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The Backlog Manifestation: Games to Finish in Early 2020

Even the casual gamer has a hefty backlog of games to play, but what about when you’re reviewing so many on a weekly basis? They soon add up!

Backlog collage

Why should New Year’s Day be any different to any other day of the week when I’m chilling out on the sofa, watching the odd film (Hellboy (2019) at the moment – it’s shit) and playing the same game. For the past few weeks, I’ve been playing Death Stranding. I will write a review once I’m done, but it got me thinking about all the other games I’ve been neglecting, currently sitting in my backlog pile, plus the games of 2019 that I didn’t get around to playing.

Some of these games are oldies, but they’re in the pile and need to be played. They’re predominantly PS4, PSVR and Switch titles, but there are plenty of retro games in my list that I’ve bought over the past year that deserve some attention. Games are mostly from the Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, Wii and GameCube. Maybe I’ll add another category in the future for these older titles.

For now, here’s what’s currently on my backlog.

Assassins Creed: Origins

Assassin's Creed Origin's bow press image
Bow down before me

Last Christmas, Assassins Creed Odyssey was at the top of my backlog and I put in about 80-90 hours in the space of a week and a half. It was worth it as I managed to finish the main story and unlock almost all the extras. Still no platinum trophy, however.

Anyway, I got a little tired of the Assassins Creed series, with the exception of Assassins Creed: Black Flag, but I heard about the new RPG elements in Assassins Creed Origins. Set in ancient Egypt, it was definitely a location I wanted to explore (I love the mythologies in the series, even if a little too fabricated at times), but I didn’t have the time to play it.

Fast forward a few years and Assassins Creed Origins Deluxe Edition appeared in my local game shop and I snapped it up. What’s in the Deluxe Edition? Not much. A map I’ll never use and a soundtrack on CD that I’ll probably play on my Spotify account. When I think I can fit in a few hours, I’ll be exploring the pyramids with a bow. In the game, obviously.

Borderlands 3

A psycho from Borderlands 3
I’m ready for my closeup

Borderlands is easily my favourite FPS series. I remember witnessing the trailers and early gameplay for the first title on the PS3 thinking that it was a visual treat. It’s when cell-shade had been done before, but no one really got it. Borderlands wasn’t at the peak of the trend, but for me, it defined it

But it’s not all about visuals, despite judging a book by its cover – the gameplay is great too. There aren’t endless corridors to get lost in like Doom and all those the base models are mostly the same, the variety of guns with corrosive effects, or magnified zooming is almost infinite.

I got both Borderlands and Borderlands 2 on launch day for the PS3 and they delivered throughout. With the announcement of Borderlands 3, I thought I’d snap it up immediately, but I was so swamped with other titles, it wasn’t until this Christmas that I actually got it. At this time (00:27), it’s still wrapped up, but once I finish Death Stranding, this is the next title to play.

BioShock: The Collection

Return to Rapture in BioShock The Collection
Behold: The future!

My first visit to Rapture was absolutely sublime. Never have I experienced such a stunning display or unique concept of an underwater city fused with the past and hints of future technologies.

The story was great as were the characters, but the gameplay just… worked. I loved the first one and subsequently got BioShock 2 but never finished it. As for BioShock Infinite, I’ve never played it. All I know about it is the launch trailer that really sold it, though not enough at the time as I never bought it.

Now I have the remastered versions for the PS4 and eager to relive the experience. I suppose I should finish BioShock 2 before moving on, but I know that when I do find the time, I’ll most likely start from the beginning once more.

Middle-Earth: Shadow of War

Press image for Middle-earth Shadow of War
No slow-down from Hobbits, get into the action with your orc pals

Quite possibly the last The Lord of the Rings game I played was The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King on the PlayStation 2. It was a great title at the time and one of the few that I co-oped with my wife (she’s a bit of a LOTR nerd). It was probably the best game I had played until Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor came out.

Man, that was a great game. So much variety and it was a bit of a contender for Assassins Creed’s crown. Again, I never finished it as I was faffing around trying to unlock everything, but with the Nemesis system they used, it just kept getting harder.

Fast-forward to 2019 and I picked up Middle-Earth: Shadow of War on the cheap. It was the special edition in that it came in a tin case. It doesn’t play any better, but I’m a consumer whore and couldn’t not get it. I seem to think this was on PS Now (which I no longer have) and played this quite a bit, so eager to carry on where I left off.

Catherine: Full Body

Catherine Full Body
Two girls on the go and now a third?

One of my all-time favourite games, Catherine had me at ‘hello’. If she had said that in the beginning. I remember playing the demo on the PS3 and pretty much enjoying it, but for some reason, the game was quite hard to get at the time and often overpriced.

I eventually found it for a reasonable price and glad I got it. I’m not the biggest puzzle fan, but there was something that resonated with Catherine – even if it was ridiculously hard at times. Ignoring the gameplay, the narrative and anime cutscenes were superb and I can hardly fault it.

Well, unbeknownst to me, Catherine: Full Body came out of nowhere and it seemed like everyone on Instagram was getting the special edition and posting pictures of it. I couldn’t bear it and got suckered into the socials and wanting to be like everyone else. I checked the price and it was stupid. I love my games, but I’m not pawning my kids to buy a game that will drop in price over time.

Then, when out shopping, I noticed a special edition (albeit, not the one everyone else appears to have) and snapped it up. It was slightly less than a typical full-priced title, but… it came in a tin. What can I say? One of my favourite games ever and wrapped in a tin? Merry Christmas, me.

Creed: Rise to Glory

The first fight you encounter in Creed: Rise to Glory
Not a stereotype

So, I made the plunge and finally got the PSVR. It’s never too late and I’ve really been enjoying many of the titles. Strangely, most of them are newer titles – unintentional. Given the option, I would always go for physical over a digital copy but at the time, Creed: Rise to Glory didn’t have a disc available (it has a release date now, however) so I did an impulse buy.

I’m glad I did. This has got to be what virtual reality is all about? Getting you up off your sofa and getting engaged in a workout. It’s not a gimmick and probably closest to a fight without getting hit – even though it feels like you are.

There are a few occasions where you have to reset the camera as your opponents can either appear incredibly small and then giant-like, but when you do get it right, it’s pretty awesome. It was supposed to be a game to get the family involved during Christmas, but typically, we didn’t get to play it, so it’s now ‘on the list’.

One Piece: Grand Cruise

A close up of Luffy in One Piece Grand Cruise, PSVR
Luffy D. Monkey, pirate

Every now and then I like to read some manga or watch some anime. I wouldn’t say I’m a fan, but there are a few series that I like. Most of them are older, but I like titles such as Samurai Champloo, One Punch Man and of course, One Piece.

I originally read what I felt was a good amount of the books some years ago, but time doesn’t stop and there’s been hundreds of the comics since. What is fair to say is I don’t know half of the characters or sagas so I went in a bit blind with One Piece: Grand Cruise – not knowing anything about it; particularly the gameplay.

What I have seen thus far hasn’t been great. The world has been created pretty well, but for the short time I’ve played it, I’ve mostly had the female characters up in my face – notably their ‘racks’. I guess this is for a particular market, but I’m keen to see if there’s anything to do in the game or whether I should just watch porn instead.

Beat Saber

Beat Saber press image
Rhythm is a dancer

From talk shows to YouTubers, a lot of people have jumped on the Beat Saber bandwagon and to follow suit at a relatively slower pace, I grabbed a copy from the PSN.

When I bought the PSVR, the chap behind the counter suggested Beat Saber as a must-have. Not knowing anything about PSVR, I asked if they had a copy behind the counter. Equally, he had no clue either as this is a digital release. After searching the interwebs ‘just in case’, I was reserved with the outcome that this was digital-only.

It’s probably the most accessible title for non-gamers and the wife loves it and fairly good at it. I’m not too sure about the exclusive song titles though as nothing really stands out and the music packs featuring Green Day and Imagine Dragons does nothing for me. Put up a Pantera pack and I may change my opinion…

Mad Max

Thug on the top of Mad Max's car
He’s not exactly mad, more of a sociopath

Neither based on Tom Hardy or Mel Gibson, this iteration of Mad Max is a decent take on. I’ve never really been a big fan of the franchise – my favourite film in the series until Mad Max: Fury Road was Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. There’s a classic for you.

Anyway, this was a freebie on PlayStation Plus. Mad Max never appealed to me before that and it’s been out for some time, but I downloaded it to give it a try and what with all the upgrades and areas to explore, I got into it. I also got pretty far too.

While on one of my retro game hauls, I found a really cheap Mad Max tin case for the PS4 and had to buy it. Sure, I have this from my subscription, but as you now know, I do love me a good tin here and there. It’s another title I need to finish, but it’s not a priority title at the moment.

Judgment

Kimura holds up his phone looking for answers
Have you seen this man?

I’ve written about this title a few times now as I’m not a fan of the lead actor in it, despite him being in some great films such as Blade of the Immortal. After some time reading others talking about it, I took the plunge and downloaded the demo.

Much like the Yakuza series, Judgment is located in Kamurocho so there are familiar haunts and similar gameplay mechanics. The only difference here is that you’re on the right side of the law and working as a detective/lawyer. Sounds really bad, but aside from the skinny jeans, it’s pretty good.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a game I can just steam through and I like to take my time in these games. The Yakuza series is effectively the evolution of Shenmue, only for a more mature audience and better overall. Yeah, I said it.

Berserk and the Band of the Hawk

Guts: painter and decorator with a palette of red
No Guts, no glory

I mentioned that every now and then I like the old manga or anime and that the oldies are some of my favourites. Well, Berserk is no exception and one of my beloved titles, having read a large portion of the manga and the original TV series and films to boot.

It seems there’s only one saga that Berserk focuses on, but it’s still one of the best. In Berserk and the Band of the Hawk, you’re effectively playing the story but in a Dynasty Warriors environment. I know a lot of people don’t like these games, but I don’t mind them, though I only own one or two titles.

Berserk and the Band of the Hawk appears to be mindless, repetitive violence, but I only just bought it so it must be worthy of my time? It’s another title that’s been hard to find and overpriced on eBay (when I looked). I found this on the off chance so once I’m up to speed, this will be going on the PS4.

Control

Press image for Control
The Christmas party got a little out of Control…

When Control came out, there was a great deal of fanfare about. Reviews were immediately great then there were quite a few people coming forward saying it wasn’t the same game as all these reviewers were swooning about.

I was in no hurry to get it. As you can see from this list, I always have a selection to play. Now all the GOTY awards are going out, there’s an overwhelming pattern that says that Control was the game of 2019. Well, they can’t all be wrong, right?

This is the only title I don’t own but I’m eager to pick it up, having read what it’s about. There was the Deluxe Edition in my local shop which was, you guessed it: a tin. I must have this, but can’t justify the full price for a used game with no DLC. I may very well end up ordering it.

Thimbleweed Park

Thimbleweed Park Mulder and Scully reference
This could be a case for Mulder and Scully (sung to Catatonia lyrics)

As a lover of the point and click adventure game, Thimbleweed Park is a no-brainer. But, like a lot of classic movies, it’s one of those titles that I have had sitting around that I’ve been meaning to play. No doubt that when I do finally get to it, I’ll regret not playing it sooner.

Very much in the mould of classic LucasArts titles like Maniac Mansion and Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders, this has ‘me’ all over it. I got this for the Switch as I’m finding that there are so many of these titles better suited to being played on the go and then switching over to docked mode. They aren’t usually processor-intensive, so you can get away with these titles on Nintendo’s brightest rectangle.

Again, it’s down to time, and I’d like to say that I can jump on this and finish in an evening, but I don’t want to rush it as would like to savour all those moments of explorations that I had when I played similar titles in the early 90s.

Tokyo Dark

A typical scene in Tokyo Dark
Actually, it’s not that dark. In this scene, that is…

I don’t recall how I found out about this one – probably it was just me going through the eShop and looking at all the new titles consecutively. Anyway, I saw the trailer and Tokyo Dark looked like a corker.

It bears some resemblance to the typical Japanese text adventures that swarm the Nintendo Switch these days, but the game itself isn’t quite that. It’s a psychological context where your actions have big consequences, that I haven’t really seen that much in a game.

Take for instance my first quick play of it. When questioning a bartender, they refuse to answer my questions so I decided to have a drink to, you know, get them to talk. Instead, I lost some points in professionalism and a few blocks down, an NPC could smell alcohol on my breath. This was fantastic – I mean realistically, it wasn’t logical to take the drink but as a game, you just go for it. Not in Tokyo Dark. I aim to play this one very soon and will put my review up accordingly.

Octopath Traveller

A typical random encounter in Octopath Traveler
Far from a boar, Octopath Traveler is pretty deep

One of the first demos I played on the Nintendo Switch was Octopath Traveler. The demo itself was a reasonable size and gave an insight into what to expect from this interesting JRPG.

When I say interesting, it’s because of the very many characters you can play, as well as the aesthetics. Going with the more important part of that comment is the fact that you can play one of eight characters – each with their own strengths. I opted for the tank-type class in the demo but chose the thief in the full game to try something new. Whether I’ll regret that decision depends on the endgame.

The second interesting thing about Octopath Traveler is the visual approach. It uses traditional 16-bit JRPG type characters but the backgrounds are often high-res with numerous filters. It’s an unusual fusion but works really well. In summary, I’m roughly about two-thirds of the way into the game but have taken a six month or so hiatus, so possibly time to finish it in 2020.

Mario Odyssey

Mario throws Cappy in Mario Odyssey
This game of catch feels like cheating

Get this: Super Mario Odyssey was a game that I bought on the release date. That’s 2017 and I still haven’t completed it. Is it because it’s so difficult? No, not at all. In fact, it’s a combination of two things.

The first is this was exclusively a title that I bought so I could play with my daughter as a co-op. Maybe I’m abusing my status as an adult (by default), but I would always be Mario. It could be a control thing in that I wanted to be in charge, or maybe it’s because Cappy is crap on his own. Didn’t bother my daughter, but if we swapped, I’d soon lose interest.

Secondly, it’s been the time factor. As a physical release, it’s just sitting on the shelf and it means that one of us has to get up and plug the cartridge in. Such hard work. That’s not the real reason, it’s more because of this evergrowing backlog. What’s perhaps worst is that each time you complete a world in Super Mario Odyssey, you get a timestamp when you did it. So far, I have a mixed bag from 2017 all the way through to 2020. It’s about time we finished it, then I can write a review. Three years too late.

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