Author Archives: kayjoon

About kayjoon

Thirty-something geek on the south coast of England. Think I'm sort of smart, but I might just be fooling myself. Player of games, reader, feminist, humanist. One of two podcast hosts called Chris Smith at maximumpowerup.com

MAME Arcade - Finished

Finally, another project – MAME Arcade – Part 2

Following my previous post, helpfully referred to as Part 1, I thought I’d just run through the build process. The assembly was partly done in order of when items arrived, and partly what I felt up to doing. Realistically, this could be all done in a day if you had all the parts to hand. I spread it out over a few weeks.

Software

The first thing I did was start to configure the RaspberryPi 3b+* I already owned for use inside the cab. After I’d ordered the bulk of my parts from Arcade World*, the flat pack kits had a 5 day lead time while they were being cut to order, I was excited and wanted to make a start. The RaspberryPi was all I had to hand while I was waiting.

I took the Pi out of the arcade stick housing it was in before and took a couple of minutes to adjust the cabling of the stick so that it is now just a usable USB arcade controller to use with my PC or whatever. I used this stick for the initial config, and also later when it came to testing the monitor I picked up.

In choosing the front end for my system, I had a bit of a look around all the pre-built images on Arcade Punks etc. to see if I could find one with a suitable collection of mostly arcade games along with a theme that wasn’t ridiculous. I could not.

I chose to just build my own setup, with a basic install and curate my own game selection. A few people were suggesting alternatives to the RetroPie software for me to consider, namely Recalbox, Lakka, and Batocera. Fortunately this comparison article was handy for just running through the differences, and after a bit of reading, I decided RetroPie was still the most appropriate for me. I did a fresh install of the latest version of RetroPie as the one already on my SD card was a couple of years old.

I’d only got it hooked up to my working from home monitor, but knew I would be putting a 4:3 or 5:4 ratio screen in the machine, so I played a bit with the shaders in the setup to find something suitable for that screen. It looks a bit silly in the pictures below, but I’m really happy with it in the finished system. Scanlines and a bit of a curve to the display, to get it looking close to how the games would have looked on an original cabinet.

After copying over a starter collection of ROMs, mostly just my favourite shmups and brawlers, and a complete set of NEOGEO games, there wasn’t much else to do except play Neo Turf Masters, and wait for parts to arrive.

Start and Coin Buttons

Fortunately I didn’t have to wait too long, my Arcade World* delivery arrived about a week later. All the buttons and joysticks arrived a day before the flatpack kit, along with the button decals I’d ordered from eBay. So first up, adding the art to the buttons. Fairly simple to do, just be patient prising the button caps off and try to line the decals up where you want them. Happy with how they turned out, even if Player 1 is slightly losing his head.

Riser

Once the kit had all arrived, I decided a sensible place to start was the separate riser. Nice small parts, easily done on my own sitting on the floor. Also the joins are all done using modesty blocks, which is the same for the full cabinet. Was a bit of a practice before the main event. With the ongoing vertigo symptoms I was not in a hurry to work with the bigger panels of the cabinet.

Control Panel

Next up, and one of the most fun parts, putting the buttons and joysticks in. This was also the only part I needed to break out my drill. The control panel has holes pre-drilled for the buttons and joysticks, but when the mounting screws go for the joysticks are only part drilled as there are different fittings available. I just had to line up the correct ones for my mounting plates, and finish the drilling through. Was straight-forward, and I had a spare piece of wood handy that I put under panel while I drilled to reduce the likelihood of damage to the control panel surface.

I also played around with configuring the IPAC2 interface before I attached it to the panel. Didn’t entirely register what I was doing though, but once it was all assembled I hooked the Pi back up to my work monitor and figured it out. Quick shout out to my good buddy Ross here, for sharing the below image before I started, using this I managed to orientate both sticks the right way up first time (up, down, left and right aren’t labelled but each need a wire connecting to the IPAC2.

Joystick Wiring Guide

T-Molding

Initially hated doing this, but after I’d got used to it I quite enjoyed myself. I did the riser box first then the control panel, and gradually some of the panels for the cab itself over the course of a few days. It wasn’t too bad, but I did need to buy a rubber mallet. If anything it is nice to now own a rubber mallet. It was also fortunate that I owned a hot glue gun. As much as all the guides say you don’t need glue, and the t-molding will just stay in place, they’re wrong. (Likely that’s true working with ‘proper’ cabinets, but with the grooves cut in this board, it just popped back out when you went near a bend). A bit of hot glue in the trouble spots soon sorted it though.

Cabinet build

Now we’re talking. I was still held up waiting for the monitor to arrive, but with the drama in getting that I mentioned on the last post I decided to make a start without it anyway, and assembled the basic frame over a couple of days. Again it was probably only an hour or two of work, I was just taking it steady.

MAME Cabinet - coming together

Screen

When the screen finally arrived, I first set it up on the table, using the Pi and Arcade Stick mentioned above. Wanted to do a bit of testing before I went through the process of mounting it inside the cabinet. Was delighted that the HDMI to DVI cable I already had just worked and required no extra effort. At this point I settled on the “Arcade 1Up” 5:4 theme for Emulation Station. I was also testing the speakers from PC, I know a lot of people complain about “hiss” using the 3.5mm audio output on the pi, but there was no sign of that here so I decided to stick with these.

The monitor has a built in USB hub, so I moved the flash drive with my games up to that, immediately solving the problem of it running hot and raising the temperature of the Pi. Also provides convenient power for the marquee light (and also the Pacman lamp that now sits on top of the cab). Both lights now switch on when I power up the cab, and switch off when I shutdown RetroPie and the monitor goes into standby. Perfect.

That done, I took the screen and mounted it to the backing panel to fit into the cabinet. Again this was easy just standard VESA fittings. I also moved the cabinet out into the lounge as we approached the final stretch. Knew I wasn’t going to feel up to lifting it onto the riser on my own, so I gave it a temporary home till I had help. The T-molding on the base of the cabinet means it also slides easily so I didn’t need to lift it at all.

Assembly

The real fun, putting it all together, and everything working. There was a bit of a delay while I waited for the art for the marquee to arrive, so it was in place for a couple of days without the art, but playable. I’ve since taken the top off the little Raspberry Pi case to help keep it cooler, haven’t had any temperature issues anyway. Once the art was added I was able to get it lifted in place onto the riser and get on with the business of playing it.

Surround

The one bit I’ve done since writing the last post, my friends were kind enough to pick up a few sheets of this heavy black card from The Range. I may have another go and do it a bit neater, but my first attempt at cutting out a screen surround / bezel went well and I am pleased with the results.

MAME Cabinet - Finished

Final Comments

The machine is pretty much ‘done’ although I’m sure I’ll continue to tinker with bits here and there. I’ve been investigating the Raspberry Pi 4 models, and it seems that the 8GB version doesn’t offer any benefits for RetroPie so I may upgrade to the cheaper 4GB model sooner rather than later. Mostly as it is able to run a few later games than my current system.

MAME Cabinet featured

Finally, another project – MAME Arcade – Part 1

So during February I fulfilled a bit of a personal goal. I have wanted to put MAME into an arcade cabinet for around 20 years, and have simply wanted my own arcade machine since I was about 10. (A little longer than 20 years). A while back I built my “RetroPie joystick in a box” which was a bit of a proof of concept to see if I thought I could do the full thing. Fast-forward to Lockdown 2021, of which I’ve spent most of the year suffering with Labyrinthitis and ongoing vertigo symptoms. As mentioned in my January Games post, I decided to divert the funds I was holding for my PS5 into this project. Largely because they’re still difficult to get hold of, and the vertigo is keeping me from playing most modern games anyway.

Thankfully, the procrastination really paid off. This process is relatively straight-forward now, compared to what was involved 20 years ago. To be honest, I probably could have done the entire build in a day, but being unwell it was nice to have something to work on over a couple of weeks when I felt up to it. As you can see from the image, it’s complete apart from needing a surround for the monitor, to cover the insides (and the DELL logo).

MAME Cabinet

The main issue that has always put me building one of these, is the woodwork. I’m fairly confident about the wiring etc involved, but not the crafting out of wood. Fortunately, there are a number of providers who sell kits for this very thing. If you can assemble IKEA flat pack furniture, you’re most of the way there.

One of the first considerations, is what size machine to build. While there are lots of nice setups using modern widescreen TVs, these are more useful if you’re going the PC route and are going to play newer games that support higher resolutions and widescreen images. However, as I was going to use a RaspberryPi for the processing, and limit myself for gaming up to the late 1990s, a smaller 5:4 ratio screen was a better option. I found a kit for a 3/4 size cabinet, along with an addon for a riser box to lift it up so it is comfortable to play standing up.

You’ll see I had a few bits already, but I’ve listed all the components of my build below with links. As usual, those marked with a * are affiliate links. For the bulk of the build I returned to Arcade World UK*, where I picked up the parts for my previous RetroPie project, and also my PS4 Arcade Stick mod. As you’ll see from the photos, my colour scheme is loosely based on Bubble Bobble, green for player 1, and blue for player 2, with green for the T-Molding (trim).

When I first thought about doing this, I was going to just buy the minimum amount of stuff I needed to get something up and running and playable for just 1 player, using some parts I already had. I probably would have saved about £150 off the initial cost, but it would have remained a work in progress for the foreseeable future. I made the decision to buy everything I wanted to make a cabinet I really liked.

  • Flat pack kits
    • The main shell of my build, this 2 player 3/4 size upright arcade cabinet*.
    • This is the riser* to lift the cabinet higher. If you just intend to play seated (or for some reason you’re building one for children, you probably won’t need one of these)
  • Buttons
    • I took the same approach to buttons on the cabinet as I did when I did the RetroPie joystick. The 6 “action” buttons for each player are Sanwa OBSN-30 Screw In Arcade Buttons*. Admittedly I haven’t tried a lot of buttons to compare, but all the parts on my PS4 fight stick are Sanwa too, and I love that.
Buttons!
  • Encoder
    • When I did my RetroPie joystick, I just got a basic USB encoder* from Amazon, you could probably use 2 of these to accomplish the same control setup. However, with this build I wanted something better regarded. I went with this bundle of an IPAC2 complete with all the wiring* I’d need for my buttons. The IPAC2 has more than enough connections for me to do a 2 player system with 8 buttons each.
  • Joysticks
    • I had intended to get 2 of the same sanwa stick* I previously used in my other 2 projects, but at the time of ordering they were out of stock. I didn’t want to wait though so I had a read up on what else was available. I eventually settled on this Seimitsu LS-38-01 stick*, it’s basically the same as their LS-32-01 joystick, with a modification to make it much stiffer. I read a few positive reports from people who like similar games to me, and was convinced. I definitely prefer it to my sanwa stick for 2D Shmups, but I think I prefer the sanwa for games like Street Fighter. I am not good enough at either for it to really matter though…
    • In order for this stick to fit the control panel in the kit I purchased, I needed to select the SE Mounting plate option. I also added the H5P cable, which easily wires to the IPAC2.
  • T-Molding
    • This is the green trim* around the edges of the cabinet. Arcade World helpfully tells you how much to order for each of their kits, I added the 2 amounts together for both the cabinet and riser, and ordered 35 feet. I didn’t waste very much when I was installing it, and probably have 1 or 2′ leftover. Happy to report that their estimates are a good measure.
  • Raspberry Pi
    • I already had two of this RaspberryPi 3b+ model*, otherwise I’d suggest a bundle like this one. It’s definitely worth having an official PSU as variations in quality of USB power supplies have been known to cause issues with gaming on the Pi. I took the Pi out of my RetroPie joystick as I don’t expect to use that any more now I have a cabinet. (I’ve just converted that into an extra USB fight stick for my PC).
    • At some point I may upgrade my machine with an 8GB RaspberryPi 4*, but shelling out another £80 when I already had one that would do most of what I wanted seemed a waste. Maybe there will be another revision or something that makes more sense.
  • Art
    • For the marquee (the Bubble Symphony picture at the top) I was originally looking at various options on etsy. Once I realised all the sellers were in the USA, would cost me the same again in shipping fees and take forever to arrive, I started looking elsewhere. I found the very helpful team at Arcade Art Shop who had a huge selection of art, and were more than happy to print my preferred design to the dimensions I supplied for my cabinet. I went for this Bubble Symphony design, printed on the flexi-film, and it just popped in behind the plexi that came in my kit.
    • I had also been thinking about getting vinyl art for the sides and control panel as well, but now I’ve assembled the system I think I like the plain black panels with just the marquee.
    • As mentioned above, I wanted art for my Start and Coin buttons. I got the arcade button decals with the COIN design from this account on eBay. Very happy with how they turned out.
Buttons with decals
  • Light
    • For the light at the top behind the marquee panel, I picked up a little 5V USB LED strip. Not sure how long this link will last, but I went for this one, with the options White, Clear and 35 cm. Looks great installed, and draws power from a USB slot on the monitor.
Marquee lit
  • Monitor
    • I originally purchased a DELL 1917S from eBay, but this was the one spot of drama where the seller said it was shipped, then when it still hadn’t turned up a week after delivery, I contacted them and three days later they just refunded me without a word. Then relisted the item. There is always one…
    • I then found a DELL 1914S from someone else for £20 cheaper which arrived next day, so it worked out anyway. The only really issue with this screen over the other, was that it didn’t have HDMI input, so I had to use one of these cables* to connect via DVI. I had one of them handy anyway.
  • Speakers
    • I briefly looked at a variety of options for amps and separate speakers that could be wired to the top of the cabinet. However this was likely to cost around £50 by the time I’d factored in powering them, and given the quality of audio you can expect from 90s arcade games, I wasn’t keen to spend that. What I did instead was chuck these speakers from my PC* inside the cabinet (where I’m very happy with how it sounds for now) and spent £35 on a nicer 2.1 set for my PC. I generally limit how carried away I get with sound, out of respect for my neighbours. If I do decide to go the amp & speaker route, it’ll probably be something like this bundle*.
  • Keyboard
    • I already had the one that I was using with my RetroPie Joystick, and it conveniently sits unobtrusively on top of my cabinet. It is very handy to have a keyboard for tinkering with the software. Couldn’t find the exact model, but it’s sort of like this tecknet keyboard*, and I imagine it would be just as effective.
  • Monitor Surround
    • *update* I have now made up a surround from heavy back card, and will include photos in the part 2 blog post. The card was £1.50 a sheet from the local “The Range” and friends kindly picked some up for me given my continuing inability to walk that far. I have a few more sheets of it, and think I could do a neater job, but I’m pleased with it already and it now looks much more like a finished project.
  • Power Strip
    • For the moment, I’ve just got a fairly heavy duty extension cable in the cab. Mostly because it was what I had to hand, but also because I needed quite a long cable to get to the socket in my office, and I needed something I could easily take the plug off and put back on, to run it through the hole on the back panel. I will replace this with something a bit lower profile later.

I think that’s all the components. Build post is now up here as Part 2.

Arcade Cabinet Part 1
January Games 2021

January Games

Managed to start the year off pretty well, with three (count ’em!) completions. Even more impressive considering since halfway through the month I’ve been knocked out with Labyrinthitis and unable to play much of anything. I expect it’ll be at least mid-February before I get back to any VR.

Games completed this month

Gears of 4

Gears of War 4 – Xbox One / Series S

Spoiler for later down the list, but one of the first things I did with my new Xbox was pick up my co-op campaign where I left off with my mate Ross a couple of years ago. Thankfully my Nephew was around to see it through, as Ross has since surrendered his Xbox Gold account. Gears 5 next.


Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate - December Games - PS4

Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate – PS4

Played through the main story mode on this, as with the previous Mortal Kombat, and the two Injustice games, the story is really enjoyable and a real masterclass in how to do single player content in a versus fighter. The last boss fight soured the experience slightly, but that’s nothing new for these kind of games. I’ll have a little break then go back and play the single player story from the Aftermath DLC.

This* is the edition I picked up on PS4


Ori and the Will of the Wisps

Ori and the Will of the Wisps

First ‘next gen’ game played on my Series S, and I managed to finish it this month too. Although I only have the lower spec Series S Xbox, Ori is a real showcase for it. Was able to play the whole game in 4K with HDR at 60fps. Really great follow up to the first game, even if they have been copying Hollow Knight’s homework. Oh and that’s one ticked off from my playlist for 2021 as well.

Games played during January

Blood & Truth PSVR - January Games

Blood & Truth – PSVR

Was progressing quite nicely with this until I got ill. Hopefully I’ll be able to finish it off once I’m feeling better.


Sea Salt - January Games

Sea Salt – Xbox One / Series S

Only managed a quick go on this on GamePass. I think it’s leaving the service soon so probably won’t manage to get back to it. It was fun though so I may pick it up in the sale later. I was enjoying terrorising a seaside town with my easily describable minions, while playing as Dagon.


Forza Horizon 4

Forza Horizon 4 – Xbox Series S

Of course I’m back on this with the shiny new Xbox. Looks fantastic and is still the best racing game I’ve ever played. Seems to have been quite a few new races and events since I played last too.


Assault Android Cactus - January Games

Assault Android Cactus – Xbox One / Series S

I played this through a while back on my PC, not convinced I ever beat the last boss though. While I’ve been enjoying revisiting some of my existing library on Xbox I noticed I’d barely touched it on there. Thought I’d fire it up and see if I can bring myself to finish it this time round.


Civilization 6 Expansion Bundle - Switch

Civilization 6 Gathering Storm – Switch

This (and the following 2D games in this list) are all I’ve really been up to since getting ill. Anything in three dimensions is still a no go, but was good to give this a bit of an airing for the first time since I picked up the DLC. Still don’t really know what I’m doing though.


Parasol Stars - January Games

Parasol Stars – Core Grafx Mini

Possibly the first time I’ve really sat down to play this, and I’ve discovered a bit of a love for it. Also, I’ve mentioned it many times over now, but the Core Grafx Mini is an absolute gem.

As ever, buy one* and it’s even better with this wireless controller*.


Alien Crush - January Games

Alien Crush – Core Grafx Mini

Another I’ve spent plenty of time with previously (and discussed on the pinball episode of the podcast), but couldn’t resist getting back on it while I was playing on the mini. I’m also getting over the annoyance when the table flicks between the top and bottom screens.


Xeno Crisis - January Games

Xeno Crisis – Xbox One / Series S

As I’d discovered I could handle 2D games, I figured I’d give this a shot on GamePass. Really good game, pretty difficult though. Very much channels Smash TV, aesthetically, gameplay and apparently also difficulty!

January Pick-ups

Ghost Town - January Games

Ghost Town Mine Ride – PCVR

This was a pretty low budget pick up. Mostly just wanted something on the PCVR set similar to Until Dawn: Rush of Blood on the PSVR.


Last Resort - January Games

Last Resort (Neo Geo) – Switch

An old favourite Neo Geo game that got ported to the Switch a while back. They don’t go on sale that often, but for £3 this was an easy sale.


Xbox Series S

Xbox Series S & GamePass Ultimate

As mentioned above, I picked up the Series S at the start of the year. I know this version has received some flack on social media but I’m very happy with it. I was still using a launch model original Xbox One, so had missed out on any incremental upgrades from the later versions. I’m still going to pick up a PS5 to go alongside my gaming PC to make the most of the latest generation of games. However, the Series S does an excellent job of making my existing Xbox library, including some games from the original Xbox, look great on my 4K TV.

It also serves as a very convenient GamePass box, for playing the games on the subscription service, where it doesn’t matter that it doesn’t have a disc drive. For the price, and quite frankly the small size of the device compared to the monsters that are the PS5 and Xbox Series X, it is a lovely device.

Still quite difficult to get hold of but when Amazon do have them, they’re here*.


Bezier - January Games

Bezier: Second Edition – Switch

A friend sent me a link to the trailer for this, it was clearly very Geometry Wars in style, so I had to get involved. Didn’t hurt that it was only a fiver at launch too.

Games pre-ordered this month

Bravely Default  2 - January Games

Bravely Default 2 – Switch

It’s almost four years since I last played a Japanese RPG (the incredible Panzer Dragoon Saga on the SEGA Saturn), so I’m about ready to play one again. Of the 5 I have played before, the original Bravely Default on 3DS was not without issues, but I did have some good fun with it. My friend pointed me to a demo of this new one on the Switch store, which I played around with before putting in my pre-order. I have gone for a physical edition* though, so I can at least trade it in if I’ve made a terrible mistake.

It’s due at the end of February, it could take my mind off trying to get hold of a PS5 for a while. This is just as well, as I’m thinking about putting that back a few months anyway, and diverting funds towards another project. More on that story later.


*As usual, these links are affiliate ones, which may earn me a small commission if you buy something.

2021 in Games

2021 in Games

Continuing to only slightly progress the planned list, I have decided to drop off some of the titles that I have already rolled forward previously. Going back to the 2020 list I allowed myself four games I didn’t play to take forward. The others were either abandoned during my updates in 2020 or “back on the shelf”.


Top 5 played in 2020

1. Animal Crossing: New Horizons – Switch

This was on the playlist from last year, and after putting in 400 hours, it does have to be my game of the year really. I did stop playing when I moved house over the Summer, and I haven’t been back to it. I’m sure I’ll get the urge again this year though, if only to do the Autumn and Winter seasons I didn’t play yet.

If you have a Switch you must own this* already, right?


2. Marvel’s Spider-man – PS4

Yes everyone else played it the year before, but it does deserve most of the praise. I did find some of the side content tedious, too much busy work. It’s only the same problem that most open world games have, and the main story did make up for it.

Amazon link*


Ritual of the Night - Switch

3. Bloodstained Ritual of the Night – Switch

Despite the initial false start attempting this on the Xbox One originally, and then the gap to progress for a year when I got stuck on the “Bloodless” boss, I did really enjoy this. It seems to still be getting content added as well so I may have another look at it for that later too. As “metroidvanias” go, this almost certainly deserves a place on my top 5. Will need to think about where it goes if I ever refresh that list.

As per previous posts, the Switch version* doesn’t run as well as the PC or other console ones, but if you mostly play your Switch in Handheld mode, it’s a very satisfying experience now they’ve fixed the original issues.


51 Worldwide Games - Switch

4. 51 Worldwide Games – Switch

I was a bit torn with this, as I was hoping for more in terms of the online multiplayer options. As a standalone piece though, and with local multiplayer, this is a worthy follow up to the stellar 42 All-time Classics on the Nintendo DS.

As a cheaper release anyway, 51 Worldwide Games* is still easy to recommend for the money if the idea interests you at all.


Modern Warfare - February Games

5. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019) – PC

Really enjoyed the campaign, but mostly what I enjoyed was spending a lot of time during this pandemic playing online with my best mate. I remain grateful that they finally got proper cross platform working. It has been really great to be able to play on my PC, while he was on his PS4, and it to just, work. Complete with voice chat. The multiplayer remains some of the best around.


Also rans:

Core Grafx Mini

Didn’t think I could really list one of the mini consoles as a top game of the year, but it was certainly a highlight. Still an easy recommend.

Seriously, these are great*

Command & Conquer Remaster – PC

Bit of a surprise this. Unfortunately it was so well done and polished that it destroyed the lacklustre Warcraft 3: Reforged, and derailed my plans to replay that campaign. I did get a bit stuck (as usual) on the original C&C GDI story though, so I should try to go back to it.

Streets of Rage 4 – Xbox One

I think a lot of people were surprised how well this turned out. A real gem this year. Didn’t make my list though as while it’s great fun in local multiplayer, I still don’t really rate brawlers like this as single player games.

Think I assumed this was digital only (outside of those heinous ‘limited’ collectors editions). Apparently not*.


10 games for 2021

1. Super Metroid – Switch / SNES

Despite my statement last year, I’m giving this one more run out. If only because I’m still yet to play any of the NES or SNES games on the Switch and I should at least get to one. It is year four though, oh dear.


2. StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void – PC

Another one that survives for another year on the list, I think I would have gotten to this if I wasn’t distracted by the Command & Conquer Remaster. Oh and if Blizzard hadn’t become a terrible company that made me actively not want to play their games. I do want to close out the StarCraft II trilogy though so hoping to get to it.


3. The Last Express – PC

“Last one on the list that I’ve brought with me from last year. Gotta have a train game!” – Think I’ll keep that quote from last year too…


Myst 3 Exile - 2020 in games

4. Myst III: Exile – PC

Last of the ones I’m taking forward, I do still intend to progress my way through all these. However long it takes. I can already see me replaying the original MYST again when the new VR version comes to Steam though.


Airborne Kingdom - December Games

5. Airborne Kingdom – PC

Only picked this up in December, and I already know I want to play it through. It is very pretty, and seems to have an interesting campaign / story for a city builder.


Shadow of the Tomb Raider - PS4

6. Shadow of the Tomb Raider – PS4

I really enjoyed the first two games in this trilogy, but wasn’t in a rush to play more. It’s been long enough now that I’m looking forward to this one, and Sony were kind enough to make it one of the free games for January. Excellent.


Call of Cthulhu - Xbox / PC

7. Call of Cthulhu – Xbox / PC

Think I have this on both Xbox and PC so we’ll see how I feel when I get round to starting it. We all know I enjoy a Lovecraftian Videogame and I’ve heard good things about this one.


Ori and the Will of the Wisps

8. Ori and the Will of the Wisps – Xbox

Very much enjoyed the original, despite some of the more punishing platforming sections. I’ll probably play it on the next Xbox I pick up, likely a Series S.


Spider-Man: Miles Morales - PS5

9. Miles Morales – PS5

The first of two games I don’t actually own yet, it’s still my intention to pick up a PlayStation 5 once they’re available again. I’m hoping I can get one by February, and take a week off work to play. This game is first on the list. Second and third on the list are my free upgrades to the PS5 versions of Madden 21 and Mortal Kombat 11. Obviously.

Think you need the ultimate edition* if you want the remastered original game. And of course you want that.


Hollow Knight: Silksong - 2020 in Games

10. Hollow Knight: Silksong – Switch?

As expected, this didn’t come out in 2020, but should arrive in 2021, and I shall be there when it does. The first game was a perfect fit for the Switch, but as my home situation changed, I find I don’t play it handheld anymore. I might then go for whichever version of Silksong is going to look best on my big TV.


2021 releases I’m looking forward too

Returnal – PS5

The new one from Housemarque. I’m not entirely sure I’ll like this, as I’m not big on third person shooters or roguelikes. However, Housemarque still made some of my favourite games, so I’m going to give it a go.


Back 4 Blood – PC

After getting back into Left 4 Dead 2 last year, I’m quite looking forward to this. Not sure I’ll get it on release though, looks pretty pricey for something I’ll only play casually with friends. We’ll see.


God of War: Ragnarok - 2021 Games

God of War: Ragnarok – PS5

Another sequel to a game I enjoyed previously. All going well this should be a real showcase for the PS5.


Gotham Knights - 2021 Games

Gotham Knights – TBC

Not sure where I’ll play this, but if it’s anything like the Batman Arkham games, I should enjoy it, and it is very appealing to play as the Bat Family.


*these are affiliate links, I’ll get a small commission if you buy something.


December Games 2020

December Games

Nothing else finished for the end of the year, but I did abandon another game, so that’s pretty similar.

Games played during December

Need for Speed Rivals - PS4

Need 4 Speed Rivals – PS4

Picked this up in the sale for a couple of quid, just as something else to play online with a buddy. Had fun with it for an evening, not sure if we’ll go back to it but pretty much already had my money’s worth. Basically spent my entire time wondering why I was playing it when Forza Horizon is a thing.


Star Trek Bridge Crew - PSVR

Star Trek Bridge Crew – PSVR

Not only did we play this again during December, we also managed 4 players to have a full crew. It was everything I’d hoped for, more please in 2021.


Geometry Wars 3 – PS4

I quit playing this ages ago, but one of my mates picked it up on sale in December. He proceeded to obnoxiously send me a screenshot of him beating my Pacifism score. I then fired it up to do something about that, and noticed I was being beaten by at least one of my friends on all but one of the classic leader boards. Had fun for a week or so correcting that on them all. Still a fantastic game.


Mario Kart 8 Deluxe - December Games

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – Switch

With various friends and family members getting Switches this year, Mario Kart 8 pretty much became the game of Christmas. Enjoyed revisiting the entertaining multiplayer, even if my Nephew entirely dominates the number one spot.

Amazon link* the price fluctuates a lot for this. It was below £40 just before Christmas


Worms W.M.D. - PS4 - September Games

Worms W.M.D. – PS4 and Switch

Double-dipped for this so as well as continuing to play the PS4 version, I can also play against all those new Switch owners in the family too.

PS4 version on Amazon*

December Pick-ups

PC VR Headset

PC VR Headset – Lenovo Explorer

After I had been discussion my thoughts on a recent podcast episode about maybe picking up a PC VR headset in addition to my existing PSVR setup, a mate offered me this for a great price. It’s a lovely bit of kit, and gives me access to those games that haven’t made their way to the PlayStation. Amusingly I’ve had to order some prescription lenses for it so I can see properly. Unlike the PSVR helmet there is no room for my glasses inside!


Airborne Kingdom - December Games

Airborne Kingdom – PC (epic)

Another I’d been watching for a while, I grabbed this from the Epic Store, their sale with the combined £10 voucher made it silly money. A beautiful looking and very mellow (floating) city builder. Will put this on the playlist for 2021 as I’m keen to give it a proper go.


Locomotion - Switch

Locomotive – Switch

I did manage a go on the PC version of this back at EGX 2019. However it came up on the Nintendo eShop for about 90p so grabbed it there instead. Fun little puzzle game. With a train.


GameBoy Color and EZ Flash Junior

Forgot to include the GameBoy in my November roundup, but it was my one Black Friday purchase. A custom modded GameBoy Color with a lovely bright backlit screen. In December I added the EZ Flash Junior card for it. Much cheaper alternative to the equivalent EverDrives, and seemed worth a punt after the success I had with the EZ Flash Omega for GBA games on my DS Lite. I’m now considering a second Junior to use with my original GameBoy.

Might get a link cable too, who wants to play some GameBoy Tetris and Golf?


Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate - December Games - PS4

Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate – PS4

Had my eye on this for a while, went on sale just as I was gifted a timely Amazon voucher as a bit of a professional reward. Very pleased with it already, and happy that it’s another game (along with Madden) that will give me the PS5 upgrade for free when I can get hold of one.

This* is the edition I picked up on PS4


Tetris 99 - Switch

Tetris 99 – Switch

Okay so I already have all the digital content for this, but the physical edition with 12 months of Nintendo Online was on sale for only £1 more than just the online subscription. Nice for the shelf anyway.

Although the online Tetris 99 gameplay is free, the DLC content is a nice way to play some solo Tetris. If you need to pick up an online pass for the Switch anyway, you could do worse than grabbing this package*.


Sayonara Wild Hearts - Switch - December Games

Sayonara Wild Hearts – Switch

Heard a lot about this when it first came out, and some friends were talking about playing it recently too. Another sale purchase. First impressions are good but it really made me want to go back to playing Thumper.

Games retired this month

Kingdom Hearts Final Mix HD - October Games

Kingdom Hearts Final Mix – PS4

Well I tried.


*As usual, these links are affiliate ones, which may earn me a small commission if you buy something.

November Games

November Games

I only went and finished something. Didn’t play much else though. Haven’t finished many games at all this year, I do have some time off over Christmas but I’m 5 books behind schedule on my goodreads challenge, so might be making more of an effort to hit my target there instead.

Games completed this month

Ritual of the Night - November Games

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night – Switch

Finished this on the Switch. It was a bit of an effort to get back into Bloodstained as I hadn’t played it for ages and I knew I was stuck at a boss. Forced myself back into it though, and rather than continuing to just lose fighting the same boss, I went off and did some side quest things and generally explored / levelled up. I’m not going to bother doing 100% completion, but I did get the true ending. That will do.

You can pick up a physical copy for the main consoles here* it definitely runs much better on the Xbox and PS4 (and PC) but it is perfectly playable on Switch now it’s had a few performance patches, and I still find the Switch the best way to play these “metroidvania” games.

Games played during November

Modern Warfare - February Games

Modern Warfare – PC

Think this is slowly dropping off, but I managed a couple more sessions on the multiplayer this month. I don’t really like the look of the new Call of Duty so I’ll probably sit that one out. Maybe they’ll return to Modern Warfare for the next outing.


Left 4 Dead 2: Last Stand - PC

Left 4 Dead 2 – PC

We managed some more multiplayer on this during November, the standalone campaign missions make it perfect for arranging casual gaming nights where people generally only have a couple of hours to play.


Elite Dangerous - PC

Elite Dangerous – PC

Haven’t played much of this yet, but I’ve had it for quite a while. As Epic gave it away free this month, some of my friends grabbed it and there is talk of maybe trying to play together. We’ll see if that ever happens, in the meantime it was fun to do the tutorial at least. It was also a good excuse to dust off my flight stick. It’s only basic, but I have a Thrustmaster T.Flight Stick X. It’s similar to this HOTAS model on Amazon* but without the massive throttle.


*As usual, these links are affiliate ones, which may earn me a small commission if you buy something.

Black Friday 2020

Black Friday 2020 Deals page

No I’m not usually a fan of importing Americanisms like Black Friday, but I do like a bargain. Yes you can also spend your money more ethically than with Amazon, but for as long as they continue to be the cheapest option and frequently the most convenient, it is hard to ignore.

This is broadly going to be a bit of a round up of Amazon’s stuff, but will include anything else good I spot. Also a couple of links to things not currently discounted for Black Friday, but may be a better option than things that are on sale. If you are looking to buy books and would rather support independent local bookstores, then it may be worth looking into Bookshop.org instead.

The Amazon links here, like elsewhere on my blog, are affiliate links where I get a small payment if you use them and buy something. Thanks. The rest of them are just ordinary links though so feel free to hit those without worrying about me benefiting…

Amazon hardware

Amazon’s own range of devices are frequently a solid choice for personal electronics. I use a few myself that are easy recommends.

Kindle Fires

Although these can be a bit annoying if you want to use apps that are not available in the Amazon app store, it is relatively straight forward to install the normal Google Play store onto the devices. These days you can basically convert them to just run as standard Android tablets. That said, they are excellent value for money specially if you wait for them to be on sale. As usual they are reduced for Black Friday, but always reliable for a good deal on “Amazon Prime Days” too.

I have used a couple of these, and one is still in use as my main tablet now. I don’t do any 3D gaming on it, but use it for watching all the main streaming services, reading comics & PDFs and for playing card and board games.

My preferred choices:

Fire HD 10

This is the kindle fire I have myself. I upgraded from the original HD version of the Fire 8 model below. I was very happy with the smaller device, but for reading digital comics, the 10″ screen means the whole page fits comfortably on screen and is as close as you can get to the experience of reading a physical comic. It’s also reliably in use every Sunday as I stream Red Zone on it while watching the Dallas Cowboys game on the big screen.

Oh and if you go for the one with Special Offers / Ads to save a few quid, you can always pay the extra later to have them removed.

Fire HD 8 Plus

A new addition to the range is this “Plus” model of the HD 8. While I happily used the HD 8 for ages, the extra RAM and improved battery life of the Plus seems well worth the slightly extra price. It is likely to be longer before you’ll want an upgrade.

Although reading comics is much more comfortable on the HD 10, if you’re going to carry the tablet around a lot the HD 8 is probably the sweet spot for display size vs portability.

Firestick 4K Ultra HD

Increasingly redundant as more people move to Smart TV’s or connect other set top boxes with media apps like Blu-ray Players & game consoles, the firestick is still one of the better options for accessing apps on your TV. I’ve gone for the 4k model here, as even if you don’t have a 4k display, that bit of extra performance in the device should make it a bit snappier to use.

If you’re a bit of a techie there are plenty of modding options for Firesticks too, but personally I just have one set up to access Netflix, Prime and Britbox on my aging bedroom TV.

Kindle E-Readers

Kindle

The original Amazon device. Earlier models of these didn’t have any kind of light, with the “e-ink” displays doing their best to replicate paper. Still a solid choice for getting started with ebooks if like me you don’t enjoy reading on your phone.

Kindle Paperwhite

Not currently discounted as I write this, but worth checking in case they do add a discount come Friday. This is the kindle I use myself. It does see discounts down to around £80ish, and is the e-reader I’d recommend. The kindle oasis is nice but I’m not convinced it’s worth the significant additional cost, even with the current offer.

Alexa and Friends

I’m still not sold on any of the A.I. listening devices, and at present have disabled Alexa, Cortana and Google listening software on my electronics that support them. However, if you’re in the market for one, Black Friday is a good time for those too.

For new customers to Amazon Music, this Echo Dot with free 6 months of Amazon Music Unlimited is a great deal (just remember to cancel the subscription to Amazon Music if you don’t want to keep it after the 6 months).

The Echo Show 5 has a decent discount if you like your A.I. to be watching you as well as listening. I’m sure it’s fine, I’ve just watched too much X-Files.

Otherwise, there are plenty of discounts across the whole range of Alexa enabled devices here.

Not on Amazon, but if Google is more your thing, they’re currently doing their Nest Hub for £59.99.

Amazon subscription offers

Kindle Unlimited

Kindle Unlimited is a pretty good value proposition if you read a lot (and are not concerned about having books to keep on the shelf). Some of the included digital magazines are pretty nice too for reading on a tablet. New subscribers can currently get Two Months Free instead of the usual shorter trial.

Amazon Music Unlimited

I still struggle a bit with the way the music streaming industry treats artists, although I’m not sure Kindle Unlimited is much better for authors… However, they are a good way to discover new music, and listening to other people’s playlists is fun. Just remember if you want to support the bands you love, go see them live (if that’s ever a thing again) or buy their merch from them direct.

Black Friday has a free three months trial (instead of the usual 30 days) for new subscribers.

Other Amazon links

Core Grafx Mini

Again as yet not discounted, but have come down since the RRP anyway. These saw a good discount last prime day so will be worth checking on Friday to see if they have another deal on. (If not, they’re still well worth £75). Comfortably the best of the ‘mini’ consoles, I still love mine. Should you pick one up, I also recommend the 8bitdo additional controller rather than trying to get another wired official one. They look the part, are very comfortable to use, and best of all are wireless with no noticeable input delay (I use mine to play pinball and shmups without issue).

PC Engine CoreGrafx Mini

Injustice 2 Legendary Edition (PS4)

This is a good deal for one of the best fighting games ever. It’s not much of a discount from the regular price, but circa £15 for the complete edition with all the extra characters still feels like a bargain to me.

Doom Eternal (PS4/PC/Xbox One)

This seems a decent price, £17 for retail editions of the PC, PS4 or Xbox One version of the game. Also comes with a steel poster, which looks fun apart from it appears to be the same size as a game case. Not sure if that meets the definition of ‘poster’ but fun all the same.

Madden 21 (PS4)

Not a super great deal really but a fair price if you fancy this and haven’t picked it up yet. Particularly if you intend to get a PS5 in the next month or two as so long as you get the full PS5 with the disc drive, you can put this PS4 disc into it to access the PS5 version of the game for free. If “football” football is more your bag, the same applies to FIFA 21, at the same price point.

Amazon Warehouse

Amazon Warehouse is where they clear out items that have been returned, for whatever reason and for Black Friday there is an additional 30% off. If you don’t mind things being “nearly new” it is certainly worth browsing. The goods are still guaranteed and the descriptions will tell you what condition to expect. I purchased my PSVR setup from the Amazon Warehouse Black Friday sale a few years ago, for about £100 less than RRP. The outer box was ripped but inside it was all mint, and the device still had all the plastic covers on.

Other sales to check out

Magic Madhouse

Not a site I knew of before a couple of weeks ago, but their early Black Friday sale was brought to my attention, and a couple of really good deals on board games stood out. Also had excellent prices on the sleeves I needed for my copy of 7 Wonders: Duel. Very pleased with the service, so happy to recommend them here. They mostly focus on collectable card games like Magic the Gathering (as you might expect from the name), Pokemon etc. including selling individual cards. They do have a good range of general table top board and card games though too.

Chaos Cards

Another great resource for board games, usually good prices anyway. Worth checking their Black Friday sale too.

Currys

Currys have come a long way in terms of competitive pricing and customer service in recent years. I’ve found myself using them quite a bit for games consoles, chromebooks and various general bits of tech. It’s still worth shopping around to compare prices, but I feel much more comfortable recommending them these days. Their Black Friday sale is worth a look.

Argos

Looks like a promising selection from Argos for Black Friday this year, although the best deals seem to be on hair straighteners and I don’t know enough about those to say if it’s a bargain.

GAME

Unsurprisingly, GAME have a tendency to have a more cynical approach to Black Friday, with items on sale being already available for the same price (or cheaper) elsewhere. Worth a look to compare prices if you’re after something specific, but definitely double check other places before buying there.

October Games

October Games

Another month with very little played, running out of time to do much about backlog again this year. Did make a start on a fairly lengthy action RPG though so maybe I’ll manage to tick that one off before we get to January. Otherwise I did get to a bit of online co-operative gaming too.

Games played during October

Madden 21 - PS4

Madden 21 – PS4

Tailing off a bit with this, although getting some free packs with Amazon / Twitch Prime has helped boost my team along a bit. I still don’t really understand all the ultimate team jazz though.

Available on Amazon*


Modern Warfare - February Games

Modern Warfare – PC

Still having fun with occasional bursts on the Modern Warfare multiplayer. I don’t really like the look of the new Call of Duty, so will probably just stick with this one till something else comes along.


Kingdom Hearts Final Mix HD - October Games

Kingdom Hearts Final Mix HD – PS4

One I’ve had for ages, this is the first game on the Kingdom Hearts – The Story So Far collection. I’ve never previously played any of the Kingdom Hearts games, wrongly believing they were turn based JRPGS (which I don’t often get on with). However, when Kingdom Hearts 3 came out, I saw some trailers that made me want to give it a go. This compilation seemed a good way to start from the beginning, and represents some pretty major value in terms of content. I’m probably about a third of the way through this first time, and still enjoying myself.

I grabbed this from Amazon* back in February, only just got round to playing it.


Alienation - PS4

Alienation – PS4

Had a bit of a session on this with a mate, it’s still a good game but pretty tough in places. Think we’re probably missing something which would make it easier (two other people for instance) but I still enjoyed it.


Star Trek Bridge Crew - PSVR

Star Trek Bridge Crew – PSVR

Second of three online co-operative games played this month. Playing Bridge Crew in VR online is pretty special, and has only taken a couple of years to actually arrange. I’m hoping we can get another session together soon as it really shows off the potential for VR with friends. Even if it did take me a while to get to grips with the helm controls. Punch it.


Left 4 Dead 2: Last Stand - PC

Left 4 Dead 2 – PC

Despite being 10 years old, Left 4 Dead 2 recently received a big update adding a whole extra mission. I managed to play through the new content with some friends and very much enjoyed the return. Amusingly after we finished the new stuff I realised I’ve played less than half of the content that was already in the game.


October Pick-ups

Blair Witch - PC

Blair Witch – PC (Epic)

Not sure if this counts as a pick up since it was free, but it came up on the Epic Game Store as one of their weekly freebies. Grabbed it as I meant to play it when I had an active GamePass subscription but figure it may have gone from that library when I get round to resubscribing. Big fan of the films (well, the first two – the remake was dubious), but don’t like many survival horror games so not sure how much I’ll get out of this. Worth a try for free though.


*As usual, these links are affiliate ones, which may earn me a small commission if you buy something.

September Games Header

September Games

Late posting this month, mostly as I managed to actually go on holiday for a week and visit my mate in Jersey. Nothing completed either, fairly poor show all round – should make for a short post.

Games played during September

Madden 21 - PS4

Madden 21 – PS4

Still very much enjoying myself with Madden 21, just ticking along playing the single player content in the Ultimate Team. Zero chance of playing online unless one of my friends picks it up though.


Wipeout Omega Collection – PS4

The other games I did play during September were all purely online with a buddy. First up a return to the incredible Wipeout collection on PS4. We discovered the multiplayer Zone races are very addictive and a bit of a new favourite way to play this. Also prompted me to put a bit more time into the campaign again too.


Fall Guys - PS4 - September Games

Fall Guys – PS4

Largely gave into peer pressure to try this. It was free on PS Plus which I needed to re-subscribe to in order to play online anyway. It is a fun distraction to play while chatting and catching up on the weeks events, but can’t see me playing otherwise. Tetris 99* remains the only worthwhile Battle Royale game for me.


Worms W.M.D. - PS4 - September Games

Worms W.M.D. – PS4

Still one of the finest multiplayer game series ever made, and my favourite version to play since Worms World Party. While it works best for local multiplayer games, it holds up well online. Only really loses out due to inexplicably being unable to add in an AI player or two for comedy value.

Still readily available on Amazon* and doesn’t cost much. Think it’s on pretty much every platform now too.

September Pick-ups

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1&2 - September Games

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1&2 – PlayStation 4

Another masterclass in polishing old games, this is fantastic. I’m still not very good at it, but have enjoyed the couple of hours I’ve spent with it so far.

Pre-orders

Much like last month, it’s just another story of not pre-ordering. In September I briefly pre-ordered the Mario 3D Allstars for Switch. I cancelled it within about 30 minutes though, as I reminded myself that I didn’t like the artificial scarcity approach to marketing that Nintendo were using. Also helped that I still really don’t like Mario 64 and wasn’t happy that I’d be buying it again.

I did pre-order the new Faithless album “All Blessed”* though, when I discovered that was a thing. As per the presence of Reverence in my Ten Perfect Albums, I’ve long been a Faithless fan, and willing to give the new album a shot. Even without Maxi Jazz on vocals.


*As usual, these links are affiliate ones, which may earn me a small commission if you buy something.

August Games

August Games

Not a great deal of gaming this month, mostly as I was too busy moving house. Did finish a couple of games though.

Games completed this month

Tekken 7 - Xbox One

Tekken 7 – Xbox One

As this was on GamePass I thought I’d have a play through the single player campaign mode. Forgetting we have just been spoiled by the Injustice and recent Mortal Kombat games, this was a crash back into the world of terrible fighting game story modes. I did not have a good time.

If you fancy trying this travesty for yourself (or just want to play the admittedly much more fun multiplayer) it is available from Amazon*


A Way Out - August Games

A Way Out – PS4

After our session back in January, Phil and I finally got back on this. We finished the story on our second time of playing, but what a great experience it was. A real highlight was all the mini games hidden around the place. We had a great time playing a bit of connect 4, darts, and even a bit of baseball.


Games played during August

Modern Warfare - June Games

Modern Warfare – PC

Once again managed to play a bit more of this in multiplayer. It was also the first game I played once I had moved into my new place, unpacked and set up my gaming and office spaces.

I think you can only buy the PC version direct from Battle.net, but you can get the console editions here*


Beyond Blue - PC

Beyond Blue – PC

Still haven’t spent much time with this, but did spend a bit of time swimming with Whales. Very much like the Endless Ocean games on Wii, think I’ll be coming back to this.


Madden 21 - PS4

Madden 21 – PS4

This seems to have been pretty slaughtered by the enthusiast press, but I’m quite happy with it. The criticism mostly seems to be around there not having been much progress made since the 2020 game. Bounced off me though, I think the last version I spent any time with was 2018 so it is all pretty fresh. I’ve been having a good time with it, and it’s just nice to have some sport to enjoy!


PC Engine CoreGrafx Mini

Core Grafx Mini

Spent quite a bit of time with the games on here. Mostly the shmups and Parasol Stars, it’s a great little console.

These are still available exclusively to Amazon*, and possibly slightly less than RRP now. Easily the best of the current crop of ‘mini’ consoles for me.

August Pick-ups

Not Tonight: Take Back Control Edition - Switch

Not Tonight: Take Back Control Edition – Nintendo Switch

This looked interesting along the same lines as the game “Papers Please”, and cropped up very cheaply in a sale. Grabbed it but haven’t played yet.


Retired during August

Animal Crossing: New Horizons – Nintendo Switch

It finally happened, probably partly due to the move, but I stopped playing everyday and now I haven’t been on for a few weeks. I expect I’ll at least go back for the winter events (yes I want to build a snowman…) but in the meantime I’m definitely on hiatus.

Pre-orders

This is more about not pre-ordering, but in August I did pass up on the Analogue Pocket pre-orders. I did get into the window and almost pulled the trigger on one in my basket, but talked myself out of it. I don’t really need one, and now Neo Geo Pocket Color games have started coming out on Switch I want one even less. I might revisit them down the line but I’m currently thinking about a back-lit Game Boy Colour instead.


*As usual, these links are affiliate ones, which may earn me a small commission if you buy something.