Drifting Lands Review

Drifting Lands was almost one of the few games I’ve given up on before the end, and that’s really only because I ended up hitting a brick wall of difficulty that no possible skill loadout could help me past. See, this is a game that claims on its store page to be “first and foremost an action-RPG” with a Gradius-style 2D space shooter on top of that. I’m great at the former and terrible at the latter, so it stood to reason that my aRPG skills would suffice to reach the end of this game. Calling itself an aRPG first and foremost is incredibly misleading, however, because you absolutely need a certain amount of skill at bullet hell-style shooters to get past some of the insane difficulty spikes that unexpectedly crop up. One minute I was steamrolling my way through levels on the first try with a few boss-type exceptions that required a bit more effort, and then an annoying earlier boss was suddenly doubled up and the entire screen was awash in bullets that most of my paltry skills were helpless to do anything about. The few that helped had cooldown timers that ensured that I was stuck without them for the majority of the fight on each of my ~30-40 attempts, each preceded by the same 5-minute level. It was only when I opened up Cheat Engine and slowed down the game to 20% of its original speed that I was finally able to dodge enough to get through (and even then, only barely) and continue playing all the way to the end of the story, but by that point my opinion of the game had soured somewhat and the moments of fun that had been so plentiful instead became intermittent glimmers punctuating numerous frustrations. Read more →

Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia Review

Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia suffers from an identity crisis in almost everything it does. For example, one early dialogue exchange sees an enemy drop a surprisingly crude word apropos of nothing, and then the game subsequently wastes ~25 hours holding your hand through a comically absurd story driven entirely by the brain damaged stupidity of both lead characters. Fire Emblem Gaiden’s story has been fleshed out to a certain degree for this remake, but only the inconsequential bits seem to have received this treatment, leaving the lore at roughly the same level as the original. The end result is that the bare-bones prophecies and plot developments force relatively complex characters to act in incredibly simple-minded ways at times, flitting between being legitimate leading characters and idiots so infuriatingly dull and shortsighted that it’s a wonder they can remember to breathe. I desperately want to give this game a pass for all of its many flaws because of my long-running love for Fire Emblem and the amount of time I legitimately had fun with it (unlike the flaming trash heaps that are Fates and Heroes), but you don’t get extra points for being better than the absolute worst, and the sad truth is that this just isn’t a good enough end product. Read more →

The Surge Review

Souls and Souls-y games aren’t exactly my favorites; I managed to get through Bloodborne and enjoy it overall despite some pretty glaring missteps that the fan base’s love goggles tend to blind them to, but I’ve also never felt the desire to go back to Dark Souls and actually finish it. They’re just incredibly flawed games from a design perspective, lazily rehashing the same tired formula while stubbornly refusing to solve any of the problems that have persisted between entries. The Surge is a game that appeared to borrow the difficult combat from such games while departing from that formula, hence my interest in it, and while it eventually falls into lockstep with other such titles by doing the same basic things Souls games end up doing, there are enough interesting wrinkles and gameplay improvements here to make it worth a playthrough or two. That’s not to say that I have no reservations, though, and there are a few moments so poorly designed and thoroughly irritating that I considered moving on to something else. I suppose that speaks to it being a genuine Souls-y experience considering that was also my reaction to something as beloved as Bloodborne. Read more →

Little Nightmares Review

Out of almost 300 games reviewed for this site, I’ve only failed to finish something like 5-10 of them. Whatever the number currently is, Little Nightmares has ensured that it’s now one more than it used to be; the thought of playing another second of this awkward, predictable tripe is so unbearable that I stopped and resolved to never continue. That’s not to insinuate that this is the worst game I’ve ever played—merely that magical mix of underwhelming and tedious that isn’t appallingly terrible in the way some games manage to be, but pointless enough to get in the back of your head reminding you of the million other things you’d rather be doing. If I had to guess how long I spent playing Little Nightmares before deciding that literally anything else would be a more rewarding use of my time, my gut estimation is that I wasted 40 years fighting against its awkward gameplay and insulting attempts to be so~oo~oo spoo~oo~ooky. In reality, it’s probably closer to an hour and a half, which from what I’ve read is probably about halfway into the game. Or at least around that point. That was far enough to cement my initial impression that was only backed up over time, though: this game fails at everything it tries to do. Read more →

Cosmic Star Heroine Review

As a refresher, I didn’t care for Breath of Death VII or Cthulhu Saves the World despite all the praise I’ve seen both receive, and that’s kept me from delving into the Penny Arcade games that developer Zeboyd Games produced after those first two. Every video about Cosmic Star Heroine intrigued me, though, with it seeming to draw inspiration from best-game-ever Chrono Trigger while putting its own spin on things, and so I bought it with the intention of seeing how it stacks up against some of my favorites in the genre. Its opening few hours proved mildly amusing, if a bit underwhelming given my high expectations, but the game soon after won me over in a big way to the point where countless softlocks, bugs, and typos couldn’t stop me from playing. While the way you get into combat is reminiscent of the encounters in Chrono Trigger, its biggest takeaway from that game is instead rock-solid pacing that avoids wasting your time with nonsense padding, and there are a handful of features taken from other games that are equally welcome. All of this coalesces into something that’s simultaneously a brilliant homage to classic jRPGs and strong entry in the genre in its own right. Read more →

Gravity Rush 2: The Ark of Time – Raven’s Choice (DLC) Mini-review

I really liked Gravity Rush 2. Sure, the first game was incredibly underwhelming, but things finally turned the corner in the sequel and became fun; it had better characters, music, and mechanics, and while the story was still scattershot nonsense, it was an entertaining enough ride that I was willing to look past that. Then its free DLC came out. Gravity Rush 2: Another Story: The Ark of Time – Raven’s Choice: Electric Boogaloo—a fine example of how to name something so confusingly that no one knows exactly what to call it—is an abomination. Its story is so bad that it actually dampers my enthusiasm for the base game, and I genuinely regret bothering to play through it. All this time I’ve been criticizing the Gravity Rush games’ storytelling for not providing any answers, and while this DLC continues that trend by introducing things that are left unexplained the second they stop being convenient plot devices, the moments where the DLC actually explains things are so much worse. The gameplay doesn’t rescue things this time, either. If anything, it piles on by including an awkward stealth section and “protect this thing that’s being attacked” mission so ill-advised that anyone who’s actually played a game in the past 20 years would know better than to design it. I’m becoming more and more concerned that everyone involved in this series’ development is being kept in windowless cells between games, starved of the most basic stimulation to the point where even the dumbest stories and worst mechanics are manna to them. Read more →

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