Crossing Souls Review

Crossing Souls is nostalgia bait, pure and simple. That’s not to say that I don’t see what it was aiming for, but you don’t get points for trying when being stacked up against the ever-growing mass of games that successfully manage to be worthwhile. Much of this game is simply bad—the platforming is bad, the puzzles are bad, the combat is passable at best, and even the graphics manage to create real problems. That’s to say nothing of the minigames and boss fights, either, which range from trivial to outright infuriating. Sometimes you’ll play a game and notice it fraying at the edges, but Crossing Souls is in a more advanced state of disrepair. In fact, the only thing that can be recommended about it is the way it panders hard to 80s nostalgia, but there are only two or three occasions where this is cleverly integrated into the story or gameplay. The other references appear to exist solely to point out that certain things existed, and that’s the laziest form of fan service there is. Read more →

Lost Sphear Review

I have a slightly passive-aggressive habit of using header images to signal where a review is ultimately headed, but there’s no way of adequately describing in a single image how many problems Lost Sphear—perhaps better thought of as “I Am Not Setsuna,” where all of the good parts of the previous game have been stripped out and replaced with generic jRPG equivalents—ends up being weighed down by. It starts to feel similarly passive-aggressive in the way it does things, too, including a fake ending that plays out countless hours of busywork prior to the real ending. That means we’re dealing with pacing issues in a game that, like its predecessor, still agonizes fruitlessly over how it can best pay homage to Chrono Trigger’s legacy while blatantly ignoring the things that were actually good about that game. Namely: tight pacing, relatable characters who existed as more than tropes and info dumps, varied music and locations, and basic internal consistency. Expect none of that here. Read more →

Wulverblade Review

Wulverblade is a challenging and hyper-violent beat-em-up in the style of Golden Axe that originally released for the Nintendo Switch, but is now making its way to the Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC with an improved frame rate and online leaderboards. Of course, I bring up Golden Axe because it’s one of the most prominent examples of a beat-em-up featuring weapons, but Wulverblade doesn’t actually play much like it if we’re being perfectly honest. Given all of the dodging around, valuables lying around on the ground, and midair enemy juggling, it actually feels much more like Dragon’s Crown minus the token RPG elements. That means how well you do is dictated almost entirely by your skill (though a little luck can certainly make things much easier), and while the controls and general mechanics take a little getting used to at first and lend themselves to moments so frustrating that the thought of throwing a controller through a window suddenly doesn’t seem so crazy anymore, it doesn’t take long before your muscle memory adapts. Wulverblade is a gem, then, though one occasionally marred by some questionable design decisions that seem to prioritize style at the expense of the gameplay. Read more →

Iconoclasts Review

There are games that become better the more you play them, gradually snowballing into brilliance from an underwhelming start point. Iconoclasts isn’t one of those games. No, this is one of those games so consistently and predictably prone to egregious missteps that the cathartic act of pointing out its flaws is more entertaining than actually playing it, and there’s sadly a lot to talk about in that regard. I’m not merely talking about the various bugs and glitches this game is prone to, either, but basic mechanics designed in inexplicably unfriendly ways and then never fully explained to you. Iconoclasts has no time to provide you with basic details about how to actually do things! It does, however, have time to regale you with the story of numerous writer self-inserts with a martyr complex and a passion for bursting into dramatic soliloquies despite main character Robin being a silent protagonist (and Mary Sue for the game’s cast of lowly martyrs to bend over backwards trying to appease) who has done nothing to invite them. A book could be written about the numerous meandering, intermittently functional conversations that at first seem to exist solely to create needless drama, but quickly pivot to take on a confessional tone. It’s ironic for a game that pushes oppressive-religion themes so vigorously to eventually devolve into what appears to be a self-pitying writer vicariously self-flagellating using their stand-ins, denying anyone real closure or redemption because everyone is written to be deserving of punishment. At the end of the day, though, it just makes me tired. This game is draining in all the wrong ways. Read more →

Omega Quintet Review

Call it superstition, but I always like my first review of a new year to be somewhat indicative of that year. That’s one of the reasons I had intended Omega Quintet to be that first review—to say that I’m out of my element here is an understatement, as this isn’t only a game heavily inspired by anime (which I’ve never been into outside of the token Cowboy Bebops and Ghost in the Shells), but also one that has heavy visual novel elements. Pushing outside of my comfort zone wasn’t the only reason playing through Omega Quintet was so appealing, though. Actually, I went around looking for reviews to see if it was worth my time, only to discover a vast canyon separating those who enjoy the game and those who hate it. Some people were sanctimoniously finger-wagging, of course, while others more familiar with the niche spoke favorably of it because of course they did. Lost in all of that noise was the answer to the single nagging question I had: is Omega Quintet actually a good game or not? Having now played through it for myself, I can confidently answer that question with a “sometimes yes, sometimes no.” There are truly enjoyable parts to this game, ones that have nothing to do with the unabashed fan service, but the fact that I managed to play through and review a different game as the first of this year because of the sheer amount of busywork standing between prospective players and the real ending makes it difficult to recommend. Still, I walked away from Omega Quintet’s practically unprecedented tedium with a lot of positive feelings intact, and that’s unheard of given how much emphasis I put on pacing. The game is just too adorably lighthearted and unashamed of itself to possibly hold a grudge against it. Read more →

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 →

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