This week is rather empty, folks. With new consoles coming at the end of the year, the close proximity to Summer, and of course our old pal COVID-19, things are going to be incredibly light over the next three weeks, as my release calendar doesn’t show too many major new releases (there’s a few interesting ports and indies though), and June isn’t looking so hot either. In any case, this is a prefect time to catch up on your back catalog, or pour your time and energy into one of the the three massive JRPGs that have come out recently; Final Fantays VII Remake, Persona 5 Royal, and Trials of Mana.
Someday You’ll Return (PC) – Releases May 5th
From Steam, “Someday You’ll Return is a story-driven psychological horror game about a desperate search for a missing daughter deep in the woods where you swore you’d never return, brought to you by the creative duo behind J.U.L.I.A.: Among the Stars“.
Jay and Silent Bob: Mall Brawl (NES/PC/Switch) – Releases May 7th
Hey, remember that Jay & Silent Bob beat ’em up game that got funded on Fig? No? Neither did I until this showed up. Following in the footsteps of Bloodstained, the developers of Jay and Silent Bob: Chronic Blunt Punch have taken time away from making the main game they promised to backers, in order to create an 8-bit companion title called Jan and Silent Bob: Mall Brawl. Taking cues from well known NES games like Double Dragon and River City Ransom, you play as the titular duo Jay and Silent Bob as they walk around the mall beating the shit out of people for some reason. While the creation of an authentic NES cartridge is a nice touch, if they really wanted to do Mallrats justice they would have made this for the Genesis for all us “Sega Boys”.
Fury Unleashed (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases May 8th
Looking for more retro inspired fun? The long tinkered with Fury Unleashed is finally leaving Early Access on Steam and being released for the three major consoles and PC. I’m not sure how many more Contra clones we can all stand, especially rouge-likes, but I guess one more is okay. Now be a good little piggy and nod your head.
Ports and Re-releases:
John Wick Hex (PS4) – Releases May 5th
I’m not sure which celebrity I ironically like the most, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, or Keanu Reeves? Who did hipsters pretend to really like before those three, Abe Vigoda?
SuperMash (PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases May 8th
This is probably the only game this week that I actually have any interest in. When it was released last December for PC I was intrigued, but not interested in using the Epic Games Store in order to play it. Now I don’t have to worry about that, as this will make a fine addition to my Nintendo Switch library.
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 years ago:
Things weren’t too much more exciting in the past either, with each of our three notable titles being rather ho-hum. You can’t have fun every month, I suppose.
Lost Planet 2 (PS3/Xbox 360) – Released May 11th, 2010: Wiki Link
When the first Lost Planet game released for the Xbox 360 in 2007 it was met with praise from both critics and players for its stunning graphics and intense boss battles, with some likening them to the fights from Shadow of the Colossus. However, there were problems to be found, with most agreeing that the protagonist was bland and poorly developed, and that the story was convoluted and poorly written. This didn’t stop the game from being a huge seller, and it would sell over a million copies in the U.S. after only two months on the market. A sequel was greenlit and had a 2010 release date set. Lost Planet 2 would use an updated version of the first game’s engine, keeping things mostly the same but allowing for a few differences, including vehicles that could carry multiple players. This was a huge deal as Lost Planet 2 was made for multiplayer, even though you could play solo with AI squad mates, the game would function best with four player co-op. With a stronger emphasis towards inline play, this also meant that there would not be a core protagonist, but instead a blank slate for players to create their own avatar, thereby cutting down on most of the need for character development. Taking place ten years after the events of the first game, the planet E.D.N. III is flourishing, with jungles and other habitable areas, and that colonization has worked for the most part. However, monsters and rogue bands of humans are causing trouble, so you and your squad of mercenary buddies take on a job to eradicate some threats from a nearby settlement. It turns out, though, that this is all a set up, and you’ve been marked as a threat, same as the other groups, so just who is toying with you and what do they want? Things then start to take a turn for the worst as ice and snow begin to slowly creep their way back into newly salvaged areas of the planet. Critics weren’t overly thrilled with the game, but they didn’t hate it, giving mixed reviews. They seemed to enjoy the multiplayer aspect, had some kind words for the design of the monsters, and of course thought the graphics were great, but the same problems the first game had (poor character development and a bad story) persisted. Not only that, but the controls got worse, making the game a real slog to play when compared the more fluid and fun Gears of War or Left 4 Dead. A third game in the series, a prequel, called Lost Planet 3 would be farmed out to a Western developer for a 2013 release. It too received a mixed reception (I’ll let you guess what critics liked and didn’t like about it), and since then the franchise has been dormant, seemingly lost to time.
Mr. Driller (PlayStation) – Released May 10th, 2000: Wiki Link
The puzzle game genre had been well established in the 15 years since Tetris was released on PCs. You had the immediate aftermath of clones and Tetris-like’s flooding the market, but as the fervor died down you’d see some more thoughtful titles come out. Behind the scenes at Namco, developers were trying to figure out something to do with their well know, but dormant, Dig-Dug franchise. The idea of turning it into a puzzle game was intriguing so a developer named Yasuhito Nagaoka started working up a prototype. He brought the game to director Hideo Yoshizawa who thought the game was great. They decided to develop it in secret and not show it to any of the top executives until it was finished. Over time the Dig-Dug connections started to fade, particularly with the introduction of a new protagonist, and the name Mr. Driller was chosen. Taking a kind of reverse Tetris approach, players would drill their way through screen after screen of colored blocks, causing a chain reaction of blocks to fall down from above them, in a race to reach the finish before they got smashed. As the player goes down further and further into the cavern, they would find their air supply dwindling, forcing them need to collect air canisters randomly sprinkled throughout each stage in order to survive. The team’s gamble paid off and the Namco brass thought the game looked great. It was rolled out to arcades where it was met with critical and financial success, prompting Namco to port the game to multiple home consoles. The PlayStation port was, unsurprisingly, adored by critics and players, with praise going to the game’s quirky look and fast paced fun. There have been six major follow-ups to the game over the years, and while it isn’t a true Dig-Dug sequel, it does still feature some characters and elements from that series, making it a quasi spin-off. Like Lost Planet, though, we haven’t really see much of Mr. Driller in recent years, which I find a bit odd. You would have thought a Switch version would have come out by now, but alas, there is none. It is, however, available on the ill-fated PlayStation classic, if you want to check it out there…or not.
Remote Control (NES) – Released May 1990: Wiki Link
Back in the “before times”, MTV used to play nothing but music videos all day. Just think about it, a channel about music that only played music, kind of weird, right? NOT! Well eventually executives at MTV thought this “all music, all the time” nonsense was getting old, so why not spruce it up with something exciting, fresh, and fun (not to mention cheap). Thus the very first original MTV program was created, the smash hit game show Remote Control. Despite my earlier gripe, it was actually really neat to see something different on MTV aside from the music videos, and hey, its not like Remote Control was totally devoid of music. Let’s back up, so the general premise of Remote Control is that long time TV fan Ken (comedian Ken Ober) was so obsessed with game shows that he decided to make one in his mother’s basement and invite people over to answer questions about his favorite subject…television. With topics that included classic sitcoms, kung-fu flicks, famous commercials, television personalities, and of course The Brady Bunch, contestants would try to outwit each other in a race to see who the ultimate couch potato was. In the final round, to finally tie it back into MTV, the contestant with the highest score would have to quickly name several music artists based on a music video clip, usually while they were being distracted in some strange fashion. The show was irreverent and edgy, perfect for the target demographic MTV was looking for, and was populated by a group of up and coming young New York comedians, including pre-SNL castmembers Colin Quinn and Adam Sandler, and spoken word, cigarette fiend, Dennis Leary. These comedians would come out and perform certain questions as skits, giving the show another “cool point” over more established game shows. Notable behind the scenes talent included writer Chris Kreski who would work on two other MTV shows, Celebrity Deathmatch and Beavis & Butt-Head, co-write biographies for Barry Williams, AKA Greg Brady, and William Shatner, as well as write for both the WWF and Craig Kilborn’s version of The Daily Show. Producer Joe Davola would go on to have a very prolific career in television, developing In Living Color and The Ben Stiller Show at Fox, returning to MTV to shepherd it through the 90’s and create the MTV Films brand, and then go on to co-found Tollin/Robbins Productions which had a string of hits on Nickelodeon and the CW. At this point you might be asking why the hell I’m talking about a TV show in this column, well, in 1990, the same year Remote Control went off the air, a video game version was released for the NES. It’s not really anything special though, with piss poor graphics and none of the charm of the show, it’s mostly just a pop culture trivia dispenser, dated pop culture I might add. It’s slow, ugly, and worst of all boring. It didn’t light world on fire in any capacity and is likely best left forgotten.