Stranglehold’s second level has got to be of the biggest second level fumbles in gaming history.

Level 1 is a brisk and impactful introduction to the game’s systems; you slip across tables, slide down handrails, and dive through the air in a slow-motion bullet-ballet. As expected. In Level 2, “Destroy 16 drug stations” is preceded by “Destroy 10 drug stations” and followed by “Plant x amount of C4 charges” (I can’t remember exactly but it’s too many). I’ll experientially translate it for you: “Stop giving us your time”. This game takes maybe 6 hours to complete, yet it feels like 5 1/2 are spent in the second mission. Historians have long been baffled by the inclusion of a helicopter turret section, and as to why it isn’t the end of the level.
Stranglehold gets back on the rails in the subsequent mega restaurant area, and the rest of the game (mostly) flies by, but I’m astounded I had the patience to push through the docks level as a kid or now.

Since jumping into Starfield on its Gamepass release date, I’ve become even more of a disgusting gremlin than I already was. No longer cognizant of the passage of time, I have let my already unhealthy sleep schedule become positively obliterated. My baby son’s life passed by in the blink of an eye. I spend my days bathed in the sickly light of my television, creeping to the kitchen periodically to get a tasty treat. The only evidence of my wife’s survival is a missing Diet Coke or two from the fridge.
Starfield is not ’No Man’s Skyrim’. It’s actually more like a better version of The Outer Worlds. I have gripes with it that keep it from a top score, like a pretty weak opening, the lack of interior ship customization, repetition of outposts, and the fact that you can’t have a fleet of ships captained by your ai companions… okay, they didn’t necessarily promise that last one but having only one ship out at a time seems like a missed opportunity. While you can’t circumnavigate every planet on foot, many have multiple biomes and topographical features, with plenty of secrets and activities to discover. I ran into a crazy amount of weird side quests just because I took the time to explore and root around on land and in space.
I can only speak to my expectations and experience with the game, but I think this is the most actual roleplaying a Bethesda game has allowed since Morrowind through its skills, quests, and traits. Many of the quests allow multiple routes for completion, with different avenues of play and endings. The central followers all being goodie-two-shoes is another qualm I have, but I usually play the good guy anyway. The main quest isn’t excruciatingly annoying this time around (Have you seen Shaun, my baby… Shaun he’s just a baby, a brand new baby little baby child!), with an ending and New Game+ that serves and a direct answer to me restarting Skyrim 1,000 times over the years.
But I love exploring strange new worlds, constructing spaceships, getting into dogfights, and expanding my crew. In many ways this is a dream come true game for me, far surpassing No Man’s Sky with its inclusion of compelling side quests and narratives, even if I can’t seamlessly fly from a planet to space. Another gripe. But for my worries going into this game and relative displeasure with Bethesda over the past couple years, I was pleasantly surprised to find they had loosened up on me as a player. I’m stoked for The Elder Scrolls VI, because I think they’ll almost certainly resolve some of my complaints just by toning down the physical scale a bit. Not saying it won’t be big, but I don’t think it’ll have 1,000 planets and therefore will probably have less repeated content; I’m glad they tried it here even if I don’t feel it’s right for Elder Scrolls or Fallout.
I have spent too much time away from the game now… the Starfield is speaking to me. I give myself to it. Goodbye.

I hope the eventual expansion is called Mortal Kombat 1 2.
I feel the narrative story mode is roughly as strong as that in Mortal Kombat 11, although I prefer MK1’s martial arts focus to the past two games’ obsessions with the boring special forces characters. In fact, the re-contextualization of the characters and backstories is one of the more interesting aspects of the story; nobody wanted to see Raiden fumble the realms a fourth time. The dialogue can be grating and Marvelesque, especially with Johnny Cage, and unfortunately the last two chapters dissolve into a predictable mash of multiverse shenanigans and in-jokes.
I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the references were pointed at me, basically saying “Conman, this one’s for you.” I mean, Havik’s presence in this game alone feels like a direct Conman appeal. Not to get ahead of myself, but SHUJINKO is a Kameo fighter in this game and his fatality is the five point palm exploding heart technique from Kill Bill. Anyway, the majority of the campaign was quite enjoyable and the new spin on things felt refreshing. Playing the Earthrealm characters without their powers for the opening portion of the game was particularly cool to me. The end is a mess, but there was a novelty to it which I didn’t mind. Also a fun tip, I didn’t turn it off but the Test Your Might stuff can be disabled in the options menu.
While I’m happy NRS decided to pander specifically to my nostalgia for the 3D era MK games, I wish they’d actually just bring back Konquest mode. The new Invasions mode is basically Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s World of Light, which is better the last game’s multiverse gear-grinding towers, but I would've hoped to see them expand on MK11’s Krypt mode instead.
Where this game shines above Mortal Kombat 11 most is in its gameplay. The Kameo assist system/gimmick is the shot in the arm this needed to become more dynamic and interesting than its predecessor, combining different characters with different Kameos leads to different match-ups and unique matches in a way 11 simply never achieved.
I think Street Fighter 6 being so incredible takes the wind out of MK1’s sails a bit (it even basically has Konquest mode), but just because another game is better doesn’t mean this game isn’t good. I like it. I’m gonna stop rambling and go back to playing it.

As soon as people throw around 'greatest of all time' I start to get suspicious, but I can't deny that 3rd Strike is the fighting game I've been playing before, between, and after the many fighting games I've reviewed recently.
The most satisfying parry this side of Sekiro, the most interesting gameplay this side of Garou, and the most fluid animations this side of... also Garou. As an apparent Guile main I immediately tried Remy and went "nope", so I had to pick someone else, and after trying everyone I landed on Dudley, who might be my pick for the most fun-to-play character in the genre.
A good fighting game is one you can suck at and still enjoy, and this is that game. I suck at 3rd Strike, but I want to keep playing it. I also want Dudley to come to Street Fighter 6.

An unfortunate step in the wrong direction.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is unpleasant to control and often muddy-looking, which is compounded by conceptually novel yet ultimately ill-fitting open level design. For all the previous game’s flaws, it was a more focused experience which took advantage of limited technology, and was never unintentionally obtuse or confusing to navigate. This is the more ambitious game, and I respect that, yet sadly none of its elements work in tandem.
I’d recommend trying the Gameboy Advance games to see this semi-exploratory Spider-Man action-platformer idea done competently.

I find the gameplay of Fighter on Alpha Street: Dream Warriors to be responsive and visually legible, especially compared to predecessors not named Super II Turbo. It simply feels good to play.
The art style is clean and refined, and it stands as one of the most aesthetically cohesive games in the series. Alpha is just a straightforward, outwardly appealing, stripped-back experience. Well, stripped-back aside from the slightly bigger focus on character and story (Pre-match dialogue bubbles? What is this an NRS campaign?)
A. I’ve dipped into Alpha 2 and Alpha 3, and immediately found both more robust and just generally better than this. For some reason I’m more drawn to Alpha 2 but I can’t quite put my finger on it.
B. I recently discovered Third Strike. While I was playing this I was like… mm kinda wanna go back to Third Strike.
But I don’t think another game being better makes this game bad. Warriors Dreams Don’t Die is one of the most accessible entry-points to the series, and I’d recommend it to new fighting game fans curious about the nuts & bolts Street Fighter.

You're invited! In +/-100 years, when I am old and bald/grey, we will hold the first official in-person Backloggd meetup. Activities will include: constructing my mausoleum while I enjoy some chunky and liminal Tekken 2. I will then suffer a heart attack upon losing to the rigged, cheating AI. The Playstation attract theme "Black Winter Night Sky" is to be played at the subsequent funeral, during a procession by Backloggders in Jaguar masks.

Beating this and going back to any other game feels like I’ve been doing high altitude training

A stunningly gorgeous, intricate fighting game experience. I’ve long been impressed with its smooth gameplay and animations, at least on every platform that’s not the Sega Genesis; it’s a game I can always count on to jump into for at least a few rounds. People clown on this game a bit, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t slightly suspect its inclusion in the Yakuza games to have warped this game’s legacy for some.
But as with all Yu Suzuki games, Virtua Fighter is somewhat unconventional, with a weird three button control scheme (with one of the buttons being block). The AI absolutely cheats past a certain point, like in every arcade game, but I think it’s way more doable than MK2 Arcade. The characters seem hella grounded when compared to basically any other fighting game franchise, and I think it adds to the classic Kung Fu movie vibe it has. I beat the game as the apparently bottom-tier drunken master Shun Di, so hey, maybe you can beat it too.
I might pump the brakes on these fighting game reviews, or I might play them until I get totally burnt out. We’ll see what the Conmental Health decides. 😎

Going back to play Street Fighter II after being properly introduced to the franchise in Street Fighter 6 made it far more palatable for me.
Growing up I didn’t ‘get’ the gameplay. Street Fighter II always felt clunky and slow compared to -try not to laugh- Mortal Kombat. Later Capcom fighting games had the opposite problem for me, where I found it difficult to tell what was going on especially in games like Marvel vs Capcom 2 where the screen is constantly filled with characters and flashy effects.
But I get it now. The jump in quality from the first title is stunning, although it still sputters and chugs any time anything happens. It’s a bit primitive and the AI can be frustrating, which is common for games in this era. Having just dipped my toe into the Alpha series and Third Strike, I can’t say I’m going to be revisiting this entry all that often; from what I’ve played it’s even overshadowed by Super Street Fighter II Turbo. More on those games later.
Still, it’s insane that characters’ designs, special moves, and even normal attacks were so distinctive and iconic that they’ve remained fairly consistent 30+ years down the line. It’s a ludicrously innovative title, even if Vega can suck my dick. Boo Vega. L Vega not good. Almost filtered me fr

Primal Rage WILL be at Conman EVO/ConVo/Convolution Championship Series 2024. Each entrant will have to chug a full Monster Energy drink and snap into at least two (up to ten) Slim Jims between each match. One Slim Jim/Cheese combo will be provided at finals in honor of the game’s “no cheese” system.

I’m a fiend for mojitos
-Det. James “Sonny” Crockett, Miami Vice
The 2000s aesthetic is in full swing here. Tekken 4 is widely considered the first videogame ever to be set in a city¹, but what isn’t commonly known is that it’s also the first game to feature techno music².
Tekken 4’s punch-outs take place in far more grounded settings than its predecessors or successors, such as shopping malls and parking garages. Each one is a stage from Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3³ and you can almost feel the hot breeze of a warm summer night, especially if your PlayStation 2 is overheating.
Despite its impeccable vibes, a competitive scene never arose for Tekken 4 due to it being mostly about positive energy and enjoyment⁴. Professional fighting game players rarely discuss anything other than the presence of a senile, diaper clad Heihachi Mishima as the final boss.
Tekken Force Mode returns from Tekken 3.⁵
Playing this in tandem with its 2002 sister fighting game Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, it’s plain to see which is the better fighting game experience.⁶ The gameplay itself isn’t as balanced as prior or future entries, apparently, but everything else about this game is sleek and fluid. As an aesthetic exercise at the very least, Tekken 4 is wholly unique in its franchise if not its genre.
Tekken 8 would do well to swap out some of its particle-effect-heavy, apocalyptic stages⁷ for a pristine turn-of-the-century airport or a balmy metropolitan rooftop. Kazuya should rock some shades. Man, this game is like Tekken Summer Vacation. Let’s party.
[1] I made this up
[2] Completely fabricated
[3] Pranked!
[4] Conner Wilson, On Tryhards, Penguin, 2024, p. 68
[5] Tekken 4, Namco, 2002
[6] Conman, Tekken 4, Backloggd, 2023, p. 1
[7] This just has to be the case right

“Quan Chi’s [fatality] from Mortal Kombat V was ridiculous, I can’t believe we shipped the game with that.”
-Ed Boon
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and the PS2 struggle-bus era of Mortal Kombat is my precious, trashy treasure.
Deception is the good one, with the rpg/adventure mode, chess Kombat, and violent Puyo Puyo Tetris. Armageddon is the big one, with the beat-em-up, Mario kart, and a huge roster. Deadly Alliance is the one where Quan Chi stretches out his opponent’s neck for a fatality.
The only side-mode here is Konquest, which is just a ladder of basic tutorials for each character. The theming of the mode is totally bereft of character, (something which was rectified in the next two games) which makes trudging through it to unlock characters even more of a chore. Nary an kart nor chessboard in sight, just a stripped-back pseudo-arcade experience. Although here they introduced the krypt, which has been in almost every MK since, at its most basic.
Deadly Alliance is actually a step up from Mortal Kombat 4 in terms of presentation. The animations are smooth and realistic, and the creators obviously put time and effort into the authenticity of the real-world martial arts on display. Each character gets two martial arts and a distinct weapon, which is something I loved as a kid and still find to be the most interesting aspect of the combat. The stages are grim and atmospheric, otherworldly and visually dynamic.
The power-up and taunt systems, which give you higher damage or health respectively, are undercooked and can trivialize nearly any challenge. Seeing stinky stink-goblin Drahmin grow to double his size for a few frames adds to the thick layer of unintentional hilarity that surrounds this game. It isn’t just bottom-shelf characters like Bo Rai’Cho, Hsu Hao, and Mokap which add to the chaotic “soul” of Deadly Alliance. No, even franchise mainstays get to look and play terribly. Reptile’s design alone makes me laugh every time I see it.

I wish I had played this when it came out, but for now Tower of Heaven is a worthwhile little game.
Little isn’t a slight, in fact I’d rather the experience be brief than bloated, but I don’t feel like the game lived up to its full conceptual potential. Tower of Heaven left me not exactly wanting more, but wishing it had been. Even the narrative is prototypical and stripped-down to essentials, but it’s justifiably and inextricably tied to the gameplay. Through no real fault of this game’s own, I wasn’t wowed by the conceit; I suppose in the context of the time in which it released it might have been more groundbreaking.
The level-creation suite unlocked upon completion reminded me of a bygone Conman era, when I constantly play flash games and was positively ravenous to make levels. I say bygone, but I did make an entire Super World in Mario Maker 2 within the last couple years. That fire burns within me, but not this day, and maybe not with this game... but it would have at the time.
I think you should give this a shot if you haven’t played it, as I got through it in about a half-hour and since I thought it was good you will too. Obviously.
Thanks to MendelPalace for the recommendation!

Went from a half-star to one and a half stars once I found out how the special moves actually work in this game. You just gotta do them over and over really fast.
That made it an awkward spam-fest, but I was able to beat it fairly quickly. I’m curious to try out the pressure-sensitive buttons of the deluxe arcade release, but for now this isn’t the “worst game ever” I was expecting, but it’s still a little confusing and not that fun.