Gaming and Your Partner

If you’re reading this, you more than likely have an affinity for video games. With something that you enjoy, there’s always the desire to share it with you SO. But in the situation where your partner hasn’t had much experience in gaming, then finding the right games can be tricky. In this article I want to talk about co-op games and just games that offer a more basic approach. So first person shooters are out of the question. Maybe you’ve had better luck. But usually when I give a new gamer the controller to an FPS or over the shoulder perspective, they continually run into walls or run sideways into gunfire. The games I’ve selected are games that tend to not involve camera control. As novices seems to have issues with connecting the left stick to movement and the right stick to viewpoint. Lets delve in.

Overcooked (PS4, Xbox ONE, Switch and PC)

Make sure to play this only if your relationship is sturdy and ready for conflict. You have been warned. In Overcooked you and your partner take control of chefs in a kitchen. Orders come through and it’s up to you and your partner to prepare, cook and serve each order hastily. If a customer doesn’t receive their order in a set time, they’re out the door and you’re down a tip. Sounds simple enough so far but as you progress the kitchen place becomes more and more ludicrous. These kitchens range from the basic setup of a standard kitchen to a more challenging fare. Ice levels ensure a slippery time whilst lava levels spew magma which if touched, eliminates that chef for several seconds. You won’t know fury till you’re about to serve a meal and a stray fireball destroys you and your plate. It starts out as chop lettuce, chop tomatoes, BAM, salad done. Next order! The game ups the ante continuously by introducing new meals and new gimmicks. One challenge can see 3 different meals needing to be served, requiring intense co-ordination and communication to receive top marks. Another level might have the prep station on one moving lorry, while the hobs are on another lorry. The basic controls and isometric view means that the control scheme is simple and easy to learn. The game is easy to learn too, just hard to master. While some games like Mario Party can cause angry glares from your adjacent couch seat, Overcooked could potentially lead to some fiery words when someone (not naming who) burns the kitchen down. But the sense of accomplishment you and your partner will have when you 3 star a space mission, after the 8th try. You will definitely release a sigh of relief and a smile on both your faces.

Overcooked
As an added bonus. This game can be played with up to four players. Making it an ideal double date night game.

WarioWare Smooth Moves (WII)

The Nintendo Wii was an immense success. Everyone and their cat had one. And while nowadays the Wii is looked back on as more of a gimmick console. It still had some stand out games. Nintendo really knew how to market it and get the ‘console for the whole family’ brought to reality. WarioWare Smooth Moves shows this to the fullest. With Wii remote in hand and a visual prompt card on the screen, what follows is an absurd mini game which needs to be completed within seconds with the action shown on the prompt card. If completed successfully, a new prompt card is shown and a new weird mini game lined up. As you complete each mini game they get more difficult and faster until you complete them all or fail. Usually because you chugged the water too quick and drenched your characters face. It always gets me that mini game. With a multitude of modes such as Survival where each person is an angel soaring through the air. You take turns at the random mini games and if you fail one, you descend lower and lower each time until you’re out the match. Or All Mixed Up where all mini games are up for play and you see how long you can go before you lose all 4 lives. This mode in particular is a great; pass the controller party game. I can’t recommend this enough for your SO or even a house party. The simple motion controls and absurdity on screen make for lots and lots of laughter. Here’s a video to show its uniqueness and it speaks for itself.

The Binding Of Isaac: Afterbirth (PS4, Xbox One, PC)

The Binding Of Isaac Rebirth, Afterbirth and Afterbirth+ are all fantastic versions. I’ve just listed Afterbirth as that’s the one I’m currently playing on PS4. They’re all great and so if you fancy getting it just get whichever version is available on your preferred platform. Afterbirth+ is the latest and has more content than the others so that’d probably be the best version to get. This game is primarily a single player game. It does have a couch co-op option but it’s more of a help option than a 2 player mode. This game is quite dark, has lots of gore and religious themes and so you yourself will have to gauge if this is an appropriate game for your situation. Isaac is a twin stick shooter. Left stick moves and right stick shoots. There are a few other buttons such as ‘use item’ and ‘use a bomb’ but you’ll figure that out when you play. The basics are you pick a character, start a run and are dropped into a randomly generated floor. You then control your character as you battle rooms of monsters and puzzles until you get to the boss of each floor. Defeat the boss, go down another floor and repeat until you either die or you succeed. Along your travels you will find money, keys, bombs to help you on your descent. You will also find items that not only offer new gameplay styles but also visually change your character. Sometimes into a grotesque, demonic child. As I said, the game is randomly generated. Each run is different but pertains to the same structure. And there lies the fun of The Binding Of Isaac. Every time you play is a different experience and although at the start it can be very difficult and confusing. With practice and time you learn the game mechanics and enemy patters. You learn which items to take and which to leave. This is why I recommend this game. To novices Isaac can be very daunting. There are over 300 items in the game and so many mysterious things that even after dozens of hours of playing you won’t have seen them all. Which is why this is the perfect back seat gaming game. Set you SO on a run and provide help. Tell her/him to save that key for the shop. Tell them that Isaac’s Heart is one of the worst items in the game and don’t pick it up.  Let them know the secrets to completing a run that you yourself have learned or are currently figuring out. It’s a great game and topic for discussion. Walking in from work and being told ‘I had a great run as The Lost today. Got to Hush and picked up Bob’s Brain by accident’, that means nothing to you if you haven’t played it. But to me that warrants a ‘Oh. Unlucky. Next time though’. It’s like talking in a secret code and it’s great. Highly recommend as long as it’s themes don’t cause offence.

TBIDINGOFiSAAC

Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls (PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360, PC)

Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls is an isometric, action RPG. You and your partner will pick a class, name your character and begin your quest. With 6 classes to choose from (7 if you get the DLC) you get a myriad of roles to play. Do you be a wizard and attack enemies from afar. Or go the barbarian route and get up close and personal to your foes. With this, a story mode, rare loot drops, randomised rifts to explore and a great online experience. Diablo 3 can keep you engaged for a long, long time. When you’ve levelled up your character as much as you want and got all the gear you’ve hunted for. You can start as a new class. See how that class’s style differs. When you level your characters you unlock access to new skills. What skills you choose is up to you. Communicate with your partner and choose skills that compliment her/his style. As a wizard I would slow enemies down while my partner rushed them as the barbarian. It’s this versatility and range that makes Diablo 3 a great couch co-op game. With tons of difficulties too, which the higher the better as it yields rarer loot. There is even the terrifying (to me anyway) hardcore mode. Which means that if your character dies, then that’s your character gone. Deleted from the system. If you and your partner wish to try this mode then you’re braver than we are. Diablo 3 also has a story which in of itself isn’t anything special. But it’s nice to be able to play a game with your SO that isn’t just mini games or a funny game. This is a fully fleshed game and with its easy to grasp controls and camera view, it makes for many hours of fun co op dungeon crawling.

diablo-3
This game can be played with up to 4 players. Couch co-op, online or a mixture of the 2.

Puyo Puyo Tetris (PS4, 3DS, Xbox One, Wii U, PS3, PlayStation Vita, Switch)

Tetris! Released in 1984, this series has retained it’s addictive quality and basic concept. Shapes fall from the sky and you have to rotate, move and line them up to form rows so that they can disappear and you can rinse and repeat. The game gets speedier and you go until you can’t go anymore. This latest edition combines Puyo Puyo with the chaos for an even more frantic mayhem. Add in competitive multiplayer between friends/SO’s/AI and you have a great party game. Prior to this game I never played Puyo Puyo before but understood its concept. Connect 4 or more Puyos of the same color in a row, vertically or a combination of the 2, to make them disappear. Basically like Tetris except, in Tetris if you clear a line, nothing else happens to your playing field. Puyos on the other hand fall if the ones below them vanish. Which leads to strategies and forward thinking to win.  If you create chain reactions and cause multiple Puyo colors to disappear this sends obstacles to your opponents. Ruining their lavish design that would have rained hell on you, if they got that particular color they needed. With an ample choice of modes you can’t go wrong with this game. Simple controls and mechanics, but a lot to master. Not only do you have Tetris and Puyo Puyo modes but you also have the new Fusion mode. Which combines to the 2 elements for a confusing at first, but addictive mode, if you can grasp the concept. If you aren’t a competitive couple, then you can always team up and take on the computer. Or take turns in seeing who can last the longest in a certain mode. If you like puzzle games then I really recommend checking this game out.

Puyo Puyo

I think that’ll about do it for this post. I have other games in mind but will save them for possibly a sequel to this feature. Thank you for reading and if you wish to suggest any games ideal for discussion then feel free to leave a comment.

5 Great Boss Themes

Lately I’ve been playing The Legend Of Zelda: Breathe of the Wild.  Whilst I thoroughly enjoy my time with it, I do miss the grand boss fights of it’s predecessors. Sure, there are bosses in this game but I feel they lack a punch as previous Zelda games have had in the past. They lack character. A big contribution to a epic boss battle is the battle theme though. Be it whimsical, bold and dramatic, eerily silent or some rock track, music can accentuate a great fight to an amazing fight. And so here are 5 that jump out at me from time to time.

Gangplank Galleon-Donkey Kong Country

This one takes me back to my childhood. Sitting on the carpet in front of a CRT TV, SNES controller in my hand and the final boss fight begins. The boss fight itself isn’t too difficult. It’s pattern recognition and timing but as the fight progressively gets harder, the song transforms from a cheery sea chantey to a more dark and foreboding tune.  The rhythm picks up, percussion instruments become involved but that calming sea chantey remains there, over the top of the beat. Combine this with a fake out ending, credits or Kredits I should say, included. The scaly King K Rool gets back up after being defeated like the rotund annoyance he is. Then proceeds to wreck havoc once again with a quicker and harder to dodge, attack pattern. And whilst all this is happening you have this amazing song playing through the entirety. A great song especially considering the limitations of 16 bit back then too.

The Calm+Snake Eater-Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

So, this one isn’t cheating but you would be excused for having an issue with this. Oh and by the way, spoilers for Metal Gear Solid 3. It’s a phenominal game and I wouldn’t want to ruin it for anyone unless they’re willing to ruin it for themselves. I do recommend you go play it. Either scroll down this page and squint your eyes so you can only see the bold of next song title. Or go play the game now……I’ll wait, I’ll still be here when you get back. OK, you’ve been warned. This boss fight takes place in a field of white flowers and a few trees. That’s it. This is essentially the end of the game and throughout all of it you’ve battled an array of soldiers, freakish bosses (A man who shoots bees at you and a delusional man with a flamethrower in a space suit being prime examples) and a nuclear launching tank that’s barrelling after you while you’re in a motorbike sidecar. And yet after all that chaos and noise, the last fight between student and mentor is devoid of music for the longest period. The rustling of leaves is your choir and radar, the petals in the air are your audience. This stays like this for such a long time that many people will have finished the fight long before the low murmur of the titular song Snake Eater starts creeping out of their speakers. It’s an amazing boss fight with a very wise choice to just let it be what it is. No loud music, no orchestral score, just serene. And then the James Bond-esque theme follows slowly and softly. It then proceeds to get louder and brasher but by then the fight is usually over and you don’t get to experience that. Instead you got to experience the fight in it’s purer form, I believe anyway.

Philistine-No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle

This is a guilty pleasure of mine and one that I find myself coming back to every few months. I love the No More Heroes games and am very excited about the new game coming to Switch in the future. The series is full of style and over the top characters that it’s hard not to love each boss encounter. And when Margaret rocks up for a rooftop duel against Travis Touchdown, you know this goth infused sniper knows a good tune or two. And does she ever deliver. Not only is Philistine catchy as hell and irritatingly difficult to shake off when trying to get some sleep at 2am. But the lyrics themselves mesh so well with the game. Pointing out Travis’s own flaws and ideology.   A man who in the previous game slayed assassins without barely a look in their direction. Now in this sequel, out for revenge against those that killed his friend. The lyrics go as:

“Reaper, Reaper”, that’s what people call me!

Why? ‘Cause they all die! When I sing, I end their lives

You act as though payback makes you a noble man

Is that a fact?

Well, you’re a goddamn Philistine!

The fight itself isn’t the stand out of the series in my eyes, but it’s locale, interesting opponent and theme/plot surrounding the game are elevated with this spot on catchy song. And the song makes for a memorable fight, so much so that I remember holding off delivering the killing blow so I could listen to it a bit longer.

Life Will Change + Rivers in the Desert- Persona 5

OK I admit it, I’m cheating a bit here. Technically this is two separate songs. Both stand on their own feet and I would gladly put either in this list. But the boss I am thinking of features Life Will Change as the song for the short run to the boss fight and Rivers in the Desert plays during the fight itself. So i’m off the hook, right? Persona 5 as well as it’s predecessors that I’ve played; those being 3 and 4, have phenomenal music. It’s poppy, it’s lively and it’s brimming with as much personality as each individual party member in those games has. Except Ken. Don’t get me started on Ken! Again this is another song that gets you in the mood and ready to unleash your favourite Personas on those that have slighted your crew. But the song gets better with the lyrics being read along.

So you know that we’re out there
Swatting lies in the making
Can’t move fast without breaking
Can’t hold on or life won’t change

And our voices ring out, yeah
Took the mask off to feel free
Fought it out in the debris
Now we know that life will change

In a game all about standing up for your beliefs and taking powers from those that wrongly wield it. Those that use power to perverse their own warped views on the World, these lyrics sum up our band of merry men and women. And Persona 5 is a game where you feel a part of the gang. You can relate to them and when they’re in peril or suffering you feel for them. And so when you know it’s time to take down your latest adversary, and these songs kick in. You feel driven together with the Persona team. Or maybe that’s just me getting too attached to a game again. I didn’t have a lump in my throat when the credits rolled. Nope…..not this guy.

All Songs-Shadow of the Colossus

I thought I could resist putting this on here. I had other games in mind and other boss themes but I would be lying if I didn’t think this deserves a spot. The game is a masterpiece. It’s basic but elegant. The entirety of the game is as summed; bloke has a love, she’s dying or is dead, he wants to bring her back and so to do just that he needs to defeat 16 colossi. 16 lumbering, moss covered stone beings of varying shape and design. The music is perfect in this game and so therefore I’m not going to comb through the songs and pick a favourite. Each song is worthy of its own spot on this list and they feel like a complete package, the way they work with the world and your actions. Each song pairs with their colossi in such a well crafted way that it’s not enough to just listen to the songs. You have to experience it and be controlling the actions of Wander as he slays each creature to feel the full majesty of the music. These beings aren’t out to get you or anything nefarious. They’re minding their own business until you come along and slay them. And as you’re clambering up each colossi looking for it’s weak spots this beautiful soundtrack plays. Dramatic and climatic, but also peaceful at the same time.

If you have any other great suggestions or recommendations feel free to leave a comment and a link. I’ve not played every game in the World so always interested in finding new experiences. Thanks for reading.

Darkest Dungeon Review

Oh, Darkest Dungeon. Darkest Dungeon. Darkest Dungeon. What am I going to do about you? There’s something about a game that gives me heart palpitations that I love. And not the good heart palpitations either. This isn’t a holding hands with your new love speedy pitter-patter. It’s that feeling of your foot plunging to the ground when an unexpected drop or declining step appears. But prolonged at times and less sudden. You put yourself in this situation. And you will do again and again and again. You love it. I know I do. I am enraptured with this game. And yet I find myself unable to play it for long stretches. The sheer wave of relief after completing a taxing run in one of Darkest Dungeons……well dungeons, is always a welcome feeling but also a release button. ‘I’M OUT! That’s it, I’m done. I need to relax and unwind. This leisurely hour of Darkest Dungeon wasn’t relaxing it was strenuous and cruel. But I’ll be back. Maybe an hour later or the next day but I will return for me delicious punishment’.

Darkest Dungeon is a roguelike, turn based combat game. You are given a brief explanation of the happenings, 2 party members and a quick tutorial dungeon. Then the rest is up to you to decide. You have a combat phase and a micro-management/upgrade phase. You assemble your team of up to 4 members per expedition, their skills and their position in combat. There are over a dozen different hero types. Each with different roles in combat. As each character type is different, they all have different skills and preferred positions. The Crusader prefers to be up front where he deals the most damage. Whereas the Plague Doctor prefers to hang out in the back, chucking ailments at the enemies and buffs for your team. You venture out into whichever dungeon you subject them to and then at the end you pick up the pieces and tend to them. Each dungeon will have several options to choose from. Some of these include; a quick skirmish where you have to complete all the room battles. Explore, where a set percentage of rooms need to be passed through. And even Kill the (insert foul being for killing) which act as mini boss and boss encounters. These missions will require more planning as they tend to be longer but offer better rewards.

Darkest Dungeon_20170909172242
This will become a sanctuary to all who play this game. Take a breather and get the kettle on.

After your mission, you’re automatically transported to your estate, in which your party recuperate and prepare for the next mission.  The central hub of this game is a town under threat from neighbouring dungeons. It is here that you’ll decide the down time for your team. Do you go to the caravan to recruit new members? The blacksmith to upgrade your heroes gear? Or maybe the pub or brothel for your weary warriors?  There is no time limit or AP gauge here so you can go at your own pace and think your choices through. It’s a nice, calm lull that offers relief for the player as well as your team. Once you’ve made all your choices it’s back out to the dungeons for another round.

There are 5 dungeons in total. With the titular Darkest Dungeon being the end goal. Each dungeon is randomly generated. Although the same, in corridors connected to rooms, each offer very different experiences and aesthetic. The Ruins offer Unholy beasties that attack your team’s sanity just as much as their health whilst the Weald’s enemies tend to inflict ailments such as blight and bleed upon your party. It’s these differences that require planning ahead, as picking a team willy-nilly will result in bad times or even death for your team. And in this game; when someone’s dead, they’re dead, Jim. Prepare to get attached and have your heart broken as your Highwayman, Greg gets shanked to death by a butcher in the Ruins. When an enemy dies, unless by blight or certain situations, their body will remain on the ground and in the spot they were standing. If you want to attack an enemy behind them in the line-up, your best option may be to get rid of that corpse as soon as. That way your close quarters Crusader can end him swiftly. This feature requires extra thought but can be switched off in the options, as well as a number of choices to make the game easier or harder for yourself.

I mentioned enemies attacking sanity before and that is a key feature of this game. When you enter the combat segment, your team each have a health meter and also a sanity meter. As you progress through the corridors and enemy encounters your team’s sanity will deteriorate. Sometimes because an enemy specifically cast a sanity affecting attack. Other times because the enemy landed a critical hit and now your hero’s confidence wavers. Even progressing through the dungeon puts a toll on your heroes. The light is your friend in this game. If that starts to fade so does your teams spirit. Luckily before each expedition you get to purchase provisions before you set off.  The usual antidotes for blight (this games version of poison ailment), bandages to stop bleeding and buff potions. Food can be purchased and eaten any time out of combat. This’ll heal your selected member a smidge. But don’t get greedy! As you progress through the dungeon your team may get hungry and require a piece of food each. If you’re short on rations, well too bad, your team take a hit to sanity and health for your lack of planning. Torches can be purchased too before you set off. The light provides another gameplay element, play it safe or go bold and daring. Your screen lit like a beacon will provide ease for your party and a less stressful venture. It may also provide mapping possibilities and a chance to startle an enemy team, giving you the upper hand. With less light though you have a higher chance of earning more loot and landing critical blows. But be afraid of the dark, as it can give the enemy the jump on your team and will cause their stress levels to rise quicker. If a character’s stress level is pushed too far they will have a moment of resolve, where they’re tested to see if they’re strong enough to power through their fe ars or if they’ll crumble and become a detriment to your team. They might power through though. Then they become stronger than before, able to hit harder, heal themselves randomly and increase morale among your team lowering stress for all. Should they fail though, then you might want to chuck them as soon as you get out that dungeon.

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My first death. Immortalised in a trophy screenshot. Go quietly into the night.

They will gain an affliction, such as Selfish, Fearful or Irrational. These may cause your worrywart to freeze up on their turn or switch places with one of your other party members. They can even run from combat and that’s them gone for this dungeon, you’re one man down now.  It’s not just the enemies out to get your team either. The corridors are littered with traps that’ll sneak up on you if the light is dim. Obstacles will appear such as a mound of bricks that you will need a shovel to dig through. ‘What, you didn’t bring a shovel or find one in your travels? Tough.’. You take so long clearing the way that the light goes dim and your team each loses sanity. The hallways are littered with temptations too. Curios they’re called in this game. Your team stumbles upon random stack of books. The choice is yours to make and for which member of your party. Do you let them investigate or play it safe and walk on? A quick glance can’t harm your Grave Robber, Gael much surely? Whoops, she reads and gains the quirk Night Blindness and so now if the light is below a certain amount, she does 10% damage less to opponents. And honestly that’s one of the better negative quirks to get.

Yes, you heard that right. Quirks. Each hero has a random set of quirks when you recruit them. These can be positive or negative.  A positive quirk can ensure that they fare better against certain monster types or have increased HP among other things. Negative quirks could mean that a particular hero is nerfed in a certain dungeon or under certain conditions such as low light. Sometimes they’ll have a quirk which makes them instantly investigates certain Curios if found, possibly gaining them another negative quirk. Or Flagellant, which means in town they’ll only go to the Penance Hall to de-stress, which may be occupied by the roaming caretaker who randomly takes up spots meant for your heroes to recover mentally in. And if quirks weren’t bad enough, there are also diseases that your team can contract. Diseases are rarer but can be gained through combat and Curios too. A party member might get afflicted with The Red Plague which decreases HP, critical chances and bleed resistance. It’s these possible pitfalls that make every dungeon venture a gamble and a constant assessment of your situation whilst exploring. Dread is the name of your friend when playing this game. ‘Hello Dread! My that’s a nice urn there. Mind if I have a cheeky peek inside?’ “Of course! Go right ahead, watch for syphilis though.”. ‘Sorry Dread, I didn’t quite catch that. Did you whisper syphilis? Am I going to get syphilis from this innocent urn?!’. And that’s how Reynauld the Crusader contracted that disease.

Thankfully the town offers cures and treatment for diseases and negative quirks. For a price, obviously. Treatment isn’t free and sometimes that Grave Robber you’ve had since your first real dungeon, who was always in your prime line-up.  Sometimes the damage of Darkest Dungeon is too great or costly and you have to make the choice. Spend your hard-earned money on fixing her up, back to beautiful Gael. Or dismiss your loyal member and recruit a new, less tainted by the harsh surroundings, hero.  Darkest Dungeon isn’t all evil though and does offer help too. After completing missions you’ll gain money, trinkets and upgrade material. The trinkets can be given to individual party members. Each member can hold 2 trinkets and some trinkets are classed based. They range in rarity and also effectiveness. Some will be great but others not so much. Sure, one may raise your characters HP by 10% but it’ll also reduce their speed by 2. But, aha! Find a hero with 0 speed already and suddenly that trinket doesn’t seem so bad. You can’t miss what you don’t have. The upgrade materials you earn can be used in town to upgrade the surrounding buildings. Upgrading the caravan will increase roster size or selection of heroes after each mission. Upgrade the blacksmith and he will allow you to buff your party members weapons for more damage, among other things. But establishments will only take certain upgrade material. And certain materials will be more available in certain dungeons. Thus, encouraging expeditions into the more unfamiliar dungeons.

Plague Doctor
One of my favourite classes. Blight the back 2 enemies and watch them wither away.

If this all sounds rather complex, it’s because it is. Darkest Dungeon isn’t an easy game. And there are lots of nuances to get used to and you will learn from mistakes you make.  I am playing the PS4 version and although the team, Red Hook Studios have done an admirable job porting a complex game to console. It does suffer from confusing controls. Something I have got used to but because there is a lot to manage on screen, it requires a lot of different inputs. And that can take some time and errors along the way to ingrain into your memory.

Overall, I would recommend Darkest Dungeon. But I would also recommend looking it up on YouTube or other game sites and watching some combat gameplay. If you like the look of it, can handle stress and won’t fling your controller across the room at the sometimes seemingly biased RNG then you’re in for a rewarding, gorgeously pleasing game that’s chock full of great visuals, animations and sound design. Text doesn’t do justice to the transition when you or an enemy performs an action. And there is a narrator of your quest who is ever present in town and in combat.  Wayne June is his name. He does a fantastic job of setting the mood and boosting your confidence. When you critical hit an enemy into the ground and you hear the powerful “Crush. Them. All” be commanded, you can’t help but feel riled up, imposing and ready to conquer the Darkest Dungeon of them all.