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Video Game Of The Month September 2022

video game of the month - stray

Welcome back to another instalment of your favourite blogging series! Video game of the month IS your favourite blogging series right? I only do this for your eternal servitude, *cough* sorry, gratitude.

Anyway, it is September, Christmas stock is out in stores, students like myself are back in education, and it is getting chilly outside. And technically inside now that it is getting expensive to keep ourselves warm. It is the absolutely perfect time to snuggle up in some fluffy pjs, drink some silly novelty hot chocolate, and distract ourselves from the inexhaustible drumbeat of time’s constant forward march. I got my first grey hair, just allow me this one salty intro!

Well, with all that humdrum in mind, lets see what our fellow bloggers have been diving into lately.

StraySeb Hawden

It's not often these days, especially when you're as long in the video game tooth as me, that something surprises you. In this tidal wave of microtransactions, overpriced games and needless bloat, along comes a furry little feline to remind you why you love this pixel-based pastime. Stray is an exploratory adventure of a cat who gets lost in a post-apocalyptic, android filled urban wasteland. Along with his robot pal, B-12, you must traverse through sewers, avoid robotic sentinels, and battle off evil Zurks.

Gameplay is simple, direct, and so, so immediate. No icons to follow, no needless faff or bloat, just meander through a short but sweet story, at your own furry pace. The animations, lighting, music, and atmosphere this game provides is stunning. It looks beautiful, sounds great and by the end of the game you will have fallen in love, not just with the cat and its robotic companion but the world and it's metallic inhabitants. How this game portrays emotion from non-human, lifeless androids is brilliant. The whole world is teeming with vigour and colour.

Control-wise Stray fully utilises the DualSense controller brilliantly. You feel every fall, you can hear yourself purr through the inbuilt speaker and the triggers tense as you scratch various world objects. As with all the games that really use the DualSense to its fullest, I don’t think the game would feel or react nearly as good with any other controller. The DualSense really adds a sense of dynamism and immersion not available with any other controller. Fell those furry nuzzles in the palm of your hand. Glorious.

So, all-in-all, you have an extremely enjoyable game that looks superb, plays fantastically, and is so trimmed of fat, that it's over before you know it. There’s a few tricky trophies to go for if you wish and the collectables garner repeat chapter plays but that’s up to you. I loved Stray, it reminds me what video games should be, how far away from that some modern video games are and I am ecstatic it exists. I am not really a cat person (I prefer dogs) but I fell in love with this little feline, B-12 and this fantastically realised world. Well done all round!

The Binding Of IsaacNick Welford

It’s hard to think about rogue like games without mentioning Isaac. Coming from the same twisted mind that gave us Super Meat Boy, it is a classic rogue like. Unlike some of the more recent rogues, progression doesn’t really make you more powerful. At least from the point you start each run. You will earn more trinkets and items to buff your run but nothing that permanently upgrades your character.

Instead, the real currency in Isaac is knowledge. Learning what each item does and how to combine them in potent and devastating ways. Your tears (or bullets) can be buffed in all sorts of interest combinations. Choosing which power ups to ignore and which to take is all part of the journey.

The backdrop of the game is dark to say the least, Isaac is thrown in the cellar by his religiously fundamentalist mother and fights to get out. In practice this involves a lot of blood, siblings and surprisingly, poop. Those easy offended by theme might find some of the implications of the small, animated cut scenes a bit much to handle.

The other main progression in the game is the way the cellar, or dungeon, evolves over time. Beating bosses multiple times opens up new paths and ways to complete a run. There is another downside here though - all this information is hidden to the player. While great apps and online resources exist, if you don’t look at them you might not be sure what you have unlocked, how you did it, or what to do next.

While Isaac was definitely ahead of its time, the more modern rogue like fans may find this a bit overwhelming or annoying. To miss the game because of this would be a mistake though as Isaac remains one of my favourite games and should be near top of lists for best twin stick shooters and rogue likes.

L.A. Noire Lauren Skinner

Have you always found the detective noire aesthetic thrilling and timeless? Or do you just want to speed around in a classic car, solve some mysteries, and shoot some bad guys?

Yes.

L.A. Noire was a breakthrough in video games. Set in Los Angeles in 1947, you are detective Cole Phelps, solving crimes and rising through the ranks of the LA Police Department. However, rather than being content with the “find evidence, solve crime” format that makes normal detective games pretty straightforward, L.A. Noire took it a step further. They used innovative facial motion capture technology for intuitive interrogation.

In 2011, this feature was ahead of its time. It’s fantastic fun entering an interrogation and watching their guilty faces contort as they lie. Admittedly, it is a little frustrating when you’re sure a character is telling the truth and the disheartening jingle plays to emphasise your failure. “Doubting” a suspect also often brings out an unintended ruthlessness to Cole, like when he calls a compliant old woman a “nosy old hag”. Either way, deciphering facial expressions and playing bad cop to squeeze out the truth is the fun of the game, and a mechanic L.A. Noire will always be remembered for pioneering.

The story is fantastic. I remember so many of the characters, even if they are only in the game for five crucial minutes. The cut scenes sprinkled in between cases, like Cole’s World War 2 service and the newspaper articles about opioids, provide intriguing threads of mystery that tie the whole story together.

They also don’t shy away from taking you through some of the boring parts of detective work. You’d think that having to go through the operator every time you make a phone call would be annoying after a while, but I liked the old-timey voice and crackling—just not quite as much as the car chases or shoot outs. Plus, different departments that you’re assigned to, including traffic, homicide, vice, and arson, give the gameplay loop a variety that otherwise may have become repetitive.

It’s a brilliantly fun game that I should have played long ago. If you haven’t picked up L.A. Noire, you should just for the unique gameplay—and to yell at poor unsuspecting members of the public for having size 8 shoes.

Last Of Us Part I - Paul Blyth

The Last of Us will always have a special place in my heart. You see, I had a falling out with my PS3 when it decided to break outside of its warranty. I then sold all of my games and used the money to buy an Xbox. But The Last of Us welcomed me back to Sonyland with open arms and I was obsessed with it. But more than that it became a hot topic of conversation with a girl I randomly met in the smoking area at work (back when I worked in an office). It was a shared area with the other businesses in the building, and she was studying at a training centre in the office below. We hit it off instantly, thanks in no small part to our mutual appreciation of gaming. At the time she was going for the GTA V platinum and I was playing The Last of Us for the millionth time. She decided to take a break from her life of virtual crime and started playing the Last of Us again on my recommendation. We then discussed our progress regularly during our pre-planned breaks. When we eventually moved in together, I brought her a PS4 and The Last of Us remastered as a housewarming gift, which we completed in a weekend. It was great.

Fast forward to 2022 and the release of The Last of Us Part I on PS5. I managed to get a PS5 on the day it came out so it was a no brainer. Me and the aforementioned lady now own a house together, are engaged, have two children and are “stuck together until one of us dies”. Having two young children (a four-year-old and a one-year-old) has meant completing the game didn’t happen in a weekend. But the week we spent with it was a blast. Everything has been refined, controls are more responsive, haptic feedback on the controllers add to the immersion and the graphics, my word, the GRAPHICS! This game looks phenomenal! Every character model looks wonderful. The surroundings are beautiful and the clickers have never looked more horrific. It’s by far the best-looking game on PlayStation 5 to date.

Like me you probably remember the Last of Us looking great when it came out on PS3... and PS4. But trust me, it’s nothing compared to the PS5 version. Take off those rose-tinted glasses and behold the screenshot (PS3 on the left, PS5 on the right)! Behold it, feel the heat, then buy the game.

Two Point HospitalDan Hilton

So, you won’t be privy to this information, (and if you were, I would be concerned) but I spent a portion of this month going back and forth to hospital for the first time. I have spent a good portion of the previous weeks with my feet up and recuperating. I am all ok now, but if you want to send me a fruit basket, I wouldn’t object. So, I have spent my gaming time in the world of simple games.

And, somewhat ironically, the game I have been distracting myself with, is Two Point Hospital. I actually didn’t see the irony of this until writing this feature, go figure. I love simulation games. If you were lucky enough to catch my review for Planet Coaster then you will know this. Two Point Hospital is very much so in the same vein; a series of career challenges to grow your monopoly on the market. Each career level presents itself with different challenges, different ailments, and different limitations to pit yourself against.

I really love this game. Even if some levels can be super frustrating when going for the 3-star rating on some levels. When you have incompetent staff, earthquakes breaking machines, complaining customers and the ghosts of dead patients to contend with, the game can get super chaotic when you have spread your wings too thin. But that is the balancing act that every simulation needs to nail to make it an addictive game. And Two Point Hospital delivers in spades. Couple this with all the expansions that come in the Jumbo edition, and you have yourself many hours of fun to delve into. It is definitely one that I would recommend. Especially now the company is expanding into new games like Two Point Campus.

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And there you go. Another 5 games for video game of the month, from all stretches of generations and genres that we think are worth your time. Whether you decide to check any of these games out or not, I hope you are at least knee deep in some sort of game. Happy gaming!