Mario, Peach, and the rest of the Mushroom Kingdom characters get to trash talking in Battle League, getting into the game library this summer, Samsung’s racing sim rig, Xbox Canada and the Blue Jays.
Raucous, hilarious Mario Strikers: Battle League shines with personality
Strike resembles soccer but borrows a bit from the chaos that is roller derby, and in the short Battle League games you’ll play you can step into the boots of one of ten Mushroom Kingdom characters including Mario and Luigi and their alters, Wario and Waluigi, Peach and Rosalina, Yoshi and Toad, Bowser, and Donkey Kong.
Each of the characters has a special “hyper strike” that is accompanied by stylized animation and its in these and the taunts that the characters throw at their opponents where Next Level really celebrates the individual personalities. You can also equip them with gear to improve their abilities.
I expect that Nintendo will release more characters through downloadable content in the coming months. What’s not easy to update, though, is how limiting it is to play Mario Strikers with friends.
You can only play with one other person on the same system, and online you can only go two versus two. The game accommodates up to eight players with local wireless, but only if you’ve connected four Nintendo Switches.
Nintendo seems to be encouraging players to play online in the Strikers Club where you can create a club with up to 19 other players to compete against other clubs.
But it’s too bad that our family can’t play two-on-two on our Switch. Because there would be some serious trash talking then.
Why I’ve gone back to Horizon Forbidden West
I’ve been writing – and talking – for months about how the video game industry has been impacted by the covid-19 pandemic. Shifts in how the work was getting done and interruptions in the supply chain are only a couple of examples.
One of the consequences is that games we expected last year were pushed into this year, and games we hoped would come out this year are pushing into next year, and beyond.
Which is a perfect opportunity to consider games you may have overlooked, or to spend more time with games you may have started and abandoned.
For me, the recent lull has given me a chance to go back to Horizon Forbidden West. I’ve now put some 80 hours into Aloy’s story, and I haven’t even finished the main narrative.
The far future Earth that is the setting for the Horizon games is compelling to me (there are interesting parallels with Neal Stephenson’s novel, Seveneves), and the writers at Guerrilla Games created side missions that have an impact on the world, and with characters who seem entirely real.
I’ll probably be finished Forbidden West in the next couple of weeks, and it just may be the first game that I fully complete.
Then I’ll have to wait for Horizon: Call of the Mountain, the virtual reality experience developed for PS VR2. There’s currently no release date for that.
Playstation Plus Premium library is extensive, and hard to navigate
Another way to deal with the slowdown of new gaming releases is to dig into a catalogue and find something you missed.
Which is easy to do with Playstation’s new library of games available through the Playstation Plus subscriptions.
The basic, Essential service ($70 a year) gives you a couple of games a month you can play. These are often back catalogue titles, but if you’ve got a PS5 you can get must-play games like Bloodborne, God of War, and the Last of Us.
Upgrading to Extra ($115 a year) gives you access to hundreds of more games, including recent hits like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Control, Ghost of Tsushima, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, and Returnal.
The Premium upgrade ($140 a year) adds games that Playstation has deemed “classics”, some of which were released on the original Playstation console (itself released in 1994).
Some of the highlights include Ape Escape, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, the original God of War trilogy, Infamous, and Resistance 3.
The number of truly old-school games available through Premium is limited, but it provides a nice nostalgia trip.
And a number of those older games are only playable by streaming from cloud servers, so you should keep that in mind.
What’s harder to get past is the confusing way that you can view and access these games on your console. It’s difficult to find anything, which will limit what people ultimately choose to play. I hope that a lack of engagement isn’t used as evidence that there’s no demand for those games when the problem is that people couldn’t find them.
Step into a high-tech car racing simulator courtesy of Samsung
If you’re in Toronto at any point this summer, consider visiting the Samsung Experience Store at Eaton Centre to drive a virtual race car in a unique racing rig.
You’ll need to clutch and shift, accelerate using foot pedals, and get bumped around by the hydrolics in the system. It’s the kind of experience you’re not likely to get at home, and sitting in that cockpit is the closest you’re going to get to actually driving a Formula 1 machine.
Get a special, in-person Blue Jays experience thanks to Xbox Canada
Xbox Canada’s official sponsorship with the Toronto Blue Jays means that Canadian gamers are getting a chance this summer to get Access Unlocked.
Four prizes are being awarded through the summer, and the prize packs include things like brunch in the dugout, swinging a bat in the batting cages, and playing Xbox games on the massive video screen.
If you’re not within 300 km of Toronto, you’ll also get flight and hotel.
The first prize period ends on June 30, so get your name in the hat.