Games Inbox: How do you break a mobile game addiction?

Disney Magic Kingdoms key art (pic: Disney)

The Monday letters page thinks it’s not just Horizon that has a problem with endless sequels, as one reader hopes The Suffering gets a remake.

To join in with the discussions yourself email [email protected]

Kicking the habit
Really enjoyed the Reader’s Feature at the weekend, about the state of mobile gaming. There are a few decent games out there (I’m currently enjoying Vampire Survivors and Marvel Snap! thanks to GC’s recommendations) but they are few and far between, given the sheer volume available.

I’ve just this weekend stopped playing Disney Magic Kingdoms – a freemium tapper game that launched in 2016 – after 2,430 consecutive days. I’d always accepted there was premium content (I’ve easily spent more than £500 on the game over the years), but what used to be staggered has now become so aggressive.

The tipping point for me was the introduction of 90-day season passes at £17.99 a time, in addition to a barrage of events that encourage microtransactions to stand a chance of obtaining the content. Even before that, I can’t remember the last time playing the game (if that’s even the right term) was actually fun and not just a habit.

I know there are (rightly) discussions about loot boxes, but they barely scratch the surface of what’s happening. Companies hide behind the fact that their games are – technically – free-to-play, while knowingly taking advantage of compulsive behaviour. It’s such a shame the potential of mobile gaming quickly became rotten to the core. What’s worse is that there’s no incentive for it to get better because unlike other platforms fated by poor software, smartphones aren’t going anywhere.

Forgotten horrors
With horror games making a revival, personally I’d like to see a The Suffering remake. It was an interesting take on the genre I thought. Enemies based on how they died in prison, the backstory of the island itself, the fact you’re not an everyday man but someone who can take care of themselves makes the whole combat element bit more believable.

I enjoyed it, much more than the sequel, I must admit. Any idea who owns the rights now days?

GC: It was originally a Midway release, so Warner Bros. owns it now. Developer Surreal Software was merged into Middle-Earth: Shadow Of Mordor maker Monolith Productions.

Just stop
Good Reader’s Feature on the Horizon games over the weekend, but it’s not just Guerrilla that flog the horse to death.

Activision with Call Of Duty, Ubisoft with Assassin’s Creed and EA with FIFA. All are guilty of it, even the mighty Naughty Dog. The question you have to ask, is why they keep doing it?

The answer, of course, is we keep buying it and that doesn’t give anyone, developer or publisher, an incentive to do anything different. If it ain’t broke, they don’t fix it, is the old maxim. That’s why indie games have come to the fore in recent years. Small developers, sometimes in the garden shed, I like to think, are at the creative nub as they can take risks. Think of Papers, Please or Dicey Dungeons, both great games and with nary a sequel in sight, because they are self contained. Of course, there are more misses in indie, and especially, mobile gaming, but, on the whole, they dare to dream.

Hopefully, some of the big publishers are finding out the hard way that there is a market for single-player games. EA and the Star Wars licence is a good example. Totally wasted until Fallen Order, which was pretty damn good, to the point they ripped it off for the terrible Obi-Wan Kenobi series. Whereas Ubisoft and Activision need to stop and completely rethink their franchises, and Naughty Dog need to make something totally different, that feels more like a sandbox to expand their storytelling.

So, the only conclusion you can draw is if we stop buying a franchise, the developers will have to do something different. Give themselves a break and maybe come back later. Like Capcom have done with Resident Evil. After an extended period of nothing new, and what seemed like much soul searching, they returned to their creative roots. The Resident Evil 2 remake, and the new Biohazard, totally reinvigorated interest in the series after it had become a lame duck, and now we are going to, hopefully, have a glorious new Resident Evil 4. Make it so.

GC: As a point of irony, indie sequels, even to much loved titles, are notorious for not selling well.

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Same old story
Christmas games thoughts… I loved the first 2 Bayonettas but I just can’t get into 3. All the fights are with large monsters, so you can’t see what Bayonetta is up to half the time, no easing you into the combat and teaching you combos or unlocking them, so half the time you’re just button mashing.

Every fight is won by summoning in a large monster that has a really basic moveset. Once the timer on that runs out you just play for time until you can summon again. And the story is not only garbage it also interrupts what you’re doing constantly with cut scenes.

My other Christmas game was God of War Ragnarök which I’m finding the complete opposite – good story, and a good unlock tree so you learn how to fight, and it really punishes you for just going in and trying to hit them hard, you’ve got to be tactical.

GC: Are you implying the story in the other Bayonetta games weren’t also ‘garbage’?

Further information
RE: Meestah Bull. You missed out some vital information necessary to help you with your question.

What resolution are you intending to be playing at and are you looking to use your PC only for gaming, or do you need it for other work needs? And are you looking for higher frame rates beyond 60fps or are you happy with that as a ceiling?

If you’re aiming for 4K you’re going to be GPU bottlenecked anyway, so extra processing power will be redundant at a certain point.

The new Ryzen 5 7600 is probably a happy medium, generally, if you’re not looking for extremely high refresh rates or don’t intend on using the PC for lots of content creation. Furthermore, the motherboards will allow for upgrades for some time.

RE: Meestah Bull. You seem to know the score but if you are lucky you might be able to upgrade just your CPU. If you are looking at a big spend then if you change CPU brand you will need a different motherboard and compatible RAM. Intel is notorious for constantly switching the socket layout, so you have to keep buying new boards when you upgrade, but AMD keep theirs for a few generations.

To keep the price down, check the motherboard makers website to see what CPUs you can upgrade to.

Also, watch YouTube to see the newer GPUs. They’re huge, so you might need a new case when you upgrade again in the future. I’ll be keeping my GeForce RTX 3070 until they sort that out.

Catching up
I always wanted a Game Boy as a kid but never got one. However, I still have my Game Boy Advance and I’ve recently decided I’d like to go back and pick up some of the essential games for the OG Game Boy – but what were the real killer apps? Tetris is an obvious one, but what else should I be looking for?

Any recommendations to build up my Game Boy Advance catalogue would also be welcome. I traded in a bunch of decent but forgotten games back in the DS era, but I still have Astro Boy, Mario Kart, Street Fighter, and Doom.

Advance Wars is already on that wishlist of course.
FoximusPrime81 (gamertag/NN ID/Twitter)

GC: For the original Game Boy, we’d recommend the Super Mario Land/Wario Land series, Donkey Kong, Monster Max, and Gargoyle’s Quest. Metroid 2 and Link’s Awakening are also great, but both have modern remakes. There’s also Capcom’s Zelda: Oracle Of Seasons and Oracle Of Ages, but those are only for the Game Boy Color. As for the Game Boy Advance, we’d recommend Rhythm Paradise, Metroid: Zero Mission, Zelda: The Minish Cap, and an imported copy of Drill Dozer.

Fool’s errand
Nice to see Switch 2 rumours are back in the limelight for the new year… trying to predict Nintendo is usually a fool’s errand, but it is kinda fun since they’re the most unpredictable of the main players. That the Super Switch/Switch Advance/SwitchU will come out by the end of the next year (so 2024) and be a more powerful hybrid device feel like no-brainer predictions. Nintendo did merge its portable and home console game development some time ago, after all, and DLC for multiple current titles ends this Christmas, so the analysts can’t have kudos for those.

What they’ll do about backwards compatibility, and those cartridges, I think could be the most interesting aspect. The Wii U failed since it couldn’t take existing Wii owners with it. How will Nintendo persuade 100 million Switch owners to upgrade? Launching with a few big gun franchises like Mario Kart 9 and Metroid Prime 4 is an obvious one but enhancing your existing library of games could be another. It isn’t their style to put out patches to make last gen games run at 4K and 60fps, but maybe it should be this time? Knowing Nintendo though they’ll expect you to pony up full price for enhanced ports of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild et al in 2028…

On a similar note, it’s quite amazing how much money Nintendo have left on the table with the current console, shown by the fact I can’t just go onto the eShop and buy Super Mario Galaxy (seriously, just take my money and give me the game you’ve ported already). Maybe the rumours of Metroid Prime, 3D Zelda, and other GameCube era onward HD ports will come to pass when they need something to keep the current Switch ticking over, having moved development resources to the new console. Could be a nostalgic Christmas on Switch this year…

GC: The Wii U was fully backwards compatible with the Wii and its controllers.

Nothing more than solid
I would like to respond to the Reader’s Feature which described The Last Of Us as a bad game. If you break down any game, from Mario to Elden Ring, the player’s actions can appear rudimentary. Try describing to a non-gamer what you do in a Mario game for instance, because it’s easy to make even the greatest games appear simplistic. Leaping onto characters heads or bouncing off scenery to collect stars doesn’t factor in the timing, precision, and planning those actions take. The Last Of Us is no different.

Whilst I’m not suggesting The Last Of Us’ gameplay is anything more than solid if viewed in isolation, it’s how it perfectly supports the story which is most impressive. Stealth which takes planning, a lack of resources to make you feel vulnerable, and enemies who punish mistakes – it all adds to that sense of immersion. Any suggestion the level of interaction is somehow lacking I find disingenuous and wholly exaggerated.

Since the TV show has proven to be a success, predictably the cinematic nature of the video game has led to assertions the outcome was inevitable. After so many failed projects, which includes ‘cinematic games’ like Uncharted, it’s clearly no easy task and shouldn’t be diminished.

Where I do partly agree with the Reader’s Feature is that the storyline of The Last Of Us is indeed derivative and the ending is what elevated it beyond the usual zombie tropes. However, it was the overall execution, character story arcs, and compelling nature of the narrative which set it apart. It’s very easy to have a reductive view on a game’s achievements, which is what the Reader’s Feature was guilty of.

GC: Uncharted was financially successfully, much more so than most video game movies. Also, the Reader’s Feature was clearly talking about the level of interaction with the story, which is zero.

Inbox also-rans
John Carpenter hasn’t made a decent film in more than 30 years, I’m not surprised no one wants him to make Dead Space. He still the master when it comes to soundtracks though, so absolutely get him in there.

So the GTA 6 rumours have started but I’m still holding on to the fact that it could well be announced this year for real, probably with absolutely no warning. I don’t seem to remember any rumours about Red Dead Redemption 2?

GC: We don’t recall any either.

This week’s Hot Topic
The subject for this weekend’s Inbox was suggested by reader Onibee, who asks what video game protagonist would you like to swap games with?

Pick any two games you like, regardless of whether they’re in similar genres or not, and swap the lead character. What would happen and do you think it would be fun?

Is this something you’ve thought of before and how important do you think the lead character is to a game? Are there any you’ve been put off from purely because of the protagonist and whose abilities have you most wished you had in another game?

E-mail your comments to: [email protected]

The small print
New Inbox updates appear every weekday morning, with special Hot Topic Inboxes at the weekend. Readers’ letters are used on merit and may be edited for length and content.

You can also submit your own 500 to 600-word Reader’s Feature at any time via email or our Submit Stuff page, which if used will be shown in the next available weekend slot.

You can also leave your comments below and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter.

MORE : Weekend Hot Topic: Most anticipated video games of 2023

MORE : Games Inbox: Nintendo Switch 2 reveal in 2024, Ubisoft panic, and Returnal love

MORE : Games Inbox: Starfield vs. Skyrim and Fallout, Resident Evil 4 18th anniversary, and Elden Ring: The TV Show

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