Hot Shots Golf (PS1) – Review (kind of)

Growing up as an NES/Sega kid made me have some weird choices in the games I had as a kid. We got our Sega Genesis for Christmas and got to select from a range of games on the back of the box, getting one of them for free. I filed out the card, selecting a few games and ended up getting Pebble Beach Golf Links and played the shit out of it. I can’t say that it was my number one pick, but the whole family actually ended up liking it. The next golf game that I really ever got into would be Everybody’s Golf for the PS4, which I loved playing. So it was pretty interesting to go back to the game that started out the series on the PS1.

Just look how hot those games are!

I just have to get right out there and say that having this game on the PS Plus Premium service really made me play it in an odd way. I like the choice of game and that they added trophy support for it, I love how they’re doing that to select games even though every one of them should actually have it. I’m sure a lot of these developers are going to be hard to track down, and getting them to add trophy tags to their games will be next to impossible. The more games that get this feature, the more I’m going to play, that’s for sure.

So let’s get to the golf in this game. I don’t think it’s that great, especially compared to any golf game in todays market. My biggest gripe is the amount of control you have over your shots. The amount of options available to you make it seem like a math game at times. Let’s say you’re 50 yards from the hole and have to make chip shot, the wind is very mild and things are looking good. You hit the ball and it lands about a foot away from the hole. Because this game is emulated on the PS5, you get a rewind feature, so you rewind it and try to nudge the shot over to get your chip shot to go right in. You tap the button ever so slightly and try again, this time the ball goes two feet to the right of the hole. Shit, so let’s go back and try that again, tap it back to the left and the ball goes exactly where the other shot went. The amount of control you have is not granular enough to make every shot. It feels like it’s all integer based and not floating point. It’s actually a little crazy to think about how basic this golf model is. It’s a limitation of the technology and I’m not really faulting the game on that, even though it might feel that way. It’s nostalgic and interesting to see from a technical and historical perspective.

Where this is really evident is when you try to go for a few of the trophies, like getting a hole in one or an albatross. Let’s say you’re on a par 5 course and trying to get it in in two shots. The first one is going to have to get you close to the hole for a nice chip shot. Depending on where your first shot goes, it may just be impossible for the next shot to get in because of the way the ball physics and controls work. You’ll have to retake your first shot off the tee and try to see if you hit it in the right spot this time so the math works out for your next shot. It’s cute how simple it all is.

The craziest part of this game is just having that rewind functionality. I couldn’t help but just use it each time I fucked up. I knew it was ruining my experience of the game but I just couldn’t stop. That meant I never really fucked up a shot, every time I went to put, the ball went in, because why wouldn’t it? It made me just demolish every versus player I went up against. Knocking them all out, unlocking all the characters and trophies as I went.

One of the craziest things I came across while playing are the occasions when your computer controlled opponents get into a loop of fucking up their shots. This water hazard image shows my opponent constantly chipping her shot into the water. She was on the other bank and kept trying to chip the ball onto the green over the water. The lie of her ball just wouldn’t allow her shot to get to the green, so she kept going over and over until she hit a high number and was disqualified. It happened a few other times when they got stuck in a sand trap and the ball would never get out. The AI just doesn’t have the programming to realize the shot is impossible, where they should just chip to the side or back onto the fairway and try again from a better position.

FINAL SCORE – 6.2

It’s interesting to just see how the evolution of golf games have gone over the years. If you have any interest in golf games it’s a must play. They really had the start of something wonderful with this title, from the little characters to the fun courses. I do think that it’s way to basic to be considered seriously in todays market. There also feels like a little bit of lag is present when picking your power and accuracy. It ends up feeling random and not skill based if I was going to get the perfect shot that I wanted. I’d recommend trophy hunters and people into the history of games to give this a shot. If you want a better game of golf though, try out one of the newer versions instead.

IQ Intelligent Qube – Review (ish)

IQ: Intelligent Qube is a Playstation 1 puzzle game from 1997, making it 25 years old. That’s a little insane to think about, especially since I remember playing a demo for this game at some point around then. I also remember not really understanding what to do in the game and giving up on it fairly quick. It would then always shock me when I heard people talking about how good this game is and that it’s a bit of a classic. With that all in mind, it’s nice that this is one of the first games Sony added to their PS Plus Premium tier. I especially like that it has trophy support since we all need more ways to feed that addiction.

I booted this game up and skipped the tutorial section and instantly had no fucking clue of what to do. I kept getting run over by the rotating blocks as they slowly marched towards my little polygonol character. Instead, I hopped on YouTube and thumbed through a quick tutorial just to get the gist of the game. I was now prepared to dominate this game.

The game consists of three colored blocks, black, grey, and green. They slowly rotate in unison down the stage until falling off the edge. Your goal is to mark blocks for deletion, trying to clear all the grey blocks before they fall off. Take out a green and that spot gets marked, activate that mark and you clear all surrounding blocks. The trick is to leave all the black blocks intact, that’s where the skill lies. You’re allowed to mess up a few times, but like with any good puzzle game, it’s more rewarding and challenging to perfect each stage.

With just a little bit of knowledge of the mechanics of this puzzle game, I was quickly able to plow through the whole thing in just over an hour, getting every single trophy and earning that coveted platinum. I feel like that’s what makes a good puzzle game, being able to pick it up with the core concepts of how it works and use those to take down some puzzles.

What trivialized the game to me was the ability to use the rewind feature of the classic emulation on the PS5. Any mistakes I made were quickly rectified through a quick rewind of the game. Don’t wait to die and restart the level, just go back a few seconds and make that critical move. It was a great tool in helping me tear through a classic game in record time while getting the platinum.

I feel like that is the more interesting topic in this whole subscription service and these classic games. You provide tools that allow you to quickly put down certain games. The only thing I feel like I may miss is a fast forward feature like the modern remakes of the old Final Fantasy games have. So if you want, you can get a taste of what these classic games have to offer. You don’t have to really spend much time with them and you can beat them fairly easily. Is it the experience the developers originally wanted players to have? Not in the least, but is that okay with you?

The game controls like an old PS1 game trying to get to grips with 3D. Directional movement isn’t smooth, when the camera moves and your character is trying to do precise movement, directionality tends to get locked up (think Resident Evil controls when the camera moves). The character you control will sometimes just not move where you think he should. It could definitely be frustrating if you didn’t have the rewind function. With it I found I’d just rewind and try again without getting upset, so that feature ended up being a positive to the game design.

Final Score – 7

In the end, I’m happy for this game to be in the PS Premium tier with trophies. I am actually happy that I got to play all the way through it and have a platinum trophy to show for it. It feels like a small part of my gaming history has come to a close.

Ape Escape (PS1) – Review

Another classic PS1 game to play on my PlayStation 5. Oh how time flies. I have a lot of history with this game. I remember picking it up for PS1 when it came out back in May 1999 from my local Toy’s R Us. It was the first game to explicitly require you to use a DualShock controller. So not only did I have to buy this game, I had to get a controller with it just to play it. That’s a big ask for a kid with limited funds, but I was already sold on the possibilities this new controller could provid.

You have to see how crazy this scene is in motion, building move around, wobbling like they’re made of jelly.

What’s interesting about these times is that a full three years prior, Sega released their Saturn 3D controller to use with Nights into Dreams. That was a controller with one analogue stick, along with the traditional D-Pad, that would give you smoother control over the way your character would fly through the environments. Instead of a digital interface, like a keyboard, you got the smooth motion that only an analogue stick could provide. Sony just went to the next level and added another stick, forever changing the game. The history of console gaming has to give it up for the efforts of Sony and these developers for making it a requirement to play this game, it’s just sucks that the first person shooters of the time didn’t get the memo.

This is what I respect out of this game. I have to give it up for the fact that they were the first to go all in on this new standard of control. It’s a little harder to praise the rest of the game though. The new PS Plus subscription service allows you to play some of these old games on PS5, I’ve already played a few of the other PS1 classic games, but this title really highlights a main issue I have with these games. For context, the PS1 has some really weird graphical issues when you play them, polygons seem to be made out of Jell-O and textures warp left and right all the time. The texture warping doesn’t really bother me that much, it’s what 3D games on a PS1 look like, so I can overlook that (even though modern emulators have solved this problem). My main issue with the 3D games on PS1, and especially this one, is the way the PS1 handles vertex points. If you don’t know, a 3D object is made up of polygons, each triangle polygon is composed of three vertex points. The PS1 can only do integer translation of these vertex points, which means the hardware itself didn’t have support for floating point calculations. So what does that get us in the 3D games that came out? It means that vertices constantly snap as they move, it’s not gradual and can honestly be visually annoying and can cause headaches. I feel like this problem is exacerbated by the fact that we’re now playing these games at higher resolutions on 4K screens, the problem is just amplified to an insane degree. Modern emulators can solve these issues, but that feature is currently not supported on the emulator the PS5 uses at this time.

Ape Escape is almost hilarious to play today. As you go through a few stages, you start to realize just how small these levels are. You can catch all the monkeys and get the collectable coin(s) in about 5-10 minutes. The draw distance in the game is insanely short as well, with parts of the level fading into the skybox at about 50 feet from the character.

I ran through the whole game and got the platinum in this one as well, but I did use my trusty rewind feature. I would run up to monkeys and if they got away after a bad catch attempt, I would just rewind it and try again.

I wouldn’t say this is a great game in today’s landscape, especially considering the evolutionary leaps in controls and gameplay since this titles release. Even compared to Mario 64, which came out 3 years prior, the controls are no match to what Nintendo were already doing. The controls in this game are a little bit of a gimmick, the right stick is used to give directionality to your attacks, which makes the camera controls default to the left and right of the D-Pad. This feels horrible and actually made me change the controllers button mapping on the console level to swap the R2 and L2 for the left and right D-Pad. There wasn’t way to make this change in the game which was frustrating.

a cinematic scene without the draw fog.

Another one of those classic PS1 games that I am glad I went through and got the platinum but couldn’t see myself ever playing this again, perhaps in another 23 years or so. It feels like watching an old movie today, you have to understand the cultural context to when it was released to really appreciate it, and I appreciate this game for what it’s done. It really needed some quality of life improvements like better controls and the ability to map buttons differently. It would have also benefited heavily from modding the game to allow for floating point calculations, I really had a hard time towards the end of the game with the way the motion of the polygons were translating, it was honestly giving me a headache. I also did play this on a 77″ TV, which made the actual jumps between frames turn into inches of my screen. If you play this on a 13″ CRT monitor using VGA cables, I’m pretty positive those issues aren’t as noticeable.

The draw distance is funny.

Final Score – 6.8

Play it just to see and feel a little bit of the history of video games and to help understand where the industry evolved from. This is a landmark title that is a little rough around the edges by today’s standards. The story is basic as fuck, the graphics are hilarious, and the controls are frustrating until you adjust them on a console level, and then they’re just a bit better. It will be really interesting to see what the sequel did for the series though, so perhaps I’ll try that at some point. One more thing though, the main character Spike, sucks. I beat the game and can’t remember him having any sort of personality or even saying anything. I’m sure he must have, but this is not a mascot for Sony by any stretch of the imagination.

Big boss battle!
What until you see this in motion. The vertex points are popping all over.

Days Gone – Review

This is one of those PlayStation first party games that I didn’t think I’d ever play. It’s hard getting the motivation to play open-world games, especially if you already play each new Assassin’s Creed game that comes out. Add that to the growing list of other games, like Ghost of Tsushima, Red Dead Redemption 2, etc. It’s a lot, they take up a massive amount of players time and did Sony first-party really need to dip their toes in those waters?

Ride or die.

That was until I finished up Cyberpunk 2077 and wanted to start using my PS5 again. I’m talking about a new console months after the generational shift, and I haven’t played a game on it for over a month. If you sit down with that thing it doesn’t have that many native games to play, I’ve already played Demon’s Soul and Astro Bot, what else is left? So I had to start digging into my back catalogue and see what tickled my fancy. Days gone is one of the titles included in the PlayStation Plus free game program they have with PS5 so that made my barrier to entry super easy. Going in, I had faint memories of the early E3 presentation, where they showed off the hoard at the saw mill, and I recalled something about having to find your wife, dead or alive. That’s basically all I knew about the game.

*** SPOILER WARNING ***

It’s the end of the world as we know it.

Graphics

I’ll start with graphics because why not? This game looks really nice on my PS5, even for a PS4 game that doesn’t have any real patches for next-gen. It does allow you to run the game at 60fps in resolution mode, so it feels good to move around and it’s really sharp. Honestly, playing this game and going around the open world made me give a little shout out of respect to what the PS4 was capable of, it impressed me. The frame rate will drop here and there, causing little stutters, but those honestly happen in the most random places. It probably just needs a proper patch to take advantage of all the PS5 features, since it only runs in back-compat mode those things are locked out for the game. The good thing is that I never felt any sluggishness when going up against a hoard.

The world is the shining star in graphical department. The game takes place in the mountains and lakes of Oregon. It gives the game a natural feel so you don’t get office buildings made of football fields of glass, just a lot of good old fashioned wood. It’s rendered well using the Unreal Engine, which comes as a big surprise for a first party Sony game, since they usually opt to use proprietary engines for their games. Wonder how they felt about paying a licensing fee for this title, or perhaps their investment in Epic allowed them to skirt around that issue.

Character models are really hit or miss for me. The main cast of characters are okay, with one or two standouts besides the main protagonist. Animations are also in that B tier category, they get the job done but don’t really stand out in any way. The real star of the show is the hoards.

Coming over a hill and seeing your first hoard out in the middle of nowhere is a real treat. It’s pretty rare that a game while come up with something that surprises you like this one, especially on the bigger hoards. These hoards come in all different sizes, increasing the further south you go. When you see that first large hoard, maybe you try something that you think might work, like lure them into a group and chuck a few grenades at them, that should do it. You come to find out that all you got was about 10% of the group and the rest start rushing at you as you attempt to shoot them with everything you have. Once you have the scope truly down you can start to think logically and plan out your attacks. The sheer number of enemies on screen at one time is remarkable to see. I do think the game could have stood out on it’s own with just small groups of freakers, but having these massive hoards to battle really makes it stand out in a crowded field of releases. They become the star of the show and I give them a lot of credit for doing it on the PS4.

Complaints

Deacon St. John is one of the worst characters in video games. It just needs to be said. He is one of the worst protagonists that I have ever had the privilege to control. I don’t think I’ve ever felt such a disconnect with who a person is and how they represent themselves than I did with this man. It’s not that he was in a biker gang and talks about his cut (jacket) all the time, or has hands full of the most ridiculous rings imaginable. It was that his personality, or lack of, came out constantly when he tried to speak. He’s played by actor Sam Witwer, who I also am not the biggest fan of, which is all a shame because I really enjoyed the story surrounding this character. I just wish he wasn’t such an idiotic douche all the time.

This is the idiot I chose to marry.

Deacon is a biker boy who loves to ride his hog and his woman, all while treating everyone around him like they’re annoying idiots.

The game starts off, like all good fiction these days, with a zombie apocalypses. Your injured wife is placed on a helicopter with a man in a hazmat suit who promises to take her to a safe camp. You stay back with your other injured friend, Boozer, so you can help him get to the camp and meet back up with your woman. Needless to say, things happen, you don’t find her and think she’s dead, you and Boozer both survive for two full years. That’s where the gameplay part of the game picks up and you’re left to fend for yourself as you try to leave Oregon and move on with your life. Only to find that the hazmat guy is still alive and perhaps your wife, Sarah, is too.

What a nice little premise for a game. How is this hazmat guy still alive? Shit, your wife maybe alive as well? Sold!

Mysteries abound.

So the problem I had with Deacon is that he’s so stupid and annoying. Pretty simple, right? He treats everyone around him with such irreverence, he just blows everyone off. You’ll get to a camp and help them out over multiple missions, building up friendships with people that you, as the player, grow attached to. Only to have Deacon act like a 15 year old child with mood issues one second later. These people are actually nice to you, they don’t want to kill you, you’re helping them build a community, and then you just get the stinger of him being a dick. It makes so little sense, I can see how it could make sense If I inferred into his character a whole lot, but that’s not my job, the story should have conveyed that aspect to his personality. If the main character is going to act like an idiot and just treat nice people like shit all the time, give me a little more setup to why his mind works this way. Maybe something happened in the two year gap between the opening and the game. None of it is explained to any level of satisfaction so it all comes off as crass. It might also just be the way the actor chose to portray Deacon, like he had a bad take on the character.

It’s a mad mad mad world.

I get that not every person or character in a work of fiction should, or would be the most elegant of speakers and communicators. It just needs to be setup to the player in a better way. As the game went on there was just more of a disconnect between Deacon and I, he’d pull up to a camp that he had to clear out and literally yell out that it’s full of murders and rapists and shit like that, and that they all have to die, like calm down dude. I get that they’re bad, but every time you pull up to one of these camps he says the same exact thing, it’s a little comical.

That issue get’s more into the performance of Deacon, which is half of the equation I feel. The actor, Sam Witwer, is just not good in this role, or the way he was directed is off. I’ve never really been a fan of that actor and I feel like this role just does nothing for him. The vocal audio is mixed incorrectly most of the time, where characters are either speaking really softly while giving a speech to a group around a raging bonfire, or they’re just yelling at each other in a way that makes no sense for the scenario on screen. The sound design for the voices could have been handled way better.

Burn the nest to the ground!

Part of the issue comes from the type of game this is. You’re, for the most part, a lonely guy going out into this open world to kill things. Your main action in the game is to shoot bad things. You spend a lot of time with your main character, with that comes a level of connection and understanding you could say. This is what video games are all about, being a character in a foreign world, living out an experience only achievable in this form of entertainment. Dozens of hours looking at them in the center of your screen as you roam around on adventures. I just had a disconnect with how shitty I felt he was. How he’d barely answer a question, rarely ever get personal, would shut down emotionally constantly, and treated friendly people like crap. I kept wanting him to do more, say more, be more, but he was just Deacon.

What I liked

Even though I just shat all over the main character of the game, I really got into the story of this game. It starts you off in a small region of the map, doing mission after mission helping out the local camps in the region. I initially thought that this was going to be the whole game. That it was just going to take place on this, relatively small and manageable sized map, which felt oddly refreshing and quaint. Come to find out that no, you get to open up another large area and then another after that. So the game was a lot bigger than I thought it was going to be.

The length of the story felt a little off to me. It seems to be broken up in three parts and they are all longer than I thought they would be. I did do every mission as they came up, so perhaps I was doing a lot of side content that didn’t really matter if you only care about the main storyline. The third part is when you get to the Wizard’s Island and discover that your wife is still alive and kicking. Which is awesome! I love that you got to find out in this game and that you got to spend a good chunk of the ending focusing on your relationship with her. She even ends up being a way better character than the blunt instrument of Deacon. I was interested in the scientific research that she was still working on, which is a way to actually reverse the zombie infection, not kill it. You get to visit her old lab and see what’s come of it. Mysteries reveal themselves and new ones form. It pulls you in, if you’re hooked as I was, and really makes you want to finish the game.

Keep it going.

The thing I wasn’t expecting is that all the mysteries that surround the freakers are not resolved by the end of the game. It felt like they had so many plot threads and the game was already so long that they just cut a bunch of them so they could focus on wrapping up a handful of smaller ones. It does leave the title wide open for a sequel, which I really did not expect coming in. If you keep playing after you beat the game you’ll even get to find out what’s happening to the hazmat guy that you’ve been in contact with throughout the whole game, and why he’s still in a hazmat suit. That’s where the real intrigue comes into play and makes me want to see what will happen in the sequel, which I hope they make. It’d be really cool to see what they can do with a freaker horde running on the PS5 natively. It’s what makes this game stand out form The Last of Us, a game that doesn’t care to answer how it happened or how to fix it, the intrigue in Days Gone is the mystery behind how it happened and if it can be fixed.

I also really liked the gameplay. You get around by riding your custom motorcycle through the land while being mindful of the amount of fuel in your tank, making sure to top it of off wherever you can get some fuel. The combat and weapons felt like a nice 3rd person action game. I had favorite weapons out of the growing arsenal at my disposal that I’d keep on me at all time, turning my character into a zombie and human killing machine. You can mix up gun combat with the strategic use of remote and motion activated bombs, Molotov cocktails, and a form of napalm. You can use lures to draw in large crowds and funnel them where you wanted, then blow them all up. At the end of the game, when you’re allowed to free roam, dozens of hoards appear all over the map that you can take down. It’s just a good way to finish leveling up, go take on a hoard, earn more XP and go for that platinum trophy. Every single one of them is slightly unique and fun to do. I ended up getting the platinum since I enjoyed playing the game and it wasn’t that much of a grind.

A family affair.

Final Score – 8.2

I enjoyed this game more than I thought I would. I loved the mystery around the story and I want to know what the hell is going on with O’Brian. I just wish the main character had a personality facelift since he took me out of the game way too much. The gameplay was great, fighting humans and hordes all felt good. The progression system, from skills to weapons, kept me looking forward to the next unlock. A proper PS5 patch would be nice to see, but it’s not the one I’m hurting the most to have. If you have a PS5 and Plus, along with some time to get into a game, definitely give this game a shot.

I want the sequel.

Playstation Plus – Free Games for September 2020

The two free games for this month are Street Fighter V and PlayerUnknown’s Battleground.

It’s not that much of an exciting month for me this time around. I might just download Street Fighter to mess around and see how the single player is, but I’m not really into it that much. I prefer the story content and everything from the Mortal Kombat and Injustice games of late. PUBG is an interesting offer, mostly because I’m pretty late in coming to the party on it. Not sure how much I’d enjoy playing it on the PS4, seems more like a PC game to me.

I feel like Capcom wants to sell some more character packs and add-ons for SFV and PUBG is just looking for more players since their star has seemed to fade pretty hard this last year.

Erica – Review

Now who the hell would have thought that people could still release an FMV game in 2019? I know that it’s 2020 right now, but the game was just in the Playstation Plus games so I had to give it a go. I haven’t played one of these games since Double Switch, Fahrenheit, and Wirehead on the Sega CD. And if those were the last games you had to pull from, you could imagine just how excited I was to play this game.

Some decent acting and production value round out the package.

All kidding aside, I was shocked at the production value for this game. The filmic quality of the production didn’t make it seem like a cheap product. If anything, it drew me into the story because of the quality of lighting and acting present on screen. I only recognized one of the actors, which was Terence Maynard. The main character of Erica, played by Holly Earl, was spot on for the role of the player character. While she made certain choices on her own, it’s up to the player to make the more decisive decisions in the story.

Oh, I played the game using the PS4 Erica app that the game recommended when first launching, it worked quite well and I would recommend it.

When first starting it up, I quickly felt like I don’t want to be “playing” this game. I had an urge to just do a half hour, do something more exciting, and come back to it another day. I’m glad that I just stuck with it and finished the 90 minute game in one sitting though. It feels like that’s how this game is supposed to be experienced.

The odd bunch. Haven’t you seen Se7en?

One thing that I really did like about the game is the way interacting with objects in the environment were portrayed on screen. You select the object, the camera moves to a locked in close-up of the object, and then you swipe the screen while a stop motion animation of the opening is displayed, with the speed of the swipe tied to the opening animation. It’s just a nice bit of technology and ingenuity on the creators part that I could appreciate.

I’m not going to spoil anything about the story, since that would be a really dumb thing to do, it’s basically all this game has going for it. The big question is, did I like the story? I mean, there was enough to get me through the game. As things picked up I wanted to see where this whole plot was going and how it was going to resolve itself. The last bit of the story is where I think they stumbled the most. I’ll say this, I just didn’t get enough of a resolution with the ending. It didn’t feel satisfying at all. It ended and I looked over at my boo, who watched the game with me, and we were a bit like “Is that it?”. They needed to have hit that ending story a lot harder, make an impact and leave me speechless, breathless, intrigued or something.

A vacant expression.

The ending I got, along with knowing there are six different ones in total, made me immediately look up all the other endings to see how different they were from what I had. That was another disappointment, seeing how similar they all are. I guess I was looking for completely different paths as it got towards the end of the game, instead of a large tree with large forks in the branches, it was just a little spruce tree.

Final Score – 7.0

Never would have thought I’d be playing an FMV game, especially one that looked this good. Get it for cheap and give it a try. While not the best story, I do think that I’ll remember my experience playing this game for years to come. At least now I’ll be on the lookout for another good FMV game, which sounds insane.