AJ Ruminates: I like rubbish games and I cannot lie

2011 has not been a good yearin regards to games. Those who say that a pessimist is never disappointed and intimate that this is a bad thing have clearly never experienced all of their positive feelings being shattered by having none of their minimal expectations met.

So far all of the major releases that I have been looking forward to have been disappointing. Each game has pretty much attempted to sucker punch me by claiming to be top tier and proving to be nothing of the sort. It becomes hard to remain hopeful for any of the other titles I was looking forward to when games like Outland have snagged me early on through extremely slow pace and jarring narrative choices.

So, with my optimism in tatters I decided to ignore the AAA titles and embrace the darker, nastier side of large commercial releases.
The games I have been playing would, if anthropomorphicised, be the Dirty Dozen – a rough and ready crew of losers on a suicide mission with no hope of redemption in death.

Through them I have rediscovered my gaming mojo and it feels so very good to be happy again, albeit still extremely cynical about every new hyped release (to be fair that is not a particularly new sentiment).

There has been beauty to be found in each one of these miscreants and without them I may have resorted to something drastic – like buying a Wii – to try and find some meaning in this gaming life.

I wrote about Knights Contract and Mindjack recently and these were the forerunners of my plumbing the depths of the bargain bin. So far the other games I have touched on are:

Army of Two: The 40th day

This is an all-round better game than its predecessor. The mechanics of moving from cover-to-cover and swinging aggro between the two soldiers actually works this time. The level design is also more interesting and varied despite being entirely set in one city. Even the simple cover and gun requirements have had extra twists added to them that actually keep the gameplay fresh, be it protecting civilians or trying to take out patrols before they seal off vital extra unlocks for your weapons and armour. It pains me to say that this game is actually good but it really is, and if you are looking for a cheap co-op shooter to tie you over until Gears of War 3 I cannot recommend it more. Especially as it is now going for about 15-20 dollars.

Bladestorm: The Hundred Years’ War

This game is a spin-off from the Dynasty Warrior series. The twist is that the conflict is all Anglo/Franco and this game demands that you don’t get involved in the combat as an individual, instead switching between different squads. The game is still grind-heavy like its brethren but it is the perfect, non-threatening Sunday hangover game. There is also an appeal in watching your formation of 20-strong, mace-wielding, skull-mask wearing freaks decimate a group of charging cavalry.

I will admit that this was actually introduced to me a long time ago but it is only recently that I have grown to really appreciate the game’s finer qualities, like being able to unwind after a stressful day and kill thousands of soldiers.

Trouble Witches NEO!

This is a no-frills 2D scrolling shooter from SNK Playmore. It derives most its best bits from better Cave bullet-hell shooters and is all the stronger for it. It’s a light-hearted shooter (partly thanks to some of the worst localisation this side of Castle of Shikigami 2) with just enough depth in it to be worth trying to one CC. As implied above there are better shooters out there, but if you have an itch which can only be scratched by dazzling patterns and endless waves of shooting then Trouble Witches NEO! Is a lot better than you may have been led to believe.

As a result of this experiment I encourage readers out there to shun review scores for a week or month. Just go for whatever seems appealing, regardless of what its Metacritic rating may be. Buy it; you might surprise yourself.

I will be buying D&D: Daggerdale this week in the hopes that it is just about good enough to justify the purchase. I won’t be playing LA Noire for the reason that optimists can only be disappointed… or in denial.

Incidentally, I do not like Stake: Fortune Fighters.