For this entry in my best-of-series, I’m talking about my favorite shooters and what games had the best gunplay this year. There were so many games this time that I had to double up the awards.
Honorable Mentions: Shadow Warrior 3
A game I feel a lot of people have forgotten that came out in 2022, Shadow Warrior 3 may not stand out as much as the second game, but this is a solid game that apes the push forward combat of Doom Eternal with the low brow humor that the series is known for. The gun play was fantastic, and I liked the use of environmental hazards to be used against enemies.
What hurts the game is the shorten campaign and just the lack of variety as the game went on. It was a fun time, but one that wasn’t that memorable.
3: Hedon and Vomitoreum
The GZdoom modding scene has continued to grow over the past 30 years, and the mods have only gotten bigger and more ambitious. For my #3, I actually picked two different games built off of GZdoom. Hedon is a massive open-styled FPS with each level feeling like a combination of several FPS levels put into one. There is a lot to explore in this game, along with some hard combat if you play on the higher difficulties.
Vomitoreum does one better, and is a metroidvania open world shooter. Taking place in a world long since destroyed thanks to a plague and alien force. It’s up to us to save what’s left in the world by exploring and shooting a lot of mutants. The metroidvania upgrades work to give you a lot of options as the game goes on, with numerous secrets and bonus weapons to find. The game is on the short side if you’re not going for all the secrets, but this is a great game if you don’t mind some body horror to see just how far modders have gone in terms of transforming Doom.
2: Metal Hellsinger and Neon White
The second place also goes with a tie this year. Metal Hellsinger combines the rhythm-based design of a music game, with the combat and feel of a push forward FPS…along with plenty of metal. While you can turn down a lot of the beat-detection, this is first and foremost a game about music. A really solid first concept, and if you’re a metal head and a shooter lover, this is a must play.
Neon White continues the trend of speedrunning-based FPS with a very stylish and anime inspired game. Each level plays out more like a puzzle of you trying to figure out how to get through it as fast as possible using the different weapons and their secondary abilities to skip huge chunks of the stage. Admittedly, I’m not a fan of the story, as it leans heavily into anime tropes, but the gameplay and gunplay are fantastic.
#1 Cultic Episode 1
This may be considered a cheat, but with the Cultic episodes being released as standalone, and the first one is completely done, I’m adding it to the list. Cultic honors its inspiration from Blood. The game has a stylized look with some of the largest levels I’ve seen from a boomer shooter. While the individual elements we’ve seen countless times, the complete package, even in just this first episode, is fantastic. There is a great sense of growth and evolution over the episode, as enemies and encounters escalate and so do your available weapons. If the ending is any indication, the remaining chapters are only going to get even better from here.
Owner of Game Wisdom with more than a decade of experience writing and talking about game design and the industry. I’m also the author of the “Game Design Deep Dive” series and “20 Essential Games to Study”
The dimly-remembered era of the dedicated game consoles, a whole age of gaming where machines played only a handful of games and that was it, is hugely interesting to me. I was very young when it came around and so only have only a vague recollection of these units, so any scrap of knowledge that floats into my vision gets immediately pounced upon and devoured. Especially units like Allied’s Name Of The Game II, which was not only produced in very small quantities but used a obscure MOS 7600 to provide its gameplay.
All so 1976 players could play Pong-like games in color with up to four people! Allied is scarcely remembered by that name today, but they were bought out by a former president of Taito of America. Then, under the new name Centuri, they became a fondly-remembered licensee and manufacturer of classic arcade games! The details are in OVCR’s post.
suckerpinch, a.k.a. Tom7, is a regular presenter at SIGBOVIK and no stranger to the intelligent-but-fun video presentation field. This isn’t the first time we’ve posted his work here, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.
News from the Mastodon of blogfriend Anatoly Shashkin, the increasingly inaccurately-named ScummVM project, which started way back in 2001 as an engine to play classic Lucasarts adventures but has since expanded way beyond that remit, will be getting improved Macromedia Director support!
It’s already available in its testing version, so if you want to play around with some new older games (many of them Japanese titles), go have a look!
A game I played while doing IGF judging, this was a visual novel choose your own adventure mixed with some deck building. You play a child heading to humanity’s first colony, over the course of 10 years, you’re going to see a lot, experience a lot, and have a role to play in who lives or dies. There is a lot of variance going on here in terms of what endings and routes you can go down. Every life experience you get will earn you cards, and your deck is literally made up of all the good and bad things that shape your life.
While not for everyone, if you’re a fan of visual novel/RPG games, this is a must play for you.
2: Last Command
What happens when bullet hell and snake team up? We get Last Command. This game has you exploring the digital space in the future where there are no more humans left to figure out what is causing malfunctions. All combat is based on you controlling a snake that has to gather data in order to use it against enemies. Meanwhile, enemies attack you with a variety of bullets and patterns that would be right at home in a bullet hell shmup.
This is not an easy game to play, and I ran into some issues with some of the advanced challenges. This is a great game if you’re looking for something different and challenging.
1: The Case of the Golden Idol
After Return of the Obra Dinn I was hoping we would see more investigation-styled games, and The Case of the Golden Idol fits that category with multiple challenges to your critical thinking skills. Each vignette involves the golden idol and a murder, and it’s up to you piece together how it all happened by examining the scene and putting the clues together one dialogue box at a time.
While the game starts off easy enough, soon it grows to multiple screens of people and situations to parse thru and the complexity of the cases grows fast. This is the perfect game for someone wanting to flex their critical thinking skills and I hope between it and Obra Dinn we start seeing more of this style.
Owner of Game Wisdom with more than a decade of experience writing and talking about game design and the industry. I’m also the author of the “Game Design Deep Dive” series and “20 Essential Games to Study”
Ordinarily this would be the kind of thing that intrepid blob reporter Kent Drebnar would cover here some week, but this is too big to hide as just one of several links in an omnibus post. At long last, one of the biggest N64 games of all is getting a rerelease on Switch Online (oh, and Xbox One as well), even if you have to get the Expansion Pack to play it. It should be playable when, or soon after, this post goes up! It even offers widescreen support and online play!
While it couldn’t save the system in the face of competition from the Playstation, there is no denying Rare’s Goldeneye 007 moved an awful lot of Nintendo 64 consoles, and until now, 25 years later, unless you wanted to pirate it, the original cart and system was still the only way to play it. It remains the most iconic James Bond video game ever made, and it may still be the most popular. They got so much right when making it, both with respect to the franchise and to doing a console-based first-person shooter right.
WARNING: the following paragraph will make little sense to people who weren’t both N64 players and internet readers at the time when it was new:
The spirits of countless N64 IGN readers rejoice this day. a golden eye is an eye tat is golden! Sadly, all record of eye tat boy is gone from their current website, Google is of no use at all in ferreting record of it out of the present-day web, and it’s too much trouble to dredge its memory up from the Wayback Machine. So it goes.
The gaming landscape has changed so much since then. When shrinkwrapped Goldeneye 007 boxes first saw store shelves, Rare was on their way to becoming one of Nintendo’s most beloved second parties. People largely came to see them as like a British branch of the company, then the Stamper brothers wanted to sell, Nintendo somehow said no to buying, and as a result the company began largely to languish, until around the time Viva Pinata came out. Since then, the people who made it left Rare and went on to make the Timesplitters games, which are still fondly remembered.
Such is N64 Goldeneye’s legend that Activision once actually released another James Bond game by that name, that actually wasn’t a port or remake of the original but was more of a reboot of it, with the Daniel Craig version of James Bond included.
Goldeneye 007’s twin release on both the Switch and Xbox platforms must have required some deep licensing mojo, but perhaps not even as much needed to wrest the rights for a rerelease of a James Bond movie tie-in game from the Broccoli family, as well as the likeness rights from Pierce Brosnan. With that many owners looking for their pieces of the financial pie, the stars must have aligned mighty right for the game to see the legal light of day again. Someone, please go check R’lyeh! Cthulhu must be about to awaken!
On Romhack Thursdays, we bring you interesting finds from the world of game modifications.
Most of the things we’ve presented here so far have been play hacks, or occasionally graphics hacks, but there are lots of hacks that exist purely to translate games into other languages. This week we offer two of these, both translations of Idol Hakkenden.
One of these, and arguably the much more playable, is from LIPEMCO! Translations and was made in 2018. (Say it aloud with me: “LIPEMCO!”) It is a fairly direct translation that keeps all the references to Japanese culture, and has much more text.
The other is from 2020, and is from Polinym of Woolsey Fan Company, which retitled it Pop Star Debut. It’s less technically impressive, with brief text that enhances the feeling of crazy logic that suffuses the game through.
Portopia-style adventure games are all heavily menu-driven. Portopia was written by a young Yuji Horii, who would adapt the style into the combat system of Dragon Quest and, soon after, became an ultra super rich person.
But in those ancient days there were a lot of games that used a Portopia-style system to present adventure stories, and a lot of them were on the Famicom. Not a lot of them made it overseas, but sometimes we’d get glimpses of the style, like in Princess Tomato of the Salad Kingdom, or the adventure sequences of The Goonies II and Dr. Chaos. The popular NES ports of ICOM Simulations’ computer adventure games Shadowgate, Deja Vu and The Uninvited could also be considered of this style, even if the games themselves started out on the Macintosh, in English.
While Portopia was a murder mystery, some of these games, like Idol Hakkenden, were not. It’s pretty much just a traipse through a linear plot where you help a fairly dopey young girl to become one of those media-destroying pop culture sensations. Take a look at the fairly hype intro movie I included above for a sense of it. In it, protagonist Erika (Sabrina in this translation) dances to the theme song, alternatively spinning before monitors showing her face, the lava pit of a volcano, and outer space. I don’t think two of those three settings actually appear in the game, but I haven’t made it through the whole thing yet, so, who the heck even knows?
These kinds of adventure games are known for being sometimes a bit random with the actions that are needed to advance the plot. To pick just one example (this is from Pop Star Debut, it does make a little more sense in the other translation, although not much more):
Early in the game an item that can be looked-at is a Rock (it’s an Ashtray in the more accurate translation), suddenly appearing on the list of things that can be examined in a room despite Sabrina having visited that location before, when it was Rockless.
Looking at it causes her to react in disgust. A passing old man compliments her on her tidiness, and gives her tickets to a planetarium show. The Rock, meanwhile, vanishes again. (They’re probably filming another Fast and Furious movie.)
While at the planetarium, you can speak with one of your entourage, a girl named Sonya, who tells you that she has an idea: you will need a nutcracker. “Like the ballet?” asks Sabrina. We hope.
So you go back to the Lobby, and ask the lady there for a nut. They sell “Fortune Nuts” there, ah. They don’t have nutcrackers, but you’re told “Aquariums have them.” Standard aquarium equipment, certainly.
The aquarium does not, in fact, have a nutcracker. What they do have, however, is an otter named Kip.
Kip cannot open the nut himself. But one of your followers, if asked, will tell you he might could do it with a Rock. Like, the one that was in the Lobby?
When you go back, it has reappeared, in the Take list, and it can be picked up. Then you can bring it back to the Aquarium where, if you perform a song for the otter, it will deign to open the nut. The lyrics go, and I quote: “Kip! Can you? Big jaws! Klap! Snap! Open my nut Oh! Kip! Please! Yeah!!” I am given to understand that in Japanese the lyrics matched music that played in this sequence, but it was too difficult a task for the translator to manage. The first translation’s version of this sequence is presented below.
The song communicates to the otter the nature of your request, and he agrees. Sadly, it breaks his teeth, and also the fortune sinks to the bottom of his tank. Some other means must be sought to retrieve it and learn its no-doubt essential wisdom.
And the game continues from there.
The group sponsoring the Pop Star Debut release, the Woosley Fan Company, borrows its name from 8- and 16-bit era Square translator Ted Woosley, who gained some notoriety for his loose, but distinctive and energetic, translations. It was he who added the well-known “You spoony bard!” line to Final Fantasy IV (a.k.a. II) in the US. The description of the hack mentions it’s not a literal translation, but tries to convey some of the same energy. It turns out that the translation takes a lot of liberties.
The hardest thing about writing a fan translation is not always the language itself, but squeezing the changed script into the memory space of the original game. Japanese is a more compact language than English, with concepts generally expressible using fewer glyphs. Pop Star Idol uses many subtle cheats to get its script to fit, including condensing common digraphs into one character. Even with these savings, some of the translated text seems rather terse. The first translation expands the rom size by over 100K to fit a more accurate translation, although Pop Star Debut’s much abbreviated text is entertaining in its own (largely unintentional) way.
Both versions have places where you’ll probably end up just trying every option available to you to find the trigger to advance the story, but that’s pretty much what you have to expect from this kind of game. So long as you’re prepared to accept this, and bring along a great deal of patience (especially for Pop Star Debut), Idol Hakkenden is a fun glimpse into a style of game we mostly never got to see in the U.S.
One more thing: Pop Star Debut did go the extra mile of creating an English PDF of what the manual might have looked like had their translation been released as an English NES release. It’s included with the hack!
Hope Bellingham at GamesRadar tells us that U.S. Customs wrecked a sealed-in-box copy of Pokemon Yellow valued at over $10,000. I rather disagree with that valuation too. I thought all the misguided young people were losing their money in crypto these days? (Note: GamesRadar is one of those sites that waits until you start reading an article then puts up a blocking box begging you to subscribe. Hint to GamesRadar: NO, and if I were interested in subscribing my generous impulse would have been destroyed by your prompt!)
At the Guardian, the very British-named Oliver Wainwright reviews Super Mario World, not the game but the theme park in California, a part of Universal Studios Hollywood. The verdict: 8/10, good graphics, some replay value. I’ve been in a melancholy frame of mind as of late, so seeing those brightly-painted dioramas makes me wonder what they’ll look like in twenty years, when Universal Studios’ attentions have drifted to another big thing. Nothing ages quite as badly as a happy prop painted in primary colors.
You’d think there’d be more unique types of puzzle games than there are. For every genuinely new idea there’s a dozen Tetris-likes. Even genuinely unique puzzle games often have another game as a basis, like how Baba Is You starts from a foundation of Sokoban before launching off to the depths of Ridiculous Space at Ludicrous Speed.
I can’t claim to have comprehensive knowledge of all kinds of pre-existing puzzles, but Squirrelativity seems unique enough to be really interesting..
Made for Ludlum Dare 52, it’s a free game with only 15 levels, but they’ll have you mystified long before you reach the end.
One team of squirrels has a tree growing up from the bottom of the board, the other has a tree growing down from the top. How it grows, though, depends on how you draw their branches. The bottom tree’s branches can only go up, and the upper tree’s branches can only go down. Each set of squirrels can only broach their own branches.
In the middle of each board there are a number of green seeds. A color of fruit will grow out of the seed, depending on which tree touches it. However, each squirrel’s tree makes the fruit that the squirrels of the other tree likes. It also drops down according to that tree’s gravity. That is: the blue squirrels’ tree grows up, and produces red fruit that drop down, and the red squirrels’ tree grows down, and produces blue fruit that drops up. Got it?
The screenshot I took demonstrates how the fruit falls. Neither tree can grow branches through a space containing a branch from the other tree, and each level can only end if you both get all the seeds, and each team of squirrels get the same number of fruit as the other. The delicate balance of squirrel power must not be overturned!
Just about everyone respects Masahiro Sakurai! I’m no different! He’s made some wonderful games, and even his more obscure works are really cool and fun!
I’ve linked to his series on game design before, released on Youtube with Nintendo’s help. It’s really popular! We try not to link too frequently to the same series or blog, instead waiting to find something in it that connects with me personally, in the hopes that whatever it is will be something that connects with my readers as well, and that’s why I’m linking to him talking a bit about Kirby Air Ride.
Like The Speed Rumbler, I feel like I have to say something really specific and detailed about KAR. (What a cool and appropriate acronym, both in the context of Kirby and Speed Rumbler!) Especially City Trial, which I think is just waiting for some interested party to revisit an expand. In the meantime though, enjoy Sakurai talking about what may be the most unique Kirby game, even in a series containing Star Stacker, Pinball Land and Tilt ‘n Tumble.
We’ve been meaning to do an Arcade Mermaid article on Capcom’s very difficult late-80s arcade game The Speed Rumbler, since it’s a stand-out inclusion on Capcom Arcade 2nd Stadium on current console. This article is still coming, but in the meantime you can read Gaming Hell’s own take on this sadly unknown yet really cool game.
There’s a lot to like about it, but my favorite thing about The Speed Rumbler, known as Rush & Crash in Japan, is the CAR meter:
There is no reason that I know of to put the word CAR in a red splash, other than that the word CRASH in its arcade title screen is also within one. It somehow seems appropriate in the game though, since sometimes just rolling through things is as useful as shooting them.
If I wrote more about Speed Rumbler here I’ll just be using words I’ll have to repeat when I write about it myself, so go read Gaming Hell’s article!