40 Games / 40 Nights: Week 5

November 15, 2020
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With the release of the PlayStation 5 on the horizon, I got to thinking about my enormous backlog of games on the current generation. Therefore, I thought I’d set myself a challenge. 40 games in 40 nights. Can I do it? I’m not sure. I’ll have fun trying though!

Week 5 is the biggest and most productive week I’ve had doing this. If only I’d been able to keep a steady pace at this rate and I wouldn’t be worried about finishing this thing by launch day on Thursday. 

I’ve got just 8 games to go until we hit that magic number and, regardless of what happens, it’s been an interesting experiment that I’m looking forward to reflecting on in The Finale next week. But before we get to that, let’s run down this week’s games.

Astro Bot: Rescue Mission

One of the few ‘killer apps’ of the PlayStation VR, Astro Bot: Rescue Mission managed to turn an unrecognisable and, frankly, throwaway character into a bonafide PlayStation mascot. Astro Bot makes his return in the PlayStation 5 pack-in game Astro’s Playroom and, having not finished the little robot's VR outing, I felt it was only right to make it through his excellent breakout performance.

A brilliant platformer with plenty of variety within its vibrant world, it uses the PSVR technology wonderfully. Floating above Astro and guiding him through each level is a blast and something as simple as peeking around a corner to find a collectable or spot an enemy always brings a smile to my face. And it’s not just the tech that makes the game either. Astro Bot: Rescue Mission is a wonderful game in its own right is undoubtedly one of the best platformers released in years. If you have a PSVR and haven’t played this, you owe it to yourself to do so.


Goat Simulator

I’d heard Goat Simulator discussed as somewhat of a cult classic. A parody of the various ‘simulator’ games that have often plagued the PC, this hilariously (and purposely) broken game is not a good game. However, its ability to subvert and mimic so many different video game styles and the abundance of ways they can fall to pieces is excellent. 

The hour or so that I played Goat Simulator was silly fun. However, whilst I enjoyed the ridiculously over the top nature of the game and all the wanton destruction, I can’t say I’ll be going back to it. Nor can I recommend it outside of morbid curiosity. However, that urge might be strong enough — after all, it was for me.


Adam’s Venture: Origins

I have a confession to make. I have the platinum trophy in Adam’s Venture: Origins — one of the worst games I have ever played.  

Picture, if you can, a game not unlike something from the Uncharted series. Got it? Now try and visualise that game running poorly on a PlayStation 2. Ok? Now imagine every part of it feeling unfinished, broken and otherwise bad. That’s Adam’s Venture: Origins — a game I have no recollection of buying, or downloading.

This very poor copycat game stars a quipping and charming explorer named Adam Venture. I say that, but he’s more of a poorly written, sexist idiot and, yes, that is actually his name. Alongside his sidekick Evelyn he finds himself on a quest to find the Garden of Eden. So yes, that’s Adam and Eve going to find the Garden of Eden. I’m glad we’re caught up. The pair also end up discovering Solomon’s Temple too to keep the overt religious themes going. Turns out our bad guy wants to blow it up to unite the religions in a war against one another, or something? I don’t really know. The story was so poorly paced and inconsistent that I switched off and thought about the trophies very early on.

Despite its many, many, shortcomings I do have to give Vertigo Games some props. The Dutch indie studio had plenty of ambition for this game and clearly thought that it had legs given that the game was released initially on PC in 2009 and then saw two further releases (both alternate versions) on PlayStation 3 and then PlayStation 4. 

Based purely around puzzle solving as opposed to the more combat oriented games its aping, the ambition of this game clearly outstripped the resources that the team had available. The environments are large, but mostly linear and empty. The few densely packed sections only shed more light on the fact the game looks generations old. The voice acting feels like the placeholder dialogue was left in, the puzzles range from ridiculously easy to frustratingly nonsensical and visually it’s barely holding itself together. The cherry on the top of this truly terrible cake is the gameplay is stiff and unresponsive and everything takes forever to do. 

Emulating what has gone on to be one of PlayStation’s most storied franchises takes some guts, which is something I suppose. Although how this actually made it out of the door a third time is beyond me.

So yes, this is a bad video game. Probably the worst — or perhaps that’s Defunct? — I’ve played for this series. And yet a mix of a short runtime, morbid curiosity, and an easy platinum trophy meant that I put some decent time into it. What can I say, I’m a glutton for punishment.


Tower of Guns

Tower of Guns does a lot in a short space of time with purposely limited resources. Heavily inspired by is Software classics DOOM and Castle Wolfenstein, this first-person shooter blends that old school feeling with more modern run-based gameplay and the result is a whole lot of fun.

A game that’s easily played for a few minutes or a couple of hours, it’s a great pick up and play game with a wonderful style and sense of humour that changes just enough with each new run. Unfortunately, the game's biggest feature — its distinctly throwback style — can also be its biggest flaw. It often felt clunky and far too rough around the edges, but with the turnaround on a new run a matter of seconds I always found myself jumping back in for one more round during my brief play time.


Virginia

A Lynchian detective thriller set in a small American town, Virginia is one of the most intriguing stories I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing in a video game. Proudly wearing its influences on its sleeve, this narrative-driven game makes up for its incredibly simplistic gameplay with a head-scratching story layered with symbolism.

I don’t want to say too much more for fear of spoilers. However, if you like what you’ve read above you should absolutely play this. The visual style is also incredibly eye catching and evocative whilst being incredibly simplistic, and the way it tells its story — particularly the editing — will most likely have you playing this in a single sitting. At least, that’s what I did. 

What’s more, by the time the game ends, you’ll likely be itching to play it again to see what else you can pick up on. 


Saturday Morning RPG

Saturday Morning RPG is a game that I’m not sure actually made it to the UK. However, I remember seeking it out following a few recommendations a little while ago. Unfortunately, it seems I probably should have played it at the time. 

An episodic JRPG rooted in 80s American pop culture, complete with parodies to Masters of the Universe, G.I. Joe and more, it sounds right up my street. However, the first episode didn’t do enough to grab me. Very straightforward with a limited battle system, all it really has going for it is its references. 

It’s also very possible that this isn’t the best game to be played on a home console. Portable versions of the game are available on Vita, iOS, and Nintendo Switch and that could be the ideal way to play this game.


Trine: Enchanted Edition

A side-scrolling action platformer with plenty of physics-based gameplay, Trine follows three heroes who have been merged together after uncovering the titular MacGuffin. A knight, a thief and a wizard, this trio naturally must traverse this fantasy world to discover the true power of this object and set themselves free. 

As simple as it is, this setup is great and allows the player (or players; I played in co-op with my very understanding girlfriend) to solve puzzles in a variety of different ways. Whether you want to get crafty as the Wizard, zip through the world with the Thief or brute-force everything as The Knight you have plenty of options. It’s not totally open-ended however and there’s usually one ideal solution to each puzzle, but that feeling of freedom is great.

Exploring each ability and figuring out not only how to beat each level, but pick up the variety of collectables strewn throughout the world, is really fun. Sure it can feel a little clunky to control at times and the high reliance on physics can prove to be a nightmare with multiple players, but it’s still one of the most original-playing platformers I’ve ever played. I’m really hoping we can go back and finish this one up quickly. I wouldn’t mind giving the sequels a go.


Tales from the Borderlands

Another week, another Telltale game. What can I say, I like the way they tell stories. However, whilst I was quickly burnt out by the team’s somewhat shoddy take on the Guardians of the Galaxy, Tales from the Borderlands is something else entirely. 

Taking a series that is best known for shooting and looting and forcing it into the far more restrained setting of a point and click adventure game should not work. However, somehow Telltale managed it. All the action, humour, wacky characters and even the looting from Borderlands is here — it’s just presented completely differently.

To call it the best Telltale game since the early series of The Walking Dead may sound like hyperbole, but it genuinely is. Troy Baker and Laura Bailey are fantastic as our two leads, whilst a host of other famous voices really help to flesh this oft forgotten chunk of the Borderlands world out. The tone is spot on, the story structure made me want to dive into the next episode immediately, and I was genuinely invested in the characters of Rhys and Fiona almost immediately. 

Alongside this ridiculous 40 Games task, I’m currently playing through Borderlands 3 with some friends. I wish the storytelling in that game was this good. I also wish Rhys was still voiced by Troy Baker, but that’s another story. Due to its relative separation from it’s AAA cousins, Tales from the Borderlands is the red-headed stepchild of the franchise. The thing is, it might secretly be the best Borderlands game — hot take!


Sayonara Wildhearts

We end this week with one of my favourite gaming experiences of the year — Sayonara Wildhearts. It's a game I once heard described as ‘a better album than a game’ and whilst that person may be correct — seriously the soundtrack is one of the best I’ve heard in years! — it’s a treat for the eyes as well as the ears.

Each level of the game is a different song, and the player is tasked with guiding an unknown woman through each environment, collecting hearts and avoiding obstacles as you go. It’s super simple, but something you’ll undoubtedly go back to upon completion. 

I beat the game in one sitting and I recommend everyone else try to do this too. At about 1 hour 30 minutes long, you should just put on your headphones and glide through these surreal, colourful environments and take on each song. When you’re not simply collecting hearts and avoiding your doom, there can be some light combat elements or quick time events. But again, these are relatively simple.

One level has the player shooting pickups and enemies with a machine gun mounted to a motorcycle whilst another adds a bow and arrow to the mix and has you painting targets like you’re playing Rez. Other than that it’s simple. Collect hearts. Score big. Listen to the awesome electro pop soundtrack.

Whilst it may just sound like the best music visualiser ever — and you’re not wrong — this very simple game is so stylish and so fun in its simplicity that I can’t help but tell everyone I know who plays games, from casual players to the more hardcore, that they have to play this game. And yes, that means you too. Play Sayonara Wildhearts. You won’t regret it.

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So that was week 5. The most packed week of the lot, which hopefully bodes well for a strong finish. I kind of hoped this is how the experiment would start, and we’d trail off to a solid finish. Alas, that’s not to be. With only four more days to pack in eight new games before The Finale, it’s going to go down to the wire.

Who’s excited to welcome the PlayStation 5 into their homes next week? That is, if you happen to be outside of Europe and haven’t done so already. Have you said goodbye to your backlog or will it follow you into the next generation? Let us know in the comments!

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Ant Barlow

Started with the PlayStation, now I'm here... with a PlayStation. Once skipped school to play the Metal Gear Solid demo repeatedly. I love stories big and small. Trophy hunter. Recent VR convert. Probably a hipster.