Readers discuss their favourite mediocre but enjoyable video games, from Rage 2 to Tomb Raider: Angel Of Darkness.
The subject for this week’s Hot Topic was suggested by reader Gannet, who asks what game do you enjoy even though you know not many other people think highly of it? Why is it you like it and is it just down to the game itself or some external factor?
Money was a factor in most of the suggestions, with people more than happy to play a flawed game if it was cheap enough not to feel like a rip-off or had no pretensions to be a classic in the first place.
Not a classic
The one which came instantly to mind for me is Kingdoms Of Amalur: Reckoning. I think even the developer admitted it was… they probably didn’t use the word mediocre, but I don’t think there was any pretence it was doing anything new or even trying to. I kind of respect that in a way but, more importantly, as unoriginal as it was, it was a lot of fun.
I’m obviously not alone in thinking that as it recently got a remaster with new content. That was quite a surprise, I must admit, and I have to also admit I feel like I’m probably the only one that bought it, but I thoroughly enjoyed it again and am adamant that it is… quite good.
I mean, I wouldn’t argue it was a classic but sometimes a game doesn’t need to be. If it’s fun and you enjoy your time with it that’s all you need really. Not everything can be that way, something’s got to be pushing things forwards, but sometimes a familiar idea done well can be better than an imaginative one done poorly.
10 years later
I would not class Final Fight 2 as one of my favourite games, but I like it a lot and still enjoy having a quick blast on it every now and then. I remember reading a review in Mean Machines or Nintendo Magazine System that wasn’t particularly glowing and based on that there was no way I would have spent £40 on it when I was in my mid-teens.
The review was pretty much correct, and I think I would have been disappointed if I had spent that amount of money on it at the time, but when I eventually played it at least a decade after release I had more disposable income and it was much cheaper, and I liked it.
Honourable mention to WWE 2K18 on Switch, it is an atrocious mess of a game but the first wrestling game I could play on Nintendo after a long while. It really is poor but certain modes play OK and the roster was great. I feel dirty admitting that I don’t mind it.
I really love the tie in to the 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon series by Konami on the Game Boy Advance.
I didn’t enjoy the home console version as it felt quite repetitive, but the Game Boy Advance version was a short and sweet side scrolling beat ’em-up.
Each turtle had their own separate little adventure and there were fun vehicle levels to mix things up. Then you had to choose a turtle for the final battle through Shredder’s lair to finally fight him.
Considering the limited buttons on the Game Boy it had a quite deep move set and added a risk/reward element by holding a button down for a charged attack which made your turtle vulnerable while charging.
I think because of the so-so home console version it’s not got the recognition it deserves but I think it’s an excellent game that I still play today.
I think Rage 2 would fit into this. I picked it up for £10 and embarrassingly short time after it was released and you could immediately see why it wasn’t a hit: it’s a sequel to a game no one cares about, the setting is generic post-apocalypse, the script seems like it’s trying to be funny but never really is, and you eventually realise that the whole open world aspect is completely unnecessary.
There is one very good bit and that’s the shooting, which is some of the best this side of Destiny, but that’s no good if the game itself isn’t interesting. It probably would’ve been better if it was a straight Ubisoft formula game but the it’s not even that, just a sort of free-roaming first person shooter that doesn’t know what to do with itself.
I often wonder with these sort of games, which you get to play more of nowadays with Game Pass, what the lower level developers must’ve thought of it while they were making it. They must’ve known it wasn’t any good but they had to go along with whatever boss thought it was a bright idea to dilute the cool shooter action like this. Still, it was worth a tenner.
For me, this is Mario Kart: Double Dash!! Definitely not the definitive version of Mario Kart and superseded in every way by Mario Kart 8, but it is by far the one I spent the most time on.
For a bit of context, at uni one year we were all gamers to some degree, with our own consoles or PCs, but we also had a ‘house’ GameCube which lived in the living room (along with my PlayStation 2, which doubled as the DVD player). We had precisely three games for it: Zelda: The Wind Waker, Resident Evil 4, and Mario Kart. I watched one of my mates play Zelda occasionally and loved Resi 4, but Mario Kart by far got the most playtime, and was the only one we would all play.
Timing is clearly a big factor here, as it happened to be the current Mario Kart when I had a large amount of free time, married with having mates in the same situation and in the same building. For me, Mario Kart, more than any other multiplayer game, just has to be played when you’re all in the same room.
And it can be played in almost any way – from just messing around, to being ferociously competitive, sober or drunk, or anything in between. And you could play it for any length of time – a couple of quick races whilst waiting for dinner to cook, to two of us deciding to do the All Cup Tour against the computer when coming home at 3am (and winning!).
Also, fighting over characters was always fun, given they had different special items. My preference was always to have Diddy Kong (triple bananas for defence when winning) combined with one of the Koopas (triple shells when behind). The character select screen was often a twitch shooter, such was the reaction times needed to get your favoured paring in first!
Things moved on some time ago, but these were great times which will always be looked back upon fondly.
Great idea for a Hot Topic; thanks to Gannet for suggesting it. Looking forward to what others come up with!
I have a soft spot for all of the Tomb Raider games but I will always defend Angel of Darkness as, well… it’s not a good game but I still enjoyed it. Maybe it’s because I bought it with my first pay packet at a proper job and I was determined to get my money’s worth out of it.
That happens a lot when you’re younger, when you don’t have that much choice of games and so play the hell out of even mediocre just because there’s not much other option.
I guess that doesn’t really happen nowadays and I’m not sure whether that’s a good thing or not. I’d say it might mean that more complex games wouldn’t have as much of a shout but here we are with Elden Ring being a massive hit.
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Back in the day I loved this well known game called Secret Of Mana on the SNES and I wanted to play something else like it, as long as it was in the style I enjoyed from Mana without taking away any of the key winning elements.
Then in a Gamestation store, amongst the second-hand games, a game box leapt out at me called Secret Of Evermore on the Super Nintendo. the box and quick research suggested a similar style of action role-player.
The game was not quite as good as Secret Of Mana but I definitely found out I could really get stuck into it, with a decent enough story and characters. All this to see you through to the climatic end, which complements the pretty far out story scenarios which you help solve.
I recommend it but without too much hype, and to take it as a game of its time that still plays okay now – like most SNES games that still excel even in today’s modern age. Secret Of Evermore is a little lost gem that should have become a mini or cult classic that was more well known to the gaming world. Highly recommended retro nostalgia.
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