becomes a series, because it deserves it. REVIEW LINK

Nier (PS3, 2010) — A strong recommendation from one of my friends finally prompted me to play this. So glad I did, because although the gameplay and graphics are pretty mediocre, Nier delivers characters, story, and music that I can only classify as best in class. It also contains what I believe to be one of the greatest implementations of a New Game+ system that I’ve ever experienced. Truly, the rough parts of the game are worth persevering through in order to experience the rest of it. REVIEW LINK

Monument Valley: Forgotten Shores (Android, 2014) — An in-app purchase for the aforementioned Monument Valley, this expansion takes the simple ideas of that original game and adds a nice layer of complexity based around perspective and order of operations. It’s still a rather short experience at about an hour or so, but its excellent art, sound design, and vibrant colors make a lasting impression on the player.


Games Scoring an A

Forza Motorsport 4 (360, 2011) — Over three years old now, and I’m still playing it. Maybe not as often as I did when it was new, but I love Forza‘s approach to career mode, with its fast progression and abundant rewards. Also, despite what the internet would have me believe about its lack of realism compared to Gran Turismo, I just prefer the feel of the Forza series. Plus, the car sounds absolutely kick its competition’s butt six ways from Sunday. No contest there at all. On the flipside, it lacks a truly robust photo mode, and I hate that it requires Xbox Live Gold just to share pictures, but it’s a great package with lots to do and great cars to drive. The Top Gear UK content is a lot of fun as well. As for the Rewind function and braking lines? I love them. Sue me!

The Beatles Rock Band (360, 2009) — It’s crazy to think that it wasn’t that long ago when plastic musical instruments were all the rage. Although I’ve been playing music games since the late-’90s when Konami’s Bemani series was starting to peak, I also got into the newer entries from EA and Activision. I think this Beatles installment is the best one in terms of production value, and its career mode is of surprisingly high quality. I played this quite a bit when it was new, but only played through the campaign mode last year. It’s a journey worth taking for any music or Beatles fan.

Bravely Default Demo (3DS, 2014) — I can’t remember the last time I put dozens of hours into a demo, but I certainly did with this one. In terms of giving the player a nice taste of what’s being offered in the full version, Bravely Default‘s downloadable demo delivered, with several job classes to master, a good chunk of quests to complete, and lots of addictive combat. Plus, you can transfer data to the full game, which is something that more demos need to do. Great art and music, too. I have yet to start the full version, but plan on doing so in 2015.

The Last of Us: Left Behind (PS3, 2014) — It’s a brief and relatively easy experience compared to the main game, but it’s one of the best examples of story-based downloadable content. It delivers fully on the promise of fleshing out an important piece of Ellie’s backstory, to the point where the events that occur in the DLC fundamentally change key sequences throughout the main campaign. It’s done with a level of care and realism that is rarely seen in games. It’s a wonderful achievement that I look forward to experiencing again in the Remastered PS4 version.

Tomb Raider (PC, 2013) — A fantastic action game that marries an open-world structure with some of the best aspects of the Uncharted series. It’s a lot of fun to play with tons of things to discover and collect. Great graphics and good voice acting for Lara herself. The rest of the cast is just so-so, and is diminished even further by the amateurish and completely over-the-top story. This was the first open-world game that truly drew me in, though, and kept me going until I achieved 100%. Lots of nice touches throughout, and I can’t wait for Rise of the Tomb Raider, although I’ll need an Xbox One first.

Thomas Was Alone (Vita, 2013) — This was a freebie with my PlayStation Plus subscription, and while I didn’t think much of it at first, it quickly grew on me, and by the time I was at its final stages, the game had totally won me over with its touching story and characters. Those characters themselves are (at least visually) nothing more than squares and rectangles, but the narrator injects so much life and personality into them that you can’t help but care for them deeply. The commentary track from creator Mike Bithell is the perfect icing on the cake, and provides a ton of insight into the development of the game and its inhabitants.

Tearaway (Vita, 2013) — From Media Molecule, creators of the LittleBigPlanet series, this was the first retail game that I played on Sony’s struggling handheld. It’s absolutely wonderful, with characters and a world created almost entirely out of pieces of construction paper, and uses the Vita’s various functions (most notably the rear touchpad) in fun and unique ways. It loses its way slightly with some of the Trophy-based tasks, which brings to the surface some of the game’s control quirks, but the package as a whole is undoubtedly one of the best games on the system, and it will be interesting to see what the PS4 update (Tearaway Unfolded) is like. REVIEW LINK

NES Remix 2 (Wii U, 2014) — Audiences are split on the NES Remix series, but I love them. They speak to the arcade high score chaser that was apparently dormant inside me until I started playing these games. They are fun, bite-sized challenges that make you think about old games in new ways. Getting the highest rainbow star ratings on each one is a decent challenge, but matching or beating the lowest times on the Miiverse is something else. It’s highly addictive, and the online component is quite nicely integrated. It’s a very good improvement over the original NES RemixREVIEW LINK

Mario Kart 8 (Wii U, 2014) — This is the first in the series since the original Super Mario Kart on the SNES that I have truly had a blast with. Great track design, catchy music, and fun local/online multiplayer. Its DLC is also a very good example of how Nintendo produces some of the best and most consistently high-quality content in the business. I only wish that Nintendo would add a proper campaign or story mode to this series. I know that the majority of players just want to race online, but adding in something more for the single-player crowd would push this series over the top for me.

New Super Luigi U (Wii U, 2013) — Designed as DLC for New Super Mario Bros. U, this is yet another example of how DLC should be done. NSLU takes the stages from NSMBU, cuts the timer down to just 100 and throws in a bunch of new hidden Luigis, stars, exits, and challenges. If it weren’t for the recycled world map and assets, you would swear you were playing a completely new entry. It’s definitely worth playing, as is its parent game, which in my opinion is the best of the New series of Mario titles. REVIEW LINK

Portal (PC, 2007) — This year marked probably the fifth time I’ve played through Portal, and it remains as good as it was the first time I went through it. Sure, the puzzles are easier just because I’ve solved them before, but the dialogue from GLaDOS is still as hilariously terrifying as ever, and the atmosphere remains solitary and unnervingly claustrophobic. I decided to play through it again since I was trying to train myself to play with mouse/keyboard right-handed, but I gave up. I finished the game anyway, just because.

Pokemon X (3DS, 2013) — The first Pokemon game I’ve ever completed! I had actually tried to play through the game earlier in 2014, and made it pretty far in, but it just didn’t hold my attention. With a friend’s son getting Pokemon Y for Christmas, I decided to start over in order to catch some fun Pokemon he might want. Well, something clicked and I got totally hooked. The rest is history as I’ve blasted through two more games and am a trading card fanatic. This game has a cute story, fun world to explore, terrific music, and the metagame aspects for secrets, breeding, training, and other strategies are insanely vast. There are some annoyances with breeding and how grindy some things are, but this still represents one of the best values in handheld gaming. 100 hours in… and counting. REVIEW LINK


Games Scoring an A+

Super Mario 3D World (Wii U, 2013) — This is Mario’s first 3D outing on console since 2010’s spectacular Super Mario Galaxy 2, and it’s a memorable one. Although purists have derided both it and the Galaxy games as not being another Super Mario 64 or Super Mario Sunshine, I think it holds its own just fine, and is totally fun from beginning to end. Speaking of the end, the last level will test even the best players with one of the most challenging final stages of the series. Graphics are beautiful, music is a cut above the New series (but a cut below the Galaxy games), and the controls are buttery-smooth and responsive. This game also contains the first batch of Captain Toad levels that eventually would inspire a full retail game.

The Last of Us (PS3, 2013) — Sublime. This, more than any other of the PS3/360/Wii generation, successfully combined a touching story, consistent characters, fun gameplay, awe-inspiring visuals, and a beautifully melancholy soundtrack to deliver one of the — if not the — best overall experiences in recent memory. Are there flaws? Sure. Performance can take a hit, I had a couple soft crashes here and there, and some of the collectibles are incredibly obscure, but they don’t hold the game back. Easily one of the best ever made, and absolutely essential for anyone who appreciates the craft of games as a vehicle for refined and engaging storytelling. It’s a game that stays with you long after you’ve turned your console off.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (PS3, 2009) — I don’t know what happened at Naughty Dog between the first Uncharted and this one, but they definitely went Super Saiyan with Uncharted 2! It’s a monumental improvement across the board, from its technology and jaw-dropping set pieces to its storyline and atmosphere. Visually, the game is a stunner, with major improvements to animation, scenic depth, and texture quality. Combat and gunplay have never been Uncharted‘s strongest areas, but they get the job done and can be highly rewarding for those who play online. This is my second time through Uncharted 2, this time playing it to get all of the collectibles. A superb experience, five years later.

Grand Theft Auto V (PS3, 2013) — I’m rather ashamed to admit that I’ve never finished any of the GTA games. That is, until this one. I’ve never cared for the series, mainly because the controls never felt good to me, but Rockstar got things pretty right with GTA5. I fell in love with the game pretty early on, and it wasn’t even because of one of the three main characters. It was Franklin’s friend Lamar, voiced with hilarious verve by Slink Johnson. The scene is clear as day in my mind as they’re at the car dealership with Simeon… and the rest is history. The game was entertaining from beginning to end, with the multi-day heists being one of the game’s highlights. Beautiful graphics, terrific banter between the characters while driving, funny gags all over the place, and like most open-worlders, so much to do that it could take months of solid play to 100%.

Batman: Arkham Asylum (PC, 2009) — I had tried to start this twice in the years prior to 2014, but never did get too far either time. Not sure why, but this year, it stuck, and stuck hard. This is an instant classic, with a very smooth and intuitive combat/combo system that quickly becomes addictive. Chain hits together and finishing thugs with the big hits are satisfying in the best bone-crunching way. The voice acting is top-notch across the board, employing two series greats, Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill as Batman and Joker, respectively. One of my favorite aspects of the game was the various recordings you find throughout, which fleshes out character backgrounds and lore of the Batman world. As a relative newbie to the franchise, these were very helpful and got me into it. This is a must-play for action and comic book fans.

Batman: Arkham City (PC, 2011) — Immediately after finishing Arkham Asylum, I jumped into this. Taking the ideas of Asylum and expanding them into a larger, more traditional open-world structure made for one of the best experiences with so much to do. Some may argue that it’s more of the same or isn’t focused enough, and that’s fine, but it doesn’t stop it from being one of the best games out there. One of my favorite passages from the game involves Mr. Freeze, whose name unfortunately conjures up images of Arnold Schwarzenegger from the 1997 fiasco Batman & Robin. Mr. Freeze’s story here is touchingly told, and cements him as one of my favorite Batman characters. The ending gets crazy over-the-top (and not in a good way), but the game is still ace. Arkham Knight this year!

Shovel Knight (PC, 2014) — Speaking of knights, Yacht Club Games’ Kickstarter success story was easily one of the best side-scrolling platformers I played in 2014. Its visuals and music exist somewhere between 8-bit and 16-bit, with fluid animation and a soundtrack to die for. The game — at least during its first playthrough — skews a little on the easier side, but there is so much to discover that it’s good that the developer took this approach. The entire package just oozes high quality, with a unique risk/reward continue system and a story that is surprisingly heartfelt. I loved every minute of this game, and all I can say is that I hope we get a sequel.

Volgarr the Viking (PC, 2013) — Perhaps the biggest surprise of the year for me was this game. The result of another successful Kickstarter, Volgarr is a hardcore side-scrolling action game that can seem overly punishing, but if you stick with it, you’ll discover — like so many others have — how amazing it really is. The controls seem stiff initially, but that’s only because they are 100% predictable, so once you accept that, it makes learning and traversing each stage much easier. I died so many times, but when I finally beat the game, it felt like the greatest thing ever. The animation is really good, as is the soundtrack. The backgrounds? They’re just OK, but they don’t detract from what is otherwise a definitive arcade-style experience.

Bayonetta 2 (Wii U, 2014) — If I was forced to pick, this would be my overall Game of the Year. Developed by Platinum Games, it’s a small miracle that we even got this sequel in the first place, so props to Nintendo for helping make it a reality. The first Bayonetta was a good game that I enjoyed quite a bit, but the sequel just trounces it in every way. Its vibrant visuals sparkle, and lack of screen tearing gives the game a nice visual polish it lacked on the 360 and PS3. Combat feels faster, smoother, and more impactful than ever, and the worlds are full of secrets, challenges, sweet music, and gorgeous vistas. The story is your typical action game nonsense, which is unfortunate, but Bayonetta 2 doesn’t suffer because of it, and triumphs on all of its other strengths. This is the action game of this generation so far. You need a Wii U to play it, but to be perfectly honest, I have to say it’s worth it.


And there you have it.  All of the best games that I played last year. Agree? Disagree? Have favorites of yours that you want to recommend? Please leave them in the comments — I’d love to hear from you!  Thanks for reading, and here’s a toast to the games of 2015!


Backlog Blitz: The Games of December 2014 & Final Results!


The actress Cate Blanchett once said, “If you know you are going to fail, then fail gloriously.” I can think of no better way to describe what happened to my so-called Backlog Blitz progress during the final month of 2014. It was truly epic how terribly I did, and how temptation, great deals, and falling in love with a popular monster collecting franchise got the better of me.

Before I get to December, though, I have to say that 2014 was a great year! I have very few regrets about what I bought and played. It’s a bit frustrating to realize that I can’t seem to stop myself from buying more games than I finish, but I do think that outside of blazing-hot deals and inexpensive PC bundles, I’ve remained pretty selective about the titles I buy and play. I hope to keep that trend going into 2015.

Anyway, here are a few statistics from this year:

  • I bought a whopping 87 games and bundles, which averages out to 8 purchases totaling $118.05 per month. Total spend for the year was $1298.60. That’s the equivalent of about 2 console or 3 handheld games at full price per month, which isn’t too terrible. Could definitely be better, though!
  • I played and finished a total of 63 games, so a little north of 5 per month. My best month was January, when I somehow blasted through 13 titles. Not sure how I did that, but I must have been very motivated. There were some really good ones that month too, including Super Mario 3D World (Wii U) and The Last of Us (PS3). The total value of what I finished was $1003.00, which put me -$295.60 in the hole.
  • Total play time was approximately 1051 hours, which comes out to about 3 hours per day. Since I spent a sizable amount of the year working on this blog and my YouTube channel, I’m not surprised that this number isn’t higher.
  • The average rating for all of the games I finished was an 8.9 (B+). Of those, 35 games scored in the 9.1-9.9 range (56%), 21 from 8.1-8.9 (33%), and 7 were a 7.9 or below (11%).
  • Overall, I finished -24 for the year, which is almost as bad as my 2012 embarrassment of -36! I only have myself to blame though, and as you’ll see below, December basically accounts for that entire deficit.

For 2015, I’m trying a couple different things:

  • I won’t be wiping the slate clean like I’ve done in the past. I’ll instead start at my -24 deficit, which I hope will keep me more honest and focused on playing what I already own instead of being tempted by deals, new releases, and delusions that I’m doing better than I actually am.
  • I’ll now be tracking what I sell. It makes sense to me that if I end up selling a game, that I should keep a record of that, as well as how much I earned from the sale. I think it will be interesting to see the month over month net.

Otherwise, everything else will remain the same, and I’ll keep the monthly updates coming.

Finally, here is a breakdown of what I bought and played during the final month of 2014. As I mentioned above, this is a long list! Here we go:

Games Purchased in December (24 titles, $466.60 spent):

  1. Mortal Kombat: Komplete Edition (PC) — This one was so cheap via the Brazilian site Nuuvem that I couldn’t pass it up. I haven’t really played a Mortal Kombat game since Mortal Kombat Trilogy on the original PlayStation, so this will probably be a shocker when I finally get around to installing and firing it up!
  2. Metal Gear Solid: Legacy Collection (PS3) — I had no idea this was even a thing until this year, and it must have been a limited run or something, because it quickly became expensive to buy new. Fortunately, I won a new copy on eBay that somehow avoided any auction sniping. This is another series I gave up on relatively early on after Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty on the PS2.
  3. Valiant Hearts: The Great War (PC) — I finally got around to picking this up. I’d meant to back in June when it first came out, but I wanted to finish Ubisoft’s other UbiArt Framework game Child of Light first. While that didn’t happen until December, I still made good on my promise.
  4. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (Wii U) — The Captain Toad levels from Super Mario 3D World were fun and nice breaks from the main game, so it was great to see Nintendo take those ideas and turn them into a complete game. I haven’t played it yet, but I plan on making it one of my firsts for 2015.
  5. Pokemon White Version 2 (DS) — Part of a great holiday sale, I got this one on the cheap. Although most players will say that Pokemon Black Version 2 is the better of the two, I’m still fairly new to the series, so I doubt that I’d notice any difference.
  6. Persona 4 Arena Ultimax (PS3) — Another good online deal that I didn’t want to pass up. It doesn’t help that I still have yet to play the first Persona 4 Arena, but that’s beside the point! These games look great, and I’m very eager to see how they complement their RPG counterparts.
  7. The Wolf Among Us (PC) — I’ve heard really good things about this episodic adventure game from Telltale, and even though I know nothing about the Fables source material, I’m still looking forward to checking this out!
  8. Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan (3DS) — This one was a total impulse buy based on some impressions I was reading on NeoGAF, which is always a dangerous thing to do. I used to be a big fan of first-person dungeon crawlers on our family’s Apple IIe, and with this one being described as the most accessible of the series so far, I figured I’d give it a try.
  9. Bundle Stars: Killer Bundle (PC) — Another solid offering from the UK-based Bundle Stars, this one includes: S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, Demonicon: The Dark Eye, Pixel Piracy, Year Walk, Alone in the Dark, Albedo: Eyes from Outer Space, Kraven Manor, FATE: The Cursed King, Loren the Amazon Princess, and Real Boxing. Even having worked at THQ for much of my career, I somehow didn’t have a Steam copy of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.!
  10. Rage (PC) — I really didn’t have any interest in this first-person shooter from id and Bethesda, but those 75% off Steam holiday sales tend to generate interest rather easily. I haven’t played an id game since Quake III Arena (man, those were the days, weren’t they?), so I’m sure this will feel nostalgic no matter what.
  11. Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition (PC) — Another rock-bottom Nuuvem deal that appeared around the holidays, I’ve been eyeing this one for a long time, so I finally pulled the trigger. I’ve heard very good things about this game, and I’ve read it described as a game that betters Grand Theft Auto in some ways, so I’m definitely going to play this sooner rather than later.
  12. Pokemon Black Version (DS) — December was the month that I finally fell head over heels for the Pokemon series. While I had purchased (and sold) several other Pokemon games over the years, including Yellow, HeartGold, and Black, after pouring tons of hours into Pokemon X, I was on a mission to re-buy one title from each generation that I had missed or sold. I decided to get this one to complement the previously mentioned Pokemon White Version 2.
  13. Pokemon HeartGold Version (DS) — Nothing much to add here, but I will say that buying Nintendo games in cardboard boxes like these on the internet is a stressful thing to do. Sometimes shippers will roll the dice and put them in padded mailers, but others will box them up safely. Thankfully, Pokemon collectors take this stuff seriously, so this arrived in a nice box in near-mint condition. That helped ease the sting of me having just sold this game earlier in the year.
  14. Pokemon Platinum Version (DS) — I know very little about the Generation IV Diamond and Pearl games, but after reading about Platinum‘s changes, I decided to just stick with this one for now. If I like it, I might go back and pick up one of the others, but I’m finding it increasingly more difficult to play the older games after experiencing Pokemon X and Alpha Sapphire.
  15. Bundle Stars: You Don’t Know Jack Classic Bundle (PC) — My wife and I enjoyed playing the recent You Don’t Know Jack on the PS3, and I remember loving the original, so these might be fun to go back to, since they’re sure to be hilarious time capsules of pop culture from their respective release years. This bundle includes 9 games total, including the sports, TV, and movie installments.
  16. Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen (PS3) — This is another title that regularly gets referred to as the best action RPG on the PS3 on several gaming forums, and with it being so inexpensive right now, I figured this would be a good time to get it in the queue. I really don’t know much about it, so I’m going into it with little-to-no expectations.
  17. Crimzon Clover: World Ignition (PC) — I used to be a huge shoot-’em-up player. It was probably my favorite arcade genre, with series like R-Type, Raiden, and Gradius eating up tons of my quarters over the years. I got really into the “bullet hell” shooters from Cave as well during the 2000s, and while I’m probably extremely rusty at them at this point, they’re a style of game I’ll usually support with my dollars, only because they’re a bit of a lost art, cherished by those disciplined enough to master them.
  18. Astebreed (PC) — Purchased at the same time as Crimzon Clover, this is another PC shooter from Japan, and contains both vertical and horizontal shooting elements. For some reason, the name bugs me, but the gameplay is supposed to be really good, so I suppose I can let that slide. I’m joking, of course.
  19. Lost Odyssey (360) — Often referred to as one of the most underrated games on the Xbox 360, I decided to pick this up before it gets more difficult to find. It’s funny to see a game delivered on 4 discs these days. That used to be pretty common back in the original PlayStation generation, but outside of PC games, I can’t remember the last time I saw a game come on so many DVDs!
  20. Transistor (PC) — From the same crew that developed the most excellent Bastion, this one somehow passed me by upon its original release back in May of 2014. Just about every game on PC saw some great discounts over the holidays, and this one was no exception. I actually know very little about this game’s style, so I can’t wait to play it.
  21. The Humble Noodlecake Mobile Bundle (Android) — Surprisingly, this was the only bundle from Humble that I bought in December. I put in the $8 asking price to unlock everything: Polymer, Glorkian Warrior: The Trials of Glork, Pumped BMX 2, Super Stickman Golf 2 Premium, Devious Dungeon Premium, Tower Dwellers, Mikey Boots, The Blocks Cometh, Flappy Golf Premium, Mage Gauntlet, Box Cat, Wayward Souls, and Wave Wave v2.0. Will I play any of them? That remains to be seen.
  22. Escape Goat 2 (PS4) — My wife generously bought me a PS4 for Christmas, and this little puzzle platformer was my first purchase. Having seen a lot of positive impressions of it, as well as it being on sale for PlayStation Plus subscribers, I decided to take the plunge. It has a simple premise and a nice aesthetic.
  23. Pokemon Yellow: Special Pikachu Edition (Game Boy Color) — I wasn’t sure about going back this far in the series, but I decided to do exactly that after finishing Pokemon X. It was a bit pricey, and it makes me wish that Game Freak and Nintendo would put some of these old Pokemon games up on the 3DS eShop.
  24. Wolfenstein: The New Order (PS4) — I thought that this would be a completely forgettable game, but people who have played it have been pleasantly surprised by its quality. I’d all but written off the Wolfenstein series long ago, but it looks to have made a return to form, which is great to see for any long-running franchise.

Games Finished in December (6 titles, $51.00 value):

  1. Titan Attacks! (PS3, 1 hour) — A PlayStation Plus freebie, I was looking forward to this, but I found it to be a tedious and rather boring Space Invaders clone. I much prefer the Space Invaders Extreme series on the DS and PSP. It has a decent power-up system, graphics, and audio.
    Overall: C
  2. Nier (PS3, 25 hours) — It took me nearly half of 2014 to finally play through this, but it’s a game that has arguably the best story, characters, and soundtrack of any game from the 360/PS3 generation. The single-player MMO style gameplay is pretty good, and it borrows elements from many different genres and popular franchises. Some elements are rough, but it’s a unique experience that shouldn’t be missed.
    Overall: A- (REVIEW LINK)
  3. Rogue Warrior (PC, 1 hour) — I played this as a bit of a joke since it was my lowest Metacritic-rated game in my Steam library. It’s a terrible game that just feels disrespectful to both its content and players alike. It’s too bad that Bethesda’s name is on this. About the only good thing I can say about it is that it has built-in gamepad support.
    Overall: D-
  4. Child of Light (PC, 10 hours) — This is a beautiful UbiArt Framework RPG that is certainly impressive to look at and listen to, but it’s equally impressive that this came from a big publisher like Ubisoft. It feels like an indie game, which is a good thing. I wish it didn’t have the rhyming dialogue, which seems forced most of the time and undermines the emotional impact of the story, but the combat is pretty fun, and the world is a joy to explore. The game is very short though, so I hope we get an even more expansive sequel.
    Overall: B-
  5. Pokemon X (3DS, 95 hours) — This will be the Pokemon game that will be forever credited as the one that sent me careening headlong into this massive universe of a franchise. Many longtime Pokemon players have called this the worst in the series due to how easy it is and its lack of post-game content, but whatever; I enjoyed it immensely. The main game was indeed pretty easy, but for me, that’s OK. I got lost in the metagame, learning about IVs, EVs, hidden abilities, natures, and elusive Shiny Pokemon. I wish combat moved at a slightly brisker pace, and breeding and hatching could be more streamlined, but overall, this is a great RPG with an incredible amount of charm and wonderful music. I’m still playing it, even though I’ve started Alpha Sapphire.
    Overall: A
  6. Monument Valley: Forgotten Shores (Android, 1 hour) — A $2 add-on to one of my favorite mobile titles from earlier this year. This installment expands upon the solid ideas established in the first game, and while it is still pretty easy, it’s not as easy as the first game, with some puzzles taking several tries to figure out. Beautiful visuals and sound design round out a memorable, but short experience.
    Overall: A-

So there you have it! 2014 is now over and we’re nearly halfway through January. Thanks for making it through this entire update, and be on the lookout for the next one, which will be my Games of the Year!


Backlog Blitz: The Games of November 2014


November can be a painful, evil month for gamers. With publishers wanting to take advantage of the holiday shopping season by getting big titles out to market, and retailers offering deep discounts on even the newest games, giving in to temptation is easy. And give in I did, as weakness overcame me this month on a number of hard-to-resist deals and new releases.

Anyway, even though I dropped quite a bit this month — and recovery in December looks bleak — I still managed to finish several games, including my pick for Game of the Year.  I was a bit bummed, however, that my spending total was the highest it’s been since January. The format, as with previous updates, is Game Title (Platform, Purchase Price, Play Time).

Games purchased (-10, $195.75 spent):

  1. MW_WII_CVR SHT_3MadWorld (Wii, $10.00)
    After getting into the Bayonetta series from Platinum Games, I began picking up some of their other games. Last month it was Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, and this month it’s this stylish black and white action game for the Wii. I know close to nothing about this game, but I’m guessing it was highly influenced by Frank Miller’s Sin City. I’m looking forward to checking it out after I’m done with The Wonderful 101.
  2. The Humble Jumbo Bundle 3 (PC, $5.75)
    The folks at Humble Bundle continue to offer up some of the best deals in gaming, to the point where it’s almost criminal. This particular bundle contained the following titles: Always Sometimes Monsters, Blackguards, Euro Truck Simulator 2, Full Mojo Rampage, GRID, GRID 2, Half Minute Hero: Super Mega Neo Climax Ultimate Boy, Insurgency, KickBeat Steam Edition, and Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure. I’ve heard so many good things about that Euro Truck Simulator series, so I’m curious to check that one out soon!
  3. WiiU_HyruleWarriors_BoxartHyrule Warriors (Wii U, $51.00)
    I have to admit that this was one of my more haphazard purchases of the month. I’ve been on a third-person action game kick recently, and the thought of playing one featuring a bunch of Legend of Zelda fan service seemed like reason enough to pick this up. Something tells me that this will be much cheaper soon, just because it’s one of those games on the fringes, but oh well, I’ve heard it’s good fun with near-limitless content.
  4. Bundle Stars: Lego Super Heroes Bundle (PC, $15.00)
    Bundle Stars is another bundle provider who puts out some really nice collections from time to time. I really enjoyed Lego City Undercover on the Wii U earlier this year, and so I’ve been looking for a reason to check out more games in the Lego series. This appeared last month and included the following: Lego Batman, Lego Batman 2 DC Super Heroes, Lego Marvel Super Heroes, Lego Marvel Super Heroes: Asgard Pack DLC, and Lego Marvel Super Heroes: Super Pack DLC. It’s not that inexpensive in bundle terms, but it’s still a good deal at about $5 per mainline title.
  5. ssb_wiiu_boxSuper Smash Bros. for Wii U (Wii U, $60.00)
    Nintendo strikes again with their big release for the holidays. I’ve admittedly never been much of a Smash Bros. fan or player, but this one seemed a lot more interesting to me, and given that it’s been a long time since I’ve played any sort of fighting game, I figured now would be a good time to ease myself back into a genre I once loved in the early/mid-’90s. I also picked up a Yoshi Amiibo, which you can check out in more detail HERE.
  6. The Humble Crescent Moon Games Mobile Bundle (Android, $8.00)
    Humble got me not once, not twice, but three times this month. This second one contained so many games that I have no idea where to start. At this point I feel like a collector of Android games since I rarely ever play them to completion. This bundle contained: 2-Bit Cowboy, Aralon: Sword and Shadow, Blocky Roads, Clash of Puppets, Exiles: Far Colony (Alpha), Mines of Mars, Neon Shadow, Paper Monsters, Pocket RPG, Ravensword: Shadowlands, Relic Rush, Shadow Blade, Siegecraft Defender, Slingshot Racing, Space Chicks, The Deer God (Alpha), and Topia World Builder. Whew! 17 different titles in total. I think my Android library is about to eclipse my Steam library, which is a little scary to think about.
  7. Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call (3DS, $20.00)
    Black Friday is always a day where I like to stay home. I just don’t like crowds who are going nuts over cheap, no-name TVs and throwaway DVDs. This time, however, I wandered out later in the weekend to see what was left, and this was one of them, which was about the going price at most of the online retailers as well. Living in Oregon means no sales tax, so it’s nice to get things for the actual advertised sale price. I put a decent amount of time into the first game, but plan on really sinking my teeth into this pseudo-sequel.
  8. diablo_3_ps3Diablo III: Reaper of Souls (PS3, $15.00)
    This is the other Black Friday weekend deal I picked up, which was an even better deal than Curtain Call at a very nice $25 off. Perhaps this is a bit of a shocker, but I’ve never played any of the Diablo games on PC. I’ve heard very good things about the console port, so I’m very excited to finally see what this is all about.
  9. The Humble Weekly Bundle: Zen Studios 2 (PC, $6.00)
    I love pinball games, with Zen Studios’ Plants vs. Zombies table is one of my recent favorites. This second pinball table bundle from them is full of good stuff: Base game and Civil War Table, Captain America Table, Excalibur Table, Deadpool Table, Doctor Strange Table, Mars Table, Marvel Pinball Vengeance and Virtue Pack, Star Wars Pinball: Balance of the Force Pack, and Star Wars Pinball: Heroes Within Pack. I like what I’ve played of the past Star Wars tables, so I’m hoping the ones included here maintain that level of quality.
  10. Sega 48-Game Mega Arcade Pack (PC, $5.00)
    This was part of a Black Friday deal on It’s been priced this low before, but not for a while. Not a bad deal at all given that it’s normal price is a very steep $70. These games have been part of past collections, but the emulation used in Steam seems quite good, and includes some decent visual options and save states. Included are the following: Golden Axe, Altered Beast, Comix Zone, Ecco the Dolphin, Gain Ground, Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master, VectorMan, Crack Down, Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi, Space Harrier II, Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle, Bonanza Bros., Columns. Ecco Jr., Eternal Champions, Fatal Labyrinth, Galaxy Force II, Kid Chameleon, Ristar, Super Thunder Blade, Alien Storm, Bio-Hazard Battle, Columns III, Sword of Vermilion, Virtua Fighter 2, Ecco: The Tides of Time, Decap Attack, Flicky, ESWAT: City Under Siege, Golden Axe II, Alien Soldier, Gunstar Heroes, Landstalker: The Treasures of King Nole, Light Crusader, Shining Force, Shining Force II, Shining in the Darkness, Streets of Rage, Streets of Rage 2, Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair, Sonic 3D Blast, Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine, Sonic Spinball, Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic 3 & Knuckles, ToeJam & Earl, and ToeJam & Earl in Panic on Funkotron. Sadly missing is the fifth Genesis pack, but at this price, it’s impossible to complain without sounding ridiculous.

Games finished (+3, $104.00 value):

  1. TF2-EApcSLP03Portal (PC, $10.00, 2 hrs.)
    For some reason, I got it in my head that it might be a good idea to “train” myself to play mouse/keyboard games right-handed. As a southpaw, I’ve always had to rebind my controls every time I want to play something like a PC FPS. It’s not that big of a deal, but it’s just annoying enough that I will usually go the lazy route and play with a gamepad. While it was going OK, I realized that I rely on my left-handedness too much for other PC-oriented tasks, like Photoshop and other art/drawing applications, so I decided to stick with what has worked for me all of these years. I was going to help train myself with this game, and although I didn’t play it right-handed, I went ahead and played through the entire thing yet again. It’s still one of the most tightly constructed FPS puzzle games, but wow is it short if you know what you’re doing!
    Overall: A
  2. Bayonetta 2 (Wii U, $60.00, 20 hrs. and counting)
    As I mentioned in this post’s intro, this is my Game of the Year, and I played some excellent games this year. Problem is most of those games came out in 2013 or earlier, such as Grand Theft Auto V, Batman: Arkham Asylum, The Last of Us, Super Mario 3D World, and Volgarr the Viking. I can’t get over how beautifully executed this game is, and it will be remembered as one of the best games on Nintendo’s most challenged console to date.
    Overall: A+ REVIEW LINK
  3. luigi_dark_moon_boxLuigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon (3DS, $34.00, 15 hrs.)
    This game took me forever to finish. I started it back in June, but for some reason, it never really hooked me. I appreciated it for what it was and for how it improved upon the GameCube original, but there were aspects of its design that I felt held it back from being a truly great and classic Nintendo title. Still, like the works of Studio Ghibli, even a “just OK” game from them is better than what most other companies produce, so it still managed to be a memorable adventure with lots of replay value for those who like collecting stuff and racing against the clock.
    Overall: (Review Forthcoming)

And with that, we head into the final weeks of 2014. It’s been a fun journey filled with some of the best games I’ve ever played, with some big ones set to hit in 2015, including the next Legend of Zelda, Batman: Arkham Knight, and Uncharted 4. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Time to start saving up those pennies! Have a great weekend and see you next time.


Review: Bayonetta 2 (Wii U, 2014)

I’m just going to get this out of the way right now: Bayonetta 2 is my Game of the Year for 2014. No other title in recent memory has captivated and entertained me as much as this one has, and that’s saying a lot since (a) I only started playing the Bayonetta series about a month ago, and (b) I usually don’t care for third-person brawlers like God of War and Ninja Gaiden.

Not only that, but I didn’t really love the first Bayonetta, either. Yes, I gave it a B+ in my review, and I enjoyed its style and deep combat system, but there were a number of things I didn’t like, including the lengthy on-rails shooter stages, boring mini-games, flat colors, and endlessly wordy cinematics. While some of those things have carried over to its sequel, they’ve been stripped down and polished to a brilliant shine, resulting in a game that delivers a perfectly paced experience from the heavens. Or hell, if you prefer.


The fact that we even have Bayonetta 2 in our hands is a bit of a small miracle. With Sega not able to take care of publishing duties this time around, Nintendo was the only company willing to step in and take a chance on it. Announced as a Wii U exclusive back in September of 2012, it immediately angered Xbox and PlayStation supporters. I remember being floored by the announcement, at first confused by the Wii U being its one and only home, but then excited that Nintendo did something that surprised so many people. As a company known for publishing mostly their own E-rated games, having the sultry Bayonetta grace their new system definitely made a big impact. Most importantly, though, it gave the Wii U a serious action exclusive that can’t be played anywhere else.

Over two years have passed, and the wait was so worth it. From its opening moments, Bayonetta 2 exudes quality. The first thing that jumps out at you is the new, brightly vibrant color palette, replacing the dark, muted tones of the original. Everything pops and shines beautifully, with stylish cinematic sequences and an in-game framerate that does its best to maintain 60fps. It drops regularly due to the sheer amount of on-screen detail and chaos, but in my opinion, it’s not bad enough to be a detriment to gameplay.


There is no screen tearing or v-sync issues to be found here, which was one of my biggest gripes with the first game’s graphical presentation, even with the superior Xbox 360 build. As a result, each frame of Bayonetta 2 is complete and an absolute treat for the eyes. The same qualities carry over to the free version of Bayonetta that comes packed in with its sequel.

Speaking of that pack-in, it’s not just a simple port, and includes extras like the Japanese language track, Nintendo-themed costumes, faster load times, easier difficulty settings, and better performance. By all accounts, it’s the definitive version of Bayonetta until a possible remaster is ever developed. The inclusion of the original game not only adds value, but is also helpful for Wii U owners who have never played the first one, giving them an opportunity to see how it all started, and provides a baseline on which to compare its sequel.


And make no mistake, Bayonetta 2 is superior to its predecessor in every conceivable way.

Gameplay is sublime and feels even better than the first game. It’s the core of what the series is known for, and Platinum Games has taken what worked so well nearly five years ago, and has made it feel even more responsive, exciting, and fluid. New features such as the Umbran Climax, which takes Bayonetta’s attacks and powers them up like a string of fighting game super moves, gives encounters an even more impactful and visceral feel than before. They’re so crazy that they can sometimes obscure the action, so be careful: They can be a double-edged sword if you are playing to achieve perfect playthrough status.


Controls are intuitive and responsive, with a heavy focus on dodging enemy strikes. Well-timed dodges will make the player enter what is known as Witch Time, which will slow down the action, temporarily make Bayonetta invincible, and allow her to build up her score and combos. The Dodge Offset technique also makes a return, which allows you to continue a combo string even after you dodge, as long as you’re holding down an attack button. Additional moves, weapons, items, costumes, and accessories can be purchased from your pal Rodin, found, or alchemized to further deepen your already robust arsenal.

The Angel Attack minigame has been completely removed, and the drawn-out driving and flying stages have been replaced by shorter, more focused sequences, one of which conceals Bayonetta 2‘s most famous Nintendo easter egg.


Long-time fans of Platinum Games will be right at home with the scoring and ranking system here. Most of the game’s Chapters are broken down into multiple Verses, and each Verse is given a rank based on your combo, time, and damage results. Achieving a full combo, fast time, and zero damage in a Verse will result in a Pure Platinum ranking, the game’s highest award. For hardcore players, getting Pure Platinum across all of the game’s difficulties — including the highest Infinite Climax setting where Witch Time is disabled — will be the ultimate goal.

For many other players, experiencing the game’s story, characters, enemies, and environments will provide more than enough entertainment. While the story itself will give continuity error and plot hole seekers a lot to sink their teeth into, it does a decent job of building characters relationships and motive. Unfortunately, like Bayonetta 1, many of the cinematic cutscenes are still overly wordy, and more often than not, I found myself rolling my eyes at the awkward dialogue and unnecessary exposition, complete with forced cursing.


On the flipside, the action cutscenes are stylishly executed and a lot of fun to watch. They are all done in-engine, with the more highly detailed models rendered in 30fps, and gameplay versions output in 60fps. Quick Time Events (QTEs) are still a part of these sections, but they have definitely been toned down from the first game, and feel less intrusive as a result.

As before, sound effects play a big part in Bayonetta 2‘s gameplay, and in conjunction with bright visual indicators, cue the player in on when an enemy attack is being delivered, prompting you to dodge. Some of these attacks are easy to avoid, while others require near-superhuman reaction times. Focusing on these is key to Pure Platinum rankings, and your survival in general. One of the most rewarding feelings in this game is focusing through all of the insanity around you, and in a zen-like way, successfully finishing a Verse perfectly.


The music in Bayonetta 2 is as atmospheric and kinetic as the game itself, and like its predecessor, delivers a memorable selection of tunes that span a number of different styles. One of the highlights is a great upbeat version of “Moon River”, which is simply a perfect song selections for Bayonetta. Unlike “Fly Me To The Moon” from Bayonetta 1, “Moon River” is sparsely used, having a greater impact when you do hear it.

In closing, I had a blast with Bayonetta 2, and continue to do so, weeks after finishing it. There is just so much to do, find, collect, and conquer here, and it will keep action fans busy for a long, long time. It’s not only one of the best action games to be found on the Wii U, but is without a doubt one of the best action games ever made.

  • Graphics & Presentation: A-
    Vibrantly beautiful colors are a major improvement over the first game. Animation and special effects are big and impressive, including the new Umbran Climax and returning Climax finishers. No screen tearing, but performance overall is a bit worse than before. Story is OK, but like Bayonetta 1, it won’t be winning any writing awards.
  • Music & Sound Effects: A
    An excellent soundtrack brings the world of Bayonetta 2 to life, with lots of variety and different styles. Sound effects are helpful and impactful, and both English and Japanese voiceover tracks are included, even though the dialogue itself can be very long-winded.
  • Gameplay & Controls: A+
    Perfect, responsive, and refined controls make this one of the most exciting and intuitive games I’ve ever played. Lots of secrets, collectibles, post-game challenges, and online play will put the most experienced players to the test.
  • Value: A+
    The first game is included for free, and not only completing, but mastering all the game’s difficulty settings will take any player a very long time to achieve.

Overall: A+



Backlog Blitz: The Games of September 2014


Hmm, going from a peak of +14 back in March to a +2 in September is not a good omen. After a good recovery in July and August, I’ve once again slipped into near-negative territory. As you’ll see, several nice bundles are to blame, but I did finish a couple high-quality games.

Anyway, the format, as with previous updates, is Game Title (Platform, Purchase Price, Play Time).

Games purchased (-6, $27.75 spent):

    1. Bundle Stars Night Dive Bundle (PC, $3.50)
      I recently discovered this bundle site based out of the UK, and so far, they’ve been great, with amazing deals and game quality that is pretty high, depending on the bundle. I do hope they’ll allow Steam account linking soon so that it’s easier to add games to the library. Anyway, this bundle included: System Shock 2, Bad Mojo: Redux, Wizardry 6 & 7, Wizardry 8, Harvester, 7th Guest & 11th Hour, I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, and Shadow Man.
    2. The Humble Indie Bundle 12 (PC, $7.75)
      Humble continues to offer some of the best bundles out there, even though prices and unlocks seem to be going up. I don’t mind so much, though, since the quality of their offerings remains high. This one was no exception, and included the following: SteamWorld Dig, Hammerwatch, Gunpoint, Gone Home, Papers Please, Luftrausers, The Bridge, Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine, and Race the Sun.
    3. Bundle Stars Indie Jam 4 Bundle (PC, $2.50)
      Another one from Bundle Stars, this one came with a staggering 10 games for just a couple bucks, including: Akane the Kunoichi, They Breathe, Mini Motor Racing Evo, Ichi, Rhythm Destruction, Oozi: Earth Adventure, Oknytt, Hammerfight, SOL: Exodus, and Gearcrack Arena.
    4. The Humble Bundle: PC & Android 11 (PC/Android, $6.00)
      Humble kinda went nuts this month, with three great bundles spanning PC and Android. This one, which covered both platforms, included their trademark collection of high-quality games: Blackwell 1: Legacy, Blackwell 2: Unbound, Blackwell 3: Convergence, Bridge Constructor Playground, Cubemen, Cubemen 2, Don’t Move, Quest of Dungeons, Small World 2, SpaceChem, and one of my favorite games from earlier this year, Thomas Was Alone.
    5. 20141006_leoLeo’s Fortune (Android, $3.00)
      My only non-bundle purchase of the month, this gorgeous puzzle/platformer from 1337 & Senri is a great example of a premium game done on mobile platforms without a free-to-play model. I’ve only just started, but it’s a wonderfully beautiful game full of good puzzles, physics, and challenge.
    6. The Humble Mobile Bundle 8 (Android, $5.00)
      Finally, the latest mobile bundle from Humble was a pretty good one, although admittedly not their best. I’m starting to wonder how many more premium mobile games are still available for this format. Whatever the case, I’ll keep buying them as long as they provide a good value and quality. This bundle included: Doodle Devil Premium, Doodle God Premium, Epoch, Epoch.2, Little Big Adventure, Mikey Hooks, Tentacle Wars, TowerMadness 2, Wave Wave, and Zombie Gunship.

Games finished (+2, $25.50 value):

      1. Kero Blaster (PC, $8.00, 5 hrs.)
        Excerpt from my review: “Kero Blaster is short, at just about 5 hours for two complete playthroughs. However, it’s the kind of game you can’t stop until you’re done, and even after that, it compels you to come back and discover all of its many secrets. While it may not have the historical significance that Cave Story did, it’s still a very fun game that represents all the best qualities of Daisuke Amaya’s incredible talent.” Overall: B+
        REVIEW LINK 
      1. New Super Luigi U (Wii U, $17.50, 20 hrs.)
        Excerpt from my review: “As someone who absolutely loved Mario’s first outing on the Wii U, playing through this world again with completely different levels and character physics was a welcome challenge that at times pushed my abilities to their limits. How Nintendo will top this brotherly combo is something that’s hard to imagine. New Super Luigi U represents some of the finest in Nintendo 2D platforming.” Overall: A

Anyway, there you have it for September, and with only three months left in 2014, we’ll see what happens. I’m currently playing LEGO City Undercover on the Wii U, and based on the amount of content in that game, it could very well be the only game I finish this month. Now to convince myself that I don’t need to buy anything else!

See you next time and have a great week!


Review: Aban Hawkins & the 1001 Spikes (Wii U, 2014)

I love the Indiana Jones films. I’ve probably seen Raiders of the Lost Ark over 200 times, and if you have a couple spare hours, there’s a good chance I could recite the entire movie back to you. Temple of Doom gets a bad rap, perhaps for its lack of locales, Kate Capshaw’s often over-the-top performance, and a violently dark story. Last Crusade is like a love letter to fans, and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull? Let’s just say that film’s like drinking the blood of Kali. I’m still trying to wake up from that nightmare.


Anyway, Atari’s own Temple of Doom arcade game from 1985 was also a favorite of mine. Remember the nice cabinets for machines like this, Star Wars, and Road Runner? Oh, I loved them. Atari arcade games were among my favorites, and there were just so many! A quick look on Wikipedia shows how prolific they were. 8-bit consoles like the NES were brand-spanking new, and with most folks still playing on aging Ataris, Commodores, and Apples, arcades were simply unbeatable.

And now, nearly 30 years later, it’s interesting to me that the game I’m reviewing today is not only inspired by one of my favorite movie franchises, but is also a throwback to 8-bit home console games of that era. There are a lot of games like this nowadays, most notably the recent Kickstarter success story Shovel Knight, which like 1001 Spikes, taps into the collective nostalgia of the ’80s, and delivers a gaming experience that is as good as — if not better than — the titles that influenced them.


1001 Spikes began as the Xbox Live indie game 1000 Spikes back in 2011. I’ve admittedly never played that version, and I didn’t even know of its existence before 1001 Spikes was announced. Developed by 8bits Fanatics, I’m glad it has now received a wider release via Nicalis, who has become one of my favorite publishers in recent years.

For those who don’t know anything about this game, in a nutshell, it’s a puzzle-platformer, where you guide your character through short stages full of traps, enemies, and other environmental hazards. You can jump either 1 or 2 blocks high using two separate buttons, and you can throw or slice with your knife. That’s it. The dual-jumping mechanic sounds bizarre on paper, but it’s a great idea that works beautifully during play.


In screenshots, 1001 Spikes doesn’t look like anything special, but I found it to be quite beautiful in motion. Animation is smooth, there is a a good deal of parallax scrolling, and background/foreground separation is very clear. Characters and enemies are comprised of very few pixels, but they possess a ton of character, with funny idle animations that further the game’s charm.

Music is also very good, but the Wii U version that I played is chock-full of annoying audio glitches. Sometimes the soundtrack will exhibit intermittent popping, and at others it will skip like a badly scratched CD (which you can hear at the 3:06 mark in the video below). A few times, the music stopped completely altogether! It’s very buggy audio code that really detracts from the overall polish of the game, and I’m surprised it was released in this bad a shape.

Thankfully, 1001 Spikes really shines in the gameplay department. Controls are ultra-smooth and responsive, and there was rarely — if ever — a point during my playthrough where I felt the controls failed me.

While I would sit there and curse the game at how cheap I thought it was at times, it always came down to me making a mistake or failing to remember the location of a particularly well-placed trap. You have very little time to react to most of them, so while I thought that 1001 Spikes had a tendency to rely on memorization more than pure skill as I went through it, it turned out to be a rewarding trial & error system in hindsight. One that I really appreciated the more I thought about it.


However, it can’t be stated enough: You will die. A lot. More than you’d like, perhaps! It’s funny that they give you 1001 lives to start, but you’ll come to appreciate them as you lose your first hundred, and then your second, and so on and so forth.

Fear not, though, as you are given 100-256 extra lives at the end of each set of levels, so you should be OK. Again, the game is rewarding in the same way that other tough games are. Think of the temples in Donkey Kong Country Returns, or the I Wanna Be The Guy levels from Super Meat Boy. They take many tries to get right, and the rush you feel once you get through them is hard to put into words. It’s highly rewarding, and will keep you coming back for more.


There are also a slew of unlockable characters, each with their own particular attributes and skills. They really change up the way each level is played, and as a result, they’re very distinctive and unique.

Like many indie games, there is cross-pollination going on here, and you’ll find all sorts of familiar faces from other titles. I won’t spoil the surprise for those who haven’t played this yet, but they bring with them their own stories, which adds a lot of incentive to play through the game multiple times.


Additional unlockables, including single and multiplayer modes beyond the main campaign also add a ton of value to what’s an already inexpensive $15 package.

These are a lot of fun, and feel easier than the main campaign, so they provide a nice break between some of the intense challenges that await in the game world of Ukampa and beyond.


Like many retro-styled games of this type, there is a speedrunning element — including an in-game displayable clock — so you can go for the lowest times possible for each level. Curiously, though, there are no leaderboards to be found and zero Miiverse integration, so you have to manually scour the internet to see how good you’re doing.  The best you can do is post screenshots and your times, but a built-in system would have been much better.

While we’re on the topic of oddly missing features, 1001 Spikes cannot be enjoyed via off-TV play on the Wii U. The GamePad only displays the world map during gameplay and remains completely black when you’re in menus. This is the sort of bite-sized game that is perfect for the GamePad, so its omission is surprising. Nicalis has said that a patch is forthcoming that will address numerous bugs and add this feature in, but as of this writing (over two months post-release), there has been no update.


In closing, Aban Hawkins & the 1001 Spikes is a very fun game, with surprisingly good presentation, multiple endings, and lots of different modes to play. Although some of it feels half-baked at this point on the Wii U, it is still a robust game at its core that delivers a ton of bang for the buck, and is one of the most challenging titles I’ve played in 2014 so far. Recommended.

  • Graphics & Presentation: B+
    Fluidly animated 8-bit sprites, sharp backgrounds, parallax scrolling, and gorgeous cutscenes give 1001 Spikes a wonderfully nostalgic look. No off-TV play is a big miss, however, especially when the game doesn’t require any GamePad-specific functionality.
  • Music & Sound Effects: B-
    A solid chiptune soundtrack and good sound effects convey the protagonist’s dire situation. Unfortunately, the Wii U version is plagued by a myriad of sound bugs that really hurt the audio presentation.
  • Gameplay & Controls: A
    Responsive, perfect controls make this a joy to play, with tons of different game modes, unlockables, and secrets. Ultra-challenging platforming with a focus on puzzle-solving is a nice change from many modern action games.
  • Value: A
    It took me about 15 hours to get through just the main campaign, and with a wide range of unique characters and storylines to experience, plus discrete arcade modes to play, 1001 Spikes represents an excellent value.

Overall: A-

For more impressions of 1001 Spikes, please check out my YouTube channel HERE.


Backlog Blitz: The Games of July 2014


After a huge drop in June, I nearly got myself back to May levels in July. I only bought one game, thanks to lackluster or nonexistent sales and a dry month at retail. I finished seven games, netting me a +6 total for last month. Anyway, the format, as with previous updates, is Game Title (Platform, Purchase Price, Play Time).

Games purchased (-1, $15.00 spent):

  1. Shovel Knight (PC, $15.00)
    Yacht Club Games’ Kickstarter success story looked terrific from the start, and the final product was met with tons of positive impressions. This was the only must-buy for me in July.

Games finished (+7, $113.00 value):

  1. 20140801_ghg_skShovel Knight (PC, $15.00, 10 hrs.)
    One of my favorite games of the year. Fantastic graphics, gameplay, and music to die for. Overall: A+

  2. Electronic Super Joy (PC, $8.00, 5 hrs.)
    A tough platformer in the tradition of Super Meat Boy, this game has awesome style, one of the best techno/trance soundtracks of any game I’ve played, and lots of humor. Short, but great. Overall: A-

  3. DuckTales Remastered (PC, $15.00, 3 hrs.)
    I enjoyed the NES game back in June, so I finally got around to playing WayForward’s remake. It has wonderful animation and Jake Kaufman’s soundtrack — who is the guy who also scored Shovel Knight — does a terrific job here. Too much story and some weird design choices hurt it. Overall: B-

  4. Eights (Android, Free, 10 hrs.)
    Recommended by a friend, this game is all about creating the number 8 and multiples of said number. Simple in concept, but difficult to master. I got over 5,000 points, so I considered myself “done” with it after that. I normally get around 1,500-3,000. Fun, but some bad control bugs hold it back. Overall: C+

  5. Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse (Sega Master System, $5.00, 3 hrs.)
    Very different from the Genesis classic, but a very high-quality game for the old Sega console. Slippery controls and inexact platforming make certain sequences very frustrating. Beautiful graphics, improved bosses, and non-linear levels round it out. Overall: B

  6. 20140801_ghg_nr2NES Remix 2 (Wii U, $15.00, 43 hrs.)
    A sequel that improves upon the original in every way. Great challenges, better game selection, wonderful Miiverse intergration, and additional challenges make this one of the best games available on the Wii U eShop. Overall: A

  7. Mario Kart 8 (Wii U, $60.00, 20 hrs.)
    My favorite Mario Kart game since the Super Nintendo days. Amazing graphics, buttery smooth controls, fun courses, and memorable music make this one of the year’s best. I would love to see more goal/challenge-based single-player modes similar to Diddy Kong Racing on the Nintendo 64 to really elevate the experience when you’re not online. Overall: A

Only five months remain in 2014. Summer’s usually slow for releases, so this was expected. If release dates stick, the holiday season could be rough. Very rough.

Anyway, here’s to staying in positive territory, and I hope you all have a great weekend!


Backlog Blitz: The games of June 2014


June hurt. A lot. Although I didn’t spend a lot of money ($63.75), I only finished 2 games worth $20.00. With the year already halfway over, heading into July with only a +2 advantage isn’t the most positive of omens. Let’s hope the rest of the year turns things around! Anyway, the format, as with previous updates, is Game Title (Platform, Purchase Price, Play Time).

Games purchased (-9, $63.75 spent):

  1. 20140701_lego_cityLego City Undercover (Wii U, $5.00)
    The Lego games — and the work of Traveller’s Tales in general — have been hit or miss with me in the past, but I’ve heard great things about this one. Having played through and thoroughly enjoyed Grand Theft Auto V earlier this year, I’m eager to try this, a more family-friendly open-world action game.
  2. Picross e4 (3DS, $6.00)
    This was mainly a purchase for my wife, who loves all things Picross. I didn’t even know that these eShop versions existed until I just happened upon them while browsing through the store a few weeks ago. So far, a thumbs-up from her, so things are looking good!
  3. Aban Hawkins & the 1001 Spikes (Wii U, $6.50)
    Nicalis is one of my favorite indie developer/publishers — responsible for the excellent 3DS versions of Cave Story and VVVVVV — and it didn’t take much beyond its weird trailer to convince me that I’d be buying this on day one. Just started it, and it’s fantastic.
  4. NES Remix 2 (Wii U, $10.00)
    After giving the first NES Remix a second chance, I ended up really liking it, so picking up the second one was a no-brainer. Game selection looks better, and there are a number of changes and improvements to it that should make it an even more enjoyable trip down memory lane.
  5. Far Cry 3 (PC, $7.50)
    And then came the Steam Summer Sale, which unfortunately accounts for this and most of the remaining games below. I’ve never played any of the Far Cry games, but I’ve heard really good things about this particular installment. The trailer shown at E3 for Far Cry 4 looked intriguing, so I might as well get educated on what this series is all about.
  6. 20140701_far_cry_3_bdFar Cry 3: Blood Dragon (PC, $3.75)
    A total impulse buy, I have no idea what this is about, except that everyone who has played it says it’s one of the coolest things from 2013. Looks like it’s chock-full of ’80s and 16-bit nostalgia, so that sounds like it’s right up my alley.
  7. New Super Luigi U (Wii U, $17.50)
    I’ve been waiting for a good price on the retail version of this New Super Mario Bros. U DLC, and I finally found one. The original game was one of my favorites on the Wii U, and is up there with New Super Mario Bros. Wii as my favorite of the “New” series.
  8. Spelunky (PC, $3.75)
    Took me a while to finally buy this, and the Steam Sale made it possible for a great price. I played a good chunk of the non-HD version years ago, so I’m looking forward to losing myself in this enhanced version.
  9. BattleBlock Theater (PC, $3.75)
    Another impulse purchase based on a friend’s recommendation. It’s a platformer by The Behemoth (Alien Hominid and Castle Crashers), which sounds like a winning combination to me!

Games finished (+2, $20.00 value):

  1. 20140701_nes_remixNES Remix (Wii U, $15.00, 15 hrs.)
    Although I still can’t get over how bad the controls are in games like Ice Climber, Urban Champion, and the original Mario Bros. (non-Super), this is still a great compilation that will make you look at the NES era in entirely new ways. I’m glad I gave it another chance, because I ended up really enjoying it. Overall: B+ (Review Link)
  2. DuckTales (NES, $5.00, 4 hrs.)
    This is a short game, but it’ll definitely take you several playthroughs to extract everything there is out of it. But even after that, you’ll likely come back for more. This is a unique, fun platformer that proudly does its license justice. Good graphics, great music, fun gameplay, and nonlinear level design. Overall: B+ (Review Link)

And with that, we head into the second half of 2014! If E3 is any indicator, it’s going to take some serious willpower to make it through the rest of the year in positive territory.


Backlog Blitz: The games of April 2014


I slipped in April. What can I say, there were some good sales! April was also the month I created GHG, so that ate significantly into my game playing time. I would make up for it in May, but June’s not looking great so far. Anyway, the format, like previous entries, is Game Title (Platform, Purchase Price, Play Time).

Games purchased (-6, $29.75 spent):

  1. 20140619_hb9The Humble Bundle: PC & Android 9 (PC/Android, $4.00)
    Another month, another Humble Bundle (or in April’s case, two!). This goes against the entire point of the Backlog Blitz, since this only adds a lot of new games to my ever-growing pile of shame — many of which I’ll probably never play — but they’re hard to resist. This one included the following 9 games: Bridge Constructor, Broken Sword 2: The Smoking Mirror, Kingdom Rush, Knights of Pen & Paper +1 Edition, Ravensword: Shadowlands, Savant – Ascent, Syder Arcade, The Shivah, and Type:Rider.
  2. Batman: Arkham Origins & Season Pass (PC, $15.00)
    I told myself that I’d wait until this dropped in price (I bought Arkham Asylum and Arkham City both at $7.50 each), but I was on a Batman binge at the time, so I decided to be impulsive and bought the bundle on eBay. I knew the Mr. Freeze-focused Cold, Cold Heart DLC would be coming soon, and I didn’t want to miss out on that.
  3. Syberia Collection (PC, $3.75)
    This is another pair of games that I didn’t play when they were originally released back in 2002 and 2004. However, I’ve heard they’re good — particularly the first one. Usually $20 on Steam, at over 80% off, it was a no-brainer.
  4. The Humble Mobile Bundle 5 (Android, $5.00)
    Even though this bundle had a number of games that I already owned, it still offered up some excellent ones. I was pleasantly surprised to see the relatively new and high-profile The Room Two included as part of this bundle. I had purchased it already on Google Play back in February, but hey, I might as well have it again. Makes perfect sense, right? This bundle included the following 9 games: Aralon: Sword and Shadow, Bag It!, Carcassonne, Enviro-Bear 2010, Paper Monsters, R-Type, R-Type II, The Cave, and The Room Two.
  5. 20140619_tokyo_jungleTokyo Jungle (PS3, $1.00)
    Sony ran a terrific flash sale in April, and this game, which normally sells for $15, was available for just a buck! I admittedly don’t know much about it, but it seems like everyone who plays it falls in love with its bizarre originality, so I couldn’t pass this up. Not at such a low price.
  6. Super Stardust HD (PS3, $1.00)
    This is an early PSN game that I never bought. I remember briefly trying the demo, liking it, but for whatever reason, I didn’t purchase it. As part of the same flash sale that Tokyo Jungle was part of, I immediately picked it up, and like most everything else on this list, I hope to get to it soon.

Games finished (+2, $15.00 value):

  1. 20140619_batman_originsBatman: Arkham Origins (PC, $10.00, 35 hrs.)
    After finishing this, I’m not really sure why it gets so much hate. Other PC players talk about bugs that completely broke the game, but I didn’t run into any. Maybe I was just lucky. I thought this was a very good game, with a sinister Joker and one of the better portrayals I’ve seen of Bane. I was also very happy to see Barbara Gordon in this, and can’t wait to see more of her in Arkham Knight. Yes, it feels very similar to Arkham City, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Overall: A- (Review Link)
  2. Batman: Arkham Origins: Cold, Cold Heart DLC (PC, $5.00, 5 hrs.)
    The Arkham Origins Season Pass had been much maligned leading up to this DLC release. I’m not a fan of the Season Pass idea to begin with, and I can see how anyone would get frustrated with the meager, uninspired offerings many of them bring to the table. However, when good single-player content is part of it, that can make a huge difference. I really enjoyed this, as it adds enough to justify it being DLC vs. something they just held back. Overall: B+ (Review Link)

A -4 finish for the month wasn’t so hot, but I was happy about the games I bought and played. It’s been an interesting challenge writing this blog and keeping up with all the games that are out there. I’m still trying to find the right balance.


Two months at GHG

When I was younger, I remember my dad telling me, “Just you wait… soon you’ll be looking at your life in terms of decades instead of years.”  Although great things have happened to me in my thirties — I got married to the love of my life, adopted a beautiful Rottweiler, bought and sold two homes, and lived in three states — they were certainly a blur. Some things are humorously coincidental, like the fact that exactly ten years ago, I was in a similar situation: between jobs, living at home, catching up on games, and thinking a lot about the future.

And here I am, already two months into writing this little blog of mine. It’s been a great experience so far, and it’s cool to see how it’s growing.

20140616_statsSince last month, I’ve added 22,798 words in 25 posts, for an average of 911.56 words per post. Some entries have definitely been longer than others, but I’ve tried my best to maintain some semblance of sanity with their length. Total content has increased by 61.72% over the past month.

I’m not sure how effective subscriptions are these days since most folks stay connected to website content via news aggregators and social media, but I saw an increase of 62.5% from 3 to 8. Not all that significant, but something to point out nonetheless.

Top keywords continue to be consistent from last month: game(s), like, time, good, just, and really. I just really like spending time with good games.

An all-time total of 1,146 views and 52 comments also seems low, but I haven’t done much to promote the blog. I might start looking at ways to broaden my audience soon, but I’ve wanted to stay focused on content up to this point.

Anyway, thanks again for visiting and reading GHG, as well as for the support you’ve shown on the various social media sites. The journey has just begun!