Sunday, September 02, 2012

Local Co-Op games on a PC

A few months ago I discovered that my youngest daughter enjoys playing co-op PC games with her Daddy. This discovery subsequently transformed several hitherto neglected platform and adventure games into my "new favourite game". It doesn't really matter what the game is. If it is a PC game and it has local co-op then I am a fan.

At one level this is a pretty pointless exercise. Local Co-op has never been a strong point of PC games and we have a Wii console sitting in our living room which is designed for co-op. PC gaming is my domain however. It is the thing that Daddy does and I defy any father to try and resist the opportunity to share something of your inner self with your kids. It is a primeval thing.

Ignoring the futility of the exercise there are a few basic hurdles to be overcome. The first is that a mouse and keyboard don't easily split into two. If you really want to co-op on one PC then you need to invest in at least one game controller. I strongly recommend purchasing two. Even though many games allow one player to use a mouse it is easier and more balanced to use two controllers. Thankfully the Xbox360 controller has become standard for modern PC games. I have one genuine Microsoft controller and a lookalike from Game-stop that works fine. It is worth noting that the standard wired Xbox360 controller works in a PC with no modifications but the wireless controller which is more common these days needs a special dongle to work with a PC. Go for wired if you can get them I say.

The next difficulty is finding games that actually allow PC co-op. Many otherwise excellent ports of console games to the PC leave out local co-op altogether. Thankfully there is an invaluable resource here: http://www.co-optimus.com/system/4/pc.html. Using  "couch co-op" filter throws up 126 PC games with local co-op at the time of writing.

Finally be prepared to do some technical tweaking. It isn't always required but sometimes a little  bit of effort is required to convince your PC to give a good local co-op experience.

The games we have tried so far include:

Lego Harry Potter, episodes I-IV:We started this on the PC and enjoyed it so much that we moved on to the Wii. The PC version has been neglected since but this split screen co-op game does work very well.

Dungeon Siege III: Enjoyable and challenging co-op experience but sadly imbalanced in that there is only one major character who advances through the game while the second acts as a kind of henchman to the first. This doesn't use split screen so you can have some frustrating moments when one character is prevented from moving until the other comes along.

Portal 2: Probably our best co-op experience to date, a brilliant game with a very good co-op campaign that is completely separate from the single player game. Unfortunately local co-op is not officially supported by Valve and it required quite a bit of hacking to get this to work. When we did get it working though it was worth it. Side by side gaming on one PC driving two screens. Superb.

Trine 2: Local Co-op seems flawlessly integrated into this game but sadly the puzzle format never quite grabbed my daughters attention. We only tried it a few times and it didn't quite stick.

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light: Our latest discovery and it looks like a good one.  It has a nice balance of combat and puzzles and even though both characters are constrained to a single screen  it doesn't feel as constricting as this did in Dungeon Siege 3. Single player and co-op play the same campaign (but with slightly different abilities) and unlockables are persistent for both characters giving a lot giving a lot of flexibility to how you play the game.

No comments: