The end of year holidays. It’s always been a period of great joy for me, and why is that you ask? Christmas time? No. Spending time with friends and family? Ugh, god no. It’s because I now have time to beat the games I kept putting off ALL year! So today, I’m going to talk about some of the games I played over the 2021 holiday period.
I’ve always had Sleeping Dogs pitched to me as “GTA but in Hong Kong”. And while the game is exactly that, it has enough personality to stand out. I tend to breeze right past most open world games but Sleeping Dogs pulled me in. While most people will opt to play this like your standard GTA clone, running amok blowing things up, the real value here is in the game’s narrative.The game centers on gang warfare. Complete with conspiracies, doubling crossing and head scratching mysteries. You play as undercover cop Wei Shen so every mission had legitimate stakes, as your allegiance is constantly pulled between your two lives.
It’s also worth noting here that Sleeping Dogs is an incredibly polished game. Despite being a few years old now, it still looks gorgeous. Everything from its combat to gunplay to driving all feels ‘correct’. It’s impossible to fault from a production standpoint. So, this means recommending this depends entirely on if open world games are your cup of tea.
The Missing – JJ Macfield & The Island Of Memories
I constantly flip back and forth on my feelings towards The Missing’s creator Hidetaka Suehiro. (Or as the cool gamers know him, Swery). He has seemingly made a career of creating fascinating, unique games that present totally fresh and creative ideas. However, they’re always awful to play. Like, they’re just not fun, and this is unfortunately more of the same. This 2D puzzle platformer is incredibly clunky, our protagonist J.J is slow, stiff and rigid, a play session can become frustrating incredibly quickly.
But with that being said, as insane as I know this is going to make me sound, I thoroughly recommend this game to anyone who enjoys narrative based games. Because for all of its flaws, the story of this game (told almost entirely through text messages) is one of the best I experienced all year. About a couple on a camping trip on a remote island, J.J wakes up from their tent one morning to find her girlfriend Emily has disappeared. You then traverse the island trying to piece together what happened through environmental puzzles, as your smartphone provides backstory and context into your relationship with Emily, and those close to J.J. Like all of Swery’s games, the characters shine as layered, three dimensional people, all with quirky attributes and flaws.
So if you’d like to play something a little weird and out there that has a lot of heart, check this one out.
Shadows of The Damned
Or as I like to call it, “Willy Jokes: The Video Game” is an action romp about demon hunter Garcia Hotspur who traverses the Underworld to save his girlfriend who has been captured by the Lord Of Demons. As far as third person shooters go, this one is pretty fun, if not a bit tedious at times. The game tries desperately to hold your attention via new enemies, jokes and occasionally switching up the gameplay style, but I can’t consider any of it particularly exceptional. It is the poster boy for that deeply flawed but ever endearing ‘6/10 Xbox 360/PS3 era’ style game that I’m very nostalgic for.
What this game does get right is the fantastic atmosphere of the underworld, with some gorgeous gothic building, hell and catacomb interiors. With the dynamic between Garcia and girlfriend Paula remaining interesting enough for me to see credits roll. Although I can’t help but wonder what this game could have been. Infamously, this game’s development has been heavily documented with multiple sources citing EA as the reason for this games weapon heavy, edgy humour direction.
According to creator Goichi Suda, he originally planned for Shadows of the Damned to be primarily horror based, with the game’s love story being further explored. Ah well. At least we can have a laugh at the fact Garcia’s gun is named “Johnson” and it can transform into the “Big Boner”, I guess.
Sonic Adventure is a fascinating entry into the blue hedgehog’s lengthy catalogue, because it draws a line in the sand amongst its fan base. While it’s not only the first truly 3D mainline Sonic game, it was also the first game in the series to present Sonic in his new, ‘more adult’ redesign. While he used to be small, round, cute and most importantly silent, his iconic appearance has since been substituted for this new tall, slender, green eyed look complete with voice acting. However with this design alteration also came a complete change up in game design philosophy as the transition to 3D completely changed how Sonic games functioned. And while I’ve played most of what are considered the “good” Sonic games (which haven’t really done much for me), I ended up having a lot of fun with Adventure. It’s just so goofy.
It also might be one of the most visually appealing games I’ve ever played. I’ll reiterate here again how I’m a sucker for turn of the century early 3D so I think this game (at least the original Dreamcast version) looks stunning. If I was to make a video game, I’d want it to look like Sonic Adventure. Admittedly it takes a minute to get how Sonic controls (he’s like butter on roller skates), but once it clicks there’s so much fun to be had. Boosting him over like a three degree incline will send him absolutely rocketing into the sky. It’s one of those games that are just as fun to ‘break’ as it is to play. And yes, this game is absolutely style over substance, but it’s just what I needed this year.
Dance Dance Revolution Extreme 2
So it’s a bit of a tradition that every summer I get down to the beach. And there’s always a few op shops I make sure to visit while I’m down there. Occasionally they’ll have decent stuff, but it’s mostly the same old sun damaged DVDs and crusty books. But this year? Oh man, I hit the motherload. A boxed Dance Dance Revolution soft mat for the Playstation 2 for $8. Eight dollars.
I was scouring every second hand website for one of these things back at the height of our 2020 lockdown! So you can imagine for my excitement when I got home from my trip and got it all set up. A few songs and even more litres of sweat later, I’m like, in to DDR now.
While I have no intentions of fully diving off the deep end and investing in a thousand dollar arcade cabinet (yet), there are plans to mod my soft mat to make it more sturdy and closer replicate the arcade pads, I’m watching videos of pro players online, there are more games on the way in the mail, this series is just my life now. So if I’m not here next fortnight for my next blog post, someone come check on me, and bring a spatula to scrape my cold, dead carcass off of my dance mat.
I even wear special socks whenever I play, and it is a nonnegotiable that I approach the mat wearing them. They are my DDR socks, and they bring me good luck and high scores.
So, that was my list! What were some game you were playing over the 2021 holiday period?
Le me know below what you played during the 2021 holiday period! Also, while you’re still hanging around, check out some of our other gaming blog posts here, or check out some of our other content over on our YouTube Channel.