Lives & Levels
This week we’re mixing things up a bit and taking a look at some of our favourite multiplayer games, particularly those that we’ve played a lot with a friend or two. So we’re indulging in some nostalgia, but we still have a quick news round-up and talk about what we’re playing, for those interested, so read on and enjoy!
At some point in our time gaming many of us had to share consoles with someone. It could be your siblings or a uni house mate, sharing because you were skint or just had one to share for christmas. Instead, maybe you had a couple of friends in school who had an N64 and while you had a PS1, meaning weekend sleepovers rotated between houses so you could play all the different games. There was something special about beating games together, using “lives and levels” as the controller rule on games like Crash 2 or taking it in turns fighting through adventure mode on Super Smash Bros. Melee. It was even better when the game had a built in co-op mode. The early Sonic games that allowed someone to play as Tails were always great, but it was even better when you could beat people up together on Streets of Rage 2 or Turtles in Time. Both of these have been revived with spiritual successors by Dotemu (with Shredders Revenge due out later in the year) for good reason; couch co-op was the pinnacle of gaming as a kid, and retro reboots can be serious money makers.
There’s still real value in getting together in person or virtually to play games as an adult too. I regularly play Mario games on the Switch with the family, and it’s great because even though we don’t all agree on TV shows, we love to play Super Mario 3D World, Mario Kart 8 or Mario Party Superstars together. Gaming nights also became a bit of a thing during the first lockdown, undoubtedly spurred on by everyone having a ton of free time. Playing games online like Streets of Rage 4, Borderlands 2, Garry’s Mod and Sea of Thieves with groups of mates on Discord chats made that period of time so much easier.
At one point in time it seemed like the creative multiplayer games were killed off by the industry hunt to catch some of the Call of Duty hype. Luckily, it seems that publishers finally get there is a space for games that encourage people to play together. With It Takes Two winning the GOTY at The Game Awards, and the likes of Halo: Infinite and Returnal implementing co-op campaign after launch, it shows there is a bright future for those of us who prefer to play together.
It’s not all sunshine and collectibles when it comes to gaming with others though. Plenty of games have an unnatural ability to temporarily destroy friendships, so here are our top 5 gaming homewreckers:
5. Mario Party
To outsiders, this game would look like a harmless affair full of minigames and dice rolls, where the player with the most stars at the end wins. The bright colours and charming appeal should be ignored though, as this game can be brutal. Most games award people for their skill, this one seems to do that until the end of a game when the dreaded “bonus” stars appear. In this section players are given stars as prizes for a range of seemingly random and irrelevant reasons. There is nothing more infuriating than being well ahead until someone wins a star for buying the most items in the shop. Wow.
Rage rating: 7/10
Most normal people will be looking at this entry and think “really?”, but there’s a case to be made that this can make me angrier than any other game on the list. The key to success in the Overcooked series is to be in sync with your partner. The more meals you get out, the higher your score, and it is vital that you work together to prepare dishes successfully. Perhaps I’m just an angry person when it comes to virtual cooking, but playing this with someone whose brain doesn’t organise like your own is maddening, even if I’m not that great at it myself. I have been known to throw a hissy fit or two while playing this, reasonably or otherwise.
Rage rating: 9.5/10 for me, probably 5/10 for everyone else
3. Soul Calibur
I could have put any fighting game on here, for plenty of obvious reasons. “Stop button bashing”, “my controller is broke” and “why do you keep spamming that move?” were standard argument starters when playing fighting games as kids. I chose Soul Calibur as the top of the tree for this genre because of it’s weapon based combo system and the ability to fall out of the ring by accident. This one is a real head melter in the right circumstances.
Rage rating: 8/10
Anyone who has ever been smashed 4-1 by their mate or suffered a last minute winner to their annoying younger brother will know exactly why FIFA is probably the single most deadly killer of game controllers. It gets even worse when you try to play against teenagers who can rinse you with their expensive teams on Ultimate Team. There’s a very good reason why I mainly play career mode and enjoy a bit of co-op tournaments when I’m with friends, the rage just isn’t worth it any more.
Rage rating: 9.5/10
1. Mario Kart
This one needs no explanation, so I’ll just leave it here with two words: blue shell.
Rage rating: 10/10
Angry Luigi gets it…
New The Witcher game confirmed to be in development by CD Projekt Red. A sequel to this highly popular series would usually be widely anticipated, however, Cyperpunk 2077 might make some a little sceptical. Not here though, this is a game we’ll be eagerly looking forward to and hope that the studio can learn from its development mistakes.
In less positive sequel news, Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s follow up has been delayed until Spring 2023. Details about the game have been vague, so we’re not really surprised, this has happened. First was a once in a generation game so it is a bit of a shame we’ll have to wait longer to play this on ageing hardware. Still, we’d much rather it was done right than rushed.
Microsoft reportedly paid $5-10 million to Square Enix to get Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy on Game Pass, which seems like mad money, but actually makes a lot of sense. It has to be worth Square’s while to effectively knee cap their sales, especially when Marvel will be taking a good chunk out of it, so they would have been asking for a big figure. On the flipside, this is a huge franchise for Microsoft to entice people to subscribe. At £7.99 a month, if you can finish the game in 2 months (which I did at a snails pace), you're still paying a lot less than it would cost to purchase.
Speaking of Game Pass, Sony have finally confirmed the existence of their answer to this belting service. It appears they are going for a 3-tiered approach to try and capture a wider user base. The “Essential” tier is the same as the current PS+ offering, the “Extra” tier essentially combines PS+ and PS Now, and finally the “Premium” tier includes cloud streaming of PS1-PS4 games, with some PSP thrown in for good measure. It’s pricey, but may seem like a fantastic deal if the game selection is right. We’ll wait to see what's on offer before passing judgement.
What we’re playing
This week we finally managed to catch up with Tunic, which is so far proving to be a cracking little indie game. It’s styled so that you are left to explore everything with very minor help, other than a 90’s styled instruction manual that provides the map and some button actions. A lot of menus and dialogue boxes are written in a coded language, so even the “help” that is provided isn’t easy to understand. We’re not sure yet if you’ll be able to uncode this as you go along (spoilers have been avoided so far!), but we’re really looking forward to digging into this one a bit more. It’s a must try if you have Game Pass, and we’d still recommend putting a few quid into a purchase too.
We’ve also managed some Vampire Survivors, a great little indie roguelike shooter that we had our eyes on last week. While it’s not exactly a graphical masterpiece, this one has a really deep gameplay system that’s fun to play. We’ll be bringing you a bit more of both of these titles once we get to grips with them. At £2.09 for the early access copy you’d be hard pressed to spend your gaming money on something better, pound for pound at least.
We’d been playing a lot of Returnal, but that took a bit of a backseat with what has been a busy week or so. Even with the save feature that has been added, it can take a bit of a session to really get anything out of that game. Lastly, there’s still that annoying FIFA 22 career mode habit, and whilst the Premier League and FA Cup have been clinched by Wrexham AFC, they’re looking to make it a treble by beating PSG in the Champions League final. We’re worried about that Mbappé AI though.
Not much has changed since last week, other than the two games mentioned in last issue’s feature that we’ve managed to pick up between us, but the new Kirby game is out and we’re going to give it a crack later on in the week. The demo was great, and it’ll be perfect for tackling as a pair too. The April PS+ selection also looks promising, Slay the Spire is a game that’s often recommended and any platformer that features Spongebob will always get a play if we’re basically getting it for free. We are defo a sucker for a platformer!