A Week in the Life of a 41-Year-Old Gamer: April 22-28, 2016


  1. Star Fox Zero / Star Fox Guard (WiiU): $64.99
  2. Hitman Intro Pack (Xbox One): $14.99

YTD Total: $687.72


Screenshot (58)

  1. Ratchet & Clank (PS4): 12h 10m
  2. Pktball (iOS): 1h 40m
  3. Hitman (Xbox One): 1h 21m
  4. Star Fox Zero (WiiU): 1h 14m
  5. Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse (WiiU): 1h 12m
  6. Fire Emblem Fates (3DS): 1h 6m
  7. Hyrule Warriors Legends (3DS): 54m
  8. Star Fox Guard (WiiU): 17m
  9. Dust – An Elysian Tail (iOS): 14m
  10. Super Smash Bros (3DS): 8m



It’s a shame that the Ratchet & Clank movie has been getting abysmal reviews (30% on Metacritic), because Ratchet & Clank (PS4) is my second favorite game of the year so far (behind Fire Emblem Fates). It’s a blast from beginning to end. And it’s just the perfect length – about 18 hours, if you’re not mainlining it. So… how can the game be so good, and the movie so bad? I’m going to find out this weekend… I’m taking the kids to the theater on Saturday. The game and the movie tell exactly the same story, and even share cut-scene segments, so the comparison will be interesting. But flick aside, if you have a PS4, you owe it to yourself to play through the game… it’s as good looking as The Order: 1886, has a leveling system that provides a constant sense of progress, and scales its difficulty perfectly (outside of the end boss, who is perhaps a little too tough in relation to what comes before).


I’m shocked that the second most-played game this week is basically an update of Pong. But Pktball (iOS) provides a play loop that can put you into a zen state for hours, when you only planned to play for minutes. Resetting is lightning fast, and the feeling of beating your own personal high score after dozens of failed attempts is sublime. It’s F2P, but there is no restriction to play – no timers, and the only things you can purchase are cosmetic skins. There’s a spend cap of $23, too, so if you really start to enjoy buying those skins, you don’t have to worry about falling into a money pit. My high score is 194 so far – download it, and try to beat me!


Hitman – Intro Pack (Xbox One) is the first time I’ve played a proper Hitman game since Hitman 2 on Xbox 14 years ago. It was an impulse purchase, based on the attractive price tag – I like the idea of episodic AAA games. $14.99 is a no-risk investment for me, and though I’ve only played for about an hour and a half, I’m already convinced that it’ll be worth buying future installments. If the game came out for a full $59.99, I would have skipped it. I have no problem with full pricing, of course, but sixty bucks is a high enough cost for me to stop and consider my budget, particularly on a digital purchase. I’ve always thought of Hitman as a “B-tier” game series, so I never would have tried it at full price. I know there has been some debate about the merits episodic distribution, but when I look at the stack of AAA games that I have put less than three hours into – Far Cry Primal, The Division, Halo 5, Forza 6, Dying Light, Mad Max, etc. – it makes me realize that I’d have been better off spending $14.99 instead of $59.99, and then continuing to invest as I had more time to play. This model seems like a win-win for the publisher, who can go beyond $59.99 if the series merits more than four installments, and the player, who can get the first few bites for the cost a music album.

The game itself is open world on a scale that is much more intimate than Grand Theft Auto or Assassin’s Creed. You are limited to one location for every mission, but interiors are enormous, providing you with tons of nooks and crannies to explore, at your own pace. Being identified as an assassin typically results in death, and you have to restart from the beginning of a mission – there are no checkpoints. This is punishing, but since there is so much flexibility to how you approach objectives, it’s fun to try a totally different approach every time you fail. Missions can take an hour or five minutes, depending on your ingenuity. If you’re looking for something short and satisfying to hold you over until Uncharted 4 hits, give this one a spin.


Star Fox Zero (WiiU) was not a must-buy purchase for me – reviews have not been kind. When I first saw it in stock, I decided to pass on it. But this is a Miyamoto-supervised project by Platinum Games, and it’s based on one of my favorite legacy brands, so I ultimately caved. The game is… fine. It’s no Bayonetta… and it’s no Star Fox 64. In an effort to create an experience that could only be enjoyed with multiple screens, Platinum Games and Nintendo have built a disjointed product that is far more mechanically complex than earlier games in the series, with no apparent payoff. Graphics are bland, controls are painfully unintuitive, and the analog aiming has to be constantly re-calibrated. And the secondary viewpoint seems superfluous – the instructions claim you get better aim using it, but as far as I can tell, it’s really just the equivalent of a cockpit camera in a racing game.

To be fair, I have only seen about a quarter of the game, and I’ve heard that some of the sequences later in are a lot of fun. So, I’m soldiering on, taking comfort in all of the game’s fan service, from the music to having the game wish me a garbled “Good Luck” at the start of missions.

Oh, and one major complaint – given the dual screen setup, there is no offscreen play!


Star Fox Guard (WiiU) is a totally separate game, pressed on a separate disc. It even has its own clamshell box. It’s nice packaging, but this is a shallow attempt to create a greater perceived value – you’re getting two boxed games for the price of one! I can’t imagine that they couldn’t have just included this entire game on the Star Fox Zero disc. Some critics have said that this game is actually the better of the two. That’s a stretch. It’s a neat tech demo, and fun in short spurts – like Captain Toad Treasure Tracker was, but with lower production values and more repetitive gameplay. The mechanics themselves feel like a cross between Desktop Tower Defense and Night Trap. I’m glad it exists, but I really wonder if there will ever be a night where I say to myself, “I could be playing (insert AAA game name), but I think I’m going to pop in Star Fox Guard instead”. I just can’t see that. Time will tell.


Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse (WiiU) was gifted to me by an old friend of mine from SEGA, Dmitryi Khlynin. It’s charming. I have always admired Way Forward’s games, but I never spent much time with the Shantae series. That makes this experience all the better – it feels like discovering an awesome AAA first-party SNES game that I had never owned as a kid. I prefer the chunky sprites in Shantae to the smoother aesthetic of something like Guacamelee, which looks a bit too much like a flash game for my liking. 2D action-platforming never gets old for me.

Shantae is as great palate-cleanser after an hour of assassinating criminals in Hitman or fighting off hordes of the undead in Dark Souls III. It’s also ideal for off-screen play. I mentally process this kind of experience very differently than more photo-realistic 3D games – it’s more playful, more game-y, more relaxing. I’m taken back to the best moments of my childhood. If only I could have been playing this instead of Spelunker in 1987!

Fire Emblem Fates (3DS) and Hyrule Warriors Legends (3DS) continue to keep my attention on the 3DS. I’m in no rush to finish either – they are experiences that are meant to provide long-term entertainment.

Though I funneled more time into Pktball this week than any other handheld game, I value the time I put into bigger, deeper handheld games a whole lot more. Pktball is fun and skill-based, but even so, an hour spent on Pktball somehow feels a lot less meaningful than an hour of Fire Emblem Fates. This is not a mobile vs. 3DS thing – finishing Lara Croft Go felt just as rewarding as finishing Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam. Maybe I just like games with endings more? I do think that endings are a key part of what makes progression meaningful to me – when progression never ends, I feel like I’m on a treadmill. I guess the net is that while I like the occasional endless game, they will never satisfy me as fully as a game with a strong beginning, middle and end.


That leads nicely into the last game I wanted to mention this week: Dust – An Elysian Tale (iOS). It was originally released last year on the iOS as a touch-only game: surprising, since it is a port of an action-heavy PS4 game, and it caters to the audience most likely to have purchased a controller for their phone. But good news… Dust has finally been given MFI controller support! With a GameVICE peripheral attached, this game curb stomps everything in the Top 100 Grossing charts. I’d take Dust with a controller over a Clash Royale account stocked with $20K worth of in-game credits any day of the week. The painted graphical style feels like something from Vanillaware. It’s a beautifully executed product technically and artistically, and the fighting is super fun.


I’d love it if Apple released an iPhone 7G – a “Gaming” phone with a slide-out control pad. If they got a lineup of great premium game content from heavy-hitters like Nintendo and Sony, it could be the best device ever made. As it stands, that honor is still held by the VITA – my favorite electronics device of all-time.



One comment

  1. Episodic AAA games is interesting. Similarly I love how games like Resident Evil Revelations 2 and so many of the Telltale games offer a free episode. They function as a demo, but are usually the actual intro sequence of the game, and it’s a good way to hook a potential buyer. It’s been so long since I’ve played a Hitman game, I’ll have to watch a quick look and think about that one. Like you said, it’s easier to dip your toe in at $15 rather than $60 when you’re uncertain.


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