Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020: Come fly with me

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Greetings, dear readers! It’s been a little quiet around here lately so apologies [again, that damn day job seems to get in the way]

Lately, I’ve been playing a fair bit of Microsoft’s Flight Simulator 2020 and I love it: It’s the perfect antidote in these crazy times when there is no overseas travel in sight for some time, I think.

Seriously, I love Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020. So much so that I’m working on finding a flight stick and throttle combination so I can get more control than the fairly old Saitek Cyborg Evo joystick that I’m using.

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 is the sort of game that I think is best left to pictures and videos and not long paragraphs of text so I thought I’d post a few photos that I’ve captured from the game and some captures I took of a few flights over the past week.

I’ve flown to Melbourne [and seen the crazy monolith that has sprouted up], Brisbane, New York, Wellington, Lake Tekapo and around my home town of Christchurch, NZ, this week. Where do you reckon I should head to next?

Byte-sized review: Fall Guys Ultimate Knockout (reviewed on PC)

Fall Guys Ultimate Knockout  – a game show-style Battle Royale featuring 60 colourful jellybeans that are systematically eliminated as each round unfolds – is taking the world by storm.

It seems Fall Guys is the gaming darling at the moment – I’m told it sold 2 million copies on Steam since August 4 – and from the outset, it’s not hard to see why: It’s got an undeniable charm about it with its bright colours, cute characters and bouncy music as players navigate a variety of mini-games designed to slowly eliminate players until only one remains. It’s also nice to see an Battle Royale game where there isn’t an assault rifle, rocket launcher or frying pan to be seen.

Fall Guys is an assault on the senses, too, and can be chaotic and frantic one moment then frustrating and confusing the next as you avoid rotating paddles, disappearing tiles and other players.

Sadly, my experiences with it swings more towards the frustrating, with my constant inability to progress much further than the first round, which means I can either watch the remaining rounds as a spectator or quit the game and find another one [and inevitably go through the same process].

Luckily, each round is no more than a few minutes long so it means each game is probably over within 10 minutes so you won’t need to wait that long for the next one, but for me, the frustration of constantly missing the cut just outweighed any fun I was having with it. I can see Fall Guys perfectly suited to someone who maybe just wants to play for 30 minutes or so then leave it until the next day. It’s also perfectly suited to young players as there is no violence or bad language [unless its from mum or dad cursing at being eliminated – again.]

I love that a cutesy, colourful game like this is taking the online world by storm and that so many of my online friends love it, but – and I feel kind of bad for saying this – I’ve decided it’s not for me, I’m afraid, and that’s OK.

Nintendo’s Ring Fit Adventures still popular

It’s been a busy few days so here’s some news …

Price aggregation site PriceSpy tells me that Nintendo’s Ring Fit Adventures claimed the top spot for as most clicked-on game for the second month in a row.

Liisa Matinvesi-Bassett, New Zealand country manager for PriceSpy, says:  “Over the past few months, we’ve certainly noticed more of a presence from Nintendo Switch games placing amongst the top three spots on our popularity board.

Martinvesi-Bassett says:  “Based on the total number of clicks received, despite launching in October last year, June’s most popular game was found to be Nintendo Ring Fit Adventure.

“Whilst price drops can often attract gamers to click more on older game releases, we believe this not to be the case for the rise in popularity for Nintendo Ring Fit Adventure, as the price point has remained fairly static since it first launched.

“Instead, a big contributing factor that may have led to the rise in popularity for this particular game is Covid-19 and lock down, as people had to stay in and they wanted to stay active and feel motivated.”

Martinvesi-Bassett says it was reported globally that Nintendo Ring Fit Adventure was sold out, which most likely occurred as a result of all of the lockdowns that were taking place. “Such news most probably also contributed to the increased consumer demand here in New Zealand,” she says.

Carrion (Nintendo Switch) review

Carrion is a horror game with a twist: You are the monster in the dark, hunting the humans – not the other way around.

In what has been described by its creators as a “reverse horror”, you control a red amorphous tentacled blob that escapes confinement in a secret research facility and must escape.

The publisher behind Carrion is Devolver Digital, a breath of fresh air in the games industry that is, to be honest,  groaning under the weight of companies like EA and Ubisoft who trot out the same formulaic games time and time again.

Devolver champions the indie [independent] developer, like Phobia Game Studios the team behind Carrion, allowing them to release their games to an audience that they might not otherwise have had access to – it’s smart business practice and Devolver’s actions have paid dividends for both gamers and it alike.

Carrion is Metroidvania in style, with the monster having to unlock doors to progress to the next location and that often involves backtracking to locations you’ve visited before and pulling levers that will unlock chambers in another area.

Sometimes the monster will have to deposit some of its biomass into watery pools so that it reduces in size, allowing it to squeeze ever so slightly through panels that are too tight for a large mass of gelatinous goo to fit through so it can fire sticky webs to hard-to-reach switches and levers.

Throughout the research facility are terrified scientists and armed soldiers that the monster can taunt with its roar – then devour, with some of them helping him grow in size. It’s not all beer and skittles, though, with later locations having tougher foes that require a bit of tactical nouse to outwit [here’s a tip: doors ripped off from their hinges are a great help in taking our unsuspecting enemies.] The monster also has echolocation that helps locate other deposits of biomass, which acts as save points.

Carrion loses a little momentum sometimes, especially in flashback sequences where the monster has visions of the scientists that originally found it, but overall, I enjoyed my time immensely – with one caveat: It frustrated me more than once that there wasn’t some form of in-game map [albeit an optional small one.]

I get that the developers were wanting you to feel like you were an evolving blob, not sure where you are, so having a map to find your next goal would break that immersion, but I found myself getting lost numerous times, unsure where to go.

I eventually had to resort to watching a YouTube play through just so I could see what I had to do to solve the section I was stuck on. It also required some serious back tracking to previous locations to find a switch that I should have flicked or a containment area I should have breached to gain the ability to become invisible and pass through security lasers\.

Bottom line is I had a great time with Carrion – the no-map frustrations aside. It’s also perfectly suited for the Switch and was a nice antidote to a busy day in the office.

For gamers always wanting to be the ‘bad monster”, Carrion is your chance to be that monster.  Go forth and chomp, blobs.

Death Stranding (PC review)

This review was originally published over at Koru-Cottage, another site I write for.

Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding is a game that polarised gamers when it came out on PlayStation 4 and you had two camps. Those that saw it almost as the second coming as one of the best games they’d ever played.  Versus those that found it good looking game hindered by repetitive gameplay.

I never played Death Stranding on PlayStation 4, but did play Metal Gear Solid V on the console and wasn’t a fan. It just didn’t gel with me. I just didn’t get it.

It was with some trepidation that I agreed to look at Death Stranding on PC when asked by the esteemed editor of this fine publication. I was curious to see how it played on a PC with more powerful hardware than a PS4. Also how Guerilla’s Decima game engine – which was used in Horizon Zero Dawn – scaled to a PC. Where there are a wide range of hardware variables at play, unlike consoles which are standardised in their design and hardware.

Players control Sam Porter Bridges (played by The Walking Dead actor Norman Reedus). Broken down to its core elements – it’s a game where you play a courier in the future (Sam Bridges), tasked with reconnecting a fractured America. He does this by delivering vital packages from point A to point B, all the while reconnecting the UCA (United Cities of America) to a network that will reunite them.

It’s kinda weird, man

Let’s be honest here, Death Stranding is a weird game. I mean, in one encounter with the game’s ghostly enemies – BTs – a trike I was riding got stuck in some black goo that rose up from the ground. A giant tentacled whale then dropped from the sky, ate me, then when I found my body (after floating through water), a giant crater had suddenly been created, surrounded by dead fish. I wish I’d remembered to get a capture of it: It was wild. Seriously, WTF, Hideo?

In another encounter, the aforementioned tentacled whale returned, but I threw three grenades made out of Sam’s blood at it and it exploded in a shower of gold flakes. Another time, I clearly overloaded poor Sam with too many containers, causing him to stumble and fall, dropping all his cargo and causing the baby strapped to his chest in a pod – a BB which can help Sam sense the BTs – to cry. Again, WTF, Hideo?

Death Stranding PC - Norman

Anyhoo, this review is focusing more on the technical aspects of this PC port. How it looks, how it works with mouse and keyboard and, importantly, whether higher frame rates mean a better gaming experience. [Spoiler alert: of course they do].

better, stronger, faster on pc?

The tweakable graphics options for this PC version of Death Stranding aren’t massive but there is enough to show that the Decima engine on which this game is built is hugely scalable if you’ve got a moderately good graphics card (ie current or last generation). Kojima Productions have clearly spent time getting this conversion right.

You can customise the level of graphics quality you want [I ran a mix of very high and high settings]. There’s no tweakable FOV slider, which will frustrate some people, but a really nice touch is that you can select the maximum frame-rate, which goes from 60FPS right up to 240FPS.

I’m running an AMD Radeon RX580 – a still capable GPU but not current generation – and I  locked the frame rate cap at 120FPS.It’s liberating at how much smoother game play is when you’re not locked at 30 frames per second like with console games.

With my RX580, I was averaging 100 frames per second. I can only imagine how high the frame rates are with a top-end GPU like an RTX2080 or higher.

Death Stranding already looked good on the PlayStation 4 but it really does look stunning on PC. With highly detailed environments, characters and weather effects – it just shows how talented the team at Kojima is.

If you’ve got the hardware, you will be impressed with how good Death Stranding looks. I did notice a few stutters, however, in early cinematic sequences which seemed to sort themselves out after a quick restart.

Death Stranding PC - Tricycle the fun!

keyboard or traditional mouse & keyboard?

Using the mouse and keyboard took a little getting used to for me as lately I’ve been more used to using a controller. Using the standard W-A-S-D set up for movement was familar and worked. I had to stretch my fingers a bit when using V for melee combat against MULEs but it was doable. You can use a controller. Although I had no luck using my wired Xbox 360 controller which the game wouldn’t recognise.

The game has a comprehensive photo mode (all the photos in this review were captured using it) and it brings a tonne of options for in-game photographers.

However it took me a while to work out how to actually take a photo: There is no on-screen “capture” button. It was only after a bit of sleuthing using Dr Google that I found you have to use either Steam’s photo capturing software or something like nVidia or AMD’s photo capturing solutions to take a screen shot. It’s a bit finnicky so an actual on-screen “capture” button would be a nice addition.

Death Stranding PC - wind in my hair

I’m more hours into a Hideo Kojima game than I’ve ever been before and you know what? I actually think I’m starting to like it. I’m not sure whether it’ll completely win me over but I’ve found myself kind of enjoying creeping through its BT-infested plains and silent valleys.

Death Stranding is one of the most polarising games in recent memory and I’m still to be convinced that Hideo Kojima is a genius. The bottom line is it is absolutely stunning on PC and provides frame rates that only a current generation console could dream of.

To that end, I have high hopes for games like Horizon Zero Dawn, another Sony game which is also PC bound and uses the same Decima graphics engine. It’s a pretty exciting time to be a PC gamer.

Norman Reedus Winkie

D-Link DIR-X1560 Wi-fi 6 router review

I’ve always been a fan of D-Link routers so was interested to see whether it’s new Smart DIR-X1560 wi-fi 6 would “unleash” the “lightening fast” speeds that the marketing brochure promised me.

D-Link seems to targeting the connected/smart home market with this wi-fi 6 router as it says the AX1500 is the “ultimate router for the connected home”, perfect for device-heavy homes and offering more bandwidth without affecting data-intensive applications like 4K streaming and gaming.

D-Link says wi-fi 6 (which uses the 802.11ax protocol) delivers speeds up to 2 to 3 times faster than 802.11ac routers and offers up to 1200 Mbps on the 5GHz band and 300 Mbps on the 2.4GHz band.

Out of the box, the DIR-X1560 is a pretty bare bones router offering four gigabit LAN ports, an WAN port, a WPS connection button and the power button at the back  – and that’s it. There’s no anti-malware protection and parental controls are fairly basic.

It’s also quite a bit smaller than the DIR 3060, too, with four antennae instead of six like on the DIR 3060.  There’s also no USB port so when you need to update the router’s firmware you’ll need to do it via the internet and not using a USB stick. It also supports Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, but I didn’t test out those features.

Setting up the DIR-X1560 was super simple like most of the other D-Link routers I’ve used  and you can either scan the QR code in the supplied documentation and use D-Link’s smartphone app or connect it to the internet via ethernet then visit the D-Link site to complete the setup. I chose the QR code/app route and it was hassle free: Within a few minutes I was up and running and connect and the unit had even upgraded its firmware.

My five-year-old home is internally wired with ethernet ports in various rooms (ie study, bedroom, kitchen, family room) so I can plug devices directly into the walls to ensure consistent internet speeds but the services panel where everything technical enters the property is located in the garage about 15 metres away from the main living areas  – and that’s what the DIR-X1560 was plugged into.

I tested the speed of the wi-fi from three rooms in my house: The main bedroom (which is one of the closest rooms to where the router is situated), the study/spare room and the kitchen/dining area.

The bedroom speed test returned around 38.5Mbps down and 34.5Mbps up, the study, which is about 12m or so away from the router, returned speeds around 25Mbps down and 15Mbps up, while the the kitchen/dining room gave speeds of around 10Mbps down and 11Mbps up [Not spectacular speeds from the kitchen but the signal had to travel from pretty much one end of the house to the other, passing through several walls on the way.]

My main test of the DIR-X1560 was to stream countless hours of Netflix and Neon (a New Zealand-based streaming service) across a variety of devices (Samsung smart TV, Apple iPad, Macbook pro) – often two of them at the same time – and I experienced no lag or drops in the connection or quality from the moment I set it up. It provided perfect speeds for interruption-free streaming.

Look, the DIR-X1560 isn’t the most feature-packed wi-fi 6 unit –  if you want more features and more LAN ports you’ll have to look elsewhere – and I get faster speeds from my DIR 3060 but for $NZ279/$AU249, it’s a solid entry level router that delivers good speeds if you’re wanting to head down the wi-fi 6 route.

Ghost of Tsushima review: Way of the samurai

Tsushima is an island situated between the Tsushima Strait and the Korea Strait, approximately half way between the Japanese mainland and the Korean peninsula.

According to Japanese mythology, Tsushima was one of the eight original islands created by the Shinto deities Izanagi and Izanami and its two islands have a long history and was  an important trading post during feudal Japan, which was invaded by the Mongols between 1274 and 1281.

In 1274, the first Mongol invasion of Tsushima killed a great number of the island’s inhabitants and it’s with this historic backdrop that development studio Sucker Punch has set its latest creation Ghost of Tsushima – and I rather liked it [That’s the short version but I’d be rather thankful if you stuck around to the end as it took me a while to get these words just how I wanted them].

Sucker Punch has a long and illustrious history with PlayStation 4 and it kicked off its PlayStation 4 relationship with the rather excellent inFamous Second Son and now as we near the end of a console generation it ends it with PlayStation 4 exclusive Ghost of Tsushima, first announced way back in 2015.

The game opens with the Mongol invasion of Tsushima and Jin Sakai is one of the last remaining samurai, left for dead and his uncle Lord Shimura  captured, presumed dead. Leading the Mongols is Khotun Khan, the nephew of Ghengis Khan, and a brutal, well-studied enemy who offers the people of Tsushima a bleak future: Bow to him or they will die.

Jin is found and nursed back to health and he vows to rally the splintered factions across Tsushima to his join his cause, defeat the Khan and reclaim Tsushima.

As a highly trained samurai, throughout the game Jin constantly battles internal demons as he tries to reconcile what it means to be a samurai while being forced to evolve his tactics to face a new, more brutal enemy, something unlike the Japanese had seen before.

As a child being trained by his uncle, Jin was taught the ways of the samurai: “Loyalty to our lord, control of our emotions, fight bravely, and honour the legacy of clan Sakai.” As his legend grows, Jin must decide does he kill stealthily to become the Ghost or challenge foes face-to-face as is the way of the samurai?

I played Ghost of Tsushima from start to finish with how I personally feel is the most appropriate way the game should be played: With the Japanese language track and English subtitles. It just didn’t feel right to me to play a game set in feudal Japan and featuring samurai in any other way, at least not in my first play through.

Central to combat is something called resolve, which is earned by killing enemies, parrying attacks and completing tasks. Resolve can be used to activate special attacks, as well as used to replenish your health when it falls dangerously low.

Completing story quests earns Jin technique points which can be used to upgrade his stances and combat tactics, allowing him to be a stronger fighter, or unlock throwable weapons such as kunai (knives), sticky bombs (which sticks to an enemy before exploding) or wind chimes (which can be used to distract an enemy).

Sucker Punch has made a point of mentioning that GOT doesn’t have an on-screen pointer to tell you where your objective is – and they’re right: Apart from a small line of text in the top left corner showing the current objective title and how far you are from your destination is, the screen is devoid of any other elements.  It is a minimalist’s dream and a recent patch brought an even more sparse UI (recommended for “expert players”, apparently).

So if there’s no on-screen objective marker, how the heck do you know where to go? By following the wind, my friend, by following the wind. If you swipe up on the Dualshock 4’s touchpad,  gusts of wind blow in the direction you need to go. It’s effective and is frankly refreshing to find a game that is using the technique.GOT is very much a game where you look for visual cues to tell you something is nearby or where you’re going: Tori gates point you to cliff top shrines that grant you charms that help in defensive and offensive moves; yellow birds flying to hot springs where you can soak to recover health or religious monuments; foxes lead you to inari shrines.

Visual cues also play an important part in combat: From the yells of Mongol archers which indicate they are about to unleash arrows on your to the red glint of an enemies weapon, meaning an unblockable attack is coming and you need to roll out of the way.

Then there are the standoffs where Jin challenges opponents to lethal one-on-one face offs. Press, hold and release the triangle button just as the enemy strikes and Jin will kill the enemy with once slice of his razor-sharp katana. A downed fow will stagger forward briefly, grasping his neck, blood spurting from the wound, before crumpling to the ground, a lifeless body.

By the mid-point of the game, I had maxed out Jin’s standoff ability, enabling him to take down three enemies in quick succession during a standoff encounter  (if I didn’t screw it up, of course), each strike captured in glorious slow motion.

There has been talk online by many that the combat looks Sekiro like: It’s nothing like Sekiro a game I downright hated and gave up on. GOT is all about learning attack patterns, parrying blows and striking hard and fast.

Make no mistake, though, the combat can be brutally unforgiving, especially if you get surrounded by a group consisting of the game’s four main enemy types: Sword wielders, shield carriers, spear bearers and big dudes [but I just call them tanks because that’s what they are] and crucial to defeating them all is mastering the four “stances”: Wind, stone, water and moon, each more suited to a particular enemy.  You’ll find yourself switching between stances on the fly as you tackle all the Mongels have to offer.

I mastered the combat but even late in the game I was still getting my arse handed to me on a plate sometimes when I managed to get surrounded by too many heavy enemies or I screwed up a stand off. If I have one piece of advice it’s this: Use the right stance against the right enemy and max them all out as soon as possible.

As Jin becomes more powerful and his legend grows, he gains the power to terrify nearby enemies through the sheer brutality of some of his attacks and frightened foes will run off, too scared to face you. Assassinations are brutal, too, with sprays of claret erupting from the chests or necks of hapless Mongels.

I have to talk about the side quests because they’re incredibly well written and varied but, importantly, feel a natural extension of the main narrative and not just tacked on to pad the story out. It might be a woman barricaded up in a remote wooden cottage who requires medicinal herbs that mongols at a nearby camp stole from her or a quest to find a mysterious vengeful spirit that rewards you with a mystical power that comes incredibly handy in combat against some of Mongol’s more formidable warlords.

There is so much to discover and much of the time you’ll just stumble across things, be it side quests or points of interest.

Ghost of Tsushima starts off slow, perhaps too slow for my liking, with Act one rather pedestrian at times and I did wonder at one point “Does it get better than this?”. It does and once you start upgrading Jin’s abilities the game opes up dramatically, combat is more free-flowing and the narrative gallops ahead.

For all that is excellent with Ghost of Tsushima, it is still lumbered with the odd tired old gaming tropes from time to time, like instant fail stealth sections if you’re spotted by an enemy and a “Follow this person of interest for a bit to see where they go but don’t get spotted” mission. Thankfully, that one didn’t last long but I had flashbacks to the Assassin’s Creed games I’ve played with its stealth mechanic.

I also encountered the odd “Return to the tale zone” messages (complete with a countdown timer) after I’d apparently stepped outside the prescribed area for an active tale. Aren’t we past this type of mechanic this late in the current generation? Here’s hoping the new generation will see an end of those tired cliched tropes.

Animation is generally top notch, especially in combat, but from time to time you’ll notice Jin’s feet not quite sitting right as he wanders about and climbing is not as smooth as I’d hoped for.

Visually, Ghost of Tsushima is stunning, which you’ll hopefully see in the screen shots peppered throughout this review  – and it gets more stunning as you move through the game world. It’s particularly nice to see that in an industry where many of its products are so often dominated by browns and greys, Ghost of Tsushima is a burst of vibrant freshness, with the island of Tsushima bursting with explosions of colour: Golden yellows, vibrant purples, bright reds and greens, piercing blues and glowing orange.

There has been much talk about the Kurasawa mode which pays homage to the movies of Japanese director Akira Kurasawa and it’s a nice touch, with the black and white image featuring film grain and more dramatic camera angles, but, personally, I couldn’t play the game from start to finish like that. I switched to the mode for a few minutes to see what it was all about then reverted back to the normal mode.

 

For those video game photographers, GOT also has got you covered, with a great photo mode. I found myself pausing the game and framing photos far too often: Before too long I’d captured 3.7Gb of images and video, some I can show here, others I can’t until after the game is out in the wild, so to speak. It’s an amazingly comprehensive photo mode, too, with a huge number of tweakable options including a black and white mode, the ability to determine the amount of on-screen details and a day-night cycle.

By the time the credits rolled on the main story, I had found 12 of 49 fox dens (yes, you can pet the foxes), gained two of the four mystic powers, soaked in six of the eight hot pools, visited six of the 16 Shinto shrines (all atop rocky peaks) and visited three of the eight lighthouses. My goal is to find everything this game has to offer, no matter how long it takes, and I reckon I’ve already sunk more than 35+ hours into it (an hour counter would be really helpful), with my play time including at least two six hour sessions. I plan to take my time and discover al the hidden locations and mop up the remaining Mongol stragglers.

The bottom line is I enjoyed Ghost of Tsushima immensely and while it doesn’t fundamentally do anything radically different from all the other open-world games out there, I enjoyed the narrative and its characters.

If you plan to play it, I have this advice: Don’t rush it. Take your time, explore the world, soak in the atmosphere, discover what lies behind that hills, over that rise, behind that stand of trees. Take. Your. Time.

With Ghost of Tsushima, Sucker Punch has delivered a wonderful closing chapter that not only fittingly celebrates the Japanese samurai but is a fitting farewell to this Sony console generation.

*Thanks to PlayStation New Zealand for the advance copy of Ghost of Tsushima. I completed the main campaign on a PlayStation Pro.

New Cyberpunk 2077 trailer

CD Projekt Red, famed for its Witcher series, has released a new trailer for its next open-world action RPG game Cyberpunk 2077, which you can watch above.

Members of the games writing community have also had time with the game (I’m sure that was an interesting exercise in logistics, given the current global pandemic), spending time with the first few hours, and previews are up about their foray into Night City, but personally, I’m trying to watch as little as possible: I want to go into Cyberpunk 2077 as fresh as possible.

That said, I can guarantee that I’m going to be playing Cyberpunk 2077 as my children pre-ordered the game for me on PlayStation 4 as a Father’s Day present [Father’s Day in New Zealand is in September] – but I had been expecting to play it in April, as many gamers had been hoping, until it was delayed –  and now it’s been delayed until November this year [which is, suspiciously, the same time that many expect the next-generation PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series to be out].

Also, it seems CD Projekt Red & Netflix have teamed up to produce a new anime show Cyberpunk Edgerunners which takes place in the same universe as Cyberpunk 2077. Coming out inj 2022, a media release about the series says it’s a “standalone, 10-episode story about a street kid trying to survive in a technology and body modification-obsessed city of the future. Having everything to lose, he chooses to stay alive by becoming an edgerunner—a mercenary outlaw also known as a cyberpunk.”

You can watch the launch trailer here.

Anyone else planning on checking out Cyberpunk 2077?

 

Win with Pricespy & GamejunkieNZ

Good evening.

I originally planned to run this competition a week ago but, yeah, life got in the way ….

New Zealand has just moved into alert level 1 so to celebrate that monumental event, we’ve teamed up with PriceSpy to offer one reader the chance to win two games from Pricespy’s top five most searched for video games in April.

Liisa Matinvesi-Bassett, New Zealand country manager for PriceSpy, says even though Kiwis were unable to buy games during lockdown, it didn’t deter them from clicking on some of the latest new releases.

“For example, Final Fantasy VII – Remake for PlayStation 4 and Animal Crossing: New Horizons for Nintendo Switch were found to be the most popular games shoppers clicked on during April.

“Animal Crossing: New Horizons in particular has performed exponentially for Nintendo around the globe. Even faced against the COVID-19 pandemic, Nintendo reportedly sold 13.41million copies worldwide over the first six weeks of release, with many retailers selling out completely.”

PriceSpy found that in New Zealand, Animal Crossing: New Horizons still proved to be extremely popular however it was Final Fantasy VII – Remake that pipped it to the post in April, claiming overall top position.”

How to enter: To be in to win two games from Pricespy’s top five most searched games for April, send me an email at gamejunkienz@gmail.com, telling me what game you’re most looking forward to this year.

The competition is only open to New Zealand residents and the winner will be drawn (by me) sometime on Tuesday, June 16. I will then forward the winner’s email to Pricespy which will forward the games to the winner. Simple.

Possession 1881: A creepy point-and-click adventure

Sometimes its the intriguing emails that capture your attention the most.

Danielle Lemky, who runs Canadian indie game maker End of Line Studios, emailed me the other day after stumbling across an article I did about adventure games when I was still employed as a journalist with Fairfax NZ/Stuff way back in 2013.

Her email started: “Hello GameJunkienz (Or should I say Old Man Gamer?)!” I wasn’t sure whether to be miffed being labelled an Old Man Gamer, which to be fair I probably am, or impressed. Either way, I was intrigued enough to write about the Lemky’s first game Possession 1881 so points to Danielle and Jared for getting in touch.

Here’s what they told me about the game, which is described as an occult-themed point-and-click adventure: “Possession 1881 is a classic adventure game, and as such, players must find clues and see connections between objects to solve puzzles, which will allow players to progress through rooms within an old Victorian mansion.

“Clues can be found in many places such as in notes, in books, on walls, on objects, or even within the animations of objects.  The clues and the rooms of the mansion include facts from history, archaeology, music, science, and the occult within the Victorian Era, and allow the player to immerse themselves in that time period and environment.

“The environment is dark and beautiful with soaring skylights, moonlight, rich wooden Victorian decorations, flickering candlelight, and carefully crafted sound effects and music.”

Jared tells me that the game leans more towards the suspense and creepy side of the fence rather than horror. “No monsters, no jump scares, just a creepy abandoned mansion with puzzles to solve and a morbid story. We were inspired by Myst, The Room  and our own fascination with logic puzzles,” he says.

I’m not sure it’s my cup of tea – games with scary themes tend to freak me out a little – but if it’s your thing, Possession 1881 might be worth keeping an eye on. It’s due out on June 5 through Steam.