Five other things I played in March

I haven’t been going as whole-hog on my backlog this year, because honestly I feel like last year ended with me in control again after quite a while of feeling buried under the shame of a mountain of games I’d bought but never actually played.  I’m still, oh, 70 or 80 games behind but at least it’s not three digits anymore.

It’s a good feeling, and it means that I can do things like trying a different Dark Souls III spec without self-inflicted guilt.

I may be putting a little too much emphasis on this, but I don’t think I’m the only one to have backlog stress.  If you’re struggling with your own “to-play” list, or want to brag about how your first quarter of 2018 has gone, feel free to share your pain or triumph in the comments.  This is a judgement-free zone.

Anyway, even with being a little more mellow and with being distracted by replaying a game, I did manage to knock 5 games out.

A few years ago, I talked a friend into buying Borderlands 2 so we could co-op through it.  At the time, I didn’t realize that the campaign was quite so ridiculously long – I think we made it about 25 hours in before it kind of fizzled out.

Anyway, I decided that I would make another go at it and started from scratch. It turned out to be worth going back to – while the game’s inventory system is just awful, it has some really enjoyable gunplay, the script got some genuine laughs out of me, and I even managed to enjoy the “sorting through a pile of vaguely-similar weapons every 15 minutes” aspect, which usually bugs me in loot games.  Also, the cel-shaded look has aged really well.

I’m not being entirely truthful when I say that I bought a WiiU for Splatoon.  I decided to buy one when Nintendo announced that they’d be localizing Fatal Frame 5.

On the other hand, I knew I needed to have Splatoon in my life from the first time I saw the first video of it – maybe an E3 video? maybe a direct? I can’t recall, but I do remember really confusing the guy at Best Buy who I preordered the Splatoon console bundle from.  It was a mix of “wait, someone wants to buy a WiiU?” and “wait, we are actually taking preorders for WiiUs?”

I put a good number of hours into the multiplayer, but it also deserves special mention for having a really fun single-player campaign, capped with one of gaming’s best final bosses.

The sequel… well, I haven’t played any of the multiplayer yet, but I expect it’s just as good as the original game, just without needing to hold a massive tablet controller all of the time.  I did play through the single-player, and it was… well, it was OK.  It would have been worlds better if almost every level hadn’t had a “Sheldon Request” making you play with specific weapons, mind you.  It did not stand up to the standards of the first game.

That said, I am really looking forward to the DLC expansion announced recently.  The Octolings have really neat designs and it seems sad that they’re limited to being the bad guys in a part of the game most people will only play once, if that.

I’ve never had a ton of attachment to Mario, but I wound up playing a whopping three Mario platformers last year – and two of them were excellent games.  I probably wouldn’t have gone out and bought a fourth, but Nintendo added 3D World to their Player Selects line and $20 felt like a good price.

It turned out to be a lot of fun, and I’m glad I took the plunge.  I don’t do well with platform games – I tend to seize up when asked to do something like jump from one swinging platform to another – but the short levels and mid-level checkpoints meant that I was able to brute-force my way through every level in the first 8 worlds and send Bowser packing.

Being a pre-Odyssey game, it still has the annoying combo of limited lives AND stage time limits, which was particularly vexing in one of the Bowser stages where I was supposed to be knocking things back at him to damage him and he ran out the clock on me by not throwing enough things for me to knock back… but lives were easy enough to come by, and I still had 30 in the bank when all was said and done.

Special mention goes to the “Captain Toad” puzzle levels, which were absolutely charming, and I may just need to check out his solo game when it gets a Switch release later this year.  Or I could always hunt down the WiiU original.  That might be a lot cheaper.

While I used to be a big comics reader, I stuck mostly to the DC side of the comics shop.  As a result, my only exposure to Deadpool has been the recent movie, which was a surprisingly good non-Marvel-Studios Marvel movie.  Really, between Deadpool and Logan, Fox was really firing on all cylinders when it came to super-hero movies.

(Let’s just try not to think about X-Men: Apocalypse right now.  I apologize if by mentioning it I have reminded you that it was a thing that happened.)

Anyway, I had just enough exposure to Deadpool that I decided to buy the game when it was announced for delisting from Xbox Live, and I finally got around to booting it up this weekend.

It’s not a long game – it took me about 7 hours on the “Veteran” difficulty setting – and there’s very little about the gameplay to recommend it – really, it’s a by-the-numbers 3rd-person brawler and suffers from a severe lack of variety in level design.

HOWEVER.  It’s funny as hell, and that makes up for a lot.

Well, that deserves a qualifier, really, because the humor is definitely on the mean-spirited side of things and for maximum appreciation you really need to have been a 12-year-old boy at one time or another.  If your reaction to random fart jokes is to roll your eyes rather than giggle, you might not have the same positive reaction to this game.

You will also need a fairly high tolerance for male-gaze-heavy camera angles whenever there’s a woman on screen… though, even though Psylocke’s role in this game is mostly to stand around with her butt directly pointed at the camera, it’s still a better use of the character then the previously mentioned X-Men: Apocalypse.

Finally, while the combat is mashy as heck and really tedious for the first hunk of the game, it starts getting much better once you’ve unlocked a few weapons and upgrades, and the last level features a boss gauntlet that really justifies all of the time you spent getting to it – it just throws wave after wave of mooks and previous bosses at you, and is a wonderfully hectic affair.  I even picked up one of my favorite recent achievements from this level:

So this gets a thumbs-up from me.  If you’re on the fence… maybe go on Youtube, watch the first half hour or so, decide for yourself whether the gags are up your alley.

Finally, Never Alone, which has exactly zero fart jokes.  No jokes at all, really – it’s a fairly bleak affair, a puzzle platformer which has you taking control of a small girl and a fox in an effort to survive inclement weather and a particularly nasty villain.

Seriously, I really hated the guy, with a passion that I can rarely summon for videogame antagonists.  I was glad to see him brought to a fitting end.

It’s gotten a lot of praise for its setting and for its source material – it’s based on an Inuit folk tale and has a number of videos you can watch to find out more about the culture if you want to learn more.  It’s pretty much the game equivalent of Oscar bait, and has accordingly won a ton of awards.

I kind of suspect that most of the praise has come from people who didn’t actually persevere through the whole thing, however – it is a VERY short game, which you’ll likely knock out in 3 hours or less (I took 2 hours 41 minutes, and as mentioned earlier I am rubbish at platformers), and while it has a very good “first level completion” rate of 87%, a bare 15% of players actually stuck with it until the end.  That’s a steep drop-off.

You will die a lot in this game, many of the things that kill you are poorly-telegraphed until you die from them, and it can be quite an unenjoyable affair at times.

On the other hand, cute fox.  REALLY cute fox.  You may decide to play this game only for the cute fox, and I don’t think there’s a single thing wrong with that.

So, not cutting down the backlog with quite the same force as last year, but still generally having a good time at it.

For April, I have a self-imposed backlog challenge theme.  When I bought my Xbone, I also got the Master Chief Collection and Halo 5, so I’d like to rack up some more hours in a green helmet… but I’ve held back, because playing Halo 4 a few years back didn’t make a ton of sense and I really felt like there was a whole lot of backstory that I was missing out on.

So, this April is Halo month – not just the mainline games, mind you, but I’m going to read the books AND watch the movies AND play the spin-off games… and I’m going to do all of this mixed-media consumption in release order, which I hope is not too painful.  I have constructed a spreadsheet.

I may even buy some Doritos.  And Mountain Dew.  You know.  Game fuel.  Advance warning, I may be going Full Bro here.


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