BONUS CONTENT: 5 Cult Games Worth Playing

We all get that once and a while. We find a gem of a game that we think is absolutely brilliant only for it not to get the recognition it deserves among the wider audience, be it due to mainstream critics who have missed the point of the game or the narrow demographic of the game itself. These are 5 games that I believe never got the credit they deserved, in no particular order.

Spec Ops: The Line:

This was a game that surprised me in a very good way. I originally went into it expecting a traditional modern 3rd person shooter, never to give the game a second thought after putting it do. Instead I’m still talking about it 8 years after it’s release. It’s story is nothing short of sublime and has yet to be topped by any shooter since. It’s obvious playing the game that the developers went into this game with a message to say, that war is not as black and white as previous games make it out to be. The game was let down a bit by it’s generic 3rd person gameplay style and it’s needlessly added bland multiplayer game but the strength of this game and one that gives it it’s cult following is it’s ability to put the gun in our hands then hold up the mirror to show us that there are no heroes in this story, just a different shade of grey.

Valkyria Chronicles:

Valkyria Chronicles was one of the first games I’d reviewed and it is one that has stuck with me since. The art style, the soundtrack, the gameplay, the story, there wasn’t all that many aspect of the game I didn’t enjoy. The lack of auto-save and the overabundance of unskipable cut scenes being the main two I can think of. Despite it’s mainly positive reviews the game never got the sales figures befitting of said reviews. I personally feel that this was because Sega didn’t have much faith in the game to be a success. With little to no marketing and being released within days of Fallout 3 and other major AAA titles doomed the game to be overlooked which given the quality of the game is more than a little unfair.

9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors:

I spoke about this briefly in my Zero Escape trilogy review. The game itself felt a little stop-start and the gameplay felt very one dimensional, but the solid story, well rounded characters and the fun and interesting puzzles kept the game from becoming stale. Since it’s initial release on the DS, the game has now been released on PS4 & PC making more accessible to new players.

Hogs of War:

If you can find a copy of this game I strongly suggest you play it. If I were to describe it in a couple of words it would be “absolutely nuts”. The voice acting as well as the voice over from the dearly departed Rik Mayall are absolutely side-splitting and adds to it’s endearing antics. The game is over 20 years old and sadly it shows it, feeling particularly out dated when compared to games from the time.

Grim Fandango:

I’m finding it hard to find the words to accurately describe Grim Fandango. It was a brilliant written, brilliantly executed story wrapped up in moments of drama and ludicrousness. Despite critical acclaim and a number of awards the game’s sales suffered due to the rise in popularity of more action based games at it’s time of release. This shift in the market meant that adventure games such as Grim Fandango & Monkey Island wouldn’t get the popularity I felt they deserved. A re-mastered version was released a few years ago to bring the experience to a new generation of gamers.

Zero Escape Trilogy (Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, Virtue’s Last Reward and Zero Time Dilemma) (DS, 3DS, PC, PS4, PSVITA)

OK, This weeks review is one purely for self-indulgence. This was a series that I enjoyed playing back in 2018 and is one I believe has been somewhat overlooked by a lot of people. So with that in mind let me set the record straight.

The Zero Escape series consists of 3 games. The first is Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors in which 9 people are kidnapped & held hostage by an unknown figure calling himself ‘Zero’ aboard an ocean liner. It’s here he forces the hostages to participate in “The Nonary Games” where they must solve a number of puzzle rooms in order to reach door no. 9 in 9 hrs otherwise the ship will sink. The second game, Virtue’s Last Reward is of a similar style, 9 more people are kidnapped by ‘Zero Sr.’ and is set inside a warehouse facility where the only way out is to complete in another “Nonary Games” which involves more puzzle rooms but differentiating from the first games by having players participate in what’s called “the Ambidex Game” which is a series of prisoner dilemma scenarios where players get or loose points depending on their answer. The first person/s to 9 points can escape trapping those who do not in the facility forever. Any player who accumulates negative points is killed. The third game, Zero Time Dilemma takes place when a DCom (Dwelling for Experimental Cohabitation of Mars) experiment is hijacked by masked individual calling himself ‘Zero’, the 9 individuals are separated into teams of 3 who are forced into a death game where the only way to leave is to gain 6 passwords and open the exit. A password is revealed each time a player dies.

At first I played the games in the wrong order. I started with the 3rd one then a year later learnt of the existence of the other 2 upon their release on PS4. With that I made sure to play them through then replay the 3rd one. The gameplay is fairly similar throughout the 3 games, they are separated into 2 main segments. The first is where the story is driven forward by using story boards in the first 2 games and as full 3d cut scenes in the 3rd. These sections are broken up by escape room like puzzles which must be solved in order to progress the story. Jumping between these segments doesn’t do well for the pacing of the games but the story is gripping enough that it allows for some leeway in this department.

Speaking of the story, all 3 stories are based heavily around both scientific and philosophical ideas, some of the more heavily present themes are that of morphogenetic fields (telepathy-type interconnectivity between persons) and the Many-worlds interpretation (where each decision made splits the time line depending on our choices). The games (especially in the 3rd instalment) allow the player access to the entire timeline of the game allowing you to jump back to decisions in the game and change the outcome. In some cases when you jump back the character can do what’s called a “Spacetime Human Internal Fluctuating Transfer” (or SHIFT for short). This will transfer the consciousness of a character from one timeline to another opening up more of the game and allowing from the better endings. As you can imagine once you throw both the shifting and the other scientific and philosophical concepts into the mix the story can become very jumbled and out of place, especially if you are playing through the timelines out of order (which will be almost everyone who’s not using a guide).

If you can follow the story then you are in for a great time, the story has some absolute gripping moments. One that comes to mind is when one character is trying to kill another one with a chainsaw whilst they try to fend them off with a fire axe. Another is where one player is locked in a chair with a revolver to their head and another is inside an incinerator about to turn on. The only way to save them is for a 3rd player to pull the trigger on the revolver in which there are 3 bullets and 3 empty chambers. It’s Saw-esque moral choice dilemmas like these that push the human condition to it’s extreme limits that get me very excited indeed.

Overall if you don’t mind a bit of bad voice dubbing and the stop-start story telling then the games are defiantly worth a play. The third one is defiantly the strongest of the 3 but also the hardest to follow. That being said the first one I would say was the weaker of the 3 but the easiest to follow so makes for a good introduction to the series and knowing that the following games will only get better. Anybody who loves a good gripping story should defiantly check them out. I would also say that if you are going to play them, play them in order. You’ll know after the first one if the series is right for you and you will loose a lot of background knowledge in the later games if you don’t play the ones before.