Our gaming editors share what games are trending in their personal zeitgeist in this week’s edition of We’re Just Playing.
This week I dove back into the more Western side of video games with two pixelated, but very different takes on the old West.
The first game I goofed around with was Dead Horizon, a point and click adventure game where you control a young woman named Bonnie Starr who goes on to be a legendary gunslinger. It’s essentially a short story in video game form. In the amount of time I sat down, opened my computer, and started typing this, you can beat Dead Horizon easily. It revolves (hehe) around a series of duels, where you must pull your gun by holding the mouse button and swinging the look icon downwards before aiming as fast as you can and pulling the trigger. Its brevity means that your mileage with the game will vary but I had a good time while it lasted. It touches on the classic Western idea of a person being drawn in by more and more violence and how that creates an endless cycle that’s exceptionally difficult to break out of. It’s mild compared to more complete games, but it’s clear that a lot of love went into its production. Also, it’s completely, 100% free, meaning you have nothing to lose by trying it out.
The other game I played was Luckslinger, a side scrolling action platformer where luck is a measurable commodity. You play as an unnamed cowboy who sets out to restore the town of Clover Creek by tracking down six outlaws who have stolen its good luck charms. It’s an oddball, weird premise, and this is reflected further by the gameplay, where you can activate your luck once you’ve accumulated enough of it and activate certain things in the environment, such as platforms appearing out of nowhere. The flip side of this is that bad things can happen if your luck happens to be low, like pieces of the environment falling down and taking out a chunk of your health.
The control scheme has taken some getting used to, but at a few levels in, I find myself enjoying the game well enough. I could see how it would get challenging rather quickly, too, with only a limited amount of hit points and having to juggle your luck as a resource. As a side note, the soundtrack is unique, fusing hip hop beats with 8 bit chip tunes to create a strange dichotomy between the music and gameplay that sort of reminds me of LISA: The Painful. While this game is nowhere near as dark, the music is an interesting choice, and definitely gives the game an attitude all its own.
As a fan of the original Tony Hawk Pro Skater series (I stopped after 4, which I hear was as good a time as any to quit), I was always going to get Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1 + 2. What I didn’t expect was for it to be such a masterful redo of the first two games in the series.
All the courses and challenges are still there, exactly where they’ve always been, but this remake has added in a laundry list of new challenges (of various skill levels) and customization options for your characters. There is also a leveling system, used mostly for unlocking more custom content. While new outfits, decks, stickers, wheels and other such accoutrements are mostly superficial, it’s nice to get the feeling that even a quick run through a course can move your character’s progress forward.
Some of the moves that weren’t introduced until later entries in the series have been helpfully added to this collection, meaning you have more options for massive combos than ever before. You’re going to need them too, because this game’s online modes are already packed with pro skaters that have me outmatched on most occasions.
Something I found quite amazing was the sense of familiarity this game evoked. Sure, it’s a glossy, pitch perfect remake, but it wasn’t just the visuals that I remembered, it was the experiences and moments.
I had many runs through the Burnside skate park where I would absolutely crush the first heat (out of three) and then proceed to muck up my second run, making that all important third run so stress inducing. As fans of the series know—in the skate park comp levels—the game drops your lowest score and averages out your top two scores, then ranks you with the other AI skaters. It was funny how often I would get a great score in the first heat, only to see the results and see that there was always one skater who did just a little better than me.
After honing my skills a little, and then committing to going for the gold, I finally made first place in Burnside, raising a fist triumphantly in the air when I did. For someone who has played this series as much as I have, I really should be a much better player.
I also found it fun to search the recesses of my mind to try and recall where secrets and items were in the levels. In the original School level, I knew I had to go to the roof for…something. I knew there was a reason to go into the gymnasium. I remember having a hard time finding the school bells you need to grind on. It was nostalgia, but it was the good kind.
Of course, there were things I didn’t remember, and I had to rely on YouTube videos for help on more than one occasion, but it beats the old days where I had to print out written walkthroughs to help me and my buddies get through the challenges of the original PS1 games.
THPS1+2 is not a game I will ever master, and I certainly will never get the Platinum PS4 trophy, but I will continue to play it for a long time and have no regrets buying it for the full price (I purchased the digital premium edition). Anyone who knows me knows I am the guy that waits for the games to go on sale before buying, so the fact I snatched this up right away and am more than satisfied should tell you how highly I recommend this game. Vicarious Visions has done an excellent job taking the Neversoft classic and reworking it for the modern generation of gamers.
Editor’s Note: Our first impressions review of Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1 + 2 is coming soon!