Four in February 2014

Dishonored

Last year I participated in a community driven campaign to complete four games during the month of February. Created to pair the typically slow release month of February with the insurmountable backlog that many gamers possess, Four in February turned out to be a surprisingly good motivator to grind through games.

The simple task of completing four games within the shortest month of the year was definitely a challenge and one that I am excited for this year. Last year I was fortunate to complete the challenge by finishing Beyond Good & Evil HD, Assassin’s Creed III, Vanquish and Lollipop Chainsaw.

The biggest hiccup of the month turned out to be Assassin’s Creed III due to the combination of its length and terrible pacing that gave me nearly no desire to complete the game. Assassin’s Creed III ended up occupying over half of the month as I began playing it to change the pace from my first game, Beyond Good & Evil. When all was said and done, I had roughly a week and a half to blur through two more games. Vanquish ended up being both a refreshing reprieve from the plodding AC3 and was surprisingly my favorite game of the month.

When all was said and done I ended up completing my list with three games being solid and one game being a chore. Despite my distaste for AC3 (which had merits that I mentioned in its review), I found that the Four in February a worthwhile challenge to create a conscious effort in completing titles that would otherwise collect dust on a shelf.

This year I’ve chosen the following games:

  • Dishonored
  • Gunpoint
  • Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

I have already started Dishonored (about 1/3 finished) and Sword & Sworcery (first act finished) so those two are games that are titles that I want to finish for personal reasons. Gunpoint is a title I stared at a lot throughout last year and I will give it a fair shake throughout the month. A Link to the Past is a game I played in my youth, but never to completion. With last year’s stellar A Link Between Worlds sitting patiently on my 3DS, I felt the need to give A Link to the Past some long overdue attention.

I’ve also highlighted a few games to consider should I run into a wall or lose interest in any of the above titles. Unfinished games like Catherine, Bastion and Kingdom Hearts 358 1/2 Days will all be considered should I need a change of pace.

I considered challenging myself by playing The Last of Us through the month. While I estimate it will take me about a week under my normal schedule to play through, I wanted to give the game a proper in depth look that I reserve for my top gaming experiences like Uncharted or Bioshock, so my playthroughs typically take a little longer.

So here’s to four more games off the backlog, with just two dozen days remaining in the month!

Gaming Backlog – Wind Waker

Wind Waker HD

The term system seller is thrown around a lot when referring to titles that are “must-own” alongside their exclusive consoles. Halo was that title for the original Xbox just as Super Mario Bros. was for the Nintendo Entertainment System. But on a case to case basis, a system seller can be more than a high water mark like Halo was. Personally, I purchased an Xbox for Dead or Alive 3, not Halo (which was actually the third game I purchased). To me, a system seller is a game that is immediately identifiable as a companion to a particular console. With that definition in mind, there is no game to console relationship quite like how The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker was to the GameCube. Continue reading

Gaming Backlog – Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days

It is a rare accomplishment to meet the quality and expectations of a console title within the confines of a handheld system. While developers have improved on their ability to create for the handheld in the last five years with successful titles on the PS Vita (Gravity Rush, Assassin’s Creed Liberation), 3DS (Animal Crossing New Leaf, Fire Emblem Awakening) and even the original PSP (Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker), successful portable outings often are the exception that proves the rule: handheld games are often restricted by their medium.

Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days

Which is why I find a game like Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days so compelling. The game is nearly four years old and was launched towards the end of the DS’s reign as handheld king. It is a pretty game to look at, especially considering the hardware limitations of the DS and has all the mechanics you would expect from a Kingdom Hearts game.

But it is just so hamstrung in ways that only affect portable games. Continue reading

Gaming Backlog – Dishonored

Revenge solves everything.

Dishonored

If the tagline is to believed for the much praised hit Dishonored, it should mean that it is a game that is as brutal as it is efficient. Revenge by its nature is a violently primal act, and implying that it is the answer to everything translates to revenge clearly being the best course of action for Corvo, the framed royal bodyguard protagonist in Dishonored.

Continue reading

Gaming Backlog – Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP

Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP

Before 2011, the indie team at Capybara Games was known for creating colorful characters in puzzle based worlds. Their award winning hits Critter Crunch and Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes were prime examples of simple gameplay mechanics, dressed in artfully crafted visuals, that delivered a surprising amount of depth. When Capy launched the then iOS exclusive Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP in 2011, they caught the entire world off guard.

Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery is a game that feels familiar and evokes memories of point-and-click PC adventures and even a little bit of Zelda II: The Adventures of Link. But for a game that feels like it should play in a traditional manner, it constantly surprises with clever direction cues, provocative music and stellar ambiance, and a visual style that is one-of-a-kind. In its simplest form, #Sworcery (as it is affectionately referred to) is an 8-bit progressive rock adventure. Continue reading

Gaming Backlog – The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead

When I play games, I largely seek out games that possess a strong single player narrative. Gameplay and skill are important too, but nothing is better than a well directed, interactive story. Why I hadn’t played Telltale Games’  The Walking Dead until now is beyond me. Released last year to a slew of Game of the Year awards, I don’t know if it was my skepticism in Telltale or my reluctance to playing a Walking Dead game without at least familiarizing myself with the graphic novel or the hit television adaptation.

Today, I have still not watched (or read) beyond the first televised episode of The Walking Dead despite profusely enjoying it (blame it on Sunday night swing shifts) and I am still irked at a clumsy experience with Telltale Games’ Back to the Future game, but I will say this: The Walking Dead is an absolutely gripping story that provides a glimpse of its source’s narrative.

The Walking Dead

Continue reading

Gaming Backlog – Final Fantasy XIII

Final Fantasy XIII

Final Fantasy games represent a grand adventure of discovery. There’s nothing quite like the experience of the original Final Fantasy, after embarking on your journey to stop Chaos and having no idea where to go. But that’s okay, you wing it. You move your party up and down the continent, using Cornelia as a home base. If monsters posed a decent challenge, keep pushing forth. If monsters stopped you right in your tracks, probably best to turn around.

Final Fantasy XIII has none of that. There is no mystery to FFXIII. Sure there is the whole grandeur of the world of Cocoon and the obvious twisted perversion of the political system (all standard fare for an RPG). There are those breathtaking Square cutscenes, the Tetsuya Nomura character designs and a surprisingly complex combat system. All of these are features that are a given when it comes to a Final Fantasy.

Final Fantasy XIII Continue reading