Cuphead Review

First, a little context that most people will be aware of, but that’s bound to be lost over time: a game journalist was recorded struggling to get past Cuphead’s tutorial level in the runup to its release, something that caused much embarrassment as well as questions about what kind of playing proficiency it’s reasonable to expect/demand from those in the industry. Now that it’s finally out, there’s been a veritable flood of outlets putting out videos of employees making it through levels unscathed and reviews that are quick to mention how difficult—but fair!—most of the game is. I imagine many of these people genuinely liked it, and that’s nice for them, but let’s not pretend that the overwhelming praise has nothing to do with the fact that the game has become a litmus test for reviewer competency as far as the gaming public is concerned. Let me tell you about my decidedly less positive Cuphead experience. Read more →

Battle Chasers: Nightwar Review

The thing about Battle Chasers: Nightwar that initially caught my eye was its turn-based jRPG combat. I’ve played a lot of games over the years, but the gaming period I’m most nostalgic about is the 16-bit era of jRPGs, back when Squaresoft ruled the roost and a million recognizable series were only just getting off the ground. The thing about those games that made them so good is that the basic traits inherent to the genre had already been established, so developers were either spending their time polishing things to a mirror sheen or challenging gamer expectations with their own divergent approaches. The reason I bring this up is that the same thing seems to happen every so often with modern developers, leading to surprising, quality games that are instantly familiar and yet totally unique. That’s Battle Chasers: Nightwar in a nutshell. Read more →

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 →

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