I’ve recently returned from a somewhat-deserved holiday, which was A Good Thing for all kinds of reasons. Without the drudgery of everyday life turning your brain into mush, a few days’ rest can see you gather together whatever scraps of creative thought remain up there and begin to regain the ability to form ideas and opinions. So, suitably refreshed, let me share some of my holiday thoughts with you (and apologies, but this is going to be a bit like one of those Christmas newsletters you get from relatives you don’t really know):

1) There’s a fundamental problem with handheld versions of games well-established on other platforms. If you buy one and like it, you can’t help but wonder if you’d like the ‘big-brother’ version more (and, given that the graphics, sound and controls are all likely to be better, that answer is likely to be ‘yes’). On the other hand, if you buy a handheld game because you want a portable, cut-down version of something you already know you like, it has to be pretty damn good to make you think something other than, “I already played this, and it was better the first time.” (Holiday example of the former: EA Fight Night; and of the latter: Midnight Club: LA Remix – both on PSP – and both perfectly enjoyable, incidentally).

2) Games that are called Splinter Cell or Syphon Filter, or otherwise involve sneaking around in the dark and being careful, are just not for me. Does this stop me buying them? No, it does not. My misplaced confidence arguably stems from the fact I once completed Metal Gear: Solid, when I had finished my final university exams and had nothing else to do. (I am sure Syphon Filter: Logan’s Shadow on PSP is a fine game – it certainly looked quite nice – but I’ll be buggered if I can get the hang of something that maps different controls to the analogue stick and the D-pad and expects you to remember them). Time for another eBay sale.

3) Retro Gamer magazine [one of a number of ‘holiday periodicals’ purchased for the express purpose of distracting me from the brutal reality that air travel is made possible by fuel and engines firing you into the sky, and not by magic] seems to have improved since I last bought it a couple of years ago. (This particular issue seemed to feature a number of articles or interviews recalling the days when hit home-micro titles could be spawned from a keen programmer’s bedroom, with one person responsible for each and every element of the game, and it was a look back I enjoyed, even if I only remembered the names and/or brief details of the games in question, rather than having particularly fond memories of playing them.) But, I can’t avoid the conclusion that it’s still not as good as it could be. With a wealth of potential material across all formats, and even taking into account that you can’t please everyone all of the time, I still think it could offer more.

4) Staying on the topic of Retro Gamer, it struck me as odd that they would plan a Kick Off series retrospective and then ask Stuart Campbell to write it. I’m a big fan of his work, but he’s hardly known as a lover of the games themselves – to the extent that he and series creator Dino Dini became involved in some undignified internet squabbling many years after the fact – so it seemed like a strange choice. And so it proved, with the resultant piece straining for objectivity but clearly written by a man for whom too much had gone before. And whatever your opinion on the ages-old Sensi vs. Kick Off debate, you’d have to be seriously crazy to argue that the series didn’t take a serious nose-dive after the first couple of games, anyway.


Post-Holiday Realisation #1: There’s a Steam Sale on.
Post-Holiday Realisation #2: You can get a Steam app for your Android phone.
Post-Holiday Realisation #3: Danger! Danger!