Backlog: Oh Dang, This Is Happening edition

We're back. It's been a long time coming with something like 13 months since our last honest-to-goodness Backlog update. But hey, that just gives us more to talk about.

For those of you just joining us: The Backlog is (was) our weekly feature where each of the site's editors and contributors wrote a li'l bit about the games they've been playing. One of us would take all of that stuff, mash it together into one big post, and push it out the door on Friday just in time for the weekend. End result: We all get to write something, you get to read at least one new thing per week, and we've produced a rad little digest to help you figure out what you should be playing over the weekend. Everyone wins!

This week, Doug and Nick bring you up to speed on the games that've occupied their lives lately.

Doug

How long has it been since we’ve had a Backlog? Well over a year? Oh my. It’s good to be back.

Much has changed: I’m living in a different country and gaming on a completely different system. My Xbox 360 remains in the U.S., while a PlayStation 3 has taken over day-to-day duty here in Japan. After some suggesting by Tyler, I purchased a PlayStation Plus account, and that has turned into a routine drip of new game releases every month. Now I’m glad I upgraded to a 320gb PS3 instead of just buying a 160gb one!

Of those, I’m now dumping time into Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown. Tyler liked it so much he went out and bought it for our shared PSN account, so now I can dress Sarah up like Ulala from Space Channel 5 or El Blaze kinda like Jushin “Thunder” Liger if you squint the right way. While the overt Sega fan-service is nice, what’s even better is VF5’s gameplay. If you have PS+ or have some spare cash floating around, you could do worse than to pick this up, even if you’re a VF newbie. I may not be able to go hold my own in Japanese arcades anytime soon, but I am enjoying getting the chance to learn a new game. It’s fast, incredibly tight, and the graphics are fantastic. Now, to go get my ass handed to me online.

I still play way too much Pro Evo Soccer, but you probably guessed as much.

I believe I’m about one third of the way through Spec Ops: The Line. It’s certainly a journey into the heart of darkness. I’m working on writing something about this, so hopefully I can complete the game and publish it in the next week or two.

Lastly, I’m still putting time into iOS games. I just downloaded Pocket Planes (a nice touch: Nagasaki is one of the airports you can use in Japan!) and have finally, honest-to-god-ly decided to push through Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP. It’s what I do on long train rides.

Nick

Wow, okay. Doug’s right — it has been a while since the last time we did one of these things. I’ve been all over the map games-wise for the last few months, but here’s a short recap of the things that’re worth discussing.

I’m in Portland this week to visit family and friends, so my gaming options are limited to whatever will run on my 11" MacBook Air. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the great framerate I’m getting on my go-to online games, StarCraft 2 (I’m somehow ranked silver now) and Diablo 3 (just hit 60 on my monk), but most of my gaming time has been focused on Nicalis’ update to an indie classic, Cave Story+.

I first played Cave Story on my old iBook G4 seven years ago, which ought to give you some sense of just how old the original is. There’s a lot that made the original game special — its one-man development team, its tight controls and interesting power-up mechanic, its catchy chiptune-y soundtrack — and Nicalis did a great job in preserving the original while delivering a fresh coat of paint to the game. The updated soundtrack and artwork are welcome additions, but purists will be glad to know that the original game is playable as well.

Another welcome addition to my gaming rotation is the Xbox Live Arcade update to Spelunky. What looks like a polished puzzle-platformer is actually a sadistic, unforgiving roguelike. It takes a very focused, consistent and refined design to make losing over and over fun, and thankfully Spelunky exudes an almost zen-like flow to its gameplay. There are plenty of moments of tension, and one false step can mean instant death, but the game is unerringly fair. If you die, it’s your own damn fault, and maybe you’ll look both ways before leaping blindly down the next mine shaft. The result is a deeply satsifying conversation between game and player where learning how to traverse the game’s world is a rewarding and engrossing experience.

Just before I took off for Portland, I snagged a copy of Spec Ops: The Line on Steam. I haven’t spent more than half an hour with it yet, but everything I’m hearing about the game — uninspired gameplay, ambitious narrative delivery — seems fair so far.

And finally, I’d be just such a d-bag if I didn’t talk about the recent update to Tiny Wings. What began as a simple but charming indie iOS favorite has been updated with a robust new game mode and a split-screen multiplayer mode for iPad. It’s cheap, it’s fun, and it’s pretty — go check it out.