Grand Thrash Auto: Wallowing

In the expansive science fiction narrative woven into the band’s debut record Planet Loss, UK progressive sludge-grind oddballs Wallowing undoubtedly unveiled their interest in fantasy literature, films and video games. In the past the band have told us all about the inspiration they’ve drawn from the likes of The Thing, Alien and Blade Runner, as well as authors like Phillip K. Dick and George Orwell. Today the band talk about the gaming side of things, however, revealing some of their favourite picks from complex modern narrative-driven sci-fi allegories and renowned AAA titles to Amiga RPGs and days spent sat on the floor in front of a second-hand TV with a GameCube controller in hand.

Moonstone: A Hard Days Knight

So off the back of your Soulsborne issue I thought I’d share one of my fondest memories and favourite games; a crushingly difficult, fantasy RPG with real time combat and turn-based shenanigans, Moonstone: A Hard Days Knight. You play as one of four knights called to quest by the druids of Stonehenge to journey into the Valley Of The Gods to find the moonstone. God damn this game is great! I know you can find it online somewhere – go have a game! It’s up to four players too, mad laughs to be had. It came out in 1991 on the Amiga and if I had to describe it, it’s a bit Dungeons & Dragons meets OG Mortal Kombat with blood code and CPU fatalities on. It was surprisingly gory for its time; some of the deaths are brutal. PvP would often end in decapitation which always felt visceral and weighty to me, but monsters could also turn you into pixel goo with one hit from a tree stump brandished as a club. I’m sure anyone who’s played any Souls game can identify with the sadness of sudden inexplicable death and the loss of progress.

The combat was great fun and pretty fluid and complex. It was accompanied by a turn-based system. You’d control a little knight’s helmet on a world map and choose to go to dungeons, towns, merchants, shoot dice in the tavern or visit Wizard Math in his tower… all of these would lead to objectives, battles with monsters or items to aid you in your quest. It opened it up to different approaches and strategies, you can grind levels and loot or be a dick and steal another player’s items and ruin their day. 

Absolutely a hidden gem of a game, my brother and I would play it all the time when we were kids and still do (given the chance) as adults. 

– Rauiri (bass)

Detroit: Become Human

I recently picked up Detroit: Become Human as part of the PS+ Collection. The game was released in 2018, developed by Quantum Dream and focuses around the sentience of robots and their eventual uprising. Its influence from Asimov is clear and it could easily be compared to I, Robot but what stood out to me about this title is how it puts you in the shoes of the robot characters and allows you to experience their thoughts and emotions as they explore their new-found sentience. The game draws some strong parallels between the treatment of robots by humans and events throughout humanity’s past (not to mention the way humans have historically discriminated against each other). The developers make it quite clear from the beginning that the robots most certainly are not the bad guys here, and it makes for a really interesting thinkpiece. It’s a very political game that promotes equality at the forefront and serves as a great metaphor for current world events.

The game is very choice-focused, with multiple endings that change depending on your decisions and responses to situations and scenarios. Although it is fairly cutscene heavy and could be considered a “playable movie” (something I have never really been a fan of), this title is well made and incredibly gripping. It’s absolutely gorgeous to look at and offers enough unique gameplay features to stand out in an overpopulated genre. If you are into cinematic games that give you a lot to think about upon completion, this title is essential and 100% worth your time.

– Tom (guitar)

Metroid Prime (1 & 2)

Two of my other favourite games are Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. I bought Metroid Prime with pretty much no idea of what it was about, or how good it would be. I got Metroid Prime 3, too, but I didn’t finish it – so I guess I didn’t like it as much. It looks like a shooter, but it controls completely differently, so it ends up feeling a lot more like an action platformer in some ways. 

I remember spending many hours sat on the floor in front of a second hand CRT TV, as the GameCube controller cable wasn’t quite long enough for me to sit on the sofa comfortably while holding it. I would put some potato wedges in our oven while I played. They would take an hour to cook, rather than the expected 35 minutes, as the oven thermostat was broken. I got lost so many times playing these games, and I was not good at the bosses. I think I must’ve taken 20+ attempts at the final Metroid Prime boss. Perhaps nowadays I wouldn’t have the patience for that. Both games have got great music, too. 

I can’t elaborate too much further as it has been 16 or 17 years since I completed them, but I’m pretty certain they were excellent. I still have my GameCube so maybe I should play them again. 

– Jon (drums)

The Last Of Us (parts 1 & 2)

These games hold a special place in my heart as the franchise that re-ignited my interest in gaming. Personally I feel these titles are a step above most (if not all) titles released in the last decade for a load of reasons; their character development, impeccable storytelling, beautiful environments, incredibly smooth and gripping gameplay and their promotion of inclusivity. Not only did Naughty Dog make an active effort to represent minority groups, but the game developers also set the bar for accessibility. Incorporating 60+ accessibility settings focused around everything from fine-motor and hearing difficulties to features that benefit low vision and blind players, this is a huge step in the right direction in regards to making gaming accessible to everyone who wishes to dive into it and I can’t commend that enough. [Note: Naughty Dog’s crunch-time practises, however, warrant immense criticism – ed.] 

Both games put a brave new spin on a worn-out genre and stick to their guns in regards to the story they want to tell – you won’t find any fan service here and as a result you have a fully realised and emotional story like no other. The second game in particular does a great job of putting you directly into the shoes of the protagonist early on in the game. This emotionally fuels the whole experience from then on and also forces the player to confront their own conception of “good vs evil” as the game develops. This made for my most immersive experience with a game to date, and an experience I have been hunting to find in other titles ever since.

– Tom (guitar)

Honorable mentions:

Sword Of The Samurai (PS2) – Rauiri’s favourite game of all time. 

Perfect Dark (N64) – A better Goldeneye with a dope as fuck sci-fi theme! Yes please! 

Alien: Isolation (PS4) – Absolutely nailed the feel of the first Alien film with its retro-future environments and score. Solid first-person horror.

Max Payne (PS2) – Dark, moody with full-on comic book vibes comparable to Sin City. One of the first (if not the first??) games to successfully pull off effective bullet-time and and an incredibly fun play.

For more Grand Thrash Auto, click here.

Intro: George Parr

Liked it? Take a second to support Astral Noize on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!