It’s funny how the advancing years can affect how you perceive a particular game.
TimeSplitters is a great example. Developed by a team of ex-Rare staffers who had previously worked on N64 classics GoldenEye 007 and Perfect Dark, this PlayStation 2 launch title was positively received on its original release — but also drew some criticism for, in some respects, seeming like a step backwards from its spiritual predecessors, particularly in terms of narrative and storytelling.
Returning to it some 18 years after its original release, however, paints a somewhat different picture… and makes it an absolute delight to play.
Continue reading PS2 Essentials: TimeSplitters
A core part of my gaming “diet” in the 16-bit home computer era and onwards into the early days of mainstream PC gaming was the military flight simulator.
I have many fond memories of piloting numerous pieces of military hardware around the virtual skies, dropping bombs on filthy commies (this was the height of the Cold War, after all) and dictators in the desert — but for me, it wasn’t necessarily the action-packed parts of these games that was appealing. No, it was the simple satisfaction of remaining in control of several tons of metal that really had no business being up in the air and not immediately plummeting to the ground.
This was a feeling I hadn’t really experienced for a while, to be honest; the Ace Combats of the world have their considerable appeal, but they’re not exactly realistic. Taito’s 2003 release of Energy Airforce, on the other hand… well, let’s take a look.
Continue reading PS2 Essentials: Energy Airforce
Once upon a time, there was a funny little fighting game on PlayStation called Ehrgeiz.
Ehrgeiz was noteworthy for a number of reasons: its high-resolution graphics; its beautifully slick framerate; its inclusion of Final Fantasy VII characters in its roster… and the bizarre inclusion of a full-on dungeon-delving action RPG mode.
If you have fond memories of that particular aspect of Ehrgeiz, then you’re most certainly going to want to check out Crimson Tears, since it’s by the same developer (DreamFactory) and expands that concept into its own distinct experience. And, given the apparently enduring popularity of games with roguelike elements, it’s a game that remains impressively relevant even today.
Continue reading PS2 Essentials: Crimson Tears
One of my favourite things about video games is the possibility to simulate things that have their roots in “reality”, but then extend that simulation to something that would be physically impossible or at least impractical to do.
Flipnic, a 2003 release for PS2 that was originally developed by Sony but, oddly, localised and brought West by Ubi Soft, of all people, takes this approach with pinball. While your average real-world pinball table is… well, roughly table-sized, Flipnic’s “tables”, if it’s even accurate to call them that, are absolutely enormous, frequently gravity-defying and full of contraptions that would make Heath Robinson proud.
It’s a bizarre game and no mistake… but well worth giving a bit of time to, particularly if you reckon yourself as a bit of a pinball wizard.
Continue reading PS2 Essentials: Flipnic
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