Chey’s Top 25 – #11 – Diablo 2

Genre:  Dungeon Crawler
Platform:  PC

We are now entering the “not kidding around” part of my top 25.  I’ve sunk more time than I care to admit into all but two of my remaining top 25.  I’m talking YEARS of actual game time, all combined.  Coming in at number 11 is Diablo 2.

This game was released in June of 2000 and I think I started playing it about a year or so later.  I was immediately sucked in.  This was a very revolutionary game as it really created the genre of dungeon crawlers, which are often called “Diablo clones”.  There was a first Diablo, which was a good game in its own right.  There was also a Diablo 3, which is another great game, and there are rumors of a Diablo 4.  Blizzard, the developer, takes so long on their games, however, that we’ll likely not see it for a good five years, if it even exists.

I loved Diablo 2 for many reasons.  The game play is just fun.  You are constantly clicking on things on the screen.  There is quite a bit of strategy in this game as well as you have a lot of different spells and abilities you can pick from, but can really only have two active at any given time.  You also have to keep a close eye on your mana pool and your health.  This game has a robust tech tree, which makes every play through unique and every character fresh.

Diablo 2 tech tree

The writing is really good.  I have a tendency to ignore a lot of the lore in games, but I read every bit of this that I could.  It’s a story of good vs evil and keeping balance in the world.  Heaven vs Hell.  One of the oldest stories there is.  But let’s not kid ourselves here.  This game is really about the loot.  It’s so satisfying to see gold and items spew from the body of dead foes.  And when you see a really rare piece drop, you really get excited.  However, my biggest issue with this game was a seemingly arbitrarily limited inventory space.  You could not carry much and your bank wasn’t that large, either.  That made for some difficult decisions when seeing that phat lootz drop on the play field.

Diablo 2 inventory

To make inventory matters worse, the game had charms that had to stay in your inventory to have an effect.  Some of them only took up one inventory slot, but some took up three!  This may have been an annoyance, but it also really added to the depth of the game.  The result was keeping different sets of gear for different types of mobs.

This game features some awesome battles, great environments and graphics that are a bit out-dated now, but the game is still wildly popular and fun.  The soundtrack really adds to the tension in some areas.  The maps are different every time you play, too, so it feels different every time you play it.  If by some chance you’ve never played it, DO!

Hidden Gems – Alice: The Madness Returns

Genre:  Platformer
Platform:  XBox 360

This game probably can’t be considered “hidden” anymore, but I happened to stumble upon it by accident on Gamefly.  I didn’t know what to expect, but I was quite pleasantly surprised as to the quality of this one.

You play as Alice as she returns to Wonderland.  However, this isn’t your mother’s Wonderland.  Things have taken a dystopian turn for the worse.  There’s a lot of blood and gore here, so it’s definitely not for the kiddos.  This game is a platformer, so you’re making your way through the world trying to get to the next point to update the story.  I did find the story engaging as well.  I have to admit that I didn’t end up finishing it, though.  It’s on my Amazon wish list as I would like to get it and finish it out.

The levels are original and fun.  It has many of the typical platforming elements – bouncy things, moving platforms and targets, minions abound, secret things to find, boss battles and so much more.  The graphics are decent, but maybe not as crisp as they could be.  The soundtrack added to the game and gave it a creepy vibe.  Many of your favorite Wonderland characters are here as well, but certainly not as you might remember them.

This game reminded me a bit of American McGee’s Alice, which was a popular PC game in the 2000’s.  It was a bit of a cult hit and was also very dystopian.  I would recommend playing that one, too, although the graphics are very outdated at this point.

Anyway, if you haven’t played this one and it sounds like something you would like, check it out!  You’re probably looking at 20 hours to play through tops.

Genre:  Simulation/Builder
Platform:  PC, XBone

I have been playing Prison Architect on either the PC or XBone for a long time now.  I was an early adopter of the game and it’s been neat to see the changes as it neared its release.  The game has finally been officially released to both PC (Steam) and XBone.  I’ve played both versions and I’ll discuss the differences.  If this game has staying power, it may very well find its way on to my top 25.

In this game, you are the designer of a prison.  The game now has a few different modes.  I just finished story mode last night and it’s well worth the play through.  The game doesn’t hold punches on issues such as death row and the philosophies behind solitary confinement.  There were a couple of times that it actually stirred some emotion in me.  That’s good writing.

There is also Prison Warden mode, where you play pre-made prisons and clean them up.  I will be starting on this mode today, so I can’t comment on it much.  There’s World of Wardens, which allows you to download and play prisons made by other players.  I find most of these to be ridiculous and not fun.  I could do without this mode.  For me, the heart of the game is Prison Architect mode.

In this mode, you just design and build.  There are objectives you can meet if you choose to, and they give you the funding necessary to build bigger and better.  After you are satisfied with your prison, you can sell it and start a new one.  You get to keep the cash from your sale and go even bigger.

This game is not for kids, though.  The story mode is graphic and there’s quite a bit of blood and violence in the game.  The game has a surprising amount of depth, however.  You can schedule every hour of your prisoner’s day and there is a tech tree of sorts.  You hire your staff and decide how many and what types of prisoners come in each day.

Prison Architect 2

I preferred playing the game on PC.  The mouse makes it a lot easier than trying to play with a controller.  It’s also hard to read some things on my TV versus my monitor.  The PC version has a workshop on Steam, where other players made modifications to the game and you can easily download them.  I found some good ones there such as a garden.  I would recommend playing on both, however.  In fact, if you like building games, you are probably going to love this game.

I spent a lot of time playing Diablo 2.  I’m not going to get into it too much becase there’s a future post coming about it.  But today in 2000, Diablo 2 sucked us all in and had us trying to abolish the devil and his brothers from the world.  Great, great game.  The gif below is actually Baal and came from here.

Diablo 2 baal


Stinkers – Kabuki Warriors

Genre – Fighting
Platform – XBox

There was no other game that I could put as my first Stinkers post.  This. game. is. just. awful.  So true story.  A friend and I were in Best Buy one day, back when Best Buy was still cool and had a lot of video games and not full of stupid phone accessories, shortly after I had gotten the original XBox (launch day!).  We were looking at games and were looking for another fighting game.  I already had Dead or Alive 3, so why we weren’t content with that, I’ll never know.  This game was in a bargain bin (hint #1) and he picked it up and said “Get this!  It looks like Mortal Kombat but Japanese!”.  I am a fan of MK, so I bought it.

We took it back to my place and played it for about 10 minutes before we put it away.  I then assumed we missed something and played the single-player campaign.  I played it most of the way through.  I guess I was a glutton for punishment back then.

Let me sum up this game – you start out as an almost shapeless clay figure and fight with a curtain rod.  This isn’t what the game thinks you are doing, but that’s EXACTLY what it looks like.  Seriously, these beginning minions look like the developers just didn’t have time to render them and left them as-is.    You kill other generic grey things for several levels until you meet the one interesting guy in town, who happens to be a cross-dressing weirdo fighting with something as exciting as an umbrella.  To get money, you have to stop in the middle of your fighting and pose.  Your spectators then throw money on the stage.   Wait.  Guys in drag posing on a stage and having money thrown at them.  OMG it’s a game about strippers and must be a joke, right?  Wrong.  This game isn’t even close to being humorous, outside of its horribleness.

The graphics are ok and a few of the stages look pretty good.  There is also one immediately annoying sound effect through the entire game – EEEEOOOOOO – which will have you ready to shoot your TV.  The game play is as terrible as the characters.  My two-year old nephew would be able to get through this game simply by pressing the A button for a while.  That’s right, you have one button to press to fight and there doesn’t seem to be any need for strategy – or even thinking, for that matter.  This game is so bad that I would recommend playing it just so you can experience it and put it on your own Stinkers list.

Hidden Gems – 999 for the Nintendo DS

Platform:  Nintendo DS
Genre: Adventure/Visual Novel

999: Nine Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors was a surprisingly good game that I picked up at a Gamestop years ago while on the road for work.  I had never heard of it, but the covers looked interesting enough.  I don’t think I slept much the first night I started playing it because it sucked me in.

In this game, you play as a young Japanese man who suddenly awakens to find himself in a room on a ship.  He has no idea how he got there and it’s your job to help him figure out what is going on.  Once you find your way out of your room, you find that there are 8 other people in the same situation.  Your goal is to find a way off the ship.

This game is similar in concept to that of the movie Saw, but it’s not gory or even scary. However, I still wouldn’t let the little ones play it (12 or under maybe?). There are tense moments and it also feels like a whodunnit at times.  This game has EXCELLENT writing and some may call it a visual novel.  This was my intro to such games and I was blown away.

The decisions you make throughout the game greatly affect the ending.  In fact, there are 9 different endings, so replay-ability is very high.  I have discovered 3 of the endings thus far.  Nintendo DS games are starting to get pricey, but if you can find this one on the cheap, check it out!

Chey’s Top 25 – #23 – Sunset Overdrive

Humor.  Chaos.  Guns.  Freedom.  This is #23 on my top 25 list, Sunset Overdrive.

Genre:  Platformer, Third-Person Shooter
Platform:  XBone

This is the newest game on my list by far and I’m not fully done playing.  I did complete the story, but there are so many things yet to do.  I know I have said that I don’t like shooters, but this game is a key example of how good story writing can make up for an element that I’m not too keen on.  And this game has EXCELLENT writing.  I LOL’d many, many times while I was playing.  It doesn’t take itself seriously at all and breaks the fourth wall quite often.

So what is this game?  It’s an open-world game, meaning you can go where you want when you want.  It’s all about the guns you can have, and it’s got a lot of them:

Sunset weapons

But there’s so much to it than that.  It’s also got heavy platform elements, which means that there are places that you need to get to, but it’s not always obvious how to do it and you have to use your brain to get there.  It’s also got some extreme-sports elements such as grinding rails and wall running.  What I enjoyed just about as much as the story were the collectibles.  I am a sucker for a lot of collectibles in a game.  There are 150 of five different items to collect and various other collectibles to get.  What’s unique here is that these aren’t just there for something to do – they make your character better by allowing for upgrades of weapons or abilities.

Similar to Grand Theft Auto and other open-world games, there are loads of side missions and quests to do.  My favorite series was helping a group of larpers defend themselves from the mutants which want to destroy their base.  I won’t give away any more of the story in case you intend to play.

This is an XBone-exclusive, but honestly, this game was a driver for me getting the console.  And I wasn’t disappointed.  It’s colorful, raucous and fun!