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Taking a Step Back

The past few weeks, I’ve been suffering something awful. After losing the race to 100 jingles - which came down to some disgusting behaviour from the other contestant involving a triple jingle in the form of Sound Shapes - I had a real case of burnout. This happens from time to time, I had no motivation to play, instead spending my time off screen with my guitar, game of thrones and getting back into marathon training.

This burnout was also attributed to finishing Uncharted 4. Uncharted 4 was gorgeous, and in many ways has ruined my PS4 for me. It was so good, both from a story telling standpoint, but also in that fact that it looks lightyears ahead of anything else available now - so much so that I struggled to go back to playing other games. When I finished A Thief’s End, I went and loaded up Assassin’s Creed Syndicate and I was so deeply offended by what I saw and how clunky the game play was that I am yet to make it through Chapter 2.

I had it on good authority that this was the best AC game since Revelations (which was the last one I actually enjoyed). Wrong. People, it’s still dead, avoid this series like the plague. In fact, I would actually play an AC game where the main protagonist just got the plague and somehow infected all other Assassin’s so the series would finally end.

So I had two strategies to cure my case of burnout:

  1. Take some time out from playing

  2. Play something that isn’t trying to be an Uncharted scale hit.

Well, I did both. This post however, will focus on the three titles that brought me back from the brink: Axiom Verge, Downwell and Final Fantasy VII.

Step Back to Go Forward

So what’s special about these three titles, that has reinvigorated the jingle race and has me tearing towards the 150 milestone? Well, they’re retro. The beauty in these games isn’t in their visuals, it’s in nostalgia, solid gameplay and in the case of FFVII a superb story.

Axiom Verge is a perfect 'Metroidvania' title, a modern classic.

Axiom Verge and Downwell are both new titles, available on both the PS4 and Vita, but are styled like the games of old. I’m talking 8 bit graphics, glorious old soundtracks and just a solid foundation of simple and effective gameplay that was what made games of that era stand out from the crowd. Both of these titles are excellent additions to anyone’s digital games collection. I’m planning on writing a larger focus piece on Axiom Verge - I already mentioned it in my Vita’s Not Dead apology if you want a little more info - so I won’t mention much other than the fact that it’s a must play here. Downwell however, I will talk about.

Available for a massive £4 on the PlayStation store, there’s no excuse for not buying Downwell. It’s an incredibly simple game, but infuriatingly difficult and absolutely addictive. It encapsulates the ”just one more try” excuse for playing on, and has had me hooked for weeks. A perfect pick up and play for the half time breaks in the EURO 2016 football broadcasts, and ideal for when you’re looking to fill half an hour.

Downwell combines simple visuals and addictive gameplay

Downwell, is a game - you guessed it - about falling down a well. When I say it’s a simple game, I mean it, it uses the analog stick and the X button only.

Your character is equipped with one weapon, the gunboots. Fire your weapon downwards as you free fall to kill enemies and clear your path to the bottom of a well. You have to collect gems on your way down, which you can use to buy health upgrades, or ammo upgrades. Take out enemies by shooting them or jumping on their heads and try to string together combos for extra gems, ammo and health. Couldn’t be more simple right?

Simple, yet infuriatingly difficult. I’m yet to reach the bottom of the well in about 75 attempts. Die and you have to start from stage 1 all over again. I love games like these, that require skill rather than going all guns blazing into a battle just hoping to trigger the next checkpoint (shout out to the last mission of Call of Duty World at War on Veteran…). It’s going to be a tough platinum - you have to clear the well on hard mode for this too - but it’s one I’m finally motivated to do and I’m sure it will come in time. I haven’t purchased it twice, but Downwell is also available on iOS.

As for FFVII I don’t really need to talk about it. It's quality goes without saying. If you haven’t played it, shut this down and go take a long hard look at yourself in the mirror. The “HD” remaster is available on the PSN store, and I’ve been playing it remotely on my Vita while my girlfriend watches Game of Thrones - it’s okay, she’s halfway through season two…

FFVII is a game that I love, and the added incentive of a platinum at the end of it was more than enough to convince me to play it through again, despite already owning it on iOS. While playing it, I can't help but dream of what the eventual ground up remake is going to be like. The hype train is at full speed ahead.

See Ya, Burnout.

These three titles have cured my case of burnout. With their retro visuals, the transition back to sub-par looking PS4 games has been made a lot easier. Their challenging, yet achievable trophy lists have kick started my charge to 150 jingles. Their superb stories have got me through my state of post Uncharted mourning, and I’m ready to go again.

Burnout is a very real thing. If you ever find yourself afflicted, go back to your roots, find something that is inherently enjoyable to play and play it. Forget trying to power through on average titles just because they are current gen. The PlayStation back catalogue is vast, use it to your advantage!