Welcome to Punished Notes, a new series of (hopefully) weekly articles outlining many of my random thoughts on games I’ve been playing, reading about, or even watching on YouTube or Twitch. This week, I’ll be exploring Splatoon 2’s latest expansion, games that just feel great to play, and whether or not sports sims need multiple game modes, among other things.
Splatoon 2: Octo Expansion Shows Expanded Use of Basic Systems
I’ve played through a good deal of Splatoon 2: Octo Expansion (which is very good, by the way) and I’ve found its way of expanding the use of the game’s systems to be especially intriguing.
In both the single-player and multiplayer modes in the original Splatoon and its sequel, the player uses an array of weapons to cover ground (and enemies) with ink and transforms into a squid-like form to travel through one’s own color ink. Octo Expansion takes these basic gameplay systems and tasks the player with applying them to completely new situations. For example, certain stages in the expansion involve the player using the game’s apparently complex physics engine to guide a large boulder through a variety of hazards. In another stage, the player is stripped of all their weapons and must make their way through to the end using well-timed jumps and stealth mechanics.
Many of these new scenarios are nail-bitingly difficult (and may not be everyone’s cup of tea), but their very existence poses an essential question: should every game try to do this? Many games present systems within the context of a specific set of tasks (e.g. shoot enemies, parry attacks, press X to pay respects), but what would it look like if developers tried to think outside the box more often?
Certain developers like to stretch the limits of a game’s set of controls for a single level or sequence (see The Witcher 3’s “Path of the Warriors” quest or any time spent inside the giant worm in Gears of War 2). Let’s take it a step further! How about a rhythm mini-game inside Dark Souls? Why not a battle royale sequence in the next Assassin’s Creed? GET THE CREATIVE JUICES FLOWING GUYZ!!!
Forza Horizon 2 Feels SO GOOD to Play
Forza Horizon has quietly been the most consistently excellent franchise of the decade, mainly due to how awesome it feels to play. Each game in the series has a lot going for it, but Forza Horizon 2 best exemplifies why I love the feel of each drive so much: the game allows the player to drive at ludicrous speeds on perfectly smooth roads in beautiful Italian and French country sides while blasting classical music on the radio. The perfect application of rumble mixed with varied and creative world architecture makes for an experience that is simultaneously thrilling and relaxing, as high-speed races are punctuated with moments of smooth bliss.
I don’t know if any of the Forza Horizon titles serve as my favorite racing game, but I’m hard pressed to find any game in the genre (or really any genre, frankly) that feels as good to play. Not everything about these games is perfect (the various drifting challenges in FH3 are especially grating), but the core experience is titillating enough to launch the franchise into greatness.
While I’m on this subject, here are some other random games that feel particularly good to play: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Super Mario Galaxy, Rocket League, Titanfall 2, and any Guitar Hero game.
Mario Tennis Aces Has a Wack Single-Player Adventure. So What?
Is anyone else a little weirded out by the fan and media reaction to the single-player adventure mode of Mario Tennis Aces? I understand Nintendo focused a lot on the single-player challenges in the weeks leading up to the game’s release, but sports games have often had frustrating and poorly thought-out single-player experiences. Why would we expect Mario Tennis to be any different?
I’m not saying the criticisms of the solo missions are invalid. In fact, I agree with a lot of the negative commentary: the story isn’t especially interesting, a lot of the earlier missions are just glorified tutorials, and some of the challenges are so painstakingly hard that I’ve frequently quit to just play online matches. Still, sports games like Madden and NBA 2K spew out tons of mediocre single-player content each year that players usually ignore. Occasionally, you’ll get something like NBA 2K17’s solid MyPlayer story, but the creativity usually stops there. Should we seriously expect a Mario Tennis game to go the extra mile when supposed masters of the genre don’t?
Players should absolutely hold game publishers (especially big ones like Nintendo) to a higher standard, and it’s difficult to justify paying $60 on a mediocre experience. I’m just saying that the Mario Tennis games will not likely ever match the level of storytelling found in, say, Golf Story.
(By the way, the core tennis experience found in Aces is quite good, just in case you were wondering.)
-I’ve found that the best way to enjoy random video game YouTube channels is to find ones where people play games you would never play in a million years. I watched a video last week of someone playing the DS and GBA versions of the random mid-2000s Crash Bandicoot games you’ve already forgotten about, and it’s glorious.
-On that note, watching people stream games that I like to play on Twitch can be an incredibly irritating endeavor, since I often disagree with how they play the game. Hearthstone streamers take way too long to play their cards, while Super Mario Maker streamers often fall into obvious traps. I suppose it’s the modern equivalent of saying, “I WOULD HAVE MADE THAT” when an NBA player misses a free throw. (Note: I probably would not have made that.)
-After replaying the first two, I’ve come to the conclusion that The Banner Saga franchise is among the greatest RPG series of all time. Fight me.
-I played the first hour and a half of Fallout 4 recently, and it did nothing for me. Maybe I just don’t like Bethesda RPGs all that much?
-Xbox Game Pass is great and possibly the future of video game transactions.