Shadow of the Tomb Raider (PC, PS4, XBOX ONE)

“That’s right! Run you bastards! I’m coming for you all!”

Tomb raider

Yes, the only reason I am review this is because it was free for PSPlus users back in January. I thought I would just get that out there. Since I am still without anything new to play and still without a PS5 to elevate my gaming into the next generation (not that there are many PS5 exclusives available). I’m still going through my backlog of games of at least minor relevance still. So to that end here is the 3rd installment of the rebooted Tomb Raider franchise. Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider still follows Lara Croft, still saving the world from the bad guys at Trinity who are still trying to use the worlds ancients doomsday devices to be up to no good because otherwise there would be no plot device. This time around for a change it’s Lara who accidentally starts the Mayan apocalypse before Trinity can do so, Lara must then take it upon herself to undo her fuck up and stop Trinity from capitalizing on it.

My relationship with the new Tomb Raider games have changed with each installment. If anyone would care to remember my original review of the Tomb Raider Reboot despite my gripes about it I did enjoy it. 5 years later we’ve seen some marginal tweaks, a few scenery changes and very little else. With the 3rd installment what felt like a breath of fresh air originally is now starting to feel a bit stuffy.

In the first game a lot of my problems with it were due to me feeling like I was mis-sold the experience. Going into the game I felt like it was going to be a lot grittier than the game ended up being. I was expecting a greater fight for survival, having to scavenge and hunt for food, find shelter from the elements and in essence do what was needed to survive. In the end all we got was some scavenging and hunting for resources for the arbitrary crafting system all games seem to require these days. Fast forward to the third installment and I kind knew what I was expecting. I went in expecting more of the same and that’s sadly what I got.

My main problem especially in this and the previous games is that of Lara herself. She has absolutely no growth as a character, she’s just as vanilla at the start of the game as she is at the end. At least in the original reboot she showed glimpses of evolution even if it did come with a truckload of Ludo-Narrative Dissonance (for more information on Ludo-Narrative Dissonance see link). At least in the original series Lara was a seasoned archaeologist and that’s exactly how she acted, the new series tries to make her relatable by making her more “girl next door doing what she needs to do to survive” but she’s scaling impossible cliff faces, shooting like a seasoned professional and absorbing mental trauma with absolutely no signs of PTSD. Therefore I must conclude that Lara Croft is either a sociopath or a psychopath.

I’ve noticed myself I’ve not really done much talking about Shadow of the Tomb Raider specifically. This is probably because there’s nothing about this game that is particularly good or bad, it’s all very safe. Crystal Dynamics seem to have a formula for the Tomb Raider series, it’s not a winning formula by all means but it’s one that’ll get anything they make across the finish line. In doing this they have made the series boring and generic. It’s OK, if you enjoyed the previous games you’ll also enjoy this one but you won’t gain anything from it. You won’t leave the game with a lasting experience, just something to kill some time between now and the grave.

As I’ve said previously and I really can’t say it enough, the series could have been so much more. It was there in my minds eye when I saw the trailer for the reboot. I saw a darker, grittier, more realistic Lara Croft where she would be fighting for survival and barely holding her head above the water, not just against her enemies, but against the elements and the very environment itself. Have her need to find food and fresh water and if she doesn’t make it so she can’t run as fast or climb as high, have her need to suture bad gashes, create splints for broken bones or find different medicinal herbs with different properties (e.g. pain killers, antibiotics, ointments etc.), have her need to find shelter and warmth to prevent hypothermia. These things would have improved Lara’s story immensely and as such build her as a character because you’d be able to really see her struggle and watch her come out the other side a changed person. Make her a true survivor like the games advertise her to be.

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Final Fantasy XV (PC, PS4, XBOX ONE)

As I write this it is currently coming up to Christmas and with needing to buy presents for everyone as well as earning just enough to stay poor, the flood of new games has crawled to a stand still. As such I am catching up on the backlog of games I have played that I can review, putting them in reserve for a later date. This time around another Final Fantasy in the form of number 15.

“Not so Final” Fantasy XV takes place in the world of Eos, you play Noctus, Prince of Lucis whom at the onset of the game is traveling to Tenebrae for his arranged marriage with Princess Lunafreya of Tenebrae. This being a condition of Lucis armistice with the Niflheim Empire. Accompanying Noctus on his journey is his royal guard and bestest-best buddies. As expected inn true Final Fantasy style not everything goes as smoothly as planned. Whist away from the capital the armistice signing is ambushed and Noctus’ father, the King is killed. It is then up to Noctus to gather the royal arms of past Lucis kings and take back his home & kingdom.

Final Fantasy XV was one I was quite excited about since it’s days as FF Versus XIII. It seemed like it was going to be a darker, more serious game than FFXIII. Although I was right on the money with this it still falls short of some of the other games in the series. One of my main grips with the game is the combat, when I say that don’t get me wrong, the change to a real time more fast pace combat style is defiantly a step in the right direction but in doing so they over simplified it. I managed to get through a fair portion of the game by only using attack and dodge, I didn’t bother with any of the magic crafting and barely used any of my team mates abilities. The game also suffers from an ailment I like to call “Fahrenheit Syndrome”, the main symptom of which is the game shitting it self halfway. In the case of Final Fantasy XV the game goes from having such an open expansive world to being coming a completely closed off corridor-fest. Although the game does have an expansive lore (e.g. The Astrals), it’s very much unexplored by the party during the events of the game, only accessible by reading books found in the game. This isn’t helped by the fact that later on the lore becomes a pivotal to the plot and unless you’ve been reading and learning along the way the meaning behind a lot of the happenings seems very nonsensical.

Now that I’ve gotten that over with lets get on to the better points of the game. To start with despite the group having as much character depth as a puddle on the pavement, there does seem to be a great chemistry between the 4 four of them. Their varying personalities makes each character unique and makes for excellent banter between them. Gladiolus is the stoic protector of the group, Ignis is the tactician and brains of the operation, Prompto is the ‘happy-go-lucky’ one & Noctis is a whiny bitch. The character design outside of the main party as well is worth a shout out too, each character feeling very unique with their own distinct personalities and quirks. The Kingdom of Lucis in which the majority of the game is beautifully varied, from the deserts of Leide, to the plains of Duscae to the rocky mountains of Cleigne. This sense of open luscious scenery however disappears once to leave Lucis, past this point the vast majority of the world is closed off to the player. I personally love a game where I can explore the world, finding new and interesting places (which is why games like The Elders Scrolls & The Witcher resonate with me so well), this longing to travel was sated for the first half of the game, be it with great annoyance as when I first played the game as off-roading wasn’t unlocked at that point. Upon leaving Altissia there was no more opportunities to explore despite being in a whole new land which judging by the map must be at least 50% bigger than Lucis being stuck to see the arid wastes, luscious green mountain ranges and icy vallys as the pass by through a train window.

A lot of my complaints about the game (besides the final third of the story) comes from material that seems to be missing from the core game. Depth of character for instance, each of Noctus’ companions motivations never get any deeper than “Because he’s my prince” & “Noctus is an entitled asshole”. I believe that the reason this game suffers is due to the developers desire to create the Final Fantasy XV Universe without creating a series of games. This means a lot of the material would be taken from the main game is taken and re-deployed in other media. Going back to the character depth, a lot of the characters background and motivations are found in the Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV anime and in the DLC packs. This waters down the main game and ruins it’s overall appeal as a single unit, it’s like being making an extremely weak glass of Ribena then have them hide the rest of the cordial in an abandoned library on a completely different plain of reality. From a marketing perspective I get it, “If you want the whole FFXV experience you must play all the games, read all the books, watch all the TV series, eat all the branded yogurts etc.”. This train of though breaks down when the core game (the gooey caramel centre to the whole story) doesn’t interest me enough to want to go beyond the core game. This was the same story with FFXIII. Final Fantasy X on the other hand was a game that stood up on it’s own but was enhanced by the introduction of X-2. The difference here was Square-Enix went into both XIII & XV wanting to create a universe with several elements or using several different mediums, but with FFX the aim was to create the game, it was only after the game was complete and on shelves did they start on FFX-2. Although this meant longer production times and costs but meant that the end products were better for it. This can be seen by calls for fans for X-3 18 years after the originals release, while nobody is asking for another FFXIII game.

BONUS CONTENT: Looking Back at Final Fantasy X (PC, PS2, PS3, PS4, PSVITA, SWITCH, XBOX ONE)

With the release of the new Final Fantasy XVI trailer I can’t help but think about the series as a whole as well as my favourites of the series. I struggle to pick which is my favourite, that would be like picking a favourite child. I would never be happy carving a hierarchy into stone, solemnly decreeing that this is the definitive order and so shall it be for all time. I would probably make my list out of water as like water my opinions are fluid, constantly shifting from outside influences. Sure some titles will remain in familiar territory. Using the Premier League as a metaphor, FFXIII will always fall around the back of the pack and fight against relegation, FFXV despite soiling it’s underpants in the final third does enough to hover around mid-table with the likes of FFV, FFXII & FFIX, although the latter 2 do make it high enough now and again that they could qualify for the Europa League and the top spot is usually fought over by FFVII, FFVIII & todays subject matter FFX.

Final Fantasy X tells the story of Tidus (whom I always pronounced as Tie-dus, it was years later when I watched a making of documentary that it was pronounced Tee-dus), a young blitzball player from the large city of Zanarkand. His home is attacked by the gargantuan being known as Sin. After the attack, Tidus finds himself lost hundreds of miles from home. A chance encounter with the summoner Yuna and her guardians finds Tidus a way home.

The game really made you invest in and bond with the characters which makes the stories twist and the end that much more heart wrenching. As previously mentioned the world was also full, vibrant and rich, oozing with culture and lore. This is even before I mention blitzball which I spent more time playing than I care to remember. I would have loved blitzball to have been release as a FIFA-like spin off. Graphically too, FFX was a huge step up from the previous console generation and truly showed off the capabilities of the PS2 at the time.

Final Fantasy X may be a game that fights for the top spot but that doesn’t mean that it is without it’s flaws. It was the first Final Fantasy to ditch the world map for a series of smaller locations which made the world feel small and far too linear, not to the extent that XIII did but it was still an unwelcome change to the series. Also the sphere grid levelling system meant that because everyone can learn every skill & ability each character looses their unique feel in battle later in the game, with Overdrives and Yuna’s summon ability the only unique abilities left. This is not to mention some of the cringe worthy dialogue (The laughing scene in particular).

From the outset you can tell that Final Fantasy X is a very different breed from the Final Fantasy games that came before it. The use of voice overs, mo-cap & skeletal animation & 3D backgrounds being the most noticeable. This huge evolutionary leap is due in part to the series’ jump from the Playstation to the Playstation 2. The massive increase in hardware capability gave Square that unrestricted creative freedom to take the series away from the tried and tested Final Fantasy model. Although this does mean a few classic flavours of the series get left out in the cold, this however is the price of progress and whether you like it or not it’s happening. I brought up this same point in my Final Fantasy XIII review all those years ago and although I am for the evolution of the series and it’s modernising to introduce new players to the franchise I still yearn for some of the classic characteristics to come creeping back in, mainly a full explore-able world. We’ve not had one of them since FFIX. Imagine if Final Fantasy XVI comes with a modern fully rendered 3d world to get lost in, full of secret locations and optional cities and towns? If it does I think I will genuinely loose my shit.

BONUS CONTENT: Dungeons and Dragons and My New Perspective on Baldur’s Gate 2.

Despite the disadvantages that a global pandemic has on interacting with new people, I have been getting into Dungeons & Dragons. I have played a few sessions, even playing as Dungeon Master on some occasions and I have revelled in the experience, but what was I to do in the periods between? This is what drove me to revisiting Baldur’s Gate 2.

Baldur’s Gate 2 starts with the hero of the pervious game and a few companions captured by the elven mage Jon Irenicus in order to use his powers as a Bhaalspawn (A child of the God of Murder) for his own evil deeds. The player and his party must escape from Irenicus’s clutches and stop his horrible doings. Although between these two point a vast amount or very little can happen depending on the players actions.

I’ve never played the first Baldur’s Gate, opting to jump straight into the second instalment. I believe I first played Baldur’s Gate 2 in 2008/9 and I must admit I struggled in getting to grasps with the games lore and mechanics since I came in all fresh faced and bushy tailed. Although now coming back to it after a few D&D sessions I have a much clearer picture of the world and it’s workings (I originally didn’t get what the whole d4, d6, etc. thing was, I do now). To be fair I have been playing the Enhanced Edition recently which does have a few extra bits but for the most part it’s the same game.

My time learning how to play D&D has been a revelation in regards to my experience with Baldur’s Gate 2. The extra background knowledge meant I could properly tweak each party member to use specific gear and properly strategies combat so was no longer relying on blind luck and determination to get me through the game, this in term gave me a greater respect and appreciation of the game which is more than deserving of the critical acclaim it got at release all those years ago. The world is massive with so many side quests to do and different people to meet. The story is a true epic and with the Enhanced Editions graphical upgrade it doesn’t feel all that old despite turning 20 this year.

I’d defiantly call it a must play for any D&D or Western RPG fan, although since it has been out for the last 20 years I can imagine all D&D & Western RPG fans have already played it. It certainly makes me more excited about Baldur’s Gate 3 which has been on Early Access on Steam for a while now but at £50 for a game that’s not complete yet, it’s still a bit rich for my blood.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 (PC, PS4, XBOX ONE)

I think I stuck just as many hours into Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 on the PSone as I did on Rayman, Resident Evil 1 & 2, Metal Gear Solid, Command & Conquer, Command & Conquer Red Alert, Crash Bandicoot 1, 2 & 3, Final Fantasy VIII & Final Fantasy IX. In fact I’m pretty sure the only game I played more of on the PSone was Final Fantasy VII. So when news reached me that the first 2 games were being remade for the current generation I was pleasantly surprised. I never would have thought the games to be that sort after that a remake was in order (than again Metacritic names THPS2 as it’s top rated Playstation game of all time), so with The Last of Us Part II behind me lets grind some rails and Ollie some magic bums.

This is normally the part of the review where I write a description of the plot of the game. Given that games pre Tony Hawk’s Underground didn’t have a plot there is little to tell here. There are several different areas, you have 2 mins to complete any number of tasks for that area varying from score so many points, pull off a certain scored combo, find some items, destroy some stuff etc. Unlock so many and you can move onto the next area.

Right from the word go as soon as I appeared in the tutorial area everything came flooding back to me. Like riding a bike my muscle memory kicked in. It wasn’t long before I was building up combos and not falling on my ass. The controls feel just as tight as they did back in the Playstation era. The use of the joystick rather than the original D-pad means that the game easily mistake left or right with a diagonal, but switching to using the D-pad gave the game a bit more of a retro feel. Something that doesn’t feel retro however is the graphics, they are much, much, much improved. The lighting effects, the rendering, the modelling, the textures. All of it modernised for the 21st century.

The game feels exactly like what a good remake should feel like. When I started playing and the classic playlist starts I felt like I’d continued off from where I had left off with the original games all those years ago, despite all the aesthetical changes. With the likes of Resident Evil 2-3 & Final Fantasy VII, they felt like new games that gave nods or had similarities to the original & with Command & Conquer I was just playing the original. THPS1+2 is the games adapting to the current generation so that new fans can enjoy the same experience we did all those years ago.

Overall I hope that this is a resurgence for the Pro Skater franchise. It was a series that fell off of my radar after the Underground games, which was a shame as I really enjoyed the first Underground game. THPS gameplay with an underdog rags to riches storyline, sign me up. It may have been a bit cliché but it was a step in the right direction. I hope that with the serge of popularity developed with the remake we can expect delve again into a spot of storytelling.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (PC, PS4, SWITCH, XBOX ONE)

This review has been sitting in my drafts waiting for a slow day for the past 3 months. However now that the games are starting to dry up So with that lets get down and dirty with our Witcher (in all aspects of the term).

In The Witcher 3 we return to the story of Geralt of Rivea, a witcher which (for those of you who don’t know) is a monster hunter for hire. After reuniting with his on-again-off-again lover, the sorceress Yeneffer. She tells Geralt that he has been summoned to an audience with the Emperor Emhyr ruler of the Nilfgaardian Empire. The Emperor tasks Geralt with finding his daughter Siri who is being pursued by the Wild Hunt. Given that Siri is also Geralt’s adopted daughter after having been awarded her when he evoking the Law of Surprise after saving Emperor Emhyr’s life in the past, he accepts. Geralt then travels the land picking up Siri’s trail and confronting the Wild Hunt on the way.

As previously mentioned in my Metacritic post all those moons ago, I didn’t have a lot of past experience with The Witcher series before playing the game, a couple of hours with the original game and binging the Netflix series. So I knew enough to get me through the first module but no where close to achieving my Bachelors in Witcher Studies. This was fine however, the game seems to understand that it was going to bring in new players to the series so the game includes a handy glossary detailing important people, places and events for the unknowing, forgetful or slightly confused. It broke up the flow of the game a little, like having to stop and read the ingredients list of each item I put in my trolley when I do my monthly shop, but the upside was I didn’t feel as if the game was shunning me for not being one of the cool kids. This is also true with the first area of the game being one long tutorial detailing every mechanic of the game and giving a feel to how the rest of the game was going to unfold.

All this contributes to one of the strongest aspects of The Witcher which is it’s ability to create an interesting and engaging gaming experience. The world is teeming with background and lore, which makes you want to explore each of the small villages between Novigrad and Babylon in order to learn more about the world, as well as finding more quests and things to do/kill. Truly immersing you into the Ronin-esque lifestyle of a witcher. Strolling into town, bartering your loot, tracking down the local monster that’s been terrorising the locals, kill it, mount it’s head on your horse, get paid then mosey on out of town without nary a wave or tip of the hat. Along with the addictive card game of Gwent and the treasure hunts; The world is packed full of things to do and see. Plus if you ever get tired of dicking about there is always the main story which is encapsulating and very well written, everything about it from the characters you meet to the monsters that you slay feels like it belongs in the world, nothing feels out of place.

That being said, just like every time I go out for ice cream, it is possible to have too much choice. The combat is a good example of this. There are so many bells and whistles that just serve as extra baggage. There’s a whole assortment of potions to brew with various effects as well as a multitude of spells and sword techniques to master. However, I managed to get through most of the game using mostly quick attack, dodge and the fire spell. If I needed healing I’d had enough food I’d bought from my travels between inns to open a small chain of restaurants. It must have got to the point that by the time I got to the end of the game I must have eaten enough roast chickens to label them an endangered species. Although I did start to use the weapon oils around the end of the game, mind you it was only because it wasn’t until I’d upgraded them to max level that they really had any major effect. Whist I’m ranting a bit, what are Geralt’s swords made of? I know one is supposed to be steel and the other is silver but given how quickly they break they might as well be made of polystyrene wrapped in wet newspaper. To finish off my list of gripes I have about the game, there were one or two technical issues I had with the game bugging out now and again, mind you they were no where near in number or severity of that of Fallout 3 (which is my go to example of buggy games) but there were enough to get my dander up.

Besides my small tirade of niggles the game really is one of the pinnacle open-world action adventure RPG’s, which is quite the praise especially given how dense I mentioned the genre is in my Horizon Zero Dawn review. It delivers the goods exactly where it needs to and does it with such gusto it’s not hard to see why people are calling it “The greatest game of all time”. I disagree with the statement but I’d defiantly place it much closer to the top of the list than the bottom. Overall I don’t think I could have bettered the levels of enjoyment I got from The Witcher 3 for the £13 I spent on it, except maybe with the exception of some Nitrous Oxide and the Black Books box-set.

What Remains of Edith Finch (PC, PS4, SWITCH, XBOX ONE)

This week I’ve not been in a position financially to pick up any new games. As such I went through my back catalogue of PSPlus games that I’ve downloaded when they were free and just not got around to playing them. This game peaked my interest more than the other so I decided to look into it. After a little research (checked the wikipedia page) and saw that it won the BAFTA for Best Game in 2017. That cemented my decision to give it a go and here is what I found.

What Remains of Edith Finch takes place on Orcas Island off the coast of Washington State. It tells the story of Edith Finch’s return to her old family home which she inherits after her mother passed away. She intends to return to the house in order to find out the truth behind the strange happenings and incidents that befell her family. The game plays through the tragedies that befell each of the Finch’s starting from her great grandfather Odin Finch all the way though to present day.

The tone of the game is set from the very beginning as you make your way up to the house. The feelings of isolation and apprehension that are instilled into the player as you walk through the woods up to the old, crooked house. You know at that point that the game is going to be very atmospheric and story driven and in no way is it going to be all rainbows and sunshine. The game-play is quite minimalist with only a few controls available to the player, move the player, move the camera and an action button. I find it very effective in allowing the player to concentrate more on the narrative.

The story is mainly told through narrations, mostly by Edith herself. The rest is done in segments by each of the Finch family moments before their tragic end. Each segment plays out very differently from person to person. For example, Sam Finch was an amateur photographer so his story is told through photographs while Barbara Finch was a child movie star so her’s is told in the style of a comic book. This makes each segment feel a bit more personal and stops the game from becoming stale. This is also helped by the length of the game, it being easily completed within a couple of hours. Although I’m not sure what to make of this. I left the game wanting more but there was nothing more to tell, like getting to the end of a box of Jaffa Cakes and being 2-3 cakes short of being completely satisfied.

To round it all up, I’ve seen a few reviews of the game stating it as a example of video games as an art form and I must confess that I do agree. The atmosphere and the environment do wonders to immerse the player into the role of each of the family members, however some segments are more immersive than others. For example I found Molly’s segment a little disjointed while Lewis’s on the flip side really stood out as being equally engaging and harrowing. In a sentence it’s a great story told in a great way and if you can find it for a great price… Great.

Two Point Hospital (PC, PS4, SWITCH, XBOX ONE)

I spent a week writing an interesting piece on violence in video games and their repercussions in the real world. I almost got to the end only to realise I hated everything I wrote, so I’ve shelved that for now and looked into something a bit more fun. So as such I was thinking about what game I played recently that I had the most fun playing. This was the first game that came to mind and was the perfect choice to move away from the seriousness of the previous mentioned topic. So please step into my clinic as I prescribe to you a dose of Two Point Hospital.

Hands up who remembers Theme Hospital? I know I do, I spent hours playing it back in the 90’s/00’s. For those who don’t, Theme Hospital was a hospital simulation game on PC and later ported to PSone. It was developed by Bullfrog Productions (co-founded by video gaming legend Peter Molyneux) also famous for The Populous series, The Dungeon Keeper series as well as Theme Park and it’s sequels before they were gobbled up by video game giants EA. Theme Hospital’s lead Producer (Mark Webley) and Lead Artist (Gary Carr) founded Two Point Studios in order to create a spiritual successor to Theme Hospital and I can honestly say they succeeded.

Although there is nothing in the games that directly links the two of them, Two Point Hospital defiantly feels like a Theme Hospital for the 21st century. It’s just as wacky and fun as the original with greater smoothing around the edges. This certainly doesn’t hurt the game in my opinion, I’ve seen a few reviews marks points against it for being “too much” like Theme Hospital which is a concept which I personally don’t understand. You wouldn’t say “I don’t like this delicious cake because it tastes too much like the delicious cake I had a few years ago” would you? Unless you were an absolute cretin.

I feel it easy to connect with Two Point Hospital, this is probably because I am British and the game is also unashamedly British. The characters look like they would be right at home in anything made by Aardman Animations (The guys who made Wallace & Gromit, Chicken Run and the like) and the humour is witty and dry with a dark undertone without trying too hard to be funny, just how us Brits like it. The little details too are what I love about the game, I could spend hours reading the compendium about all the different diseases and the causes. They have absolutely no bearing on the game but some of them are that bizzare I can’t help but keep reading and having a giggle.

The game play itself is endearing in being easy to learn and hard to master. This is done by making the in game missions difficult to fail but quite challenging to gain top marks. One slight niggle I have about the game is that once you develop a strategy that works the game play can become a bit tedious. There are a few missions where limitations are put in place or the formulae is mixed up a bit but depending on your strategy it’s not hard to alter it slightly to fit your needs.

At the time of this review there has been 4 major DLC’s for Two Point Hospital. I have played the first 2 (Bigfoot & Pebberley Island). Both of them I have found are a bit samey, you get 3 extra missions with a handful of new diseases, I’ve heard that the third one (Close Encounter) is the same. The fourth (Off the Grid) adds a few new game mechanics too in making your hospitals more eco-friendly but isn’t massively refreshing. If you own the Steam version I wouldn’t buy the DLC’s at full price as compared to the rest of the game it doesn’t really seem worth it, luckily enough the DLC’s are semi-regularly on sale. This currently doesn’t effect the console versions as they are shipped with the first 2 DLC’s and the second 2 have yet to be ported over.

To round it all up I highly recommend Two Point Hospital if you played and didn’t hate Theme Hospital. Sure the game-play may get repetitive at times and it may not be much of a challenge but it is fun, humorous and for all those who have played Theme Hospital oozing with nostalgia. However I’m not sure how the game would hold up without the nostalgia value as I’m finding it very hard to separate my feelings for one on my opinion on the other because of the overwhelming similarities between them. This was also the first game developed by Two Point Studios and I’m hoping to see more spiritual sequels of old Bullfrog games in the future, hopefully if Two Point Hospital is anything to go off of, I’ll be looking forward to hearing of news of Two Point Theme Park.

NOTE: I was originally planning on posting this next week but I have learnt that it’s the game is free to play on Steam this weekend because it’s the games 2 year anniversary. So check it out for free if you like what you read.

Stardew Valley (MOBILE, PC, PS4, PSVITA, SWITCH, XBOX ONE)

I’ve been trying for the past week to come up with a topic to talk about, I’ve started a couple but never managed to get written down enough to be happy with. I have just started playing the remake of Final Fantasy VII but I’d like at least a couple of weeks under my belt before I let the world know what I think of it, therefore we head as close to casual gaming as I am happy to go. I speak of the wonderful pixelated paradise that is Stardew Valley.

Now anyone that’s played a classic Harvest Moon game will know how this goes. You’ve left your hectic, stressful life in the city behind and inherited a farm from a dead relative (usually Grandfather) in a small, remote country setting and it’s up to you to fix it up in order to find the good life. Growing crops, raising livestock, making cheese, keeping bees, getting married, having kids etc. Essentially things you’d rather be doing then questioning where you went wrong in life (I know I do). It mimics Harvest Moon down to it’s underpants then adds it’s own modern elements such combat as well as mining and crafting elements.

The game itself seemed to press all the right buttons in my frontal cortex to keep me engaged for more hours than I care to remember. You could spend the rest of your life and then some imagining, designing and maintaining your own little slice of paradise. If you are one of those 100% completion nutters you best get a shortcut to the wiki on your favourite browser as you’ll soon find the scope of the game to be vast. Between becoming best friends with the whole valley, completing all the collections, exploring all the caves and extra areas the game will keep you entertained for years and given how cheap the game can be bought for it’s defiantly value for money.

I played the game originally on the PC a few years back and more recently on mobile and I do find the mobile version easier to put down, not that there’s anything wrong with it, it’s just literally easier to put down and walk away from. I can sit there for a few minutes on my phone whilst on the toilet, play though a day or two before my legs get numb and I have to get on with the rest of my day. The PC version on the other hand gave me a case of the “Just-One-More’s” where I would decide to play for an hour or so before breakfast only to walk away when the sun has gone down and it’s time to go back to bed.

Now for a final thought. There are very few things that get under my skin when it comes to Stardew Valley, I think my biggest niggle with it is that it’s too easy to make money and the whole thing becomes more of a vanity project rather than a challenge. Maybe if I had to keep some of my crops and produce aside so that the player didn’t starve then the game might have provided more of a challenge. I know that each in game action costs stamina but you can replenish said stamina at the days end or by taking a dip in the spa so the whole thing become less of a hindrance and more of a minor annoyance. It seems that world hunger was solved by stopping people from needing to eat but then again if that was true why is there still a market for my goat’s cheese?

Resident Evil 3 (PC, PS4, XBOX ONE)

Given that we are all in the grips of a virus outbreak that’s crippling the world, it seemed only fitting that the next review I post be that of one that involves a virus outbreak that turns people also into mindless zombies (this one however doing so more directly). I bring you all once again back to Racoon City for the re imaginings of the 3rd instalment of the Resident Evil saga.

For those of you that don’t know, the game focuses around that of S.T.A.R.S member Jill Valentine months after the the mansion incident that brought the poor health and safety standards of Umbrella Inc. to light. This is further proven as the infection spreads to that of the local populous of Racoon City. Now Jill must escape the city while being relentlessly perused by the bio-weapon Nemesis who’s sole purpose is the eradication of S.T.A.R.S.

Most of you will be well aware of my affinity with the Resident Evil series. Still giving that, I went into this game with a bit more caution then I did with RE2 as I wasn’t expecting lightning to strike twice in the same franchise so soon. Low and behold I was right to be cautious as the game does fall a bit short when compared to the previous one. It’s not that it’s bad, on the contrary it’s rather good. I just wish there was more of it to enjoy. It is awfully short, I was able to complete the game in about 4hrs on my first attempt followed by just under 3hrs on my second. This wasn’t even me trying to beat the game as quickly as possible. The game feels like it’s the bits of RE2 that ended up on the cutting room floor mashed together with a few noticeable RE3 elements thrown in so it can be branded as such. True, the game is about the same length as one of the scenarios in RE2 but at least there was 4 scenarios to bulk the game out as well as the last survivor games as well. There isn’t even a remake of the Mercenaries mini-game from the original to unlock new weapons and the like. I know that the game is packaged with the Resident Evil Resistance multiplayer game but in all honesty I had and still have absolutely no interest in playing it. I’d rather they have put the extra effort into fleshing RE3 a bit more. Maybe have a second scenario where you play the game from Carlo’s perspective.

Just like the RE2 remake before it, it has a beautiful aesthetic behind it. Both the graphics and sound quality make the game just as immersive. Although RE3 does feel a lot more action based than that of RE2. Where RE2 is set in 2-3 different locations with jumping back and forward between them, RE3 doesn’t keep us in the same areas for long and rarely allows for revisiting old areas. This idea of a more action based game is reinforced with the new bells and whistles added from the last instalment. Unlike Leon and Claire, Jill is able to parry and counter some enemy attacks when timed right leading to more opportunities to stand and fight your enemy even when ammo is scarce.

The next big difference is that of Nemesis himself, much like Mr X in RE2 he will follow you around the map like he wants to talk to you about Jesus, although Nemesis is much more persistent than that of his predecessor, being harder, better, faster and stronger. Should you take Nemesis down at least for the interim, you are treated to some goodies usually in the form of weapon upgrades, a lot of which come in handy as enemies and Nemesis himself become harder.

Now for my final thought. The more I think about it and the more I write this, the less I enjoyed the game. I remember the early days of survival horror, the likes of Silent Hill and the original Resident Evil teaching us subtly and that “less is more”. The atmosphere of the game did draw me in but the action was that constant that the game didn’t give me the opportunity to lure me into a false sense of security, make me believe that I can step out the next door without worry. I find the best way to create atmosphere in a game is to keep them guessing. The less you see of an enemy the scarier it becomes. Nemesis was always there, relentless in his pursuit. Mr X however, you could get away from him loose him for a while only to walk through a door and find him staring at you from the other end of the corridor. That as a metaphor is why I prefer RE2 to RE3.