We triumphed over the #4iF Challenge


At the start of the month, upon suggestion from Bob, we decided to set ourselves the challenge of completing 4 games from our backlogs, as part of Joystiq's Four in February challenge.

20 credits rolls later and we stand victorious! All 5 of us persevered, and we have podcasts to show for it. Come and listen to each of us talk of our experience with the #4iF Challenge, which games we enjoyed the most, and what our favourite moments were.

Bob's Four in February: Personally, this Four in February was the toughest I faced. And despite that, it was the only one where I actually managed to prevail! Perhaps it was the pressure of all my other GPT mates struggling for the same purpose, while in previous years it was just myself doing it?

My detailed impressions can be heard on the podcast, but if you're looking for a tl;dr version, this was a very pleasant experience that I would recommend everyone to try at some point. The four games that I chose (and were chosen for me!) have left a remarkable impression on me and I enjoyed them very much. Valkyria Chronicles in particular has left a very deep mark on me, moving to the top places of tactical RPGs that I have ever played, and I will surely be re-visiting it someday.

Tom's Four in February: For my first Four in February challenge I decided to be a sneaky snake and make sure that the majority of the games in my shortlist were sub five hours. This worked out a treat, as I finished three of my games in less than three days. This rapid start was offset by my massive inability to get my sticky mitts on a copy of Hitman: Blood Money. Once I did I endured frustration and anger, finally finishing the game with a day to spare.

The podcast explains my thoughts on the games I played, but in brief I really recommend playing The Swapper and The Novelist, and maybe giving Brothers and Hitman a miss. Maybe I only like games with 'The' in the title. Who knew?

Rob's Four in February: I had a blast with this challenge, though your mileage will vary depending on your list. On the one hand, I at times felt the looming deadline on the horizon and played more quickly than was comfortable, but on the other hand it got me playing games that I might not otherwise have had the attention span to stick with. Now it's March, and I'm feeling the absence of the challenge is leaving me somewhat lost for what to play next. I think I'll set myself soft targets for each month, and try and retain this sense of discovery by trying new game types.

Danganronpa could have been a nightmare, weighing in at around 25 hours, but it turned out to be one of my favourite games of all time that I now have somewhat of an obsession with - the sequel is already launched on my Vita. Shadow of the Colossus and Valiant Hearts are also brilliant experiences that you should check out if you haven't done so already.

Stu's Four in February: I absolutely loved this challenge! I always have a huge issue when faced with too much choice. I spend hours looking for something to watch on Netflix and end up not watching anything. I never know what to listen to on Spotify and my games backlog is overwhelming to say the least. Therefore I really enjoyed having a set number of games that I had to finish in a limited time. It meant I always knew what I would be playing and when. I enjoyed this approach to playing games so much that I am continuing it even now. I do not set myself time limits, but I do make myself focus on one or two games until I complete them and move onto the next.

In regards to the actual games that I played during this challenge, I consider myself quite lucky as I enjoyed all four of them to some degree. None of them were terrible, or challenging to complete due to fatigue. If I had to pick, I would wholeheartedly say that The Vanishing of Ethan Carter was my favourite experience during this period. The atmosphere, the music and everything in this game is sublime. Even the location the game is set in is almost a character in itself. The game that I enjoyed the least was Gemini Rue. Don't get me wrong, this is not a bad game, and I loved the story, the characters and the fact that it reminded me of Beneath a Steel Sky and one of my favourite sci-fi books Altered Carbon. What let it down I think is that it did not feature many locations. The majority of the game is spent exploring the same two or three environments, some of which are fairly drab.

Overall I am happy that I undertook this challenge and am thankful to the 4iF and to Joystiq for opening my eyes and training me in a better way to play games and clear my backlog!

Earl's Four in February: I didn't enjoy Four in February. As a gamer, my tastes lean more towards "pick up and play" experiences; multiplayer games, arcade games. I'm not phobic of games that follow a narrative structure, but I tend to take my time with them, perhaps dip into them for an hour at a time. I would happily spend a couple of months on a Mass Effect, or even a Tomb Raider. So, knowing that I had to hit four end credits screens within a short month was already a daunting thought before I began.

When making my initial shortlist of ten games, I ensured that I picked games that I wouldn't have otherwise chosen to spend my time with. Games that I'd read about, purchased, only to have them live in the bottomless pit that is my Steam library. A fate I'm sure many of our readers would reluctantly admit they are familiar with.

Resident Evil: Revelations served a purpose as a palette cleanser after the shit sandwich which was Resident Evil 6. A throwback to the series' roots, I chose the game as my first pick in an effort to rediscover my love for a franchise that I feel grew up with me (then unfortunately left home, found a nasty drug habit and now turns tricks on the street). I enjoyed the game and it had just enough nods to Resi of yore to upturn the corner of my mouth from time to time. I'm still nervous to jump into the game's sequel, but Revelations at least made me feel like Capcom knows where they've been going wrong recently.

As you will hear in the podcast, I found myself disappointed with Kentucky Route Zero. I can't fault the game and I actually believe it achieves everything it is trying to do - but what they are trying to achieve is of no interest to me personally. I think they do themselves a disservice drawing comparisons to the Monkey Island franchise. This doesn't feel like a point-and-click adventure and going in with that mindset somewhat soured my experience. I envied Stu's pick of Gemini Rue by the time I'd realised what I was in for. On the other hand, Alpha Protocol was a pleasant surprise, and fans of Mass Effect owe it to themselves to give this flawed yet fun RPG a try.

I capped off my challenge with Dust: An Elysian Tail, which scratched a Metroidvania itch that I have long ignored. The game features some really fast paced hack-and-slash combat, where you can literally juggle a screen full of enemies in the air with a bit of practice. The time constraints of the 4iF challenge meant I ended up playing the game in a rush, and found myself not meeting the level-up pace that the game intended. This resulted in me backtracking and having to grind for experience, something that the game clearly wasn't expecting me to need to do.

I think for this reason, I'll likely pass on ever attempting the challenge again. I can appreciate that for those who can't bear to look at their backlog of unplayed games, this is a great way to discipline oneself and get through a small chunk. For me, I would rather live with a backlog on my conscience than potentially ruin a game by rushing it.

Thanks for following us on our Four in February journey. In the end, we all seemed to agree that it’s an interesting concept, though some of us took less pleasure from the act of performing the challenge than others did. With the sheer volume of quality games out there, and the most successful often being those that offer an immediately satisfying experience, we find it difficult to stick with something that’s more of a long-term reward, in favour of something instantly gratifying. This challenge got us all to focus and not give in to the urge to drop the games, and I think that’s a great habit to take away from all of this. Regardless of whether or not we’ll be back again for more #4iF madness next year, it’s certainly affected how we think about our gaming habits.