One aspect of gaming we’ve lost sight of a bit over the course of the last couple of console generations is the idea of a game that is “nothing but fun”.
I’m talking about mechanics-centric games where the aim is to just have a good time and challenge yourself; games that aren’t trying to “say something”; games that aren’t trying to be artistic in a narrative sense.
This kind of game hasn’t died out completely, of course, but at the time of writing they remain primarily confined to the independently developed, digital-only sector. Capcom’s Under the Skin for PS2, meanwhile, reminds us of a time not so long ago (2004) when this type of experience would get a full retail release and no-one would bat an eyelid.
Continue reading PS2 Essentials: Under the Skin
I am one of the least sporty people I know, and I find the prospect of winter sports particularly terrifying. But I’ve always found something appealing about games involving skiing and suchlike.
My interest in this type of game dates right back to the imaginatively titled Skiing on the Philips G7000 Videopac (aka the Magnavox Odyssey 2 for American readers, where the game was known as Alpine Skiing) and the slightly later Winter Games from Epyx for various home computers.
Sometime around the PlayStation 1 and 2 eras, winter sports games started to place a heavy focus on technical, trick-based gameplay rather than the straight racing of early titles such as Skiing. And I kind of missed that simplicity.
Enter Namco’s Alpine Racer 3, the third installment of a series that began as a 1994 arcade title.
Continue reading PS2 Essentials: Alpine Racer 3
The late 2010s are often described as one of the most gleefully experimental periods in gaming history, with a wide variety of independent developers from all sorts of backgrounds doing their best to push the boundaries of gaming conventions in both mechanical and narrative terms.
There’s no denying that the rise in phenomena such as digital distribution and crowdfunding has enabled developers to work on games that many would have thought commercially unviable in years gone by. But this period is far from the only time in gaming when developers have had the freedom to experiment in this way.
D3 Publisher’s Simple Series, which originated on the PlayStation platform in the 1990s and continued right up until the Wii U era, provided a variety of developers the opportunity to spread their wings and get creative. The only caveat was that the games would almost certainly have miniscule budgets, and they would be released at a low-cost price point. Beyond that, anything would fly.
Here’s Paparazzi, originally known as The Camera Kozou (The Camera Apprentice), a PS2 game about taking photographs.
Continue reading PS2 Essentials: Paparazzi/The Camera Kozou
Better known by its other name Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies, the fourth installment of Namco’s series of fighter jet games was released under a different name in Europe.
Ace Combat: Distant Thunder, as we shall refer to it from hereon because I am European so deal with it, is a game that, despite its age — and the fact it was the series’ first outing on PlayStation 2 — remains eminently worth playing today.
It’s also a relic of a different time, when flight simulators in general were a much more common sight on both computers and consoles than they are today… which in some ways makes it all the more noteworthy from a modern perspective.
Continue reading PS2 Essentials: Ace Combat: Distant Thunder
Elevator Action is an established classic of the ’80s arcade scene, and saw a wide variety of ports to most of the popular computer and console systems of the period.
While the original game is still relatively well-known today, many people remain unaware that Taito followed it up with an official sequel in 1994, some eleven years after the original game’s release.
These people are, of course, also unaware that Elevator Action Returns is an absolutely awesome game, even from a modern perspective.
Continue reading Taito Essentials: Elevator Action Returns
The first game I ever played on the PlayStation 2 was Konami’s Shadow of Memories, also known as Shadow of Destiny in the States.
I’d wanted a PS2 for a while, but even back then, I felt like I didn’t want to pick up a game that I felt I already knew all about from reading about it in magazines. So I deliberately chose a game I knew absolutely nothing about as my first PS2 game, then sat down to play it and found myself utterly entranced by something quite unlike anything I’d ever played before.
Combining elements of traditional adventure games, visual novels and even open-world exploration, Shadow of Memories remains a highly noteworthy title in the PS2’s library, and well worth exploring even today.
Continue reading PS2 Essentials: Shadow of Memories
You’ve almost certainly played Zoo Keeper at one point or another over the years.
Originally developed as a Web-based game by Tokyo-based animation studio Robot Communications, Zoo Keeper was subsequently ported by developer-publisher Success to a variety of platforms over the years, including Nintendo DS, 3DS, Game Boy Advance, iOS, Android and PlayStation 2.
The latter of these, inexplicably rebranded to the even more generic-sounding Zoo Puzzle (or, more accurately, the questionably punctuated Zoo “Puzzle”) in Europe by publisher 505 GameStreet, is the one we’re primarily concerned with today.
Continue reading Puzzler Essentials: Zoo Puzzle