The Ghost of Tsushima

The Ghost of Tsushima

Ghost of The Perfectly Timed Strike


August, 2020

Ghost of Tsushima Box

Game Data

Price at Purchase:AU$69
From:JB HiFi
Released:17 July 2020
Game Size on Disc34.78GB
Game Version at Review1.2

Ghost of Tsushima is not a particularly innovative game – it’s fairly standard open-world adventure fare with enemy camps, side quests, skill trees and so on – but there are a couple of little things that distinguish it from what might otherwise have just been Assassin’s Creed Samurai.

The neatest trick that developer Sucker Punch seem to have pulled off is that the game is almost constantly stunning to look at. Sure, it’s no graphical powerhouse – which was very extra-obvious to many folks coming straight to this game from The Last of Us Part 2 – and sure, the recent Assassin’s Creed releases have had their moments in Egypt and Greece – but Ghost of Tsushima features a day-night cycle that almost constantly presents itself as “Screen-Shot” worthy wherever you happen to be in it’s neatly contained island game world.

It’s a tremendously impressive acheivement.

The game’s other Tent-Pole features – the Stand-Offs which provide a fun, occasionally tense pacing interlude, and what we’ll call The Natural Environment where foxes, birds and the wind help guide you around and help keep on-screen junk to a minimum – do a decent job of supporting the Ghost of Tsushima’s central conceits.

Where the game struggles is unfortunately in the central plot tension between Good Player Path/Bad Player Path.

A Plague Tale: Innocence

A Plague Tale: Innocence

The Kids Are Alright


April, 2020

A Plague Tale Innocence

Game Data

Price at Purchase:AU$41
Developer:Asobo Studio
Released:14 May 2019
Genre:Action Adventure
Game Size on Disc38.4GB
Game Version at Review1.07

Asobo’s “A Plague Tale: Innocence” is a better game than it’s awkward klunky title might suggest.

It has a strong narrative that takes many interesting twists and turns.

It has a compelling central cast.

Interesting game mechanics – rather than “Action Adventure” genre I’d suggest it was more like Action Puzzle. There’s very little combat but most of the game’s simple mechanisms are well paced and well explored. I particularly liked the way you never felt under-skilled but new additions always added to one’s feeling of mastery as the game unfolded.

It looks amazing and like the game engine was developed in-house – it has wonderful anti-aliasing and a way of artfully guiding one’s focus that reminded me of Octopath Traveller but all grown up. One downside of the effect was that it did look in places like I was playing a 3D game and should have been wearing the correct glasses.

I found the controls a bit fiddly at times and even turning the camera feels like you’re in treacle but you get used to it.

The game does a great job making the rat swarms icky – which I’m sure was harder than it might seem.

What I did find jarring was how grown-up many of the game’s prepubescent characters seem to be. Maybe it’s because my own kids are developing a little slower – maybe it’s that the current times are inhibiting progress in ways that oldern-times did not. Maybe the kids in this game were all just early bloomers.

There was something about the line delivery that felt like the script had been run through a clumsy translation service – there was an unnatural remove about it but again its an element that grinds the pedantic gears initially but fades a little with time.


The Last of Us Remastered

The Last of Us Remastered

At Last Of Us


May, 2020

The Last Of Us Remastered PS4 Box Art

Game Data

Price at Purchase:AU$34
Developer:Naughty Dog
Released:30 July 2014
Game Size on Disc47.2GB
Game Version at Review1.2

I just worked out that I started playing The Last Of Us around July 2013 on my newly acquired PS3. I finally watched the credits roll for the first time yesterday on my PS4pro – nearly 7 years and nearly 3 consoles later.

So what gives?

Firstly it was hard to go back to to the original on the PS3 once the Remastered and the PS4 was available.

It was mainly impatience – running into hard bits – but most critically I lost some game save data in the move from PS4 to PS4pro and felt I lacked the patience to be that far back and go again. Also the save put me back in the middle of a lumber yard fight as Ellie with very little ammo and you know how it can be trying to figure out control schemes after a gap of a year or so.

It was easier just to put it aside and focus on newer games.

But I was very pleased to have finally got the time to re-focus and push through the hard bit and get through the end of the game with a couple of weeks to go  before the launch of The Last of Us Part 2.

The overwhelming impression I was left with having finally finished this game was how mature modern game storytelling could be. The Last of Us could be frantic and and “Action-y”, shooty and race-y and all the other “gameplay” mainstays we’ve come to expect but it doesn’t feel like the point here like it does in so many other games – here the mechanics seem much more to serve the story and the overall experience is far richer for it.

I won’t deny that having waited – or procrastinated – so long to get through to the end, the famous sequences were a little less impactful but I’m still tremendously glad to have finally completed this game.

A Short Hike

A Short Hike

A Short Hike with a Long Impact


April, 2020

A Short Hike Cover Art

Game Data

Price at Purchase:AU$0
Developer:Adam Robinson-Yu
Publisher:Adam Robinson-Yu
Released:5 Apr 2019
Game Size on Disc262mb
Game Version at Review1.42

I had plopped “A Short Hike” on my “must keep an eye out for” list since it got some surprisingly glowing and misty-eyed reviews and crept into the “most overlooked games of 2019” type lists of some fairly austere organs. So I got quite excited when I saw it up-coming on the Epic Game Store’s weekly freebie list.

I had a spare moment (e.g I lost my job to the Novel Coronavirus) and gave a couple of hours of those moments to A Short Hike and quickly & completely fell in love with it.

This game has the fresh vibrant dialogue of A Night In The Woods, a well-crafted pixel world of lovely bright colours, a neat simple objective with no pressure or time-constraints and the most lovely pay-off at the nominal “end”.

I also think its worth heaping praise on the controls – for a simple platformer-ish the controls feel really nicely balanced. Running and turning has a gentle skid, jumping and flying feels duly exhilerating – helped in no small part by the wonderful musical score.

Being able to convey and maintain such well-defined characters in such a small amount of time that you care about thier lives is fine testament to the writing here.

The game world itself also deserves praise as its large enough to warrant continued post-credit exploration and clever enough in its conception that you’ll still be “oh I see, that bit connects or wraps around to that bit – yes of course!” much longer than I had expected to for a game of such modest ambition.

There’s also an utterly charming GDC talk about how that neat open world came together from the game’s creator Alex:


The Shadow of the Tomb Raider

The Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Lara Croft and the Shadow of Emperialism


April, 2020

Shadow of the Tomb Raider PS4 Box Art

Game Data:

Price at Purchase:AU$9
From:JB HiFi
Publisher:Square Enix
Released:5 Nov 2019
Rated:MA 15+
Game Size on Disc30.7GB
Game Version at Review1.19

A month or so ago I took advantage of a JB HiFi offer to pick up Shadow of the Tomb Raider for the princely sum of AU$9. I also paid an additional AU$9 to add the “definitive edition” content pack which was basically a bunch of DLC “challenge tombs”.

I had recently finished cutting and uploading the last of our Death Stranding playlist and had intended to pick up Contro again but thought “Oh I’ll just pop SOTTR in to check it out. A week later I was pretty much done – main story and challenge tombs – and despite the hideously cringeworthy cultural inappropriate elements of the plot, the moment to moment gameplay was tremendously enjoyable – somewhere between Uncharted and I guess Assassin’s Creed Odyssey played as Kassandra?

Shadow of the Tomb Raider felt more “big action” oriented than 2016’s “Rise of the Tomb Raider” which I also have fond memories of. Shadow has big set pieces where you’re basically outrunning floods or storms or attack helicopters – its all very high action but really at very low risk – they’re basically Quick Time Events without the prompts – but they’re still fun enough.

We do have to talk about the narrative elements though. It’s truly ghastly. Basically Shadow of the Tomb Raider follows Lara Croft the white girl from great mansion-y privilege – and her “ethnic” side-kick Jonah – as she rocks up in a series of small impoverished South American villages, plundering both their homes and their temples and then pissing off their gods to the extent that great natural disasters then completely destroy those villages. She then presumes to essentially become their god for a bit before a late twist renders her ascension “unnecessary” and things return to normal – for her.

To say it’s tone deaf is underselling it completely.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

The Viral Clicker For Our Times


April, 2020

Animal Crossing New Horizons on Switch Box Art

Game Data

Price at Purchase:AU$64
Released:20 March 2020
Game Size on Disc-
Game Version at Review1.1.4

I enjoyed the build up the March 2020 release of Animal Crossing – not especially from my own expectations as I’d not played any of this game’s predecessors, and realistically its not my kind of game – you know how I love an ending – perversely looking forward to that credit roll and most of all: that moment when you can uninstall the game and make Hard Drive space for something else. But I very much enjoyed the bright optimism and indeed hope that was placed in the latest incarnation of the tamagotchi (which – tellingly – Auto-correct just suggested I might have meant “masochist”).

My early impressions about a week or two into Animal Crossing: New Horizons is that I fear my JoyCon buttons may not be able to take much more of this. You dig up a fossil – or if you’re anything like me you run round your island and maybe a Nook Island as well gathering up a sizeable swag of fossils – and you click to enter the Museum, you click to talk to Blathers the Owl who’s right at the entrance, his opening “hello how can I help you?” takes 3 or 4 clicks, offering him a fossil to look at another 4 clicks, listening to his reaction and explanation of what the fossil is and a usually repeated nugget of news about the animal it came from takes another 8 or 9 clicks, and then you’re back at the “have a look at the next fossil please” screen and you start all over again.

Worse is that you can press B again on most screens to marginally – marginally – boost the speed at which the text squeezes out – adding yet more clicks to each and every interaction with anyone.

If you’ve a light sleeping partner this rules out playing AC:NH in bed as the constant pip-pip of the A and B buttons will drive anyone not playing the game insane.

Another mistake I made early on was inviting my light-sleeping partner’s 6 year old daughter on to my island in the name of festive family fun. The first thing she did, before she even spoke to His Nookness was to run over to my house and steal every object I’d been foolish enough to place outside.

Coronavirus hoarding instincts develop fast in the young of the species it seems.

This dark underbelly of “Banksia Island” made me embrace the Cow Skull hat and Mouldy Dress combo that seemed a fitting response to the distopia in which I found myself.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons - The Darkness

September 2020 – The Fall Off

I wish ACNH no ill will but I do feel it is longer for me. I think the last “event” I noticed was the introduction of Swimming around the start of July.

There is a degree to which other games have taken its place – but also I think it just outwore its welcome. I got my island to 5 stars – I didn’t have Raymond but neither did I care – I hadn’t managed to get rid of that damn chicken despite leaving rotten turnips outside his place for like 4 months.

The little community I’d found on Reddit was nice and supportive and seemingly genuine and for that I am greatful.

I hear that the Biden Harris people – who for the sake of futurists who survived the wreckless vascilations of 2020 – are currently running for the US presidency – have just inserted themselves into the game and are freely offering yard signs. It’s an idea that’s as cute as it is unwelcome.


Animal Crossing New Horisons Biden Harris Campaign

I’ve nothing against Jo & Kamela but part of the special and timely joy of ACNH was that it was the perfect escape from All That Kind of Thing.


But I have written elsewhere here about games without ends and how I have a general distrust of them.

“How do you know when you’ve reached the end?”

The answer is vague and it’s ephemeral but like that famous quote about pornography – you know it when you see it – and I feel like I’ve seen it with Animal Crossing New Horizons.

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