5 Console Games that Break From the Norm

Hello again! As established early on in previous blogs, I am a console gamer at heart, even though my interest in board games grows daily.

Ask the average person on the street to think of a console game and they will most likely tell you a game that involves shooting, violence, or football/sports. Even though I would consider myself to be a ‘hardcore’ game fan, I very rarely play the kind of things that most people do. I love games because of the amount of variation and wildly different experiences available, and I love finding hidden gems of games that sound crazy on paper, but due to the developer’s genius and vision, actually work really well!. So, without further ado, here are four of this kind of game that are all available right now on current consoles!

1. I Am Bread

I am Bread

Lets go straight in with one of the most off-the-wall game concepts that I have had the chance to play recently.

The name basically describes the main idea – you are bread. More specifically, you play as a sentient slice of bread, embarking on an epic journey to fulfil your destiny, and become toast! Each level is based on a room of a house, starting with the kitchen. Along the way you encounter different hazards, such as rotten fish, dirty floors and sinks full of washing up. If you touch any of these during your quest, your ‘edibility’ rating goes down and you get less points.

As ridiculous as this may sound, the game is really playable and addictive! Half of the enjoyment for me is from the absurdity and just realising that you are actually controlling a slice of bread flopping around someone’s house! In addition to a slice, there are also other types of bread in different game modes, such as a baguette or a speed-run mode with a bagel.

Another added bonus is that since the game is a couple of years old now, it can be found pretty cheap. I picked it up in a recent PS4 sale for only £3, well worth it even if you only get a couple of hours entertainment from it!

2. Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido

Sushi Striker Cover

This one is a much newer game, just released in June for both of Nintendo’s current consoles, the Switch and the 3DS/2DS.

The game, when you get to the playable part of it, is essentially a new take on the classic colour-matching puzzle genre. The idea is that you are standing in a sushi restaurant with loads of dishes going past on conveyor belts, and battling someone else by picking as many of the same colour plates as you can in one go, eating the sushi, and throwing the empty plates at your enemy!

Sushi Striker Screenshot

The gameplay is fun, but what makes it stand out for me is the hilarious backstory. The game is set in a world that has been ravaged by the Sushi Wars, due to a shortage of fish. Now, the evil Empire has banned all sushi, and you as the main character must lead the resistance against them. The story is told in extensive anime cut-scenes, including a lot of classic Japanese style humour, many over-the-top facial expressions, camp, buff bad guys and magical creature sidekicks.

The humour and tone of the game really reminds me of another classic from the Nintendo DS era, probably hard to come by now, called Elite Beat Agents, which itself was a westernised version of Japanese game Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan. These are rhythm games about special agent cheerleaders, which have equally ridiculous scenarios and cut-scenes. If you have played and enjoyed these, you will probably like Sushi Striker.

Even if you only slightly like the idea of this game, there is a free demo available in the Nintendo online shop, so if you have a Switch or 3DS, definitely give it a try!

3. and 4. Flower and Journey

And now for probably the best known games in my selection. They are made by a developer called ‘Thatgamecompany’. They released three games back in the PS3 era: Flow, Flower and Journey. All three were so good that they were re-released on the PS4. I haven’t played the first one, but knowing the others I would recommend it!

Flower cover

In Flower, you play as a flower petal blowing in the wind. You travel through a beautiful environment, touching other flowers and picking up their petals, steadily growing into a giant group of petals. Some flowers will activate other things in your journey, such as splashing beautiful colours around the environment.  It is not free roaming though, each level has an objective, and there is an overarching theme of a growing evil as the levels progress.

Journey cover

In Journey, you play as a humanoid being that wakes up in the middle of the desert. Your only guidance is a mountain in the background that has a bright light coming from it. The journey in question is to make it to the top of that mountain. To traverse the landscape you can only walk at first, but as the game goes on you gain the ability to fly for short times thanks to your magic scarf.

In both games, there is a very minimal interface, hardly any tutorial, and no speech. What there is, is a beautiful soundtrack, serene visuals, and gameplay designed to give you an emotional response as you are immersed in the world of their creation. A bonus in Journey is that if you are online you sometimes get paired up with another player who journeys with you. The only way to communicate with them is by how you move, or by sending energy pulses, but this is enough, and it’s great having someone there to show you around and point out secrets, or if you are more experienced, it is also nice to help others if they look to be struggling.  If you are lucky enough to be paired with someone for a whole game (it takes about 2 hours to get through), it can make for one of the most beautiful moments in gaming.

I can’t strongly recommend these two games, especially Journey, enough to any PS3 or PS4 owners.

5. Everything

Everything cover

So I have to end this post with a game that is about everything!  In this game, you can actually be almost anything!  You start as a fairly normal animal , but after playing for a bit you gain the ability to be, or possess, another animal or object smaller than you.  When you do this, your perspective shifts down to the size of that object. You can keep doing this to get smaller and smaller, right down to the sub-atomic level of matter!  later on you also gain the ability to shift back in to larger things, and literally anything you see in the game, you can be, all the way up to super clusters of galaxies, and beyond!

Everything screenshot

The game is actually procedurally generated, so each play through is different to the last.  There is a vague goal, but most of the enjoyment of this game is just roaming around, discovering all of the environments and things that you can be.  As you roam around, some of the objects talk to you.  You can also get groups of the same kind of thing to follow you.  Every so often you get to hear audio snippets from the late philosopher Alan Watts about life and existence, and this, plus the general experience of the game start to leave you with a different perspective on real life.

This for me is again a game I highly recommend trying out.  It is a beautiful zen-like experience.  You can play just to chill out, or you can play to explore and try be every object it has to offer.  You can even just leave it on in the background and the game will play itself.

 

I hope that at least one of these games has piqued your interest enough to give it a try, and I hope that you, like me, start to realise that the world of computer games outside the standard samey mainstream ones is a beautiful and varied one that is worth diving into!

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Switch and Snipperclips!

The Switch is Nintendo’s newest games console. It has been on the market now for almost a year. As I have made it clear in previous blogs, I am a big fan of Nintendo, so I couldn’t resist this latest machine.

Switch handheld mode
The Switch in handheld mode

 

The main unique feature of the Switch, apart from the great Nintendo games on it, is that it is a hybrid hand-held and home TV console, and can ‘switch’ between playing on a TV to playing in handheld mode very quickly.  This gimmick, and the really high quality games released (most notably Mario Odyssey and Zelda: Breath of the Wild), have made it very successful so far.  Even in the first ten months of release, it has now sold more than Nintendo’s previous console, the Wii U, did in its 5 years on the market.  This also reflects on the poor marketing for the Wii U, but in any case, the Switch is a fantastic console and if you are looking for a new gaming machine, especially for a family, this should be at the top of your list.

Switch docked brighter
Switch docked in TV mode

 

One of the reasons I like the Switch is that the main controller can be fixed to the side of the console, or separated into two parts, and this makes it instantly ready for two player games out of the box.  This makes it great for family/friends game time, and there are already a lot of games out that utilise this feature, such as Mario Kart, Mario Odyssey and Puyo Puyo Tetris.  One game that I feel uses the multiplayer aspect to great effect is the ‘couch co-op’ game Snipperclips, and so to continue the co-operative theme from last week, the rest of this post will be about that!

snipperclips

Snipperclips is a smaller sized ‘indie’ game that was released at the same time as the Switch and it was published and promoted by Nintendo at the time.  There are a few side minigames to it, but the main part of the game is a series of puzzles played with two U shaped characters, apparently called Snip and Clip.  They can move around and jump, etc. just like in a normal platform game, but they can also snip parts of the other one’s body out to change their shape.  They do this by overlapping their body with the other player, then pressing a button and the overlapping part is snipped off.

The snipping mechanic is pretty unique among computer games, and it is this that is used to solve the many puzzles that the game presents.  Each level is essentially a single screen puzzle.  There are a lot of variations to what you need to do in each level, such as: cutting yourselves out to fit in a dotted line shape, playing basketball, popping balloons, helping a flower to grow, and many more!  There are well over 50 levels in total and they are all presented in a clean and cute styled background, with a theme that changes for each world, or group of levels.

 

snipperclips screenshot
Basketball!

The game can be played with one player switching between the control of each character, but the main fun to be had with this is playing with another human.  there are even a few four player levels available, if you have enough controllers!  Since you both need the other player to snip you into the right shape, and the answer to the puzzles are not always obvious, a lot of communication and co-operation is required to pass each stage.  Obviously this doesn’t go without the inevitable arguments!  I think this just enhances the enjoyment of a game compared to a single player one, so this is a big plus point for me.

I would say that if you own a Switch this is an essential purchase.  it provides a lot of entertainment, the price is reasonable compared to a big AAA game such as Mario, and it is a really good demonstration of the unique two player ability of the console.  At the very least, it is worth downloading the free demo, which contains the first few levels.

That’s all from me, next time, back to board games!

 

New Zelda Excitement!

Just thought I’d write a quick post about one of my favourite game series, which seems to be lesser known by non-gamers – The Legend of Zelda!

There is a new Zelda game coming out tomorrow, for the new Nintendo Switch console (also out tomorrow), but the game is also out for the Wii U.  More on those consoles here!  it is called Breath of the Wild, and reviews so far are already calling it probably the best game ever made.  This is not a light statement to make, especially for gamers, who prize their own personal top ten games over anyone else’s, but among gamers the Zelda series is one which is much more than others on or near the top of most of their best games ever lists.

breath-of-the-wild

The Zelda games are kind of their own genre.  They are mostly role playing, more or less open world, action adventure games, starring the hero Link (Zelda is the princess that Link has to rescue).  They have been around for as long as Nintendo have been making consoles, with the first one being released on the NES.  Although they are not quite as well known as Mario, they are one of Nintendo’s biggest game series, with at least one Zelda game released on each hand-held or home console (more or less..).

links-awakening
Zelda: Link’s Awakening on the Gameboy

 

The first Zelda game I played was Link’s Awakening on the Gameboy.  Even with its basic black and green graphics, the game still had the ability to immerse me in the fantasy world that it created and got me hooked for the series.  Since then I have played several other Zelda games and loved each and every one of them.

As for playing together, even though the games are single player, in the same way as watching a movie together, the Zelda games can absolutely be enjoyed with others.  I have played through at least half of the games with my wife, and that has only increased my enjoyment and given us an amazing shared experience.  With this new game I am extremely tempted to coordinate time off work with her so that we can spend a whole day immersed in the land of Hyrule together with no other distractions.

zelda-ocarina-of-time
Zelda: Ocarina of Time

 

Now I have kids, I have, of course introduced them to the series.  We are currently playing through the widely regarded best of all, the Ocarina of Time on the Nintendo 64. We are currently on the water temple, and fans of the game will know that we may be there some time..  it is great to see them as excited as I was for this game when playing it for the first time.  Just about as excited as I am for this new game – The Breath of the Wild!

So here is a picture of my boy as excited as me!:

zelda-im-ready-2

Nintendo: The Masters of Playing Games Together (part 2)

nintendo-console-games-collage
Just a few amazing multiplayer games from the Wii U. CW from top left: Super Mario 3D World, Mario Kart 8, Splatoon and Rayman Legends

So, I wrote about the early days of Nintendo consoles in a previous blog post (check it out if you haven’t already), and here is the second part, looking at the most recent consoles and their very newest one, soon to be released – the Nintendo Switch.

Wii

wii-console

Nintendo is really the best console maker if you are looking for something to be able to play with others in the same living room. One console that absolutely mastered that aspect, so much that it ended up in almost every living room in the late noughties, was the Wii.

When this console released back in 2006, it caused a bit of a gaming revolution (coincidentally, this was the console’s codename before release..).  It wasn’t the most powerful console graphics-wise, but it had a  completely new way of playing: motion controls.  Rather than trying to compete with the other main consoles of the time, PS3 and Xbox 360, Nintendo deliberately tried to market the game to absolutely everyone, in an attempt to increase the number of people playing games in the world rather than pleasing existing gamers – kind of what I’m trying to do with this blog!  This approach, coupled with the super casual-friendly game Wii Sports coming free with the console was extremely successful, and the console has sold over 100 million in its lifetime.

For me, the Wii was the first console I owned as a married man (so, co-owned with the wife..).  It was great to play with friends and portable enough to bring to family gatherings for Christmas Wii bowling tournaments. It continued the multiplayer racing excellence with the best Mario Kart ever (at the time), and it did have several other excellent games.

One of the best games on the console, and my personal favourite game of all time, was Mario Galaxy, and its sequel. This used the Wii remote controllers in an ingenious way and introduced asynchronous co-op multiplayer, definitely a mouthful, but a great way to play together! In this case one player controlled Mario, while the other used the Wii remote pointer to help by collecting power-ups, stopping baddies, etc. This was a great way to play for my wife and I, she was generally the helper as she wasn’t so good at the platforming, while I would never have 100% completed the games without playing together with her. I would say that this kind of gaming style is ideal for the type of couples I see where one is really into gaming and the other not (this does not apply to my wife, she loves games too!).

Wii U

wii-u-console

Then we come to Nintendo’s current console, well, for the next week anyway, the Wii U. Unfortunately, due to poor marketing (and naming) from Nintendo, people still believe that this is just a Wii with a new controller. It isn’t! It’s a new generation, the first HD console from Ninty. It came out in 2012 and unfortunately due to the above poor marketing it did not sell nearly as well as its predecessor. It is a really good console though, almost on par with the Wii, and now would be a great time to buy it, since it will probably be going cheap when the next generation comes out, and there is a good selection of games (also cheap now).

The games in the main image are some of the best the Wii U has to offer, and they are all up to Nintendo’s usual very high multiplayer standard. Again, Mario Kart 8 is the best Mario Kart, Super Mario 3D World, while not quite up to Mario Galaxy’s standard, is probably the best multiplayer Mario game. Splatoon is Nintendo’s take on an online shooter, and is fantastic paint splatting fun, and finally in that picture there is Rayman, not made by Nintendo but a superbly designed same-room multiplayer platform game nonetheless.

For me, this console generation followed the creation of my own generation, and was the first console we got after having kids. This is a great console to play with kids, as its any Nintendo console. We have had a lot of fun with our children playing Mario, Pikmin, Toad, Donkey Kong, Rayman etc. together, and I can see us still using this console all through this year.

Switch

Nintendo Switch Console
Another weird console from the big N

So, what about Nintendo’s future? Well, on the 3rd of March 2017 they’ll release their next console, the Switch. As you can see from the image, they still don’t care about looking like the others and have gone for another strange design. The main feature of this console is that it works on the TV and as a handheld. You can switch between the two modes as easily as removing the tablet-like console from the main unit (hence the name).

Ninty have again prioritised playing together with this offering, as the included ‘joy-con’ controllers (red and blue above) can be separated and used as two controllers out of the box. Also, if you are lucky enough to have 7 other friends who also have the console (unlikely..) they can be connected in a local network for up to 8 player multiplayer!

Nintendo Switch console in handheld mode
The console in handheld mode

Games-wise, this is looking good, but not from launch. I would recommend waiting until later in the year, maybe Christmas for this one, by which time there will be a very decent selection. At launch they will have the Wii sports equivalent minigame packed 1-2-Switch, the latest Just Dance and the amazing looking Zelda game, Breath of the Wild though, so it is quite tempting..

I can’t predict the future, but I really hope that this is a success for Nintendo. The reason I like them so much is that their attitude to gaming seems to be the same as mine – it’s better to play together – and I would live to see this kind of gameplay increasing in the world.

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