Backlog: Spring Has Sprung Edition

Never give up Spring has officially arrived here in scenic Austin, Texas. The birds are chirping, the sun shines bright, and the unshaved masses came and went in droves for South by Southwest. Even though the droves of tourists came and went well over a week ago, Austin's still feeling a bit overcrowded these days. Traffic's a mess, restaurants are jammed full of patrons and parks are constantly packed with that special breed of people who really love to relax and will work themselves into a frenzy to make damn sure it happens. Austin's no stranger to the hardcore-casual crowd, I guess.

The Backlog's a little light this week -- it's just me and Doug on board this time around. Still, we've got a few cool games to talk about -- and besides, what else are you gonna do until BioShock Infinite comes out at midnight?  -- Nick Cummings

Nick

Better check my Byrdr updates

I'm staring down an intimidating backlog of my own — dozens of games I swore up and down I'd start (let alone finish) by now, but thanks to life's constant interventions they're still sitting untouched. Right now, in various states of neglect, I'm looking at: Forza HorizonCastlevania: Lords of Shadow, Zero Escape: Virtue's Last RewardDemon's Souls, Dark SoulsAntichamber, Fire Emblem: AwakeningPokémon Black 2Year Walk, and probably even more stuff I'm forgetting about.

Rather than throw myself haphazardly at all these games to see which ones stick, I'm concentrating my efforts in the immediate future on just three games.

The first is the funniest and most sneakily well-designed game I've played in far too long: Ridiculous Fishing. What starts out as a silly little tilt-to-win iPhone game quickly develops into an increasingly insane crusade against all aquatic life. I wasn't surprised to see an upgrade-driven progression system, but I found myself overwhelmingly charmed by the game's wry and outlandish sense of humor -- just check out the fish descriptions in your Fish-O-Pedia or the updates on your Byrdr account and try not to giggle hopelessly to yourself. Most surprising was just how deep the waters run -- reaching the credits only means you've just begun to prove yourself as a legendary angler. As one reviewer put it: "Most fishing games are fishing games. This is a fishing game."

The second game is Tomb Raider. It's beginning to feel like I'm closing in on the game's final act, and I've been taking notes voraciously while playing. I love how Crystal Dynamics crafted such a lush, engrossing world where it's pleasant just to explore the environments, and it's impressive how well-tailored Lara Croft is to navigating and enduring the game's challenges. I'm still a little uneasy about how the role of violence develops over the course of the experience, but that's probably best-saved for its own article. But in short, a great Tomb Raider game really is a sight for sore eyes.

The last game I've been playing is Binary Domain. Doug loves to talk about how there are dumb games, and then there are du-umb games. Binary Domain is proudly and rightfully standing firmly in the latter category. The ludicrous premise, cheap characterization and corny cinematics all belie a clever, well-balanced third-person shooter with a decidedly Japanese feel (color-coded enemy types, a satisfying weapons-upgrade system, etc.) that comes together nicely. I'm still at a pretty early point in the campaign, but I can see why Tyler was raving about it not too long ago.

Doug

Doug may still be a fighting-game scrub stuck on a stock gamepad, the allure of (and story behind the developers of) Skullgirls was too much to pass up

Surprising absolutely no-one, I’ve spent more time on Gran Turismo 5 this week. It continues to feel like meeting an old friend after years apart -- excited to see them again, happy to enjoy their positives, mild disdain and a feeling of “oh, right” at their faults. It’s still a really beautiful game, but some of the original honeymoon shine is already coming off. A lot of that has to do with the gameplay cycle, which doesn’t learn enough from the improvements the Forza games have made. I’ll keep with it (since I’m a sucker) but some things are already getting a bit annoying.

The other console game I’ve been playing a lot this week is Skullgirls. I remember trying the demo out when the game was first released last year, and I thought it was okay -- it played well, the art and style was cool, and it just seemed pretty middle-of-the-road all told. With a little extra PSN money leftover in my account, I figured I’d give it a shot.

This is where I fully admit I was sold on it as an act of charity as much as a game I was interested in playing. Their recent Indiegogo campaign has gathered a bit of interest, with this article by Patrick Klepek of Giant Bomb acting as the real definitive piece on the topic. That there was armchair Internet hardcore gamer backlash against the campaign was sad, but to see Skullgirls get so much support -- over $550,000 as of this writing -- is heartwarming. This is the kind of indie success story I think all of us love to see, and that the game is better than I remember makes me even happier with the purchase. I’m not a fighting game specialist by any means -- I’ve never owned a fighting stick -- but I do enjoy a good 2D fighter. Skullgirls definitely is one.

And last, but certainly not least, is Ridiculous Fishing. I think I’m going to write more about this game this week, but to touch on the game quickly: If you have an iOS device, you should buy this game. It is $3, but there are no microtransactions.