Actually breaking off writing about something else here to quickly mention that Catlateral Damage, my favourite cat game that isn’t the wonderful Calico, gets a shiny remastered version launched today. Not only that but an already perfectly named game (Catlateral! Brilliant!) gets a variation on “Remastered” that puts Red Faction Guerilla’s awesome “Re-Mars-tered” to shame.

(And yes, I don’t trust anyone that doesn’t have a favourite cat game. I’ll even accept Artic’s Paws).

Catlateral Damage is a sandbox (litterbox) game where you get to pick one of many cats and do what cats do best – get the zoomies, push things off shelves onto the floor thus causing a massive mess and having a ball with the bog roll. Oh, and nap, obvs.

For anyone with a long enough memory, it’s more Off-Road Velociraptor Safari than Goat Simulator. – compact and focused on doing what it does well.

(Oh, and yeah, there’s a dedicated meow button because that’s important)

It’s great and out on just about most things today. A wonderful piece of family friendly silliness that I’ve adored for a fair few years now and I’m glad it’s getting another go round because it’s great.

GLOBAL CHAOS (in a very nineties, grainy, style)

In “videogames I haven’t thought about in years” corner, it strikes me that it took indie games approximately 30 years to reach the visual heights of the Archie/Amiga game, Top Banana.

It's Top Banana. A purple and black striped border surrounds a mass of digital detritus masquerading as a videogame in the best possible glitch-aesthetic.
all pics from Moby Games

Which would be less strange if Top Banana wasn’t an early footnote in indie game history courtesy of (latterly) Pom Pom’s Miles Visman.

Pom Pom, of course, being responsible for Mutant Storm and that – games which would have been a lot of people’s gateway back into the world of the super small team long before anyone had even considered thinking about making Braid or whatever the first indie game is this week.

Another pic. Same deal as the last but more.

Here’s the ever reliable HG 101 if you want to know more, though I disagree that “it’s just plain bad”. Personally, I prefer “difficult and before its time”. Also “looks astounding“.

GLOBAL CHAOS

Wading through some old Amiga mags at the moment and last night I ended up down one of my rabbit hole things, stumbled into this old piece (again) on why and how the Amiga version of SDI ended up with curiously defaced credits.

Picture, in your mind’s eye, 1987. A buoyant and flourishing games market on home computers such as the Atari ST and Commodore Amiga, with Activision extremely interested in exploiting it…

What begins as a bit of a “well, this is odd” ends on a bunch of lovely recollections on how things ended up as they did.

I recall reading all this a while back but it’s worth another kick round all the same.

Snip Snip is an occasional look at a magazine cutting from computer games past. Where necessary, names and addresses have been removed to protect the innocent.

A cutting from Amiga Power, I'll try and get round to transcribing it in a bit. In the meantime, sorry.
A passage from issue 1 of Amiga Power’s Gods review

I’ve been playing a bit of Gods (courtesy of the PS4 remake which is fine providing you stick to the original game art) in-between other things recently.

I can’t say I got on with a lot of Amiga era arcade adventures, as pretty as a lot of them are there’s a tendency towards showboating sprites and, well, slowness. Given I’m as ADHD up to the eyeballs as can be, this really can rub me the wrong way. So, you know, I tend to avoid them.

However, given I’m more at peace with myself these days I’ve been finding a fair bit of joy in the slowness of Gods. It is an achingly slow game, ponderous even, but that’s precisely why I’m enjoying it. That slowness gives it a curiously satisfying rhythm, one where it encourages you to be meticulous in examining the level around you in order to progress.

Anyway, I went to root out some reviews from the time and in any excuse to read some magazines, ended up browsing through the Amiga Power review. Nothing too exciting there but I did end up thinking about the box out describing what we’d now call “dynamic difficulty” or, in a post Left4Dead world, attribute it to a game director.

It’s not so much that Gods does this stuff but that videogames still find themselves in a position of explaining the exact same stuff in 2021.

Don’t misunderstand me here, I don’t think this is a problem! The audience for games is always going to consist of new people or folks who only normally tinker with one genre but they just couldn’t resist a particular game.

If anything I want us to keep getting better at explaining stuff. There’s a time and a place for videogames being for an incredibly specific, incredibly niche, audience. There’s a time and a place for them being absolutely opaque too.

Videogames can be remarkably insular and obtuse and there’s genre traits which seem mystifying to me still, never mind. Sometimes that’s an important part of what a videogame is!

For those moments where it’s not, I hope we’ll keep explaining stuff and making this stuff easier to grasp even if we’ve been doing it for 30 years.

Fallen London is a game that’s probably sucked more hours out of my life than, well, any other videogame ever. Yes, even No Man’s Sky or Left4Dead can’t hope to compete with it as we’re talking a game I’ve been playing most nights for yonks now.

Partly it’s because I am nothing if not an ageing goth and Fallen London’s the closest a videogame has ever gotten to fitting in perfectly alongside my music tastes (please videogames – less Tim Burton, more Bauhaus), partly it’s a comfort thing because I can log in from bed, have a little bit of an adventure, then nod off or crack open a book or whatever.

Mainly though, I keep coming back for the writing. It is so b____y good (which is lucky for a game that is entirely words really). For a few quid a month, I get one (extra) story each month to play through and I can count the ones which haven’t quite done it for me on one hand. An exceptional hit rate by any standards and one that speaks to the talent Failbetter have been able to rope in to contribute over the years.

(I have a sekrit mental wishlist of people I’d love to see have a pop at a story because, basically, I’m greedy and would have everyone whose writing I adore in games write me a Fallen London story if I could)

One of the things that I find remarkable is after all this time playing Fallen London I must have read some passages in the game an absurd amount of times (sometimes multiple times a night if I’m knackered and just doing a bit of lazy making a number go up), I still enjoy reading those passages. Nothing has me going “oh, not this” or glazing over and stuff that made me smile an age back, still makes me smile now.

There’s been times when I’m exhausted, my brain residing in some sort of chemical toilet or whatever and I can’t bring myself to even play something I enjoy this much. It doesn’t bother me so much because I know that when I get round to feeling better, I’ll have accumulated a bunch of new Fallen London tales to play through. Best kind of reward for being able to drag myself out of a crappy malaise.

Mind, I’m not the kind of person able to roleplay a character easily. I’ve never really been able to inhabit someone or something else in that way. Any games that ask me to make a choice are going to find me pressing ahead with whatever choice feels like the one I’d make.

I appreciate how much the writing, the multiple interweaving stories, of Fallen London accommodates that every bit as well as someone who has the ability to not be themselves for a while and with purpose. I don’t think I’ve even once felt like the game pulled the rug from under me, ever felt like a story cheated me from a choice I’d (like to imagine I’d) make in a particular situation.

It’s quite the balance to maintain! Especially over this many years, this many stories, and throughout that time I’ve changed a lot! Still the contributors to this videogame and Failbetter in general always seem one step ahead.

It’s a wonderful thing to exist and so many times over the past while I’ve been thankful it does.

It's a dude, on top of a giant snake/sandworm thing. It's really hard to describe how ridiculous this screenshot from Weapon Of Choice actually is.

If I could make just one videogame thing happen that wasn’t Alcatraz Harry 3, it would be for the bulk of XBLIG games to have a continued lease of life.

Happily, a number have escaped their confines and exist in ways people can play them much, much, much more easily in 2021 so it’s not a complete write off. I would always like more, you know?

Amongst the absolute best XBLIG work, in my entirely less than humble opinion, is the work of Mommy’s Best games. They’re dead good, all of them (though I confess, I bought but haven’t gotten round to putting decent time into Pig Eat Ball yet. What I have played of it is wild.)

It’s saying something when Weapon Of Choice is, to my mind, the least good of all of them and it is very good. I’d do murders to have a body of work that strong myself.

Perhaps it feeling less good to me is that in 2021 there’s a whole load of run and gun games, though my experience has largely been of the more retro ones, and that the ‘death brushing’ (the game adjusts when you’re about to have a nasty moment so as to give you a chance) is routine now where when Weapon Of Choice launched, it felt remarkably fresh. Well, for the genre anyway.

I cannot stress enough, it’s not that it’s aged badly – it hasn’t – it’s just wow, we have a lot of games now eh. And the small point that the games from the Mommy’s Best stable just got better and better and better and no less wild.

I’m writing this now because this morning I was super chuffed to find that Weapon Of Choice is now available on a whole bunch of modern consoles to play and it’s silly cheap to boot. Definitely the good kind of surprise when opening PSN for a gander this morning.

I honestly can’t recommend it enough. It’s a game that doesn’t screenshot well but running through the stages and encountering whatever thing comes next, it feels vibrant and alive in a way I wish every game could be.

The enemies are ridiculous, just completely ridiculous. Love ’em. Ah, what am I talking about? I love all of it. I didn’t quite get it the first time I looked at it and reviewed it on release but past me being wrong isn’t exactly a revelation these days.

Weapon Of Choice, then. Definitely my weapon of choice. For the budget price especially, it’s a lot of good game for not much money.

Video Of The Week is just any excuse really to link to a video or series that I’ve been enjoying. Chances are there won’t be one every week, mind.

It’s a bit of a silly conceit but I really do enjoy watching someone else play a videogame until they run out of energy/lives in it, just to see how long they can go. I’d totally be down for a festival of this similar to _______ Games Done Quick.

Namcos has been doing Until I Die for aaages now and built up quite the supply of old vids you can work through if you’re so inclined. Latest in that series is Ultimate’s Cookie.

A few minutes in Cookie is good going, I reckon. It’s one of those games that, depending on how luck falls, I find I can either play for ages or have a round over and done with in no time.

As you’ll see in the video, it’s very easy to get caught out by something you have absolutely no way of stopping or avoiding. Luckily, super arcadey and quick to restart means being back in the game really quickly to try again.

If you want to have a try yourself, a Spectrum emulator and a quick search on the internet will see you right seens as it was missing from Rare Replay.

I’ve sort of been going through a phase where I’ve been happily enjoying a whole bunch of videogames but not really being too excited for anything on the horizon after Psychonauts 2.

Partly it’s down to the computer fizzling out so I’m stuck on the PS4 for quite the foreseeable and, not to beat around the bush, a lot of ‘big’ games just don’t really do anything for me.

I’m absolutely not short of anything to play on the thing in the now and for the near future but I invariably only find out whether there’s anything I want on the week they’re released because that’s just sort of how PSN works with smaller games.

It also means I end up with a fair few platform games of varying quality and (thankfully) ones that aren’t a little too frustrating for my tired brain. Unfortunately neon shooters and weird stuff (pretty much my favourite things) is in short supply.

(Also I seem to have an abundance of games with a fox in because that seems to be a thing! Not complaining – nowt wrong with foxes unless you’re wearing your wife’s green kimono early one morning, it just amuses me somewhat)

It’s not exactly a terrible situation but yeah, it has meant that I don’t spend a lot of time actually excited for future games.

So thank Molyneux for the new Saints Row trailer giving me a huge grin and a couple of laugh out loud moments. I enjoyed (and replayed fairly often) Saints Row 3 and 4 but between the all too obvious pressures Volition were clearly under making them and the increasing absurdity, I was also sort of content for them to maybe just go do something else.

Obviously, I would dearly love a this-gen Crackdown meets Prototype yet much, much, sillier because I’m still me but also, I’m fairly happy to have a bit of Saints Row style open world around a cast that’s kinda just great to muck around with.

I get the Watchdog 2 comparisons some have been making and sure, I largely enjoyed my time with the characters in Watchdogs 2 but the game left me cold. Not as cold as the facking hell that was Legion but still, pretty enough game but not my bag in the actually playing it department. Put that sort of Watchdogs 2-ish characterisation through the Saints Row filter and yes please.

So yes, actually properly excited for the new Saints Row and one that hopefully doesn’t feel like it’s going to fall apart at any moment too. Agents Of Mayhem certainly proved Volition have it in them given time, tech and money so yes, excited.

It's too roughly drawn seagulls, held by two hands, being made to kiss each other.

With a big thank you to autocorrect for trying to change “area” to “rear” whilst I wasn’t paying attention. Bad autocorrect, naughty. That’s something else entirely.

My dear old nan, bless her soul, used to say to me “Rob”, “Rob love, you haven’t lived a full life until you’ve popped two seagulls in a basket to see if they can truly love each other” and whilst she was absolutely correct, she forgot to mention just how difficult it is to put a seagull in a basket.

THEY KEEP FALLING OUT, NAN. THEY KEEP FALLING OUT.

I don’t really want to say too much about Hot Seagulls In Your Area for fear it might somehow take away some of the magic but it absolutely cracked me up.

As if the idea of having to get a bunch of seagulls to smooch each other wasn’t silly enough, everything about the game leans into that silly from the writing to the minigames to the art. I’d barely gotten as far as weighing the love compatibility of seagulls up for the first time before being reduced to giggling mess. And somehow, it managed to keep working on me the more time I put in.

It’s a little bit Foddy-core (though without the punishing element), a little bit point and click and all ridiculous. It’s great and just the tonic given this year and everything.

Grab it on Itch.