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
June was a relatively quiet month for game progress, but have managed to find a reasonable amount of time to play. Even wrapped one game up.
Games completed this month
Nefarious – Switch
Well I cleared it. Nothing mind blowing but the boss fights were really fun even if the rest was filler.
Games played during June
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Xbox One
Still playing this, mostly enjoying it but the crafting, alchemy etc are all tedious, and I’m already bored of Gwent. The story is great though so I’m hoping to stick with it.
House of the Dead: Overkill – PS3
Dusted off the PS3 Gun Grips for the Move Controllers and played a few rounds of this with my partner. Still one of the best lightgun shooters ever.
Typing of the Dead: Overkill – PC
Partly inspired by playing House of the Dead again, but also as it was something a bit different to what others were playing, I played a bit of this while setting up my PC to do some Twitch streaming. Not sure if I’ll ever stream much, but it was fun to dabble.
Timespinner – Switch
Only picked this up this month, but have already put a bit of time into it. It’s a very straight forward Castlevania: Symphony of the Night clone, with the graphic style of a Super Nintendo Japanese RPG. I have been enjoying it but the art style isn’t really my kind of thing and it feels very limited after Hollow Knight.
Forza Horizon 4: Lego Speed Champions – Xbox One / PC
Easily the best news out of E3 for me, this expansion for Forza Horizon 4 is a worthy successor to the Hot Wheels expansion for Horzion 3. I have been having a great time with it, but I’m mildly concerned I’m going to have to spend more time doing the boring stuff like drift challenges in order to complete the main single player content.
Dauntless – PC
Spent a couple of hours on this with 2 friends. We had a good time, and I think it’ll replace Apex Legends as our backup game for when we don’t have enough for Vermintide 2. We do tend to prefer co-operative experiences for these sessions.
Gears of War 4 – Xbox One / PC
Managed again to get a bit more online time on this with my buddy. We’re finally getting there, and may even see the credits roll before Gears 5 comes out in September.
Dead Space Extraction – PS3
Another one that made my Top Lightgun game list, put a bit of time into this on the PS3 in preparation for an upcoming podcast episode. Still great fun, and having spent more time with the Dead Space series since I wrote that list, I can now say it’s my favourite Dead Space game…
Epic Pinball Complete – PC
Definitely one of those impulse purchases I’ll probably never play, but couldn’t resist this collection when it went on sale for a couple of quid on Good Old Games. Basically just another bunch of DOS based pinball tables I used to play on my old PC back in the 90s.
Xbox Live Ultimate
Bit of a ridiculous bargain this. Microsoft promotion meant that taking a £1 trial of Game Pass Ultimate (which includes Xbox Live Gold, Xbox Game Pass and Game Pass for PC) also converted whatever remaining subscription you had to any of those services, to be Ultimate. I had just upgraded my Xbox Live Gold for another year, so I got 13 months of Game Pass Ultimate for £1. Already a few games on there I’m looking to play, including Metro Exodus and the most recent Tomb Raider.
Concluding my list of Ten Perfect Albums, this is where my hip-hop related cognitive dissonance comes home to roost. I love this album, but it’s easily the most problematic on my list, and I have a not insignificant love/hate relationship with Kanye West. This album is incredible, and very much deserves to be here. If you’re put off by swearing though, I suggest skipping this one, and maybe head back to the Pet Shop Boys where it’s safer.
I first heard this album on a trip to visit my friend Charlie in the states towards the end of 2010. I went out there with a couple of other friends, and of these, Dave had this album (and an almost unreasonable amount of Drake) on his phone. We had rented a car which we took on an epic two day road trip from Charlottesville, Virginia up to New York via Washington DC and then calling at Philadelphia (for a race up the ‘Rocky’ steps) on the way back. Dave had control of the Aux lead so we listened to his phone. (I don’t drive so I did as I was told)
Pretty much became our theme song when I was living with my friend Tonia. It’s definitely time for us to have a toast.
My first exposure to Nicki Minaj, and an absolute stand out on the album (They aren’t kidding about that [Explicit] warning either). Can’t deny that Nicki’s verse completely steals the track, as much as I still enjoy the rest.
With the opening track, Kanye sets the scene for the album. That hook is still haunting. Can we get much higher?
Relationship with the album
The album conveniently soundtracks a significant life change for me. As well as being the sounds of my trip to America, it was also the score for the few months that followed my separating from my ex-wife. Particularly the first 6 weeks where I was living in Tonia’s box room. Although obviously an emotionally charged time, Tonia was an amazing support and I think we must have listened to this album, with plenty of toast, every single day. Thank you Tonia. <3
Listening to the album now takes me back to that time in a positive way, for what are ultimately good memories. Things work out.
Urgh. He’s clearly very talented, but deeply unpleasant. One of those times where I’ve managed to separate art from artist. Have recently discovered I do have a limit for that though, as I can no longer listen to Morrissey…
Other albums and songs
Watch the Throne
As my previous Black Album post covered, I do have considerable love for Jay-Z, so it’s no surprise that I enjoyed this collaboration album. It’s easier to reconcile liking it as a Jay-Z fan too.
No Church in the Wild
Diamonds From Sierra Leone
Back when I still naively thought Kanye West might be a force for good, and another great collaboration with Jay-Z for the remix.
While I struggle to reconcile enjoying Kanye West’s work, it doesn’t take away my enjoyment of this album. Its content isn’t going to be for everyone, but even then you can’t fault the production. It is perfect.
I’ve been meaning to do this for handheld game consoles since I posted my Top 5 Consoles in 2016. Admittedly that list kind of spoils the winner for this one, but I’m happy with my selections. I’m making no effort to be objective, because where’s the fun in that.
5) Neo Geo Pocket Color
The only one on this list I don’t currently own, mostly because the games are now super expensive and like the Game Boy Color and original GBA the screen is awful without a light mod. I loved it at the time though, getting one for Christmas 1999. I convinced my Mum to get it for me on the UK launch in October that year, and then had to wait till Christmas to play it.
The library for the NGPC is pretty small, but it did have some great games. The main reason this made it onto the list over other contenders, is how good the little thumb stick controller is. To this day it’s the only handheld game console that I’ve really enjoyed playing fighting games on, even more so than on the consoles higher up in this list.
Capcom vs SNK: Match of the Millennium
Neo Turf Masters
Samurai Showdown! 2
King of Fighters R-2
Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure
Metal Slug 1st & 2nd Mission
4) Nintendo Game Boy
This is largely earning it’s place among my favourite handheld game consoles based on nostalgia, but also because of how cool my custom modded one is. I picked it up at the NERG retro gaming event in Newcastle last year, where it already had the lovely orange shell and green buttons. I subsequently sent it of to Joe Bleeps who kindly fitted a backlight, bi-vert mod and replaced the two grey select & start buttons with green ones in-keeping with the theme.
While I’d still love a proper Game Boy Color with backlight mod, those remain very pricey. At least until I acquire one of those, my custom Original Game Boy will be my preferred way to play these games.
Super Mario Land 1 & 2 (the only Mario games I really like)
3) Sony PSPgo
Part of the reason this list took me so long to finalise, the PSPgo’s place on it is dependent on custom firmware. Along with housing a digital library of some great PSP and PS1 games, some excellent emulators means I’ve also used it extensively for Mega Drive and PC Engine games (amongst others) on the go.
Of all the systems on the list, this machine (just marginally beating the DS Lite) is the most conveniently portable, actually fitting comfortably in a jeans pocket.
Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles
Outrun 2006: Coast 2 Coast
Wipeout Pure & Pulse
Numerous Retro Compilations
2) Nintendo DS Lite
This is where I cheat again, as for this system I’m including the Game Boy Advance library. A GBA EZ Flash IV Cart and DS R4 make this a monster of a portable machine for the library of games I can take on the go. My system currently has every GBA game and about 40 DS games on, without needing to carry any extra cartridges.
As with the PSPgo, the DS Lite is the most portable design for me, it’s size remains a worthy advantage over its XL versions. (I did have an original ‘phat’ DS, which served me well at the time but I have no business playing on one of those in 2019. For more on my favourite games in both the GBA & DS libraries, see the Video Pinball episode of the Maximum Power Up Podcast.
Metroid Prime Pinball
Elite Beat Agents
42 All Time Classics
Mario Kart DS
Game Boy Advance
Pinball of the Dead
Sonic Advance 1-3
1) PlayStation Vita
No surprise this is number 1 given its position on the All-Time Games Consoles list. I still love my Vita and my sizable backlog means I’m in no danger of running out of things to play on there anytime soon.
I wrote more about it on that other post, but I can’t see anything taking the Vita’s place anytime soon.
A whole bunch of “best on Vita” indies. Velocity 2X, Axiom Verge, Limbo, Stardew Valley etc.
Honourable Mentions and notable absences
To be fair to the Switch, in many ways it would deserve to be on this list, particularly as it has taken over from my Vita as my format of choice for 2D indie games. However, playing the Switch in handheld mode feels like a compromise to me, and I’m doing it for a convenience at home. I much prefer playing it docked when possible, and I find it too big to use for train journeys etc.
Nintendo Game Boy Advance
As mentioned, I’m including the GBA’s great library with the DS Lite on my list above. However the handheld itself doesn’t make it because I don’t really find any of the models, original GBA, GBA SP or the Micro to be comfortable. They all give me bad ‘claw hand’ pretty quickly. The original GBA is the best of a bad bunch, but also needs a good light mod to be playable.
Animal Crossing aside, I didn’t find too much in the 3DS library I wanted to play. Although the backwards compatibility means you also have access to the original DS library, I still think a DS Lite with access to the GBA library is the better option. As with the DS, I also found the XL model too big, and the 2DS too hideous.
The penultimate entry in my list of “ten perfect albums” is “Blue is the Colour” from The Beautiful South. Never been sure how to classify their music, but google informs me that they’re “pop rock”. Apparently.
I don’t really remember how I discovered the Beautiful South. My sister Audrey loves them, as did her late husband (my brother-in-law) Kev. It feels like The Beautiful South have been part of my life forever, but realistically I was probably 8 or 9. I don’t have strong memories of the first few albums though, just songs.
I think this is my favourite Beautiful South song. (Until I listen to another one, and then that’s my favourite too). I know some people who otherwise like their music that struggle with this one, given the scratchy vocals as Paul Heaton channels the style of Tom Waits, but I love it. Blue is the Colour is a darker album than most of their output, but we’re still not quite as bleak as Glasvegas.
One of the first songs ‘everyone else’ seems to think of when you mention The Beautiful South in conversation, this single was huge in the UK.
Don’t Marry Her
Much like “If Lovin’ You Is Wrong” on my Faithless post, Don’t Marry Her is the song that almost invalidates this album as being perfect by my own definition. Growing up in a household where “people only swear because they have nothing to say”, the album version of this often had to be skipped. I’m still amused by the sticker on the front of the CD case “Track 1 contains some Blue language” indeed. Censored for the radio edit, I think quite a few people were taken aback when they heard the album version. Pretty directly equivalent to the variations between the radio version and original of Radiohead’s “Creep”. Both versions stand up as great songs, but the original versions present strong cases for the use of profanity for emphasis.
The Sound of North America
Timeless, lyrics that it seems will always be appropriate.
Relationship with the album
While this is one of their more melancholy albums, listening to it is still often a source of happiness for me. (Although it is great to listen to if you do want to listen to something melancholy and Morrissey’s insistence on being an awful human makes it impossible to enjoy The Smiths.)
Whenever I hear The Beautiful South I feel close to my family, and Blue is the Colour continues to be my first choice for putting an album on and hearing it straight through “as is”.
The Beautiful South
Remember hearing Jo Whiley describe them as everyone’s second favourite band. Obvious hyperbole aside, that does resonate well with me. Although I mentioned this to Aud once and she was happy to assert that they were her favourite, so there’s that.
This year I got tickets for a “The South” gig for Aud, and we went along with my nephew. The South featuring former members of The Beautiful South and still singing a lot of their songs, it was a great gig. Would still be great to see Paul Heaton live at some point though.
Other albums and songs
Carry on up the charts
This is one of my favourite albums, and would have been in this top 10 if it wasn’t a greatest hits album. You obviously can’t count those for risk of coming across a bit Alan Partridge “the best of The Beatles”.
Sail This Ship Alone
Yes, also my favourite Beautiful South song. I might not remember when I discovered the Beautiful South, but one of my fondest memories of them is listening to this song on a car journey. Aud and Kev took me on holiday with them, and we sang this all the way there (I assume there were other songs, but I mostly just remember this and “Night Boat to Cairo” by Madness. I’ll Sail This Ship Alone is best sung at top volume, pronouncing all 27 syllables in “sail”.
Song for Whoever
Also known as that one song I made my friend Sam sing over and over with me 20 times when I was very drunk, and my other friends like to remind me about it. (I think Sam would like to forget, to be honest.)
In my defense: 1. It’s a great song 2. This was on the Xbox 360 Game “Lips” and there was a limited amount of songs available 3. Did I mention I was very, very, drunk?
Don’t think this needs any further introduction, my favourite Beautiful South song. Ahem.
Perhaps more so than other artists I’ve picked, there are multiple contenders for perfect albums from the Beautiful South. Quench came pretty close, but I’m happy I’ve chosen the right one in Blue is the Colour. It is perfect.
Good productive month all-round. Well, where gaming is concerned anyway. I procrastinated the hell out of everything else I was supposed to be doing.
Games completed this month
Hollow Knight – Switch
Hurrah! So far I’ve only got the ‘basic’ ending, but that’s enough to count. Up to this point Hollow Knight is up there as one of the greatest games I’ve ever played. I have some gripes with it after this though, now that I’ve been playing for the “true ending”. To get the true ending you have to clear a platforming challenge that feels massively out of place compared to the rest of the game. I have done that now at least, but then found the final, final boss infuriating. I intend to go back to it after I take a break. For now though, I had an ending and the credits roll, so we’re done.
RIVEN – SEGA Saturn
Really enjoyed my return to the MYST universe, definitely want to get to MYST III – Exile now. Also incredible fun playing with the Saturn mouse. Might have a look at some of the other adventure games that support it too.
Games played during May
Tetris 99 – Switch
I fire this up now and then anyway, but this month had a limited time event where you could unlock a classic Game Boy Tetris theme for the game, complete with music and sound effects. I had to get in on that. Managed to secure the required points, so now my Tetris battle royale losses are much more nostalgic.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Xbox One
After putting Hollow Knight to rest, it is time to tackle one of the bigger games on the list for the year. I’ve been reading the books again to get into the mood and at four books in, I am ready. Played a few hours so far and am very much enjoying myself.
Nefarious – Switch
A bit of light relief after Hollow Knight. Difficult game to recommend, as the actual platform levels are pretty much just “filler”. The boss fights are amusing though, taking the role of villain and seeing the other side of classic fights from Sonic, Mega Man, SNES style RPGs and even a bit of Mario.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – Switch
Thanks to one of my other pick ups below, I’ve been back on my Mario Karting. I’m aiming to 3 star all the cups up to Mirror Mode (200cc can bite me, I might try to do those with 1 star…) Maybe I’ll also get to playing online a bit now.
SEGA Rally – PS3
Picked this up cheap with the PS2 games below. I’ve been wanting to check it out for a while, since it mostly passed me by when it first came out. I played it for half an hour or so. It is fun but I’m not sure it’ll hold my attention now.
Super Bust-a-Move 1 & 2 – PS2
As per my top arcade puzzle games post, I’m a big fan of the bust-a-move / puzzle bobble games, and couldn’t resist grabbing them for my PS2 when I saw them cheap.
Robot Wars – PS2
Mostly picked this up for my partner, as she is a big fan of the TV show. The game seems fun, and I like how the controls are mapped for the robots. It seems like you need to put a bit of effort into gaining funds to build a robot though. To be honest we’d have enjoyed it more if we could just pick from a selection of existing robots from the show and smash them into each other.
As we were in Brighton shopping, I popped into Ninja Games Den again, and grabbed a few more loose Game Boy games. Mostly worth it for Dr. Mario, the others were just a bonus.
Pocket Rumble – Switch
Picked this up almost entirely because of how much I miss the Neo Geo Pocket Color. I have looked at buying it on Steam before, but the Switch version feels a bitter fit to closer replicate the old hand held feeling of a decent portable fighting game. If only I could get a Switch Joycon with one of those Neo Geo thumbsticks on.
Castlevania Anniversary Collection – Switch
I played all but one of these games for the Castlevania episode of the Maximum Power-Up Podcast. However that was mostly just dabbling with emulation and various EverDrive devices. I liked them well enough that I fancied this collection on the Switch, so I could give them a bit more time. Particularly Super Castlevania IV and Bloodlines.
Sundered: Eldritch Edition – Switch
This game caught my eye back when we were researching for the podcast’s H.P. Lovecraft episode. I didn’t get to it at the time, but kept it on my radar. It popped up in the same Switch sale as Pocket Rumble above. It’s a metroidvania with some heavy Lovecraftian influences, so I’m looking forward to getting into it eventually.
Pro Controller – Switch
As hinted at above, this is why I’m back on Mario Kart 8. A birthday gift from my partner, I do now see what all the fuss is about. This is an excellent controller, the lack of analogue triggers keep it from joining or surpassing the PS4 and Xbox One pads as my current joint favourites, but it is very good.
Obduction – PC
Free this month on Humble Bundle, I’ve wanted this for a while. I was going to pick it up on PS4 when the promised VR support was added, but reports of that suggest it doesn’t run well on the PSVR hardware. PC version it is then!
Toki Retrollector Edition – Switch
Another birthday gift, this time from one of my friends. Didn’t know much about the game going in, but this collection made a great gift. All the parts are high quality, and the wooden arcade cabinet style stand for the Switch is awesome. I can see me using the stand with other games when not playing on the TV. I’ve played a bit of the game as well now, and it’s good fun. Looks great and is a straight up remaster of the old arcade game. I do have vague memories of playing it first time round (probably the Mega Drive port).
Number 8 on my list of perfect albums is a trip into Dance music (I’m assured the cool kids refer to it as EDM, but what do I know), with the debut album from Faithless, Reverence. This blog series started with my original post setting out the “ten perfect albums” premise, so start there if you’re new.
I discovered Faithless in 1996 with the re-release of Insomnia being everywhere. At the time the only other person I knew who liked them was my high school best friend. I’m not sure how long after that it took me to get the album, but it must have been one of the first CDs I purchased for myself. I do remember being very pleased that it also came with the remix album “Irreverence” in the package, everyone likes a bit of value for money.
The title track of the album, and it’s also up first. I still remember getting the album home and putting this on. Masterpiece. The main draw for me in wanting Reverence was for the lyrics and flow from Maxi Jazz, the album starts strong for this.
Took me a while to appreciate this one at the time, certainly wasn’t what I was expecting when I bought the album, and those Maxi Jazz vocals are no where in sight. Don’t Leave went on to become a favourite track though, and as we’ve established, the album is perfect.
This was my favourite song on the album for ages. Certainly the first one I knew all the words to. Maybe because I was also 14…
If Lovin’ You is Wrong
If Lovin’ You is Wrong almost breaks my perfect album rule of “not skipping any tracks”, however I’m letting it slide since I only skip this when listening would be inappropriate, like when it comes on in the office.
Relationship with the album
Listening to Reverence at once takes me back to high school. It’s that rare album that is just as perfect to throw on when you’re feeling a bit melancholy and just want to relax for a while, as it is to crank up loud and and sing along.
It’s funny, when I bought Reverence, I didn’t think I was buying “dance music”. Even when I picked up the album Sunday 8pm, that still didn’t feel like what it was about to me. The later albums all feel much more ‘EDM’ to me though, and I pretty much fell off. Years later I got a bit into Trance (specifically Above & Beyond) and found I appreciated the later Faithless stuff much more. The remix album Faithless 2.0 even features an Above & Beyond version of Salva Mea, along with other EDM acts remixing classic Faithless tunes.
In retrospect, I wonder if Maxi Jazz did more to set up my later love for rap music than Faithless did for me with dance.
Other albums and songs
Bring My Family Back
Depressing? Sure, but still a great song. Hearing this performed live on Jo Whiley’s TV show (I’m 80% sure it was that, otherwise it was Jools Holland) was how I found out their second album “Sunday 8pm” was available. I grabbed it soon after.
There are loads of Faithless tunes that just set a scene perfectly, and take you to a place. Postcards is one of those.
Tweak Your Nipple (Tiësto Remix)
The original version is great, but I do love this remix from Tiësto.
If I was just picking my favourite Faithless album, there is a strong chance I’d lean more towards Sunday 8PM, I think that’s probably them at their best. Reverence though has both a sentimental edge for me, and also feels like the more complete piece. Sunday 8PM has a couple of tracks I’m not so keen on, that I might find myself skipping. Not so with Reverence, it is perfect.
Nintendo are currently (in Europe at least) running an extensive digital sale on Switch and 3DS games on the European eShop, until 23rd May 2019. While scrolling through the list of 130+ discounted titles, I noticed the majority of the best offers were on games I already played through on other systems.
In this post I’m going to point out the games I think are worth picking up for Switch, but will include which format I originally played the game on for context / disclaimer in case the Switch port turns out to be terrible.
These are games I’ve already played elsewhere but heartily recommend on Switch if they have previously passed you by.
An underwater adventure, something like a cross between Ecco the Dolphin and Journey. It’s beautiful, atmospheric and a delight to experience.
I’ve lumped these two together as I did when I included them in my top 5 horror games, despite them being separate purchases on the store. They’re puzzle/platformer games, where you’re uncovering a story that is pretty open to interpretation, while trying to avoid traps. If you’re only going to get one of them, I’d suggest picking up Limbo first.
Version played: Vita (Limbo) & PS4 (Inside)
I almost missed this one myself. The title really doesn’t give anything away does it? Oxenfree is an excellent adventure game. It has a bit of a Science Fiction theme, and in parts is genuinely creepy. The writing is pretty good, and I found the dialogue system to be really engaging. Particularly worth a look if you like classic adventure games like Monkey Island and Broken Sword.
My only complaint for Tesla vs Lovecraft, is that it isn’t Nex Machina, Housemarque’s masterpiece in the same genre. However, TvL is still a really competent Twin-Stick Shmup, in the style of Robotron 2084 and Smash TV. I was tempted to pick this up and play it again on Switch, but then remembered I still have a couple of difficulty settings to beat on PS4, so I should go back to that instead.
If the idea of fighting off a variety of Lovecraftian horrors using a selection of “Tesla-esque” electric weaponry appeals to you at all, then this is an easy recommend.
Futurlab’s Velocity series started out as a Playstation Mini for the PSP and Vita. The first of those games I was really interested in. It was then followed up with a full release in Velocity Ultra for the Vita and PS3, and later we received this sequel, Velocity 2X. I played all 3 of these games on my Vita, and they are amongst the best games on the system.
On the surface, the Velocity games look like typical 2D Space Shooters, however with the teleportation mechanic and focus on speed running, there are also significant puzzle elements to the game play. Velocity 2X added platforming sections to the game, but these still play very similar to the ship sections, thanks to maintaining the teleportation element.
The music in the Velocity games is also incredible, one of very few I’ve ever bought the sound track for.
Version played: Vita
Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap
This remake of the incredible Wonder Boy 3: The Dragon’s Trap from the SEGA Master System, was also my top game of 2017. An absolute masterclass in how to do a remake/remaster.
Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is one of my favourite games of all time, expect it to feature prominently when I get round to listing my All-Time Metroidvania games. While I played this on PS4, the Switch seems like a good home for it, as I probably did 40% of the game using my Vita to remote play from my garden.
The Worms series placed highly when I looked at my favourite local multiplayer games, and if anything I’m more certain that Worms W.M.D. is the best iteration of the game. It’s at least as good as Worms Armageddon, my previous favourite. Given the Switch trying to position itself as the local multiplayer system of choice, Worms is a perfect fit here.
Version played: PS4
Okay I haven’t actually finished this, but I have played it quite a bit. Wulverblade is a brawler in the style of Golden Axe, although it goes more in favour of “brutal historic combat” rather than the fantasy magic & dragons of Golden Axe. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I am friends with the developer so may be carrying some bias, however I still very much recommend Wulverblade, and other people I’ve introduced it to have also enjoyed it.
A few other titles I’ve played elsewhere that are worth looking at if they appeal to you, but are perhaps not going to be for everyone. “Your mileage may vary” as they say.
I find it quite hard to recommend Another World in 2019. This remaster was very polished when I played it on the Vita, but I feel like 90% of my enjoyment was based on my fond memory of playing it on the Mega Drive back in the day. If you have nostalgia for that, this is a worthy purchase. The game play hasn’t aged well though in my opinion.
Version played: Vita
The second “Lovecraftian” game on this list, Darkest Dungeon is another game that is hard to recommend. I did discuss my thoughts about this game on the Lovecraft episode of the Maximum Power Up podcast, but basically, it’s just brutally difficult. It’s important to appreciate before you start that the game isn’t really about completing dungeons and gathering loot.
It’s much more about the physical and psychological toll on those adventures going into the dungeons and facing eldritch horrors. You’ll die. A lot.
It’s 10/10 for capturing the essence of despair and futility of H.P. Lovecraft’s works, but I’m still not sure if it is fun.
Version played: Vita
An enjoyable shmup with a unique element in that you’re playing in two play-fields at once. The only reason I’m not straight up recommending this in the list above, is that I simply haven’t spent enough time with it. I have very much enjoyed what I’ve played so far.
Version played: PC
For both this, and Dimension Drive above, I won codes for these games on Twitter. I’ve played a bit of GRIP on PS4 now, and while in some ways it does capture the fun of Rollcage from the original PlayStation, it hasn’t completely nailed it. Even in this sale it remains a more expensive ask than other, better, games on the list. Hmm.
Version played: PS4
I loved Pang (also known as Pomping World or Buster Bros depending which version you played) back on the Amiga and PlayStation. This modern release captures the classic game play, and if you’re a fan, it’s easy to recommend this. Doesn’t really do anything new, but it’s pretty cheap. Does tend to feel a bit “mobile game” though, which I found quite jarring playing on the Xbox One, but may be less of an issue on the Switch.
Version played: Xbox One
I was quite enjoying this on my PS4, but when it first came out some issues with the camera meant it kept making me nauseous, and I couldn’t play for more than half an hour or so at the time. I understand this was fixed in a later patch, and shouldn’t be present in the Switch version. Unfortunately I never went back to it to find out though, so for now it’s gone back into the PS4 backlog.
Version played: PS4
Lastly, these are the ones I’m thinking of picking up myself, haven’t played them yet so can’t vouch for quality, but this is why I’m interested.
Horizon Chase Turbo
I’m on the fence about this, heard lots of positive comments but not entirely sure it’s for me.
I have now bought this, although still not played it as my Switch is still a dedicated Hollow Knight device. I really like what they’re trying to do in channeling the aesthetic of the fighting games on the Neo Geo Pocket Color. I loved those games, and miss having them around. While I still don’t really consider the Switch a handheld system, I’m hoping that in portable mode it’ll give me some nostalgia of that glorious console.
Sundered: Eldritch Edition
Only reason I haven’t bought this already is that I’m 40 hours into a different Metroidvania in Hollow Knight, so it’s likely to be a while before I want to jump into a new one. It is Lovecraftian again though so I might crack before the sale ends.
April has been a bit quieter games wise. after completing six games during March, I managed to not finish any this month. I didn’t give up on anything either, so there is that.
Games played during April
Hollow Knight – Switch
Yes I mentioned this last month, but this is also why I haven’t finished anything else. Hollow Knight has consumed almost all of my gaming time for the last 4 weeks. I think I’m perhaps as much as 60% of the way through now, so hopefully I’ll finish it during May. Some of these boss fights get quite tough though, so we’ll see.
Apex Legends – PC
Not often one for the Battle Royale style games, but I do enjoy a good multiplayer online FPS. My current online gaming group have picked this as our back up for three of us to play if someone can’t make our regular Vermintide 2 session. I’ve been really enjoying it so far. I do prefer a more frenetic game like Quake Champions, but this is a much better social experience for an evening hanging out online with friends.
RIVEN – SEGA Saturn
Finally got around to making a start on this after picking up a mouse for my SEGA Saturn last June. I’ve played the first couple of hours and really enjoying it so far. I have taken some advice from Lewis Clark over at SEGA Driven, and am using a walkthrough for any puzzles I find myself spending more than 10 minutes on. The puzzles are particularly obtuse, even by MYST standards.
Misc Games Played at EGX Rezzed
As per my EGX Rezzed blog post, I also played a bunch of games at this event, and wrote that round up of some of my favourites.
A Way Out – PS4
Picked this up to hopefully play through with Phil from the Maximum Power Up podcast, we’ve played a few other games in co-op, and I’ve heard great things about this.
Slain – PC
I had my eye on this for my Switch. When Slain first came out it received a bit of a bashing from critics, and I gave it a pretty wide berth. However, the Back from Hell edition apparently addresses some of the issues so I thought I’d give it a look. While I was on the fence about picking the Switch version up for around £6, it popped up on PC for 75p. That’ll do.
Sunless Skies – PC
After talking about how much I had enjoyed it in my Rezzed round up, it turns out I won a copy of Sunless Skies from a twitter competition I entered at the event. Bonus. Looking forward to spending more time with this one.
Textorcist: The Story of Ray Bibbia – PC
I played the demo of this when it first appeared on Steam, and really enjoyed it. Not sure where I originally heard about it, but I’m always a sucker for a good typing game. It got a bit of a discount during April so I picked it up. I had a quick go, and was very pleased to see my progress carried on from where I’d got to in the demo, which was a nice touch. I can see it getting pretty difficult, but I love the mash up of typing game meets “bullet hell” style shmup.
With “Feeling Strangely Fine”, we are up to number seven, and approaching the last stretch. If you’re new to this series, please do check out my original “ten perfect albums” post first, then hopefully read all the others too.
I think I discovered Semisonic at the same time as a lot of other people in the UK, around the time they released “Secret Smile”. It was their biggest hit here, and I’m still surprised it didn’t break the top 10.
The song was all over the radio during summer 1999 and clearly stuck with me as I found myself asking for the album for Christmas that year. I think one of my sisters, either Heather or Helen, bought it for me. Probably Helen as I’m pretty sure she likes them too.
This was a much bigger hit elsewhere in the world than it was in the UK. Although it was released first, I don’t think I heard it till after I was already familiar with Secret Smile.
Closing Time sets the tone for the album, and the opening riff feels like a comfortable old shirt.
While the implied double-entendre of the lyrics is ever present, it is subtle enough that you could happily interpret “Secret Smile” as a simple love song. You present a version of yourself to the world, but there is that someone where you can be the real ‘you’.
Once you hear Semisonic’s single “Get a Grip” from their third album however, you kind of have to assume the more lewd interpretations are what they were intending.
Secret Smile is still a great song though, and if like me you mostly ignore the third album, it can retain that original innocence.
Singing In My Sleep
Relationship with the album
This was the original “perfect album”, and to myself and the same buddy for whom The Streets is #TheArtist, Feeling Strangely Fine is simply #TheAlbum. Unlike with other albums in this list, I find it hard to recommend ‘if you weren’t there’. It’s also the best example of how “perfect album” differs from “favourite album”. While I do love this album, I doubt it would make a Top Ten album list of simply my favourites.
Listening to Feeling Strangely Fine takes me to the few years after finishing high school, but before I moved “down South”. Funny though, when I listen, in my memories it is always sunny. Given that those years were in Stoke-on-Trent, England, that seems very unlikely.
As with Glasvegas, I’m the worst kind of Semisonic fan. I was convinced for years that this was their first album, and never got round to picking up the first one “Great Divide” even after I found out about it. I did pick up the third album “All About Chemistry”, but never took to that either.
I don’t think I’m really a Semisonic fan at all, merely a fan of this excellent album.
Other albums and songs
This is decent enough, but to be honest I just wanted to add something here, without resorting to “Get a Grip”.
Though I can’t really say I’m a Semisonic fan, this remains a beloved album. I will continue to listen to Feeling Strangely Fine several times a year, and be grateful to them for its creation. It is perfect.
Over halfway through the list now, and I’m only slightly slipping in post frequency. Original Pirate Material from The Streets is the sixth of my Ten Perfect Albums.
I can remember the first time I heard Original Pirate Material, mostly because it’s the sort of thing that doesn’t happen any more. It was after I’d moved “down South” and I was working in a nearby town in another indie PC shop (not a patch on the one in Stoke mind). The manager from our other store in Brighton was visiting, he insisted we go out to his car to listen to “this incredible new tape”. We left one of the other lads in charge, and went and sat in his car out the front of the shop, listening to the album straight through in its entirety, rewinding “The Irony of it All” twice for repeated listens. Yes, it was on tape.
It’s almost a cliche to say, but it didn’t sound like anything else I’d heard before. This was around the time I was just getting into Hip Hop (as referred to in my discovery of Jay-Z). Unlike the American rappers I was listening to, Mike Skinner’s lyrics were immediately more relevant to 20 year old me.
The Irony of It All
The track that stuck with me most from that initial listen, still sounds great today and remains pretty relevant.
Let’s Push Things Forward
UK Garage seemed to be a thing for 6 months or so, but as much as I enjoyed some of the tracks at the time, the genre didn’t seem to be going anywhere. (UK Garage compilations over the last 20 years seem to agree with me, featuring the same tracks by DJ Luck, Craig David & The Artful Dodger etc, in slightly different orders.) The Streets emerged from that sound, and essentially added poetry. Let’s Push Things Forward is something of a manifesto.
Too Much Brandy
Bit of light relief for an album that at times is pretty melancholy. Too Much Brandy takes us along for a night out, which is all very familiar. Why yes I will dance the fandango and sing all my favourite jingles.
Relationship with the album
Original Pirate Material is the sound of an era for me. The soundtrack to the time of my life where I’d just left home, and moved 200 miles away to start my own story.
I found a great review of the album below, well worth a read as it really touches on why it’s great, and I’d echo much of the sentiments.
For a while it seemed that Mike Skinner was going to capture every element of life in music. His knack for producing a relatable song for every emotion led to myself and a good mate simply referring to him in conversation as #TheArtist.
I remember The Streets being dismissed by some friends and family at the time with “he’s just talking”. I don’t think that’s really a criticism. There is a poetry to The Streets that is bridging the gap between Spoken Word and Hip Hop.
I’m delighted The Streets is a thing again, and hope the recent new music leads to more albums.
Other albums and songs
Never Went to Church
Devastatingly haunting, but lyrically real; Never Went to Church did for loss what “Dry Your Eyes” did for breakups. Always guaranteed a listen on my late brother-in-law’s birthday. Miss you Kev.
The Sherry End
Another more lighthearted track, The Sherry End captures the easy friendship of close mates, and the comfort found in shared experiences.
Love You More
Mike Skinner does relationship insecurity.
On the edge of a cliff
There were easily another eight or so tracks that could have made this section, but thought I’d round it out with some existential reflection.
A compelling case can be made that “A Grand Don’t Come For Free” is the better album, and as a concept album it rewards a straight play through with a coherent story. If I did fifteen perfect albums, it would make an appearance. The Streets narrowly missed out on having two albums in this list.
For me however, Original Pirate Material is the one I go back to most often. It is perfect.