Category Archives: gaming

2021 Games Roundup


I write less on this blog these days than I’d really like. It’s not for lack of trying, either; I’d say I start writing twice as many reviews as I actually finish and publish. There’s two reasons I write, though, and one of them has been very important for my keeping this thing going for the last ten years: I write because I enjoy it, and over the years I’ve become less keen on “forcing” the words to come out of my brain because that’s not fun and is what leads to me periodically burning out and stopping for months at a time. This is why my output has been rather more sporadic recently (at least compared to the first few years I was doing this), but that then runs directly into the second reason I write, which is that I like having a historical record of how I felt about a game at the time that I played it that I can refer to later when arguing with people on the internet. Since I review about a third as many games as I actually play, the blog is now decidedly not that — or at least not a comprehensive version of it, anyway.

So this is the compromise: reluctant as I might be to jump on the end-of-year bandwagon of putting everything I played in a big list in the rough order of how much I enjoyed them, it does afford me the opportunity to say a little bit about each game that I didn’t do a proper review for. Two things to bear in mind before we get started, though. First, this is a list of games that I played in 2021, not games that I played that were released in 2021, which is why there’s stuff like Monster Train and Hypnospace Outlaw in there. And second is that, as ever with these things, the categories are extremely broad and not remotely objective, so do take them with a big pinch of salt.

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Thoughts: Halo Infinite


I was originally going to start this review with a short, punchy opener like “Halo Infinite is the best Halo since Halo 3!” After a little thought, though, I’ve chosen to take a rather more measured approach, not least because saying that would make me sound like I write for IGN or something. Saying “Halo Infinite is the best Halo since Halo 3” is not inaccurate, but it’s also a somewhat nonsensical statement for two reasons. One is that it makes the same mistake as 343 and Bungie did of assuming that everyone’s actually played the other Halo games — and their spin-offs, and read their tie-in novels, and their comics, and probably watched the upcoming live-action TV show to boot. If you don’t have the context, then that could mean almost anything. And the other reason is that even if you do have the context — if you have played every single Halo game, as I rather unfortunately have — you’ll know that this is potentially an extremely powerful curse as every Halo game after 3 has been varying shades of crap1.

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  1. With the exception of Reach, which is merely heavily flawed rather than crap.
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Thoughts: Exo One


At the end of last week’s review of Treasures of the Aegean I talked a bit about how impressed I was with its clarity of vision. This is something that I always value in a game, but also something which happened to be particularly on my mind at the time because I’d just finished playing Exo One, which handily demonstrates how confused your game can end up feeling when you don’t have this.

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Thoughts: Treasures of the Aegean


Another day, another time loop ga- no wait, come back! This one’s actually good!

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Thoughts: Back 4 Blood


“Man, all of these games that take heavy inspiration from Left 4 Dead’s co-op horde shooter formula are great and all, but they’re all missing something. I wish somebody would just make a modern version of Left 4 Dead.”

Back 4 Blood is released.

“No, not like that.”

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Thoughts: Age of Empires 4


“The next generation of real-time strategy gaming!” proclaims the marketing blurb for Age of Empires 4. This is technically true, since aside from assorted mediocrities like Grey Goo and Company of Heroes 2 I don’t think anyone has taken a proper big (or at least medium-sized) budget stab at the classic RTS since Blizzard released Starcraft 2 back in 2010. Unlike those failures, Age of Empires 4 has the support of a big franchise name, a big publisher — they don’t get any bigger than Microsoft — and it’s being developed by Relic Entertainment, who are in theory a seasoned RTS studio thanks to their experience with Dawn of War and Company of Heroes. But if Age of Empires 4 is indeed the next generation of real-time strategy gaming, then I have to say it looks a hell of a lot like the twenty year-old Age of Empires 2.

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LucasArts Time Machine: The Curse Of Monkey Island


And so, after a rather longer period than I anticipated, we come back to the beginning. This whole series was prompted by my booting up Curse Of Monkey Island back in October of last year, and wondering: why was Curse the last high-profile 2D point and click adventure game that LucasArts made? Was the genre an evolutionary dead-end? Was the lure of 3D graphics — which were exploding in 1997 thanks to the Voodoo accelerator card — too strong to resist? And considering Curse in particular, I wanted to get a bit more context on just why LucasArts had abandoned their previously wildly-successful genre at precisely the moment they’d managed to usher it to its apotheosis — because Curse is absolutely fantastic.

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