What’s A Game You Like That Doesn’t Get Enough Love?

What’s A Game You Like That Doesn’t Get Enough Love?
Sometimes movie games are good I guess. Occasionally. (Image: Avalanche Studios)

It’s time for Ask Kotaku, the weekly feature in which Kotaku-ites deliberate on a single burning question. Then, we ask your take.

This week we Ask Kotaku: What’s a game you like that doesn’t get enough love?

Alexandra

It’s Bionic Commando (2009). The game famously bombed and sure enough, there’s plenty wrong with it. First and foremost (spoilers incoming), you can’t talk about this sequel/reboot without lamenting how boneheaded it was to go full grimdark with the story. Nathan “Rad” Spencer, your hero from the colourful, 1988 NES game? He’s on death row (lol), and likes to shout vulgar one-liners. Super Joe, the old ally whom you rescued? He’s the secret antagonist, pulling the strings all along. And I swear I’m not making this up, Spencer’s bionic arm is infused with the soul of his murdered wife, because that’s how bionics work now? It’s unclear. Anyway, his arm is his wife. Cool.

I know, I know. So bad. The game also gets dinged for being linear instead of open world (fine by me), the annoying collectibles (badly done, but safe to ignore), and your hero’s unlikely redesign (I favour the bonus retro skin).

But! But but but. The swinging! Oh my god, the swinging is transcendent. The developers at Grin somehow managed to solve the enormously complex problem of translating the 2D Bionic Commando’s fairly unique wire-grapple (wife-grapple?) action into a full 3D action game, and it feels both glorious and utterly natural to zip around the ruins of Ascension City on a wing, a prayer, and your, uh, former marriage partner.

The combat’s good too! Headshots feel snappy and lethal and your shooty arsenal is small but effective. Different enemies make you augment weapon use with various bionic arm techniques — grabbing, throwing, and whatnot — and the game does a great job of making your wife-arm, bless its literal soul (so fucked up), feel like an essential part of your arse-kicking toolbox. Great traversal plus good combat equals a real solid action game.

Bionic Commando (2009) cloaks a bona fide achievement in 3D world traversal in laughably stupid storytelling and enough little gameplay annoyances to drive away the less committed. But let it get its hooks in you, so to speak, and you might end up liking that arm so much you’ll wanna marry it. In which case you’re in luck.

Ian

While I’ve seen a lot of positive stuff surrounding it lately, I’m going to take this opportunity to put my love for the Mad Max game out there.

I bought 2015’s Mad Max on a whim years ago. I liked the original movies alright and really loved Fury Road, so why not? What I found was a game completely invested in its vision of itself. Sure, the hand-to-hand combat is basically lifted wholesale from the Arkham series and the gameplay loop can get a little repetitive at times, but its core build-a-car-and-smash-other-cars-with-it conceit fires on all cylinders with a momentum most games only wish they could achieve.

I enjoyed my time with the Mad Max game so much that it’s the first one I really devoted time to completing 100%. I wanted that Platinum more than anything, and for a few weeks, I spent most of my free time hunting down the game’s treasure chests and vehicle upgrades for my digital reward. Sadly, a common bug kept me from doing so, and I gave up on the mission entirely. That said, I still look back on my time with the game fondly. Maybe I should try for that Platinum again.

If you need something mindless and flashy to fill your time between games, think about giving Mad Max a shot. Oh, and tell Chumbucket that Ian Walker said, “What’s up!” if you do.

Lisa Marie

Pokémon Colosseum is completely overlooked, especially when comparing it to other side games in the franchise. Pokémon Snap and Pokémon Stadium get all the love. And while they’re great in their own right, Colosseum brought something really unique. The GameCube side game starts out with a bombastic scene in which the game’s protagonist, Wes, causes a building to explode. We quickly learn that not only was this the hideout of Colosseum’s version of Team Rocket, but also that Wes himself was a member. He is soon joined by Rui, whom he meets after she was literally kidnapped.

Colosseum took us on a wild ride through the Orre region, which we see again in Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness. Shadow organisations run amok, allows you to steal pokémon from their trainers, and includes evil “shadow” pokémon. But it wasn’t just the story that set Colosseum apart. The gameplay offers an extra challenge as the only catchable pokémon are shadow pokémon in need of rescuing. If you miss your chance, you don’t get another one. All of the battles are doubles, and your starters are Umbreon and Espeon.

I was captivated by Colosseum when I played as a kid, but I’m longing for a similar experience even more now. The unusual catching and battling system made this tougher than some of the core games I’ve played. Meanwhile, The Pokémon Company continues to toe the line between its older and younger audiences. A Colosseum remake is exactly what I’ve been missing.

It’s just a shame that Colosseum has largely been forgotten, and it’s even more disappointing looking back at old reviews that couldn’t see how great this game really is.

Zack, always into the weird shit. (Image: Rockstar Games) Zack, always into the weird shit. (Image: Rockstar Games)

Zack

My answer for this question is always two games: Manhunt and Agents of Mayhem. And hey, look at that, I’ve written about both of them for this very website.

Manhunt might look like a stealth-action game with a lot of gore, but it’s also one of the creepiest, nastiest horror games for the PS2. Play that game in a dark room, on higher difficulty settings, alone in the middle of the night and you’ll see.

Agents of Mayhem is like if Crackdown, Overwatch, and Saint’s Row got together and had a weird game-baby. I know some folks found the smaller city disappointing and the lack of co-op strange, but I still enjoy this game. I recently played it on Xbox Series X and had a blast. Great characters and some tight action and shooting. If it only had more mission variety it would be a genuine classic in my book.

John W.

I just want to provide a warning at this point in the article that Ari’s going to list Mass Effect: Andromeda as an example of this category immediately below, and there’s no good reason anyone should be subjected to that sort of effrontery. On behalf of all good-thinking people, I apologise.

So I instead shall defend Gex: Enter The Gecko.

I’ve never really understood why that game’s so historically shat on. It got middling reviews on release but has been sneered at since. I loved Enter The Gecko! And not just because its name sounds like some horrendous lizard porn.

There’s a chance I love it more because it arrived during a really shitty year of my life. I’d just failed the exams we Brits take to get into university, and all my friends were off and I was stuck at home, a big faily failure. At the same time I’d discovered The Divine Comedy’s early-’90s albums Promenade and Casanova, and remember many thankfully distracted hours playing through the third-person platformer on my PS1 while swapping between the two albums on my CD player. Crystal Dynamics was a team that knew what it was doing (damn you Avengers for forcing the past tense on that sentence), and I’m really grateful for the silly, bombastic tone that took me out of my misery for little chunks of time.

There are many other games I should likely have picked. The woefully unknown Project Eden, the utterly unfairly maligned Deus Ex: Invisible War, the miserably ignored In Memoria. But I pick Gex, so as to soften the blow when, just in passing, Ari says….

Well, this bullshot is pleasingly colourful, I'll give it that. (Image: Insomniac Games) Well, this bullshot is pleasingly colourful, I’ll give it that. (Image: Insomniac Games)

Ari

There are a gazillion obvious answers to this one — Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, Super Mario Sunshine, The Order 1886, Mass Effect: Andromeda, and Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, among others — but none compare to the most needlessly pilloried video game in history. I’m talking, of course, about Fuse, Insomniac’s 2013 basket of comfort food.

Upon release, Fuse got absolutely rocked. At the time, Kotaku’s reviewer deemed it a “NO” out of 10 (back when we still did that sort of thing). One reviewer described it “as dry as a dead tree,” full of “prostrated busywork” and “sequences of narcoleptic banality.” Another called it “dull,” “depressingly generic,” and “inexplicably bland,” lifting discarded adverbs from the front jacket of a Jonathan Safran Foer novel. Even those certain outlets who tend to be a bit lenient with reviews (you know who you are) slammed it.

Look: I won’t get on a pulpit and say that Fuse is some undiscovered gem, an unsung terrific game that everyone needs to play, stat. It’s not. But did it really deserve to get run through like that?

At its core, Fuse is a thoroughly competent third-person shooter — nothing more, nothing less. Some of the weapons were genuinely novel-feeling. (Each of the four playable characters had a unique weapon. One could deploy a shield that absorbed and reflected bullets. Another carried a rifle that could create singularities.) But even those that weren’t creative at least felt solid, as you’d expect from any game with an Insomniac splash screen. I think there was a story? Who knows. Who cares! That’s what the horde mode was for. (Fine, the campaign was basically one long horde mode.)

Where Fuse really stood out for me, though, was with its co-op, though my fondness might be a result of personal circumstance. See, in August, Boston gets really disgusting — a humid, muggy film over everything that makes you want to do nothing but sit inside. My then-roommate and I, anxious about an impending fall semester, wanted to pick up a fun co-op game that demanded exactly zero mental exertion. Fuse fit the bill. And playing through was a total blast! We weren’t wowed, but we weren’t let down in the slightest. Talk about meeting expectations.

Fuse didn’t reinvent the wheel, but it didn’t break it, either. Fuse was the textbook definition of “middle of the road,” and definitely didn’t deserve the hate it got. It arguably even deserved some love. But if the game’s face-plant ultimately drove Insomniac to Sunset Overdrive, hey, that’s a worthy tradeoff.

Dance battle! (Image: Warner Bros. Interactive) Dance battle! (Image: Warner Bros. Interactive)

Ethan

Let’s just get right into it: Batman: Arkham Origins rocks. The game’s defenders have been more vocal in recent years, but back when it first came out it was greeted by a not insignificant number of players with a heavy sigh and a “so what?” Understandably so considering how understated Origins is compared to its loud, everything-including-the-kitchen-sink of a game predecessor, Arkham City. The premise in Origins is simple enough: It’s Christmas Eve and a bunch of recently escaped villains are trying to kill Batman.

Rather than a threat to the entire city, there’s a threat to Batman, and a mystery of the caped crusader to unravel. The whole thing feels a lot more like a Batman: The Animated Series episode than the previous games in the Arkham-verse, and is better for it. Origins might not be a better game than Arkham Asylum, but it is a decidedly better Batman game, complete with detailed crime scene investigations, quiet roof-top sleuthing, and some unique boss battles. Rather than hide from Death Stroke inside of vents or pretend he can’t see you up in the rafters, Origins has you duel the assassin in a button combo press-off. Part quick-time event, part rhythm mini-game, it’s a simple but effective way of highlighting the encounter without getting bogged down in dumb one-off boss mechanics. Arkham Knight, for everything it does well, learned almost none of these lessons, which is why time and again Origins is the only game adjacent to the Arkham trilogy I still find myself going back to. Too bad they left it out of the definitive collection.

How About You?

Kotaku’s weighed in, but what games do you feel get a bum rap? Deserve a second shake? Please elaborate below on why the conventional wisdom is full of crap. We’ll be back next week to deliberate and debate on another nerdy issue. See you in the comments!

Comments

  • The Mad Max game is a pretty bloody good example, it turned out to be a solid game with fantastic progression, locations and character design.

    I’m going to have to throw a different game in to the pile though, the first Mercenaries game from Pandemic was an absolute gem.
    A massively underrated game from the former Aussie studio who made the early Battlefront games.
    When it came out it barely got any coverage and the case really didn’t do a good job of showing off the game, if I hadn’t seen someone else playing it I might have missed out on it all together.

    • Yeah, just an absolutely stellar thumbnail for this article. Mad Max was gorgeous for how it represented the wasteland, and its mechanics were very solid.

  • Two games, clocked 1000 hours between them… both no longer exist.

    Marvel Heroes on PC – An Online Action RPG (Diablo) with a lot of playable characters from the franchises, unique mechanics, difficulty levels and legendary loot. Got a bit bloated and lost players when they stalked trying to make a console version that Disney shut them down. Think it would make a great mobile game nowadays.

    Defiance – A Destiny game, before Destiny 1 with better story, driving, exploration, loot RNG etc… having 50 plus players drive into a world map event to take out horde waves was fun. Shame it saw limited release due to its tie-in deal with an ill-fated TV show by SyFy channel.

    I really have to stop investing my time in MMOs that are doomed to fail… City of Heroes, APB, etc

    • +1 for both of them. I put plenty of hours into both of them myself.

      Marvel Heroes had a great little gameplay loop, and while it was repetitive running through the content with a 10th Avenger, it didnt feel that way to me at the time. Was a real shame when they shut that down, it was niche, but it was good niche.

      Defiance was a fun little game as well, though I didnt put nearly as many hours into that as Marvel. I remember loading it up last year and was having fun until something else got my attention a few days later. I think its only just closed the servers down as well, as in the last few days.

      From memory, Defiance 2050 is pretty much the same game though, you just had to start again. Which sucked. But, once you got on a roll it came together fast enough.

      Having said that, Defiance is an example of the developers really stuffing things up. Bad servers, P2W, etc all got in the way of what was a solid game. The mismanagement is an example of how not to run a game.

      • Yeah Defiance really fell apart after it was forced to go Free2Play… its a curse on many great titles to change their business model, reduce staff and costs and end up bleeding players due to less content updates. The 2050 rebounding as well as Marvel Heroes “Omega” were doomed to fail

    • I actually quite enjoyed my time with Defiance too when it first came out.

      As far as games that no longer exist… Matrix Online and Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. Absolutely loved both of them and felt they were up there with the best MMOs I’ve ever played. Age of Reckoning is especially notable for me as being one of the only MMOs where I genuinely enjoyed the PvP.

      And to great games that are basically unplayable now, yet another MMO… The Old Republic. I’ve tried playing multiple times since they shut down the oceanic servers and the ping seems to get worse and worse every time I try again. Which is a damn shame.

      • Never put much time into Matrix Online, only playing it right toward the end of its life. Which was a mistake on my part, there was plenty of game in there. But Everquest was my main jam back then, and when I was having a break from that, I really didnt want complexity in my MMO.

        I played a Bard in EQ and that took plenty of effort to play at the level I was playing (top tier raiding guild) as it played so much different to any other class. Hella rewarding though, and the core people I played with made some of the best gaming memories I have. EQ was easily my favorite MMO. But I needed a break every now and then over the 7 years I played.

        Warhammer Online I had a soft spot for as well. It was the only MMO where I enjoyed the PvP side of it, or at least the battlegrounds, and that was mainly because I found a neat little tactic early that helped win the first one you played.

        Ironically it was the open world PvP that eventually put me off playing. Kept getting ganked just trying to progress the main storyline, and it got too frustrating to bother with. Outside of that, it had some really good ideas, and along with Tabula Rasa (now theres a dead MMO that deserved more respect), it was the earliest example I can think of for public quests, now a staple of most MMO’s.

    • I got pretty heavily into doomed Auto Assault, MxO, WAR, and Tabula Rasa, too. MMO preservation needs to be a higher priority for clever people.

  • Not a popular choice but Ghost Recon: Breakpoint. There are aspects of it that definately need work. But I enjoy it. Especially in co op. I just like those sort of open world games that allow for stealth/tactical approach. As much as I enjoy shooters like Battlefield etc sometimes prefer that slower pace. Can’t think of anymore at the moment.

  • I had Turok: Evolution on Gamecube, it was my first first person shooter so initially I was hopeless at aiming. Holy heck though, this game had so much in it; pteranodon flying/shooting, dismemberment, flamethrowers, alt-fire guns, a so-so story. Shame it was overshadowed by Halo.
    Oh and Kane and Lynch: Dead Men was awesome to play co-op.

  • Dragon Warrior Monsters before it became Joker. Some of the most fun I ever had with a Gameboy game and I sunk in hundreds of hours.

  • Resident Evil Operation Racoon City
    I remember playing a demo at the EB games expo, and then it being released and abandoned. It’s chock full of game-breaking bugs, and has a tumour called Games For Windows Live attached to the installer. But it was such an awesome idea, a team based campaign through Resident Evil 2, each character has their own speciality and abilities, and you were the bad guys!

  • There are so many great games I love that I’m not sure most people have even heard of, let alone bought and played. Some of my favourite most underrated gems are:

    Before The Echo (formerly ‘Sequence’ before a trademark dispute) is a well-written rhythm game slash RPG combat blend with a soundtrack that SLAPS. I feel like the name change really hurt their marketing at the most critical point – shortly after release. This thing is smart and addictive and deserved to do better.

    Defender’s Quest is one of the best Tower Defense RPG visual novels I’ve ever played, and it earned every hour of the 45+ hours I’ve tracked on Steam. The replayability is not only off the hook, but the game updated to lean into that, as well as its expanding its already-enjoyable writing. (Most of the games on my list have strong writing, whether its description, humour, characterization, or dialogue.)

    Disciples franchise is a very worthy challenger to the HOMM mantle, especially after HOMM turned into a quasi puzzle game in its later instalments. It’s not so much focused on big numbers of creatures as much as individual unit development, and its weird and obviously foreign persepctive has a real charm that comes through in both writing and art.

    BE-A Walker is a really simple concept – you’re effectively piloting a supercharged AT-ST and murdering ewoks on an alien planet with an unbreathable atmosphere, and you have to individually manage each of your walkers’ legs and guns as waves of suicidal not-ewoks(tm) rush your mech. There’s a demo that doesn’t quite do justice to the expanded branching storyline and upgrade trees, but the simple joy of turning your enemies into waves of paste. This indie gem got lost in the noise of 2020’s tsunami-causing hits. Hopefully their ‘GTA2: Medieval’ game (Rustler) brings the devs more acclaim.

    Card City Nights – criminally underpriced at just $7.50 when not on sale – is a fantastic little indie deck-builder that has shitloads of indiepunk heart. The game rightly puts a lot of focus on its incredibly solid mechanics, but its soundtrack, writing and related little details were what really sold me. It has a sequel, too! It’s not often I’d call a game a ‘delight’ to play, but Card City Nights definitely qualifies.

    Uplink was Hacknet fifteen years before Hacknet was made. The original (and in some respects, still the best), it’s a bit slower and a bit more subtle, and infinitely more opaque. I think the game was probably before its time, and can’t quite figure out how Hacknet tapped an audience that Uplink couldn’t. The studio went on to do Defcon and Darwinia, neither of which blew up as much as I felt they deserved to, but at least they seem to have struck gold with Prison Architect.

    Sunless Seas/Skies are games that really understand cosmic horror and the value of mystery and the unknown and are ballsy enough to leave some mystery intact for the enhancement of its repressed alt-Victorian steampunk atmosphere. The top-down vessel-piloting/crew-managing sims are wonderfully focused on writing and exploration of an uncommonly richly detailed universe.

    God, I could name hundreds more that I feel never got the love they deserved in media or sales.
    Adios, Book of Demons, Consortium, Epistory, Gunpoint, Infested Planet, Iratus, Ironclad Tactics, Universe at War, Legend of Fae, Legend of Keepers, Lobotomy Corporation, Long Live the Queen, Mechs vs Kaijus, Monster Loves You, Nantucket, Northmark, Othercide, Paratopic, Phantom Doctrine, Project Wingman, Rebuild 1-3, Ronin, Rumu, Ryzom, Sanctum, S.P.A.Z., Spiral Knights, Typing of the Dead, VA-11 Hall-A, Vigil: Blood Bitterness, Wartile, Winter Voices, Xenonauts… and so many more.

    There’s so many good games out there, guys. So many.

  • +1 for mercenaries as well, but I absolutely fell for Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. Andy Serkis’ voice acting and the motion capture were incredible and that was one of the first lush depictions of post apocalypse I had seen. The only game I finished 3 times and still keep it installed jic. To me that is one game that needs to be remastered

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