With Stray capturing the hearts of cat lovers everywhere this week, we've been thinking about other games where animals take the lead.
All the way back to arcade classics like Frogger, we've had many chances to inhabit the animal kingdom, and the 90s featured a slew of animal-based titles, particularly with Disney tie-ins, not to mention console-era mascots like Sonic and Crash Bandicoot.
These days you can be a goat, a goddess in the form of a white wolf or attack people as a shark. What's your favourite?
Star Fox 64 / Lylat Wars | Liam Andrews
As much as I love cats, it wouldn’t do to pick them seeing as they have Stray repping them this week, so I went digging around my game collection to see which four legged creatures have taken centre stage in past played games.
That’s where I stumbled across my copy of Star Fox 64 3D, the 3DS port of the excellent N64 game, Lylat Wars. While there’s all sorts of animals knocking about in this series, I’m going with the main man (beast?) himself, Fox, as my selection.
Like James’ pick, there’s not actually much in the way of animal-specific stuff happening in this game, although we can’t be sure of what Fox McCLoud likes to do when not saving the galaxy – perhaps he does enjoy scattering the contents of bin bags across a street, or is partial to a bit of night-time pooping on people’s garden lawns? We’ll never know.
What he and his anthropomorphic allies do bring to the game, however, is a bit of whimsy that would simply be lacking with a regular human protagonist. I mean he’s a fox, called Fox, and it somehow works. I doubt a human, named Human, starring in a game called Star Human, would have been quite so popular.
Bubsy | Chris Brand
I've always thought Bubsy (not Busby, I did check - Ed) was a likeable character who deserved better. Though I can picture a few different levels from various games, it's Bubsy himself that is the most memorable aspect. He's got an almost Crash Bandicoot-like charm which, I believe, is solely responsible for the repeated sequels. Once again, the series would be functionally the same with a human protagonist (granted, the story would need rewriting), but having a cheeky animal mascot was all the rage at the time.
Nostalgia has no doubt coloured my memories but I can recall genuinely enjoying Bubsy's first outing, Clawed Encounters of the Furred Kind, even though my younger self found some sections of it to be painfully frustrating due to the one-hit-kill mechanic and my own impatience.
Anyone who has played a 2D platformer starring a blue hedgehog or a moustachioed plumber will understand the gameplay and be immediately familiar with the controls. It was a fully competent Sonic/Mario clone that was just different enough to justify its existence.
Maybe Sonic is a little more charismatic, and he certainly has a better back-catalogue, but Bubsy has somehow managed to survive in the minds of many, despite almost every sequel being a huge disappointment. Every now and then they'll try to resurrect the loveable bobcat but the games never live up to their potential.
The Bubsy series mirrors the classic horror, Halloween; each new entry is worse than the previous, but the focal character just won't die.
While games can be great for a touch of escapism now and again, sometimes you long for something real, just a little different to your day-to-day.
Look no further than this week's Team Talk, where we're pondering what might make the best simulator, inspired by the release of PowerWash Simulator this week. It might be a lightning bolt of inspiration which exists only in your overly-active imagination, or perhaps it's something that already exists or is it an established classic like Microsoft Flight Simulator, one of the first and most enduring in the genre.
What would you choose? What makes you excited to play it? Let us know in the comments.
Garden Bird Simulator | Liam Andrews
A quick internet search tells me there’s a few bird simulator games knocking about, including a Pigeon Simulator, but I’m interested in playing as the smaller garden birds that I often see frequenting my garden feeder.
I’d call the game Garden Bird Simulator, not just because that’s where the gameplay would take place (and it’s where the birds live), but also because I don’t think Tit Simulator would get past any diligent marketing department.
You’d play as either a Blue, Coal, or Great tit in a sandbox environment, flitting from garden to garden, hopping between the branches of bushes and trees in the search for nutritious insects or places to nest. Rarer birds, such as Long-Tailed, Crested, Marsh, or Willow tit could be unlockable characters.
Some gardens could contain easily accessible bird feeders, but these come with hazards, such as neighbourhood cats or circling predator birds that are waiting to pounce, adding a risk/reward element to gameplay.
The end goal would be to find or build a nest and successfully raise a set number of fledglings, protecting/caring for them both in the nest and after they have fledged, but I’d also include a no-objective, dive right in mode so players can just relax and enjoy the roleplaying.
Guitar Maintenance Simulator | Chris Brand
When it comes to mundane activities that are oddly cathartic, PowerWash Simulator is going to be hard to top. But, top it I have, with this concept for Guitar Maintenance Simulator, the side of Guitar Hero that you don't see.
I've spent many a lazy Sunday afternoon sedately, yet thoroughly, cleaning and restringing my guitar. It's one of the few pursuits in which I get that feeling of satisfaction from a job well done and I think it would transition excellently to video game format.
At first, you'd start with simply cleaning, restringing and tuning, before moving on to more intensive work, like repairing and replacing parts. I envision scores of different makes and models, each with their own distinct (and authentic) sound, which could be modified as you unlock and install new parts. Amps and effects pedals could be added for further depth, giving players a huge range of true-to-life sounds that could be created.
A "free play" type of mode would allow me to build the sort of digital collection that I'll never be able to acquire in stupid real life and could potentially teach me the skills needed to finally fix up the fixer-upper I received from a friend some months ago.
Much like my colleagues' ideas, you wouldn't need to be an enthusiast in order to enjoy it, but you'd get more out of it if you were at least somewhat interested in the subject matter. On that note (ahem), a basic understanding of music theory could be picked up in a casual way, if anyone has dreams of becoming a rock star, like I am.
With the holidays just around the corner, the summer gaming drought is almost upon us, which means it's time to dust off our favourite games to play while hiding from the sun.
Whether you're getting your friends together for 1, 2 Switch on the roof from that Switch launch trailer, or losing yourself in a sprawling single player adventure from dawn till dusk, we all have gaming moments which remind of us the summer time, when the weather is occasionally fine.
What's your favourite? Let us know in the comments.
Arkham City | Chris Brand
Ah, summer. It's a time for beer gardens, frosty pints, BBQs and good friends. Or it would be, if I still drank alcohol or had any friends.
For me, summer is all about sitting on my comfy old couch with a large fan blasting cool air straight at my chops, a controller in my hand and my eyes working overtime, acutely aware of any movement in my peripheral vision that could signify the presence of the spiders that are just waiting to ruin my day.
If weather absolutely has to exist, I'd much prefer dull, overcast, autumn evenings to this horrible, bright warmth that we're subjected to for a few days every year. As such, I'm choosing to hide away with The Dark Knight, his brooding countenance matching my own miserable face.
Arkham City is the best of the bunch, serving up a superb storyline and expanding upon the original whilst still keeping all of the elements that made it one of the best superhero games around. Just like Arkham Asylum, the opening cinematic sets up the plot right before the punching starts.
The brief tutorial/refresher on how combat works has stuck with me, as there's a very believable reason for why our protagonist has been stripped of the fancy Bat-gadgets that we spent so much time procuring in the previous title.
The game is well-paced, with memorable boss fights and a fairly gentle difficulty curve that gives players plenty of time to get to grips with new mechanics and tools as they are introduced. Whilst the combat may not be quite as crisp as it is in Arkham Knight, it's still a noticeable improvement over Asylum and holds up well to this day.
Firewatch | Sam Sant
I enjoy venturing outdoors during the hot summer weather (shocking, I know) and often feel guilty about staying inside; one of the best ways I’ve found to combat this is taking vicarious trips in games.
Firewatch is set in the gorgeous, sun-drenched Wyoming wilderness. Players wander around scenic landscapes while chatting to Delilah, protagonist Henry’s supervisor, over a radio. Great weather, scenery and company (the pair can grow quite close together) are largely what define the archetypal “perfect” summer.
Not everything goes exactly to plan, however. As strange events begin to occur, Henry and Delilah are drawn to investigate a potential shady conspiracy. Without ever becoming downright unnerving, this imbues the game with a sense of adventure familiar to summer ramblers taking the time to explore unknown places.
Crucially, Firewatch is also simple to drop in and out of and doesn’t take more than a few hours to complete. It’s easy to accommodate amongst a busy summer schedule without the risk of eating into real-world plans, should that be of concern.