Shantae: Risky’s Revenge Review

I had originally intended to play through Okami next, but nostalgia is a hell of a drug and it ended up being littered with various problems that had me yelling at my television screen despite showing up in just about every “best games ever” list I’ve read. The more I tried to play it, the more irritated I would get at its shortcomings, and I found myself playing a few minutes of other games as a palate cleanser of sorts. Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse, the third game in the Shantae series, is the one that I kept returning to. The more of it I played, however, the more apparent it became that I was missing out on back story and potentially spoiling plot points from the first two games, so I decided to play one of the earlier games instead of continuing. Risky’s Revenge, to be more specific. While the first game for the Game Boy Color would probably make for a better starting point, I wasn’t very impressed when I watched footage of it on Youtube, and the thought of giving Nintendo a cut of an eShop purchase after they so recently butchered my favorite series of all time made me feel ill. Besides, Risky’s Revenge popped up in a bundle after I decided to wait for a sale (patience is a perk of having a backlog in the quadruple-digits), and between Okami irritating me and my interest in these games suddenly coinciding with them showing up in a bundle, it felt like fate. Read more →

Sparkle 2 Review

I don’t remember when or where I first found this game, or even when the idea of cashing in my “hardcore gamer cred” (which is totally a real thing) for lighthearted match-3 marble popping became something I was willing to do, but at some point in the past I stumbled on Sparkle 2 and fell head over heels for it. In fact, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that a lot of my disdain for the mobile platform melted away as I played through it for the first time. There’s just something about the game’s music, simplicity, and difficulty curve that struck me as being superbly balanced and enjoyable, with the game constantly straddling that line between accessibility and challenge that so many other games seem to struggle with. What makes this so much more surprising is the fact that the first game sucked. It sucked a lot, in fact, and yet its sequel takes almost all of the same elements and builds something genuinely entertaining and worthwhile out of them. Read more →

Grow Home Review

I don’t really know what to call Grow Home. A platformer? That may technically be true in the sense that you’re trying to get playable character BUD to the game’s many floating sky islands, something that occasionally requires jumping and floating and falling, but that doesn’t really capture the spirit of what the game is. In fact, the goal isn’t even to get BUD to these places, but to use growable parts of a giant plant to attach it to islands with glowing parts, giving the plant nutrients (or something) so that its base can grow higher. There are also a bunch of crystals that unlock upgrades when you collect enough of them, so there’s a collectathon element on top of that. What does that make the game, though? A platforming collectathon plant-based escort quest? That doesn’t sound quite as entertaining as Grow Home often manages to be. Then again, I was less enamored with the actual growing and climbing and all of that than I was with jumping from high altitudes and falling, watching the pretty lighting and colors that preceded BUD hitting the ground and exploding into several pieces. Maybe the best description for this game is actually just “colorful vertical sandbox.” Read more →

Never Alone Review

I have no idea how much can actually be said of Never Alone because of how simple it is; at its core, it’s a simple platformer with clumsy controls that also happens to be an adaptation of a popular story from the Alaskan Iñupiat people. There are some minor obstacles here and there that could generously be considered puzzles, but the solutions are always so immediately obvious that I’d mostly just consider it a straight-up platformer rather than a puzzle-platformer. The game’s also astoundingly buggy and boring to play when its chase sequences and boss fights aren’t being actively annoying, which leads to hilarious moments where you end up having more fun watching the included mini-documentaries about the Iñupiat than actually playing through the game. I think that says it all, really. Read more →

Firewatch Review

There are two types of game players: those who are all about the journey, and those who are more focused on how things fit together as a whole. The first are bound to enjoy Firewatch because of how thoroughly enjoyable it manages to be right up until the end. The second are doomed to have their positive experience invalidated by the stupid story developments in the game’s final moments. Sadly, I tend to fit more into the latter group; a game is only enjoyable for me if it follows up on its initial promise, so story cop-outs (especially at the very end where resolution is expected) have a way of ruining everything that leads up to them if there isn’t some creative gameplay present to keep the ship from sinking. Firewatch lacks this, buoyed solely by ancillary elements like graphics, music, and voice acting that make it pleasant to look at and listen to, but do little to make up for the story flubs. Read more →

Bloodborne Review

There are certain games that are praised so universally that you can’t help but expect the world of them. I happened to buy two of them—Dark Souls and Bloodborne—on a whim based on this universality, figuring that I’d play through Dark Souls first to allow me to appreciate and assess the two games’ similarities and differences. After several hours of Dark Souls, however, I came to realize that it really wasn’t my type of game. Despite the incessant claims of its fairness I’d seen littered around the internet for years, I managed to kill a skeleton through a wall. Despite the gameplay being lauded to the point where many people would show up on forums to insist that X game and Y game copy Dark Souls’ allegedly sublime formula, I found it incredibly clunky, with a special call out going to the stupidity that is mapping center-camera and lock on to the same button and having the game decide which of the two you’re trying to do based on whether an enemy is nearby or not. Then there was stupidity like one of the items you can choose from in the beginning having an item description that’s patently untrue. How this hasn’t been patched out is beyond me. Eventually I realized that I wasn’t having fun, and fighting through a game for 10-20 hours in the hopes that it eventually “clicks” (as is said to happen after a groan-inducing period of not-fun) wasn’t something I was in the mood to do. Where I began expecting Dark Souls to pull me into Bloodborne, I was suddenly in a situation where I hoped the reverse would end up being the case. Read more →

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