Thoughts: Return to Monkey Island

return_return

When you look at it a certain way, the opening 10 minutes of Return to Monkey Island are an incredible meta-joke 30 years in the making. I have spoken at length about my hatred for the theme park ending of Monkey Island 2, which was the last time I touched a Monkey Island game made by Ron Gilbert1, and various interviews in the run-up to the release of Return to Monkey Island didn’t do anything to shake my impression that Ron Gilbert has theme parks on the brain. This did not bode at all well for Return, and so my heart sank when the very first screen of Return that you see, 10 seconds after clicking that “New Game” button, is this:

Continue reading

  1. He was also involved in the episodic Telltale series Tales of Monkey Island, but I didn’t play those.
Tagged , , , , ,

Thoughts: Regiments

regiments_assault

I must admit to some skepticism when the Microprose trademark got rudely disinterred a few years back and slapped on top of a brand new publishing house. I think very highly of the Microprose of the early ‘90s — to the point where my In Praise Of columns were just the Microprose Nostalgia Hour for a couple of months — and after watching other zombie trademarks shuffle along for years (Atari is the big one, which is currently trying to go big on cryptocurrency) I wasn’t looking forward to the same thing happening to Microprose. To my considerable surprise, though, the new owners have been somewhat smart about this and have kicked off their revived label by publishing… well, pretty much exactly the kind of game the OG Microprose would have been interested in publishing back in the day: a selection of strategy titles that sit halfway between the accessibility of an RTS and a grognardy war sim, which both supply a hefty digital manual (another fine Microprose tradition) and expect you to actually read through the entirety of it in order to learn the game1. Last year they published Highfleet and Carrier Command 2, which both appeared to be reasonably solid efforts even if they didn’t manage to hook me in for more than a couple of hours. And now this year they’ve published Regiments, which has.

Continue reading

  1. Interestingly the new Microprose aren’t the only ones doing this: they have competition from another relatively new publisher called Hooded Horse who are also publishing a lot of upcoming mid-tier strategy titles (including my current GOTY 2022, Old World). This may be one reason why Microprose’s future slate of games looks to be branching out a bit from pure strategy.
Tagged , , ,

LucasArts Time Machine: Grim Fandango

grim_bar

Oh, you thought we were done with this? Oh no. Not by a long shot.

Continue reading

Tagged , , ,

Thoughts: Sniper Elite 5

se5_cover

Okay, so I’ll state up front that I have been goaded into this review a little bit. This goading was not caused by anything Sniper Elite 5 did itself — at least not directly — but prior to playing it I read multiple reviews that favourably compared this iteration of the series to Hitman 2 and Metal Gear Solid V, two of the best sandbox games of the last decade1. Which sounds great, but unfortunately for Rebellion I have also played Sniper Elite 4, so I knew that one of two things had happened here:

  1. That Rebellion had massively, massively upped their game, investing a ton of money into hiring a team of crack designers to shape the emergent gameplay while throwing away the old, dated Sniper Elite engine and starting again from scratch to properly enable all of these modern sandbox features.
  2. That these reviews were talking complete bollocks.

Continue reading

  1. In particular there’s this “Essential” rating from Eurogamer. I know that games journalists are paid next to nothing and have zero long-term career prospects and this sometimes makes me feel bad about ragging on them so frequently, but then one of them gives Sniper Elite 5 an “Essential” rating and I just can’t let that kind of thing go.
Tagged , , ,

Thoughts: PowerWash Simulator

ps_pipe

I wasn’t expecting a great deal from PowerWash Simulator. For starters it’s yet another entrant in the now decidedly-oversubscribed Simulator “genre”, which consists of a series of increasingly desperate attempts to turn mundane everyday jobs into videogames. (I’m particularly baffled by the PC building one.) And the concept behind PowerWash Simulator is one of the most mundane of the lot: inspired by the viral success of powerwashing videos on Youtube, this is a first-person washer game where, instead of a gun, you have a power washer, and you use that power washer to clean a variety of inexplicably-filthy objects ranging from houses to ferris wheels. That is it. That is the entire game.

Continue reading

Tagged , ,

Thoughts: Hardspace Shipbreaker

shipbreaker_cut

Ah, finally, an actually good destruction physics game.

Continue reading

Tagged , ,