Spaceships In No Man’s Sky

Can’t lie, I like a good spaceship. Whether it’s the post war airforce analog of Dan Dare’s Anastasia, the flying St John’s Beacon-isms of the Dalek flying saucer from the 60’s Who film (any flying saucer is great really but that’s the gold standard), my personal all time favourite of The Liberator (Scorpio just doesn’t cut it) or the absurdly ominous kitbash of the Star Destroyer. Spaceships, frankly, are good.

Well. Film, TV and comic spaceships are good. Videogame spaceships have largely failed to grab me in the same way. I’m not even sure why. When sitting down to write this post out I tried racking my brains for some spaceships in a game somewhere that I really love and I guess there’s the R-9, that’s pretty good though that’s more for the attachments, I guess. And errr, well, that’s where No Man’s Sky comes in because the spaceships are fantastic and there’s so many variations to pick through thanks to them being built out of modular parts.

And sure, it’s a bit of a cheat because the ships in No Man’s Sky do often riff on familiar ships but no matter, they’re really something. The only real problem is that the game only lets me own six at any one time so picking the fleet I desire most is as much a part of the game as anything else. In a game where the appeal is predominantly aesthetic, it’s actually a rather hefty part.

I’m rarely entirely content with my fleet but right now, I reckon I’ve got a bit of a special bunch. I mean, take a look at these.

The ridiculous thing is that my fleet doesn’t even touch the sides of the amount of ship designs in the game. There’s an absurd amount of variations from the curious Captain Blood-esque living ships to 70’s SF book cover style haulers, tubular shuttle craft, “bug” spaceships and even a bunch that look like they’ve popped straight out of the Dyson factory. It should be illegal to have this many spaceships in one videogame.

Like, Destiny 2 has a bundle of spaceships but for the bulk, it’s a paint job to tell them apart. To be fair, they’re often exceptionally good paint jobs because that’s Destiny for you! Just, you know, spaceships.

Because my brain is terrible to me at the best of times, I absolutely do find myself looking over at the ridiculous amounts of money Star Citizen asks for their post-Aliens militaristic in-game spaceships (some of which you’d currently only be buying a promise that it’ll appear in the game at some vague point in the future), then looking back at how I could, if I wanted to, swap round my ship for a markedly different one at nearly every stop I make in No Man’s Sky.

I do know it’s kind of mean but, again, spaceships.

In summary: spaceships.

Skool Daze Reskooled

I’m not sure at what point I managed to lose my way but I do know me of relatively few years back would be ashamed by more recent me for avoiding Skool Daze Reskooled because of how it looks.

Like, I’m not here to argue it’s an amazing looker of a game but I’m definitely here to point out that for someone who defends making games at most levels, it’s pretty bloody hypocritical of me to make a thing of this. Especially when what it might well lack in looks, it more than makes up for as a remake.

I’ve been kicking myself about this for week or so now. Considering my roots in remakes, it’s pretty atrocious of me. I’d be made up to be able to write a Skool Daze a tenth of what this is and Molyneux only knows, I’m personally responsible for making games that look worse. Honestly, I’ve no defence.

Crucially, I’m not damning it with faint praise. It is a great take on Skool Daze. If this had landed on my old remakey haunting grounds and/or been entered into one of the prominent remake competitions I used to run, I’d have been a strong advocate for it. You would think the recommendations of my friends and peers would have tipped me off, but nooooo.

Live and learn though, eh. Not exactly the first time I’ve been wrong.

Skool Daze Reskooled is pretty cheap on Steam as well as Android/iOS. It’s pretty good! Sorry.

Watch: Rob on Cuthbert In The Cooler

Watching Rob take a meander through Cuthbert In The Cooler reminds me that I don’t think I’ve actually played any of the games the titular dude starred in. They’re games still burnt into my memory thanks to magazine adverts at the time but nope, not played the things.

A family friend* at the time would occasionally bring their Dragon computer round for a weekend, I can’t remember a single thing I played on it though.

Anyhoo, right. Part the reason I’m spinning you round and pointing you at this particular video of Robs is because I’m hoping someone can answer a question for me.

Like with a lot of videogame characters in the Eighties, players could follow Cuthbert across genres and in-fiction jobs.

Here’s Cuthbert doing some digging. Not in the ratio’d on Twitter sense, in the proper sense of digging a hole. Look at this:

Cuthbert Goes Digging, pic courtesy of Wikipedia

I just want you to note that Cuthbert is clearly pretty young, probably around 14 or so (which is no age to be taking on aliens with a pickaxe but at least he remembered to wear safety gear).

Fast forward to Cuthbert In The Cooler and…

Cuthbert In The Cooler, pic from World Of Dragon**

Cuthbert is now a prisoner of war in Nazi Germany after getting into another fight (in space). Look! He even has his own army uniform, including cap. You know, like kids often do. Cuthbert is nothing if not prepared.

Which leads me to the big question here. No, not what did Cuthbert do to be arrested and thrown into a concentration camp, though that is a good question. What I want to know is can we start doing this sort of thing for more modern mascots? Not necessarily thrown into a concentration camp because that’s weird and tasteless, more them taken out of their usual spaces and placed into new, more mundane, ones.

I’m thinking that bald God Of War dude could be in a game about doing the doors at a low rent nightclub, Sonic could be shaving cats at the vets, the Doom marine waiting in a queue for a back to work interview and okay, okay, let’s arrest Bubsy for crimes except you play the guard trying to throw the key away.

It goes without saying that Destiny’s Shaxx would be in their thirtieth game by now if I had my way. Shaxx Goes Skiing. Come on, you know you want to play it, Guardian.

Anyway. You can buy Rob a drink if you enjoy their video. I’ll shut up now

*Sweetly, when on a magazine rummage I found an advert from them selling up their Dragon gear in one of the final issues of Dragon User, a remarkably long time after most people had given up on the machine. The Dragon had an incredibly loyal bunch of owners who kept a slow trickle of software coming for it way past its commercial lifespan. You know, how things should be.

** Source

Calico

It’s a simple videogame fact that there aren’t, and can never be, enough cat games. It’s unpossible.

I’ve had my eye on Calico for a while now because “magical girls restore a cat cafe” is the best sort of premise for, well, anything really. Also because it looks absolutely beautiful.

And absolutely everything to do with chonky cats. Everything. Not even kidding.

As if that isn’t enough, it’s not just cats.

Thinking on, there aren’t enough games I get to ride around on a broomstick in either*

What I’m trying to say is Calico is absolutely a Day 1 purchase. Whilst writing this short ooh piece, the youngest insisted I pop the trailer on for them to look at and I can say that’s 2 people who definitely want Calico for definitely definite. Definitely.

Did I mention you can ride cats in Calico? You can ride cats. There’s just no contest, really.

*curiously, Destiny 2 is one where I can. Videogames.

Super Destronaut: Land Wars

Please sir, I cannot tell a lie. Sometimes, I really just want my videogames to let me switch my overly thinky brain off and allow me to run round a maze and explode things. The prettier the colours, the better. Scratch that! The more colours, the better.

I’m not an especially competitive person so stuff like kill/death ratios mean nothing to me. Ranking and whatever? The same. I do enjoy watching a number go up but that’s about where that particular thrill ends. “Ooh, that was a 7, love a good 7, me. An 8? Back of the net!” like the embarrassment that I am.

I have no shame in admitting that when I first spotted Super Destronaut: Land Wars, I had my fingers crossed that it would live up to my hopes that here was a game that would not only let me watch a number go up but also run around a maze exploding things into lots of colours. Readers, it did not disappoint.

I’m being a bit silly here, obviously, but it’s really important to remember that it’s 2020, we’re in the middle of a pandemic and I’m perpetually fluctuating between upset and angry (so much so I’ve taken up an MMO). If ever I needed a game that didn’t require anything of me, it’s right now.

In less interesting times, I doubt I’d hesitate long to take a gander at Land Wars, in times this interesting, I bloody well crave this sort of thing. And Land Wars hits the spot beautifully.

It’s a ridiculously neon affair, more Tron than the recent VHS tribute brand of neon that games have adopted. It’s the right kind of neon, yeah? Colourful, glowing, gratuitous. Enemies are huge, chunky pixel, also neon, things (this is definitely not a game where you’ll be squinting to see where enemies are hiding, that’s a definite). They bounce around a bit, act a little bit threatening but even on the higher difficulty levels they are often little more than target practice.

I know I probably sound like a broken record but this is all fine and desirable, I’m not slating the game here. This is what I want from it.

There’s a few rudimentary challenges you can indulge in if you prefer a bit of structure (they rarely stretch far beyond “shoot 5 baddies with this weapon” or whatever) or there’s a selection of slight difficulty adjustments if you want the game to push back at you a bit but this isn’t Destiny or something here. It’s a four quid neon shooty lazer maze thing with no ambition to be anything more than that and hand on heart, I love it.

It’s not a game you’ll learn to master, it’s not a game that prizes mechanics or depth or anything that isn’t lasers in a maze. It does everything I hoped it would, as nicely as I hoped it would.

In these tumultuous times, I’m not asking for much else so put those neon lasers into my face and let’s forget about the world outside for a while. Molyneux only knows, we could all do with that right now.

Brut@l

I don’t really remember seeing many mentions of Brut@l when it came out four years ago, which is a shame because it’s really quite a nice arcadey dungeon crawler.

Wearing its inspiration on its virtual sleeve, it translates the more traditional ASCII dungeon map exploring into an arcadey 3d world. Where it ends up isn’t exactly unexplored already but, and this is the bit that matters, it does do a fine job of it.

It doesn’t really need much in the way of explanation, I don’t think. You choose a class at the beginning, run through dungeons hitting and collecting things, find the entrance to a deeper level and go.

Along the way there’s a mild bit of crafting to be done for weapons (nothing strenuous, just have the correct letters and a book, press a button and tada! Brew a mystery potion!), a lot of hitting, some jumping, the occasional maze and whatever. It’s a videogame! There’s nothing mould breaking, just a really good videogamey videogame.

It genuinely doesn’t look good static being largely busy and black and white with slight splashes of colour but in motion it’s both perfectly readable and, frankly, fine. I’ve not had a single problem either finding where to go or anything I need. I’m only mentioning this precisely because the screenshots make it look rougher than it is.

With the exception of a jump that doesn’t quite jump far enough to be entirely comfortable and the odd small but messy interface quirk (forgivable given most big budget games often end up in a worse place with their interface), I’ve really got no complaints of note. It does what it does and it does it well.

Well enough to make me sad that it’s probably been skipped over a thousand times in favour of more on-trend takes on dungeon crawling. That’s a fate it certainly doesn’t deserve. Playing a few quick-ish runs of it this afternoon and yes, it still hits the spot. By the time I’m hitting the third floor and it really gets going and comes into its own, a lovely speedy swords and sorcery dungeon delve, I’m invariably enjoying myself a great deal .

Oh, and it has a level editor too, which is always welcome.

So yeah, Brut@l! Overlooked and good. It’s a game I’ve been ducking in and out of for a few years and still find myself enjoying it a lot when I’ve become long bored of plenty of others. That’s worth something, I’m sure.

Read: Rebind on A Games For Windows 95 Sampler

The mid 90s were largely the point where I’d ducked out from keeping up with videogames, unwisely choosing an almost self destructive fuck it all hedonistic lifestyle instead.

Not entirely, mind – I rushed to grab a PlayStation as soon as I could but it was quickly relegated to night time to early morning background noise and to my eternal pride, recovering from hangovers playing largely stress free games aimed more at kids.

Admittedly, I did grab a PC a few years later but, erm, yeah. Didn’t really do much with that beyond running up huge phone bills via the medium of the internet.

Anyway! So not only do I not remember huge chunks of the nineties, my videogame and related things knowledge has a huge gap that I’ve slowly been enjoying filling in. Cos you know, missing out on chunks of videogames just means more games to try! The best kind of silver lining, if you ask me.

Of course, it also means I’m often on the lookout not just for guidance around what to play but to read about the games and ephemera around them that I missed. (As a side note, much love to folks like Anatoly for not only being lovely but also a treasure trove of knowledge around stuff that passed me by.)

Once again though, Rebind are poking at stuff that tends to remain unpoked at (that’s the technical term) by a lot of folks, in this case it’s a Games For Windows 95 sampler.

Molyneux only knows how long I relied on cover tapes, cover disks, demo discs and what have you to discover new games.

When I did find my way back to videogames at the start of the century, I threw what little money I had down on magazines with ridiculous amounts of stuff thrown onto coverdisks to tide me over between big box videogames. I have a certain level of thankfulness for this sort of thing because without demo and cover disks, I doubt I’d have quite the eclectic tastes I do have. I certainly didn’t have the money to buy my way to one, you know?

Have a read of Rebind then and don’t forget they also have a Patreon where you can support them with money if you’ve got some spare.

Adventures in New Dawn

I know it’s almost like the Ubi-game fan club round these parts this month but I promise, that’s mainly because I’m clearing out a backlog of things I meant to post but didn’t.

I enjoyed my time with Far Cry 5 a lot though it certainly had its Very Ubisoft issues with magic villains and a side order of out of place Very Ubisoft nastiness, amongst other things.

It’s par for the course with the main entries into the Far Cry series, that’s 3 out of 3 now since folks settled on the icon clearing formula where the joyous systemic chaos of crashing a car into a tree, accidentally setting fire to some wildlife then getting into a boat just to crash that into a tree and now everything is on fire and is that a bear, oh no is offset by the edgy and ill fitting nonsense of a story.

Maybe I’d appreciate it more were I fourteen or something, I dunno! That was quite a long time ago now.

The inbetweeny games are where I look to for the more interesting stuff. Blood Dragon misfired as much as it worked but painful tutorial aside, made a great showcase for how well the base raiding silliness works with a lot of the peripheral stuff sidelined even further or removed entirely. Primal’s riff on survival clearly filtered through to Days Gone and stretched the formula a bit. New Dawn, on the other hand, felt a lot like the game I wanted Far Cry 5 to be.

With only a short interlude into absurd magic mans stuff and its embrace of allowing the player even more freedom with few interruptions, it fixed a lot of the issues of 5. Also! What an amazingly beautiful game!

Its colourful view of a post nuclear future incredibly at odds with the usual videogame grey and green dullness gave the folks working on the map rework the leeway to go to town. Still very much the photorealism of Ubi games that we’re used to but now with a slightly more fantastical bent and honestly, I loved it.