Photo from Playbuzz.com, not actually me. But I'd play it.
It is often argued that the video game industry has both 'grown up' and yet still needs to do so. I'm not going to bring up any such topics specifically (as that would defeat the point I'm making) and I'm not implying some of these subjects aren't worth discussion and exploration. I will sadly say that when I read about our industry nowadays, much of the sense of awe, fun, and playfulness of just the very existence of video games genuinely feels thin or absent altogether.
I miss the reviews from older game magazines. Nintendo Power, EGM, Game Players, Game Pro, and their contemporaries oozed enthusiasm, passion, and a positive lightheartedness sorely missed in gaming today. I still rifle through our stacks of these on occasion and it really helps re-center my love of the hobby. There are stabs of appropriate criticism of course, but the tenor, the joy of video games bounces off the pages.
The very nature of communication brings our biases, our preconceived notions, piggybacking onto anything we say and how we say it. Imagine two reviewers covering Dark Souls III. Reviewer 1 has loved the series since importing Demon's Souls before it came west, and stays up late with other fans theorizing story lore. Reviewer 2, on the other hand, has never played a game in the series, is largely a JRPG fan and whose library consists almost exclusively of Steam games. Both reviewers may have something worthwhile to say, and may extend appropriate restraint or grace. But not only are we getting two completely different takes on the same game, we are getting two opinions best heard with an understanding of their respective backgrounds. Even beyond that, let's say reviewer 1 just had a close family member pass away, or is struggling with a debilitating illness while raising a newborn. Meanwhile, reviewer 2 just received a massive financial inheritance a few days before the review copy came in.
The point isn't that there should be a complete disclosure for every contingency and circumstance. We just need to simply admit that the people who talk about and review video games are still people, like all of us. Together we all form the climate and attitude of gaming in general and each game in particular. Even if we never get to worthwhile transparency behind a write-up or review, at least we should own up to our own personal biases or preferences when talking up subjective experiences. It is a natural human trait to assume our own perspective is the default and every other is a variation on the theme. When enough people with an audience adhere to a similar perspective, that perspective can snowball until it is corporately assumed to be the default truth, instead of remaining a specific perspective shared amongst many loud voices.
I don't prescribe to the idea that there is more than one competing truth or that truth is itself is subjective. Instead, it is more like a diamond slowly rotating, and depending on where the viewer observes, the color and angle may change, but the object in question remains consistent.
And as far as any of this relates back to the subject at hand , I bring it up because I find myself observing the diamond of video games from a very different angle than most other sources. I'm not pining for the 'glory days' of gaming past, nor do I think I'm unrealistically critical of modern interactive video entertainment. I can't even say I'm in some perfect neutral territory, especially since as I just alluded, I don't think that even exists. I'm just still a man who thoroughly enjoys video games, and that affection is strong enough to apply a natural resistance to the negativity commonly injected into the medium by many sources. I'd like to think I'm not ignorant of faults, but quick to forgive. Fun doesn't trump everything, but it shouldn't always be the first victim to outside interference.
So moving on from that light () preamble, here's the rest of the setup; I'm giving a few quick reviews, or just thoughts and observations really. But these games were played under a special type of duress; physical exertion. We have a stationary bike, and I work out on it at the highest tension setting, for six miles, six days a week. This takes between 45 minutes to an hour, and is my primary game time during the week. Fridays is our open-house multiplayer nights, and the rest of the weekend is open to family games and late-night sessions.
For the sake of this series, I'm focusing on the games I play while working out on the bike. That makes some interesting distinctions; if a game requires too much focus, I'm often too distracted to make much progress and it gets frustrating. Conversely, if I'm only doing a repetitive task such as grinding in an RPG, the tedium makes working out much more difficult and the entire experience undesirable.
So even though the following are just snippets, it is still important to keep in context the source and conditions surrounding this information. No refunds. Contents may have shifted during shipping. Void in the state of Utah. If you experience these or other side effects, call your doctor immediately before reading further. Also also wik.
So without further ado, here's
Slackur's Gaming Cycle Volume One
Aegis of Earth (PS4, also on PS3 and Vita)
I'm going to come right out and call this a flawed but underrated gem. A new spin on the tower defense genre, literally; you control a city in the center, or more specifically the rotatable concentric circles around it. Critters come from all sides to attack, and the player takes turns building resources and weaponry in the spaces around the city. When attacked, the strategy hits the fan as the circles have to be manually rotated in order to auto-fire at the bad guys. Weapon combos and arcade-y twitchiness are matched with thoughtful planning and building.
This one's priced about right, I think, though the physical copies are a tough higher. The budget-price is felt in below average graphics and sound, as well as a lack of features. But the anime trappings are decent and the game certainly has it's own feel and identity. I recommend it if watching the trailer makes you think, "Yeah, I'm interested in that." The bite-sized missions make it easy with which to tinker in quick sessions.
Assault Android Cactus (PS4, also on PC)
Even an old-school Robotron fan like me can get tired of the glut of twin-stick shooters nowadays. There are many good ones (Geometry Wars 3) and even a few great ones (Helldivers), but it's just tough to get excited for new entries. I wasn't really sold on Assault Android Cactus as it didn't look like it brought anything new to the table, save for a name I'm almost positive my middle child designed in Super Mario Maker.
So I was very pleasantly surprised when a buddy bought this for us and insisted we have a go. The level of polish and smart, tight design is something that just can't come across in previews and trailers, and AAC just feels 'right.' Single player or up to four-player co-op, this is the rare game that works for fifteen minutes of fun or all-night gaming sessions. Even if you're tired of twin-sticks, give this one a go; I didn't think I'd ever feel the careful chaos of Smash TV again, but it's right here. The intensity almost exceeds what I can do during my workout, but it's fun in bursts.
And the music rocks.
Assault Suit Leynos (PS4, Japanese import)
A remake of the Genesis gem Target Earth and original prequel to SNES gem Cybernator, I found this at a discount and took a chance, and I'm glad I did. Sure, the story is all in Japanese, but the gameplay is as solid as ever. While it's definitely not a showpiece for the hardware (to the point that some would only touch this as super cheap flash-sale) I've enjoyed this series, and I very much like this remake.
It really starts taking focus to succeed on later missions, and though the game's design was moderately complex twenty-six years ago (!!), it still holds up as a great 'old school' action game. Good workout game until I get stuck near the end.
Dirt Rally (PS4, also on Xbox One and PC)
Now this is the perfect bike workout game. It's been called the Dark Souls of racing games for its unforgiving, precise nature. There is no hand-holding, no rewinds, no easy mode. Just an exquisite physics model, gorgeous graphics, and a true-to-the-sport simulation.
The intensity of every track and the attention this game requires would ordinarily keep it from being a good workout game, but thankfully for me it often just intensifies the experience. I've occasionally found myself 'in the zone,' finishing my workout early because of how excitable I was getting. I needed a bit of a cool-down afterward, but so worth it.
I adore this game, even while it punches me in the face. We may need counseling.
Enter the Gungeon
Silly and irreverent, yet meticulous and refined, this is the experience I was hoping for in The Binding of Isaac. I just couldn't get into that one (even past the stuff that would keep me from playing it in front of the young kids, I just couldn't get into the gameplay either.)
Enter the Gungeon takes the rogue-like twin-stick refinement of Nuclear Throne (another great game) and gives much more exploration, item management, and a healthy dose of John Woo style. From flipping tables for cover to dive-rolling out of a hail of bullets, everything clicks like the hammer of a well-oiled... yeah. When you make a run, be prepared for a long-haul. It could be a quick five-minute accidental death, but a good run can take a decent amount of time. I like picking this one up every now and then instead of for an all-nighter, which makes it perfect for the occasional workout game.
Hyrule Warriors Legends (3DS, and an earlier version on Wii U.)
The Wii U version was a surprise, and between this and Dragon Quest Heroes I realized I can really enjoy a Musou game. Despite owning a New 3DS, I almost forsook this one because of all the bad press it received due to the claim it runs poorly, especially on the older 3DS systems.
In a telling reminder that I should always just try something for myself, I played the demo and was very surprised that the game ran just fine, and was even more fun than the Wii U version! After picking up a copy, I tried it on an older 3DS because a buddy wanted to pick it up for himself but also read the bad press. Once again, it ran far better than the reviews lead me to believe, and I wouldn't bat an eye at playing such a great game on an older 3DS; I hardly noticed any difference playing back-to-back.
Sadly, after assuming this would be perfect for my bike time, between the very long mission structure and the rocking motion the bike can induce while playing a portable, this is a really fun game but not for my workout.
Caladrius Blaze (PS3, the original is also available digitally on Xbox 360)
By now you folks know I love a good shmup. This is an excellent shmup! Although there are some edit options for the more racy components, this is still probably not a game to play in front of your mom. But the gameplay is superb and the difficulty is perfect for those of us who can't hack bullet-hell but like a challenge.
Like most shmups, this one is a great in-bursts alternative.
Fallout 4 (PS4, also on Xbox One and PC)
As a fan of the series from the first, I can somewhat understand the harshness by which this game is judged. Add in the practically trademark Bethesda 'jankiness' with a lot of other 'unfinished' elements of the game, and it is easy for folks to be disappointed in Fallout 4.
I haven't been. In fact, I've put a crazy amount of hours into this, and my beloved keeps asking for us to continue despite clearing the game. There are a lot of things this game doesn't do well at all. But I really fell for the atmosphere, the ambient feel, the countless little side-stories, the tactile nature of the combat, the crafting, and lots of little things. I even found the main story compelling and interesting, and some of the moral elements have been household discussion points.
Lots of my workouts have been spent exploring, leveling, side-questing, and just experiencing 'The Commonwealth.' And I thoroughly enjoy it.
Well, that's an OK start, I think. If this is something folks find worthwhile, I can easily make it an ongoing series.
Meanwhile, as our wonderful editor Singlebanana posted, I'd also love to see more folks writing here at RFGeneration. Reading the material here is one of my favorite internet pastimes, and I truly believe we have a series of worthwhile, even important voices on this little site. So make yours heard!
I'm quite impressed with your gaming mission statement, and I agree that with the advances in communication (facebook, youtube, message boards) it is easy to form a common mantra without thinking for oneself.
"I'm not pining for the 'glory days' of gaming past, nor do I think I'm unrealistically critical of modern interactive video entertainment. I can't even say I'm in some perfect neutral territory, especially since as I just alluded, I don't think that even exists. I'm just still a man who thoroughly enjoys video games, and that affection is strong enough to apply a natural resistance to the negativity commonly injected into the medium by many sources."
I too shall endeavor to add more articles to the site.
Nice article. I've tried light reading, audiobooks, and podcasts while on the treadmill, but I've never been able to concentrate enough to enjoy it, so hats off to you. Though I have talked to people and have been told that this might have to do with running vs riding (and my out of shape-ness), though I've never tried. Dark Souls, maybe? Super Dodge Ball? Castle Crashers? Worth a shot, 'cuz it's either that or back to the Gamma Ray station on Pandora (which works well with pushups, I find).
@Addicted: I do hope to see more of your writing here. Thanks!
@bombatomba: I truly believe that using a stationary bike makes all the difference. I also cannot really do anything but watch TV from a treadmill. Before buying the bike, we had a membership to Snap Fitness gym, and I'd bring portables. I couldn't find anything but the bikes that worked like I wanted. But the bikes and a home console just clicks perfectly for me.
If you're unsure, you could try what I did; go to a thift store or Salvation Army and buy a cheap but functional stationary bike. Try it out, and if you like it, eventually replace it with a better model. That way you know it is something you'll stick with, instead of investing money into another piece of gym equipment that becomes a coat rack.
Super Dodge Ball is a good suggestion, I'll have to try that one. Castle Crashers (and most brawlers) work well. Interesting you bring up Dark Souls. I used to play Bloodborne and grind during workouts, and that went well for the most part. But I tried playing Dark Souls III and at least to start, it just requires too much attention and focus for me to play while working out. Then again, I've been playing Dirt Rally and that requires about the same, so it's just a matter of what personally works.
My biggest hurdle to doing something like this is both the small size of my house (nowhere to put a bike), and the cost of a good stationary bike that won't fall apart under the weight of my rather hefty frame. That's why my exercising has been almost exclusively on the treadmills at work with only music to keep me company. I like this idea, though. I would totally love to shmup while riding a bike, that would be sweet. Since you mentioned Caldarius, is it region-free? I know the PS3 itself is, but some games are still region-locked, so if that one's not too expensive to import, it would be a nice addition to my PS3 library
@MetalFRO: Space is naturally a concern, and we had to arrange part of our gaming room to accommodate ours. I move it to the garage every Friday to make room for guests, so it is an extra bit of work, but worth it.
Keep an eye out at thrift stores and Salvation Army. You may be surprised; I've found some very nice, very large bikes over the years for next to nothing.
Caladrius is indeed region-free, and plays fine on any PS3. I think Persona 4 Arena is the only region-locked game on PS3, at least AFAIK. Caladrius runs around $45-$60, depending on international shipping. I bounced between eBay and Amazon and found a LN copy for just under that. Remember, it has some minor unnecessary wardrobe issues on the ladies that keep it from being a lets-play-this-on-the-church-projector type of game.
@Link41: Yeah, AAC would be perfect on Vita. Aegis of Earth has a Vita port, physical, through Amazon for less than $30. Haven't seen the physical version anywhere else. Of course, the digital version could always hit a flash sale.
Flash sales, that is the reason my Vita backlog is as massive as it is heh
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