Bonus Post – Top Ten Games of 2017

I very rarely have the impulse to buy anything day one, and I’ve spent most of this year playing catch-up with stuff I’ve been given for birthdays or Christmas that I’d directed people to get for me at bargain prices – Wolfenstein The Old Blood, Doom (which was the only game that’s ever induced serious motion sickness in me then outstayed its welcome a bit but I finished it), Dishonored, Dirt 3 and the marvellous Trackmania Turbo were highlights. Lego Dimensions, particularly the Midway Retro Arcade level pack and all the old favourites of mine it included, has also been a mainstay, as has No Man’s Sky, which I’ve now pumped hundreds of hours into and it remained my go-to game until November when I decided I just didn’t want to play it any more. Special mention also to Super Mario Run which appeared right at the end of 2016 and I’ve continued to play throughout 2017. I also got a New Nintendo 2DS which opened up a whole new world of Nintendo games that I’d missed out on since the Game Boy Advance – Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Harvest Moon, Super Mario Tennis and much more…

1. Elevator Action

Seeing this appear out of the blue on the PlayStation Store new release list towards the end of November was a console generation highlight for me, only previously (almost) equalled by the same for Renegade a couple of years ago! Every time I play it I’m standing in front of an arcade cabinet in the cafe area of our local leisure centre in 1984, with the music from the Saturday morning roller disco in the background and a can of Dr Pepper from the only vending machine in town to stock it on the table beside me. It’s the arcade version of Elevator Action, released on PS4 as part of their Arcade Archives series, and by default is the best game released in 2017 on any platform.

2. Stardew Valley (PS4)

This is one of the most joyous gaming experiences I’ve ever had! It also gives me the chance, as someone living on a farm in the country with no intention of ever farming or even vaguely embracing country life, to experience all of that stuff from the comfort of my own living room! You just do whatever takes your fancy, whether it’s clearing some land, doing up some buildings, growing some crops, fishing, looking after your chickens, playing the arcade games in the village pub, mining, building a fence, beach combing, helping out villagers or just wandering about the place. Slow-paced, open-ended, great looking and wonderful – just like the life waiting right outside my front door if only it wasn’t so much hassle!

3. Pokemon Ultra Sun (3DS)

For this game I did get that rare impulse to buy day one! Pokemon Gold (see below) very recently introduced me to a series I’d missed out on for decades, but this brought me right up to date with a stunning handheld masterpiece. The world is brimming with life (including some great Pokemon), the story will cost you hours that you thought were minutes, and even the necessary grinding stays fun. So much gameplay here and I can’t recommend it enough. Especially if you’re still the sceptical non-player that I was until a couple of months ago.

4. Everybody’s Golf (PS4)

I’ve never really played as much Everybody’s Golf as I should have, given I’ve owned iterations on various platforms since the original Playstation release. I have made up for that a bit with the latest one though. It’s still instantly familiar, albeit with a PS4 sheen and all kinds of modern gaming depth, maintaining a very simple mechanic that makes it very easy for a quick nine holes to turn into ninety!

5. Pokemon Gold (3DS)

Okay, it’s another pure re-release (but definitely not the last one in this list), this time of an ancient GameBoy Colour game with no 21st century bells and whistles added, but it was my first ever Pokemon game, I’ve sunk dozens of hours into it and its fantastic immersive world hasn’t aged a day, so definitely deserves to be in the top half of this list. Check out a more detailed post I did on this here.

6. Wipeout Omega Collection (PS4)

Before you think it, it’s a remaster and not a re-release! But anyone, I’m playing by my rules here so anything that came out this year goes! This collects some of the more recent titles, updating them with incredibly fast moving and great looking graphics, but the core gameplay remains, meaning it’s still the best futuristic racer out there and was a joy to come back to.

7. Fire Emblem Heroes (iOS)

For a free-to-play game built around loot crates, this is an incredibly generous, very focussed tactical fighting game. Production values are off the charts; it’s accessible but deep; there’s some very saucy characters, and in my 30+ hours with the game I collected the strongest possible units and rinsed every mode in the game without ever feeling I was grinding for it; without ever spending a penny.

8. Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp (iOS)

This game is pointless. And that’s most of the reason I love it. I don’t care that it’s constantly (though completely unobtrusively) reminding me that I can spend money that I won’t spend. I’m quite happy waiting for stuff to appear that I can use to help out the animal people hanging around my campsite who give me money and materials to buy more stuff then wait for that to appear while I fish and catch bugs and rearrange things. The most casual, relaxing, mindless and fun waste of time I’ve played this year.

9. Resident Evil Biohazard

I’d have loved it if this didn’t have the word “Biohazard” in the title and been able to maintain the feeling of Texas Chainsaw inspired anxiousness that built up in the first few hours before the ooze started appearing. I’d also have appreciated it being a few hours shorter. But all the same it takes the series back to its horror roots, even including a nice nod to the dogs jumping through the windows in the original. It’s a lovely looking game, great attention to detail with surprisingly varied settings, and happily the puzzles aren’t too obscure, the inventory system isn’t too restrictive, and the save points aren’t too far apart.

10. Rogue Trooper Redux (PS4)

Some of the mechanics are creaking a bit by today’s standard, but this remaster (the last on this list I’m proud to announce) will bring a tear to the eye to anyone that’s not read Rogue Trooper since they were a kid in the 80’s! Okay, it’s not a patch on the Spectrum version that everyone’s forgotten ever existed first, but just to spend a few hours running and gunning across Nu-Earth and bringing back all those 2000A.D. memories makes it essential!

My Life With… WWF Attitude – PlayStation 

My Life With… WWF Attitude – PlayStation 

When I get to a post about Daley Thompson’s Decathlon, remind me to mention the year this game came out, 1999. But you might be able to work out the link already! And it turned out not to be a lifetime away…

My future wife and I were living in a brand new, two bedroom flat in East London – I dread to think what it’s worth now, but never regret something that made you smile! Since moving out of my parent’s house, the PlayStation now had its own room, which was shared with the insane horror video collection I’d amassed by then; DVD was still over a year away for me, as was the crazy expensive desktop PC that would introduce me to the format (in partnership with The Blair Witch Project). In the meantime, there it sat, connected to the red portable TV that once hosted my VIC-20, amongst nearly a thousand neatly stacked VHS titles such as Death Curse of Tartu and A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell. As an aside, that collection is now more than three thousand, with storage very much benefiting from the advancement and miniaturisation of viewing technology, and a much bigger house!

VHS was still playing a big part in my appreciation of wrestling too. The Sky box was still many years from being something that recorded stuff as well, and setting something to record every week on the 9-year old video recorder that I’d got for my 18th birthday was still a major pain in the arse – no series link on there! But it was worth the effort. This was the heyday of Stone Cold and The Rock, Triple H, Mankind and, of course, my all time favourite The Undertaker. You also had the emergence of innovative tag teams like The Hardy Boys, The Brood and The Dudleys. And it was WWF at its sleaziest, with The Kat going no holds barred, getting her knockers out after winning one of the best evening gown swimming pool matches ever.  But 1999 is probably always going to be remembered for Owen Hart falling 70 feet onto the turnbuckle and dying in the ring at Over the Edge. Tragedy. 

I probably played the previous year’s WWF War Zone more than Attitude – Becky was far more tolerant of both the PlayStation and wrestling before we moved in together – but Attitude took what was probably the most atmospheric and complete wrestling game at that point to another level. 

All the characters were there, including the recently deceased Owen Hart and some subtle tributes, with multiple outfits and realistic entrances, complete with wrestler voicing, that in reality you probably only ever watched once at most! Spend enough time with your favourite (The Undertaker, obviously) and the vast array of grapples, moves and reversals became second nature as you worked your way through the various modes; career mode was great in Attitude as you worked climbed the ranks and the WWE show calendar. Despite there only being four wrestlers in the ring at once, you even had the full 30-man Royal Rumble, where the risk-reward thrill of going for a throw over the top ropes was the highlight of the game for me. 

There was so much content in this game! You could create a pay per view, where you could go into incredible detail right down to choosing the lighting, logos on the ring apron  and even the turnbuckle colours. Create a wrestler used an RPG style attribute system where you could assign a certain number of points to speed, power, mat skills, etc. You could choose from names that would translate into the game commentary and crowd chants; the crowd noises were a huge enhancement over War Zone and more than made up for the lack of atmosphere generated by the rather mundane commentary. You even could put dirty words on the character’s clothes. And this all resulted in some great looking freaks that could pull off the most bizarre entrances and exotic finishers!

As you can tell, I could go on about this all day, and whilst in gameplay terms it may have been quickly superseded by Smackdown and Smackdown 2: Know Your Role, this one took a groundbreaking template, blew it out of the water, and could keep you going for months and months. And for me it did!