Now Playing: Holiday Edition

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a Now Playing post. What better time than with the holidays kicking off? Here’s what I am playing, and will be playing, over the break.

Shantae: Half-Genie Hero (PS4)

I was a latecomer to the Shantae phenomenon, so I didn’t get a chance to back Shantae: Half-Genie Hero when it went to Kickstarter in 2013. Nonetheless, I’ve been eagerly looking forward to it for the last few years. Now it’s finally here, I can finally say that it’s been worth the wait.

As much as I love the functionality of pirate gear in Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse, it’s great to have her transformations back. Dances and shapeshifting are a key part of Shantae’s identity, and Half-Genie Hero brings all those classic forms back, like Monkey and Elephant, as well as a whole lot of others: Mouse, Crab, Spider, Gem Jar, Blob Fish, even a tree.

The most impressive thing is just how great Half-Genie Hero looks and sounds, though. It’s a huge technical step up from the 16-bit stylings of Pirate’s Curse and Shantae: Risky’s Revenge, with 3D environments and beautiful HD sprites for all the characters. The soundtrack is stunning, too – it gave me actual physical shivers at one point, when a vocal track started playing. I have minor concerns about the overall level design, but overall, Half-Genie Hero is a delightful game so far.

(Full review coming soon, right here at Shindig.)

PlayStation VR

I recently got my PlayStation VR so I’m playing a bunch of PSVR games and demos on that. I was kind of skeptical on Batman Arkham VR, but it’s better than I could have imagined. It’s a really good showcase of the technology, and as a side-effect of the VR limitations, its a lot less action-driven than other Arkham games. Instead, there’s more focus on the detective side of Batman, which makes for a great experience.

I really like what I’ve played so far of Robinson: The Journey, too, though that isn’t much. Crytek have created a beautiful world to explore, and being able to fully immerse yourself in it with VR is unlike anything I’ve experienced. I also really like being able to freely move around, rather than being limited to static movements like in most VR games. I know this is cause for motion sickness for a lot of people, but I haven’t had any issues so far.

I’ll also be playing Here They Lie when I can work up the courage for VR horror. I really like the demos I’ve played of Wayward Sky and Tethered, too, so hopefully I’ll be able to check out the full games soon. And Eagle Flight – I know it’s reviewed pretty poorly, but from what Matt Sainsbury at Digitally Downloaded (who I trust more than most reviewers) had to say, it sounds like exactly what I want from virtual reality.

Xmas Shooting – Scramble!! (PC)

The name “Xmas Shooting” sounds like some sort of horrible act of terrorism, but Xmas Shooting – Scramble!! couldn’t be further from that. Rather, it’s a fun, festive little bullet hell shoot ’em up that see’s a bunny-eared anime girl Santa searching for her stolen presents. It’s completely ridiculous, as you fight through waves of snowmen, Christmas trees, toys, and other such merry foes. It’s a very cute, bite-sized shmup that I’m enjoying a lot, and is a great way to get into the Christmas spirit.

Read my full review at Digitally Downloaded.

Ladykiller in a Bind (PC)

Games don’t often come as sexy as Ladykiller in a Bind. An erotic visual novel, it has you playing as The Beast, a lesbian who’s stuck on a cruise ship pretending she’s her twin brother. Depending on what you say and do in different situations, you raise or lower suspicion about The Beast’s identity, adding an interesting game-like element. She’s not entirely alone, though, as a few others know her true identity – and these are the people with whom The Beast inevitably has a lot of sex. It’s explicit, it’s hot, and it’s a great example of how to embrace sex in a game, which is something the medium seems to really struggle with.

(Full review coming soon, right here at Shindig.)

Gurumin 3D: A Monstrous Adventure (3DS)

Gurumin 3D is a 3DS port of Gurumin: A Monstrous Adventure, which originally came out for PC in 2004 and PSP in 2006. It certainly shows its age even in the 3DS version, but it’s nonetheless an enjoyable little action RPG. It follows Pirin, a girl who stumbles upon a Monster Village that’s under attack by evil Phantoms. With the aid of a weaponised drill, Pirin sets about to restore Monster Village and save the day.

It’s a simple plot but captivating plot, thanks largely to Pirin herself. She’s kind of annoying and bratty, but also rather sweet, and the friendships she builds with the monsters are endearing. Straightforward hack and slash dungeon crawling makes up the bulk of the few hours I’ve played so far, but there’s a lot of fun in that.

(Full review coming soon, right here at Shindig.)

Final Fantasy XV (PS4)

I had very, very low expectations for Final Fantasy XV, but it turned out to be one of my favourite games of the year. It somehow managed to find the perfect balance between taking the series is a new direction and retaining its core Final Fantasy-ness, and the end result is something quite special.

I still haven’t finished the game due to time constraints, but I’ve loved every minute I’ve played so far, and over the break I’ll certainly be seeing this game to its conclusion.

Read my first impressions at The Spinoff.

Wild ARMs 3 (PS4)

Wild ARMs 3 is one of my favourite games of all time. Sadly, I no longer have a working PS2 and my computer isn’t quite up to the task of PS2 emulation, so I haven’t been able to play it in many, many years. However, Sony had the good sense to re-release Wild ARMs 3 on PS4 earlier this year, so I’ve finally had the chance to revisit the game – and it’s even better than I remember.

It’s a massive game, and I haven’t had much time to play it this year due to other commitments, but I’m hoping a bit of downtime over the break will allow me to dive in again in earnest. (I’m also planning on spending some time making a little Wild ARMs 3 fan-game these holidays, so playing it again will be some handy research.)


That’s pretty much my gaming plans for the holidays, as well as catching up on some backlogged stuff. Here’s to a relaxing break, and an exciting 2017! (I’ll hopefully do these round up posts more regularly next year, too.)

Matthew Codd

Matthew is a writer based in Wellington. He loves all things pop culture, and is fascinated by its place in history and the wider social context.