Backlog: Gamescom edition

In an otherwise tumultuous week, it was comforting to see some really inspired games being shown at this year's Gamescom conference in Cologne, Germany. My favorite image from the week has to be the one you see above of Snake hiding in his trademark cardboard box, this time emblazoned with a Steam logo. What better way to announce that Metal Gear Solid V is coming to Steam? It's an unexpected announcement, especially considering the series' reticence to port to PC, and it's got me second-guessing just how urgent a new console actually is for me.

It's just me and Doug this week, who's doing an admirable job of navigating his new home around Tokyo and sneaking in a few minutes for gaming when he can. Have a great weekend, and drop us a comment to let us know what you've been playing!  - Nick Cummings

Doug

As mentioned before, this month has been one of big changes for me. New apartment, new job, new city, and a new way of life. Long gone are country drives and small-town roads, to be replaced by the dumped-out bowl of spaghetti that is the Tokyo metro system (the crazy thing? It’s slowly but surely beginning to make sense.)

Much of the gaming I’ve done has been for mental health purposes. Turn off brain, hold controller, zone out for a while and forget about the world. Usually this is what I use sports games for, and in that slot right now is still NBA 2K14. The MyPlayer mode is as addictive as ever, and despite being a massive ball-hog of a point guard, I’m enjoying leading the Philadelphia 76ers from the bottom back into contention.

I’ve continued to put my 3DS to good use as well. Mario Golf World Tour is feeling a little bit grind-y so far, but it’s still fun for me to go through that grind. Playing a round as my Mii and then reaping the rewards has proven to be the most enjoyable part so far, though I may dip my toe into the other half and try using the cast of Mario characters as well to see how they differ.

I still want to continue in Persona 4, but I just haven’t had time. After setting aside some time and then dying in a dungeon, I feel a little miffed about losing an hour-plus of progress, so it might be another week until I return to the TV to continue that adventure.

I have one more week of summer before work begins in earnest. Hopefully I can play some more games in that time!

Nick

Some games aren't fun the first time you try them. You know what I mean, right? Some of the denser or more obtuse games out there take time to digest before the fun, rewarding hooks make themselves apparent.

Take Dota 2, a game with a fiendish learning curve and a community that's not for the faint of heart. We talked at length about the MOBA genre on a recent episode of the Squatchcast, and since then I've fired up a couple more bot matches out of sheer curiosity. It took a few hours of play and a couple years of watching The International championships, but the game's mechanics have finally begun to reveal themselves to me: the variety of strategies, the push-and-pull competition, the complexity of mixing and matching player characters.

Then there are games like Demon's Souls, a game so opaque in its design and unflinchingly difficult throughout that it took me a couple months of slogging through the opening sequence before I understood how to play the game.

If we can call games like those "slow-burn" games, then learning to appreciate The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is like trying to start a fire with a pile of damp leaves and a Wiimote. Seasoned readers might recall that Skyward Swordlanded a hard-fought second place in our 2011 Game of the Year awards, but it wasn't until several weeks later that I picked up my own copy and gave it a shot. And...I hated it. The added nuance to the motion controls courtesy of the MotionPlus add-on didn't register for me, and as a result I found myself constantly recalibrating my controller in the middle of combat to try to strike with some accuracy. A few hours of that and I was done. Since then I've picked the game up again a couple times every year in an attempt to get into it, but each time it's failed to register with me. Until this week, apparently.

Maybe it helps to have some distance from the original Wii console, or maybe I was just having a bad run of luck with my controller all those years. Either way, I finally feel like the slow, deliberate pace of exploration in Skyward Sword makes sense, and the combat has gone from an inconsistent chore to an opportunity to test my intellect and skill. I'm still very early in the game, but I finally feel a sense of closure about this game placing so highly in our 2011 year-end list.