I now accept review codes because realities of the industry blah blah blah

I’ve been working on this site for five years, and in that time I’ve seen smaller sites with shorter, typo-and-inaccuracy-packed reviews leapfrog mine in search results. Paying for games out of my own pocket guaranteed to readers that I wasn’t beholden to any external forces or tempted to soften the blow of harsh criticism with such popular review nothings as “but there’s a solid base here for [developer]’s next game!” Sadly, it also meant that I got games quite a bit later than other review publications, so that pre-release period where fans link to early reviews to weigh their enthusiasm against the opinions of critics is one I’ve missed out on the benefits of almost entirely. No links = no search engine juice = very little site growth. Blame it on the realities of the industry; I gave the whole “no review codes” thing a good go over half a decade, but it doesn’t work if you want a notable number of readers and aren’t willing to delve into the even uglier waters of clickbait. Search engines aren’t like Youtube where there’s an emphasis on discovering new outlets; once you slip beyond the first page of search results, you might as well not exist in the eyes of those doing the searching.

As for accountability/openness, I plan on making a page listing every game I receive a code for [update: this is now live and can be accessed by hovering over the “about” menu item] in addition to disclosing as much at the end of any relevant reviews. Additionally, any Steam codes will go into a new Steam account that I’ll make public and link to on that page. I’ve also been working on undoing some of the privacy settings I’ve had on my PS4 and Xbox One to make it possible to see recently played games and such, but this has proven to be a losing battle thus far.

Deck13’s The Surge is the first game I’ve accepted a review code for, hence the header image. You may be asking yourself, “hey, didn’t that come out already, totally undermining your point about getting reviews out early?” Yep. I requested it before release, but didn’t get the code until a day after it released. I’m assuming that keys will come faster once I’ve built up more of a presence.

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 →

Vikings: Wolves of Midgard Review

Vikings is the first game by Games Farm that I’ve actually played through, but I’ve owned Heretic Kingdoms: The Inquisition (alternatively known as Kult: Heretic Kingdoms) and its sequel, Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms, since early 2015. Shadows is a strange story, having been half-released at launch with the second half being promised to come for free to previous owners at some point later on. As such, I was waiting for the game to release fully so that I could run through both games in the series back to back. Then the game’s publisher went bankrupt. That’d be the end of the story for most games, but Games Farm unexpectedly went to bat for Shadows and got the rights so that they could continue developing it on the side while they also worked on Vikings: Wolves of Midgard. Obviously it’s best for this site and my deep, passionate love of harshly critiquing every game’s flaws to avoid being impressed by developer behavior, but we’re talking about the kind of rare post-launch support that’s previously only been seen from the likes of CD Projekt Red. Needless to say, I wanted this game to be good. Before you consider that a disclaimer that I’m going to play softball with Vikings and ignore its flaws, however, please note that I also wanted Dreamfall Chapters to be good. That didn’t stop me from viciously tearing into it, and Vikings certainly has flaws of its own that I’m similarly unwilling to overlook. Overall, Vikings is an enjoyable game with environments that are destructible enough to be weirdly satisfying and gameplay that’s entertaining enough to carry it (provided you have a gamepad), but it lacks any kind of narrative weight and begins to run out of ideas for varied boss fights toward the end. Read more →

Vikings: Wolves of Midgard Screenshots

Sometimes a fandom is so unrelentingly terrible that one can’t help but stand back as an impartial observer and wonder what possible series of events could have allowed it to become so infested with bad apples. Die-hard Dark Souls fans would definitely be a group like this (you know the type—“this game isn’t exactly like a Souls game, therefore it’s inadequate”), and there are several other groups equally guilty of similar internet zealotry, but I can’t think of any worse than die-hard hack-and-slash aRPG fans. The ones who review bombed the third Sacred game because it dared be different than the abysmal second Sacred. The ones who refuse to accept the worthiness of an aRPG unless it tacks on an endless, procedurally generated grind that allows them to feel warm and fuzzy as countless hours of tedious, same-y gameplay cause an arbitrary number to tick up a small bit. It’s absurd; literally any other genre can get away with having the game end after the story (even the ones that don’t include a new game + option, which this one actually does), but if it’s an aRPG, it’ll be crucified for not toeing the line in every conceivable way. That’s not to say that Vikings is a perfect game, because it’s very much not. The story is stupid and often makes no sense, the keyboard and mouse controls are vastly inferior to using a controller, and the boss fights get a bit repetitive toward the end. It’s just ridiculous to see the same people throw yet another developer under the bus for daring not to kowtow to the frothy-mouthed lunatics who demand sameness out of every game in their preferred genre. Read more →

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