Revisiting Mike's Big Juicy Summer Backlog

Summer is finally dead. New York’s string of 80-degree highs has broken. A thick blanket of clouds envelopes the sky. It is a time for sweaters and soup, mugs of tea and apple cider, warmth and coziness.

Fall is here, beckoning the world toward its yearly reverie. A chance to slow down, to contemplate. And as I do, I can’t help but feel like I’m forgetting something. Like there was something I was supposed to do…

Oh. Right. My Big Juicy Summer Backlog. That list of games I was supposed to focus on all through the summer.

Well. Let’s, uh… check in on how that went.

1. Rocket League (Switch)

I want to say I played maybe a dozen matches total. Maybe less. I think I fell off of this game in less than a week. Sorry, Rocket League! I guess this is a lesson to myself not to buy into a game purely for a Formula 1 tie-in.

2. XCOM 2 (Switch)

In my original post, I wrote that the Switch version of XCOM 2 was, “just convenient enough, and not quite shitty enough, to keep me playing.” I’m here today to tell you that actually I’m an idiot because for all its portability, playing XCOM 2 on the Switch just sucks complete ass. I simply don’t enjoy it. It’s so slow. The only reason I stuck with it for so long is because I was chasing the way I thought this game should feel on the Switch. It does not feel that way. It sucks complete ass. And that is a shame. But I do not think I will be playing it on this console any time soon, if ever again.

3. Risk of Rain 2 (PC + Switch)

I was kind of expecting to play this a bunch with my friend Zac, as we’d played back to back weeks in the past. But then we both got busy and stopped playing video games together for a while! Oops! We just played this together for the first time since probably the beginning of summer just last week, and quickly switched over to Spelunky 2. So. Yeah. We still love RoR2, just haven’t been feeling it. We’ve unlocked about everything there is to unlock, so not much left to do right now anyway.

4. Control (PC)

Okay, this one is a genuine shame. For a while, I was putting this one up on the TV after dinner and playing through it with my girlfriend (she wanted to watch the story), and then we sort of fell into other things. We started and finished all of Adventure Time, then got into Cowboy Bebop, then Evangelion. It’s been a real ride. We should get back into Control, though. Or I should, at least. Would be a good spooky fall time.

5. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (PC)

I tried. I tried with this, I tried with Dishonored 2, I tried with Prey. It’s just not where I was at. I wanted to say that I’m just not feeling immersive sims right now, but I think what it actually is — and this is truly the case for all of these PC games that I did not play — I just got really sick of sitting at my desk all the time. My desk is now where I do all of my work all day, and I’d just rather not come back here after dinner most nights if I can help it. And I can help it. So I did. 

6. Prey (PC)

Again, I tried.

7. Nier: Automata (PC) 

I briefly picked this game back up after being away for 2? 3? years. I quickly realized that I might just want to start over because I don’t really know what’s going on anymore. Then I realized the PC version of this game is kind of janky. Then I realized Square is working on a fix for its jank. So I decided to wait for that fix to come in and maybe start over then. And that’s where we are.

8. No Man’s Sky Expeditions (PC)

Alright. Finally, I can claim a victory on one of these. If you know me, you know this was the one game I was actually going to play. I’m currently in an “off again” period of my “on again, off again” cycle with this game, but back in the dead of summer, I did hop in and play through an entire expedition. Hello Games and BioWare worked together to put the Normandy from Mass Effect in the game as a reward for completing an expedition, so they forced my hand, really. It was…fine. 

I should really recount my time with that particular expedition at length some time, but suffice to say, it was a pretty uneven experience, and it’s probably the reason I’m off of NMS again for the time being. But I’ll be back. They’ve since added customizable towns and the ability to ride big flying creatures. I’ll be back.

9. Halo 3 & ODST (PC) 

Boy. I simply did not play a lick of either of these games. I still haven’t finished Halo 3, so I know I haven’t touched ODST. And Steam says I haven’t fired up the Master Chief Collection whatsoever since September of 2020. So there you go.

10. Pyre (PC)

I played a tiny bit more? I just really keep bouncing off of Pyre’s late game. Or what I’m interpreting as the late game. I should push through, I just haven’t. It’s also one of those that I started in solitude at my PC during lockdown, so I don’t really want to put it on the TV, and if I don’t want to be at my desk all night…

11. Teardown (PC)

Another casualty of the great Desk Aversion. Not sure if gamepad controls have been added at this point, but it was still mouse & keyboard when I last played, so couch play is a no-go.

12. Star Wars Battlefront II (PC)

Lol, I played like two afternoons of matches and then peaced out. It’s fine, and sometimes it’s a vibe, but for the most part, it’s just not the OG BF2, and I’m just not 12 anymore.

So there you have it! Largely a failure, you might say. But really, they’re just video games. If I didn’t feel like playing them, I didn’t feel like playing them. Maybe one day I’ll get back to Prey and the gang, but I’d rather I didn’t force myself back to my desk every night just to fulfill some arbitrary goal. Would that really be the best way to enjoy those games?

In any case, I still had a fun summer staying inside as much as possible and playing video games. In fact, let’s talk through what I did actually manage to play. Let’s call it…

Mike’s Real, Actual Summer Game Time (True)

1. Sonic Forces (Switch)

This game went on sale for like, five or ten bucks, and I couldn’t pass it up. I’m so glad I didn’t because I honestly had a blast with it. I am very publicly a Sonic Game Defender, and I’ll absolutely go to bat for this game as well. It’s burdened with a lot of the usual jank that most modern Sonic games tend to have, but despite that, it’s still an exceedingly enjoyable One Of Those. The custom character stuff is actually pretty fun, and the best part — the part that no one told me about — is that you unlock new fashions for your OC at the end of every level and they all kick ass. 10/10

2. Mario Golf: Super Rush (Switch)

The new Mario Golf came barreling down the release pipeline like a freshly loosed cannonball and completely blindsided me. It’s a pretty good time! There isn’t too terribly much to do with it after making your way through the main mode and unlocking each of the game’s courses, so it didn’t totally swallow my whole life.

The best time I’ve had with it, though, are the little week-long tournaments my friend Zac has put together with a group of fellow Golf Heads. If you’ve got a group to play with, or compete against, this game becomes a gift that keeps on giving.

3. Sonic the Hedgehog 1, 2, 3 & Knuckles (Genesis)

At some point during the summer, I decided I wanted to start streaming my way through almost all of the Sonic the Hedgehog series. At least the mainline platformers. So I started doing that! I streamed my way through Sonics 1, 2, and 3 & Knuckles over on my Twitch channel. It was a good time! I had never beaten Sonic 3, and now I have! You can watch through the archives of those streams over on YouTube.

4. Sonic Rush (DS)

I really got hit with some kind of Sonic Fever at some point, which led me to buy used copies of Sonic Rush, Sonic Rush: Adventure, and Sonic Colors for the Nintendo DS from Gamestop. So now I have those. Sonic Rush is a good time! A really solid, classic platformer akin to the equally-excellent Sonic Advance series. I’ve almost finished the Sonic story, and I’m a good way through Blaze’s story as well. I’m really looking forward to finishing that at some point and moving on to Sonic Rush: Adventure, which looks to be bigger and better, with 100% more adventure.

5. Zelda: Ocarina of Time (3DS)

I grabbed this on my 3DS sometime last year, and fell off just before the adult fire temple. That is, the fire temple you go to when Link is an adult. Because there’s time travel in this game. Not that there is like an 18+ fire temple where the fire gives you a lap dance or whatever. Is that still a thing? I have never been to a strip club. Anyway, I finally beat this game for the first time in my life! It’s very good!

6. Megaman ZX (Switch)

I had an extremely good time playing through what is probably one of my favorite games in this series, if not of my entire childhood. The Megaman Zero/ZX Legacy Collection does a great job of preserving the original, with plenty of nice little add-ons, like a full music player, different display options, a concept art gallery, and a bunch of different accessibility and gameplay modifiers. Great job, Capcom. I love this game.

7. Axiom Verge 2 (Switch)

This one came out of nowhere. It was one of those “and it’s available…right now” moments of a Nintendo Indie Direct, which was a big surprise! I remember liking what little I played of the first one a few years back, so I grabbed it an mainlined it for a whole week. It’s such a tight, satisfying little Metroid-like. Lots of combat and movement options that gradually open the world up to you in a way that just feels really good. Really exploration-heavy. Great music. I loved it.

8. Spelunky 1 & 2 (Switch)

And then. Finally. The holy grail. I have been waiting for the Spelunkies (but especially Spelunky 2) to come to Switch since I fell in love with 2 last summer. Spelunky 2 dominated a period of my 2020 so completely that anytime I hear the music of the game’s first area, I begin to crave Peanut M&Ms. Don’t ask.

Well, happily, I got to fall in love all over again on Switch. Spelunky is such a perfect fit for the Switch. It’s the perfect game to pick up, play a run, die, and come back to later. I understand this is what made it such a big hit on something called a “Vita,” whatever that is. 

9. Metroid Fusion (GBA)

At the very end of summer, I finally completed a project I’ve been wanting to see through since, you guessed it, the summer of 2020. I built a little DIY gadget called a MintyPi, which is essentially a Raspberry Pi computer glued into an Altoids tin, with a bunch of bits and bobs stuck on that turn it into a little emulator-running Game Boy. I have a long list of GBA games that I’ve always wanted to play, and with Metroid Dread right around the corner, Fusion made it to the top of that list.

10. Eastward (Switch)

Eastward. Eastward, oh, Eastward. I’ve been following this game since before I moved out of my parents’ house. Since I was still in college. A very long time. It finally got a release date this year, and very shortly after, actually released. It’s here, it’s real. And I’m really loving it. I’ll have more to say soon, maybe before I finish it, because I have some thoughts. But right now, overall, I really love it. It’s nice, it’s cozy, and it’s gorgeous. And I’m going to enjoy sinking all the way into it as we roll into fall.

This concludes our look back at Mike’s Big Juicy Summer Backlog. A backlog that was not to be. One that may be completed someday, but this summer was not that day. Maybe one day when I’m not at my computer from morning to night, one day when I’m regularly leaving my house, I’ll feel like getting back to all those delicious immersive sims.

But hopefully before that. Because let’s be honest. I mean. Right? Come on. Like. Come on.

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