Maize Review

Maize is a weird little game that blends a bunch of genres together while defying their individual norms. It’s an adventure game, but it either hints at or blatantly tells you what items will later be used for. It’s a walking simulator, but you actually do stuff other than walking (including a bizarre dancing minigame at one point). It’s a comedy game, but there’s also an underlying sense of mystery in the early parts of the game. It’s character-driven, but you never actually meet several of the more important characters beyond reading their passive-aggressive post-it exchanges littered throughout levels. Really, it’s all of these things and none of them, and yet explaining exactly what makes Maize such an entertaining game would require getting into details about specific scenes so as to potentially spoil/ruin them for those sensitive to that sort of thing. Maize is one of those consistently surprising types of games, and while I originally missed its PC release, I’m glad the console release finally brought it to my attention. Read more →

Shantae: Pirate Queen’s Quest (DLC) Review

Half-Genie Hero’s DLC is one of those things that I was really looking forward to, but that I came into with reservations. The reasons for this mostly hinged on the gameplay that I’d seen before release involving pirate queen Risky, the DLC’s playable character, fighting off waves of her own Tinkerbats in the game’s first level despite that not making a great deal of sense. On the surface, it appeared to be a lazy way of not having to change things up too much from the base game, but I decided to give the DLC a chance anyway, and it managed to flit back and forth between validating and debunking my initial gut feeling. Pirate Queen’s Quest has redeeming elements, such as a great final boss fight and some Risky hijinks that subtly manage to pull her back a bit from the uncomfortably senseless malice she showed in the base game (which felt wrong after the events of Pirate’s Curse), and the upgrade mechanics really allow you to break the game in an entertaining way, but the chest placement and overall lack of an interesting plot or story resolution hold it back in a big way. If you’re already crazy about the series, this is an obvious “buy” regardless. If you’re not, it’s probably best to wait for a sale. Read more →

Trapt Review

The Deception series has always been an old favorite, with the PS1 entries (Tecmo’s Deception: Invitation to Darkness, Kagero: Deception II, and Deception III: Dark Delusion) being some of the greatest games available for the system. That’s high praise given how much gold exists on the original Playstation, and yet it took years before the stars aligned and my Playstation 2 decided to start working so that I could finally play through Trapt, Deception’s sole Playstation 2 entry. I’m not going to sit here and claim that it holds up perfectly, because there are definitely some glaring technical issues at play that sour the experience somewhat. Even if that weren’t the case, the story, mechanics, and characters aren’t quite as varied and interesting as they were in the previous two games. Still, the joy of setting up three traps per room and methodically wiping out groups of villagers/knights/mages who have no realistic chance against you remains every bit as fun as it was in Kagero and Dark Deception, and really, that’s all that matters. Read more →

Nidhogg 2 Review

The first Nidhogg is a game that I didn’t get around to playing until I had already beaten Nidhogg 2, which means that I got to judge it entirely on its own merits in addition to later being able to compare the two. I was surprised by how much I liked Nidhogg 2 despite it being the polar opposite of what I typically look for in a game—this is primarily a party game designed for multiplayer first and foremost, though the single-player has been fleshed out a bit from the first entry to make for a more robust experience. Still, games are my preferred method of avoiding people, and my view of games like this is generally that they exist as bait for the kind of Youtubers whose video thumbnails consist of them making a ridiculous face, so it’s saying something that I found myself holding my controller in a white knuckle grip and getting mad at little pixel art cartoon guys. Read more →

Pyre Mini-review

It’s probably best to start this off by explaining that I make a serious attempt to finish every game I start, but always give myself the option of quitting anything purchased with my own money (games I’ve received a key for naturally get a bit more effort because of the expectations behind them, but even they aren’t entirely immune). That this is an option I’ve only exercised a small handful of times out of the 300+ reviews up on this site speaks to the grating nature of the few left unfinished, and Pyre definitely deserves its place in that ignominious pile; while other critics may drool over this game for their own subjective reasons, my experience with it is one of constant irritation over its confused design. Every potential positive is overwhelmed by an accompanying negative, such as how the more elaborate and explained story compared to previous games ends up wasting a ton of time with meaningless trash-tier conversations that accomplish nothing. There are supposedly multiple endings and story branches, and yet the gameplay loop that gets you there is painfully simple and underwhelming, the kind of thing that became almost unbearably repetitive even in the few hours I spent with the game. The combat “rites” that play out like an e-sport are a lot like a short game of NBA Jam, but rules and limitations are sprung on you in the middle of games, and story happenings greatly limit your agency as far as who you choose to use and how their stats end up being impacted by the arbitrary decision of which area to travel through. Pyre is a (Super)giant waste of time, energy, and money featuring gameplay so irrevocably interwoven into trends of its time that history is unlikely to treat it as kindly as Bastion and Transistor. Read more →

Shining in the Darkness Review

If it’s not immediately apparent, I chose the header image above mostly because the row of phallus-shaped enemies summarized my feelings on Shining in the Darkness pretty succinctly. That’s not to say that the game is completely devoid of entertainment value, of course, because it has the same kind of inexplicable charm many games of the time possessed, but that’s not enough to make up for its painfully repetitive gameplay and poor communication about how things actually work. There are a large number of games from around the same time period that still hold up—including developer Climax Entertainment’s Landstalker, which tormented me when I was a child—but this can’t hold a candle to those timeless titles. Read more →

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