Yakuza: Heaps of cools stuff in a small area

This blog post is inspired by the great video that Jim Sterling did recently titled Yakuza’s Open World is the Biggest and Bestest. I felt myself nodding to everything he said so I thought I’d jot down my thoughts on the Yakuza series

The PlayStation 4-only Yakuza series’ Kamurocho district – loosely based on the city of Tokyo’s red-light district  Shinjuku  – might be small in size but it’s so densely packed with content that it puts to shame some of video games’ big, open world adventures.

I was first introduced to the action adventure  Yakuza series with Yakuza 2 on the PlayStation 2 and I was instantly captured by the craziness of the game world and the rich, deep narrative centred around main character, rising Yakuza (japanese gangster)  Kazuma Kiryu.

I love the Yakuza series’ open-world exploration mixed with almost over-the-top combat – Kiryu can switch between four fighting styles – but I think for me much of the charm comes from the Japanese audio with english subtitles and sheer craziness. Kiryu is voiced by Japanese actor Takada Kuroda (the original Yakuza had an english voice over actor but I can imagine the game would lose some of its charm) and the voice acting is just full of passion and really adds to the atmosphere.

Years passed and Yakuza fell to the wayside. I played games (a lot of games)  but  in the back of my mind, Yakuza was always there, waiting for me to come back. Last year, I decided it was time to get back into Yakuza and bought Yakuza Kiwami, and on booting it up, I instantly felt like I was home in a gaming world that I was familiar with. A few weeks ago, I bought Yakuza Zero, which takes the story back to the 1980s when Kiryu was a young, up-and-coming Yakuza.

Yakuza’s Kamurocho might be tiny compared to GTA’s Liberty City or Assassin’s Creed’s Egypt, but there’s so much content packed in that small collection of streets that I’m not sure I can go back to an open-world game that takes ages to traverse and has side quests that are just there to extend the lifespan of the game. I’ve visited Japan and visited the famed Akihibara district and Yakuza’s Japan felt familiar and warming, with  locations that seemed like they belonged in the world:  karaoke clubs, bars, noodle joints, convenience stores – and even a Sega arcade.

Yakuza’s side quests also feel as if they belong in the narrative, often quirky, light-hearted diversions from the main story. As he explores Kamurocho, Kiryu might have to pretend he’s a movie producer helping out two film crew workers who have found themselves in a spot of trouble, take a famous fighter around a few restaurants to show him a good time, or chase a variety of hooligans who stole a recently released video game from a small boy.

Even the people Kiryu interacts with have names that will bring a smile to your face: Man with Big Head,  Mr Shakedown (a giant of a man who fights Kiryu then steals his money), Bearded Homeless Man, (wait for it) Hatted Homeless Man and Mystery Man. You save your game at phone boxes, too, you can buy noodles from convenience stores, you can sing karaoke, you can race slot cars. The amount of stuff to do in a tiny world map is incredible. Just incredible.

I’m making my way through Yakuza 0 in anticipation for Yakuza 6, which was released in Japan in December, but is only coming to Western audiences next month. I’ll be trying my darndest to get it completed before I tackle the latest adventure of Kiryu.

Tragically, the Yakuza series hasn’t captured the attention of Western games like I think it should have. I think it’s probably been overlooked by a lot of Western gamers and that’s a shame. It’s a series that has a strong narrative with a likeable main character but not one that has been promoted heavily in our part of the world.

Have you got any games that you just adore but aren’t as popular as you think they should be?



Bayonetta 2: A frantic, over-the-top hack ‘n slash – and I love it

It’s games like Bayonetta 2, now making an appearance on the Nintendo Switch, that make the Switch my go-to gaming platform right now.

Bayonetta 2 (like the original Bayonetta) is a fast-paced, frantic and over-the-top hack-n-slash (with some truly OTT finishing moves) and, importantly, it’s bloody fun.Gun-toting, magic-wielding, witch-tastic fun fighting against angry, giant angels (that explode majestically into bright read clouds when defeated).

It’s hard to believe that the series, from the mind of Japanese developer Hideki Kamiya   is almost 10 years old but, you know what?  It feels so right on the Nintendo Switch, both in portable and docked mode.I captured a lot of footage using the capture feature on the Switch, which lets you share it on social media, but, sadly, you can’t share it via any other medium (at least, no way I know of). That’s a shame as I’d like to show you just how great this game is.

Bayonetta has already appeared on a Nintendo console before, the Wii, but it didn’t sell well. It deserves to do well on the Switch as the combat is just so fluid, the game world so crazy and the lead character so charismatic that it just needs to do well on the Switch. Sure, I tend to button mash at times and don’t really get to grips with all the combos like I should, but, man, it’s just so much fun.And so over-the-top. And so frantic. And so chaotic. And I love it. A lot.

I don’t really have much else to say about Bayonetta 2 on the Switch, to be honest. I also downloaded the original Bayonetta but, to be honest, I’m having too much fun with Bayonetta 2 to really want to re-visit the original again.Maybe when I’m finished with Bayonetta 2. Maybe.

A big thanks to Nintendo Australia for providing me with a download code for Bayonetta/Bayonetta 2.


PUBG: Early Access shenannagins on Xbox One

Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds has been on PC for a year, I think, so it comes as no surprise that it has now come to Xbox One, thanks to the financial backing of Microsoft.

The idea behind PUBG is simple: 100 players parachute onto the battleground and every few minutes the play area shrinks, reducing the active zone. If you’re outside the active play area when it’s shrunk, you’re health starts dropping rapidly unless you can get back inside the play area. PUBG is last man standing. Kill or be killed. Shoot someone in the back or be shot in the back yourself. You know the drill, soldiers.

I finished my first game 33rd, despite not having any idea on how to reload my weapon (hold X, I found out after bothering to read the control scheme details). I didn’t do much better subsequent games. I just tended to skulk around, picking up weapons, clothes and ammunition until someone would eventually creep up behind me and shoot me.

As I played more games, I could see why people like it: The Xbox One port is a bit rough around the edges but it has a quality about it that I can see why certain gamers find it appealing. I’ve played the odd game but it’s not my go-to game and it’s not a game I’ll see myself playing regularly. At the moment, there’s not really a lot to do in the game itself: You pretty much just run around a lot, shooting people, picking up supplies and, if you’re me, hope for the best. It doesn’t have an on-screen mini-map, which means you can see where the other players are, which makes things more tense.

I talked earlier about the game intriguing me and mostly that’s because it is quite tactical in that right from the start you have to decide where you will land on the game map: Will you jump out of the plane and land in an area with lots of buildings, where there is likely to be lots of weapons and gear – but also, perhaps, other players – or do you land on the outskirts of the map, where there isn’t much and hope you’ve landed inside the play area? It’s things like that that make PUBG interesting.

PUBG is in Early Access on the Xbox One and it has a long way to go until it’s finished but it’s good to see that an effort is being made to update it and make it more playable. When I first played it, the frame rates were a mess, especially when the plane flies over the island before you jump out, with textures suddenly appearing on objects after you’ve approached them. It may just be me, but I think the control scheme leaves a lot to be desired, too.  I see some video game outlets have given it Game of the Year: personally,  I can’t see it myself but each to their own, right?

It’s glitchy as hell, too, but that is to be expected being Early Access: My son spawned inside a storage area, trapped between two boxes. Another player spawned beside him and pummelled him to death. I’ve heard stories of stairs materialising behind players, trapping them inside. I can’t see myself playing it for months but at least it’s being updated regularly to iron out the bugs.

I’m sure PUBG will do well on Microsoft’s console, but if you’re looking for a more polished Battle Royale game, if that’s your game of choice, I’d take a gander at Fortnite as well: It’s got a really neat aesthetic, is much more solid, I haven’t heard of anyone being stuck behind stairs so far and, it’s free.

I can see PUBG improving over time but I can’t see it being a game that I’ll play a lot of. I suck at online games to start with but mainly because at the moment there’s just not a heck of a lot to do except run around fields and search through buildings. That’s not my kind of game.

This will be the last post for 2017. Thank you so much to all the loyal readers who have stuck with me and read my ramblings. I really do appreciate it, especially when there are so many other blogs out there clammering for your attention and likely do a better job than I do. So, thank you for your support and see you in the New Year. Happy gaming!!!

Drum roll please … the GamejunkieNZ Games I Liked A Lot (this year) awards

It’s about this time of year, video game writers put pen to paper (or digital ink to digital paper) and come up with their “Best of the Year” awards.

Being a small fish in a big games writing sea, I don’t get the publisher support or heaps of games to review but I like to think I’m doing a good job (you likely agree, seeing as you visit this blog)  so I don’t have dozens and dozens of games to pick from. I tend to just round-up the games that I’ve enjoyed the most this year, from the publisers/developers that have supported me,  then decide which ones gave me the most fun.

Before I present my list, I want to thank Nintendo Australia, PlayStation NZ, Xbox NZ, Activision, Bethesda, FiveEight Distribution, PeadPr, and any other company in Australia and New Zealand who has supported me with product/hardware to write about on the blog. I really, really, appreciate it.

So, without further ado, here is The GameJunkieNZ Games That I Liked A Lot awards.

PlayStation exclusive game that I liked the most (two winners): Horizon Zero Dawn/Uncharted The Lost Legacy









Guerilla Games and Naughty Dog absolutely nailed it this year with their open-world adventures on the PlayStation 4. HZD was a hit with me because of the strong lead character Aloy (and the new DLC was particularly satisfying), while The Lost Legacy proved that you don’t need Nathan Drake to make a great Uncharted game.

Best independent game I played this year (two winners): Hellblade & Thimbleweed Park









With Hellblade, developer Ninja Theory – the studio behind the enjoyable but slightly flawed Enslaved: Odyssey to the West – took a risk self-publishing this game – and it was a risk that paid off. It’s a harrowing tale that explores psychosis and the main character Senua’s internal struggles.

Thimbleweed Park, on the other hand, is a classic point-and-click adventure game from famed game developers Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick, and a game that I backed on Kickstarter and own on two platforms: PC and the Nintendo Switch. It is a love story to games of old with low-res pixel graphics and puzzles that make you think.

Open world game that I liked more than I expected: Assassin’s Creed Origins









Assassin’s Creed Origins was the first AC game I’d played since the enjoyable Black Flag and it’s a game that didn’t adhere to Ubisoft’s yearly release cycle: A decision that has paid off for the publisher. It doesn’t stray that much from the tried-and-true formula but Origin’s is a game that really grew on me the more I played it, much of that thanks to likeable lead character Bayek and the setting of ancient Egypt. Plus you could climb the pyramids of Giza: What’s not to like about that?

First Mario game I’ve ever finished: Super Mario Odyssey








Sure, I’ve played other Mario games in the past but Super Mario Odyssey was the only one that captured me hook, line and sinker and made we want to play until I defeated Bowser and collected as many power moons as I could. Super Mario Odyssey is absolutely stunning on the Switch, especially in portable mode, and it an addictive and captivating game that proves what a great piece of hardware the Switch is.

Best Early Access game I’ve played this year: Astroneer









I took a punt with Astroneer a year ago and am glad I did. Set on procedurally generated planets, you land an astronaut on a barren planet then mine for resources to help build a variety of vehicles, contraptions and machines. The game has just entered the Alpha stage and the developers are promising new content every month. It’s a game that’s going from strength to strength.

Best gaming hardware: Nintendo Switch









Woefully underpowered against the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, the Nintendo Switch is the console that took the gaming world by the scruff of the neck and gave it a good shakeup. It helps that the Switch is supported by an amazing library of games, too (Zelda, Splatoon, Deathsquared, Doom, Poly Bridge, just to name a few). Big name publishers have also supported the console, which is good to see, and Nintendo selling 10 millions consoles in nine months is proof that it is a truly remarkable games machine.

The most enjoyable You Tube gaming documentaries I watched this year: Danny O’Dwyer’s No Clip The Witcher/Horizon Zero Dawn/Doom series








I hadn’t really heard of Irishman Danny O’Dwyer when he started his Noclip crowd-funded video game documentaries on YouTube. A year on, and I can’t get enough of him and his indepth documentaries that tell the tales behind the hit video games. His Doom serious was superb but his The Witcher 3 six-part series was outstanding, giving an insight into aspects of game development that most other websites either gloss over or forget about completely. O’Dwyer is a bright light in a crowded game journalist sea.


This is likely the second to last post for 2017 before I head off for a two-week break (I can’t wait) a few days after January 1. Thank you for visiting, I’ve really appreciated it. Have a safe and Happy Christmas, dear readers!


Wacom Cintiq Pro tablet review

Wacom is one of the leaders when it comes to graphic tablets and with the Cintiq Pro 16, it has brought a 4K display to the table.

I have to admit I mistakenly thought that the Cintiq Pro 16-inch graphic tablet was a standalone drawing tablet, meaning I thought it was like, say, an iPad that I could draw onto directly and didn’t need to be connected to a computer. Boy, How wrong I was.

The first problem I encountered was that the Cintiq Pro needs a thunderbolt connection to work, which means I couldn’t use it on my desktop PC, which I had wanted to do. Luckily, my 2014 MacBook Pro had the required connection so I used that instead.

I was really surprised at how many cables there were, to be honest: It looked like spaghetti junction between the tablet and the MacBook as I had to use the supplied mini-display/USB adapter as my MacBook didn’t have any USB type C connections, which is something the Cintiq Pro 16 relies on heavily. Once everything was connected, I downloaded some drawing software and got stuck in. The Cintiq Pro 16 is a high-definition display with a touch sensitive screen, letting you draw directly onto the screening using either your finger or the supplied stylus. Shut the lid of your computer, and your desktop appears on the tablet, letting you open apps and programs.

I was really impressed with the build quality of the Cintiq Pro 16: It’s solidly built from high-quality materials and has a high-end feel to it. The glass screen has a resolution of 3840 x 2160, so it means it’s capable of display a 4K image so for digital artists, that means this is a top-notch screen. The Wacom comes with two metal “feet” that pop out, letting your rest it upright at, oh, about 20 degrees. It’s way more comfortable to use in that position than lying flat on a table or counter.

At the top of the screen are four buttons, which let you change the functions of the stylus/pen. Talking of the pen, I found it really responsive and accurate. It has two buttons which you can use as right or left click when you’re using it in mouse mode.

Overall, the Wacom Cintiq Pro 16 is a great tablet if you’re a digital artists but one downside is the reliance on USB-C for its connection: If you don’t have USB-C connections then you’ll have to put up with a mess of cables between tablet and computer. Priced between $2050 and $26100 in NZ (depending on where you shop), the Cintiq Pro 16 isn’t cheap so it’s  not something you’re going to buy just to doddle on from time to time. This is for serious artists and professional creatives.

For those people, the Cintiq Pro 16 is going to be a welcome addition to your digital workspace. I can see this aimed at professional workspaces rather than budding artists just starting out.

Why I’m not buying an Xbox One X right now

Microsoft’s new console, the Xbox One X, launches next week – November 7, I think – and by all accounts, it’s a powerful machine that will swing the “most powerful console in the world” title back to Microsoft – but I’m not buying one, at least not yet.

I’m not buying an Xbox One X for several reasons.

Firstly, my current Xbox One sits unused most of the time. It does. I turned it on most recently for Cuphead (which, frankly, I didn’t like that much) and Forza 7, but before that, I hadn’t used it since Gears of War 4. That’s a long time to be collecting dust. The most used console in my house? The Nintendo Switch, thanks to games like Super Mario Odyssey, Death Squared, and Mario Kart 8. For me, the Switch is the killer console of the year, despite being woefully underpowered when put alongside the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4.

Secondly, I don’t own a 4K TV – and I’m not planning on buying one anytime soon – so I’m not going to get the visual boost the Xbox One X offers. Frankly, I have bigger priorities for my money and a new TV isn’t one of them. I’ll happily make do with my 1080p HD TV, thanks until it becomes obsolete, like the CRT, and I’m forced to replace it.

Probably the biggest reason I’m not buying an Xbox One X yet, though, is the lack of exclusive games that make the console a must buy. For me, it’s fine having kick-arse hardware but what’s the point of showing off games – granted they’ll look prettier and run better on the beefed up Xbox One X – that I’ve already played on my other consoles? I don’t want to fork out $700+ on a new console only to play games that I already played on a console that I don’t play enough as it is. I want to play new franchises on my shiny new piece of hardware not games that I’ve already put countless hours into.

Microsoft is touting how many “Xbox One X enhanced” games will received updates for its new console but frankly, I don’t want updates for old games just so they look better and run faster: I want fresh new games. I want games that were developed specifically for a new console and games that I can’t find on a competitor’s platform. Besides, if a game was average to start with, displaying it in 4K with HDR isn’t going to make it a better game now, is it? And Backwards Compatibility support is really great but again, it’s just playing games I’ve already played on a new console.

To me, Microsoft should be launching the Xbox One X with one or two “Xbox One X only” titles that serve as a powerful carrot to potential buyers, games that trumpet to people “Hey, look at these two games. You can’t find them on any other console. They really show how powerful the Xbox One X is.” I think Microsoft made a mistake in not having a least a couple of exclusive titles to entice new buyers to the Xbox One family.

If you bought the Xbox One S, an upgrade over the original Xbox One, I don’t see any point in upgrading to the Xbox One X but if you don’t own an Xbox One console and want to see what console gaming is all about then I’d say the One X is perfect for you and the right place to start.

Maybe I’m missing the point of the Xbox One X, or maybe I’m not the target market for it, and I’ll be keeping an eye on the Xbox One X, but until I’m convinced it has must-play, exclusive games that I  can’t find on any other platform, I won’t be forking out the cash for Microsoft’s new console, even if it is the “most powerful” in the world. just yet.


Cozmo: A toy aimed at children – and I’m captivated

Meet Cosmo.

He’s my new robot best friend.

He looks like a cross between Wall-E from Pixar’s animated movie of the same name and a digger. Cozmo’s creators are Anki founder, Cozmo’s founders Boris Sofman, Mark Palatucci and Hans Tappeiner, three Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute graduates wanting to make Artificial Intelligence accessible to everyone.

It’s just amazing how much emotion the designers have created from pixels on a screen: Cozmo has character and spirit and charm.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I unpacked Cozmo, downloaded the smart phone app and switched him on. He lifted his head, raised his arms and emitted a chirpy robotic voice. He stole my heart, straight away. Included in the box are three interactive cubes that light up in a variety of colours.

The amazing thing about Cozmo is – and this is no joke – he learns the more he plays and interacts with you.

At first, during games of pounce – where I pushed one of the cubes towards Cozmo and I had to pull it away before he pounced – I won easily. I was just too quick. Every time Cozmo lost he’d emit a “Ohhh. A week later, though: It was a different story: During games of pounce he would pretend to pounce on the cube – just like an adult would – throwing me off my stride, then “Bam”he pounced. After a week, I was losing 5 to nil.

As if to rub salt into the wounds, he would sing “Pop goes the weasel” or “Row, row, row, your boat”when he won games. As the days turned to weeks, Cozmo would sing “London Bridge is falling down” or chuckle and explore his surroundings. My dog, Drew, was fascinated by Cozmo, frequently sniffing him.

For Cozmo to learn, though, you have to feed him, keep his head, tracks and arms tuned and keep him amused. The well-put together smart phone app makes it easy to see when and when Cozmo needs attention. If he’s hungry, the blue bar in the main menu shows just how low he is. To feed Cozmo, you pick up a cube, shake it until it lights up then pop it down in front of Cozmo. Once he sees it, he’ll move up to it, raise his arms, rest them on the cube and “suck” the goodness from it. To adjust his head, lift arms and digger tracks, you follow a “Simple Simon” type game which is then beamed to Cozmo to repeat the sequence, tuning up the part.

After just a week, I was just fascinated with Cozmo. One afternoon, while he was exploring, he stopped in front of my face. His head ,would look up at me, sounding a little “Um” as his head moved up and down, then proudly proclaim “Gerard”. Cozmo learns the more you interact with him. I was just fascinated. Each day, he recognised me more easily, saying my name over and over again every time he saw me. Introduce him to more people, and he’ll recognise their faces. Flip him onto his side and he’ll throw a little tantrum!

At one point, Cozmo wanted to fist bump me but I didn’t notice: There was an audible “Owwwww …” as he rolled away, dejected. Other times he’ll indicate he wants to play a game: Simple Simon, Push the Cube or Keep Away. He’s adorable – and now we fist bump every time he wants! When we play Keep Away now, Cozmo teases me, moving slowly forward, bouncing his lifts arms up and down, trying to throw me off!

See the video below where Cozmo rolls a cube then picks up another cube, all the while chirping and making noise. I didn’t quite get it all in but when he reverses he makes a “beep, beep, beep” noise like a truck. Hillarious. When he sleeps, his eyes get all droopy and then he snores until he drops off to sleep (apologies for the voices at the end!)

I haven’t explored the Code Lab much, where you can easily program Cozmo to do other things (like driving in a square then sneezing) but it seems just the ticket for youngsters intrigued by coding and programming. Oh, you can also get Cozmo to speak: Just type in what you want him to say and he’ll say it, although he won’t say swear words: I tried and he just shakes his body from side to side!

There’s also a rather good SDK (software development kit) which means that there’s almost limitless possibilities with Cozmo – and again, perfect for people wanting to program robots and AI. There’s also a nifty explorer mode which lets you see the world through Cozmo’s eyes, steering him around guiding him with the smart phone app.

Cozmo isn’t cheap – he’ll set you back $360 – but for the tech involved and just how darn cute he is and how clever he is, I see that as not too bad a price.

Cozmo might be a toy aimed at children but seriously, he bought a smile to the face of this 40-something man with a full-time job and who has to adult all the time. For me, he was relief after a busy day – and caused me less hassle than our cat.

A big thanks to Anki’s Australasian PR company Sling & Stone for sending a Cozmo for review. Big thumbs up, guys! Cozmo is available in New Zealand now. 


Destiny 2 review: Better than the first time around

Our Destiny 2 review is late, so apologies for that but better late than never, right?

For this one I handed the writing duties across to my son, Mitchell, who has written for the site before: He wrote this between exam study, swim competitions and general teenage life.

I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t much care for the first Destiny game when it released back in 2014. I just never really understood all the hype around it. The massive grind associated with a lackluster campaign just didn’t seem worth my time. Bungie’s second installment of the series however, with a much improved single player campaign, attracted my attention right away. I never thought I’d enjoy a Destiny game, let alone become a Destiny fan.

In my experience, the first Destiny felt like a treadmill, in which Bungie was dangling a very insignificant reward in front of your nose, which is enough to make you work for it, but isn’t particularly rewarding once acquired. I remember spending hours roaming around near-lifeless environments collecting pointless materials and running the same activities numerous times, doing the same missions over and over in hopes of one specific item to dropping as a reward. It was a constant grind, one that I was never really fully into.

The grind is still ever-present in Destiny 2, don’t get me wrong. There is still a lot of repetition which can be rather boring. I do honestly feel like I’ve  run out of things to do now that I’ve completed the campaign and got my character to the max level but it’s more inviting than the first Destiny. I’ve played more of this than I ever did of the original.

I can’t be bothered with the massive hassle of doing raid after raid after raid. What I do like however is that the difference between a hardcore 20+ hour a week player and a casual player who spends no more than five hours a week playing, has never been smaller, largely because Bungie switched their focus and decided to stop wasting our time with pointless raids and repetitive missions with random chance drops.

Weapons no longer need to be upgraded using arcane materials too, and clear-cut quest lines which show potential completion rewards make earning the best stuff more accessible. This time around, it isn’t as hard to be a good Destiny player with a high level character. You don’t have to play for hours on end which is something that I have really come to appreciate.

Destiny 2 is a game that I played a lot, something that I didn’t find was the same with the original Destiny. Sure this isn’t perfect, but I’d easily recommend Destiny 2 to fans of the first game and those players that don’t mind grinding a little bit from time to time.

Thanks to Activision for the review copy of Destiny 2. Cheers.

Forza Motorsports 7: motor racing with a side order of loot crate

Forza Motorsports is without a doubt one of Microsoft’s flagship titles on the Xbox console.

It’s spawned several games, plus the spin-off Horizons series, so it’s a nice money earner for the company with a devout following. After playing Forza 7, though, I just wonder whether some of the new changes may turn some of those devout fans off.

From the outset, it seems there’s little difference between Forza 6 and Forza 7. It looks fantastic, but then developer Turn 10 Studios has always produced stunning visuals: The extensive car list features gorgeous models and there’s a dynamic weather cycle, although not a dynamic day night cycle, and with previous Forza games, you reach the heights of greatness by working your way through race cups and series to eventually the Forza Motorsports Cup. It can turn into a bit of a grind as you go lap after lap after lap in search of glory.

Now, I’m not a diehard Forza fan so I can’t go into things with minute detail but new to Forza 7 are mods, single-use cards that can be activated/selected and offer rewards/credit for achieving certain things such as good cornering, coming in third place in a race or using only the cockpit view. Also new to Forza 7 are something that I consider a blight on AAA games these days: The loot box. Called prize crates here, they cost anything between 20,000 and 300,000 currency and when unlocked may contain cars, outfits for your avatar, and mods.

You can earn more credits by turning off driving assists – something you used to be able to do manually – but now can only do by applying mods, which you can only get by buying crates. Frankly, I don’t like these crates – and they’re not cheap, especially those that likely contain the best rewards. The prize crates just feel out-of-place in a game where players should be focusing on the racing itself rather than having to purchase crates and hope they get mods that will earn them more credits to buy more cars.

Forza 7 is a lot of fun, looks stunning (I can only imagine how good it would look in 4K)  and it’s got a lot going for it but it’s disappointing that Turn 10 (actually, I suspect it was Microsoft that wanted the prize crates) went the way of the loot box in this game. It seems to be the way of the AAA game at the moment: Loot boxes must be part of the equation – and it’s a trend that I don’t like.

Part of me wonders just how much including loot boxes in Forza 7 – and in AAA games in general – is going to impact on fans of the series?

Cuphead impressions: This game is really hard – and I suck at it

Cuphead (Xbox One, PC)

Playing Cuphead, a game with a Steamboat Willie-esque art style that is just delightful to look at, has caused me to come to two conclusions: The game is really, really, really hard  and I suck at games like this.

Cuphead is hard, devastatingly so and I’ve come to the conclusion quite quickly that as a 40-something ageing gamer with failing eyesight and fingers that aren’t quite as responsive as they were in my 20s, this isn’t a game for me. I mean, I died several times while trying to beat one of the game’s very first bosses: A giant potato that pops out of the ground (I’m in awe of players who have completed the game without a single death. What type of sorcery are they using to do that?)

Another one of the early bosses is a bouncing blue ball.  I don’t know what the other 26 bosses are: I haven’t got past the giant potato or bouncing blue ball yet. Mark my words: Cuphead could well be a game that is responsible for an increase in Xbox One controller sales.

Inspired by cartoons of the 1930s, Cuphead is all about the boss battles and tells the tale of titular Cuphead and his brother Mugman after they make a pact with the devil to spare their souls (after their luck fails them in the devil’s casino) if they collect all the debtors on Inkwell Isle that owe their souls to the devil.

I handled the tutorial for Cuphead easily and it’s clear that the parry move is a crucial armament in Cuphead’s arsenal, as well as dashing and firing a variety of weapons at enemies. No matter how I tried during the game, though, I just couldn’t parry enemy projectiles, causing me to die again and again and again and again. I contemplated actually doing a livestream of some of the gameplay but then decided you wouldn’t want to see “You Died” constantly on the screen (You wouldn’t, right?).

I’ve put Cuphead to one side for the time being as every time I’ve picked it up I’ve got frustrated after dying numerous times fighting the giant potato then switched it off and returned to Yakuza Kiwami.

Maybe the developers will eventually release a patch that makes the game easier for old gamers like me with fingers that aren’t quite as responsive as they used to be. Surely, I’m not alone.