Anxiety, Depression, Indie Gaming, Writing And Me

Pre-warning. This is a long and very personal article.

I often like to share personal memories with this blog. I enjoy looking back on my past and writing about all I have experienced in the world of gaming and so on. Of all the articles I have written over the years, this one has been the most difficult. From me starting this article to me pressing the publish button, it has been six months. Six months of writing, reading and editing. Deleting sentences, paragraphs and even the whole article… multiple times. To then re-write, re-read and re-edit… multiple times.

I don’t know if the constant editing and deletion of this article is a form of embarrassment to openly admit and detail that I have suffered from anxiety and depression, or if it is just a case of me thinking that people wouldn’t be interested to read about me suffering from anxiety and depression. Still, even if only one person reads this, understands and maybe even learns something from it. Then just maybe, it actually is worth it. Plus, this is a great cathartic release for me too.

DERPESSION WRITING

I don’t even know exactly where to start with this one. Do I go back to the point in my life when depression first took hold of me? I couldn’t do that even if I wanted to because I honestly don’t know. Depression takes over for a multitude of reasons, the end of a relationship, death of a loved one, loss of a job and more. Sometimes depression just happens and there is no real trigger moment or reason. I definitely fall into the latter there. I don’t know how or why my depression first began, I don’t know why it still comes back now and again either. I just know that it is there, that it likes to rear its ugly head and drags me down every now and then.

I can tell you when I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety and when I first realised that something was wrong though. It was late February of 2020 and I was feeling unbelievably low. I mean seriously down to the point of crying… which I would often do when nobody else was around. One of the big triggers was the birth of my son, which was mid-December 2019. What should’ve been an amazing and joyous occasion, I felt nothing. I was there for the birth, I cut the umbilical cord, I held my son for the first time just minutes after he was born and I felt nothing. It was Christmas and I was at home with my partner, our daughter, my mom stayed with us for a couple of days and of course, our newborn son. This should’ve been a wonderful family memory to cherish forever and the best Christmas present ever, I felt nothing.

Still, I’m a man so I sucked it all up and just put on a brave face. That’s what we men do, right? I was on my paternity leave from work, I got through Christmas and New Year, I pretended I was happy when around family and friends and went back to work a couple of weeks later. My (as of then) undiagnosed depression was insane. I would cry on my way to work, cry on my way back from work, cry when everyone was asleep in the house. Our dog would come over and put his head on my lap to offer some comfort. The only happiness I felt was when I held my Xbox controller in my hand or when I was doing some writing. My escapism, my relief from how down I was feeling at the time.

XBOX CONTROLLER

I need to cover an issue with work for background. I had pre-arranged and agreed set hours due to childcare to look after our daughter as both I and my girlfriend worked, this was before my son was born too. I had those hours for over a year and a half and I had been working at this place for almost three years at the time. So, I had those agreed and set hours longer than I hadn’t. Anyway, when I came back from my paternity leave after our son was born, my boss changed all my hours and put me on shifts that I could not do. My hours were fine before my son was born and when we had one child but now we had two, suddenly there was an issue. Truth be told, I suspected my boss wanted to force me out of my job because he had hired a friend of his to help out over Christmas and while I was on paternity leave. I believe he then wanted that friend to stay on and me to go. Obviously, I could not prove this but the changing of my hours was a step to get me to leave.

So, I was under a lot of stress due to really struggling with these new hours and the extra childcare, new baby and all that. I spoke to my girlfriend, who is an HR manager for an international company but on her maternity leave at the time. She really, really knows her employment law. She said they can not just change my hours like that, without discussing with me first, especially as I had a long-standing agreement in place. So following advice, I put in an informal complaint against my manager. I had to have an informal meeting with my manager (who didn’t know my lass was an HR manager and didn’t know I was getting professional advice), he stuck by his guns, told me I was wrong and I had to do the hours he gave me. Long story short and I had to escalate the informal complaint to a formal one via head office. So yeah, I had a lot of shit going on at work, a new baby and (undiagnosed) depression in early 2020.

I just pushed on with my life, I really didn’t want to, I just did. I’d go to work all day, come home to a quiet house (as everyone was asleep), cry to myself, dog’s head on my lap and then play some games or get my laptop out and write. Minecraft was my go-to game, my safety net. Yeah I know, I’m an almost 46-year-old man playing, what many consider, a ‘kid’s game’. Still, I found Minecraft relaxing. The gentle piano music that plays in the background, just chilling out and building myself a house, etc. It took me back to being a kid playing with LEGO. I wasn’t making crappy and annoying YouTube Minecraft videos, I used the game as a means of escape, a way to calm myself down when my stress and anxiety of work took over.

MINECRAFT

I honestly didn’t know what was wrong with me at the time. We had a new baby boy, the first boy born on our side of the family too as we had previously had a girl and my two brothers had both had girls too. So having a baby boy was a massive family joy, just not for me. Anyway, I was at work one day in late February 2020, had been there for 10 hours or so and I knew something was wrong. I wasn’t sure what it was, the whole covid thing was everywhere by then and you couldn’t avoid the news even if you wanted to. So I blamed the covid outbreak and the news for reporting on all the doom and gloom for making me feel down, even though I knew I’d been feeling like shit for a long time before the covid news even broke, I just used it as an excuse.

So anyway, I was at work feeling really shitty and I called my girlfriend at home, she was on her maternity leave and very tired, looking after the new baby and an energetic 2-year-old. I hated myself for having to do that as I didn’t like to bother her and all that, which really didn’t help with my depression. I asked for some HR advice, I told her something was not right, that I felt down and really couldn’t face work. She told me to come home, that I have every right to tell my boss that I’m not well mentally and I can leave work as long as I explain. To be honest, it was nearing the end of my shift anyway, I had 3 hours or so left, so I stuck it out. I finished my shift and went home as I really don’t like pulling sickies, even when actually sick, I just don’t like letting people down. Plus, what with all this shit hanging over my head regarding my hours at work, I really didn’t want to upset the applecart too much, I needed to show that I was still a willing worker. I finished work, went home, everyone was asleep, I cried, I played some Minecraft.

The next day, following advice from my girlfriend, I called work and told them that I wouldn’t be in, I hated myself for doing that too as there was nothing psychically wrong with me. I wasn’t throwing up, I felt perfectly well in that regard. But there was definitely something wrong upstairs. I managed to get a doctor’s appointment that morning. Again, this was while covid was around and in the news but before it all kicked off proper and the world turned to shit. So I could actually get a face to face doctor appointment then. Still, I really don’t like bothering doctors.

I remember sitting in the doctor’s office in a blue plastic chair. My doctor asked me what was wrong, I didn’t know how to explain it because I didn’t really understand it myself. I couldn’t just say that I felt a bit down because it made me feel like a fraud. There were people out there with ‘real’ illnesses and, at the time, I believed that being a bit down wasn’t a ‘real’ illness. So, I told my doctor about an incident at work the previous week instead. One second I was fine, the next I had a pounding headache, my heart was racing, I was sweating. I thought that maybe it was a mild heart attack or something. My doctor gave me the once over, checking my heartbeat, blood pressure and all that and found nothing that would suggest a heart attack. My blood pressure was a little high but not worryingly so. She began asking some questions about my general lifestyle, do I smoke? No. Do I drink? Yes, perhaps more than I should and so on.

DERPESSION MAN

I don’t know why, but it all just came out as if I wasn’t even controlling what I said. I told her about the birth of my son a few months earlier and how I felt nothing. I told her about my crying on the way to work, coming home from work, when I was alone and more. I even began crying right there in the doctor’s office. After offering me a tissue, she joined the dots. My mood, my crying, the attack at work the week before. A panic/anxiety attack is what my doctor said it most probably was. It was as if a missing piece of a jigsaw had just been slotted into place. Within seconds, my doctor was on the phone to a local mental health clinic and had me booked in for an appointment the following week. Covid restrictions had not formally been put in place yet but caution was being applied and doctors were trying to keep numbers down to a minimum if not an emergency. I was not suicidal or anything, I was not considered an emergency so they felt I could wait until the following week to be assessed properly.

My doctor couldn’t sign me off work yet as I had not been officially diagnosed with anything but I could self-certify, so I did. I signed myself off work for a week, which would cover until I got assessed by a mental health worker at my appointment. The days rolled by, I still felt shit… maybe just slightly better as I didn’t have to face work for a few days. I would cheer myself up by escaping into gaming and writing. It was the 6th of March 2020, a Friday, the day of my appointment at the mental health clinic and the covid situation was clearly worsening.  Still, no official restrictions had been put in place yet but you could ‘feel’ that something was different, there were fewer people on the streets and anyone you did see would do their best to avoid getting close to you, in case they caught this mysterious killer virus.

I got assessed by a mental health worker, I was asked all sorts of questions. Questions that were different to what my GP asked, far more personal and less general questions. I’m not going to go into great detail here (as not to bore you too much). One question was, was there any history of mental health problems in my family? I had to think for a while but I remembered the time my mom attempted suicide. I was a young teenager at the time and, being completely honest, I was a bit of a cunt. I put my mom through hell doing things that I am deeply ashamed of now. My mom was a single parent and struggled to raise three kids at a time when being a single parent was a serious taboo. The help for single parents was not there like it is today and things were very tough, with my mom often holding down multiple part-time jobs to put food on the table. As an ignorant and selfish prick of a teenager, I never appreciated all of what my mom did at the time. I would act out and be very disobedient, skip school a lot, and worse.

This had a massive negative impact on my mom, who was already struggling. One day, she had enough. She grabbed a big bottle of paracetamol (from the days when you could buy big bottles of paracetamol) and a bottle of Martini and downed the lot. My older brother found her, she was taken to hospital, had her stomach pumped and she survived. Mom was in the hospital for several days, I refused to go and see her. At the time, I felt that if she wanted to kill herself due to how I was, then so be it. As I said, I was a bit of a cunt back then (possibly even depressed?). Anyway, when I told the mental health worker this story, their attitude changed. The questions got even more personal and I was eventually diagnosed with SAD (stress, anxiety and depression). My own acronym for this article and not to be confused with the actual SAD (seasonal affective disorder). The mental health worker got on the phone to my GP there and then and told them to sign me off work for the next two weeks, linking what was going on at work with the dispute over my hours and everything else to my state of mind and general mood.

DOCTOR ASSESS

So that was it, I was officially diagnosed as depressed. There was talk of putting me on mediation but nothing was set in stone as they just wanted to see how the next two weeks went first. I was given loads of pamphlets, phone numbers, like the Samaritans and such, then sent on my way. If I felt seriously low, then I was to call my GP/the mental health clinic immediately. I went home and did nothing much. I tried to connect with my then three-month-old baby boy but I still felt nothing… and that made me feel worse about myself. My two weeks were almost up and I had an appointment booked to be re-assessed at the mental health clinic on the 24th of March and return to work on the 25th if I was deemed okay. But something happened that changed all of that. On the 23rd of March, the UK went into national lockdown due to covid.

I was actually dreading going back to work and being forced to do the hours I could not do. I had all of this formal complaint stuff hanging over my head, the stress and depression were slowly killing me. I was officially diagnosed with SAD and everything was seemingly falling down on top of me. But then, I suddenly didn’t have to go to work. For how long, I didn’t know at the time. Was the lockdown going to last a few days, weeks or more? Boris Johnson said we would beat the virus in twelve weeks. It’s funny looking back as to just how clueless he really was and still is. Anyway, there was this strange mix of emotions going on in my head. Okay, so I didn’t have to go to work for a while but I was still massively depressed. There was a killer virus going around and we were in a full lockdown. We couldn’t leave the house unless absolutely necessary. The streets were deserted and it looked like something from a post-apocalyptic film. That first lockdown was genuinely scary, the virus was still being studied at the time. The news was saying it could be worse than the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 with 50,000,000 dead. There was a lot of uncertainty and fear. I remember one day when my girlfriend hugged me tight and said that she was scared and that scared me. What if we did die, what about the kids? In between feeling like utter shit, I played some games and did more writing, It helped. My mental health specialist even said I should concentrate on something that would occupy my mind, so I did and it really did help too.

DERPESSION WRITING 2

You couldn’t move for covid news, it was everywhere and it was always doom and gloom. That first lockdown kept getting extended and it ended up lasting several months before being relaxed with restrictions in place in August. Through those months of that first lockdown, I could not see my GP or go to the mental health clinic. Though I could speak to them over the phone. My complaint at work had to be put on hold because well, there was no work due to the lockdown. Though did have a few Zoom meetings and exchanged many emails with HR just to keep everything ticking over to show that I wasn’t going anywhere.

My mood was seriously low but not being at work made me realise just how much I hated being there. I knew I wanted to leave but not let this whole complaint thing slide. My boss broke employment law by changing my hours without my consent, he put me in a situation I struggled with due to childcare. I had the backing of my HR manager girlfriend and we even sought out proper legal advice via a lawyer too. We had a very strong case and began to build that case against my employer. This, of course, was more and more stress for me to handle. My diagnosed SAD began to seriously kick my arse what with everything going on. I need to talk to my GP and after conversing with the mental health clinic, I was prescribed anti-depressants, Venlafaxine.

DRUGS TAKE

It was August and lockdown was ending, my GP signed me off work for a month at the request of the mental health clinic and I got my first batch of medication. One a day for a month to see how I get on. I did was I was told and took the pills and I felt even lower than ever before. I had to tell my GP how bad the medication was making me feel, I was told to stick with it that my mood would eventually balance out, so I did. It was September and I still felt like shit, seriously down, the medication didn’t seem to be working. I reported back to my GP and was prescribed more Venlafaxine. I was told (again) to stick with it and that my mood would even out eventually, so I did and I was signed off work for another month. At this point, I got messages from my boss inquiring about my illness and when I would be coming back to work. Something he was not allowed to do as I had been signed off by my GP who had told me to avoid anything to do with work, info that I had passed into my employer. My boss was being kept in the loop whenever I spoke to my GP and yet, he sent me several messages saying I had to attend a ‘back to work meeting’ and more. It was bordering on harassment. This was something that helped strengthen our legal case against my employer too. I’m pretty sure he didn’t actually want me back, it was more a case of him being left in limbo and not knowing what was going on and just wanted to know if I was coming back or not.

Anyway, it was now October and my Venlafaxine had run out again, I was prescribed more even though it clearly was not working for me. In fact, it was having such an adverse effect on me that suicide entered my mind. I even began researching suicide on the internet (don’t do it folks, it’s seriously fucked up out there). I looked into the most painless way to end my life. I remembered my mom’s attempt from when I was a teenager and thought about doing that, just swallow a load of booze and pills. I planned on visiting several shops and chemists near me to buy as much paracetamol as I could via multiple visits over the course of several days, as we now have restrictions on how much you can buy in one visit. I then decided to look at the side effects of Venlafaxine. There was the usual loss of appetite, dizziness, sweating and so on. But the drug also had some severe side effects such as mania and an increased risk of suicide. Yup, I was taking an anti-depressant that made me even more depressed. It was me doing that bit of research that woke me up. As The Verve said: the drugs don’t work, they just make you worse. I think I was told of the side effects when the Venlafaxine was prescribed to me, I just didn’t listen or my depression made me forget.

DRUGS

So that was it, I had a new prescription of Venlafaxine (see the pic above, my actual medication) but I never took them. Those pills in that pic, dated the 12th of October 2020, were the last ones I had prescribed to me. I didn’t even take a single one, I kept them as a reminder of just how low I got. I stopped the medication myself, against the advice of my GP at the time. But I hadn’t told them about my suicidal thoughts. I’m sure that if I had, they would’ve taken me off the pills immediately anyway. I quit my job in November (even though I was still signed off by my GP), feeling a little better after a month without the medication. My girlfriend went back to work as an HR manager for an international company and I became a stay at home dad as her salary was more than enough to keep a roof over our head. I learned to control my depression myself, the gaming and writing massively helped. The fact I was now a stay at home dad meant my relationship with my son grew from strength to strength. I went from not feeling anything towards my son, to him and me now being inseparable. My work issue, the whole legal case and all, I won. My boss did break employment law and harassed me when I was signed off ill. So I got a nice several grand settlement. It was a very rough few months but I came out of it a better person.

Being diagnosed with SAD really helped in the long run. I look back on certain events and memories of my life and I now realise how I was suffering from depression long before I was diagnosed with it. Still, I had to be diagnosed and go through hell first. Before that diagnosis, I used gaming as a means to escape my (then) undiagnosed depression. It really helped too. One of the reasons I started this blog a few years ago was as a means to combat my depression that I didn’t even know I was suffering from at the time. All I knew was that writing, and writing about games mainly, made me feel a bit better when I was down.

DERPESSION MAN 2

It has been a little over two years since I was diagnosed with SAD in March of 2020, it’s been about a year and a half since I stopped taking the medication. My depression hasn’t gone away, I don’t think it ever will either. It is still there, I have days when it takes over and I feel like shit. Just last week, I had a couple of three days when my depression hit me like ton of bricks. Thankfully, my lass can spot the signs and knows when I may need a little lift. She got her mom to come round and look after the kids while we went out as a couple and had a few hours to ourselves, had a meal, a couple of drinks and a good chat. The depression comes and goes, often without any trigger, it just happens. Sometimes with a trigger, my aunt died of cancer last May and that was a massive test of trying to control my depression. I found solace in compiling her teenage poems into a book for her (royalties go to charity). An example of my writing being used to help keep me a bit more stable.

This is probably why working on the blog has massively increased the over last two years. Why I am doing more and more indie gaming reviews these days. It combines the two major factors that help me control my depression, gaming and writing. Indie publishers and developers really appreciate when their games get reviewed as it gives them a little boost, However, for me, I’m the one getting the boost when I get sent a game to play and review. My reviews may get these guys a sale or two, get their games known to more people but they help me manage my depression too.

Depression can really have an effect on how I perceive a game or even help with my mood too. Take two games that I have reviewed recently, Martha is Dead and CHANGE: A Homeless Survival Experience, as an example. With Martha, the game’s story deals with some pretty sensitive subjects such as death, depression and even suicide. Playing through that game affected me due to those themes and helped me to cope with my depression a bit more. CHANGE has been the most emotionally effective game I have ever played. Though only a game, playing as a homeless person and failing so many times, made me look at what I do have in my life and appreciate all that I had. The flip side to that is games that help get me out of a depressive funk. Titles with a minimal story but a lot of fun action. HyperParasite’s twin-stick shooting and non-copyright infringing pop culture character references put a massive smile on my face. Or maybe the brilliantly titled Alien Scumbags and its stupidly over the top violence, silly humour, shooty-platform action… and non-copyright infringing pop culture character references. Games really can affect me in many different ways when I’m feeling particularly deflated.

HYPERPARASITE

I’ve made several lifestyle changes too. I have massively cut back on the amount of booze I drink. I was a serious drinker at one point. I don’t know if I would say I was an alcoholic but I must’ve been borderline at least. But now? I know we are only in mid-March but I can count on one hand the times I have been out for or stayed in for a drink. Even last week when my girlfriend took us out for a meal when I had a bout of depression, I drank lemonade. I only ever drink on special occasions now, birthdays and the like and even then, I stay sensible with it. Still, Saint Patrick’s Day is coming up (probably today when I publish this) and I do already have some Guinness in ready, I think it is the law or something. Even so, I can still count my drinking sessions for this year on one hand. Alcohol is a depressant after all and cutting back as I have really seems to have helped out a lot.

I also now go to bed at a reasonable time. I used to stay up until 4 in the morning quite regularly, then I’d have to be up a 7 to get the kids ready for school. I’d then blame my tiredness on my depression and my depression on my tiredness. Now, I got to bed around 11 or 12 and try to get a good 7 hours of sleep. Routine is the key and sticking to it is even more important. Little changes in my life have helped to make me feel better, helped me manage my depression. And then there is gaming and writing, this has become my new medication, my Venlafaxine without the side effects and suicidal thoughts.

I honestly don’t really know what the point of me writing all of this was. I know it helped me to understand my depression a bit more. For me, writing works better than medication ever did. Look, if anyone out there is suffering from depression, especially us men as we act like this shit doesn’t affect us, speak to someone. Me going to my GP was the point where my life changed as being diagnosed with depression helped me to understand. It got worse before it got better, I admit… but it did get better. Crying is okay, talking about it is another option. If you are feeling down and depressed, concentrate on something that makes you feel better. For me, it is gaming and writing. The depression may never go away completely but you can control it.

GTA VI Confirmed By Rockstar… Kind Of, And Why I Don’t Seem To Care

I think I can safely say, without the use of hyperbole that the Grand Theft Auto franchise is fairly popular. The newest game in the series (that is fast becoming a decade old now), GTA V was somewhat popular too. Since its release, fans have been waiting for new game in the franchise. Today, Rockstar Games have semi-confirmed that a new GTA game is on the way.

ROCKSTAR LOGO

Taken from the official Rockstar website, the developers had this to say:

“With the unprecedented longevity of GTAV, we know many of you have been asking us about a new entry in the Grand Theft Auto series. With every new project we embark on, our goal is always to significantly move beyond what we have previously delivered — and we are pleased to confirm that active development for the next entry in the Grand Theft Auto series is well underway. We look forward to sharing more as soon as we are ready, so please stay tuned to the Rockstar Newswire for official details.

On behalf of our entire team, we thank you all for your support and cannot wait to step into the future with you!”

– Rockstar Games

As someone who was been a fan since day one, since before Rockstar Games even existed. Since I became a fan of the DMA Design from the Amiga years. Since I played the very first GTA back in 1997… I just can not muster any interest here. I have been sitting here trying to work out why this announcement just made me yawn instead of making me cheer.

GTA 1

There really are several reasons. First up, they’ve not really confirmed GTA VI. What they have said is that they are working on a new GTA game. I mean, that could be GTA: Online 2.0 for all we know. Yeah, it most probably is a new and ‘proper’ GTA but the point is that Rockstar have not said that it is GTA VI. But let’s just say it is GTA VI. Is this not a very low-key way to announce it? Look back at other announcements in the franchise. They’ve been big reveals, trailers that just came out of nowhere. To make an announcement for one of the biggest games ever in such a small way, along with other news about updates for GTA Online… it just seems a bit underwhelming, no?

The news of a new game is at the bottom of the pile of news about new content for GTA Online, yet nobody finds that strange? Shouldn’t a GTA VI announcement be gargantuan news? Shouldn’t it have its own dedicated announcement? Shouldn’t it be top of the pile of announcements and not at the bottom, a small paragraph that could be easily missed? Imagine if all major game announcements were made like this.

This is how the announcement read to me…

Huge news, we’re re-re-re-releasing GTA V again for the next gen consoles. More Online content that’s really the same shit we’ve been releasing the last few years. More ‘new’ cars and other cosmetics for GTA Online that really make no difference…

… and GTA VI.

GTA V

Then there’s the fact that a lot of the brains behind the GTA franchise have left Rockstar Games. Lazlow Jones, gone. Dan Houser, gone. Even the man who held the production of most, if not all of the studio’s games together, Leslie Benzies has gone. Those are just the big names we know about too. They have lost a lot of frontline talent over the last few years too.

For me, it’s hard to get excited when you know that a massive part of the talent who made the games is no more. Plus, Rockstar have said that active development is underway. Active development was also underway for Bully 2, Agent and other projects before they were canned. The main reason I just can’t get excited though is boredom. I am utterly bored of GTA now. Back when GTA was in its heyday, nobody could touch it. The Vice City and San Andreas days, the days of GTA IV even. The franchise plateaued years ago. I enjoyed GTA V while I was playing it but looking back on the game now, it really was a disappointment for me compared to other games in the series. The constant milking of the game and the online mode hasn’t helped much either.

GTA ONLINE

See, when GTA was king, so were Rockstar Games. There wasn’t a dev team out there that could touch them in terms of quality. Now? Now there are plenty of other studios who are capable of putting out games that are as good and even better in fact. Rockstar Games lost their lustre a while back, they are no longer the kings of the open-world game. The boredom I feel also stems from the fact that Rockstar have done nothing worthy with any of their other IPs. Bully 2? L.A. Noire 2? Max Payne 4? Yeah, they did Red Dead Redemption II back in 2018, a game I have a serious love/hate relationship with. Rockstar have some amazing IPs and yet they do nothing with them.

If this was a Bully 2 announcement, I’d be over the moon, I’d be singing the praises of the studio. Or how about a new IP, something fresh and different? But it’s (possibly) just more GTA and for me, the franchise has been run into the ground.

Indie Game Review Roundup 2021

Well, this looks like it’ll be my final article of 2021.

This year, I made a conscious decision to concentrate more on the indie game scene. Something I’m planning on doing a even more of in the future too. I mean, it’s not even 2022 yet and I already have four indie games to review. I just prefer indie games to big-budget AAA titles. I did explain why right here. The short version is that I find indie games far more interesting as the devs are willing to take chances and can show a lot of originality or breathe new life into some brilliant retro game concepts. Whereas AAA games are slowly becoming tired and nothing but sequels to franchises that continually repeat the same old gameplay and mechanics over and over.

As we reach the end of 2021, I thought I’d just take a quick look back on some of the indie games I have played and reviewed this year and offer my personal favourites. So here it is, my indie game review roundup 2021. Kicking things off with not only my favourite indie game of 2021 but my favourite game of 2021 in its entirety, indie or otherwise. Just give the titles a click for my full reviews.

UnMetal

UNMETAL MAIN

A Metal Gear parody with some of the finest and funniest writing I have ever witnessed in any game. Chock-full of game and movie references, in-jokes, fourth-wall-breaking and just outright clever storytelling. The gameplay in UnMetal was old school, 8-bit fare but with a few modern twists and features one of my all-time favourite game characters with Jesse Fox. I really was super impressed with just how well this all came together. I only put a review request in on a whim as I had nothing going on at the time and I thought the trailer looked okay, my expectations were zero. Then when I played it, I was blown away by just how ‘effing amazing UnMetal is, to the point where I ended up writing one of my longest reviews ever (one that the dev of the game called a ‘love letter’). I eventually played through the game five times and I might even sneak in another cheeky playthrough before I publish this article too. In short, UnMetal is amazing, buy it!

HyperParasite

HYPERPARASITE TITLE

Okay, so I am cheating a little bit here. Technically, I first played this game in 2020 and not 2021. However, HyperParasite was the first game I reviewed this year… so I’m counting it as a 2021 review… cos it was. A top-down, twin-stick shooter that uses a brilliant roguelite gameplay mechanic and keeps you coming back for more. Even now, over a year after first playing HyperParasite, I’m still playing it. Every now and then, I just feel like having a quick game… which usually turns into several hours. I’ve still not finished it yet either. I have got to the last area and all, but I’m working on unlocking every single character… which is tough and does take quite a while to do. Still, I do adore this game and it is a big recommendation from me. 

R-Type Final 2

R-TYPE FINAL 2 MAIN

One of the greatest ever side-scrolling shoot ’em ups was reborn this year with R-Type Final 2. I have a big passion for the R-Type games, as you will see if you read my review of this one. The game kept what made those classic shooters so damn good… and bloody difficult, whilst throwing in plenty of unlocks and surprises. Alternate paths to take that lead to branching levels. Different endings, tons of cosmetics to discover. You could even design your own level layouts and even re-title the game itself. R-Type Final 2 had a lot crammed into it and the more you found, the more you wanted to find. All while never straying too far from the awesome gameplay that made these titles so playable in the first place. Old school shoot ’em up action, given a smashing modern update.

Horizon Chase Turbo: Senna Forever

HORIZON CHASE TURBO SENNA FOREVER MAIN

As a massive Ayrton Senna fan, I knew I had to give this one a go. The base game of Horizon Chase Turbo is great. Simple 16-bit arcade racing action done very well indeed. So when the devs announced they were doing a Senna add-on, I sent off my review request ASAFP. The main part of this add-on took you through (most of) Senna’s F1 career from his first drive with the Toleman team up to his third World Champion title win. Even though I am a die hard Senna fan, I find I can be very critical of when a game uses his name as they never really do it justice. Horizon Chase Turbo: Senna Forever absolutely nailed it though. A brilliant blending of arcade racing action and respecting the greatest F1 driver of all time. 

Song Of Horror

SONG OF HORROR

I played quite a few survival horror games this year, none of them really stood out to me… except for Song of Horror. A loving throwback to similar games of the nineties. Titles like Resident Evil and Silent Hill were definite influences here, as well as the overlooked Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem. Song of Horror had a few rough edges but nothing that ruined the game. It also featured a permadeath mechanic that really made you care about the characters. And about those characters, they were all different and not just character model swaps. Each character had their own personality and even acted and reacted differently to events in the game, this made paying as the various characters really interesting. It also featured some genuinely scary themes and ideas, something severely lacking in modern horror games.  

Lake

LAKE MAIN

This really was a very interesting little title. I mean, you deliver post in a sleepy small town in 1986… that’s it really. A little rough around the edges and I did find one or two (easy to fix) issues (there have been a few updates since). But overall, I really did enjoy my time with Lake. I guess the best way to describe Lake is as an interactive soap opera. You take the main character, Meredith Weiss, through various ups and downs as you talk to and get to know the town’s residents. As you deliver the mail, you’ll also take part in side-quests that reveal more about the people you meet. As I described the game in my review, Lake is a fantastically relaxing and tranquil game, a delightful change of pace if you ever feel like just unwinding and chilling out. I still stand by that too, a great chillout game.

Deadly Days

DEADLY DAYS MAIN

This was another one of those games that I knew nothing about but was damn happy I discovered it. A top-down roguelite that played a lot like the classic Cannon Fodder. You control several survivors during a zombie apocalypse following the introduction of a new burger on the market. Deadly Days was tough, hard as nails difficulty that was quite frustrating at first. After a while, it became really damn rewarding the more you played. There’s a surprising amount of depth here once you scratch the surface and Deadly Days throws a lot of gameplay your way. Hard yes but really damn enjoyable and a game I poured plenty of hours into.

Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles

YONDER MAIN

I think I may have had my gaming snob head on when I first played this. I remember playing the opening hour or so and already forming my review in my head where I wanted to rip into it. But a couple more hours later and Yonder’s charm and personality had entrapped me. There’s no violence here of any kind, you just run around the land helping folk. It is one of those gather resources and craft items kind of things set in a wonderfully striking and beautiful world. A bit too easy and hand-holdy at times, but the game really does have a lot of charm that kept me entertained and put a smile on my face.

Chorus

CHORUS MAIN

One of the most recent games I looked at this year as it was only released at the start of December. It’s also a bit of a wildcard as it’s not quite indie but it’s not exactly AAA either. Chorus comfortably sits in that in-between area, that AA zone of a smaller game studio knocking out a pretty impressive game that feels like a big-budget release. Chorus is a really great 3D shooter with some utterly fantastic space battles and dog fights. An upgrade system, very responsive controls, stunning visuals and more. There’s a lot to do here and you do get your money’s worth. It is just let down slightly by a ham-fisted story and one that continually breaks up the top-notch gameplay way too many times. A very pleasant surprise to end the year on though.

Anna’s Quest

ANNA'S QUEST MAIN

Sometimes you just need to take your foot off the accelerator and enjoy a slow-paced adventure game. Anna’s Quest is that and so much more. Think of this as a more grown-up take on a child’s fairy tale. With wonderfully hand-drawn art that looks like something from an animated movie. A story that has a dark and twisted edge and game simple mechanics that just work. I’ve played a few adventure games this year and Anna’s Quest is far and away the best of the lot. A very endearing and utterly charming title that kept me entertained from start to end.

Speed Limit

SPEED LIMIT LOGO

This one was in and out of my list a few times, I just couldn’t decide how much liked or loathed it. After a bit more thought and another playthrough recently, I decided to keep it in. Speed Limit is an incredibly short title and you can get to the end credits in just a few minutes. However, the shortness of the game is offset by a low price point, brilliant gameplay and the fact it has had a free update and new features since I reviewed it too, a review I now think that perhaps I was a bit too harsh with originally. Speed Limit is a multi-genre game that throws five different game styles at you… at a breakneck speed too. As I said in my review, this game is a haven for speedrunners and even though that style of game really doesn’t suit me at all, I’ve still to got to admire Speed Limit for what it does and how it does it. In its purest form, this game is a fantastic example of what makes indie gaming so damn great.

Lawn Mowing Simulator

LAWN MOWER SIM TITLE

I’m going to finish this round up with the most surprising game of the year for me. I will repeat what I wrote in my review about my ulterior motives for wanting to review this. I just wanted to write a very sarcastic and snippy article about the pointlessness of these simulation games. Why do you want to drive  a train, etc when gaming offers such a wide spectrum of far more interesting vocations to partake in? I really wanted to rip into the whole simulation sub-genre and just be a complete dick about the whole thing. However, I actually fell in love with Lawn Mowing Simulator and what was going to be a bitchy review turned into one full of praise. The game is brilliant and the career mode is what really made it for me. I just loved mowing the lawns of the English countryside while building my own business.


I really have enjoyed the last twelve months of indie gaming, 2021 was a fantastic year for the smaller game developers and publishers. those titles up there are only a small snippet of some great games I have played and reviewed in 2021. I already have a few top indie games on my radar for 2022 such as…

RPGolf Legends from Articnet. A blending of classic 16-bit RPG gaming and golf, coming very soon in 2022. The first game is on Steam for an incredibly low price, so well worth checking out. I am hoping to get a review code for this one and get a review done early in the year.

Blind Fate: Edo no Yami from Troglobytes Games. The same dev team that made the awesome HyperParasite, my favourite game of 2020 (and some of 2021). A title where you play as a blind cyber-samurai… and that premise sounds pretty awesome. Just how you do depict playing a blind character in a game, a medium that is a very visual experience? I’m really interested to see how this pans out. A free to play prologue is on Steam.

Brewmaster: Beer Brewing Simulator from Auroch Digital. Start your own brewery and make loads of beer. Looks like this could be another sim game that really surprises. Plus beer and gaming is always a good mix. I do have a weakness for these business-sim games and making beer is as good a (digital) business to run as any other.  I was given a Beta code for this last month, I just never got around to playing it though.

Arcade Paradise from Nosebleed Interactive. A game I have had my eye on for many, many months now. Work in a rundown launderette and convert it into a top arcade. With over thirty playable and original arcade games too. Again, a business-sim that sounds right up my street as a gamer who grew up in the arcades of the eighties and nineties… plus, you get to clean the toilet.

Last but not least, Beyond the Long Night from Noisy Head Games. A twin-stick, roguelike title that I’ll be doing a special preview of early in the year when the game launches on Kickstarter soon. So stay tuned for more info on this one folks.

There are some cracking titles being released in the first couple of months alone and many more surprises to discover later, many of which I’m looking forward to covering in the New Year. Here’s to another top indie gaming year.

RASIE GLASS

The Return Of GamesMaster?

I really quite enjoyed Ghostbusters: Afterlife, my spoiler-free review is right here. The short version is that I thought it was a really decent sequel to a much-loved IP. A little too heavy on the fan service and references at times, with the last third really just becoming a remake of the last third of the original. Yes, I am talking about Ghostbusters: Afterlife in this, very obviously, an article about the new series of GamesMaster… but why? Trust me, there’s a point.

Look, I loved the original GamesMaster. I even spend a year and a half researching, rewatching and writing up a very, very lengthy, multi-part retrospective of the original series in its entirety. So I guess it was inevitable that I would also cover the recent reboot of the classic gaming TV show. I watched the first show when it was released on YouTube and decided then that I would watch all three episodes before I offered my opinion. Well, all three episodes have now been broadcast (you can find them on YouTube) and so now I can put into words just how I feel about the return of GamesMaster.

GAMESMASTER NEW CREW

Honestly, I’m very underwhelmed. I didn’t dislike it, I didn’t really love it either and I really didn’t see the point. When the show originally aired back in 1992, it was fresh and unique. GamesMaster was the first-ever fully dedicated video game TV show. Games and gaming had been featured on shows before but GamesMaster was 100% game-centric. Now? Everybody and their mother thinks they are a ‘pro gamer’ and YouTube exists. We are lost in an ocean of ever-increasing video game content these days. Twitch, Facebook Gaming and more. You can’t move for ‘content creators’ these days and as gaming has gotten more mainstream over the years, so has watching gaming.

GamesMaster is largely redundant these days, its uniqueness no longer exists and all it has going for it is a wave of nostalgia of a time long past. Here’s an interview with showrunner Céin McGillicuddy that brings up a couple of things I really need to explore. First:

“We’re not looking to recreate what came before.”

Yeah, that’s exactly what you have done. This new GamesMaster is a direct recreation of the original series. There is nothing new original here at all. It is a carbon copy of the original show in every single way Second:

“This is the gritty, edgy, subversive GamesMaster that we know and love.”

Yes and no. It is the GamesMaster that the fans know and love… but it is pretty damn far from being gritty, edgy or subversive. Maybe back in 1992, this would’ve been seen as gritty, edgy or subversive but these days, saying a couple of very mild swear words is pretty much standard. 

GAMESMASTER CONTESTANT

See, this is where my Ghostbusters: Afterlife analogy comes into play. As I said, I thought the film was really good. I loved the first and second acts as they felt new, while still being firmly planted in a much-loved IP. It was the final act where the film disappointed me, as it just recreated the final act of the original film. This is exactly what this new GamesMaster does, it is the final act of Ghostbusters: Afterlife. Cheeky Scottish presenter? An English TV icon as the GamesMaster? Early CGI stylised intro? And so on. Heavy on the nostalgia and very light on actual worthy or interesting content.

This new GamesMaster does absolutely nothing new. Yeah, I get that they wanted to please fans of the original. Fine, but don’t go labelling your show as being ‘gritty, edgy and subversive’ when it is not. Call it a lazy copy instead. Honestly, I found this reboot extremely lazy and I seriously failed to see the point of it being made. It’s not 1992 anymore, we have hundreds, thousands of options to us for gaming content. And that is what this show new feels like… just another gaming show, one that is a pale imitation of a true classic too.

As I said before, I rewatched the entire show to do a retrospective. All seven series covered, all one hundred and twenty-six episodes. To do my retrospective, I had to watch all of those episodes multiple times too, usually three or four times. I had to watch a hell of a lot of GamesMaster over the year and a half it took me to finish my retrospective. When you do that, you can really see the show’s decline. Series five was where the rot began, series six was where the decay really kicked in and series seven was the show’s death-rattle. This new version feels very much like series six of the old GamesMaster, it just feels like it is decaying in front of your very eyes. It feels stale even though it has only just begun.

GAMESMASTER NEW CREW 2

It’s old hat, it’s passé and dated… and it’s only three episodes old. It feels long-winded too. You’re looking at forty-five minute episodes when it really doesn’t need to be. Challenges on the show last a few minutes, some only seconds. The rest of the show is seriously padded out with filler. There’s a section explaining basic gaming knowledge to a (supposed) non-gamer. Let me ask you this… why? If you are not a gamer, why would you be watching a show that is dedicated to gaming? There’s several minutes that could be cut from the runtime right there. If you are new to gaming and want to learn more, why would you watch a several minutes long section on GamesMaster when there are hundreds of better YouTube videos out there that explain elements of gaming far more concisely?

Most of the challengers are streamers and YouTubers. It all feels like a plug for their channels and not genuine gaming challenges. I miss the likes of the everyday guy (or gal) on the street being the contestants. Let’s have more of Adam from Cock Alley, Calow or Tracy from Shitterton, Dorset… carefully hidden swearing and naughty slang… edgy (according to Céin McGillicuddy). Now we have DJ (insert stupid name here), don’t forget to like and subscribe, give that bell a smash. The show is the gaming TV equivalent of this gif…

KIDS

It really does feel like a thirty-year-old relic trying to be relevant by repeating what worked three decades ago, throwing in some YouTube talk and just hoping for the best. I can really only repeat what I stated earlier with: I didn’t dislike it, I didn’t really love it either and I really didn’t see the point. Maybe the show is just not for me? I did like Trevor McDonald as the new GamesMaster though, he really works. He said ‘bollocks’ in the last episode… edgy!

GAMESMASTER NEW MAIN

But nope, I really don’t see me tuning in for more if/when this returns for a ‘proper’ series next year. Some relics are just better left in the past and only really work as nostalgic memories.  

Blatant Video Game Rip-Offs

Pablo Picasso once (apparently) said that:

“Good artists copy, great artists steal.”

To pay homage, be influenced by, respectfully reference… or just blatant stealing and plagiarism. Call it what you will. I’m here to look at some very obvious instances of games that outright ripped-off other games. Now, I’m not talking about games that are very similar and in the same genre per se. I mean I read an article recently that claimed Streets of Rage was a Final Fight rip-off. Errrr, no. They are just both scrolling beat ’em ups. If you are going to go that route, then Double Dragon came before Final Fight and Renegade (Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun) was before Double Dragon. Even then, Renegade wasn’t the first game of its kind either. But I digress.

RENEGADE ARCADE

I’m not going to nitpick a game because it has similar game mechanics or is part of the same genre. This article is going to look at games that are very clearly blatant rip-offs of other more ‘original’ titles. ‘Clones’ if you will, that certainly can’t be called original ideas, characters or even slight coincidences over the staggering similarities. These titles are just outright copying, legal or otherwise. In no particular order, just as they come to mind really, here’s my look at blatant video game rip-offs.

Simpsons: Road Rage

Probably the most famous rip-off on my list. Just looking at this game for 2 seconds will tell you that this is a blatant rip-off of Sega’s Crazy Taxi. It’s not even trying to be coy about it either, this is just Crazy Taxi wearing a Simpsons hat. The Simpsons has had a bit of a run ‘borrowing’ gameplay mechanics and ideas from other games to make their titles. But this instance was more than just ‘borrowing’ gameplay mechanics, this was just outright stealing.

SIMPSONS ROAD RAGE

It even got to a point where Sega sued Fox Entertainment, who owned The Simpsons IP, the game’s publisher, Electronic Arts, along with the developer of Simpsons: Road Rage, Radical Games. See, Sega had patented the concept of Crazy Taxi (Sega’s 138 patent) and long story short, Simpsons: Road Rage was infringing on that patent. Sega requested that all copies of the game be removed from shelves and they be compensated for the loss of sales. 

The case, Sega of America, Inc. v. Fox Interactive, et al, was eventually settled out of court. Here’s a more in-depth look at the case and Sega’s 138 patent right here. I have to say, that article does end on a very interesting question though.

Angry Birds

This smash-hit mobile game that became a worldwide phenomenon and a very bankable IP was actually stolen borrowed. Seriously, Angry Birds (at one time) was gargantuan. I believe it is still the most downloaded mobile game IP and is a multi-billion dollar maker across all of its games. That is just the games too, not the movies and the endless merchandise. The whole IP is massive in terms of popularity and revenue. Just to think that the creators of Angry Birds, Rovio Entertainment, were actually on the verge of bankruptcy before they released the first game back in 2009.

Anyway, that very first game where you shoot little angry birds at a structure to knock it down, while taking out its inhabitants, was not exactly very original. See, Armor Games released a title before Angry Birds called Crush the Castle and well, Crush the Castle’s gameplay and mechanics were stolen borrowed for Angry Birds. Aesthetically, they look different as Crush the Castle went for a more ‘realistic’ and medieval graphical style. Whereas Angry Birds is much more cartoony and comical. 

ANGRY BIRDS

However, in terms of gameplay and the mechanics used, they are identical. Everybody knows the objective in Angry Birds is to use a slingshot to fire a cute bird at a structure filled with bad guys (pigs) to knock it down. Well, in Crush the Castle, you use a trebuchet to fling rocks at a structure filled with bad guys to knock it down. Everything in terms of gameplay in Angry Birds was very clearly stolen borrowed from Crush the Castle… even the physics used in the game is exactly the same. With Angry Birds’ cuter and more universal appeal, it became the one that is most remembered and turned into a multi-billion dollar franchise. While Crush the Castle is mostly forgotten about. There have been a few other games in the Crush the Castle series over the years (2018’s Crush the Castle: Siege Master being the most recent) but it certainly never got as massively popular as the game that stole borrowed from the original title.

The Great Giana Sisters

As far as I can remember, this was the first gaming rip-off that I became aware of at the time. Sure, I had played games before it that were ‘inspired’ by others. But they didn’t really hit me as rip-offs (even if they were) when I was younger. This game, however, this one caused such a massive shitstorm that you couldn’t really miss it. A little background info first though. Growing up in the eighties (after having an Atari 2600) we had a Commodore 64. At the time, the big gaming consoles were beginning to emerge. The likes of Sega’s Master System and the Nintendo Entertainment System were gaining popularity. Here in the UK, the NES never really caught on as much as the Master System did. However, that little Italian plumber with a moustache that was Mario was still pretty damn famous, even if the NES wasn’t. Everybody and his dog wanted to play Super Mario Bros. and you could only play it if you had a NES. 

SUPER MARIO BROS

So yeah, there was a bit of an issue in the UK and Europe as a whole really where you really couldn’t play one of the biggest games at the time as the NES just wasn’t very popular. So what can you do? You just outright rip Super Mario Bros. off of course. The Great Giana Sisters was developed by Time Warp Productions and published by Rainbow Arts and well… it is Super Mario Bros. just with a different graphic set. Instead of brothers, the heroes are sisters, even the box are proudly proclaimed that: ‘the brothers are history’.

GREAT GIANA SISTERS BOX

I mean, they didn’t even try to hide the blatant ripping-off at all, in fact, the devs were proud of it. The first level of The Great Giana Sisters is almost an exact replica of the first level in Super Mario Bros. Plus many of the staples in Mario’s game made it into the rip-off. Interesting enough, Nintendo didn’t sue. There has been a bit of an urban myth for years that Nintendo went after the developers and publisher for copyright infringement but they actually didn’t. I know, Nintendo NOT suing someone, what a shock. However, Nintendo did step in and request that The Great Giana Sisters be removed from sale due to the very obvious copyright infringement. Of course, the publisher very quickly responded and the game’s production was ceased while it soon disappeared from shop shelves. Today, a good, undamaged box version of The Great Giana Sisters has become a bit of a collector’s item and can sell for some decent coin if genuine as they are so incredibly rare.

GREAT GIANA SISTERS SCREEN

Even more so, the developer, Time Warp Productions, had some serious nards as they even began to develop a sequel to their rip-off called Giana 2: Arthur and Martha in Future World. Even after Nintendo had already put the pressure on them to stop making the first game. In the end, it was deemed ‘too risky’ (no shit!) to try and piss Nintendo off for a second time. The game was given an overhaul, the characters were changed from the sisters to robots and the title was changed to Hard’n’Heavy. Oh yeah, they still released it… just not with the copyright infringing Giana Sisters.

A little twist in the tale though is that, later down the line, the rip-off became a somewhat popular franchise thanks to the Nintendo DS with Giana Sisters DS. There have been several other Giana Sisters titles released over the years too. Just to finish, The Great Giana Sisters was actually a pretty damn great game too. It gained high critical praise when it was released (before disappearing from shop shelves) and is one of the best platform games of the time. Still very playable today too, partially the Amiga version, it’s awesome.

Frank Bruno’s Boxing

I remember playing the crap out of this on my Commodore 64 back in the eighties. For me then, it was just a fun boxing game with the likeness of a true British sporting icon. Seeing as I played this so much and before I even knew the game it stole from existed, I thought Frank Bruno’s Boxing was the original and the original was the rip-off. I remember going round a friend’s house who had a NES (oh yeah, this is another Nintendo rip-off) and playing the ‘real’ game at his house, I said then that it was a rip-off of Frank Bruno’s Boxing, when in reality, it was the other way around. I know I’ve not mentioned what the original game was yet and that is because I wanted to just post a screen from Frank Bruno’s Boxing so you can see for yourself just how much theft was going on with this game. So, here we go…

FRANK BRUNO CANADIAN

Yup, it’s not even a slight copy of Super Punch-Out!! (Arcade), it is Super Punch-Out!! just with Frank Bruno in it… and very chunky C64 graphics. Other rip-offs can be quite subtle with just how they steal from other games. Some, at the very least, change the graphics… even The Great Giana Sisters had the self-respect to do that. But here, aside from the main character being Frank Bruno instead of Little Mac from the Nintendo game(s), the characters are just directly ripped from the Nintendo original. Okay, so the developers, Elite Systems, had the common sense to change their names, but they are still the exact same characters for the most part. Oh, and Frank Bruno’s Boxing’s characters were borderline racial stereotypes too. Such as the kung-fu boxer, Dragon Chan, being renamed Fling Long Chop or an African boxer called Tribal Trouble with a bone through his nose and let’s not forget the very questionable Antipodean Andy character.

FRANK BRUNO ANDY

Aside from the lazy racism in the game, Frank Bruno’s Boxing plays exactly like the arcade version of Super Punch-Out!! right down to the attacks and patterns of the boxers and the same animations. There’s the KO meter too This was why when I played the NES version years later that I thought it ripped-off this game when it was the other way around. Oh and before I forget, Frank Bruno’s Boxing even stole the Rocky theme, Gonna Fly Now by Bill Conti and no, Elite didn’t get the rights to use that either.

Super Noah’s Ark 3D

This one is, admittedly, a bit of an oddity as it is officially an unofficial rip-off… so to speak. But before I get to that, let me just cover what this game is all about. You play as Noah and use a slingshot to shoot food at animals so you can take them onto your ark. Oh yeah, we’re in religious territory here and it is glorious as it originally started out as a game based on the horror flick Hellraiser. So just how do you go from hell to heaven? Well via a Nazi based FPS game of course. This is just getting weirder and weirder isn’t it? Look, I could go into all the details now, but I already covered all of that right here

SUPER NOAHS ARK 3D

So I can just get to the meat of this one, cutting a long story short, this is a rip-off of id Software’s classic, Wolfenstein 3D… if rip-off is the right word to use. There has been a long-standing story attached to this game that id Software were very unhappy with the censorship applied to the SNES version of Wolfenstein 3D. So much so that id ‘leaked’ the source code for Wolfenstein to the developers of Super Noah’s Ark 3D (that being Wisdom Tree) so they could make this game. See, Super Noah’s Ark 3D is the only SNES game not officially licensed by Nintendo and id allowed Wisdom Tree to make this game just to piss Nintendo off. However, that’s not true at all. First, Wisdom Tree paid to use the source code and second, id Software never had any issues with Nintendo over the SNES version of Wolfenstein 3D. John Romero himself has even talked about this openly when asked if id Software had a problem with Nintendo:

“No, we just thought it would be funny to use the Wolf3D SNES engine in a religious game.”

Yeah, Super Noah’s Ark 3D is basically a more kid-friendly and religious take on Wolfenstein 3D. While it was never officially licensed by Nintendo, it was still an official game with 100% backing from id Software too. So Super Noah’s Ark 3D is officially an unofficial rip-off… officially. 

Golden Axe Warrior

Golden Axe was Sega’s answer to the side-scrolling beat ’em up trend that was gaining a lot of traction in the eighties. Golden Axe Warrior was Sega’s answer to Nintendo’s massively popular Zelda franchise. Seriously, watch 5 minutes of this long play and tell me it’s not ripping-off Zelda.

Golden Axe Warrior was released in 1991 for the Master System… following Nintendo’s success with The Legend of Zelda and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. It is not just Golden Axe Warrior’s top-down viewpoint, nor its action-adventure style gameplay. It’s more a case of that when you watch gameplay footage of Golden Axe Warrior… it is a very blatant Zelda rip-off. Map/dungeon design, game structure, characters, in-game music and even direct assets look pretty much stolen from Nintendo’s Zelda franchise. Graphically the Master System looked ‘better’ thanks to a richer colour palette over the NES, but don’t let that fool you into thinking this looks any less Zelda-like. Just try to imagine Golden Axe Warrior on the NES and you would have another Zelda title. 

Mr. Wimpy

Being British and a fan of British gaming history, I really feel that I should end this with a very British rip-off. The arcade classic BurgerTime had a simple and very enjoyable gameplay style. An early platform game where you play as a chef who has to walk over the various ingredients of a burger to make them. Highly unsanitary yes, but still really good fun to play. Ocean Software decided to just outright steal BurgerTime and make their own version as to not have to pay for the licence. The result of which was Mr. Wimpy.

Mr WIMPY

Mr. Wimpy wasn’t just a stolen game, it was also a licensed game… just not licensed from Data East, the developers behind BurgerTime. Nope, Mr. Wimpy was a tie in with a then very popular burger chain restaurant here in the UK in the eighties, Wimpy. Originating in the US, Wimpy came to the UK in the 1950s, but the restaurant chain became massively popular throughout the late seventies and eighties… before becoming less and less popular in the nineties.

Mr WIMPY LOADING

Anyway, Mr. Wimpy was a full-on tie-in with the burger chain and featured the then restaurant’s mascot and branding. Gameplay-wise, Mr. Wimpy is a direct clone of BurgerTime, you could put the two games next to each other and think that Mr. Wimpy was an official home port… it wasn’t. The only main difference was (outside of the visuals) that Mr. Wimpy had a little bonus stage where you had to collect food ingredients that BurgerTime didn’t. But in regards to gameplay and concept, Mr. Wimpy is an outright clone.


Well, that’s my pick of blatant video game rip-offs. I purposely avoided some of the more obvious ones. The endless Pac-Man clones, Doom rip-offs, GTA-a-likes, etc. I wanted to go for games that were either lesser known or ones with interesting backstories/resolves. Honestly, I could’ve crammed this article with so many more video game clones that you all already know about. But as I say, I wanted to go a lesser-known, more interesting route.  

By the way, I ripped off the ending to this article from another site (I didn’t really, it’s just a crap joke).