Dreaming Sarah Review

The past few games I’ve reviewed have been absolutely massive time sinks that have required huge, wordy writeups. Dreaming Sarah is a welcome reprieve from that kind of thing, being a game that only took me a single day—a matter of hours, really—to complete. Despite what some believe, length and quality don’t go hand-in-hand (leading to stupid arguments like “you’ve played X hours of Y game, so you must have enjoyed it), and a short game can be every bit as entertaining as a 100-hour epic. In many ways, even more so because of the immediacy of the whole experience, allowing you to dive straight into the heart of what that game is all about rather than being strung along for countless hours. This is a double-edged sword, though, because there’s no fluff to fall back on if that game ends up coming across as pretentious, and that’s something that indie games seem uniquely predisposed to. Fortunately, Dreaming Sarah never seemed to wade into the depths of pretentiousness despite relying on a “less is more” approach to exploration and progression that could have easily gone very wrong, and I found myself pleasantly surprised by the experience. Read more →

Fallout 4 Review

Fallout 4 is a game that it took a long time for me to make up my mind about. Its opening hours are a glorified tutorial that serves to do little more than annoy long-time fans with strange changes that drive home the fact that the last bits of that old Fallout vibe—already eroded to virtual nothingness by Bethesda’s first try, Fallout 3—are now truly dead and gone. That’s not to say that it’s a bad game, though, because things eventually pick up toward the middle of the game and become entertaining; Fallout 4 includes several improvements from Bethesda’s last game, such as less empty space, weapons that don’t have to be repaired (this comes down to personal preference, but it’s worth noting that the original games didn’t have weapon degradation), and fewer invincible NPCs. However, it’s also a huge step back from the complexity of previous titles in many ways, boiling all dialogue down to a wheel of four options and dumbing down the RPG elements to the point where it’s little more than a glorified shooter. I enjoyed my time with it, all things considered, but it’s not a game I’m likely to ever revisit or look back on fondly so much as a pleasant one-time distraction. Read more →

Life Is Strange Review

I don’t have a huge amount of experience with these types of episodic games, but Life Is Strange was made by the people who made Remember Me (probably one of my favorite games of 2013), so I knew I had to give it a shot. For months upon months I waited for it to be completed, dodging spoilers like some kind of internet ninja so that I could play through the whole thing in one go once all its episodes were released, and it was totally worth it. That’s not to say that everything turned out to be as incredible as I had heard, of course; when the early episodes released, I heard a lot about how even small things seemed to have consequences, right down to whether you water your plant or not. Now that the entire game is available, it’s apparent that the only actual consequences many of these things have are small dialogue changes that don’t end up mattering. However, unlike The Wolf Among Us, which annoyed me with its lies about reactivity, Life Is Strange does change a bit in the middle of the game depending on whether a certain character is alive or dead. It’s also completely devoid of QTE sections, and includes little touches like the need to occasionally piece together clues or sneak around someone in a stealth section. Even without all of that, though, the writing is more than enough to make this a must-play title. Read more →

Undertale Review

If Undertale had been left to fly under the radar as a kind of hidden gem to be discovered, recommending it would absolutely be a safe bet. It is, after all, thoroughly enjoyable and easily one of the best games of 2015 (though there haven’t been very many amazing games released compared to 2014’s releases, admittedly). However, fans of the game have done it a huge disservice by rambling on about how it’s the best game ever released in the history of gaming, and about how it could totally beat up Earthbound’s dad and cure every known gaming ill like some kind of coked-up panacea. There’s such a thing as overselling, and the fanatical praise for this game definitely qualifies, turning an enjoyable—though occasionally inconsistent—game into a polarizing thing for no reason. It deserves better, honestly. Read more →

Lifeline Review

This is going to be less a review than a murder, but know that Lifeline deserves every bit of it. Designed as a quirky little choose-your-own-adventure game, it popped up on mobile devices and was gobbled up by game reviewers whose train of thought went something along the lines of “this is something different, therefore 10/10.” Never mind that the game’s big innovation—stretching a 10-20 minute game out to where it lasts 3 days by forcing you to wait for hours whenever you make a decision—accomplishes nothing but guaranteeing that the game’s pace resembles a freemium game that you’re given access to piecemeal. Even that might not be fair; freemium games have the good sense to try and give you enough gameplay to hook you before making you wait. Lifeline, on the other hand, provides little more than a few sentences that wouldn’t be out of place on Twitter (and that are completely out of place given the in-game circumstances) before giving you a meaningless decision and leaving you hanging for an hour or longer. Yes, the game playing out at the main character’s pace is a novel inclusion, but it’s embarrassing that I’m the first person to point out that it’s not actually fun. This is just one problem on top of many others that ensure that Lifeline is undeserving of your time in addition to being a complete and utter waste of money. Read more →

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Review

I’ve been a huge fan of the Witcher series since I played the first game, so much so that I wound up following the second game’s release back in May 2011 and became an active poster on their forums. I even managed to win a contest they sponsored, which netted me a copy of the official Witcher 2 game guide with a bunch of developer signatures. That being said, I’ve been hugely critical of the games and developers because my enjoyment of the series causes me to expect more out of it than most people, so I made an effort to play through this absurdly long game three times in order to get a feel for the choices and consequences and determine which of the choices aren’t choices at all. In some ways I’m impressed by the game, most notably in the quest design that effortlessly trumps the boring simplicity of other open-world games’ quests. In other ways I’m blown away by the laziness of some of the underlying systems given all of the potential the series had in terms of your actions having consequences. At the end of the day, The Witcher 3 is a lot of fun, but I can’t shake the feeling that it’s a shadow of what it could have been. Read more →

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