Three of My Favourite Games I Played in 2019

So my games this year has been vast and many. I’ve been able to play a lot of games this year, probably more than previous years. There has been a new console with my Nintendo Switch, but also visiting a lot of previous games for two reasons – first is because I bought a Raspberry Pi recently and I enjoyed playing old games, and the second I’ve been streaming quite a lot on my Twitch Channel recently, which has seen me play and complete a variety of games. So I’ve been enjoying getting back into video games. As such, remembering what I played in 2019 was tough, so I’ve had a look and here have been the games I’ve enjoyed playing most this year.

Honourable mentions: Mortal Kombat 11 was excellent with an amazing story but kind of wasn’t fun playing online. Civilization 6 was excellent though I missed the Celts in the game, Baba is You is a lot of fun but gets really hard, and – a game I thought would win – Super Mario Maker 2 – was okay, but kind of spoiled by the difficulty curve. Also Zelda: Link’s Awakening & Untitled Goose Game is discounted as I played that this year. (The cut off point being the beginning of September.)

3. Apex Legends

So last year I posted my lack of enjoyment for Battle Royale style games. I have since decided I actually just don’t like Fortnite. Apex Legends was my battle royale game of choice. I played this game for a solid month or two. It took some time to get into it, but Apex Legends has been superb. I finally put Overwatch back in it’s box for possibly the last time this year, as the community on Xbox was toxic. Apex Legends allow character based team games, mixed with battle royale style games, and actually quite nicely allows you to play team games without having to speak thanks to the wonderful tagging system.

What’s nice about Apex is the characters. They’re not as well defined as something like Overwatch, but nevertheless I have my favourites. This, mixed with a cracking soundtrack. And the not that long games, and chances to actually win, makes this a compelling experience, a great pick up and play.

Apex Legends can be played on PC, Xbox and PS4.

2. Celeste

The most brilliant games in terms of storylines I played this year was Celeste. The story is the protagonist, Madeline, has to climb a mountain. However the story isn’t just about climbing a mountain. It’s Madeline also having to overcome her mental illness. Over her journey she meets many other characters, many of them having their own battles. If you have ever had people in your life suffer from mental illness, this story is absolutely engrossing.

A good story does not a great game make, but thankfully the game is great fun. Celeste’s game is a hardcore platformer in the Super Meat Boy style, but with plenty of places you can recover from, it’s unforgiving but easy to restart and rejoin the game. With the game being fun, you want to get to the end of the story. That’s, plus a cracking graphic style & amazing music, makes Celeste a must play.

You can buy Celeste on Xbox, Nintendo Switch, PS4 & PC

1. Tetris 99

You know when you hear an idea that is so simple that you end up wondering why it was not done before? Then Tetris 99 is it. It’s Tetris. You know it, I know it, but it is mainly a battle royale game. You join a game with 99 other players, and you have to survive. There’s a strategy that you can attack certain players, but overall you can spend time trying to survive with Tetris.

This game has been my favourite I’ve played all year. The reason? It’s so pick up and play. You can play for 20 minutes, or you can play for hours on end. Winning is a genuine sense of elation, and the themes you can win adds some longevity to the game.

It’s so simple. It’s so playable. It’s free.

You can play Tetris 99 on the Nintendo Switch.

Previous Years: 2016, 2017, 2018

Thirty-Five

Today, I turn Thirty-Five.

Overall, my 34th trip around the sun was a year of change, and personal development. I thought of a photo to highlight it was outside my co-working space as a reminder to how far I’ve come this year.

Yes, one thing that was huge was my decision to go freelance. It’s been a largely positive six months, but not without it’s downs. I had a massive, massive freak out earlier this month – as in “Where will more work come from?” kinda freak out. Luckily, or strangely, I was without work for a period of time. Strange as it’s the first time in six months I actually had to get out and look for a bit of work. Luckily as it’s my first time. That moment’s has largely passed, but it freaked me out a bit.

Also, I’ve made a bit of a conscious effort to avoid social media. I’ve been getting down and depressed with it, what with the Brexit things happening and me being so vehemently opposed to it. It can swallow you up and after spending time reading various things that didn’t go the way I hoped with this whole Brexit nonsense I decided to use lists within TweetDeck, remove the Facebook & Twitter app from my home screen from my phone and switch off email notifications for a period of time per day. I say that’s been a huge help.

Alas, I cannot take the next step, as rather unfortunately I do seem to pick up a large amount of work through social media, so going completely off grid is not going to happen just yet. But it’s a start and it’s improved my mood immensely.

But yes, back to the B word, at the time of writing, I lose my freedom to work, live and love anywhere in 27 countries. Something may change in the next few days, but it’s getting mightily close. Growing a business with the fallout will be a challenge next year. I think I am prepared. Or as prepared as I can be. But I cannot help and look at my friends in other countries, or people with ways of escape, and cannot help but feel envious.

Regarding the things I love, I’ve done a lot of travelling when 34. Probably as a subconscious effort in losing rights. I had 6 trips abroad in my 34th year (which I actually lost count, whoops), which featured one new country (Belgrade, Serbia). One such trip was especially fun – Brussels in Belgium in the beginning of January as I pretty much kept it a secret. I don’t know why, part of me enjoys the thrill of running away, but I went to Belgium for a long weekend. Here’s me next to a pissing statue.

I also completed my goal of visiting 100 grounds before the end of the last season, a total that has largely stayed static since then (I’ve since added Eintracht Frankfurt & Prescot Cables to that list). I have bought a Switch (which I love), and started stockpiling some nice retro treasures (I now own for some daft reason every NES main line Mario Game in their original Japanese boxes, and some PS1 games). Yeah, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

So, without further ado, here’s my now yearly Rhys With-A-Spoon/Reese Witherspoon comparison.


Rhys (With a Spoon)
Rhys (With a Spoon)

Reese Witherspoon
AgeNearly 35 (Up 1)Nearly 43 (Up 1)
Oscars
(Nominated)
0 – No Change
(0 – No Change)
1 – No Change
(1 – No Change)
Books Written1 (No Change)0 (No Change)
Marriages0 (No Change)2 (No Change)
Children0 (No Change)3 (No Change)
WordPress Plugins Written11 (Up 1)0

Previous Versions: 30, 34

5 Favourite Wrestling Matches (I Saw Live) in 2018

So I write this on a train home after an incredible year of the Graps. I don’t know if I’ve seen more independent wrestling than past years (certainly since retiring, I saw a lot). But is has been hectic. The time between Super Strong Style 16 and Strong Style Evolved seemed incredibly hectic, and the 3 shows in 2 countries in 4 days in December, were in particular crazy. But that’s because gorging oneself on the Graps has been a pleasurable experience. Some of the matches I’ve seen have been better than anything in the world, and Graps in Europe has been incredible. Whilst PROGRESS has had a great if slightly cooler year, there has been some great companies that have stepped up all over the UK and Europe. So, before I begin with my top 5, I’d share the fact that underneath the list I’ve put my “Honourable Mentions”. It’s long. Those are matches that are well worth watching.

#5. Rob Lynch vs. Doug Williams vs. Joseph Conners vs. Rampage Brown (PROGRESS Chapter 69: Be Here Now)

Yes. Rob Lynch is in my “Top 5 Matches of the Year”. Bear with me.

I tried to pick between these two matches as they both contain the one thing that I love in wrestling – storylines. Both of these were pivotal points in storylines.

Doug Williams is a British legend, slowly winding down his career. The year for Doug began with the fact he was on a bit of a losing streak – he wasn’t winning matches and questioning if he could still do it. This resulted in vignettes involving Glen Joseph – one of the PROGRESS owners – trying to get into Doug’s head, with a pep talk and entry into Super Strong Style 16 – PROGRESS’ round robin tournament. I genuinely had Doug Williams as a favourite.

He entered, and lost in the first round to Pete Dunne.

But, there was another moment at Super Strong Style 16: WALTER gave up his Atlas Championship. This meant the Atlas Championship was vacant until Chapter 69: Be Here Now. 4 contenders were found, but I felt Doug Williams’ championship opportunity was gone, and Rampage Brown was to be brought in to be a champion.

How wrong we were.

Doug ended up picking up the victory, and the crowd went wild. It was one of the loudest pops I’ve ever witnessed, and Victoria Warehouse was loud. Doug eventually said if he lost the championship, he would retire, which happened on the biggest stage of the year – Wembley Stadium.

This match is available on Demand PROGRESS.

#4. Jordan Devlin & David Starr vs. WALTER & Low Ki (OTT Wrestling – A Haven For Monsters)

Similarly to the number 5 entry, the storyline was the thing here, but it was the beginning element.

Jordan Devlin had been on a hugely hot streak in Ireland. Gaining the title of “The Import Killer”, OTT’s biggest babyface didn’t do one thing – lose. WALTER: Austria’s superstar who had been terrorising Europe with his chops, was finally in Ireland. A intergeneration Indie dream team of WALTER & Low-Ki was put together for a tag match with Jordan Devlin and his best friend: David Starr.

Only one thing was different, WALTER made Devlin pass out, and he lost.

This then saw the beginning of a great story with even better video packages, a story that we’re half way through – At the time of writing WALTER is OTT Champion, after running through Devlin as well as an indie dream team. Whoever topples WALTER in OTT is a made man.

I put this above #5, maybe in a bit of hindsight – it’s been a fascinating storyline. And Jordan Devlin has been my second favourite this year.

This match is available on OTT On Demand.

#3. WALTER vs. Tyler Bate – PROGRESS Wrestling Chapter 76: Hello Wembley

Speaking of WALTER, he is also champion in PROGRESS Wrestling. However the big Austrian’s character is a bit more of a babyface, a sympathetic badass if such a character exists.

Part of WALTER’s popularity has been beating Travis Banks for the PROGRESS Wrestling Champion, the largely unpopular champion dropped the belt to Der Ringeneral at a PROGRESS Chapter before Wembley, as he had an injury he needed surgery for.

Tyler Bate, also, found his way into the Wembley main event on a road-less-travelled, a strong favourite going into the final day of Super Strong Style 16, Bate had to withdraw due to an injury, with Zack Sabre Jr. winning the whole tournament. ZSJ had to – along with Will Ospreay – withdraw from Wembley due to New Japan commitments meaning that the biggest card in English wrestling history was hamstrung, and with Pete Dunne busy with the debuting Ilja Dragunov, the biggest match in European wrestling that could have a result, was Bate vs WALTER.

It took place in Wembley Arena and was an absolute belter, WALTER hitting and smashing the much smaller Bate around the arena, with Bate displaying his Big Strong Boi tendencies surprising the larger Austrian. After 25 minutes of a long card WALTER, with his pile driver like finisher, surprised the thousands in attendance and retained his PROGRESS Championship. How long he remains at the top remains to be seen, but if this is the spiritual zenith of PROGRESS, then by goodness, it was a great peak.

This match is available for free on Demand PROGRESS, as the show overran.

#2. CCK vs LAX – PROGRESS Wrestling Chapter 80: Gods & Monsters

Chris Brookes – the Tipton native that is so far fiercely independent – probably is the most creative force in British Wrestling right now. Whether it’s his string of merch, the Tuesday Night Graps which have his fingerprints all over it, or the fact that he’s single handedly made Lush a viable option for men, Chris is primarily a creative man but with the ability to put on matches. Many people around the world discussed the creativity of CCK vs LAX in PROGRESS’ United States tour, so we were in for a treat when Santana & Ortiz made the hop to the UK for the double header. This match also had a prize – #1 contendership for Aussie Open’s titles the next day.

What followed was 25-30 minutes of some of the most creative tag team action I’ve ever seen. I always like seeing things that as a jaded wrestling fan I’ve never seen before, and this match had it in spades. I really cannot tell you how it went, except Santana & Ortiz picked up the win, but I’d strongly recommend you to find it to watch.

This match is available on Demand PROGRESS.

#1. Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Kazuchika Okada – Rev Pro/NJPW: Strong Style Evolved

So if this had been a top 10 list the remaining 5 would probably have “Zack Sabre Jr. vs. ” as a start. Along with Devlin, nobody has had a body of work like Zack Sabre Jr. in 2018 in my opinion. Having 4 or 5 star matches all over the world, ZSJ was for a long time the top match on my list, his belter on Chapter 63: Take Me Underground with Tyler Bate. That match doesn’t even make the top 5 now.

By far my favourite offering of him I saw live though was him against The Rainmaker: Kazuchika Okada. This match in an ice rink in Altrincham was 25 minutes of intense technical wrestling that had me engrossed for that long. Whilst it lacked the storyline that some of the others on the list had, it didn’t need one. It was superb and well worth an hour of your time to hunt out and watch twice.

This match is available on RPW On Demand.

Those are my picks (along with a long list of honourable mentions below), what were your favourites of 2018? Please list them in the comments below!

Honourable Mentions

PROGRESS Chapter 63 – Take Me Underground

Zack Sabre Jr vs. Tyler Bate
“Flash” Morgan Webster vs. Mark Andrews
WALTER vs Mark Davis

PROGRESS Chapter 64 – Thunderbastards are Go

Anti-Fun Police vs. Sexy Starr

PROGRESS Chapter 68 – Super Strong Style 16 (Day 1)

Zack Sabre Jr vs. Chuck Mambo

PROGRESS Chapter 68 – Super Strong Style 16 (Day 2)

Chuck Mambo vs. Jordan Devlin vs. TK Cooper
Angelico vs. Keith Lee
Zack Sabre Jr vs. David Starr
Tyler Bate vs. Kassius Ohno

PROGRESS Chapter 68 – Super Strong Style 16 (Day 3)

Zack Sabre Jr vs. Kassius Ohno

PROGRESS Chapter 69 – Be Here Now

Aussie Open vs. Mills & Mayhew
Zack Sabre Jr vs. Mark Andrews
WALTER vs. David Starr
Rob Lynch vs. Doug Williams vs. Joseph Conners vs. Rampage Brown
Toni Storm vs. Jinny

Britannia Wrestling Promotions – Prestatyn

Pyro vs. Joseph Conners

Over The Top Wrestling – A Haven For Monsters

Jordan Devlin & David Starr vs. WALTER & Low Ki

PROGRESS Chapter 71: F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.P.R.O.G.R.E.S.S.

Spike Trivet vs. Jimmy Havoc
Dakota Kai vs. Jinny

Rev Pro/NJPW: Strong Style Evolved

David Starr vs. Tiger Mask vs. El Phantasmo vs. Taiji Ishimori

PROGRESS Hamburg

Anti-Fun Police vs. Chris Brookes & Timothy Thatcher
British Strong Style vs. The 198 & Avalanche

PROGRESS Chapter 76: Hello Wembley

The Pre Show Battle Royal
Tag Team Thunderbastard Match
Pete Dunne vs. Ilja Dragunov
WALTER vs. Tyler Bate

PROGRESS Chapter 78: 24 Hour PROGRESS People

Eddie Dennis vs. “Speedball” Mike Bailey
Chris Ridgeway vs. Jordan Devlin
Ilja Dragunov vs. David Starr

La Triple W: La Hora De La Verdad

Jason Júpiter vs. Jordan Devlin
Session Moth Martina vs. Ruky (Beer in the Bucket Match)
Aussie Open vs. Team White Wolf

PROGRESS Chapter 80: Gods & Monsters

Ilja Dragunov vs. Tyler Bate
CCK vs. LAX

PROGRESS Chapter 81: Pour Some PROGRESS on Me

British Strong Style vs. CCK & Timothy Thatcher
Aussie Open vs. LAX

3 Best Video Games I’ve Played In 2018

So this has been the third year I’ve done it – the best games I’ve played in the year 2017/2018. It’s been another belter year for games, with some great games out, both for the big budget titles and the indie games. You also had the rise of the mini consoles (you can read my review of the SNES Mini at Retro Garden) this year, so overall it’s been good.

I both have played a lot of games and not a lot. Two games that nearly made the list were Cuphead and the excellent Dead Cells. However in the past month or so with the start of my freelance career I’ve not played as much as I would have liked. Dead Cells would have almost made the list had I played a little more recently. So with that said, here’s my 3 best games I played this year.

3. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (Xbox One)

Here’s a hot take, I don’t like Fortnite: Battle Royale.

I cannot get on with it. The building and crafting mechanic takes a lot of enjoyment out of it for me. So I prefer the original made by PlayerUnknown. Battlegrounds.

This has been the year of battle royale style games – games where you are dropped in to a location on a map and you end up having to kill everybody else on the map. Over time the area shrinks and you end up in a tiny area with a few people.

Why I prefer PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds? I prefer the look, it’s gritty. It’s theme music is a belter, and it feels more realistic rather than floss dances and various moves shared by the French national team. And there is zero crafting. No hiding in large wooden buildings. You’re out. Alone. And I bloody love it.

Buy Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds on Amazon

2. Sea of Thieves (Xbox One)

Speaking of alone, Sea of Thieves has taken second place in my favourite games of the year. The beauty of it is the feeling of being alone. You are plonked on a world and you are tasked with sailing the high seas. Sure it had a rocky start, but I feel that it was needed, as it’s rocky start helped foster a community. The community is brilliant, as the community appears to be a lot older, lot casual, and a lot nicer.

Yeah my sloop isn’t too big, too flashy, or too feature rich, but sailing over the gorgeous seas with a wonderful soundtrack, either alone or with a small group of people, is one of the most pleasurable experiences I have had this year in video games.

Buy Sea of Thieves on Amazon

1. Yoku’s Island Express (Xbox One)

This game is magical.

Yoku’s Island Express is an indie game that I discovered in the middle of this year. You play a dung beetle who is a postman, showing up on the first day of work and all hell breaking loose with an attack on the magical tree. So you need to both save the island and also deliver letters and packages to the island residents.

You obviously have to traverse the island, with bits of the island opening up over time as you collect items. However traversing the island becomes quicker (or harder, dependant on your skill) thanks to the main game mechanic – you push a dung ball attached to you throughout the island, and some areas of the island contain flippers and chutes.

In short, this game is a bunch of interconnected pinball machines. 

It’s not all pinball, but many of the sections and the bigger puzzles use the pinball mechanic. You can get powerups such as kickbacks and the like, as although you cannot actually die in this game, losing flowers (the game’s currency) when you miss the odd shot does make the game harder.

The thing I love about the game is the presentation – the game is absolutely gorgeous and you’re on a desert island, with a bunch of cute residents. And the music is so happy and joyful, with the title screen music a beautiful piece. Furthermore, it’s kind of short – the main quest took me 6 hours – but if you want to go further and explore the full story of the island you are going to be playing for at least triple that.

This game feels like it was made exclusively for me – Metroidvania style game with pinball elements. The fact that I wasn’t aware of it until it came out made it all the more special.

Buy Yoku’s Island Express on Amazon

And You?

What are the games you played this year that you loved? Leave me your thoughts in the comments!

Previous years: 2016, 2017

If Not Now…When?

Man, May 2017 was tough.

It felt like one of those months that everything went wrong. A few things that were threatening to happen happened. It’s vague-booking at the finest, I’m aware, but the fact my phone being stolen after giving a talk at MWUG was kind of the straw that broke the camels back. Would I call it depression? Of course not. It’s unfair to call it such as seeing how people with serious mental illness are affected. But I’m not going to lie – I felt May 2017 and the sheer coincidences were out to get me. It was not fun, and kinda ruined 2017 for me.

It took me months, months to get back to some sense of normality. A weekend in Cologne on my first Deutschegraps Wochenende with PROGRESS & wXw (that saw my favourite match of 2017) that was immediately followed a few fun days in Manchester finally put a smile back on my face, and I returned in July 2017, and I felt happy. Things began to look up – I lost a bit of weight, I was doing loads and I was truly happy.

But once again the nagging feelings crept in. Something wasn’t right. I’m not sure what it was but it felt strange. Like a stagnation feeling, more than anything else. Seeing people grow and improve and do so much with their lives – whilst nice – made me reflect on what I was doing. The honest answer? Nothing. Sure I was doing stuff, but it wasn’t big, scary stuff. I felt like if my life was an RPG I was dicking about with the side-quests. October came and I was praying for December. Imagine clock watching, but calendar watching. It wasn’t healthy. So one of my new year’s resolutions (beyond one that I share on Instagram) was to change something, so that 31st December 2018 was a lot happier for me than 31st December 2017.

And 31st December 2017 I spent playing video games in Arcade Club in Bury, it was a lot of fun.

January came around. Happy New Year & all that. Right! Let’s attack the year. I know! I’ll look at my goals – let’s find my own place! Get on the property ladder! Live the British dream! I may not have anybody to share it with, but dammit I can still set up my Xbox and not whinge when somebody doesn’t empty to the dishwasher. I set up a few viewings for flats in Manchester. And then I realised half way through a viewing of a dingy place in Old Trafford, when neither me nor the estate agent particularly wanted to be there.

I’m not sure it was what I wanted.

I looked at what I could change on my life, so the next thing was a job. I love and care about the FireCask team to bits, don’t get me wrong, but a sexy job came up to work on a WordPress product (something I’ve a lot of interest in). It was remote work for a good company with industry leading names, but after sailing through the first interview, I looked again.

I’m not sure it was what I wanted.

I rang my brother, and I must have spoken to him about an hour. He’s an accountant, you see. He looks at things analytically. The job was with a French based company – paying in Euros, and assuming I smashed it and collected every bonus and Brexit was a total disaster, it still would be a sizeable pay cut.

But – he said – what if I didn’t smash it? What if Brexit isn’t a total disaster?

Difficult to imagine the latter, I know.

In the end, the analytical brother disappeared and the psychiatrical brother emerged. He laid out what I’ve been doing and what would make me happy. I was single, I was living in a rented accommodation, I had a decent job and travelled a bit. A solid 6/10 on the happiness scale but something wasn’t right. In the end I talked about a dream I’ve had since about the age of 18.

The dream of going freelance.

It’s not a freelance dream of sipping Margaritas on the beach, but to put to bed a working class guilt of having slightly longer lunch breaks, getting an earlier train to head back to see mum & dad, and opening my laptops on strange days in strange countries to graft, affording me an extra few days exploring. I’m not sure if any of these are actually possible, or it’s just a pipe dream, but I’d like to try, at least one day.

He then hit me with four words, that pretty much set the tone of this year up to this point.

“If not now, when?”.

Truth is, I’m not in a better position to give it a try. I’ve a bit of savings, I’ve a good network of contacts, I’ve no mortgage, no debt and no commitments. Sure it’s a risk, but it seems like a sensible risk. And if it doesn’t work for whatever reason – I know I can say “At least I tried”.

So, now you know the backstory, and as I sit writing this in an airport in Frankfurt, after seeing PROGRESS Wrestling & wXw rock the Batchkapp in a weird kinda full circle, allow me to introduce you to my Freelance face – Dwi’n Rhys. Dwi’n Rhys (pronounced “Dween Rhys” – Welsh for “I am Rhys”…clever eh?) is a WordPress freelance business, where I concentrate solely on making WordPress work. And trust me, in my 6 years commercial experience, I’ve seen many installations where WordPress doesn’t work. Winwar Media is still going – if I have the pleasure of working with you – these will be where the invoices come from, just it’s SEO is abysmal for it’s branded term thanks to a popular Windows based file archiver. Winwar will focus on plugins and affiliate sites, Dwi’n Rhys will be where you come to if you want your WordPress site secure, speedy and SEO friendly. To be honest are though if you drop a contact form on any site of mine I’ll probably triage it into the right place.

Anyway, hit me up on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for a chat and a brew. I’m happy to meet within the Manchester & the North West pretty much straight away, North Wales fairly sharpish and elsewhere area pretty much with a bit of notice.

So to answer the question I posed at the beginning of the year: when…is now.