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Top 10 – In Game Tutorials

GeekOut Top 10s

Welcome to GeekOut South-West, where you can read the very best* in geek entertainment, from anywhere on the internet.

Below you will see the Top 10 for this week, which is called Top 10 In-Game Tutorials. You can use this article to get an idea of what games the GeekOut Media writers think are the very best in-game tutorials.

Proceed to the next section to commence reading.

* On-Site experience may vary. (more…)


In Defence of Railroading

Since the dominance of the sandbox, railroading gameplay through linear non-divergent story and specific plot paths has become something of a faux-pas in game design, and was never looked upon favourably in tabletop roleplaying. As a player you seek agency, and often that comes from such simple things as choosing which path to take to the same inevitable end, and not following the obvious trail of breadcrumbs laid out for you. These days we laud games for open worlds, multiple endings, and the ability to approach one problem a dozen ways, to play it your way.

All but gone are the days of the 3D platformer, and the rail shooter, technology and computing power has given us the power to create actual worlds and weave beautiful stories into them rather than just telling a story and dragging you by the nose along it.

But is it so bad a thing that we’re better off entirely being rid of it, and casting away the strictly linear narratives of old?

There are times when actually taking your players by the nose and dragging them to the plot is not necessarily an unforgivable act. Here are a couple of examples of uses for, and in defence of railroading your story.

The Beginning

Here’s a nice easy one to get this started off. When beginning a campaign, or game, or whatever interactive experience your trying to share, you’ll usually have a few fundamentals to share, basic bits of information to share that’ll allow the player to understand the experiences to follow. A little bit of railroading aids “showing not telling” like the opening test chambers of Portal encouraging thinking with portals. Obduction drives you down a path in pursuit of one of the world-shifting seeds, and leaves you in a small bubble that tells you everything you need to know about the transition mechanics you’ll be playing with.

It’s a form of tutorial, but done right it’s so subtle that you barely notice it every replay. We’re guided through set pieces that leave us without doubt about where we’re going or what we’re doing for the rest of the game.

A Bottleneck

There are occasions where your story takes a turn that irrevocably changes everything. No turning back, and no matter what you have done up to this point this moment was unavoidable. Moments like the time-shift in Guild Wars, where the entire “tutorial” felt like an open world in it’s own right, only for everything to change in a single moment. Transitioning from one Mass Effect or Witcher still leaves you with a short period in which games are identical, no matter the decisions you’ve made.

Now, actions and decisions made before this pivotal moment can alter the events that follow, but all paths lead here ultimately. Most games use this kind of narrative, the storyline quests that so often get ignored in pure sandboxes, but there are times where that epic moment changes everything to the point where there’s no going back or wandering off to finish that sidequest you’ve been ignoring.

False Choices

I’ll skim over this because this one’s more of a cheap trick, somewhat less acceptable. False choices are the doors you walk up to that suddenly slam shut and lock you out, or those decisions that immediately kill you or end the game. Arkham City did that with Catwoman’s story at one stage, where she had the option to simply walk away with loot in pocket, but because the game needed you to save Batman the game simply ended there. Sorry guys, given a real choice I’d have taken the money and run.

A Good Story

Halflife, Telltale Games, Psychonauts, hell most games will railroad up to a point. When your story is good and worth telling there’s nothing wrong with taking agency from the players in terms of narrative direction. In the drive to create bigger and more incredible games let’s not lose sight of a good story and the ways in which we can tell them, putting the player into the hazard suit of a mute scientist as he weaves through supersoldiers and alien parasites to reach the incredible conclusion of his epic tale (that will have been stuck on a cliffhanger for ten years this October) or filling the boots of the intrepid archaeologist as she shoots her way through adventures far more thrilling than any actual archaeologist would ever encounter.

I consider myself a world-builder first and foremost, so I’ll advocate for the ability to wander aimlessly around the whole world and delve its deepest corners and unveil every shred of lore, even if I have to sit and spend time that should be shooting down killer robots reading books on killer robot maintenance. But sometimes when a moment needs to be shared, or an idea is so stunning that it simply must be seen, there’s nothing wrong with putting the plot on tracks and asking everyone to enjoy the ride for a while.


Better Christmas Music

Three days to go!

As a retail worker, I appreciate the sympathy of customers who comment on how sick I must be of Christmas music. You’re right, and you’d be surprised at how much I appreciate your empathy on a day-to-day basis.

But as a shameless lover of Christmas, dammit I want to enjoy some Christmas music too, I just can’t listen to Boney M or Elvis anymore, and I didn’t want to listen to Coldplay in the first place. The biggest let down was when I couldn’t stand the Fairy Tale of New York any more, I loved that song for it’s bitter outlook and oddly joyous anger, love and hate balanced in equal measure, and now I’m bored of it. (more…)


Top 10 – Companions

GeekOut Top 10s

Ah yes, the companion. Unlike the sidekick, the companion is something that might not necessarily follow you because it believes in the same things as you do. Instead, a companion is there because it wants to be by your side, for whatever reason. (more…)


Top 10 Worst Levels

Water Temple Map

Level design is never an easy job, especially when you have to manage a large variety of levels and worlds. However some levels are so dreadful, that even years on, we as gamers raise our arms in frustration and say “Ah, sod this!” With all this said though, we’re not on about levels that are poorly made per se, but just levels that are genuinely bad to us.

So whether the level is downright frustrating because of how hard it is, or if the level is simply terribly designed, we’ve got you covered in this Top 10. Now it’s time for us to exit stage left and check out our best of worst levels!


Top 10

10. IntelliLock – Mystery of Time and Space (MOTAS)

MOTAS Mystery of Time and Space

Ah the Intellilock, a lock that was designed to be incredibly intelligent, or so you would think. Actually, this lock is pretty smart in that it puts you through a rigorous game of “hey, press the right button!” There’s a lot of buttons you can press and when you press the right one, they all change to become another puzzle in amidst the already annoying puzzles. One moment, you could be looking at crosshairs, the next you could be given a simple number puzzle.

The issue with Intellilock isn’t that it’s a bad lock per se, or even that the level around it is bad. Instead, it makes you seriously think and it slows down your whole gameplay through Mystery of Time and Space. MOTAS as it’s affectionately known, is a flash game which you can play absolutely for free (just click this link). It’s really good fun, but when you come to the Intellilock screen, be sure to have a good memory or a strong logical brain!

9. Shalebridge Cradle – Thief: Deadly Shadows

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This is a bit of an awkward one, and would have been placed far higher in the list if it weren’t also one of the best levels in Deadly Shadows. Throughout the game so far you’ve possibly walked the City streets merrily koshing or stabbing your way through a world that’s all too easily unburdened of life and valuables, and extinguishing every light that would reveal your presence, and a few you probably didn’t need to.

Welcome to the Cradle, half orphanage, half insane asylum, leave everything you’ve learned at the door. None of the lights can be extinguished, space is limited, and every occupant died a long time ago, but that hasn’t stopped them shambling the halls. If you’ve grown comfortable playing the master thief Garrett, be prepared to be made most uncomfortable, and otherwise freaked out, unnerved and generally annoyed. You’ll hate it, but it’ll make you want more.

8. Caustic Caverns – Borderlands 2

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Good idea to replace all the water with acid, adds an element of risk, especially if you have to cross said acid a few times to get to essential locations. But jumping isn’t difficult in Borderlands, better make the acid bubble and splash so that it’s harder to dodge, OH and maybe if you put treasure and things in places you can only reach by jumping into said bubbles just as they burst! That’ll be great.

What else? What else? What if this is filled with creatures that can throw you great distances into the acid, or things that fly so you can’t look at where you’re going, or creatures that spend half the fight underground?! That’s sounds like a lot of FUN! PEOPLE WILL HAVE FUN! And now that we’re all having fun, let’s have a lot of quests in there, a lot more than any of the other dungeons in the whole game! Or at least let’s make it feel that way.

7. Kaizo Mario World

 

Kaizo Mario World is a trial-and-error game or “rage game”, I.E a game just like I Wanna Be The Guy. It’s a game where you might jump over a pit which would be an insta-kill, just to have a bullet bill fly at you JUST as you jump. Of course, this would go and kill you anyway. It’s the type of game that was made to intentionally annoy the hell out of you – and it’s pretty brilliant at it.

I’ve seen people die whilst just walking in that game. I’ve seen people die by being inactive. I’ve seen deaths by star blocks, deaths by chomps and deaths by goombas… Who appear out of nowhere! Kaizo Mario World is the ultimate test of patience. It’s not really a bad game at all, it’s rather clever in fact. But it’s such a bad idea for how a level works, that it deserved a mention. Please note: Kaizo is actually a fan based ROM Hack, so if you don’t own the official game, you’re not likely going to be able to play this legally! Still, it’s highly amusing to have a look at people dying pretty regularly on it!

6. Test Chamber 18 – Portal

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One of the final phases of preliminary testing of the Aperture Handheld Portal Device, subjects are required to traverse elaborate corridor networks, and resolve a rather awkward puzzle in order to complete the chamber.

Test Chamber 18 is a bit of a doozy, and is often referred to as one of the hardest puzzles in the game, more than a few people were trapped in the little chamber for a very long time. The turrets add very little complexity, as they’re easily dispatched, but the solution is not all that obvious, and being trapped in that side room by a sliding panel, and some parts requiring rather narrow timing add little stressors that make the puzzle just a little harder.

The exit is a series of tall platforms reached by hurling oneself higher and higher, tempering your relief at completing the chamber with a little vertigo and nausea. Not to worry, there’s time enough to settle your stomach before the cake.

5. Safari Zone – Pokémon Red/Blue

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Games seem to really love completely removing their own fundamental mechanics occasionally just to screw us over. The Safari Zone is just a prime example of exactly how gleefully the modern masters like to upset their fans. The whole point of pokémon is to pitch your pokémon against another pokémon and slug it out through means of tactical application of their various powers or abilities to whittle the opponent down far enough to defeat or capture it. The system works, and it would certainly be a great deal harder if you were just throwing rocks at your opponent, or if they could just run off whenever they liked.

Welcome to the Safari Zone, where your pokémon are removed from you and you have a limited time to throw rocks and/or bait at a kangaskhan until it either wanders off or actually stays in the damn Safari Ball. Oh, and your supposed to figure out that there’s a particular method when you’re 10 and don’t have a clue about strategy and just blast everything with hyperbeam until your PP runs out? Yet more proof that children should never be permitted to play children’s games.

4. Robot Masters before Dr. Wily – Mega Man games

Mega Man 2 Robot Masters

The Robot Masters are the big baddies of the Mega Man series. Mega Man 2 is my all time favourite Mega Man, probably along with many other people. I’d always fight Metal Man first, then I’d take on Wood Man. Next I’d kill Bubble Man, followed by Air Man, then Flash Man. Crash Man is next, Quick Man and finally Er… Zippo Man. Heat Man, that’s his name! Then once you defeat all of the Robot Masters and take their powers, you can go to the middle section, which is Wily’s castle. Defeat the enemies before the big skull part and boom! It’s time to fight Wily.

Actually, no it’s not. Instead, you just find 8 doors that you can step through. Each of these doors have lights above them, indicating that they’re currently still active. All you have to do is go in and de-activate all of them. How hard can this be? Well, it can be incredibly hard if you’re only getting by with the skin of your teeth. You have to now fight all 8 of the Robot Masters all over again… And guess what? You don’t heal all of your health between fights either. Good luck, Mega, you’re going to need it!

3. Biker Tunnel – Battletoads

 

Have you played Battletoads? If you have and you’ve played this game with a friend, you know that most of this game is one massive mess. It’s a great mess, a glorious one at that. People only really took it seriously after it became subject to a bit of an internet meme targeting shops like Gamestop for a pre-order of Battle-Toads for the Nintendo Wii. All thanks to the above video: isn’t the internet an awesome place?

Nevertheless, it let people see the insanity that was Battletoads, inciting many people to then actually get frustrated with the games absurdly high difficulty. One moment, you’re playing a typical beat em up, with massive boots to kick the butts of your enemies. The next moment, you would be driving along a tunnel on a bike, with obstacles coming into contact with you every second. Don’t worry; that’s not all you have to contend with. Ramps are the only things that will save you from falling into the massive pits and you even have to hit those at the right speeds, else you’ll just lose. The Battletoads really had all odds stacked against them!

2. Water Temple – Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Water Temple Map

If you thought the Water Temple wasn’t going to make our list, then you were only fooling yourselves. Yes, the Water Temple clocks in at a whopping number two on our list, which is totally understandable, considering the infamous nature of this level. People go so far as to call levels “the Water Temple of this game” when referring to the worst levels of whatever game they’re playing. At least, I’ve certainly referred to levels in such a way.

Regardless, the Water Levels is interesting in that it has 5 layers, which sees you navigating all 5 layers just to get through it. If it were just a case of having to do each layer, that’d not be so bad, but you need to go back and forth between the layers just to progress. You know something’s up when they admitted they made it easier during the remake for the game on the 3DS, because they felt guilty for how hard this level was. Traps, layers, puzzles – It threw everything it had at you and only the patient would survive.

1. Rainbow Road – Mario Kart

Rainbow Road Super Mario Kart 64

Wait a minute, before we continue, how come we’ve got a second Mario item in the Top 10? Aren’t we only supposed to have 1 entry from each franchise? You’re absolutely correct, it’s one entry from each franchise. However, Kaizo Mario World is a fan-made ROM Hack, which does not count as part of a franchise. With this out of the way with, let me now explain why Rainbow Road not only makes it into the Top 10, but why it’s our number one pick.

Rainbow Road is infamous amongst people who have played through Mario Kart, in any of it’s various iterations. When you start playing Mario Kart, you get frustrated by the players who are throwing those red shells at you and the people who leave banana’s behind. You get frustrated that people are better at drifting than you are and you want to just give everybody the Luigi Death Glare whenever they try to pass you and you hit them with a shell.

Rainbow Road stops everyone dead in their tracks, because now instead of contending with other contenders, you’re fighting with the game itself. You now need to try to get this road, this wavy, moving, wiggling road, to treat you a little bit better. In the Wii version, for instance, the Rainbow Road has the occasional ripple in the ground, allowing you to gain speed for making a jump off the ground itself… But that doesn’t always help, as it can throw you full speed off one of the many curved sides of the road. There are no railings to save you in this exceedingly long level! It’s a nightmare to navigate and the colours can be highly disorientating.


Honourable Mentions

There are so many levels out there, but to call them all the worst would be a massive overstatement. However, we thought we’d show off two more levels that at least deserves a mention; One isn’t even really a proper level!

Tomb of Horrors – Dungeons & Dragons

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Omitted by a small technicality, the Tomb of Horrors is a module for D&D that is used by DMs when they are sick to death of their group, it’s veritably infamous for how cruelly it tortures those adventurers foolish enough to try its entrances. Sudden death is abundant, puzzles are difficult, and non-lethal penalties are dramatic to say the least. The place is the current final resting place of the demi-lich Acererak, and is a death trap riddled with hazards, monsters and deceptions of a most sadistic nature.

Expect loss of limbs, change of gender, altered philosophical views, and the very real possibility of just starving to death. Being a challenge for medium-high level characters, most of these penalties would be a mere setback, even death would be a revolving door. Would be! But the necromancer Acererak isn’t so polite as to let you die like normal, death is an absolute, no coming back from this one.

Kill Screen – Pac-Man

Pac-Man Kill Screen

So we all know and love Pac-Man and I’ve mentioned this highly broken screen many times before on this website, however it’s interesting to note that this is technically a playable level, even though it isn’t really a proper one. What I mean by it not being a proper level, is that this level isn’t supposed to be like this, but it’s just a memory issue with the game, where it doesn’t know what you want to do with all of the fruit ever.

Rotten fruit aside, the Kill Screen is infamous in Pac-Man. Having supposedly been beaten only once before, which is seemingly unverified, the Kill Screen is basically the end of the line for the most hardcore Pac-Man players. Some modern versions of the game include it just as an Easter Egg to those who figure it out and get that far. On the plus side, at least the screen is visually different than the 255 maps that preceded it!


I’ve had enough of going through dungeons and caverns filled to the brim with krakens, because how many of these guys can fit into such a small space? Not to mention that there are fire monsters inside of this water cave, how did this even make it past play-testing!? Nevertheless, we’re done for this week’s list and now it’s once again over to you, our audience, to decide what we do for our next list.

Did we mention those levels that were so dastardly to you? What about the order in which we ranked these worst levels? Do you think we unfairly put any of them in, or do you think we were justified in our reasons? Did we miss any out?! As always, life isn’t fair, but you can help us make it right by telling us your personal worst levels in the comments below, or over on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit. Help us check through these games for the future of mankind’s sake: We’ve had enough of these worst levels!


Top 10 Characters Who Came Back From The Dead

GeekOut Top 10s

It’s Easter time! Therefore, it’s time to celebrate in the only ways we know how. With a Top 10 that’s very Easter themed – You could have chosen rabbits, or the more literal Easter Eggs, but no, you guys chose for our Top 10 list of Characters Who Came Back From The Dead. In some ways, I guess we should be thanking you for this one, as it’s not only topical, but it made us think.

Some of the characters in the list are incredibly well known, some of the entries may actually shock you. Don’t worry though, we’ve got the defibrillator at the ready to resuscitate any of you who may need bringing back during our list. But don’t worry: When there’s an end, there’s always the chance of rebirth. No Isaac from The Binding of Isaac fame, you’re not on this list.


Top 10

#10 – GLaDOS – Portal

GLaDOS

Aha, so you thought you killed off the AI of the Portal series in the first game, well think again you puny meatbag. GLaDOS makes a very dramatic exit at the end of the first game, where you are destroying the very cores that make her… Well her! GLaDOS is truly the reason the Portal series was able to continue, not Chell.

Coming in at number 10 only, because although it certainly was good to see her return from the “dead”, it was never truly confirmed that you killed her (even though it seemed like you had), plus the moment Portal 2 was announced, we all knew she’d be back. Plus, if nothing else, she gets a nudge onto the list for her beautiful singing voice. Ellen McLain, the voice of GLaDOS, is also a downright lovely individual who we had the pleasure of meeting and listening to at last years Kitacon Invasion.

#9 – Frieza – Dragonball Z

Frieza Final Form

Frieza’s name was known all throughout the galaxy as the most fearsome warrior of all. He was able to level whole planets, barely using any effort at all. This intergalactic terrorist would incite fear upon those who gazed eyes on him, as well as having a rather flamboyant fighting force (Ginyu Force) at his disposal. Frieza seemed like he had it all, until he was cut into a million pieces, had parts of his body disintegrated and then left for dead on planet Namek. Talk about having a rough day.

But then, very shortly after the Frieza/Namek saga was over, we went back to Earth and lo and behold, Frieza returns! This time, he was on Earth! What ever could the world do– Oh, okay, a guy from the future comes along and in one slash with a sword manages to do what took Goku and friends what must have been eight episodes. Still, Frieza wasn’t finished there – Well he was, until very recently. Last year, in the film DragonBall Z: Resurrection ‘F’. This time, he seems to not be a robot, but golden! Now you’ve seen his true final form? Possibly?

#8 – Brian – Family Guy

This one was incredibly shocking and highly controversial. In fact, I’m not going to make and mistakes about it: I somewhat grew tired of Family Guy a while back. There’s only so much that you can take of what is effectively just constant running gags, which grow staler than a loaf of bread that you’ve left for only five minutes on a table in the Sahara Desert. I might be being rather descriptive of how stale some of the jokes can get, but there’s one thing this series did really well. It hit all of us right in the feels.

The very controversial episode of Brian’s death, aptly named Life of Brian, was actually somewhat hard to watch. The video above shows the clip of Brian’s death, so a small warning goes out to you – It’s a little bit brutal. The episode managed to handle the death of a main character really well. It didn’t resort to wacky humour about it, but instead, it felt as if the series was about to lose a sense of what it was – Same as how many of us feel whenever we lose someone or a pet that’s so near and dear to us. This episode stirred so many people, that a change.org petition was started and eventually Brian’s death was ret conned, proving the character was indeed loved and would have been sorely missed.

I wonder how Family Guy would look today if they kept the replacement dog..?

#7 – Jason Voorhees – Friday the Thirteenth

Friday-the-13th

The films series that just won’t die features one of our all time favourite immortal nemeses, the masked slasher Jason Voorhees. While the film franchise has limped, sagged and very nearly collapsed under the burden of abuse from varying directors there’s an underlying character to the mighty butcher of rampant teens, generally lying under the surface of a lake, but he’s seen as something of a representation of puritanical oppression. Not a lot oppressing him though.

The source of his immortality has never truly been explained, mostly that a series of flukes, assorted magicks (with a “k”) and prolonged periods of time spent in suspended animation have all contributed heavily to his prolonged existence so that he may foreshorten that of others. Trips to Hell and outer-space can’t hold him back, not even failed titles, spinoffs, or lousy versus films can keep him from rebooting.

#6 – Spawn

It was either him or Ghost Rider, it’s always a tough call when you have two incredible characters who have been offered a deal from the devil, and while we can forgive Nicolas Cage for a rather… different interpretation, we still love Spawn just that little bit more.

Maybe it’s the vast array of powers, challenging Malebolgia himself to mortal combat, OH! and Mortal Kombat! Al Simmons is just a more awesome character, a grim silhouette in the stereotypical stormy night that casts every bit as much fear as the flaming skull of vengeance, who also got a legendary cartoon series to boot. But what about his return from death? If you read his entry in the Top 10 Unfortunate Heroes you’ll know it’s not a happy tale, it’s a hellish contract born of a need for revenge, and to save the life of the one he loves, but it slowly becomes a mission, a duty to the forces of light born on the shoulders of a very dark soldier.

#5 – Harry Potter

Harry Potter

In a tale of epic struggle against what is effectively overcoming the unspeakable ultimate evil, Harry Potter makes it onto our list as a surprising entrant. After all, he manages to defeat Voldemort*, doesn’t he? So how can it be that The Boy Who Lived who ended up being The Boy Who Died Then Came Back To Life Again Or Something? Well, it’s all down to the details in this one, but Harry does indeed die.

He is a Horcrux, one that Voldemort himself accidentally created. The irony was that Harry had to kill himself in order to destroy one of the Horcruxes. Hey, everything in this series was entwined in some way, even the Golden Snitch that Harry was given by Dumbledore makes a very important appearance during this part. When Harry dies however, a lot of the story really comes together here. The Horcruxes are falling very quickly at this point and of course, time to go and defeat Voldemort once and for all.

*Or y’know, Neville Longbottom, the series whipping boy, is the one who ends up beheading the snake in a rather amazing scene in the films, but whatever!

#4 – Solomon Grundy – Batman

Solomon Grundy
Born on a Monday

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Lives for a week, a tale of tragedy that takes us a total of seven days and – in the case of Cyrus Gold – ultimately ends in reincarnation. You see, the immortal Grundy from the DC universe is an ancient and wealthy banker from days of yore whose carriage sinks into a peat-bog that supposedly contained one of DC’s infamous retcon devices, a Lazarus pit. The rejuvenating properties infuse Grundy, leaving him incapable of permanent death, or even coherent thought.

The pits are known to damage the mind and soul of those they help, whilst making the body incredibly powerful. To someone with the self-discipline or narrative importance of Ra’s Al Ghul the effects can be mitigated with rigorous self control and suitable sacrifice. For Solomon Grundy, it leaves a mindless giant capable of crushing a man with a shrug. Batman actually enjoys Grundy for the chance to cut-loose and get to some real damage dealing, despite the fact that the giant is reborn far larger and stronger than before.

He does rather lack some of the guile of Batman’s better villains, being incapable of articulating much more than the one rhyme that was skipping through his head as he suffocated to death in the mystic swamps.

#3 – Barbossa – Pirates of the Caribbean

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Although some credit must go to Captain Jack Sparrow for being dragged back from the locker against his somewhat shattered will, someone had to step up who knew how to get to the other side. And as it happens Jack recently killed someone who’s as good as he is at not staying dead for long.

It took a large crew and a whole lot of persuading to get Sparrow back from death, Barbossa made one sweet deal and came striding back to enjoy some juicy apples and revenge… juicy, juicy revenge. During his captaincy of the Black Pearl he got dangerously close to death before Sparrow and Turner finished the job, but as it turns out Tia Dalma/Calypso has a soft spot for the old sea dog.

More and more we’re seeing film series leave us with cliffhangers to drag us back to the cinema, but in this incredibly short scene there was more excitement drummed up for the third instalment of the trilogy than in any other series – at least that I’ve ever seen. Who knew a pair of boots would be such a welcome sight?

#2 – Gandalf – Lord of the Rings

YOU SHALL NOT PASS!

Well, I guess Gandalf the Grey was right – The Balrog certainly didn’t get to pass Gandalf and his temper tantrum of turmoil. It ends up that Gandalf shouting those immortal words would also be Gandalf the Grey’s last. The whip reaches up, lashes around the leg of Gandalf and pulls him down… Well okay, it wasn’t his last, as he manages to call everyone fools because they aren’t flying. I mean for crying out loud, Hobbitses can’t even fly, Gandalf, you senile old guy.

Ahem, I digress. Later in the film, Gandalf makes a very lovely re-appearance, as Gandalf the White. Apparently, when this wizard dies, he manages to fall into a vat of Vanish Stain Removal. Enough joking though, Gandalf’s death was not in vain – He comes back way better than ever before and it’s one of the franchise’s most iconic moments.

#1 – Kenny – South Park

MysterionRises48

Are you really surprised? Seriously?

Kenny infamously dies once an episode in early seasons of the world’s most even-handedly offensive cartoon series, it became the most widely known running gag in a series for a decade, and had a generation learning how to swear loudly in the face of death. They attempted to kill Kenny off permanently in an attempt to kill a joke they’d grown sick of, before demurely bringing him back in the same off-hand fashion they’d been doing for years.

As time progresses we learn that in fact Kenny’s parents conducted some strange ritual with elder beings to cause him to be reincarnated constantly, a superpower he uses to become the cloaked immortal hero Mysterion. In fact one of the most harrowing episodes of South Park was the episode in which we learn of how alarmingly aware of his immortality Kenny is, holding a gun to his head and screaming “Remember this time! You have to remember!”, but no one ever does, no one can mourn a child who never dies.

Bastards.


Honourable Mentions

Everything comes to an end, but not the characters in our Top 10 list! Well some of them kind of do, but they don’t all simply end there. But the below extra characters are also known for their ability to just come back from the dead. At least they’ve got a chance to redeem themselves in our Honourable Mentions list!

Dracula

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Depending on the version of Dracula that you look into, this vampire seems to just never stop dying and coming back to life. Interestingly, the state of how vampires sleep in the story of Dracula is known as “Death-Sleep”, as the vampires appear to be dead with their eyes wide open during their slumber, so if we take that into account as well, then hey, Dracula dies every damn night. But that’s not exactly true now is it?

I mean if we look at the Castlevania series, the amount of times Dracula has legitimately been killed is quite staggering – Yet he always manages to come back for some rather unspecific reason. “Oh we resurrected him”, “oh we’ve got to kill him again.” Who knows why he thinks it’s a good idea to keep fighting the Belmonts, but hey, Dracula has to have something to do in his unlife, right? I guess having a hobby is good enough in his world.

Player Character – Video Games

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I had the most terrible dream, I was plummeting to my death, nothing but darkness and my own echoing screams, and then suddenly I was assaulted by descending numbers. I don’t think they reached zero because I woke up somewhere near where it all took place. I’m almost reluctant to try and make the leap again… but the world will not save itself, and I don’t see anyone else around here who isn’t trying to kill me.

From the Hyperion New-U stations in Borderlands to the wave of bloody carnage that ends every successful run in Super Meat Boy, we’ve grown all too accustomed to the ability to just get up and try again. Perhaps the return of the roguelike owes itself to our newfound nonchalance in the face of death, because it can be hard to make death something to be feared, while at the same time allowing the player to get straight back into the fray without the tedium of starting from scratch.

From an allotted maximum number of lives, to money and experience penalties, defeat is not without its sting, but that doesn’t make it any less funny when your character dies and walks it off.


Oh we slayed this list! But lo and behold, when one goes down, it simply comes back within a week’s time much like Solomon Grundy. But now it’s time for you to decide what our list will be returning as next week. It’s time for you to help us pick next week’s iteration of our Top 10 list.

As always, thanks for reading our list. We love writing these and as they are still thoroughly well received, we’ll keep doing these until you guys say “stop with the Top 10 lists!” Let us know what you thought – Are these characters deserving of this list? Do you think we’ve missed any characters that deserve a special mention? Would you have reordered this list in any way? Please leave your comments below, or over on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for always being excellent!


Top 10 Villain Voices

When you’re watching your favourite heroes, you want them to speak loudly and calmly. You want authoritarianism, you want leadership and you want a dependable character who sounds like they are fighting the good fight. Then you have the villains of the world who you want to not have any of those traits. Except perhaps leadership. Or perhaps dependability. Heck, I guess they should be authoritarian, too. Nevertheless, you don’t want the same from your villains that you want from your heroes, so what is it that makes the villains voice so important?

Whether it be a nasty sounding nasally voice, to a deep raspy voice, the villains need to sound different in some way. Their words need to cut deep into you and need to make you feel belittled, or in some way uneasy. We’ve scoured media and we’ve come across our Top 10 villain voices.

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Top 10 Sidekicks in Games

Sidekicks, the oft-forgotten but ultimately necessary addition to any great main character. Let’s face it, what is Batman without Robin? Sure, we all care about the main guy more, but let’s face the facts: The sidekick serves more purpose than just comedic effect, (although some seem tied into this role.) Some are actually intelligent, capable and sometimes are more rounded than the main characters themselves.

In honour of all of the best secondary characters out there, as voted by you, this week we’re dedicated to bringing you our Top 10 Sidekicks in Games.

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Top 10

10) CL4-TP – Borderlands 2

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Specifically Borderlands 2. Why? In the first in the series CL4-TP units were everywhere, each had their own variation on the basic personality type of arrogant and cowardly, and they would eventually come to rise up against their Hyperion masters and endeavour to assimilate various main characters. In the pre-sequel, the Interplanetary Ninja Assassin model becomes a playable character.

In Borderlands 2, that same Claptrap is the last of his kind, living in a mausoleum made of his broken friends. Hard to feel bad for him though, while he is essential to the plot, he spends most of the first chapter referring to you as “Minion” while shaking in a corner as you deal with his problems. He’s full of catchphrases and soundbites, and every one makes you want to throw him off Sanctuary just to watch him bounce. Sadly for us all, he’s necessary.

9) Lydia – Skyrim

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Otherwise known as Housecarl to the Thane of Whiterun, trap springer, arrow catcher, and “Dammit, get out of the way!” there is no more dedicated a sidekick than Lydia. Willing to fling herself into danger in the name of her Thane, no matter the consequences, literally no matter what the consequences, good/bad/irritating, it doesn’t matter.

She can take a beating, and she is sworn to carry your burdens, so she’s not all bad. And worst case scenario you can always tell her to go home. She’ll even stand in the cold and unfurnished shell of Breezehome, diligently awaiting your return. She’s not quite so keen as Oblivion’s adoring fan, but at least she has a name.

8) Ora – Mark of the Ninja

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Ahh, here we go, a sidekick who knows what she’s for!

Mark of the Ninja’s Marked rarely sees his companion Ora except when she drops in to inform him of security measures up ahead that he may not have seen already, or critical changes in the situation. After that she vanishes, presumably to go deal with things off-screen while you get on with the game. She may very well be running her own little mission for all you care, but stays broadly by your side for when you need her most.

There may be a reason for this however [SPOILERS] Ora may very well be a hallucination brought about by the markings on the Ninja protagonist, and you are eventually faced with the possibility of killing your friend and ally, or possibly slipping into psychosis [SPOILERS OVER]. She’s a creepy question mark hovering over your narrative, but she’s also indispensible.

7) Murray, The Curse of Monkey Island

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“I am Murray, the evil demonic skull! Muwahahaha!”

Murray is an interesting character overall. He’s a comedic relief, in a game series known for its humorous dialogue. The Curse of Monkey Island has a relatively ‘serious’ plot, in that you are trying to save Elaine from being a solid gold statue and defeat the evil pirate LeChuck.

Technically, this demonic talking skull isn’t really a sidekick, but in some situations he certainly acts like one. He gives you little hints and tips, all whilst realising the inevitability of his circumstances, (y’know, being just a skull means you can’t do much.) Whilst he’s snarky and nasty to you a good 95% of the time, he not only sometimes just appears out of the blue, (questionable how a talking skull gets about so much), but he’ll even go in your inventory and talk when you open it. At least he’s always there for you. Annoyingly.

6) Ellie, The Last of Us

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The Last of Us is a game that took the world by storm and for good reason. The protagonist, Joel (not to be confused with our very own Joel,) loses his daughter and becomes a bit of a negative person. However, when push comes to shove, he is tasked with looking after Ellie and the two form a fantastic duo.

Perhaps it’s the strange bond of humanity that makes these two characters an absolutely believable team, or perhaps it’s the direness of the situations they’ve been faced with. Whatever the reason for these two and how they manage to look after one another, Ellie holds her own at such a young age. She makes a lot of sense in terms of character development and she’s up there amongst the most awesome youngen in video games.

Naughty Dog, you can be proud of yourselves for portraying Ellie so well in this. She’s the real hero to me.

5) Potato GLADoS – Portal 2

We struggled with this one, but frankly Wheatley made a far more interesting villain than sidekick. Somehow GLADoS’s journey from AI with god delusions – all-powerful within her self-contained domain – to science fair project with a personality disorder made her far more compelling a companion.

The excursion into Aperture’s abandoned projects and the narrative that unfolded their made her presence far more interesting, and her assistance felling the mad moron drunk with science was invaluable. Ok so her reward for restoring her to her rightful place was not killing you, considering her attitude towards you over the last eight years, you got off lightly.

4) Glottis vs Pey’J, Grim Fandango vs Beyond Good and Evil

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This town ain’t big enough for two non-human engineer sidekicks. It’s time for you to cast your vote as to which of these two behemoths are video games best engineer sidekick, but first, let’s explain who these two are.

Glottis, the Demon engineer who isn’t allowed to torch anything bigger than a cigarette without a form signed by the boss himself. After Manny manages to get a signature for Glottis to do his thing to Mannys company car, Glottis becomes Mannys personal driver. Turning the car into the Bone Wagon that we all know and love, Glottis is a fun and incredibly enthusiastic character. He understands rules, but most importantly: He values loyalty and friendship above all else.

Pey’J is a Sus Sapien. If you don’t know what that means, it’s basically a pig human. Don’t be fooled by his gruff looks though, Pey’J is also an incredibly loyal character, but unlike Glottis, his head is way more down to earth and clearly understands the importance of Jades discoveries. He likes to create electronic devices for himself and Jade, often to help Jade out… But sometimes just be cause he enjoys making things. Conversely to Glottis, he doesn’t like driving, but he’s a master mechanic and engineer.

3) Luigi

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Luigi needs no introduction what so ever. The guy has his own stories and his own games that he goes through. Recently, there was even a year in his honour. If you missed out on that, then you missed out on a special part of the Mario universe. However, the Green Plumber is often picked over his own brother, which begs the question: Is he a sidekick, or an alternative hero at this point of time? Originally, he certainly was introduced as a sidekick, being the player two to Mario.

We can’t be too wrong with this one. Many other websites with similar Top 10 themes rate Luigi as a highly dependable character. With videos such as the below to support him too, whose to say he doesn’t deserve a top 3 spot? Honestly, the next two sidekicks however… They take it to the next level.

2) Tails – Sonic

Ok, so he’s not quite so good as Sonic, not as fast and not all that useful in multiplayer. But the twin-tailed fox has something unique that makes him surprisingly handy at exactly the right moment, and isn’t that ultimately what makes a sidekick perfect? Miles “Tails” Prower doesn’t exactly seize the spotlight but there are times you’d father rather you were flying than rushing past everything at breakneck speeds.

Unlike Knuckles – the third addition to the Sonic team – who has his own stuff to get on with unless he’s needed, Tails is friend and admirer to Sonic. Though he can increasingly depend on himself without the blue speedster watching his back, Sonic can always depend on him when he’s in a fix.

Plus he’s ginger. Gotta represent!

1) Alyx Vance, Half Life 2

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Alyx Vance is, for all intensive purposes, the perfect Non-Playable Character and I cannot fault her at all. She’s logical, she’s believable, she’s very intelligent and she’s very athletic and helpful. There’s no reason to dislike Alyx, even if you’ve never played Half Life 2, you will at least know of her. She’s considered one of the greatest NPCs of all time by many, she’s full of presence in Half Life 2 and she’s likeable.

What helps is that throughout Half Life 2, you meet characters who are good for helping you out. Alyx is a constant reminder that friendship and devotion to a cause can be a powerful combination. She cares deeply about Gordon Freeman, the silent crowbar wielding protagonist, which is apparent. Combine this with stellar AI which possibly helps her be one of the smartest AIs in video games at that, it’s apparent she’s the perfect sidekick.

I know for a fact right now that if nothing else, there’s one GeekOut reader who’ll see this at the number one spot and be fist pumping and will never stop talking about it, because the guy never shuts up (and we love him for it). He knows who he is.


Honourable Mention

We’ve been through the motions of our Top 10 but now that the heroes helpers have been honoured, it’s time to have a look at some more sidekicks who didn’t quite make the cut for the full list. Nevermind, they’re still winners to us, even if they’re rarely remembered. We remembered them… Wait, that’s not how this works! We remember these characters for very specific reasons and here’s why!

Navi, The Legend of Zelda

ARGH!!! STOP IT NAVI!!!

Actually, the whole issue of Navi being an annoying character is slightly inflated by the internet. Hear me out here – I don’t remember playing Ocarina of Time and having Navi saying this all that often. Yes it is somewhat annoying when she does decide to go on a “hey listen” rant, but that’s probably because you’re not actually, y’know, paying attention to what she has to say? She’s there to help and she tries her damned best.

Instead, she’s become a bit of a mocking point for the internet. A real shame, too. She is only doing her job.

Hey, listen!

Pikachu – Pokémon Yellow

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The infamous and least useful “Fourth Starter” was the first Pokémon to stalk you through the Kanto realm because he refused to stay in a pokéball. Well go to hell you stuck-up glorified battery! And stop turning your nose up and threatening to shock me whenever I try to talk to you. I have to go through Brock’s gym with you and a pidgey, that’s gonna be like trying to demolish a building with a pamphlet!

Much like in the anime, the pikachu in Pokémon Yellow edition grows to like you in time. He’s not entirely useless despite the fact that you can’t evolve him without losing the entertaining bouncy sprite following you around, and with it losing one of the most unique features of the game (certainly at the time, not so much anymore).


Quite so Watson, it’s time for us to wrap up this weeks Top 10. Much like our sidekicks that made the cut, this list is secondary to them. Hey, some of these may be scoffed at but we truly felt they deserved a mention. Don’t forget to hit that vote button for our next list!

As always though, we wouldn’t make these lists without you, the readers. Please cast your votes and let us know in the comments below, or over on Facebook and Twitter: Do you think our choices were right for this, or are there any characters you feel deserves a mention? Did we put these in the wrong order? Is Alyx Vance really the top sidekick in video gaming, even above Luigi and Tails?! Let us know your thoughts and we’ll see you all again next week for another Top 10.

 


Top 10 Musical Characters In Games

We do so love a good song on this site. Oh so many of our Top 10s have featured music in some form or another, finally we come to acknowledge those songmasters and tunesmiths that make gaming just so much more magical.

Whether spinning songs to inspire, or using music as a weapon, be they flautist or axe-wielder, classicist or contemporary, if they could crank out a tune they earned our consideration. So join us as we take you through our picks…

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Top 10 Memorable sounds in Games

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I once met a man who seemed possessed of an odd kind of wisdom. When I asked him what path I should take through life, the path of honesty, or the path of weasely underhanded backstabbing that led all the way to Successville, he turned to me and said: “Listen mate…”

He said a bunch of other things about restraining orders, but when I did listen, I found that the world was filled with ambient noises I had never heard before. SOUND advice indeed.

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