Shantae: Friends to the End (DLC) Review

Maybe it’s paranoid, but I’m starting to feel as though Half-Genie Hero and its accompanying DLC (Pirate Queen’s Quest and now Friends to the End) has been designed for the sole purpose of testing how far it can push into uncomfortably bad design before my enjoyment of the series is ruined. I’m certainly giving this DLC stuff far more leeway than I’d ordinarily be willing to give thanks to how brilliant I found Risky’s Revenge and Pirate’s Curse, and in a world where I never played through either of those games, it’s not inconceivable that both this review and the one for Pirate Queen’s Quest would be formatted in my three-column “bad review” format. I suppose that’s a circuitous way of saying that I’m not sure whether I love Friends to the End or hate its guts. Honestly, I think it’s a little of both. The story and characters are on the thin side, but nevertheless a step up from Pirate Queen’s Quest. The mechanics, meanwhile, are interesting, but the usual Shantae endgame difficulty spike (this has become a pun over time as each endgame incorporates more and more literal instant-death spikes) pushes them further than they can comfortably go. Which is to say that the last few levels are really bad. Read more →

Ayo: A Rain Tale Review

The best way to describe my experience with Ayo is a bell curve of enjoyment, where the middle part was incredibly enjoyable and full of character, but the beginning (where you’re going “huh, I wonder if this is going to get more interesting before the end”) and end (where you’re going “please let this be over with soon”) ranged from underwhelming to painful. A slow beginning is completely understandable since games rarely put their best foot forward, having to first establish and set up things for later, but the problems with the end come down to the game introducing more and more gameplay twists to spice things up, and only about half of the things added in around this point actually pan out. It feels like Ayo was so concerned with establishing itself as a game and gradually ramping up the difficulty that it forgot to ensure that all of the things it does to those ends are fun and fair. Read more →

ReCore Review

When deciding what to play next, I weighed a bunch of factors and eventually narrowed the pool of possibilities down to either ReCore or Dragon’s Crown. The latter obviously takes many cues from the legendary Tower of Doom/Shadow Over Mystara, which piqued my interest, but I eventually decided to go through ReCore under the assumption that a newer game would make for a more relevant review. After all, it’s been only 6 months since its release as of this writing. It didn’t hurt any that I’d heard comparisons to everything from MegaMan Legends to Metroid Prime (the latter of which was apparently worked on by some of the same people if the box is to be believed)—stellar company to be in—and there was an adorable-looking robot dog on the cover. I went in knowing almost nothing about ReCore except that critics had given it middling scores for whatever reason. Imagine my surprise when I realized that many of them hadn’t gone far enough in describing the train wreck that this game is, even after 6 months of patching. This is a game that’s middling at its best and soul-crushingly tedious at its worst, a prime example of an open world that exists solely for the sake of having one, not to mention a stunning indictment against the Unity engine when in unskilled hands. Playing through this game eventually begins to feel like actual work, a repetitive slog to find X thing so you can unlock Y thing so that you can collect more contrived Z orbs to unlock a contrived game-y door to actually continue the uninteresting story, which despite being an afterthought nevertheless manages to include internal inconsistencies. When I finally got to the credits and saw how many people worked on this game, the only reaction I was capable of having was astonishment that it took so many people to create so little game of such a low quality. Read more →

Super Panda Adventures Review

It’s been a rough year for this site. Two of my favorite series self-destructed so badly that I swore one of them off entirely, and I’m hugely skeptical that the other will ever release anything decent enough to draw me back in. Beyond that, the past few months of my game choices have been populated almost exclusively by disappointments from pretty much every gaming decade. That’s why it’s nice to finally find a game that I genuinely enjoy, something simple with a lot of personality to remind me that there are actually some diamonds out there beneath the piles of trashware masquerading as games. That’s not to say that Super Panda Adventures is flawless, because it isn’t, but its problems are either easily circumvented with a little creativity (the difficult boss fights) or unimportant because they’re not the game’s focus (some grammatical errors). Read more →

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