BobisOnlyBob wrote: ↑1 year ago
...but I think I've kept on top of things.
Oh boy. February 2022... that's a lot of writeups to catch up on... or not, thanks to the one game that monopolized my time.
A horror metagame-about-games by Daniel Mullins, creator of Inscryption
and Pony Island
. Themed around six totally different protagonists of six wildly different games and their genres, who visit a singular virtual bar called "The Six Pint Inn", their narcissistic and self-absorbed creator (who feel like half Dan Mullins self-criticising, and half Richard Garriott), and the absolute hell he puts himself, his characters, his audience and his development teams through.
The game starts with Weasel Kid, a blatant Crash/Sonic type character and focuses a lot on the changeable audience feedback, trying to make a kiddy platformer edgy, and declining ratings and attention. It then moves onto Chef Bryce, a wholesome Cooking Mama-like character who is repurposed into the roster of a massive crossover fighting game ala the Vs Capcom series and focuses on balance and patching and tiers, and introduces the actual antagonist Sado, a deliberately broken and glitchy character added by a pissed-off employee. The story then follows one of those fighting game characters who is repurposed into an epic FF-like RPG (albeit more akin to the many FF-clones), then a Fallout-like tactics game called Waste World, a top-down scifi shooter, and finally an introspective walking simulator with a nameless and faceless protagonist, largely used for egotistic grandstanding and reflecting on the previous five games and their creation. Each of these games are okay, but clearly not exemplars of their genre nor particularly deep, but all have deliberate issues that can be exploited to understand more about their creation and design in the fictional author's history.
The horror elements are largely glitch-horror, especially centered around the character of Sado, and the underlying game engine that connects back to Pony Island and onwards to Inscryption. Probably the weakest of those three games, both thematically and in terms of actual gameplay fun, but it's still a fascinating little showcase of wildly different gameplay styles (Platformer, Fighter, RPG, Tactics, Shooter, Walking Sim) and themes of authorial intent and ego that somewhat evoked my time with The Magic Circle
back in 2018. The horror elements are light but did
get me a few times, especially when looking for easter eggs that actually crash the game(s) intentionally. I'm glad I came back to it after beating Inscryption and I can see how it paved the way forward for it, but it's not a strong recommendation. I completed it all the same and did go hunting for a number of secrets, but didn't 100% the more unusual achievements.
(wow I had a surprising amount to say about that one, guess I really am in the mood to write.)
A Bird Story!
Another intermediary title I returned to after playing its sequel, A Bird Story
is a standalone RPGmaker title within the wider series of To The Moon/Sigcorp
, and relates to events from Finding Paradise
, a game that emotionally devastated me. A lot more dreamlike than the already dreamy memory-navigation of those games, it forgoes the framework of memory diving and manipulation science entirely just to tell a story with no dialogue from the perspective of a lonely and bored child, and their half-fantasy half-reality journey with paper planes and an injured bird. About an hour long and only notionally interactive, it's a sweet little filler and I wish I'd played it before Finding Paradise
, but it offers a little colour and context for that title.
Great Ace Attorney: Adventures!
The first half of the Great Ace Attorney duology. I was playing the switch version, Great Ace Attorney: Chronicles
. If you've ever played an Ace Attorney game before, it's more of those, only with absolutely lovely animations and charm as it changes the setting from the contemporary Japan/US of Phoenix, Apollo and Athena, and instead focuses on Meiji-era Japan (actually Japan, no localization bodges) and turn-of-the-century Britain. That means the plot is free to take liberties with two different justice systems, a ton of european stereotypes, a lot of England specific shenanigans (I had to doff my cap when they mentioned the window tax
and its affect on architecture and quality of life!) and generally more of the good shit you've come to expect from the franchise. No real bad cases or absolute bullshit logic in this one, too. Psyche-locks and channelling are done away with, no supernatural elements are used here - instead you have to actually argue with the Jury and convince them to individually change their minds by playing them off against eachother and the witnesses to dig towards the truth during trials, and during the cases you'll be subjected to Sholmes' "Spectacular Deductive Reasoning", which you then have to correct by examining the scene and swapping out keywords from his faulty assumptions with the valid ones. The usual rotating of objects and poking every last surface in a scene remain, of course. The first case is a solid intro to the court; the second "case" is just investigation and Sholmes' intro; but the latter three cases are absolutely the meat of this, with some big cliffhangers left over.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn! Heavensward! Stormblood! Shadowbringers! Endwalker!
Oh boy. This is the reason why I've not updated this thread or played much else in so long. Have you heard of the Critically Acclaimed MMO...? Oh, you have? Okay. It's probably one of the best Final Fantasy titles, but it's an MMO, so it's long and its pacing is glacial and its dungeons and bosses require collaboration with other players. I have been playing this with my beloved sweetheart Shiro, and we've played almost the entire game from beginning to end to Savage Raiding Postgame in nigh-absolute lockstep, barring our differences in character classes and their boundless enthusiasm for Eureka (the FFXI mechanical throwback area) and the Baldesion Arsenal (an optional Lv70 ultra-hard dungeon-raid requiring anywhere from 24 to 56 people!) I've levelled multiple jobs to Lv90, the current cap, on the same character (a Miqo'te guy - catboy), one in each of the five combat roles (Dragoon for Melee, Machinist for Ranged, Black Mage for Caster, White Mage for Healer, and Dark Knight for Tank) and experienced a huge breadth of the optional content, including most every Raid and Alliance Raid, all the crafting quests and stories, and more. This game has thoroughly occupied my life for the past year and a half, and for many months was literally the only game I played besides smatterings of Warframe content. To actually review it would be nigh-impossible, given how much it's ingrained at this point, but I will say that A Realm Reborn is a good and solid story, contrary to the common take ("it gets better at Heavensward!"), but lacks some of the character-driven charm that would make its successors so much better. The writing only continues to improve with each installment and I'm keeping up with story beats as the newest Endwalker patches drop, and I'm even on the weekly tomestone grind and still having a good time. It's a lovely game and has been wonderful to play with my fiancée and many other friends, even if it has been to the exclusion of so many other games. And that despite the fact game doesn't always make it easy to play together - there's a good number of solo duties and long cutscenes that require a lot of patience and timing if you're going to sync up, and then there's the mandatory multiplayer sections, although those become fewer and fewer as they add in more NPC support for dungeons. At this point I believe it'd be possible to get through the entirely of the game with only a dozen or so mandatory "party finder" moments for bosses that are absolutely on the easy side. And yet here I am, trying to do the most recent Raid series on Savage difficulty, only to be stymied by scheduling! Ah, truly, social prog is the hardest prog...
I will certainly have more to say about this in the future. But if you wanna see me in person... I'm Yuex Iridia on Brynhildr, Crystal.
June (yeah, March-May were entirely consumed by FFXIV, what of it)
A parody of The Witness
, which amazingly avoided the more obvious title of "The Witless". Witness-style puzzles with clever out-of-the-box thinking, but as a continuous prank on the player and snarking but loving criticism of Jonathan Blow's magnum opus. Strongly recommend playing it if you're in the mood for something lighthearted and have played The Witness.
Milk inside a bag of milk inside a bag of milk!
"I paid a dollar and I recieved an emotion". A very short exploration of being a voice in a very mentally unwell person's head. Has a sequel; I will play that.
Only played for 22 minutes, didn't quite vibe with Not-Starfox in the classic style. Not a fan of the monkey people. Might come back to this once it's out of Early Access.
Oh boy this one is going to be a long writeup. A very long writeup for a very long game. I played it for 150 hours, relatively few compared to some, but I kept playing it all the way from August 2022 til February 2023
, weekend by weekend, taking up the majority of my time that wasn't work, sleep or XIV. So. From Software, creators of Demon's Souls, the Dark Souls trilogy, Sekiro and Bloodborne, have taken the Soulsborne banner into the Open World RPG format, and brought with it a hefty legacy of painful progress, rolling around giant bosses, stamina gauges and healing flasks. And they largely succeeded! Bonfires - sorry, "Sites of Grace" - now dot the landscape and have golden sparkles hinting at their presence from near and far, and once rested at often create a "guidance of grace", a golden line suggesting the critical path and the next major boss or next site of grace, while in truth the land sprawls out in many directions with only a handful of true bottlenecks funnelling you down the narrative.
Speaking of narrative, that's probably the weakest aspect of the game - while the intro sets up a hypothetical clash between half a dozen "Tarnished", undying warriors like yourself who have tiny fragments of the true power of the Lords, most of the other Tarnished are optional or even outright missable, and the major bosses often have multiple identities, similar names, and obscured motives that makes it hard to understand exactly why you're infiltrating a school full of wizards wearing stone statue masks, or why this big dude thought that splicing a dragon's head onto his arm would work (and worse, that it does). There's rich lore here and a backbone allegedly provided by George R.R. Martin, but the core of this story is unquestionably in the same vein as Souls - the world is dying, the power that sustained the previous nobility has broken apart and is waning, everyone is out for themselves and there's a deep melancholy beauty in the decay. But honestly, the visuals and vistas may be uncompromisingly beautiful, but it doesn't thematically resonate as well Dark Souls' medieval take on Greek tragedy through a Japanese lens. It's far more eager to revel in the horror, rot, decay and grotesquery rather than mediate it to show the sublime tragedy under it. But the great spectral golden tree looms over every vista, visible from nigh everywhere in the game's overworld, a perpetual reminder of your final destination and unsubtle beacon that works with the geography to guide you.
But now, the gameplay itself! Early on I found myself scurrying between and around encounters like some kind of rat, using the new leeway of open fields to implement that classic Souls strategy of "just run past it" with abandon, hunting like a scavenger on lone targets and stragglers. I built a fairly flexible character, primarily using a strong sword-and-board setup with Faith magic to back me up with healing and the occasional sword-blessing or protection, and relied *heavily* on the game's new Guard Counter system, where when you successfully block an attack you can riposte with a strong attack, even without the perfect timing of a parry. Exploring the Lands Between was a delight; the landscape and torches guiding your eye to hidden caves, tombs, and myriad side-paths as well as framing the main way forward. Through stubbornness I did manage to progress through a few areas nigh backwards, and while I successfully completed the quest-arcs of Ranni the Witch and Blaidd the Wolf, I managed to completely pass up the recurring character of Patches, the mute weirdo Goldmask, and ultimately lost track of both the girl with the scarlet rot and Alexander, the large friendly ceramic pot full of corpses. There's some lovely character-writing here, but it's easy to wander for hours without meeting a single soul up for a chat, and it's easy to overlook things more once you unlock Torrent, your spectral horned horse, who makes traversal magnitudes easier as they not only move at a gallop but can also use spectral springs to launch you up cliffs and mountainsides, like riding a geyser.
The boss encounters of course are the major highlight of the game. A good number of these fall into the same basic class of "a large dude with a mix of sword and magic" - Margit, Morgott Godrick, the Godskin Nobles and Apostles - but spectacularly large bosses like the Fire Giant, Starscourge Radahn and the final boss in particular are showstoppers both metaphorically and probably literally, if you struggle with them as much as I did. A good number of both the mid-size bosses and "dungeon bosses" are reused repeatedly for the side-features - Gaols that offer a standalone boss encounter with no risk of losing your hard-earned currency, mines and tombs often end with a fight against a Watchdog, Crystalian or Erdtree Sentry, usually with a minor twist per installment. There's also many "World Bosses" - Erdtree Sentinels, and a good number of Dragons of each elemental flavour. Despite the repetition, I ultimately found myself preferring these "fair fights" to the damage-spongy giants and more puzzling encounters. Black Blade Maliketh deserves a shout-out in particularly for being a beautifully hard and bitter duel for me. However, I unfortunately have to say the game ended on a very sour note for me - in a complete inversion of Sekiro, whose final foe I consider the best From have ever designed - the final boss of Elden Ring is a huge letdown, an exercise in frustration, and had me cursing both when I lost and when I finally defeated it. It's a beautiful boss, visually and aesthetically, but mechanically I do not like it. It plays like a Dragon-type boss, but without the ability to call on your steed, and it's the second mandatory phase of a prior boss with no checkpoint, and unlike Sekiro's Sword Saint, the first phase remains a resource-consuming threat even with a lot of practice. It's a terrible place to end, but it won't stop me revisiting this world some day - maybe next time,
instead of gracefully letting the world fade into moonlight, I'll explore the other endings - perhaps next time I'll burn it all to ashes
A small little puzzle game about laying out railroad tracks to reunite little train cars with their main engine, growing in complexity with each interaction as junctions, switches, passengers and more get introduced. Tiny and sweet but still taxing. Has cute cartoon animal people, no real story but a series of cartoony photos commemorates each chapter to give a wordless little journey. Finished it but it was a real struggle on those final puzzles, and definitely skipped many harder side-puzzles.
Ultra-simple abstract puzzler about learning the rules of symbols. Like The Witness, minus all the 3D and beautiful environments, just two-tone puzzle panels. Fun for an hour or two. Don't think I finished it fully.
Right between Christmas and New Year, I decided to take a break from the exhaustively huge open-world RPG with giant bosses to play a nice, simple classic childhood favourite platformer mascot and what the fresh hell
. Yes, Sonic too has entered the open-world - sorry, "Open Zone" - four/five large islands with giant bosses, minigames, platforming sequences that mix 2D and 3D, and so many collectables it'd make Ubisoft blush. The blue blur has been dropped onto these remote, bleak islands full of non-Eggman machines to explore and solve the mysteries there, and has a new ability "Cyloop" to interact with the environment and use in combat.
The open zone exploration has you progressing by collecting a myriad of rings and tokens, increasing your stats (speed, strength, defence and ring capacity - trivial but necessary, not a strong point of the game), revealing the map, and defeating strange robots, which in turn unlock the Cyberspace stages, which are throwback levels like Sonic Generations - yup, it's Green Hill, Chemical Planet, Sky Sanctuary, and "Highway" (a mishmash of Radical Highway, City Escape etc.), at least in appearance. These stages are a mix of new and classic stages - Metal Harbor, Sky Rail, Dragon Road and more are here in form but not aesthetics, and with reasonably well-calibrated difficulty that means getting all the S-ranks is possible for a casual first playthrough, but not always trivial. These stages don't have classic throwback music though, but instead techno/trance
, contrasting the ambient piano overworld themes
and the absolutely rocking boss themes
Speaking of the bosses! That big thing in the image I linked up above? That's not a boss! It's just a large world enemy that drops gears (keys) that unlock cyberspace stages. The actual bosses are found at the end of each island, once you've collected six of the seven chaos emeralds - each boss fight has both a Sonic phase and a Super Sonic phase, once you leverage the seventh emerald from the superweapon robot in question like you're playing Shadow of the Colossus
, and then turn the tables on them and smash them to pieces with a mixture of dodging, smashing and quick-time events. These feel absolutely bloody amazing, provided you can suspend your disbelief and brush off their relatively easy difficulty and just enjoy the moment with childish glee. Then after a story interlude, it's off to the next island to do it all over again, this time accompanied by a different character - one of Sonic's friends is trapped in each island, and once partially freed can manifest as a hologram and guide Sonic from plot beat to plot beat. And the character writing is good! Genuinely Good! Ian Flynn's writing from IDW shines through, along with a more mature, subdued voice performance by Roger Craig Smith fitting the stakes and tone nicely. Colleen O'Shaughnessey carries on her excellent Tails performance, and Amy, Knux and Eggman all get their time to shine, as does new character Sage, a childlike AI channelling those Rei Ayanami vibes as she quietly chides Sonic that his efforts are futile and sics the various robotic menaces on him.
Unfortunately, much like my experience with Elden Ring, the ending and finale are a bit of a letdown in comparison to the excellent buildup to it, but that's apparently going to change in the upcoming Final Horizon
free DLC, which I will absolutely be revisiting. This was one of the best experiences with Sonic in recent memory for me, despite its flaws and quirks and repetition, and despite playing it rapidly during my Elden Ring playthrough, the overall experience was a delight and I hope against hope that this is a new formula for Sonic that they finally sit down and refine, instead of jumping on some new system. Please, Sega? Let the team have the time to finish the game next time, too, so we don't have to wait almost a year for DLC to polish the ending!!
Or Chorvs, as I like to call it (thanks to the sci-fi logo). A soft sci-fi spaceflight game about an ex-cultist Nara who has given up her Evil Space Magic and sentient fighter in order to live a quiet life out in an independent colony as a courier, scavenger and guard, after the severe reality check of being ordered to Exterminatus a planet and everyone on it, and getting a hell of a lot of psychic backlash in the process. Naturally the Cult shows up and starts threatening these independent outlying colonies with their Doctrines (and indoctrination). Nara is forced to re-unite with her ship, Forsa, and reawaken her talents to take down the cult over a handful of space-sandboxes. Actually, in retrospect, this isn't an open world game - it's Open Zone, like Sonic! The characters outside of Nara and Forsa aren't anything special and the plot is largely predictable bar a few clever twists, but the reason to play this is the delightful dogfighting, which has you both sharply turning and filling your enemies with high-velocity missiles AND force lightning, or warping behind your prey as you hunt them through space. It strongly evoked a beloved favourite of mine, Strike Suit Zero, with its speed and aggression. I saw it through to the end and while the final hour seems a little rushed, it had taken its time getting there and ultimately came out about the right length with a satisfying ending. I'd recommend it to anyone who likes that sort of fast, visceral dogfighting but doesn't care for the heavy simulationist bent of Elite, Star Citizen et al.
Great Ace Attorney: Resolve!
The second half of Great Ace Attorney: Chronicles
. Not much more to say on this one that I didn't say above - the second half carried on strong, and while the first two cases are a little weak they are much better than their counterparts from the first half. The third case, The Return of the Great Departed Soul
, is absolutely brilliant, Ace Attorney at its peak. The fourth and fifth cases are actually one singular, giant case, that is an excellent conclusion but due to being so drawn out into a double-feature isn't quite as punchy or memorable as the third. Overall a fantastic conclusion and I'd strongly recommend the pair of them whether you're new to Ace Attorney or familiar with the rest of the franchise.
A cute indie 3D platformer with PS1 style visuals, guest starring Toree from the Toree 3D games as an optional playable character. A sweet and fast little experience made for casual, collectathon or speedrunning styles, and has a little bit of a plot to go along with it despite largely just being a cute Tanuki jumping through abstract dreamworlds of floating platforms. Finished it and had a great time, very delightful.
The Murder of Sonic the Hedgehog!
Yup, Sega finally did it and killed him
. This April Fool's Day goof is actually now the highest rated Sonic game on Steam
and it's easy to see why - this visual novel detective game has you hanging out with a large slice of the extended Sonic cast including Tails, Amy, Shadow, Vector, and more as they come together for a murder mystery party to celebrate Amy's birthday. Sonic seems to be the victim, Tails the detective, and you play... [your name here], a cute but deliberately generic character who is helping to host this party as part of the train's staff. You accompany the birthday girl and boy-genius detective as they move from car to car, interacting with each of the others (including some wonderful scenes with Blaze and Rouge) and getting to the bottom of this mystery. But has anyone actually checked on the victim...? An absolutely delightful way to spend an afternoon or evening. Has some mild platforming spicing up the otherwise simple VN, and a genuinely surprising conclusion to the whole thing. A real love-letter to the Sonic franchise, written by the Sega community team rather than the IDW crew as you might have expected. The only problem is they've set a ludicrously high bar for April Fools, and for the quality of Sonic character writing going forward!
A surreal... flight? Ball-rolling? Sci-fi exploration sort of game, in which you control an exotic space probe/vehicle, as it rolls and launches along massive surreal landscapes that look like something made in the 90s in Bryce 3D, as you make yourself incredibly dense to fall suddenly or flatten yourself into a pancake to glide, while increasing your storable energy through collectables and generally thundering along at ludicrous speeds through beautiful, although mostly barren, alien worlds and vistas, seeking distanct beacons that propel you onto the next strange world. A plot comprised mostly of flashbacks to a previous disastrous space mission and the information gleaned from it drive what little narrative exists forward; mostly a very trippy, atmospheric game to chill with, with a satisfying conclusion to its simple plot.
Freedom Planet 2!
I have played the first two or so stages as Lilac. For some reason the controls didn't gel with me out the gate and I'll need to return to this one and start over - I really liked Freedom Planet, and love my classic Sonics, but something just iiiisn't resonating and I don't know why.
Toejam & Earl: Back in the Groove!
A funky remake/sequel (remaquel?) to the Mega Drive classic I grew up with, this odd roguelike has you wandering around floating islands of what's ostensibly Earth, avoiding Earthlings as one of several funky aliens but mostly the titular three-legged Toejam or the big orange Earl. I gave it one solid attempt and... beat it!? It seemed way easier than the classic, and just didn't offer the same kind of friction I remembered. The core gameplay is all there, only it now has Panic on Funkotron
style rap minigames, searching of bushes and trees, and Hyperfunk Zone autorunner sections too. The whole game just feels... weirdly cheap, and that's not just the deliberate 2D cardboard popup look they went for. It lacks something and I can't say what exactly. Odd.
The extremely popular reverse-bullet-hell and codifier of the "Survivors" genre. Pretty fun! Worth the price. Didn't go crazy deep into the secrets but did get to the part where reality started falling apart a good number of stages in and outlasted some of the more puzzly stages (like the Drowner) and beat the first major proper "Boss Fight". A good time but I think I've had my fill of lack of vampires, and don't feel the need to pick up the DLC. Maybe I'll try one of the others like HoloCure
or the like.
A Dance of Fire and Ice!
A rhythm game from the same people as Rhythm Doctor
, in which you traverse a track indicating the beat by tapping space as your little blue-red orbs orbit eachother to move along to the music. Pleasant one-button rhythm game. Even the menu is controlled via the rhythmic movement, much like Necrodancer
. Didn't go too deep and do all the DLC and bonus stuff and hard modes, just went through the main songs and beat them all with whatever degree of personal engagement I felt like.
Here's a fascinating one. A simple adventure game with graphics reminiscent of the Commodore 64 era; movement is tile-based and side-on (not a top-down RPG), but encounters with enemies consist of a mixture of just bumping into them to alternate dealing and taking damage, and quick minigames that test your ability to time a hit, avoid incoming shots, or even play a miniature screen version of Pac-Man. You play as Moth, a friendly looking little sprite with a sword, going into the titular castle to fight monsters and defeat the Darking and his strange experiments to surpress emotions. Only there's a good deal more to it than that - not only can you replay the hour-or-two long main scenario with a host of other characters who get different dialogue and insight into what's going on, but that's actually only the first of five scenarios which, while they fundamentally use the same engine, vary wildly in their use of space and level design for a much larger series of adventures that all feed back into eachother, which I was happy to see all the way through to the end. There's even a few optional scenarios, mostly retreading familiar ground, that I didn't cover but I'm glad they're there all the same. A delightful and less-known romp. Definitely good if you want a light RPGish sort of thing with a big retro aesthetic.
A blatant love-letter to the precise experience of owning an import copy of A Link to the Past
, complete with an instruction manual that is 95% in Japanese but you can make out some of the words. An isometric Zelda-like where the majority of the ingame dialogue, UI, and in-game instruction manual are all in an unintelligible glyphic script, you play as a cute fox who's washed up on a beach and not long after finds a stick to help fend off the local little monsters, and eventually a sword, and then gets embroiled in a vast quest to ring two bells of awakening and seek the king and... wait, this isn't a Zeldalike at all, this is a Soulslike! It's inscrutable and you have a stamina meter! So you head on in, learning how to manage you magic and your stamina and maybe eventually learn how to upgrade your stats, and take down a few bosses... when you have another realization. The messages aren't random gibberish. They're meant to be understood. The symbols in the instruction booklet - the lines on the walls - this isn't a Soulslike. This is
The Witness! Or maybe Fez! Damn you, Jonathan Blow and or Phil Fish!
Yup. This game has multiple layers and they run the gamut all the way down into
what may well be a full blown ARG, which I found myself collaborating with a friend to decipher
. But even if you don't fall down the well and past Wonderland and Narnia and through the abyss into whatever lies at this game's true depths, the core surface level experience is still a damn good little Zelda-like about a cute fox with tough bosses and a great puzzling element. Strong recommend.
Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp!
The Shantae team has put a lick of animated paint on the GBA classic, which remains as strong as ever and retains the majority of its strengths and weaknesses. The AI is still exploitable with empty transport units, the first game's campaign still has awkward hidden branching conditions, and the second game is a lot more formulaic and has you playing as each nation roughly in turn against only Black Hole COs. But despite the units being a little more vague thanks to their 3D models, it all looks really good in motion. I was worried the character sprites constantly wiggling and the voice acting would grate, but it's actually genuinely delightful and the remixes of the CO Power activation themes (and the way they mix in and out for the build menu, entering combat and so on) are great. Overall a great package if you love Advance Wars and wanna play it again, but a bit pricey if you just wanna play the classic games. I finished the original on Normal Difficulty with a smattering of mostly-high ranks, and have started the second game, but have stopped around Green Earth (third chapter out of four-and-a-bit) because another major game came out on the Switch...
June (the month of my birthday)
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom!
Tears is ultimately a big expansion for Breath of the Wild
, expanding the game vertically, both up into the skies and down into the depths below Hyrule. Large swaths of the geography remain familiar but dotted with new shrines, new construction materials, and the familiar inclement weather. Gliding remains the same, but now there are more ways to fly and traverse - horses feel redundant very quickly, but still have a few places of utility. Some powers feel like upgrades or replacements for their Wild
counterparts - Ultrahand replacing Magnesis with a more universal grabbing and moving, Rewind replacing Stasis (but not Stasis' more hilarious and broken uses, which now require devices), and Ascend sorta replacing Cryonis (in its role of gaining elevation). Unlimited bombs are out, item splicing is in, allowing you to make custom weapons and arrows with myriad properties. The storytelling takes a step up and into the spotlight from Breath
, where it was largely relegated to flashbacks - now there's both a past-tense tale and more character in the present (including many familiar faces from the previous installment in a more active role). I completed every single shrine, and fully illuminated the depths, and saw my way through to the absolutely delightful and incredible finalé which genuinely got me with some last-minute twists and turns that built upon established facts in an obvious yet ingenious way. I also managed to brute-force and shortcut part of the main quest, which led to some very funny contextual dialogue of the "What do you MEAN you've already done that!?" variety. I did go back and do those beats I skipped over, but even with that, my save reports I've only seen 55% of what the game's full extent has to offer, and I hardly skimmed it! I got every great fairy and upgraded a lot too! It's a huge game but honestly I think I'm sated with it. It's a wonderful successor to Breath of the Wild, and I greatly enjoyed the new story focusing on the Zonai and the history of Hyrule, but even with its much-vaunted vehicle and tower building, it's more familiar than it is different. I'm sure if I had an iota of creative impulse I'd have gotten more out of the crafting, but I was happy using the same handful of vehicles and contraptions throughout and seen more variety, but as it stands, I'm not sure I could handle another Zelda game using this formula. Call this a wonderful duology, maybe not as explorative as the distinctive duo of Ocarina
, but still a worthwhile return to the Wild Kingdom.
So I've probably mentioned I like The Witness
a lot, right? Like, a lot a lot. Joint favourite game of 2016. Well, Taiji is so much The Witness
that it's set on an island with panel puzzles, predominantly uses black and white as a theme, and has you examining both the environment and the symbols to increase your awareness laterally as well as logically. The most obvious difference is that while Blow's opus is a lavish 3D game with a big emphasis on perspective, this is a fixed-camera 2D pixel art game with more deductive reasoning and memorization (or screenshotting) than lining up things positionally. The second most obvious difference is that instead of drawing lines around grids, you're colouring chessboard like grids with different combinations of black and white tiles to fulfill the various rules conveyed wordlessly by the architecture. I completed all nine areas, the normal ending and the extremely taxing hidden ending and enjoyed it, but it very much feels like a flat echo of the "wow" moments from The Witness
, and lacks both the philosophical anecdotes/wankery and the more esoteric vibes. Still lovely and worth my time, but might not be your cup of tea unless you're equally as enthused about binary logic puzzles as I am.
What if Little Witch Academia
was gayer, had pronouns and red hair? You'd be playing the RPG set in the magical school of Ikenfell where a muggle
non-magical girl seeks to find her sister, who's gone missing over the summer and the whole campus is on lockdown. Very much following the Mario RPG
tradition, has a big emphasis on timed hits for both attack and defence, but adds a grid-based combat to the equation, albeit an an unusual one - the battle area is always 12x3, presented as a side-on corridor, almost akin to a stretched version of Mega Man Battle Network
's 6x3 arrangement, but with full movement across the board without separation. You control up to three young spellcasters in battle - the lead Maritte obtains rapid-onset pyromancy on exposure to the anomalous magic running rampant at the school - and ultimately end up with a cast of six to pick from. The story is fairly predictable - Maritte's sister Saffina is a firebrand who has caused and solved a myriad of problems during her time at Magic College (I initially thought of it as a magic highschool like so many, but most characters seem to be older teens and multiple characters mention working on a thesis - something the sprites and cartoony setting mask), and has been held captive by the headteacher while the school is locked down and magic runs rampant through its dorms, library, alchemy lab, training halls and more, and each major campus building consistutes a dungeon unto itself. I have some misgivings about the pacing of the plot and in particular the way certain characters are sidelined or come to the fore throughout, and I feel like the game's use of nonbinary, queer and even neopronouned characters feels a little more performative than representative (and I say this as a lazy enby bisexual myself). That's not to say it's cynical or lacking in earnesty, it just didn't quite hit the right notes for my taste. However the overall plot itself comes together nicely and delivers a satisfying conclusion with a pretty good final boss and some memorable optional superbosses. Definitely one to check out if you want a classic RPG with queer rep, although I think I'll check out Super Lesbian Animal RPG
first and see how that compares.
A PS1-throwback 3D platformer with minimal plot and a goat-rabbit-cat lady named Sybil with an impressive jump and ultimately some absolutely wild platforming acrobatics. There's some combat here but it's quite limited and a little awkward, a healing system lifted from Hollow Knight
keeping it afloat, but the platforming and Soul Reaver
-like atmosphere are absolutely delightfully rich. Don't go in with high expectations for a story, this goat runs on vibes and agility, and she leaps and bounds with flawless aplomb - provided your own fingers can match up - for one of the best-feeling indie experiences. This is the embodiment of "shorter games with worse graphics made by people who are paid more to work less", and if you have nostalgia or curiosity or are just enough of a furry to have already seen Sybil on other websites, it's worth your time to check it out.
Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon!
From Software's other other franchise - not their Soulsbornes nor their precursors, but corporate-funded mercenary mecha warfare for dwindling resources on dying worlds. I've not played the other AC games but have seen retrospectives and played the original on a PS1 demo disc way back and I have a good enough memory to recall the garage and customization. It's hella back, and how - it drops you onto the besieged planet Rubicon III with an off-the-shelf mech that almost gets shot down in the process of landing, before you quickly scavenge up a local mercenary organization license off a wreck and find yourself nose-to-nose with a giant motherfucker of a war helicopter that you need rid of before it can report back home and bring the wrath of government satellite god down upon you. That's the tutorial boss, and it's not optional! You don't get to see a single credit or customization option before you bring down that fucker down and hopefully learn how to use and exploit the stagger gauge ("Attitude Control System") to kill it before it makes a smouldering crater out of your sorry metal ass. That means your rifle, your energy blade, and your missiles will all be getting a thorough workout before you even really know who you are or what you're capable of.
You play as Augmented Human C4-621, operating under the stolen codename "Raven", working for the blunt and taciturn Handler Walter, a mercenary broker whose represenative symbol is a fist clutching several leashes - and you're his one good remaining hunting dog. You're here to make money working for multiple sides - corporations and a local liberation movement among them - in a war over the planet's unique resouce, Coral, a substance that is equal parts Oil to the US War Machine and Spice to control the galaxy; part fuel, part drug, all profit. And to do that you have access to a garage with many limbs, cores, heads and so many rifles (laser, plasma and bullet) and so so SO many missile launchers to fit together your perfect AC, whether for personal taste or to suit the exact upcoming mission. This game is more generous with payouts and with checkpoints than prior AC titles - no risk of soft-locking or going bankrupt - but you'll still find yourself considering your efficiency and ammo costs at the end of each mission's payout screen, looking for that balance between overwhelming swift firepower and saving up for that next lovely upgrade. Briefing, mission, debrief, garage and loop - a solid and simple cycle through ~36 missions, some with diverging paths and outcomes, and an extensive new game plus with additional missions and parts to obtain, as well as a solid 1v1 arena mode against solo AC pilots and an online matchmaking lobby with low stakes. This feels like a PS3 era game - no online leaderboards, no battlepass, no cruft and a straightforward, solid, clean experience that lets you jet-fly into combat against both equally-sized opponents (11m tall mechanical bipeds, quadrupeds, and shorter tank-tracked fellas) and absolutely staggeringly giagntic foes that would be level geometry in any other game. I saw the whole thing through to at least one of several possible bitter ends.
I'm just going to straight up quote Thew from cohost
@Thew wrote:This planet has oil so they covered it in drilling platforms the size of continents and sucked the whole thing dry like a capri sun, then bored through the surface and ate its guts from the inside out using literal worms. The sheer scale and inhumanity of capital is utterly beyond comprehension; you're driving a 200-foot-tall [sic] death machine but every time you look upwards you feel like a mouse in a sidewalk crack. When the profits fell they built a cage around the entire world and covered it in guns pointing down.
If that sounds like a grimdark beautiful greased-lightning vibe you want to experience, breathe in the Coral and meet me on Rubicon III. I'll be taking a few more laps of this world before I'm done here.
System Erasure, the people who made the philosophically-inclined shooter ZeroRanger
have made a another monochrome masterpiece; a top-down puzzler akin to the puzzliest of Zelda
dungeons. Ostensibly a sokoban, this game feels like it's absolutely dripping with mysteries and I have barely begun to scratch the surface - I already know what to expect with these developers, and I expect this to go to similar depths as Tunic
above. Time to go deep...
it's taken me almost two weeks of intermittent writing to put all these together. I hope people find this wall of text, or at least snippets of it, interesting. My foreseeable future: More Final Fantasy XIV
, NG+ of Armored Core
, absolutely more Void Stranger
, my usual dipping into Warframe
and simple web puzzle games, and past that - no idea. I have a lot a lot of games to play. Hopefully next time it won't be a year and a half
before I do my writeups.