What gmw3 has Been Playing: April 2022
What a busy month April has been, with stacks of exciting news across the XR and Web3 industries. This means taking time out and putting our feet up is pivotal to keeping us fresh and alert, and what better way to do that than with some of the latest videogames across console, PC, VR and AR – we cover all bases here at gmw3.
I couldn’t leave this version of Tokyo. There was something so appealing about trawling a rain-soaked version of Tokyo haunted by yokai around every corner. By hour 35, when I neared the end of my playthrough, I’d collected everything I could, bought all the fancy clothing items and unlocked the best of all abilities. I was soaring above rooftops, absorbing spirits, fighting monstrous nightmare fuel and taking in the sights of neon-drenched Shibuya.
The main story, I could take it or leave it, but the characterisation of Tokyo stole me away from life. Everything from the little convenience stores to the iconic torii gates brought the city to life, despite the disappearance of all humans. Hell, I was happy dashing around talking to random cats and petting the dogs, all while KK, the spirit who took over my body at the start of the game, became less of a smartass and more personable.
While I could bleat on for hundreds of words about the cityscape, I won’t. However, I will give a nod to the gorgeous lighting system which brought my 4K display to life. Sparking magic fizzed and popped in hues of green and blue; the explosive red bolts felt delightfully effervescent as they tore holes in the faceless yokai. Some of my favourite moments happened in set pieces within the buildings, which were often locked off until a mission brought you in. Here, the game took on a wickedly dark and horrific tone, making me feel on edge more than once.
Ghostwire: Tokyo is the perfect game for fans of Japanese culture, with that edge of Video Nakata darkness.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land
In perhaps the sharpest turnaround, my other main game for April was about a pink puffball who gobbles up other living creatures and takes on their abilities. Not too dissimilar to a yokai in some ways, I guess.
I always felt that Kirby should have the success of Mario, the platforming may not be as inventive or thrilling, but the variety of styles which Kirby can use to get through adventures are great fun. With the latest iteration, Kirby can now upgrade those abilities, making them more powerful or more versatile for the individual levels. For example, the bomb ability starts by simply throwing them, the first upgrade gives them wheels and the home in on enemies, while the last version chains them together for larger blasts.
The world in which you play is stunning in places – makes me glad I upgraded to an OLED Switch a few months back. The colours are sumptuous and eye-popping, the enemies range from cute critters to hulking dangers. As with every Nintendo property, it’s clear to see the love poured in from every angle; there are silly mini-games to play in the hub world, along with other distractions, such as collecting gachapon capsules which contain delightful models of the sprites from the game.
While it’s no Mario Odyssey, Kirby and the Forgotten Land offers so much content along with genuine grin-inducing moments from mouthful mode. Car Kirby is just as fun as you think it would be. I’ve not quite finished my time with the game, but I’ll miss it once I’m done. I think we all need a cute pink puffball in our lives nowadays.
Resident Evil 4 – The Mercenaries
I’ve always loved the Resident Evil franchise and still have my original Nintendo GameCube copies, so when Resident Evil 4 came to Meta Quest 2 last year I eagerly dived right in. But the release missed one big component, the horde-like The Mercenaries mode. I spent countless hours in the first one and now I’ve spent even more in the virtual reality (VR) version.
This time though it’s definitely better and seemingly even more hectic and stressful. Running around trying to find those hourglasses whilst removing Ganados’ heads from their shoulders whilst perfecting a path through each level to maximise points is ridiculously addictive. There’s no horror or scares involved – unless of them popped into my peripheral vision – just pure action.
And then there are the new, VR-specific challenges to unlock bonuses like Big Head Mode. It’s the sort of fast-paced, instantly accessible content Resident Evil 4 VR needed when I didn’t fancy stepping into the main campaign again. It means I get to enjoy Resident Evil 4 all over again and that’s no bad thing.
The only problem though – and it’s not really a problem – is that after reading my colleague Will’s entry last month I downloaded Tunic because I’m also a big Legend of Zelda fan so Resi 4 took a hit. Having not read any other reviews regarding Tunic I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by this lovely little game. It’s full of heart and has no time or interest in providing an easy route to the finish.
Things like having to find the manual – which is mainly in a strange runic language – really made me want to dig deep into the game whilst the tough boss fights we’re certainly challenging. I love the isometric level design and the fact that even in an area I think I’ve thoroughly explored a new shortcut will suddenly appear.
I’ve not completed it yet, I’m slowly savouring each moment (read: stuck on a boss).
Half-Life: Alyx, on the other hand, was more of a side treat. I reviewed the game back in 2020 and just like everyone else, loved it. Why play it again now with so many other games available? Well, this job does have its perks and Varjo sent me its high-end, $2000 USD Varjo Aero headset to play with for the month.
If you’ve not read my Varjo Aero review then here’s the gist, the visuals on the thing are incredible but there was some peripheral distortion. So Varjo fixed the issue with a new update and I tested it again with Half-Life: Alyx. Wow, think I spent the first ten minutes looking at the detail on the Gravity Glove, easily picking out the textures on each intricate part, it looked glorious.
Stepping back into Half-Life: Alyx after so long reminded me again why Valve is integral to VR.
LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
The best thing about being the parent of a baby is being able to justify game purchases based on them being played at some future point by your kid (OK, one of the best things). Enter LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga. If you’re a long-term veteran of the series, you’ve probably played LEGO game adaptations of most of these films before, but this is not a cynical rebundling of old games. Instead, The Skywalker Saga makes a reasonably successful attempt at reinventing the well-worn LEGO game formula, successfully cramming all nine films into a single game by combining shorter levels with massive hub worlds full of collectables.
It all makes for a fun, Star Wars-themed collectathon, and fans of the films will definitely appreciate the many references to and details from the series. The Skywalker Saga is also, weirdly, often quite beautiful to look at. Perhaps taking cues from The Lego Movie, which wore its inspiration of stop-motion animated lego fan films on its sleeve, in cutscenes I swear you can sometimes see the faint thumbprints and grime characteristic of real-world lego pieces. It gives the game an enjoyable toybox atmosphere that pairs well with its silly retelling of the Star Wars story.
Resident Evil 4 VR
In VR, meanwhile, I was dragged back into Resident Evil 4 following a recent update (though I’m yet to try out the new mode). Being a scaredy-cat, it’s an experience I’m only able to play in relatively small chunks, but as soon as a zombie’s head satisfyingly explodes into chunks before me, I’m glad I made the effort to boot it back up.
Where the game really shines is as an exercise in nostalgia, allowing you to revisit a bonafide classic from a new perspective. In that sense, it has a lot in common with real-world attractions built around letting attendees visit the worlds of fictional IPs, the Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio Tour or Super Nintendo World being prime examples.
Here’s hoping that more game studios realise the potential of properly porting older games into VR and spare me the hassle of flying to Japan!
Spring has finally sprung, but this isn’t just any spring season — it’s the first where it looks like our lives are finally no longer dictated by lockdowns, mandates and other restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. So while I feel like Pikmin Bloom would have been a godsend during days when my only option was to walk outside, my life has nonetheless become way more eventful once again — making this the perfect time to get into an AR game that will reward me for, well… moving around much more.
Pikmin Bloom, which was launched last year in October, follows a similar framework to Pokemon Go — players are encouraged to go outside and explore their surroundings, where they can collect seedlings and create a squad of Pikmin — endearing little half-plant, half-animal creatures that were first popularised in 2001’s Gamecube classic. As you continue to walk alongside the different types of Pikmin you interact with and collect Nectar from the fruits they gather, you’ll leave AR-powered trails of flowers behind you.
As was the case with Pokemon GO, it’s hard not to love the idea of bringing nostalgic critters into your world — a concept I think we all would have adored if it’d only been around when we were kids. As I look forward to spending the rest of this year travelling (finally!) and visiting more parks and trails across the course of London, Europe and Canada, it’ll be fun to see which Pikmin I can pluck and take with me on my adventures.