Crossing Souls Review

Crossing Souls is nostalgia bait, pure and simple. That’s not to say that I don’t see what it was aiming for, but you don’t get points for trying when being stacked up against the ever-growing mass of games that successfully manage to be worthwhile. Much of this game is simply bad—the platforming is bad, the puzzles are bad, the combat is passable at best, and even the graphics manage to create real problems. That’s to say nothing of the minigames and boss fights, either, which range from trivial to outright infuriating. Sometimes you’ll play a game and notice it fraying at the edges, but Crossing Souls is in a more advanced state of disrepair. In fact, the only thing that can be recommended about it is the way it panders hard to 80s nostalgia, but there are only two or three occasions where this is cleverly integrated into the story or gameplay. The other references appear to exist solely to point out that certain things existed, and that’s the laziest form of fan service there is. Read more →

Lost Sphear Review

I have a slightly passive-aggressive habit of using header images to signal where a review is ultimately headed, but there’s no way of adequately describing in a single image how many problems Lost Sphear—perhaps better thought of as “I Am Not Setsuna,” where all of the good parts of the previous game have been stripped out and replaced with generic jRPG equivalents—ends up being weighed down by. It starts to feel similarly passive-aggressive in the way it does things, too, including a fake ending that plays out countless hours of busywork prior to the real ending. That means we’re dealing with pacing issues in a game that, like its predecessor, still agonizes fruitlessly over how it can best pay homage to Chrono Trigger’s legacy while blatantly ignoring the things that were actually good about that game. Namely: tight pacing, relatable characters who existed as more than tropes and info dumps, varied music and locations, and basic internal consistency. Expect none of that here. Read more →

Wulverblade Review

Wulverblade is a challenging and hyper-violent beat-em-up in the style of Golden Axe that originally released for the Nintendo Switch, but is now making its way to the Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC with an improved frame rate and online leaderboards. Of course, I bring up Golden Axe because it’s one of the most prominent examples of a beat-em-up featuring weapons, but Wulverblade doesn’t actually play much like it if we’re being perfectly honest. Given all of the dodging around, valuables lying around on the ground, and midair enemy juggling, it actually feels much more like Dragon’s Crown minus the token RPG elements. That means how well you do is dictated almost entirely by your skill (though a little luck can certainly make things much easier), and while the controls and general mechanics take a little getting used to at first and lend themselves to moments so frustrating that the thought of throwing a controller through a window suddenly doesn’t seem so crazy anymore, it doesn’t take long before your muscle memory adapts. Wulverblade is a gem, then, though one occasionally marred by some questionable design decisions that seem to prioritize style at the expense of the gameplay. Read more →

Iconoclasts Review

There are games that become better the more you play them, gradually snowballing into brilliance from an underwhelming start point. Iconoclasts isn’t one of those games. No, this is one of those games so consistently and predictably prone to egregious missteps that the cathartic act of pointing out its flaws is more entertaining than actually playing it, and there’s sadly a lot to talk about in that regard. I’m not merely talking about the various bugs and glitches this game is prone to, either, but basic mechanics designed in inexplicably unfriendly ways and then never fully explained to you. Iconoclasts has no time to provide you with basic details about how to actually do things! It does, however, have time to regale you with the story of numerous writer self-inserts with a martyr complex and a passion for bursting into dramatic soliloquies despite main character Robin being a silent protagonist (and Mary Sue for the game’s cast of lowly martyrs to bend over backwards trying to appease) who has done nothing to invite them. A book could be written about the numerous meandering, intermittently functional conversations that at first seem to exist solely to create needless drama, but quickly pivot to take on a confessional tone. It’s ironic for a game that pushes oppressive-religion themes so vigorously to eventually devolve into what appears to be a self-pitying writer vicariously self-flagellating using their stand-ins, denying anyone real closure or redemption because everyone is written to be deserving of punishment. At the end of the day, though, it just makes me tired. This game is draining in all the wrong ways. Read more →

Candleman: The Complete Journey Review

Puzzle-platformers are one of those things that can go either incredibly well or incredibly badly. Designed well enough, playing through their levels feels like a breeze, even when you’re technically being challenged. Designed poorly, however, they become unbearable slogs consisting of thinly-veiled busywork designed solely to waste your time. Candleman: The Complete Journey belongs to the former category almost exclusively, creating a magical world of briskly paced levels and genuinely creative gameplay mechanics so endearing that it was often a sad experience moving on to a new set of mechanics (though almost every time, I came to love the new mechanics even more than those that came before). That’s not to say that there aren’t a few rare missteps here as far as the mechanics and level design are concerned, but Candleman goes out of its way to make up for them with some of the greatest final levels I can recall in a game. At the end of the day, this is a brilliant game that will win you over if given the chance. Read more →

Flying Tigers: Shadows Over China Review

All I knew going into the Xbox One version of Flying Tigers: Shadows Over China was that it was an arcade-style flying game originally released for the PC, and one that Steam’s user reviews were decidedly split on for whatever reason. A significant number of the complaints seemed to be focused on various errors impeding the ability to play, however, or invoked other arcade-style flying games (which is generally code for “I went in expecting something different and this thumbs down doesn’t actually reflect anything but those original expectations”). I always relish the opportunity to drill deep into unfamiliar territory and figure out which criticisms are valid and which aren’t, and right off the bat, the fact that I finished the campaign in something like 3 hours suggests that those centered around Shadows Over China’s length have merit. That is, if you’re the kind of person who requires a certain amount of longevity to their games; if you’re, say, a stressed out games critic prone to foamy-mouthed rage whenever a game comes along and intentionally wastes your time with repetitive filler, then a game like this that gets to the point and avoids outlasting its welcome can be a wonderful experience. Read more →

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