The Witcher 3: Hearts of Stone (DLC) Review

I like to put off playing through DLC/expansion stuff until it’s all out, so I’m a bit late to the party on this one. Still, I can only learn and forget how to play this game so many times before it gets irritating, and my first steps in Hearts of Stone were every bit as embarrassing as you’d expect someone jumping into end-game type content having forgotten how to play to be. I died to everything as I fumbled around, desperately trying to remember how to do simple things like use bombs and potions, and the long loading screens (even on an SSD, weirdly) made that even more annoying than it’d be otherwise. It didn’t help any that I imported a save from my first playthrough, which meant that I was missing a bunch of items and pieces of helpful equipment that I only found on subsequent playthroughs. Despite those embarrassing initial troubles, however, I slowly pieced together how everything worked again as I made my way through Hearts of Stone for the first time. Read more →

Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse Review

I didn’t have access to a computer outside of my laptop for a little over a week (and I refuse to play games on it because it’s my baby and gaming can be pretty harsh on laptops since they’re not great at getting rid of heat), so it seemed like the perfect time to grab my 2DS and jump back into Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse. If you haven’t read my review of the previous game, this is something that I initially stopped playing in order to finish Risky’s Revenge—the second game in the series and the beginning of what could affectionately be considered “modern Shantae”—and thus have a better handle on how many of the characters know each other. It’s also helpful since the events of the last game are occasionally mentioned and could be considered spoilers for anyone sensitive to that kind of thing. 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 →

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 →

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate Review

My history with the Assassin’s Creed franchise is a rocky one; the first game was one of the first newer games I played when I built my first gaming PC in ~2010 (though it was a few years old by that time, I had been playing decades-old games because they were the only thing that worked on my laptop at the time), and I liked it. It was slow and kind of meandering, but it was an interesting concept and I really liked the characters. Then Assassin’s Creed 2 happened. It was my first experience with always-online DRM, and if that wasn’t enough to make me hate the game, I found Ezio to be endlessly annoying. I know that the games that focus on him are typically revered by fans—and even many detractors—as the highlights of the series, but I found him to be an infinitely less interesting character than Altair in the first game, and his story was just so consistently dumb that I only barely made it to the end of the second game. Five minutes into the third game, I was fed up with his presence and the series’ lack of innovation and I stopped playing. Until I received Assassin’s Creed Syndicate as a Christmas gift, I hadn’t played through any of the other games or paid any attention to the annoying yearly releases. After the atrocious reception of Assassin’s Creed Unity, that decision felt like the right one. However, I figured I might as well give Syndicate a shot to see what had changed since I quit the series, and I actually ended up liking the game overall despite several annoyances and “I can’t believe this is still a thing” moments. Read more →

Fallout 4 Review

Fallout 4 is a game that it took a long time for me to make up my mind about. Its opening hours are a glorified tutorial that serves to do little more than annoy long-time fans with strange changes that drive home the fact that the last bits of that old Fallout vibe—already eroded to virtual nothingness by Bethesda’s first try, Fallout 3—are now truly dead and gone. That’s not to say that it’s a bad game, though, because things eventually pick up toward the middle of the game and become entertaining; Fallout 4 includes several improvements from Bethesda’s last game, such as less empty space, weapons that don’t have to be repaired (this comes down to personal preference, but it’s worth noting that the original games didn’t have weapon degradation), and fewer invincible NPCs. However, it’s also a huge step back from the complexity of previous titles in many ways, boiling all dialogue down to a wheel of four options and dumbing down the RPG elements to the point where it’s little more than a glorified shooter. I enjoyed my time with it, all things considered, but it’s not a game I’m likely to ever revisit or look back on fondly so much as a pleasant one-time distraction. Read more →

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