Author: Rex Kramer

Desert Island Games: Episode 2, part 1

Welcome back to Desert Island Games. Each episode takes a member of the GRcade community and strand them on a desert island forever.

I’m not completely heartless so they’ll be able to take along their eight favourite games to play for the rest of their days. But there are a couple of rules in place. Any game with an online component is fine, but any kind of voice or text chat is banned (we can’t have you calling out for help). Also, availability of DLC is completely at my own whim.

So after Rax was the first of our castaways, who is the second person to stroll up the gangway on to our one way gaming cruise? Well, we’ve got another OG GRcade member. Most well know for their insatiable appetite for cheevos and with a gamerscore of well over 400,000 (putting him in the top 650 players in the world), this episode’s contributor is GRcade’s very own achievement whore, More Heat Than Light.

Rex: Given your history of clocking the gamerscore, was it hard to limit yourself to just eight games? Did you consider adding an easy 1,000 pointer just to keep that sweet feeling of totting up the points?
MHTL: Ha, I thought that might make the list of questions! I tried to ignore gamerscore to be honest, even though I’m a bit obsessed I don’t think it’d be a factor on a desert island. If anything I picked things that would be more challenging to keep me occupied for longer. Easy completions tend to be ‘rinse and trade’ type games, not ideally suited for this environment!

There’s an awful long time between your first choice and your last so I’m guessing you’ve been gaming for a while? Was the Spectrum your first experience of gaming?
My first gaming machine was an Atari 800XL, so yeah I’ve been gaming a while. We were bought a Speccy after that, and to be honest it was a bit of a downgrade, although there were far more games available for it. After that we had an Atari STE, and I’ve been through a lot of games consoles since then.

Although there is a decent amount of content in your list, there definitely seems an element of heart over head in your choices. Is this the case?
A bit of both I think. Obviously the first few are more ‘nostalgic’ games that remind me of home and growing up, but I tried to pick ones that would still keep me busy for a while. There are definitely a few games on my list that offer almost infinite replay value.

Great, so lets have a look at what you’re taking along.

So the first game on the list comes from acclaimed strategy game developer Julian Gollop.  Released on ZX Spectrum in 1985, the game allows the player to battle up to seven other wizards (either human or AI controlled) in a turn based manner. Players are given a variety of spells to cast with varying degrees of difficulty and also alignment. Casting spells of the same alignment can affect the environment. MHTL’s first game is Chaos: The Battle of Wizards.

This game is really one from the dark and dusty past, what are your memories of playing it?
So, I should clarify that the version of Chaos I’m most familiar of isn’t the Spectrum original. We had a copy of a remake made for the Atari ST which appeared on some pirate disc we acquired from someone at school. It’s mostly identical, save for the addition of some sound samples from the likes of Monty Python and Blackadder and a few new spells that aren’t present in the original game. Given the choice between the two, I’d probably pick that version, but I’ve asked for the Spectrum version here simply because I have no idea if that version is even still available anywhere.

Anyway, Chaos is the defining game of my childhood growing up. It was by far the most played game in our household at the time, we often had large groups of kids all taking part in epic games (the fact you could play with eight players at a time was revolutionary back then). We had an award for the ‘Chaos Champion’ in the house, once held for a long period of time by a confused uncle who had been roped in to play. It was absolutely everywhere, and we all adored it. I’ve nominated Chaos as one of my eight games here simply because it reminds me of home.

And the truth is it’s still a wonderful game to play. Basically an eight-way version of chess, it’s incredibly simple but still has plenty of depth to it. Games could be over in a matter of turns (we had an in-house rule of no killings on turn one) or could take an hour to finish. I love the idea that you are randomly assigned a list of spells to start with and had to make the best of what you were given. You could either go big from the start by casting a Gold Dragon, summon a mount to ride (the Manticore was my preference!) or maybe buff your wizard with a Magic Sword. And then there were the big plays, a Magic Wood to grant you more spells or a Gooey Blob which would gradually take over the screen.

It’s a game which works best in local multiplayer which was why I initially resisted putting the game on my list, obviously I’d have no-one there with me on my island! But there’s plenty of depth playing here with a bunch of CPU wizards, we’d often do this just to fill in the numbers and they would always prove to be worthy adversaries. Ideally someone would have come up with an internet enabled version by now, perhaps someone has, I’ve been out of PC gaming for a while now .

Are you a big fan of other Gollop games such as Rebelstar Raiders, Laser Squad, X-Com, etc?
Honestly, I’m not really that familiar with them. Back when Chaos was a thing I was too young to really understand about different game developers and things, we just played the games we were given (usually in the form of those cracked pirated discs distributed by that dodgy kid). I played the Chaos follow-up Lords of Chaos, which wasn’t nearly as good as the first game. I was kinda hoping that his new version Chaos Reborn would make it to consoles, but no luck so far.

In terms of this type of game, I’ve enjoyed similar turn based strategy titles like Advance Wars, and I recently really enjoyed Skulls of the Shogun by 17-Bit. But nothing has ever scratched that strategic arena battle itch that Chaos did.

Game two, Dungeons & Dragons: Warriors of the Eternal Sun, is another very interesting choice. Is this a game you’ve played again recently or is this one looked at with rose tinted specs?
Yeah, this is another trip down memory lane I’m afraid. Our first games console was a Mega Drive, we had a few games for it but our main source of entertainment was the local video shop. We rented this particular game about 20 times, probably spending twice as much money as actually buying the game outright! Me and my brothers were big fantasy fans and this was really easy to pick up and play so it fit the bill quite nicely. Probably not the best genre of game for rental, we’d usually grab it again to find our save had been deleted and have to start again.

I picked up a Mega Drive and a bundle of games from eBay about 10 years ago (before kids, all my retro stuff has now been cleared out sadly) and had a couple of hours on this again. It was amazing how much of it came flooding back, the incredible 16-bit soundtrack, the story, even the world map had somehow ingrained itself into my memory.

I seem to remember it being relatively long (for a game of it’s time), but is there much replay value?
I’ll be honest, I picked this mainly for the memories, but I’d love to spend some serious time getting back into this. When I played it most recently it still seemed mechanically sound, and there are plenty of places on the map that I’ve still never seen. I don’t think we ever paid that much attention to the story, it was more a case of where can we explore? What’s actually past that river of fire in the north west corner of the map?. I don’t think we ever found that out.

It wasn’t particularly well received compared with other Mega Drive RPGs. What made you pick it over other games such as Phantasy Star 2 or Shining Force 2 (or the unbelievably awesome Rings of Power)?
As kids we didn’t read games magazines, we just looked at the games on the shelf and picked the ones with the pretty covers (I still have flashbacks of that time we rented Ballz :dread: ). We liked D&D, and this one seemed to jump off the shelf at us. It just has a special place in my heart. I know there are better games out there but the world in this is just one that means something to me personally. I’m not even an RPG fan to be honest, certainly nowadays I don’t have the time to invest in those kinds of games. And while there are probably all sorts of games that I could take to the island with me that would last forever, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take this one with me.

Tackling the pile of shame


I’m slowly coming to the conclusion I have a serious problem with my relationship with games. It may be you also share this same issue, or you may not even consider it a bad thing. My problem is I just can’t stop buying games.

There isn’t any kind of affordability concern, I’m not racking up vast amounts of debt in order to feed my addiction. No, my problem is I don’t have enough time to actually play the games I own. I think we can all agree that life is busy and when you’ve got a full-time job, kids, a household and various other responsibilities then it’s even busier. Finding the time to play games is becoming more and more of a struggle and I can really only ever count on approximately 30 minutes of game time a day.

The problem

So why, when I already have enough content to last me several years do I then buy other things? In the last couple of weeks I’ve added Paper Mario: Colour Splash, Farpoint and Torment: Tides of Numenera  to a pile that already contains Final Fantasy XV, Resident Evil 7, Eagle Flight, Stardew Valley and Breath of the Wild – and that’s just from 2017.

Using the numbers on HowLongtoBeat that is conservatively 200 hours of gameplay. Which at 3.5 hours a week works out at well over a year’s gaming, and that doesn’t take into account the other games sitting on my shelf from previous years that go unplayed. There are so many amazing gaming experiences on my shelf/PS4 HDD/Vita/Wii U that I’ll more than likely never see and this makes me sad. But then the flip side is I’m actively considering buying a PS4 Pro with Horizon Zero Dawn (20 plus hours) and Wipeout: Omega Collection (lots of hours).

The solution

What can I do? Well, inspired by the idea behind Desert Island Games, I’m planning on limiting myself to playing only eight games for a year. How exactly I do this is still undecided. Do I just draw up a list of eight existing games, or do I leave a couple of slots in there for upcoming stuff? I’ve got to include games I might play with the kids, but do I really want two slots out of eight taken up with Lego games? Are there some exceptions I can get away with (VR experience type stuff for example not counting as games)? These are all things I’m going to have to consider. I figure I’m also going to need to cover many different genres as when it comes to games I take an attitude similar to Banky Edwards’ attitude to porn.

Holden McNeil : You’ve got like 30 books there! We’re only going to be gone for two days!
Banky Edwards: Variety’s the spice of life. I like a wide selection. Sometimes I’m in the mood for nasty close-ups, sometimes I like them arty and air-brushed. Sometimes it’s a spread brown-eye kind of night, sometimes it’s girl-on-girl time. Sometimes a steamy letter will do, sometimes – not often, but sometimes – I like the idea of a chick with a horse.

So over the next couple of weeks I’m going to start considering my own eight games (but only for a year) and I’ll post my thoughts on here.

And yeah, I know #firstworldproblems.

Desert Island Games – Episode 1 Part 3

Here we are with the final part of Rax’s Desert Island Games list and we get find out games 6, 7 and 8. We’ve only had 1 Nintendo title up till now so maybe the big N will feature a little more heavily in these.

Game 6 is the latest edition in Nintendo’s long running Legend of Zelda series. Released only a few months ago simultaneously on Wii U and Switch having originally been in development solely as a Wii U title, it marks a significant change in direction for the series by moving to an open world environment. It released to universal critical acclaim and currently has a metacritic of 97%, placing it as one of the highest reviewed games of all time. Rax’s next choice is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on Nintendo Switch.

So Rax, another Switch game?
The weird thing is I don’t actually own a Switch yet but 2 of my games are for that console! But I have played both of those games on Wii U and figured I’d put the Switch version on there for the extra bells and whistles they include on those versions.

How far into Breath of the Wild are you on Wii U?
I don’t have a huge amount of time for games these days but this had my undivided attention for over 2 months and while I put 80 or so hours into this I still feel like I rushed parts of it. I’ve beaten Ganon, done all the memories and I’ve gotten all the shrines but I don’t feel like I’ve seen most of what the world has to offer. I’ve seen a few secrets, things I wont mention here, but I have the feeling there’s plenty more out there for me to do. For one thing I only have around 100 Korok seeds so there must be pretty large chunks of the map that I haven’t paid much attention to. In completionist terms I’m at around 25% so there’s plenty of Hyrule left for me to explore.

Game number 7 is a very distinct change in style but also comes from Nintendo.  It’s the third game in the once popular Advance Wars series and was released on Nintendo DS in 2005. Following on from the first two GBA games, it was incredibly well received and holds a Metacritic score of 90. It was praised for it’s use of the 2nd screen and was the first Advance Wars game to add a non-hot seat multiplayer mode.  This game is Advance Wars Dual Strike.

Why Advance Wars Dual Strike over the other games in series?
For me it’s the best version of the game. The GBA game was great, I know it wasn’t the original, apparently they’ve been a thing in Japan since the NES days but it was a great introduction to the series and I was super hyped for the DS version. Thankfully it didn’t disappoint, it improved on just about everything and added so much more. Its one of the most packed games I can think of as well, with the story mode, multiplayer, challenge maps etc, I have sunk a couple of hundred hours into it and I still haven’t come close to finishing everything. A long stretch on a desert island would help with that!

And so we come to the final game on your list. Originally designed and programmed by Russian game designer Alexey Pajitnov, it was first released in 1984 and has since appeared on just about every platform imaginable. It’s mainstream success though was mostly due to the Gameboy version which was released in 1989. It has had countless sequels and one of which is your last game, Tetris DS.

What sets Tetris DS above the other iterations for you?
I suppose for that one its a case of having more fond memories of that version. Like everyone else on the planet, I had a Gameboy as a kid and I played Tetris on it but it never was something I was any good at or remember playing that often. But the DS version is one I played for a whole summer while I was in Chicago. Obviously I couldn’t lug my 360 there so I brought my DS and a bunch of games but the one I played the most was Tetris. I spent the whole summer setting my high score, the sleep function on the DS was invaluable for that, I could play for a bit then put the DS into sleep mode and resume where I left off. I got pretty good at it and just have stronger feelings for that version of the game over any other.

So to bring this to a close, some people might be surprised to see no Madden in your selection?
I’m not actually a big fan of the Madden games, I used to get the new one every year but it never felt like there was much change from year to year so I stopped getting them. I’ve never really missed them either as I always just played through season mode and never got into the multiplayer side of things.

Anything else notable that didn’t make the cut?
As I mentioned earlier there’s a bunch of games I love on N64 and 360 that didn’t make it in. Halo in particular was on the list for a long time but when I stacked it up against others I found myself liking it less and less as a desert island game. The absence of an N64 platformer was a surprise to me as well, I love Super Mario 64, Banjo Kazooie and Conkers Bad Fur Day but in a lot of ways they’re not games that lend themselves that well to playing forever. Also if this list had been made 5 years ago I probably would have included Goldeneye or Perfect Dark on the list but I don’t think they’ve held up that well, they’re still enjoyable but I don’t think I could get past how bad they feel now. They’re still great games but having played newer shooters they just feel dated and I couldn’t keep them on there,

I also considered Pokemon and various JRPGs, Dragon Quest in particular, but as great as they are and as long as those games last there’s not a huge amount of replayability with them so I had to cut them.

Many thanks to Rax for sending over those contributions and I hope you all enjoyed reading his choices. It was definitely a case of head over heart with his choices with a particular emphasis on longevity. How he’ll cope with never being able to play Mario 64 or Halo again though we’ll have to wait and see!

As he sails off into the distance with his bundle of games, I’ll (hopefully) be back in a sort while with the next contributor!


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