Editor Spotlight: Dustin LaRoe

It’s Wednesday again! That means it is time for this week’s Editor Spotlight!  This time our editor is Dustin LaRoe!  So check out his top 5 games here! What are your top 5 games?

Number 5: Blast Corps (N64)

Blast Corps

Intro – A nuclear warhead’s on the loose on a cargo truck. The slightest bump will cause it to detonate. You must climb into tons of powerful vehicles and destroy everything to save everything from destruction.

I’m sure I leveled more buildings completing this game than any nuclear device ever did. But the sheer simplicity of the concept, the in depth controls, and the variety of vehicles keeps me coming back. This game holds a special place in my heart.

Blast Corps is one of my favorite N64 games. I had a great many games on the console, but there were not many games that I played through every drop of content. The developers at Rare put many hidden areas and bonus content in this game which required a good deal of skill and learning to uncover. The rewards for completing these challenges were epic.

Gameplay – You control one out of a group of demolition vehicles. They run the gamut from standard fare like dump trucks and bulldozers, to wacky stuff like huge robots. Each type of vehicle gets an introductory tutorial mission that lays out how you can to use the vehicle to clear a path for the nukes in time. It is important to figure out what exactly the specialty of each vehicle is, and how you are supposed to put that specialty to work knocking down structures. If you have trouble like me, You’ll end up desperately ramming things to slowly topple them. You’ll end up exploded.

There’s real tension to be had. The slow-moving truck that is carrying the nukes is always closing in on the next obstacle. Starting out a level normally has you follow the arrow marker to the first building in the path of the nukes, and activating the RDUs around the level. You need to do good on the levels to unlock the different medals.

Characters – You can get out of the vehicles and see your little guy, but there’s nothing remarkable about him. The real stars of the game are the demolition vehicles. Each vehicle had a quirky name that clued you in to its abilities. Most of the vehicles were one hit wonders, but I think the developers favored a few over the others. There was also a small number of cars modeled after famous vehicles in pop culture that you could hop in around a few of the levels. I remember Backlash the best, because it was the one that baffled me the most. I just couldn’t get the concept of a drifting dump truck. Once I finally figured that out, I was unstoppable.

Graphics – This is not a game that looks favorably in screen shots. As an early era 3D game, it suffers from a lack of graphical optimization. It was common for games of this time, especially those on the N64, to be blurry and jaggy edged messes. This game could dominate sales charts as a HD remake. The graphics are the only thing holding it back. I can’t pretend like this is a positive point for the game.

Music/Dialogue – Time to get moving. I don’t understand what it is about the music in this game. I still have it on my phone and listen to it while driving. It’s so peppy and industrial at the same time. There was a real display of compositional range in this soundtrack. No two songs sounded the same. No trouble at all.

Replayability/Story – I wish I could put down my keyboard and turn on an N64 and take Backlash out on the Moon. This game was super fun and extremely satisfying. I have beaten it completely twice, and I’ll gladly do it a third time when(or if) it’s out on the virtual console. It is a challenging game if your inclined to get the best medal on every level. Not to mention simply unlocking all of the levels in the first place.

Value – I feel that this game is still worth about $10 if you see it for sale somewhere. Graphically, it’s a bit hard to swallow, but the gameplay is so awesome. I would definitely pay to master it again, for the third time.

Final thoughts – This game just begs to be rereleased either as a digital downloaded port of the original, or a new HD remake with extra bits and bobs tossed in. I can’t separate my nostalgia from my pure enjoyment here, so I’m not the most reliable judge of the modern day value of this game from 1997. If you haven’t had a chance to play this game, figure out a way to do so. N64’s are pretty cheap.


Number 4: Crackdown (Xbox 360)


Intro – The best open world super hero game I’ve ever played. It had all of the player progression of a Fable game, plus you get to drive super cars. Nothing was as epic as grabbing a semi truck, lifting it over you head, jumping off a bridge, and hurling it at an enemy. I’ll still boot up this game ten years from now.

Gameplay – The gameplay in this game is fantastic. I can’t explain how happy it makes me to get to the point in the game where you are totally overpowered. Near the end of this game, your character can launch vehicles at people, jump some five stories in the air, and run as fast as cars zooming in the streets. This game feels like GTA did when I first played it.

Graphics – It’s early Xbox 360 era graphics, so it’s not as crisp as some of the slightly more modern graphics we are seeing at the end of the 360’s cycle. But the developers chose to use a cell shaded look, and it stands up pretty well. The city looks pretty good. Just barely futuristic. I like the look of this game still.

Music – There was a multitude of techno and dance style songs, as well as region specific radio stations. It’s all well done. But I can barely say that it is above generic without listening to it again. I guess it didn’t stick with me like game music usually does.

Replayability/Story – I’ll play this game again and again over the years, assuming a superior sequel doesn’t come out. (I don’t even acknowledge Crackdown 2’s existence, as it wasn’t by the same developers. The freedom to accomplish the gang leader takedowns is intoxicating. I usually ninja my way across the rooftops and punch the gang leaders to death, but it’s just as easy to take a different tactic. You could set up a long range sniper shot. You could lob grenades from around the corner. You could even run a couple of them over if your good enough behind the wheel. It’s up to how you like to play.

Value – I’ve purchased this game twice, and I downloaded it for free when it was part of the Games with Gold promotion. I think I’d still pay $5 to play it again if it was re-released on the Xbox One.

Final thoughts – I’m still enamored with this game. It has a certain magic to it. I’m not sure if it’s the GTA roots, or the freedom, or the character’s powers, but something in this game is simply sublime.


 Number 3: FTL: Faster Than Light


Intro – Rougelike. I used to think that the rougelike genre was not fun. Recently, a few rougelikes have been released that are swaying my opinion towards love. FTL is one of those games. The randomness, the risk vs. reward choices, permadeath; all of these factors heighten the experience playing this game. It’s a starship rougelike with all of the space tropes piled up. Life is cheap and ship upgrades are expensive. Every choice carried real weight as your crew is likely to perish at every jump.

Gameplay – There is a bit of a removal of immersion in a game like this. It’s more like playing an old school RTS or board game. You click on your menus and you click on your characters. That is the extent of the controls you use. Setting up tactical strikes, boarding the enemy ships, and refusing to let your enemy surrender are the fun aspects that you draw out of the game itself.

Graphics – 1990’s era pixel art. If your into it like me, it’s sprite based heaven. If not, there’s not a whole lot to speak of here. I feel that the lack of overwhelming detail frees your imagination to fill in the gaps.

Music – Blessedly futuristic and minimal. Ben Prunty’s tunes round out the experience in a remarkable way. This soundtrack is still on my phone and finds its way into regular rotation. I love this music.

Replayability/Story – This is where this game shines. The plot of trying to outrun the rebellion to deliver important data is secondary to the game, in my opinion. The real gem here is the complete randomly generated sectors, waypoints, and encounters. The choices you make in each scenario have different outcomes based on a roll of the imaginary dice. This can be extremely frustrating if you have a specific result planned, but it makes the game nearly infinitely replayable. Survive long enough, gain enough upgrades, and you will find yourself in command of a very powerful ship. There are several different types if ships to unlock, and everything is ridiculously random. The randomness really keeps me hooked. My steam clock tells me that I’ve logged over 100 hours on this game, but that doesn’t count the time I spent playing it on my laptop, offline. I still have another 100 hours in me, easy.

Value – This game is a real bargain. I believe that its asking price it $10 on steam, but it’s frequently on sale. It’s easily worth $20 in my opinion. Buy it. Buy it. Buy it.

Final thoughts – Leave me be, I just wanna play FTL. I ain’t got any more time to devote to telling you how good this game is. I’m going to go boot it up now.


 Number 2: Civilization V (PC)

Civ V

Intro – One more turn… That’s the battle cry of those who are afflicted by the Civilization addiction. Journey through a retelling of all of history and human progression throughout the centuries.

Gameplay – Another clicky based game. Like FTL, this game has a lot of overviews and menus. It is very much a super complex boardgame. But the magic isn’t in the mouse clicks, it’s in the history of the world that you are living.

Graphics – Not too shabby for a 2010 PC game. I prefer the 2D civilization, as the large units (Relative tot the size of cities) do not look as jarring in 2D. But the hexagonal terrain tiles look great, and a lot of care went into the details of this game’s look. Each historical era has a completely different visual flair to it that makes progressing throughout the ages a treat.

Music – This is a positive for sure. The tribal beats of the early era blends into the baroque classics as you progress, and they eventually become modern music when you get to the modern era. It suits the game very well.

Replayability/Story – There is a great deal of replayability in the Civilization series. Just trying to get to all the different victory types takes you through a fun filled couple of weeks, if you do not suffer from failure. You can also crank up the difficulty if you want to feel like a loser, or try to experience how hard it is to exist as a real civilization in the real world.

Value – This game is still a great value. It is easily worth $20 for the base game. Add in the two DLC expansions, and you’re looking at a full priced game. I’d gladly pay $100 for the whole kit-and-caboodle if I hadn’t yet had a chance to play it. It’s just that good.

Final thoughts – I’ve been a Civ addict since I stumbled on to Civilization 2 on the Playstation One. I have poured hours into this series. I’m sure that I will continue to pour hours into it for years to come.


 Number 1: Super Metroid (SNES)


Intro – Atmosphere. Loneliness. A slow acquisition of power. Something about the planet exploration, the boss fights, the tight controls, and the absolute lack of tutorials makes this game stand as my all time favorite. I keep playing it. I just can’t help myself.

Gameplay – The controls are super tight. The levels are perfectly crafted. The abilities are finely tuned to gate your progress through the game. There are almost no tutorials at all. It’s just a human in a suit, on an alien planet. Looking for a baby Metroid.

Graphics – The best looking SNES game, hands down. All of Samus’ art is consistently designed. The planet is creepy and alien as hell. The animation and detail are out of this world. For a 16 bit game, it just doesn’t get better than this.

Music – Fantastic score sets a tone for the game. The music really cements the lonely atmosphere that the game presents the player. I love the music in this game. It’s hauntingly good.

Replayability/Story – The exploration aspect of the game suffers a bit on repeated playthrough, as I tend to remember where I found everything. But the first time you discover something new really brings a rush. There are tons of things you can do in this game, and the game doesn’t bother to tell you how to do them. You’ll get stuck in a few places quite often.

What brings me back is the feeling of being Samus. She is a total badass. She’s Masterchief before Masterchief was imagined. Her abilities and powers give her the chance to overcome any obstacles in her way. It is very fun to run through a corridor, blasting all the little bugs away while on your way to greet a boss. Oh, and the boss fights are pretty cool too. I still get goose bumps during the final fight with Motherbrain.

The story is pretty neat, but it is ultimately of little consequence. Especially after the initial playthrough.

Value – I believe this game is $8 on the WiiU eShop. I still own the original SNES cart, but I have rebought it on the Wii and the WiiU. I just got to have this game at my fingertips. It is so great to be able to play through again and again. I originally bought this game full price back in the 90’s.

Final thoughts – There are many different games which could occupy this list. I have like fifty favorite games, but Super Metroid always sits on top. I’d rather play it than nearly any other game at any given time. It is so good.

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