Category Archives: Essentials

A collection of articles highlighting noteworthy or interesting games from the libraries of lesser-appreciated, rarer or retro systems, and in specific genres.

Fitness Boxing: Switch Fit

“Exergaming” has been around for a while now; I can recall working up a sweat in Dancing Stage (aka Dance Dance Revolution) on PlayStation 1 back in university.

It was arguably Nintendo who really popularised the concept in the Wii generation, however, with Wii Fit, Wii Fit Plus and subsequently Wii Fit U all setting a great example that a number of other developers and publishers strove to emulate. Exercising at home could be practical, said these games, and it could be fun, too!

The Wii and Wii U generations are behind us now — though I know some people are still religiously using Wii Fit, and all credit to them — so it’s time we had a successor, right? Enter Fitness Boxing for Switch.

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Atari Flashback Classics: Know Your Roots

Atari may be a shadow of a shadow of a shadow of its former self considering the number of hands the brand has passed through since the ’90s… but it’s fair to say that it still has a hold of my heart.

The Atari 2600 was just slightly before my time — I grew up with the Atari 8-bit home computers before moving on to the ST — but I’ve always been interested in and respected the deep roots video gaming laid down in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Consequently, I’ve jumped on board with most Atari 2600 compilations that have been available for platforms over the years… and had a great time with them.

The latest to appear is Atari Flashback Classics for Nintendo Switch. Boasting 150 games that were originally distributed across three separate releases for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, it certainly seems to offer astounding value for money on paper. But how is it in execution?

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NES Essentials: Mighty Bomb Jack

I’ve always enjoyed games that subvert your expectations in one way or another — be it narratively, mechanically or both. And Tecmo’s Mighty Bomb Jack from 1987 is nothing if not charmingly fast and loose with the definition of what you might expect from a NES-era platform game.

I wasn’t familiar with Mighty Bomb Jack back when it was “current”, but I did have a soft spot for Elite’s solid Atari ST port of the 1984 original arcade game. That was a much simpler game; what Mighty Bomb Jack does is take the base mechanics from its predecessor and apply them in an interesting and unusual new way.

Let’s take a look, shall we?

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Wii Essentials: Ghost Squad

One of the things I find kind of interesting about how gaming culture in general has developed over time is how people feel about “arcade games”.

Back in the 8- and 16-bit eras of computers and consoles that I grew up with, the seemingly unattainable dream was to have “the arcade experience at home” — or, well, more accurately, an authentic arcade experience at home. This was kind of strange when you think about it, because a lot of home computer and console games already offered experiences of greater complexity, depth and duration than your average quarter-muncher, but still the dream persisted.

Once we got to a stage where our home gaming hardware was more than up to the job of providing an “arcade-perfect” experience, however, many people had become so accustomed to those longer, deeper experiences that the dream of “arcade games” kind of fell by the wayside for a significant proportion of the gaming audience. And consequently, I suspect a fair few people missed out on highly enjoyable cheese like Sega’s Ghost Squad.

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Wii Essentials: Wii Play: Motion

The poor ol’ Wii gets a lot of crap for its numerous minigame compilations, when in fact these releases were a significant part of the system’s appeal.

Minigame compilations provided accessible ways for people less accustomed to games to get accustomed to the Wii’s unusual control scheme, great packages to entertain groups of friends on social occasions… and brilliant opportunities for developers to get a bit weird and creative.

One of the best examples I’ve come across is 2011’s Wii Play: Motion, one of the lesser-known entries in Nintendo’s Wii [x] series, and a game that most people know as “the game you got free with a Wii Remote Plus for a while”.

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PS2 Essentials: TimeSplitters 2

Yes, yes, yes, I know it’s also on Xbox and Gamecube, but I’ve always thought of TimeSplitters as a PlayStation thing, so that’s where it’s getting categorised today.

Ahem. Anyway. TimeSplitters 2 is, unsurprisingly, the follow-up to the excellent TimeSplitters, a game developed by ex-Rare folks who previously worked on GoldenEye 007 and Perfect Dark on the Nintendo 64.

The original TimeSplitters has aged very well. Its sequel is even better. Let’s take a closer look.

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PS2 Essentials: Ace Combat: Squadron Leader

The Ace Combat series is a jewel in Namco’s crown that people sadly seem to forget about quite often — though hopefully the seventh installment due early in 2019 will rectify that to an extent.

The series mostly stretches across the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 eras, with a less well-received (but still enjoyable) spinoff installment in the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 era. For most, the series’ peak was with its PS2 installments; opinion varies as to which one of these is really “the best”, but they’re all very much worth your time.

At the time of writing, we’ve already talked about fourth installment Distant Thunder (aka Shattered Skies), so today let’s take a look at the fifth game, known as Squadron Leader in Europe, and The Unsung War elsewhere. It’s a good ‘un.

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