Hello! Welcome to the latest Geeky Brummie Gaming Roundup!
This week, Mario, Ubisoft and all the latest releases!
Mario Direct News
Nintendo stealth dropped a special Direct themed around Mario’s 35th anniversary this week, with a ton of news related to, you guessed it, Mario.
Let’s start with the weirder announcements. First of all, there’s a new Game & Watch. Yes, the early 80s LCD calculator style games. Except this is a little more advanced, as it’s a handheld version of Super Mario Bros (and The Lost Levels) in a Game & Watch shell. Not quite sure what the purpose of this is, but it’s out in November if you absolutely need a handheld that can only play one game that’s already on everything else at this point.
Slightly more appealing are two new game announcements – Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit and Super Mario Bros 35. The first is an AR-enhanced toy that allows you to race real-world Mario RC cars with a digital overlay, allowing you to turn your living room into a Mario Kart track. Super Mario Bros 35 is Tetris 99 but with Super Mario Bros in place of Tetris, where 35 people play the NES classic at once, and defeating enemies throws them into other players’ games. It’s set to be a free game for Nintendo Online subscribers.
They’re also adding a bunch of Mario games to the Switch. Super Mario 3D World is coming over from the Wii U, further limiting that console’s exclusive library, and comes with a new expansion called Bowser’s Fury, which is currently shrouded in mystery. Super Mario All-Stars, the compilation of Super Mario Bros remakes for the SNES is now on the Nintendo Online service, which is odd because the originals are already available anyway. But aside from that is the release of Super Mario 3D All-Stars, a new compilation bringing together Super Mario 64, Sunshine and Galaxy in one collection. They’re ports with some minor enhancements rather than full-blown remasters, however, and there’s also another major caveat.
Both Super Mario 3D All-Stars and Super Mario 35 are limited releases, available for only six months before disappearing again. This isn’t so bad for Super Mario 35, which is a fun diversionary game available for free, but the classic games are much-requested ports that are likely to be long-term money makers. To restrict their sale until the end of March is a bizarre move that seems to be doing little more than annoying fans.
Still, it’s a nice bunch of Mario content at least.
Shock As Ubisoft Do Something Terrible Again
This may be shocking from a company that protected sexual predators for years, but Ubisoft have done something insensitive and tone-deaf this week.
Tom Clancy’s Elite Squad launched on mobile. It’s a bland Tom Clancy crossover game where fan favourites like Sam Fisher rub shoulders with all the other Tom Clancy game protagonists in some sort of tactical RPG. Normally it wouldn’t attract much attention outside the military porn audience that enjoy Tom Clancy games.
However, it did attract attention because of its intro video, which depicts the story of the game. Elite Squad sees Sam Fisher and the other ones taking on an organisation named Umbra who use protests as a front for terrorism. The organisation, whose name is often used to mean something dark, or perhaps…black, uses the symbol of a raised fist, which can also be found in…oh…um…Black Lives Matter protests.
So yeah, perhaps understandably, the game’s depiction of a protest movement centred around blackness being a front for a terrorist organisation that wants to destabilise the government hasn’t gone down well amidst the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality. Even one of the lead writers for the character bios is unhappy with this depiction.
Ubisoft have been forced to issue an apology, but they continue to argue that the imagery was coincidental and their game is a work of fiction not meant to reflect reality (see the top comment here). This would be the same company that repeatedly argue they don’t make political games while continuing to publish games with the name of the most prolific political thriller writer in the world. So feel free to interpret their statement as you wish.
I’m sure that whoever is responsible for the studio behind this will face some consequences. Let me check who that is again…oh it’s, uh…Charlie Guillemot, son of Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot. Oh. Well. I’m sure something will totally be done then. Right?
Some General PlayStation News
Ubisoft have also got themselves in trouble in more useful way (for once). A post on their support site (now removed) claimed there would be no backwards compatibility for PS5 for PlayStations earlier than 4. It had been rumoured that all PlayStation games past and present would be compatible with PS5, but it seems this is not the case.
Come on, Sony, PS1 and PS2 emulators are solid these days, and shouldn’t be too hard to implement in your system. Sort it out!
There are other bits of news from Sony this week, head of Worldwide Studios Hermen Hulst has confirmed that Horizon Zero Dawn won’t be the only first-party Sony title to get a Steam release. This has prompted a lot of “PlayStation is dead” talk online from people who didn’t read past the headline, as Hulst also confirmed that no PS game will receive an Xbox-style simultaneous PC release, and not every game will receive this treatment. Instead, it’s more likely to be what they did with Horizon – pick a particularly big title that already sold well three years ago and port it to PC. Hopefully better than Horizon’s port too, presumably.
Insomniac, another Sony studio, have confirmed that Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart will have a 60fps option. The latest in the consistently excellent robot-and-fuzzy space adventure franchise will come with a performance mode on PS5 that will likely drop the resolution and remove ray tracing in order to up the frame rate. As someone who doesn’t have a single 4K display in my house, I appreciate being able to run a higher frame rate in 1080p instead, and I suspect I’m not alone on this.
No esports news this week as Mat is unavailable, but here are some other snippets of news.
You can download official Joe Biden campaign logos for Animal Crossing: New Horizons, in case you’re not already sick of the US presidential race.
Speaking of slightly embarrassing game tie-ins, Halo Infinite has been delayed but double XP reward codes available with cans of Monster Energy have not. Good luck cashing those in with no game to use them with.
Speaking of Xbox, Microsoft have confirmed they will not be providing any new information on their next-gen system at the Tokyo Game Show later this month. It’s not like the new consoles are out in a few months or anything, guys. Take your time.
Nuclear Throne developers Vlambeer have announced they’ll be closing, not because of financial trouble, just because they wanted to call it a day after 10 years. Good for them.
Crystal Dynamics have confirmed that Hawkeye will be coming to the new Avengers game (see below) in both Kate Bishop and Clint Barton form. You’ll have to ask Keith what that means. Also, each hero that gets added to the game will come with their own $10 (roughly £7) battle pass because the AAA industry is creepily addicted to money, and I’m tired.
Fall Guys has revealed Season 2, coming in October, will feature medieval themes including dragon, knight and wizard costumes and castle stages and, SHOCKINGLY, not spooky themes appropriate to Halloween. Disappointed. But I will forgive them because they’ve also announced the final charity donation for Special Effect, which is $1m in a combined donation from G2 Esports, Aim Lab, and streamers Ninja and MrBeast. Which is nice.
Sea of Thieves is getting doggos. This is clearly the most important news this week.
The Mass Effect trilogy remaster is pretty much a guarantee, and is allegedly set for an October release, but could slip, according to current rumours. However, with everything going on, this date could slip.
Speaking of slipping, that’s exactly what’s happening to Evil Genius 2 and Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, which are now both coming out in 2021.
Finally, mobile game Pokemon Masters is getting a sizeable update to celebrate its first year, evolving it into Pokemon Masters EX, a game name that sounds fine until it trends on Twitter without any capital letters. Someone didn’t think this through…
In indie releases this week, we have Ary and the Secret of Seasons (PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One), a cute 3D platformer about a girl named Ary using special powers to restore the seasons back to their correct order. Spinch is a psychedelic freakout of a 2D platformer for PC and Switch. And Paradise Killer (PC, Switch) is a murder mystery set in a neon-lit sci-fi world that lets players explore and piece together the case at their own leisure.
Spellbreak is a free-to-play hero shooter for all systems, but with a twist. This game swaps out guns for magical abilities, as every character is a battle mage. Could be an interesting take on the multiplayer deathmatch genre.
Drake Hollow is yet another example of how Xbox hate me writing this roundup. Not content with just making announcements late on a Thursday, this launched only a few hours after last week’s roundup went up. So technically it’s one of last week’s releases but there was no way to include it. It’s technically an indie release, but it’s so tied to Xbox (right down to it being entirely exclusive for now) that it feels like Microsoft published it. It’s a co-op survival game where you help little vegetable people to survive in a harsh wilderness. It looks pretty cute.
It’s a good week for strategy fans, as you have two new games to choose from! First up is Iron Harvest, a steampunk RTS set in an alternate universe 1920, where warfare is conducted with rudimentary mechs. It looks like a concept that simultaneously silly fun and a serious wargame, as you try and stop the emerging threats from within Europe.
But the big release is Crusaders Kings III from Paradox. The third game in the medieval dynasty sim series, where you have to not manage your military strategy but also the politics of your empire and your family. It’s getting rave reviews, including from Geeky Brummie alumni Nate Crowley over at Rock Paper Shotgun (https://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2020/08/31/crusader-kings-3-review/).
Biggest release of this week is Marvel’s Avengers, which I mentioned earlier. It’s the long-awaited Avengers game from Tomb Raider developers Crystal Dynamics, and features the stunt doubles of the MCU cast, along with Ms Marvel, on a new adventure. It’s been getting some mixed opinions from the recent beta, and I’m not getting consistent opinions on the final product at the time of writing. This plus its slightly uncomfortable obsession with monetising everything make this seem like worth holding off on until more reviews are in.
Game of the Week
As someone who was a teenager in the late 90s and early 2000s, I feel it’s mandatory for Game of the Week to go to the remakes of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 released this week.
A modern overhaul of the skate classic from Vicarious Visions and featuring all the combos, ludicrous trick jumps and arcade nonsense of the original duo of games. As someone who was hooked on the second game at 14 just seeing the plane hangar in glorious HD brings a nostalgic tear my eye, and I’m eager to get my hands on this.
And yes, most of the soundtrack is here. Not all, as it’s missing the Anthrax version of Bring the Noise (nooooo) but the vast majority of it is there. All the levels of the originals appear to be back though, with some significant overhauls. There is, sadly, not a mode where you have to manage Tony Hawk’s existential terror as he’s sort of recognised in public but not actually believed to be the skater guy. Which is a shame.
And that’s it for now! Thanks for joining me and I’ll see you next week with more gaming news and releases!