From The Armchair: The Shorter The Better

ArmchairWhat-ho, chums! Since my last missive back in January, events have continued apace. The expected arrival of Merriweather Junior is now mere weeks away, after which I expect all gaming exploits will cease, at least for a time. So in the run up to the big day I’ve been luxuriating in my precious gaming time, all too aware that my consoles will soon be entering into a period of neglect – but for the very best of reasons, of course.

Junior’s impending arrival isn’t the only big news – Ian of 101 Video Games That Made My Life Slightly Better fame got married, and the stag do was suitably gaming focused, featuring bouts of Mario Kart 8, Super Smash Bros., Street Fighter II and Super Ghouls and Ghosts (the latter two thanks to a tiny MegaDrive emulator that plugged into the TV). MK8 proved a big hit, but Super Smash Bros. for Wii U mostly provoked frowns and much scratching of heads as everyone playing tried desperately to work out where they were on the screen and what the hell they were doing. After only a few rounds of utter confusion we decided to give up and play Street Fighter II instead, which remains a stone cold classic after all these years. Indeed, long dormant muscle memories were reawakened as attendees – some of whom haven’t picked up a pad in years – suddenly recalled how to execute a Dragon Punch or pummel their opponent with a Spinning Pile Driver. It was gaming nostalgia at its best.

One game that I’d rather see left in the past, however, is Super Ghouls and Ghosts. This game was pre-loaded on the MegaDrive emulator along with Street Fighter II, and it proved utterly infuriating – but we couldn’t stop playing it. We took to passing the game pad from player to player, and alternately cheering as someone got a little bit further and booing as one of the viciously unfair enemies topped our hero. But for the hours of investment, there was very, very little gain – we barely got anywhere, although my blood pressure certainly advanced a few levels. On the basis of this, I’m fairly certain I won’t enjoy Bloodborne.

Super Ghouls and Ghosts – utterly infuriating.

Which reminds me, Bloodborne’s spiritual predecessor, Demon’s Souls, was on sale on the PlayStation store over the weekend for the very tasty price of £3.99. I was sorely tempted to pick it up and see what all the fuss was about, but two things made me stop: first, if it’s anywhere near as hard as Super Ghouls and Ghosts I may end up destroying furniture; and second, I’m avoiding any particularly long games for the foreseeable future. With a little one on the way, I doubt I’ll have time for many 60-hour+ RPGs, and I already have several chunky games to finish.

But on that basis I did pick up Zone of the Enders: HD Collection. Both of the games in this collection are notoriously short and easy, which was the reason I never bought them when they originally came out for the PS2. Yet now it’s the very reason I decided to purchase them – I need games that I can quickly pick up and play in the few short hours when I’m not doing responsible adult things. Also, zoomy shooty mech games are right up my street, and I’ve wanted to play ZOE since it came out nearly 15 years ago.

Speaking of short games, I thoroughly enjoyed the first episode of The Wolf Among Us, and I can’t wait to play through the rest of the series. TellTale’s episodic format is perfect for time-poor gamers like me, and as an added bonus, Ms. D quite enjoys watching me play them too. I also finished season two of The Walking Dead, which was very good – if not quite as good as the first. It began well, but Ms. D and I agreed that the last couple of episodes dragged on for far longer than they should have.

And finally, when I’ve not been playing through TellTale adventure games, I’ve been desperately trying to get to the end of Xenoblade Chronicles before Junior is born. I won’t lie to you – it’s not looking good. I’ve read it takes 60 hours to finish the main quest and around 100 hours to complete all the side quests too – currently I’m only 12 hours in, and the baby is due in less than six weeks. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the game so far, but will I ever get to finish it? Watch this space…

Xenoblade Chronicles is a fantastic game, but very, very long...
Xenoblade Chronicles is a fantastic game, but very, very long…


  1. As a father of 3 (all currently under the age of 4) I can promise you that you’ll still have time to play games! I don’t play anywhere near as much as I used to, but I manage about an hour in the evenings after everyone else has gone to bed and the house is quiet.

    I definitely find myself attracted to shorter games now. The idea of playing anything that will take longer than 30-40 hours (i.e. about 1 month) just scares me. The simple fact is that if I play shorter games I can play more of them – and there are so many great games that I want to play.

    All the best for the weeks ahead! You’ll be shattered but it will be worth it.

    1. Good to know you’ve still got time for gaming! Likewise, I can’t see myself playing many ‘long haul’ games after Junior arrives – little and often is the way to go I reckon. No more all-nighters!

  2. You’ve kept that one secret – the old adage that the British are secretive has proven correct! Congratulations!

    I find that adult life in general – let alone with a little brat running around – has impacted how much time i’m willing to sink into a game. If i do spend a lot of time with a game it’s over many, many months. I think fear of commitment to a game is the reason i don’t intentionally set out to dig into long experiences. The shorter and sharper the better i think.

    Well i wish you luck and i hope parenthood suits you well, as I’m sure it will!

    1. Yes, I’ve been keeping it pretty quiet I guess – I tend not to talk about personal or family stuff on the blog or social media (or even post pictures). But the little one will be here very soon, and he’s going to make a big impact on my life, so I might as well acknowledge that!

      Expect many more posts about very short, easy games at 2 or 3am in the morning…

      1. I think that’s the way to go – have to compartmentalise your life. I’ve managed that rather well I think. Still, great news, couldn’t be more excited for you.

        There are some great short games around the place – and i reckon old games are absolutely the perfect place to start. I also find myself drawn to games that are designed in bite sized chunks appealing too – its what i really love about the Worms games and Team 17’s recent effort Flockers. Deep, but digestible, and that’s great!

        Perhaps now you’ll be sleep deprived and vulnerable to persuasion i may be able to interest you in this wonderful genre called “racing games”. Designed with the time constrained player in mind. One race, or one hundred races, the choice is yours 😉

  3. I’ve been know to dally in the odd racing game from time to time! But I don’t have the passion for them that I do with adventure or strategy games like XCOM. But for the next few months I reckon I’m going to focus on the slew of great Wii U games that are coming or have just been released – Captain Toad is next on my purchase list.

    Speaking of racing games, did you see the new 200cc mode on Mario Kart 8? It looks phenomenal!

    1. I haven’t seen it, but i will now! Although, while Mario Kart 8 is a bloody fantastic game, it didn’t quite get its claws into me the way the Sonic All Star series did. Perhaps worth whacking it back in for another lap.

      God yes XCOM absolutely gripped me – which reminds me I’ve got that new-ish version of Enemy Unknown i should boot up. Oh the late nights i had with that original game.

  4. Telltale Game Series are great when young children are involved and gaming time is limited. I’ve also been suckered into some mobile phone games just because they are quick and easy to put down. Took me FOREVER to play through Dragon Age Inquisition and I didn’t even do like, half the side quests just because… no time. And now, if I only get an hour or so to play a night, I can’t justify spending 2 hours wandering aimlessly around maps.

    1. I’m looking forward to playing through The Wolf Among Us and Game of Thrones, not to mention Life is Strange. Episodic gaming could be the way forward!

      1. Life is Strange is a great game and I’m really enjoying the episodic release. The Telltale games are fantastic at giving you the illusion that choice matters, but ultimately it doesn’t matter what choices you make in a Telltale game; the main plot proceeds unhindered regardless of your input.

        In Life is Strange your choices actually seem to have a lasting impact on the outcome. Maybe this is an illusion too (I’ll have to wait for the end of the current series to find out) but if it is it’s so well done I don’t care. Plus the time rewinding mechanic is so much fun.

      2. Sounds great – can’t wait to play this one. I have Remember Me, which is also by DontNod, and I’ve been meaning to play it for about a year. Apparently it’s fairly short, so could be a good one to play in between baby naps!

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