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Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles, PSP

Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles is a 2007 remake of the 1993 PC Engine CD game, Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, with 3D graphics, but used in a 2D, side-scrolling manner.

Gameplay is identical to most other Castlevania games – even though it uses 3D graphics – and Konami must be given credit for not mucking it up, even though they could easily have done that.

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Red Dead Revolver, XBox

Red Dead Revolver was first published by Rockstar Games in 2004. It is the first title in the Red Dead series.

It is a Wild West style third-person shooter, with RPG and adventure overtones. In it you play the lead – a bounty hunter called ‘Red’ who must track down various outlaws and collect the reward on them. Of course there’s more to the story than simply bounty-hunting, and this becomes clear as you progress.

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Skyrim, PC

Or – to give the game its full title: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – a legendary, open-world RPG with a dragon-riding, fantasy horror setting, and a chilly, Nordic, snowy feel to the landscapes.

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Terra Nova: Strike Force Centauri, PC

Looking Glass Technologies are probably best known for their Ultima Underworld series of games, but this 1996 tactical shooter from them is also a retro-gaming classic.

Terra Nova: Strike Force Centauri is a first-person, futuristic ‘combat suit’ type action game with an interesting mix of styles.

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Ape Escape, PlayStation

Ape Escape is a cute 3D chase game where you basically have to collect escaped apes by hunting them down within the landscape and catching them in your net or using some other gadget to catch them. It starts off easy and gets progressively harder.

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Far Cry 2, PC

Far Cry 2 first came out in 2008 and is a first-person shoot ’em up set in a war-torn, ficticious African country. It was developed by Ubisoft Montreal.

The game mixes open world exploration with brutal violence, best-in-class combat, and also showcases many exciting action game concepts – such as great vehicle use and a large arsenal of weapons to choose from.

The action takes place across deserts, jungles and savanna regions – all of them crawling with enemies. In fact: as beautiful as the landscape is: you hardly get a moment to admire it because, more often than not, someone is buzzing around your ankles with a machine gun.

Just like in the original Far Cry, the AI of the opponents in the single-player game of Far Cry 2 is set to high. Far Cry 2 is not a game you play to waltz through on ‘easy’. No – you have to approach things carefully if you’re going to survive. You play it for the tactical challenge.

Although Far Cry 2 may be too brutal for some tastes, I have to say that I had a great time playing it when it first came out. As single-player shooters go it is absorbing, varied and very challenging. Some might even argue that Far Cry 2 is the best game in the series.

It’s been ten years since Far Cry 2 was first released, and it’s still available to buy via the usual outlets, and I would say that it is still well worth a play now. Even if it does require that horrible UPlay thing that Ubisoft forces on you…

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Far_Cry_2
Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/19900/Far_Cry_2/
GOG.com: https://www.gog.com/game/far_cry_2

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, PC

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings was first released in 2011 by Polish developer CD Projekt Red.

It is the predecessor to the smash hit The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and also follows the exploits of Geralt of Rivia – a Witcher, or monster-hunter – on a series of open-world adventures.

I hadn’t played The Witcher 2, before playing The Witcher 3, so was disadvantaged in some ways, although some might argue that playing The Witcher 2 might put you off The Witcher 3… Personally, I was shocked by how clunky The Witcher 2 is (to 3), when it comes to combat, the menu system, and various other things. Just playing through the tutorial brought on serious doubts. The graphics were so garish, compared to The Witcher 3. The facial models were so lifeless… It almost put me off. But I’m glad I ploughed on regardless and got to the meat of the game itself, because the opening is very exciting.

The first act shows Geralt in prison, being interrogated. His predicament is explained in a series of flashbacks, which you play out in real time. The way these first sequences play is very interesting and clever game design, as it slowly dawns on you what is going on. Without wanting to give too much away, you’re then launched into a whodunnit type hunt for multiple assassins of multiple kings, of which you yourself are implicated.

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings is a superb game, but looks and feels a bit outdated, compared to The Witcher 3. The tutorial, in particular, looks and plays horribly, and further dents confidence. Ignore that, though, and play the first act. Then you’ll know that this game is good. Oh, and consider playing with combat set to ‘easy’, because it’s one of the weaker aspects of the game. The story and characters are all top class in this, though, and are worth experiencing if you liked The Witcher 3. Letho of Gulet is especially interesting. As is Foltest. Both of whom appear as Gwent cards in The Witcher 3, but not in the game itself (well Letho of Gulet can, if you import a Witcher 2 saved game).

Anyway, don’t judge a book by its cover (or a game by its tutorial), like I almost did. And ignore the dead-faced characters; the under-developed combat; the archaic levelling system; the clunky menus; the primitive 3D models and animation; the dull conversation menus; and the slightly blurry wolf medallion in the top left hand corner… There is a great game in there!

One thing is for sure: the Witcher series definitely got better and better as it went along. I REALLY want a fourth! 🙂

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Witcher_2:_Assassins_of_Kings
Steam: The Witcher 2 on Steam
GOG.com: The Witcher 2 on GOG.com

Addams Family Values, Super Nintendo

This British-made SNES game is something of a surprise coming from publisher Ocean Software – it’s not a platform game! Congratulations to them for NOT making it into one by the way…

Addams Family Values – based on the 1993 film of the same name – is more like a Zelda-based action/puzzle game than anything else. The gameplay is compelling as you play Uncle Fester, and the puzzles fairly easy to crack. Getting somewhere in this game is actually quite a pleasure.

Graphically, Addams Family Values is lovely, with beautifully-drawn, stylised backdrops and nice, big, recognisable characters. With the SNES‘s tranparency layers, the mist and weather effects make everything beautifully atmospheric. Sound is great too.

Definitely an obscure action/adventure classic on the Super Nintendo, and a rare one from the UK.

First published on the SNES (and Megadrive/Genesis) in 1995.

More: Addams Family Values (video game) on Wikipedia

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, PC

First released in 2015, CD Projekt Red‘s The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a third-person, open world Role-Playing Game that is based on a series of novels by the Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski.

Obviously it is the third instalment in the series (and last, according to the developers), and in it you play a monster-hunting detective badass called Geralt – a Witcher; a carrier of two swords (one steel, for killing humans, and one silver, for killing monsters); and a superhuman solver of problems with acute senses and no emotions.

One thing that immediately becomes apparent, when playing this game, is that it is a VERY adult game – it is not for kids. Which is a good thing, in my opinion, because video games have incorrectly been labelled as “for kids” since the dawn of time. The Witcher 3‘s dialogue is peppered with laugh-out-loud humour, profanity, and great characterisation. There are sex scenes, but these are not gratuitous – they actually add to (and change the course of) the story. And, of course, there is violence galore, with both monsters and people being hacked-up in the most gruesome manner (again: not gratuitous, but relatively realistic).

The second thing that becomes apparent when playing The Witcher 3, or at least it did to me, is the fact that this game is VASTLY better than Skyrim. A game I love to be honest, but one that seems second-best when compared next to this. Comparing The Witcher 3 directly to Skyrim is not entirely fair as there are a number of years between them, and developer CD Projekt Red have openly admitted to loving Skyrim, but not wanting to make the same mistakes that Bethesda did in making that game. And – on the whole – they have succeeded. There are less game-breaking bugs in this, less illogical paradoxes in the script, and the story and dialogue is a DAMN SIGHT better than Skyrim‘s. In fact: I might have to say that The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is arguably the best-written game of all time. Not to mention fantastic to play on all levels… The combat; the quests; the side-games (I’m not particularly fond of Gwent, the in-game card game, but I can at least see it is a sound creation, if a little difficult without a decent deck) – it is clear that a lot of thought has gone into how the game plays.

And it certainly looks amazing too. The environments, weather and light modelling, and all the models and animations are – quite frankly: amazing. It’s an incredible piece of world-building.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt isn’t perfect. I could give you a list of ten things that bother me about the game, but at the same time I could give you a list of a hundred things that are absolutely great about it. And – on balance – this game is certainly one of the best games ever made.

There are no two ways about it: if you like story-driven, single-player RPGs, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a MUST PLAY game. If you don’t yet own it: wait for the next Steam/GOG.com sale and get it bought; get it played; and let it own you.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Witcher_3:_Wild_Hunt
Steam: steampowered.com/app/292030/The_Witcher_3_Wild_Hunt/
GOG.com: https://www.gog.com/game/the_witcher_3_wild_hunt

Note: I have filtered out all the swearing and nudity from these grabs, because that’s not what this blog is about. Although I very much love the profanity and humour in this game I wanted to keep this post relatively clean. Profanity is not “bad language” – as some people like to argue – but is a colourful and common form of language use.

100 Best Level-Grinders Of All-Time on thekingofgrabs.com
100 Best Level-Grinders Of All-Time

Dungeon Master II: The Legend of Skullkeep, PC

The sequel to the mighty Dungeon Master is a great game in its own right. First released by Interplay in 1995.

Dungeon Master II: The Legend of Skullkeep is somewhat different, but still feels like the familiar Dungeon Master. It has the same spell system, and the same look and feel. And is just as devious, challenging and addictive to play as its predecessor.

Dungeon Master II has a mix of indoor and outdoor locations, and – unlike the first game, this is not all about going down ever-deeper dungeons. You spend most of your time outdoors, the truth be told. And are rarely ever left in peace by the monsters (just like in the first game).

Dungeon Master II: The Legend of Skullkeep is a cult classic. Not quite loved enough to be well known, but more than good enough to be played and appreciated.

More: Dungeon Master II: The Legend of Skullkeep on Wikipedia