Tyranny Review

Tyranny is a game that I almost enjoyed. Almost. It’s certainly fun to play, though the combat was a little rough toward the beginning as I figured things out and tried to get used to the weird UI. Once everything clicked, though, I was more or less hooked. There are plenty of choices to be made, with you being free to side with this faction or that faction and actively work for or against tons of different characters. It’s almost overwhelming (highlighted text reminding you of how you know everyone proves to be a surprisingly handy feature). That’s not to say that there are no issues, though—how dialogue options go over with characters sometimes feels entirely random, the later parts of the game railroad you quite a bit, the music is repetitive, the inventory is a mess because you’re constantly picking items up and making it a hassle to go through and sell everything later on, and the writing has an annoying habit of contrasting really creative imagery with dialogue that’s a little too contrived to come across as natural. I could forgive all of that if the game had an ending, but it doesn’t. It ends suddenly and without warning right when you expect some kind of climactic boss fight and revelation that ties up all of the lingering plot threads in one fell swoop. That doesn’t happen. Nothing is resolved unless you contort your thoughts to where you can accept that “yeah, the game was really only about this ridiculously small skirmish and totally not at all the larger conflict that was blatantly built up to throughout the entire game!” Read more →

Donkey Kong Land Review

Before I rip into this game, some back story: when I was young and the only type of Game Boy that existed was the gray brick variety that took 4 AA batteries and colored everything in a greenish hue, I owned a copy of Donkey Kong Land and cherished it. Once, I spent so much time playing it that the batteries in my Game Boy literally exploded. That’s not hyperbole, either—there was a loud pop and then battery acid leaked everywhere. I still own the very same banana yellow cartridge, but sadly, the game itself isn’t anywhere near as entertaining as its bold coloring would suggest. Sometimes I’ll go back and play a game I used to love and find that it still holds up, but Donkey Kong Land can’t hold a candle to Donkey Kong Country, and despite its best attempts to replicate it, the whole experience ends up being more frustrating than anything. This is a game best left forgotten. Read more →

Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara Review

First and foremost: screw the people behind this game for making tagging this game so hard. I always tag by half-decade (mostly because it’s entertaining to look back and see how games advance—or don’t—over those 5 years) and wanted to reflect the original releases of Tower of Doom and Shadow Over Mystara, but Tower released in 1993 and Shadow came out in 1996. Adding the modern incarnation’s 2013 release date on top of that, I’d have had 3 different tags for when this thing came out. Messy, messy. As for the game itself, it’s one of the most enjoyable, infuriating games I’ve played in a long time. As per the title, it’s based on Dungeons & Dragons, but it does nothing to ease you into all the little details you need to know. For example, there’s no obvious way of knowing that the final boss in Tower is completely immune to most spells because it’s a lich, making the final boss fight a huge pain when playing as the magic-using elf or cleric. That’s just one of dozens of things about D&D and the game in general that I had to figure out using a combination of trial and error and the internet, but despite how soul-crushingly unfriendly the game manages to be, you eventually start to piece things together. Once you’ve begun to pick up on its oddities, Chronicles of Mystara becomes an incredibly fun and deep beat-em-up. Read more →

Call of Juarez Gunslinger Review

Something like a week and a half ago, I picked up GameMaker Studio in a bundle. I only bring this up because I also started playing Call of Juarez Gunslinger around the same time. Take a guess which one had most of my attention this past week? There’s a very real reason this 5-ish hour game has taken me over a week to finish, and it has a lot to do with how thoroughly unengaging it is. Let’s run through just a few of the seemingly endless reasons behind that, shall we? Its writing is amateurish and the big twist is blindingly obvious less than halfway through the game, for one. Its gameplay is also awkward and full of invisible walls, with enemies running around unpredictably, seemingly free from the tyranny of physics much like enemies in the original Red Faction (but this game came out 12 years later and has no excuses). Then there are the insta-deaths. Fell into ankle-high water? Death! Bumped a wall while walking along the outside of a train? Death as the physics bounce you off the train! That’s not even mentioning the constant QTEs, or the fact that the game is so coated in high-contrast textures and a sharpening filter that can’t be turned off that actually seeing enemies—the most basic element of a shooter and one I’d never seen someone screw up before this point—is such a hassle that it becomes half the battle. Or how about the end-game section where you’re surrounded by enemies who randomly spawn in around you and shoot you in the back? Yeah. I’ve played a lot of games, and this is among the worst of them. Read more →

Fatal Labyrinth Review

Right off the bat, I want to make it perfectly clear that I have little to no experience with roguelikes. Fatal Labyrinth is basically an RPG crammed into a roguelike, so it’s entirely possible that someone who lives and breathes such games could find something to love here. As for me, I found it impressive just how quickly the game’s annoying luck-based gimmicks made playing feel like a chore. It’s a simple game, and I can definitely appreciate that, but there’s no payoff here. You struggle up 30 floors of annoying trap doors and identical items to finally reach the boss on the 31st, and then random stuff happens and the game ends. The story is practically nonexistent despite the very beginning and end of the game trying to capture some kind of epic fantasy vibe that ends up being little more than random gibberish. The gameplay is arguably even worse. I don’t know what I was expecting from a 1991 game in a genre I’m unfamiliar with, but this was definitely not an enjoyable game to play. But hey, it has floor sharks, so I guess that’s one thing in its favor. Read more →

Cthulhu Saves the World Review

It’s depressing the number of times I’ve covered the first game in a series, only to then leave the sequel (or unrelated followup in Cthulhu Saves the World’s case) untouched. Call it a bad habit. In my defense, though, it’s only been 4 months since I reviewed Breath of Death VII. That’s quite a bit more defensible than the 3 and a half years it’s been since I reviewed King Arthur: The Role-Playing RPG and its spinoff despite owning the sequel for even longer than that. I think part of the problem is one of expectations; it’s easy for a sequel to play things safe and end up feeling like the same game, just like it’s easy for a game to diverge so much from its predecessor that it fails to embrace the things that made the first game worthwhile in the first place. The latter is what’s seen Lost Horizon 2 sit idly on my desktop for the past few months, while the former is why I had to force myself to jump into Cthulhu Saves the World—I was expecting more of the same, and while I was pleasantly surprised by the number of things that were improved on since the previous game, the biggest problems remain unchanged and render a sizable portion of the game a tedious slog through yet more mazes. Read more →

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