Games Inbox: Stray and the best ever indie graphics

The Thursday letters page considers the ramifications of Atari’s 50th anniversary, as a reader calls the DS Lite the best ever console.

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Super indie
Since it’s free I’ve been playing Stray on the PlayStation 5 and I have to say the thing that grabs me most about it is just how amazing the graphics are. I can see some issues with the cat animation, and its face doesn’t look quite right, but it’s still very impressive and the best I’ve see for a four-legged mammal, except for the various game horses.

What’s beyond criticism though are the backdrops, which are so good I can’t believe this is an indie game. The credits show there’s only about 30 or so core team members and yet the whole thing looks amazing. It’s not totally open world but the cyberpunk parts are not small either, which is really impressive.

Which makes me ask the question: is this the best looking indie game ever? I can think of a few other very impressive ones, like Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, What Remains Of Edith Finch, and Subnautica, but I think this may be the very best. People talk about the return of AA gaming but I think ‘super indie’ is a much better way to describe these new games. Well done to the team and I look forward to whatever they do next.

Zero to go on
Reading your article on the Nintendo Insider hinting at F-Zero news, I momentarily had my hopes up. A new F-Zero game! Imagine F-Zero in 2022! As you rightly pointed out though, the Insider says to, ‘Manage expectations’.

I’m guessing it’ll be more F-Zero themed Mario Kart DLC. That seems the most plausible. I don’t think we’ll be getting GameCube games on the Switch for a while, and while they could remaster GX I just don’t think they’re interested in doing so. Maybe they’re planning to add an F-Zero ride at their theme park?

Regardless, it’s nice to see they haven’t forgotten about the franchise.

GC: As you say, Mario Kart DLC seems the most obvious guess. But we all know trying to predict Nintendo is a mug’s game.

Unavoidable problem
Wonder if GC or the readers can help with a question I have. My Switch Joy-Con has the well-known drifting issue. Despite trying all the suggested fixes it still does not work. So, I thought if I purchase a wired/wireless Switch controller it would solve this problem. However, after a quick bit of internet-based research it seems some wired/wireless Switch controllers are also susceptible to drifting.

Does anyone have any recommendations with Switch controllers that work well? Playing Triangle Strategy with this issue was infuriating and I have Live A Live arriving in a few days so want to play that without wanting to tear my hair out. Thanks in advance.
eyetunes (PSN ID)
PS: Into The Breach interview was fantastic and I have downloaded the update but will only play it when I have fixed my drifting issues.

GC: Thanks. All modern controllers, on all formats, are prone to drifting so there’s no guaranteed way to get away from it. It’s much rarer on the Pro Controller though and Nintendo should fix it for you if it’s still relatively new.

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The full range
I loved Super Mario Sunshine! It’s one of my favourite Mario games. In comparison, I still haven’t got around to completing Super Mario Odyssey yet, it just seems to me you get power moons in that game for doing very, very little, like it’s dumbed down almost. And I have no idea why there was so many power moons to collect, they went way over the top with that.

Definitely aimed more at children I reckon. I will still complete it sometime though.

GC: Some power moons were easy to get and some were incredibly difficult, the game is aimed at everyone.

Good vibes
In reply to Grook’s letter about Mario Sunshine, while I agree it is objectively the worst 3D Mario game with some very poor sections, such as the infamous pachinko machine level and the sand bird, something their letter missed was the game’s ‘vibe’.

Delfino Island really is a nice place to hang out and the interconnected locations, music, tropical island, theme, etc. really come together to make a memorable experience.

It was the first Mario game I owed at the tender age of 12 so there is some nostalgia colouring my thoughts for sure. But still, if you want to go on a gaming holiday, you can’t go wrong with a trip to Isle Delfino!

Final piece
I wish I had a spare controller, GC. The last handheld I bought was a New Nintendo 3DS XL back in 2017, I think. Before that my last console was a Wii U, and then all the way back to a PlayStation 2!

Part of the reason of getting a PC, as well as needing one for work, was to take advantage of Steam, Epic Games, Humble Bundle, etc. and their sales to play most of the classic games I’ve missed, barring the odd console exclusive like Bloodborne. Hopefully in the future that will be added to PC.

I’m really looking forward to playing the games, the only bad part has been the money spent on a good quality monitor, keyboard, mouse, and other things. Thank you for your help with my controller question, but could I also ask (last one, I promise!) what headset you use? Or do you prefer speakers?

Sorry for the questions – I’m probably overthinking everything but I want to get the right setup and not make a bad choice I’ll regret later on. Thank you again.

GC: Not at all. We have a few different headphones, including specific ones for different consoles, but the Turtle Beach Ear Force Recon 200 is a good, inexpensive all-rounder.

Expensive by any measure
It’s the £70 price tag that gets me about The Last Of Us Part 1. I don’t care whether they’ve changed the gameplay or not. If they change it all they’re going to do is make it the same as Part 2, and that’s really no difference at all. I bet this leaker played the remake and didn’t even realise things had change, because it would make such little difference.

I don’t see how this doesn’t end up biting them on the ass. Gamers know it’s a rip-off before they start and non-gamers, who watch the TV show, are going to be shocked once they see how much the game costs. Apart from hardcore Naughty Dog fans I don’t see who this is for.

The progenitor
Crazy to think that Atari are 50 this year. That’s older than the vast majority of gamers and yet it’s still something that I feel many people, including non-gamers, have heard of. I’ve never played an Atari VCS or any of its games but I immediately recognised it from that Lego one (which looks awesome) and knew the game as well. It’s a shame the Atari of today is only a shell of its former self, literally, but I hope this compilation is good.

GC is right when they say that most retro compilations are lazy ports but we know the Atari one does have ‘museum’ features, so hopefully it can be the template for others in the future. I certainly have my doubts about how well any of these games play today but if they can be made interesting by everything that’s around them, in terms of behind the scenes information, that’d be cool.

While I’m on the subject though what was the first ever console, if it was the Atari VCS? I know Pong doesn’t count because it’s just one game, so what was the grandaddy of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X?

GC: The first console, as in a device that could play multiple, separately released games, was the Magnavox Odyssey. It came out in the US in 1972, and in the UK in 1974.

Inbox also-rans
My PlayStation 5 system crashes and I had to get a replacement controller due to drifting. How do I put my name in the legal action ring?
Sam cairns

GC: You can’t, unless you’re American.

The DS Lite is probably the best looking and accomplished console of all time. Good battery too. I charged it to replay Metroid: Zero Mission and Fusion ahead of Dread. Life got in the way but it’s still on full battery a month later.
D Dubya

This week’s Hot Topic
The subject for this weekend’s Inbox was suggested by reader Tolly, who asks what’s the longest games session you’ve ever had.

Put simply, what’s the longest you’ve ever played a game without any substantial break? Did you purposefully set out to play for that long and if so, what preparations did you make for it?

Have you ever sat down to play and been surprised by just how long you’ve been there once you finished? Did you consider this a good thing and generally speaking what’s your preferred length of time for a gaming session?

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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.

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