Can you believe we are already but a stone’s throw away from Halloween and spooky season as a whole? I know I can’t. If I keep introducing these monthly segments with jokes about how fast time passes us by, then I am going to be grey in no time! Either that or bald. (Please please please not bald!) I am sure that there will be plenty of Halloween based blogs for you to feed your “spooktober” appetite on in the coming weeks, but for now, you will have to make do with another smash-up of our video game of the month series.
We have all had a pretty chaotic time over the last month I am sure, with school’s opening back up for a fresh year and officially the end of the summer times. Trying to squeeze out as much time in your shorts and skirts before it officially becomes too wet and cold to do so. Just me? Oh well.
So, what games have our team been playing over the past month then? Grab yourself a hot drink and get snuggly as we find out!
Man, alive I LOVE Hot Wheels. My three-year-old son loves Hot Wheels. My 6-week-old son will eventually love Hot Wheels. There’s only one thing on the planet that doesn’t love Hot Wheels - feet.
Stepping on one hurts. A lot. Sure, the internet is full of memes and jokes about how stepping on Lego is the worst pain in the world. But people who believe that have never stepped on Hot Wheels. Not only does it hurt, but it also moves. You can be hit with the pain one moment and the next your foot flies out from under you. The toy car shoots across the room to continue its campaign of destruction and you’re stuck trying to regain balance. This isn’t always successful. It doesn’t help that Hot Wheels are fairly inexpensive, addictive and everywhere.
Luckily Hot Wheels Unleashed is here to save the day! With a vast array of cars to unlock through racing. You don’t need physical Hot Wheels anymore, those little pains on wheels can go in a box or a shelf and you can start building a digital collection. All the while playing possibly my favourite racing game since Burnout: Paradise.
This is where Lego and Hot Wheels have another thing in common, much in the way the Lego Movie (not the sequel) was far better than anyone thought it could be. Hot Wheels Unleashed is also far better than anyone could possibly predict.
Tracks are fantastic, the driving feels grounded and realistic... which is an odd thing to say about toy car racing, but they legitimately handle wonderfully.
Developer and Publisher Milestone clearly love Hot Wheels and it shows in every detail of their game. It’s a real love letter to everything about Hot Wheels. The graphics are insane, everything looks and feels authentic and each & every car is photorealistic. The sound design brings everything to life. And I’ve barely scratched the surface of the Track Editor. But even at a quick glance, it’s easy to see that it’s not simply thrown in to pad out content, it’s deep and well thought out. I plan to lose some serious time making tracks that childhood me would lose his mind over.
Kena: Bridge of Spirits – Seb Hawden
Ever since I first saw Kena at one of the PlayStation events I knew it would be something I would adore. A beautiful looking RPG with exploration and combat is something right up my street. Has someone been peeking at my Christmas list? Ember Lab, who were previously an animation studio, has produced something very polished and charming for their first foray into video games.
Kena is a spirit guide, with the help of many characters, spirits and the adorable rot creatures, she must help spirits leave this mortal realm and save the region from an evil force. There are puzzles, collectables and combat aplenty in this beautifully realized world. What I was not expecting though was how high the difficulty bar would be.
In a game that looks this fluffy, charming, and cutesy, the combat in Kena will kick you in the rear. I mean, it’s not overly hard so far from what I have played but it is more difficult than I expected. There are parries and numerous enemies to tackle at once and sometimes a few mistimed dodges or parries can lead to an early grave. I am a Dark Souls veteran though so it was not too bad once I got over the initial shock, it's actually quite refreshing.
I really need to talk about the Rot. These small black creatures are found littered through this enchanted landscape. In a Pikmin-like fashion, you must collect them and use them to help with puzzles and combat. You can command them, play with them, and even adorn them in various collectable hats. They really are lovely and add a lot of personality to this fascinating title.
So, even though I have not yet fully completed Kena, it's beautiful, rewarding and at times, touching. The characters are very well animated, very well realized and the whole package, especially for a first game for the developers, is a breath of fresh air. Right, laters peeps, I am off to find more adorable Rot and put them in silly hats.
Now, admittedly, I can be incredibly slow to get around to playing some games. AC Valhalla is no different. I actually purchased the PS5 version of this game when it was first released, weirdly, before the PS5 console was even released itself. It has taken me until now to get around to diving into raids, Saxon slaying, village developing and all-round havoc causing in old timey England. And I am loving it!
You don’t need me to tell you about this game, you are a gamer, you know exactly what game this is and what it is about! A few things I love about this game however is its new approach to quest structure. I love knowing that the side quests don’t hold your hand and funnel you to where you need to go and what you need to do. It is simply a case of “this is happening in this area. What do you do?” and this is so refreshing after the onslaught of quests we see littering all our RPG games. Also not knowing specifically where quests are is great too, either randomly coming across them whilst out looting, or going to blue blobs on the map that could be several different things. These design features really help you become immersed in the game.
There is an immense number of things to do in AC Valhalla, but it never feels overwhelming like it does in other games, there are things to do, but you can do them in your own time in between bouts of fishing, hunting, sailing, raiding, looting, and exploring mythical Norse realms. I am by no means close to finishing the game, nor am I even likely at the midpoint of the game, but I am having so much fun playing and can’t wait to see what other mad things I can discover in the game! So far, the random guy with an axe in his head was the most entertaining!
I don’t know if it was just a thing at my school but there was a definite divide between those that liked Legend of Zelda and those who liked Final Fantasy. Without a doubt, I fall into the Final Fantasy group, especially where Final Fantasy VII and IX are concerned. I’ve watched people play Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask. And I started to understand the appeal with WindWaker. Twilight Princess made everything go Emo and made me question it again.
Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild blew everything out of the water and really made me appreciate the series. I even went back and got hold of Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask on the N64. Sadly, I don’t have enough time to sink into BotW’s mountain of content, but I love the world and aesthetics and want to stay immersed in it.
This might be a controversial opinion but Hyrule Warriors - Age of Calamity allows me to do this. It has more in common with the Dynasty Warriors action-packed gameplay than it does with its Legend of Zelda heritage. But it lets me be part of the world and, more importantly, enjoy some lovely, lovely war.
It tells of the events that take place before, and are only hinted at, in BotW. I’m usually one who doesn’t need to be shown in extreme detail the things that have happened, it tends to sour the whole experience (*cough* Star Wars prequels *cough*). I am more than happy to be given snippets of information or have events referenced and allow my imagination to take flight.
But all of that goes out of the window with Hyrule Warriors - Age of Calamity. Thanks in no small part to the immensely fun combat. Cutting down swathes of enemies in a single blow is great. Watching the kill counter quickly climb into triple digits is wonderful (it may climb into the 1000s, but I haven’t seen it yet). But the most fun aspect is the local co-op. Standing side-by-side with a buddy as an entire army charges at you always raises a smile. Especially when you both begin your charge. But it’s also just fun to split up, take different objectives and meet up a few hundred enemies later.
It might not be in the spirit of other Legend of Zelda titles, but Hyrule Warriors is an absolute blast. It swaps out hundreds of hours of content for hundreds upon hundreds of opponents and allows you to dip in and out at your leisure. Which is ideal for those days you don’t have a lot of time to spare.
So, I finally got my hands on it! And my god did my hands grip this game hard! In no short thanks to Seb who raved about it in our group chat behind the scenes, and also writing such a great entry on this game in a previous Video Game of the Month feature. One that, as the collaborator, I had no choice but to read. Read with absolute envy and jealousy that is. As after just moving house, I had neither the time nor the pennies for another fresh out the oven full-priced game at the time. But now I do! Ratchet and Clank: A Rift Apart is now mine!
I really enjoyed the old-school style cheat system in this game. Not so many cheats but more skin changes and stuff such as changing the collectable bolts to orbs or having Ratchet or Rivet fight with a fish as a weapon just really made me smile. It reminded me so much of the ones you can unlock in the Jak and Daxter games. The fact that there is also a Jak and Daxter easter egg in this game brought back so many memories.
This absolute masterclass of an action platforming game is a shining beacon of how our old favourites can still be pillars in today’s gaming climate. Staying absolutely true to the original games’ formulas from back in the day whilst also taking advantage of the sheer graphical capabilities of the PS5 makes Rift Apart an absolute must-have game for any PS5 owner.
Now where the heck is my new Jak and Daxter game!? I have waited long enough surely!
And there we go. Another highlight on some games that we think you should check out for one reason or another. If you have already played some of these games then I hope you have enjoyed them as much as we have!
Stay tuned next month for another feature of 5 games we think are worth getting your hands on. And, more importantly, likely more time-related references, puns and bad jokes!