In my continuing pursuit of actually playing every game I’ve bought or considered buying (thankfully Game Pass means I don’t have to buy them), here is another set of reviews from the bloated mess I call my gaming backlog. I’m not calling myself a hero for working through my shame pile, but if you want to call me one, I won’t argue.
Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled
Switch, PS4, Xbox One
I remember Christmas 1999 when my sisters and I unwrapped Crash Team Racing — the iconic PS1 game that is, in my opinion, the greatest kart game ever. Mario Kart is good, but CTR is pure smooth, turbo-charged greatness. Nitro-Fueled is a near-perfect recreation; upgrading the original enough to feel modern without altering what made CTR great. Online multiplayer and character customisation are the most obvious additions, but most importantly I was finally able to play as Nitrous Oxide. The Adventure mode is still perfect and even the music and menu sounds are authentic to the original!
I was never a fan of the sequel, Crash Nitro Kart, but its tracks are remade in Nitro-Fueled and they feel right at home. And the Spyro-themed bonus track is incredible, feeling like a high-speed tour through a Spyro game.
While definitely open to new and casual players, CTR has a surprisingly high skill ceiling, with advanced techniques to master, if you have the time and research to learn them, that put you way ahead of regular competitors. I think that’s why despite being such a faithful recreation of a game from 1999, it feels new and modern. Utilising hidden mechanics like Sacred Fire, which I had no idea about when I was young, made it feel like an even more intense version of the game I loved. I might actually be able to beat all the platinum time trials now.
PC, Switch, Xbox One
In Carrion you play as a supernatural monster, which is funny because I hear the Supernatural theme song whenever I read the name of this game. But the monster in this is more sci-fi than mystic, akin to John Carpenter’s The Thing as a creature of moving flesh and tentacles that devours and disguises itself as people. And the result is a ‘reverse-horror’ game unlike almost anything else.
Carrion’s a Metroidvania-style side-scroller, with a focus on exploration and beautifully disgusting movement. It’s a delight to latch your tentacles over surfaces to fly around the environment, or splitting part of your body off so you can squeeze into crevasses to sneak up on those tender humans. It’s fantastic to play as a horror monster and watch people wary of your presence run in fear. The story is even told in an elegant way through muted scenes showing the origins. Not to say it’s a deep or complicated story though; it’s a game about a writhing mass of tentacles after all. The only drawbacks to Carrion are it’s easy to get lost and it’s a tad short. But it never outstays its welcome, so here’s hoping it gets a sequel.
Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection
PC, Switch, PS4, Xbox One
I waited years for Capcom to finally release a Zero legacy collection, and Zero and X are back exactly as they were. Unfortunately, they play awful with a Playstation or Xbox controller. I can’t explain it, but it feels weird and the games are infuriatingly hard because of it (instead of just being ridiculously hard as they were intended). I only recommend you play on the Switch with Joycon D-pad or with a keyboard on PC.
Aside from that, these games are still classic side-scrollers with fantastic boss battles, and a way cooler hero than the standard Mega Man. Just look at his helmet and hair; his whole design is gorgeous. If you like Mega Man, but never played Zero, you are in for a huge treat (unless you’re playing with a controller).
PC, Switch, PS4, Xbox One, Mobile
A short and simplistic puzzle game that’s only a few dollars, Fractured Minds is surprisingly insightful. It’s split into six chapters that focus on different mental health issues, like anxiety and isolation, all within a dreamlike world.
Some of the messaging around mental health is a little dated, but it still feels like an honest and earnest game. It does portray the experience of paranoia and anxiety in a way that nothing else quite has, with a certain innocence and youthfulness. Particularly impressive as Fractured Minds was developed by a then 17-year-old, and inspired by her own battles with anxiety, with most of the proceeds from the game going to charity.
Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown
PC, PS4, Xbox One
The last and only other Ace Combat game I’ve played was Ace Combat 6, and that was only the demo — and I don’t think I even finished it. It was just too much fun doing stunts in a jet and crashing.
And even though it’s still as fun to fly aimlessly, I did finish AC7. A game that knows it doesn’t need to be realistic. Give me ninety-nine missiles, give me a laser canon. Give me boss battles against a giant manta-ray-like plane that launches dozens of drones at me. The mission variety is fantastic, from standard aerial battles, and bombing runs to insane bosses, it utilises its various mechanics well; particularly how clouds are used to avoid radar and missiles (also not realistic but feels strategic). I definitely recommend the three DLC missions too if you can buy them on sale; they’re some of the best and feature an awesome submarine boss that you force out of the ocean.
The one thing I hate is the space elevator at the end of the main campaign. There’s nothing wrong with it — aside from making me realise how terrible I still was at stable flying. I hate that space elevator so much. I hate it.
Excellent game though.
PC, Switch, PS4, Xbox One
I genuinely can’t believe how much I enjoyed this game. I started playing it because of its comic-inspired cel-shaded art style. It looked zany and funny, but I was disappointed when its design seemed a little bare bones and realised its levels were randomly generated (typically a red flag). But it quickly became a surprisingly intelligent and addictive survival looter-shooter.
The gameplay loops centre around raiding ships for gear and materials, all while managing ammo, health and oxygen as you either fight or avoid alien enemies and hazards like gas leaks or overly lethal security systems. So before diving into a ship, careful planning of the safest (or most profitable) path through the ship, along with knowing your best escape routes, is key. Death carries a heavy price, resulting in a loss of most of your items, but I never felt like it was unfair or hopeless, as I was quickly able to get back to speed with some planning. Even though the ships are procedurally generated, it works well for the gameplay, being just predictable enough to allow planning but with enough hazard variety you alert at all times, all while upping the difficulty at a solid pace.
Those are the games I’ve caught up on, so how’s your gaming backlog going? Have you crashed your jet more times than you can count inside of a space elevator? Do you also hate playing classic games with modern controllers? Let us know in the comments!