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Desert Island Games: Episode 2, part 3

Desert Island Games

Back for the final instalment of MHTL’s list of eight games to take away to a desert island. We’ve had a very eclectic mix of titles from across many generations and we’re bang up to date with these final choices. So on with the show.

Rock Band 3 is a 2010 music video game developed by Harmonix. The game was initially published and distributed by MTV Games and Electronic Arts respectively in late October 2010. Mad Catz took over both roles and re-released the title on November 23, 2011. It is the third main game in the Rock Band series. As with the previous titles, Rock Band 3 allows players to simulate the playing of rock music and many other sub-genres using special instrument controllers mimicking lead and bass guitar, drums, and vocals. Rock Band 3 expands upon previous games by including three-part vocal harmonies — previously used in both The Beatles: Rock Band and Green Day: Rock Band (up to three singers on a song) — plus support for MIDI-compatible keyboards, electronic drum kits, and even use of a real guitar in “Pro” mode.

Rex: So it’s your third game on the 360, would you consider it to be your favourite ever console?
MHTL: It’s definitely up there. I’d say I probably have fonder memories of the GameCube, mainly due to its focus on local multiplayer. Most of my favourite moments in gaming come from having groups of friends over and having long fought battles on Mario Kart, Smash Bros or WarioWare. It’s something that I miss quite a lot from todays games. I’d always been a Nintendo fan until towards the end of the GameCube generation when I picked up an original Xbox on the cheap. I’d always been curious about some of those games (especially Halo) and I ended up really enjoying it. So when 360 came along I was there on day one. That launch was fantastic, some real classic games, a great controller and the hardware was brilliant. Xbox Live Arcade was a revelation, and obviously I loved the new achievements system. When Nintendo went in the direction they did with Wii and motion controls I was pretty disappointed, and I abandoned Nintendo shortly afterwards.

What’s your favourite instrument in Rock Band?
Any of them! We tend to swap around a lot at Rock Band gatherings. I’ve enjoyed rhythm action games for a while (even had Samba de Amigo on the Dreamcast at one point) but Guitar Hero really took that to a new level. I remember playing that for the first time and fumbling my way through the first track on Easy difficulty thinking I’d never master it. Of course with practice it all becomes a bit easier, and since the introduction of Rock Band I’m pretty much an expert player on most instruments. I’d say these days I’ll default to vocals, I’m pretty good (well, I can carry a tune unlike some of our crew!) and I do find it a fun way to play. I love guitar too, especially on songs where there’s a meaty solo or riff to get my teeth into. Drums is probably my weak point, I can still play on hard but only for a couple of tracks or so. Drumming is hard work!

Have you spent a lot on RB DLC over the years?
:shifty: Yeah, way too much. These days I only tend to get stuff in a sale, but back in the day I was buying anything by any band I’d even heard of. It’s a great way to extend the life of the game though, and some of the best songs are DLC add-ons. More Than a Feeling by Boston, Buddy Holly by Weezer and Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey are all popular DLC tracks when we play.

Why not Rock Band 4?
Ugh, Rock Band 4 is a bit of a disaster. I was really excited by the prospect of playing RB on the new consoles but the reality is that so much stuff was broken at launch that it was difficult to even play. They’ve fixed most of it now, but the fact remains that they really dropped the ball with this one. Pretty much everything they added is a novelty. The new ‘unscripted’ solos sound like fun, but actually just consist of totally random strumming. There’s a technique you’re supposed to use but it’s impossible to explain to people that have just come round for a quick game. Harmony vocals for every track is a great addition for the three people that actually use it. And don’t even get me started on the new ‘relaxed’ rules for DLC tracks, which mean we’ve had songs with keyboard parts charted to guitar and songs which don’t use master stems. Speaking of keyboard, I’m gutted that they took out support for this with RB4. I didn’t use it that much, but it’s still a nice feature to have, and now my keyboard is practically worthless. The biggest thing RB3 has over 4 is its tracklist, which is far superior in every way. The third game has the best and most varied of any music game ever made. I’m aware that you can export those tracks into the fourth game for a fee, but since I’d like to save most of my DLC requests for the next game I think I could live with just the base tracks from the third game. Just let me have More Than a Feeling, OK?

Pinball FX 2 is a pinball video game for Xbox 360, Xbox One and Windows and is the sequel to Pinball FX. It was developed by Zen Studios and published by Microsoft Studios. It was released on 27 October 2010 via the Xbox Live Arcade service. The game includes several new features, such as local multiplayer and the ability to tweak table settings. MHTL’s seventh choice is Pinball FX 2 for the Xbox One.

Have you carried this over from 360 and does it allow you to bring over any DLC as well?
I’ve been playing Pinball FX since it first released on 360, although back then it was a shadow of the game it is now. I’ve always been a fan of Pinball but they never seemed to make a decent video game version of it, either going for the hardcore authentic copies of traditional tables (which seemed pointless to me) or by making a total novelty version, like Sonic Spinball back in the day. When this launched I was really impressed that they’d made a game which felt realistic but also embraced being a video game, having certain things you couldn’t really do on a regular table. To me that seemed like the perfect compromise, it’s game-y but not in a way that ever stops you thinking you’re playing pinball.

Pinball FX 2 was the perfect sequel, it just kicked everything up a notch and the tables were of a far higher standard, both graphically and mechanically. They also started adding licensed tables, which despite my initial concerns turned out to be fantastic. They’re really careful to be considerate to the source material, meaning that Star Wars or Marvel themed tables are a real treat for fans of those franchises. The Xbox One version allows you to transfer most of the 360 tables over, and they’ve all had a visual makeover which is really impressive. I suppose technically the 360 version has the most tables available for it (even now, Zen are still making tables for that platform) but the added sheen makes the One version the definitive edition.

Do you have the full library of tables?
I have the majority, but these days I always tend to wait for a sale before purchasing things. Thankfully the tables are regularly discounted to half price, so I usually pick them up then. For my Desert Island trip, ideally I’d like to take all of the tables with me though, the massive variety of themes and styles is what makes Pinball FX 2 so appealing for this. It’s amazing how different tables play so differently, working out how to complete each mission and head for the Wizard Mode is absolutely enthralling. Plus, y’know, high scores!

Which is you favourite table?
I have loads. I love the Star Wars ones, the new Aliens pack is excellent and Blade and Moon Knight of the Marvel collection. But the original designs are my favourite, Pasha (a Persian adventure themed table), Epic Quest (an action-RPG type thing) and Secrets of the Deep, with a nautical theme. I also have to say the table which comes free with the Pinball FX 2 download, Sorcerer’s Lair is probably the one I’d pick first. I have a high score on that table over a billion, which I’m incredibly proud of.

Would you swap out the Xbox One version for PC with Oculus Rift support (or PSVR)? I’m wondering if £11.99 is worth it for only three tables.

I had absolutely no idea this was a thing! Just been to check it out, it looks very impressive. I have to say I’ve never tried any kind of VR at all, but I’d love to give that a whirl. I’d definitely have my reservations though, it’s a game that requires incredible precision and I wonder if you might lose a little in that format. And the lack of table variety means I certainly wouldn’t consider it for my desert island game.

Bloodborne is an action role-playing game developed by FromSoftware, published by Sony Computer Entertainment exclusively for PlayStation 4 and directed by the legendary Hidetaka Miyazaki. It shares many similarities with Miyazaki’s seminal Souls series of games including punishing difficulty and innovative use of multiplayer.  With a metacritic of rating of 92, it currently sits seventh on the all-time PS4 review charts.

Do you have much history with the Souls games?
I have a bit of a weird history with them to be honest. I was properly into the hype for Dark Souls, pre-ordered the deluxe edition of the game and was really looking forward to it. When the game finally arrived, I played maybe 10 minutes of it, found the combat thoroughly underwhelming and dismissed it for something else. And I kept promising myself that I’d go back to it, but I knew it was a big game and I never really found the time to start it. It went unplayed for a good five years.

Finally I decided enough was enough, and last year I decided to boot it back up and take on the challenge. I absolutely adored it. It’s genuinely one of my favourite games of all time, I think the level design is almost perfect, and the majority of the boss battles are incredible experiences. It’s tough but always fair, and that constant sense of accomplishing things, bit by bit, is a feeling that never goes away. After finishing the first game I moved onto the second one very quickly and loved that too. I have the third game sat waiting for me to play, in fact I might go start it shortly…

Why Bloodborne over some of the multi-format titles (I guess the big one being Dark Souls 2)?
OK, here’s the big surprise reveal! I’ve never played it. Being an Xbox gamer (and not having the money or time to invest in a second console) I probably never will, and Bloodborne is the game that pains me the most to miss out on.I know it probably seems a bit strange to include a game I’ve never played on a list like this, but when I thought about the things that I enjoy most about gaming, new experiences rank pretty highly on my list. The first time I set foot on Hyrule Field, that first trip into Phendrana Drifts in Metroid Prime or that shock twist in BioShock. Those are moments in games that will live with me forever, and yet all three of those games I’ve only played once. I really wanted to include a great story-driven single player experience in this list, but I’m definitely not someone that likes to replay games like those multiple times. So my only real option was to go with something like this.

Of course, I’m not going in totally blind here. I know from my experience with Dark Souls that this is a game I’ll enjoy, and aesthetically it’s always something that I’ve thought looked really intriguing. I’ve seen a couple of videos of Bloodborne being played on YouTube (although I’ve tried to avoid spoilers, just in case!) and it looks like it has that same challenging progression as the other games. I know that taking Bloodborne as on one of my eight games guarantees me a good 80 hours of undiscovered gaming joy.

Do you prefer hard games?
Sometimes, it depends what I’m in the mood for. There are days when I just want something to relax and settle down with, but then I have days where I really appreciate a good challenge. There’s massive satisfaction to be had completing a game like Ninja Gaiden or Super Meat Boy. The odds seems so stacked against you that actually overcoming them feels really rewarding, and you get a real rush from making any sort of progress. I remember my first time clearing Ikaruga on one credit, and actually shouting, no, screaming at the TV for a good minute afterwards in celebration. You just don’t get those kinds of feelings without a high level of difficulty.

That’s a great set of eight games, a big thanks for taking part. Just to wrap it all up, were there any particularly hard cuts you had to make?
To be honest, most of the games I’d consider to be my favourites wouldn’t have been suited to this format. Things like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time, Metroid Prime or Dark Souls are all games I’d have in ‘best of all time’ lists but I don’t think I’d necessarily want to spend large amounts of time playing through again. I think games like those are best left as great memories and not played over and over. I also had a load of classic games from my childhood that I really wanted to include, but in the end I had to limit those to just two places on my list. Very briefly: Rainbow Islands, Sensible World of Soccer, Speedball 2, Rock Star Ate My Hamster, Joust, Gauntlet, Metro Cross, Cloud Kingdoms.

The one game that I really should have included is the Xbox One update of Killer Instinct. It’s one of my most played games these days. It’s an absolutely superb fighting game with an enormous roster of characters and ridiculous amount of content, especially for a fighting game. With the benefit of hindsight it should probably be on there, maybe at the expense of Spelunky.

Any genres your really wanted represented but just couldn’t bring yourself to include?
Well as I just mentioned, a beat-em-up wouldn’t have gone amiss. I think I’ve got most of the bases covered, I’d maybe have liked an old school shmup in there but Geometry Wars would probably scratch that itch. It’s difficult covering the whole of gaming in just eight titles! At one point I considered putting Rare Replay in there, but that would have just been cheating, right

Maybe not…

Thanks again to MHTL, I hope you enjoyed this month’s episode of Desert Island Games.