Category Archives: video games

PCP: 3D Ultra Minigolf

Fun Fridayz #16 – Finite Flaws

Minigolf, Many Fun

The short of it: It’s about as much fun as real crappy minigolf. 

No real excuses here. Felt bad, fell asleep. 

So my buddy Max and I had a few and booted up the ol’ 360 arcade game, 3D Ultra Minigolf. 

I downloaded it a few months ago for a few bucks after watching Achievement Hunter’s wonderfully classic Let’s Play 3D Ultra Minigolf.

It went about as well as one could expect. Mixing wonky physics and alcohol turned into a series of terrible failures, where a max power shot was a hole in one, but putting became an extra six strokes on a Par 2 course.

For a cheap laugh, though, it’s a real sinker.

PCP: DemooD

Fun Fridayz #14 – Freaky/Free

Mood: Doom –
Doom Doom Doomdoom Doom

The short of it: The Doom demo demolishes for its demo, despite being dodgy for doubters, dredging up demonstrations from dangling in the depths of demise.

I cracked and finally got Doom, even though I already listened to its soundtrack in its entirety multiple times. And, much like Prey, my purchasing decision was based on the demo.

While a sale actually made me pull the trigger, trialing the first level made me pick up the gun.

As nice as “Free Weekends” and betas and such are (shoutout Path of Exile beta), it’s hard to argue against the value of a downloadable, specially focused trial that gives a sense of consumer-friendly development.

PCP: The Swapper

Fun Fridayz #12 – Free to Flee for a Few Mes

Swip Swap, You Don’t Stop

The short of it: The beautiful environments and bone-chilling environments make The Swapper a fascinating watch, but the solid puzzling mechanics make it equally as fun to play.

The Swapper is one of the staples of the initial indie peak. Along with Thomas Was Alone and Octodad, these games conquered the early proving grounds of independent development.


Note: I’m mostly going by my own timeline here. This isn’t exactly chronologically or empirically correct. I mean, these were the games that were the initial movers of things like Greenlight and Humble Bundle. They were the first games Microsoft and Sony (and probably Nintendo, but who even knows what/if they think) thought of as necessary additions to their marketplace to prove they supported indie devs.


The Swapper is the story of a lone survivor on a spaceship that may be populated by mysterious alien life forms with a taste for humans– a tale as old as time. Left with a tool that allows her to clone herself up to four times. She can swap possession from clone to clone to progress through locked areas of the deserted ship.

Here are cheap comparisons. It’s Metroidvania without the Metroid, without any clear enemies to worry about. It’s SOMA before SOMA.

But it’s a good game on its own merit. The literally-built-from-clay environments and models look amazing, the cloning mechanic manages to hold both gameplay and story value without compromising on either. Of course, it’s easy to be cynical about the game’s message of, “Here’s a video game mechanic, think about it.” But even taking the game at surface level, with none of the meta-gameplay concerns, it still manages to tell a good story in a known (humans have run out of resources, exploring far away worlds to find new ones) realm.

PCP: Watch_Dogs’ Spider Tank

Fun Fridayz #11 – Fight Fire with Freaky

Spider Tank, Spider Tank, Does Whatever a Spider Tank Does

The short of it: In a somewhat dark and real game world, this mode takes the reins off for explosive fun.

What, more on Watch_Dogs? Better call a watch dog because this seems suspiciously paid for!

Nah, I just really like this game. I barely get paid for my rent-paying job, which I’m surprisingly decent at, so getting a cent from this is hilarious.

Watch_Dogs has these kitschy mini games under the guise of “digital trips”– an earpiece emits a certain frequency that drops the user into completely believable hallucinations. These trips include leading a stealth-based resistance against robot overlords and driving a literal Hellsmobile.

All of these trips pale in comparison to the true trip.

Spider Tank.

The user is put in control of a tank that’s shaped like a spider, capable of crawling up buildings while firing a howitzer. Unlike the other trips, there’s no thin attempt at a story. It’s just, “Yo, here’s a spider tank. Destroy everything.”

There’s an upgrade wheel that offers typical things like a faster reload, stronger armor, and a power slam. However, none of these upgrades really feel like they’re drastically altering the gameplay because you’re already in a damn spider tank. The waves of cops and vehicles fall easily under the massive destructive force that is A DAMN SPIDER TANK . Oh, they’ve got some typical satellite weapon that’s about to destroy the city in an attempt to stop SPIDER TANK? Sounds like a job for SPIDER TANK.

Walk into this web.

PCP: Watch_Dogs

Fun Fridayz #9 – Free Fun

Watch_Dogs: Worth Watching, Dawg

The short of it: Despite accidentally boarding a machspeed hype train during its release, Watch_Dogs is an incredibly fun, complete game that looks fantastic. 

When it was first revealed at E3 a few years ago, people lost their minds. We hadn’t quite slid into our cynical echo chambers where we declare that anything that doesn’t look exactly the same as its promotional material to be lying garbage.

Many hypestorms later, it came to Games with Gold, and I’m absolutely loving it.

It’s a basic story of wronging the wrong guy– Aiden is a techno hacker wiz with gun skill and gristle, desperate to protect his sister and nephew from a mysterious badmandude.

As far as I know, he’s the greatest Aiden in gaming. The only other one I can think of is the dumb stupid force ghost Aiden from 2 Beyond 2 Souls, but still.

Of course, Aiden is a tad generic. He’s a low-talking white guy, with short, dark hair and scruff. But I can’t help but like him. His drive to protect his family is relatable, making his almost cringy lines about messing with the wrong guy actually touching and relatable.

It’s what’s really propelling me through the game. The progression system is satisfying, allowing the player to jump from hacking wallets to hacking helicopters, but it’s not an emotional motivator. It’s not what lets me look past the incredibly lackluster driving physics and obscene car camera controls.

Instead, watching Aiden’s willingness to become the type of guy he’s fighting against to protect his family makes me want more. His refusal to change and lack of desire to better himself is painfully relatable. He’s not taking the dark path like a hero willing to go the full length to stop evil. He’s just a really flawed guy watching out for his family.

PCP XL: Mortal Kombat XL

Fun Fridayz #6 – Man My Madness is Mad

Mortal Kombat XL: Mortality Shortener

The short of it: With a refreshing emphasis on character over classics, MKX is a brilliant reawakening for a series that just saw a decent reawakening. Stunted by wearied cheapness instead of challenge, its single player options end up less than they could’ve been.

I’m straight terrible at fighting games. Arguably, I’m bad at all games, but fighting games really reveal how godawful I am at every facet of gaming. Learning from mistakes, proper timing, understanding mechanics, everything. I just shell up and scream, bashing on buttons like down-down-up-left-right-select-x-x-y-start-down-bumper-bash-the-batteries-out would do anything.

But here I am, absolutely loving MKX.

For the past few days, I’ve been destroying my blood pressure playing through the surprisingly good (but not quite as good as Injustice) story mode as well as struggling to succeed against the easy AI in 1v1. It’s been fun, at least, until I hit the final boss and dropped down from normal to very easy. But I guess that’s classic MK, or even just classic fighting game, where devs create a super dope system for combatting others but consistently fail to create a final boss that’s challenging rather than cheap. Much like Shao Kahn in, well, every single iteration of Mortal Kombat, the final boss of MKX is the same ol’ 25 percent damage taking, unblockable chainable projectile dealing cheapskate that’s far less of a triumph to beat than a relief.

Yet, I still love it. Giving every character three styles almost triples the already decent roster. Netherrealm finally stepped up and made new characters that are genuinely good, in both design and play. Erron Black’s sick design allows him to stand on his own, while Ferra/Torr’s classic big bulk/little spike playstyle allows them to fit in the classics. Kotal Kahn manages to hold his own as a less outrageous Shao Kahn, and D’Vorah’s instrumental place in the campaign makes her hard to ignore.

Everything just feels great. Sure, some animations are a little choppy or weird, but there really isn’t anything that’s pulled me from the heat of the battle. I’m frustrated by start up times and delays, but those are classic fighting game mechanics. My frustration is with myself, not the game, which is both calming and infuriating.

That aside, it’s still a fun ride. The only real problem with the story is the weird amount of stage wedging. By that, I mean that it’s obvious there’s a fairly select number of stages that the story has to force the player into– one of the fighters has to do some grandiose move to force the fight back into the market stage or the forest stage. That being said, I’d rather the stages be tight than the roster.

I think the real tragedy of Mortal Kombat, aside from the krappy side games and characters, is the fact that it took until a year post-release for this game to truly be worth reviewing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m extremely excited to see what MKXI has to offer, but it straight up sucks that it took until 2016 for a 2015 game to be “complete.” I desperately wanted to play Injustice 2 after watching the campaign and various tournament fights, but I’m going to have to wait till Injustice 2 XL or whatever it is to feel like I’m getting my money’s worth of content.

Maybe it’s my discomfort with the rapidly growing trend of microtransactions as the profit base of games nowadays. Hell, maybe it’s about time for devs to really get the value they’ve earned after painful hours of coding and programming. But it’s still feels bad. It’s why I’m so divorced from Grand Theft Auto V after adoringly buying every DLC I could for its predecessor. It all feels like some kind of weird corporate trick, where a mixture of the cream and the crap is skimmed from the final product to be delivered later. And the messed up thing is that it makes sense for characters to be slowly developed and refined after the game’s release. But then there’s this day one pre-release nonsense, coupled with the microtransactions for easy fatalities.

It doesn’t quite feel right, I guess. Yeah, I’m just some dude and I’m bad at games. But it feels like a weird separation between player and developer– it seems to have slipped from relationship to business. There’s less hype about sick kombos and more about “additional kontent.”

But I’m still here, having a bunch of fun with these challenge towers and Test Your Luck with friends. Is the discomfort of post-release support worth the reward of a complete package a year later? I can’t say. All I can say is how much I’m liking the game, and how I’m deadass terrified of entering the online multiplayer. It’s a mortal fear.

PCP: Banjo Kazooie’s Mad Monster Mansion

Fun Fridayz #5 – Functioning Freedom

Banjo Kazooie: Mad Monster Mansion’s Mad Fun

The short of it: Yeah, the entire game is great. But this level specifically is pure concentrated Banjo. Everything that works in the main game works perfectly here. Spooktacularly. 

Banjo Kazooie’s almost a genre in itself– it’s the height of 3D platforming and collectathons, backed by goofy humor, brilliant map design, near perfect music, and just the right edge of dark.

Although its placement is hard to nail down thanks to the game’s fairly open structure, Mad Monster Mansion might be the peak of the game’s design. And one of its key features is its soundtrack.

The level is found upon a haunted hill with tombstones lining the path. Upon entering the level, the player’s greeted by the smallest map in the game. In its six areas, it holds an absurd amount of atmosphere. Each level in Banjo Kazooie has its own atmosphere, of course. The ice level has penguins and polar bears, the water level has sharks and fish, and so on. These NPCs fit their scenery and so do their puzzles. But there’s something special in MMM.

The aforementioned edge of dark is partially to blame– the player expects to see goofy monkeys or honeybees in any of the other worlds. But the Mansion’s first Jiggy is inside a gooey ghost that must be stealthily entered. Like, that’s weirdly creative, even for this game. One of the next Jiggys requires Banjo to move an anthropomorphic glass to spell out a word, much like an Ouija board. Another forces Banjo to beat a disembodied hand in a piano playing contest in a massive haunted church. The transformation is the only in the game that turns B&K into an inanimate object– the most adorably tiny pumpkin.

It’s the step the game didn’t need to take. Clanker is creepy, but he’s not supernatural. All of his pieces are attached (mostly). The other levels don’t quite breech past hinting at something beyond nefarious.

Sure, mechanically, they’re all par for the course. But MMM perfectly funnels that player around the level without any hitches. It’s polish on polish, piled with the right amount of cheesy and creepy.

Mad Monster Mansion is up there with Halo: Combat Evolved‘s The Library as the best spooky levels.

PCP: Injustice: Gods Among Us

Watching Wednesday #5 – Wowin’ Whacks

Injustice: Gods Among Us: God Among Storymodes

The short of it: Injustice manages to do what Warner Bros. and DC couldn’t do with billions upon billions of dollars and dozens of stars. It gives classic characters that have been done to death life again with its character-driven story. 

There’s lot of stories under the DC banner– some are brilliant studies of what it means to be human, some are flopping insults to fans. After the lukewarm  Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, it seemed like DC’s fighting games were doomed to mediocrity. And then a God was born.

That’s overly dramatic, but a metagame/metahuman joke wouldn’t have made as much sense. The point is, with the release of Injustice: Gods Among Us, Netherrealm and DC created a new standard for fighting games. Whereas Mortal Kombat X created an devent story by killing off old characters and introducing interesting new ones, it could hardly be considered character-driven. Injustice dedicates itself to the description.

The game (and preceding comics) comes up with a plot that manages to turn both Superman and Lex Luthor into more than the Flanderized forms of themselves in most other media. It’s the familiar story of the fallen hero. After being tricked into committing the Herculean crime of killing his wife and daughter (triggering a nuke in Metropolis in the process), Superman turns to judge, jury, executioner for the world’s criminals– and heroes. The heroes that try to stand up to Superman’s domination of democracy are brutally cut down by the god-emperor. Batman is the sole living opponent to Supes’ iron-fisted rule; he uses an interdismensional transporter to pull Justice League members from a universe where the League stopped the plot/nuke.

The game does lack of characterization for the typical villains; fortunately, its depiction of struggles of the former heroes turned to villainous pawns is enough to satisfy the bad guy side of things. Sure, Sinestro is still kinda lame, but The Flash’s growing uncertainty about whether or not he’s on the right side is fascinating. And it’s fun– the wit and charm from the animated series is present in the game’s burner lines after matches conclude.

Now, of course, being that this is a video game, it should go into Fun Fridayz. But I’ve never played Injustice. Hell, I’ve haven’t played a Netherrealm game since MK9. And I was bloody terrible at that; combos and timing escape me. I watched the game’s cutscenes in movie format thanks to some YouTube heroes.

Check it out:

This vidyagamemoviewhatever is super. It’s like a league of justice. It’s Batman. Whatever, it’s just dope.

PCP: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed

Fun Fridayz #4 – Force Fun Not Forced Fun

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed: Lightsabers, Lightning, and Legends, Oh My!

The short of it: A flawed but fascinating take on Darth Vader’s apprentice; before Ahsoka, Starkiller was Vader’s first student. Though this isn’t the first Star Wars game to put the player in control of a Jedi, it does manage to make it seem the most meaningful, powerwise. 

Have you heard the tragedy of Starkiller the Unwise?

I thought not. It’s not a story the cannon would tell you.

Of all the tragedies and triumphs of Disney’s unification of the Star Wars canon, I think I’m most disappointed in the loss of The Force Unleashed. Sure, Genndy Tartakovsky’s The Clone Wars deserves more than it got, but I don’t think there’s quite as much in-universe fun to be had.

On its surface, The Force Unleashed has a lot of problems.

  • Edgelord dialogue (performed well by my #2 man crush, Sam Witwer)
  • Painful loading sessions, both between levels and between customization menus
  • Video game/shonen levels of powering up that invalidate every character that isn’t Starkiller
  • Awkward squeezing into the canon
  • Level design that barely eeks into serviceable
  • Lackluster enemy AI that breeches farther into cheap than challenging

I could go on and bitch about what this game could have been– but that’s such a boring way of talking about media.


Note: I feel the same way about a lot of easy to make, hard to elaborate on criticism of adapted media. “Oh no, we won’t get Planet Hulk/whatever kind of adaptation of niche media!” Yeah, but it’s not like there’s going to be any other adaptation. It sucks, but a few canon shoutouts is more than a fan could ask for into a trillion dollar franchise.


So here’s what’s what: this game is hella flawed. It’s nowhere near a ten, or a nine, or an eight. But stick a saber in me and call me Qui-Gon, I love it.

When I first picked up The Force Unleashed years ago, it sold me in the first ten minutes. Using the Force, I picked up a stormtrooper, the last of his squad, and dangled him two stories above a TIE hangar. As he flailed helplessly in the invisible hand of a burgeoning Sith lord, he desperately grasped the catwalk’s railing. He held there with the tenaciousness of a bull. At least, until I put a lightsaber and ten million volts of force lightning through him.

It was a power play; I was the apprentice of the Dark Lord Vader. Everyone below me was a waste of space. And I embraced that, tossing rebel and stormtrooper alike into the vacuum of space.

There’s some level of catharsis of finally being the one– the player equivalent of Anakin or Luke, the person capable of being the genetically perfect (because Midichlorian bullshit or whatever, I don’t own a shovel to beat George Lucas with or anything) force of the Force.

So every time I had to fix some miniscule pseudo-platforming bullshit to make it the next segment of murderizing some poorly-armored jobbers or every time I trudged through wave after wave of cheap-moving cheaters to make it the next powerful boss, I was excited. I was there, switching my lightsaber crystals to these beautiful new configurations that matched my increasingly terrifying Force powers.

It sucks. It’s far from perfect, and maybe, if it was separate from the beloved Star Wars franchise, this game would’ve died in alpha. But it’s there, with its classically Star Wars-ian not-so-subtle nods to its legends. Vader, Fett, Yoda, dodge in and out of this storyline that doesn’t quite make sense.

But y’know what? Who cares. I embrace it like the way Disney embraced the universe: here’s some super tight storylines and power fantasies, so let’s just absorb them. Maybe it’s not mechanically perfect, maybe it’s edges are as rugged as Sam Witwer’s jaw. But Force unleashed, ain’t it a sight to behold? More so, ain’t it a scenario to enjoy?

And yeah, there’s a lot more to be said about the improvements and failures of The Force Unleashed II. But that’s for another post– if I don’t milk this series, who will?