You know that thing when you’re hungry for something specific, but you’re not quite sure what that is…. so you just keep opening the fridge and cupboards hoping it’ll jump out at you. But it doesn’t. So you nibble at stuff, feel wholly unsatisfied, and then return to the fridge in the hope that the little som’thin-som’thin you’re after’s just magically appeared in the time you were nibbling on the other stuff!?
Well, that’s exactly what I’ve been like since my return to Gaming (but with, like, Games instead of food, obviously), and after spending a month waiting to gorge myself on a veritable Gaming feast, I’ve been struggling to find something to really sink my teeth into. First I started Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst, and it’s not a bad game at all, but it’s just not really grabbing me yet. Then I tried returning to The Witcher 3 for a bit too, and even though I’d frequently lose hours to it before, now I’m just finding it all a bit meh! Next, I figured maybe shooting some stuff in the face would get me back in the mood…. But nope, even the frenetic, action-packed shooting-in-the-face-iness of Battlefield 1 failed to hit the right notes. Starting to freak out a bit, I fell back on Zombies…..’you’ve always loved killing Zombies, James, that’ll surely do it’ I said, but again, even the combined Zombie shooting of Resident Evils 4, 6 and 7 left me feeling a bit flat. In essence, since my hiatus finished I’ve spent ages looking at all my Games, a fair chunk of time nibbling on some of them, but, to paraphrase U2 (from back when they hadn’t sold out), I still hadn’t found what I was looking for.
The only thing I could really think of that would explain it all was that I was perhaps suffering from a kind of Gaming hangover having finished Horizon Zero Dawn just before turning off my consoles for a month. It was a great game, for sure, and it properly grabbed hold of me for the best part of three weeks but, to be honest, I could do without the whole “fucking up Games for me afterwards” thing, thankyouverymuch. Like, I loved Aloy, but I don’t think I want her to be Gaming’s “the one”, besides whom every other character or game I play appears lacking or incomplete in some way. I mean, bollocks to that, right!?
Anyhoo – just as I was wondering if I’d ever really love a Game again, I was rescued by Nintendo. As I mentioned in my last piece, my Mum was kind enough to smuggle some Nintendo Games into Brazil for my region locked Wii U, so I figured I’d see if one of these could drag me out of my funk.
Now, if you read my introduction to the Wii U Farewell Tour, you’ll know that playing my Wii U comes with a certain degree of risk (namely the potential to kill everyone in a huuuuge fireball thanks to having to run it (and the gamepad) through a transformer, which is prone to overheating, power-surges and/or being chewed through by the dog), so that, plus the general pain-in-the-assiness of setting it up, almost made me abandon the Nintendo idea from the get-go. Indeed, my transformers had gone walkabout again, so in a fit of pique (and because I couldn’t be arsed to look for them), I just plugged everything in without them.
AND IT ALL STRAIGHT-UP FUCKING WORKED!!
Obviously, that makes me a proper numbnuts for unnecessarily using transformers for two years, but let’s diplomatically sidestep my general fuckwittery for now and focus instead on the bright side – i.e. everyone’s now a fuck-ton less likely to die horrifically, and/or the chances of my last words on this earth being “do you smell burning?” have decreased almost exponentially!! Huzzah.
More immediately, it also meant I could crack on with Splatoon, and that, Ladies and Gentlemen, turned out to be exactly the som’thin-som’thin I was after. Once again, Nintendo have hit on some genuine Gaming smack, and before I knew it, I’d spent four hugely enjoyable hours spraying a ridonkulously addictive and quintessentially Nintendo world with neon paint. With its clever blend of 3rd-person shooting, platforming and short, fun levels, Splatoon sucked me into its world with consummate ease – and having been fractiously jumping from one game to another, I’m now fully committed to, like, being a squid thingy for at least a little while. Once more I say, huzzah!
See, in the context of my post-Horizon Zero Dawn comedown, Splatoon was something of a Hard Reset precisely because it’s nothing like it. All the other games I’d nibbled on were close enough to invite comparisons, and perhaps come up short; say, in a “sure, shooting Zombies in the face is OK, I guess, but it’s not a motherfucking huge robotic crocodile, is it!?” kind of way. Likewise, the RPG elements of the The Witcher just seemed lacking when Aloy wasn’t the one leveling up; and whilst the narrative of Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst wasn’t terrible, it wasn’t post-apocalyptic-futuristic-stone-age compelling either.
Nintendo’s back-to-basics approach to Gaming, on the other hand, offered me a refreshing, palate cleansing amuse-bouche of unique IP and, whilst being vastly different to Horizon Zero Dawn, it was just as compelling. The story didn’t pale in comparison because there wasn’t one really, apart from some stuff about bad octopuses (octopii?) I think, but honestly, I was totally fine with that. Graphically, it’s also hard to compare the two – I mean, one’s a huge, sprawling selection of biomes in stunning 4k, but the other’s a cartoon-ey, neon-paint filled world of squids and comically oversized sneakers. Likewise, even though each Splatoon level was a tiny, minuscule thing compared to HZD’s expansive world, each one was different, brilliant, and they all had me wanting more. Indeed, because the levels in Splatoon are perfect, bite-sized chunks of expertly crafted Nintendo-y Goodness, I gotz me a smorgasbord of delicious nibbles that left me as satisfied as any open world feast would’ve done. That was especially useful given my return from hiatus also meant I had a shitload of Real World crap to catch up with, so the dip in, dip out nature of Splatoon meant I could grab some quality Gaming time immediately – without, say, losing half an hour of limited play time trying to remember what the fuck I was supposed to be doing.
So, what’s my point!? Well, I think it’s highly possible I’ve just done the blogging equivalent of food shopping on an empty stomach given the food analogies, but also it’s that the Wii U continues to offer something to my Gaming life. In this case, it was a genuine alternative; a little som’thin-som’thin that I wasn’t getting from my Next-Gen, Triple-A titles. Whether I was suffering from some post-Aloy blues, or just out of practice generally, The Wii U and Splatoon provided me with both a perfect point of re-entry and the particular cure for my Gaming funk. I did say I’d perhaps be retrospectively assessing the Wii U – it’s perceived successes and failures – and for me, this is definitely a resounding success. The Wii U’s lack of “Triple-A” titles, and it’s inability to get decent 3rd party developers on board with it was undoubtedly an issue, but then, on the other hand, it was still nailing a lot of the stuff that’s been hugely successful for Nintendo for three decades.
As an alternative – a distinct, self-contained genre – Nintendo frequently offers stuff that the PlayStation, Xbox and PC doesn’t, and as such, the Wii U is/was actually a great delivery system for just that. For whatever reason, my PS4/Xbox games weren’t giving me what I was after this last week, but Nintendo – with their unique, essential Nintendo-yness – were, and it was the perfect antidote to my Gaming ennui.
Huzzah for Nintendo.
TL; DR – I said I’d be reviewing Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst next, but turns out it’ll prob’ly be Splatoon. Because, like, fancy French word + Nintendo = change of plans, innit!?