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Average User Score: 4.5Jun 7, 2019Paralogic is a surrealistic walking simulator. The story is told out of order, with the end coming at the start, and then the rest of the plotParalogic is a surrealistic walking simulator. The story is told out of order, with the end coming at the start, and then the rest of the plot showing how you got there. It’s a truly strange piece, and nothing in the story is really explained to the player. There’s a few NPCs, but none of them are particularly forthcoming in terms of the plot, and while there are dialogue trees, what little roleplaying you do is pretty limited and had no obvious consequences.
It’s really hard to describe Paralogic as anything other than “borderline incoherent”; there are some mysterious tapes you’ve been hired to take somewhere, and you’re not supposed to watch them or else bad things™ happen. There isn’t really much more to Paralogic than that; there is no significant “gameplay” to speak of, and no challenges. You skip between various locations and events, and it isn’t even always clear when in the plot a particular event is happening, or even if you’re playing the same character in some of the scenes. There are a small number of low-fi locations, and the overall low fidelity of the graphics of Paralogic is played up deliberately to make the whole thing feel even stranger and more disconnected.
I didn’t really ultimately feel like I engaged with this; I basically played it because I got it in the Humble Monthly and it was supposedly pretty short, which it was - despite the ostensible 2 hours of playtime Steam says I spent on this, it was really closer to 30-40 minutes. There’s some achievements for doing some random things during the story, and none of them felt really important or significant.
On the whole, it’s hard for me to really say anything terribly positive about this piece. Paralogic felt like it was weird for the sake of being weird, and it didn’t feel like it had any sort of point to it. I never connected with it.… Expand
Average User Score: tbdApr 11, 2019There are elaborate April Fools’ Day jokes, but making an entire dating – er, FRIENDSHIP simulator for April Fools’ Day, complete with aThere are elaborate April Fools’ Day jokes, but making an entire dating – er, FRIENDSHIP simulator for April Fools’ Day, complete with a credits song, is several cuts above what is even remotely normal.
Seriously, what the heck?
As a joke game, this certainly doesn’t take itself overly seriously, and yet at the same time, it has about the same production values – if not somewhat *better* production values – than your average visual novel, even if it is quite short.
You are a student at Aether High, and tonight is the HOMECOMING DANCE. And you don’t have a date yet! Fortunately for you, there are twelve characters in this game for you to chat up and try to befriend in the homes of getting in their good graces and going to the dance with them.
This game is completely ridiculous, seeing as it recasts the main characters of Rivals of Aether – a fighting game – into high school stereotypes out of some sort of silly Japanese high school slice of life anime.
This is not a great dating sim, nor is it a work of high art. But the way it spoofs various tropes seen in such high school settings, as well as the general absurdity of a bunch of fighting game characters being deliberately awkwardly recast as high school students, made it work.
Most of the characters are pretty shallow, but because the game is so short, it doesn’t really matter – everything is in service to the gags, of which there are many. The game definitely leans a bit on the randumb side, and it was one of those “I did it for the lulz” things, but at the same time, it was kind of fun seeing all the silly dialogue that the game’s creator decided to put in here. It actually made me laugh out loud several times, something all too many games that are trying to be funny fail to make me do, so I definitely had some fun with this.
However, not all of the characters are equally funny, and this game certain is very much spray and pray with its humor, trying just about everything from anti-jokes to random plot twists to characters being so awkwardly shallow that it wraps around and becomes funny again.
Aesthetically, I have no complaints – the characters are all well-drawn, as are the environments, and while there aren’t all that many of them, the artist did know what they were doing. Oddly for the genre, the characters are not overly sexualized, with only one real (and surprisingly male) exception – and that exception is a running gag about steroid abuse. The game even has a song that you can play at the end of it! How many games have such things, let alone April Fool’s Day joke games?
If you’re hoping for an in-depth dating sim… well, you’re looking at the wrong game, this is an April Fools’ Day gag, albeit an elaborate one.
But if you’re into absurd comedy, this might just be up your alley.… Expand
Average User Score: 6.9Apr 6, 2019Minit is a very simplistic indie game vaguely reminiscent of A Link to the Past, if the game was almost all very simple puzzles andMinit is a very simplistic indie game vaguely reminiscent of A Link to the Past, if the game was almost all very simple puzzles and exploration and much less combat. The central “twist” of this game is that you have only sixty seconds to accomplish whatever task you’re trying to do; once that minute is up, you’re dead, and you respawn (all your items intact) back at the last safehouse you visited.
This is one of those hypersimplistic indie games that will take you an hour or two to beat. There isn’t really a whole lot of content here – the graphics are extremely basic, as is the gameplay. You move around, you can poke stuff with your sword, and as you move around the environment, you gain various upgrades which allow you to push around crates or chop down trees or whatever else. It is almost metrovania-like in that you gather upgrades to unlock new parts of the game.
The thing is, there’s really not a whole lot here. The game is very simple, and it is very short by design – you need to be able to navigate through the world in a very small period of time (less than a minute), so everything you do is not terribly difficult TO do, it just is about knowing what you need to do and then doing it.
The result is that you spend an hour or two exploring the environment, trying to collect items that are strewn about, figuring out what it is you need to do to progress. The story is incredibly basic and pretty vague (I don't even know why I only had a minute to do things!), which is hardly surprising given that the game is what it is, but at the same time, so is the gameplay. The puzzles are all very simple because, again, they have to be – you have to be able to solve them in less than a minute, and generally more like 30 seconds due to the fact that you have to actually navigate to the puzzle to do it.
This is the sort of thing that I’d expect to see come out of a game jam or something similar – a very simple thing that someone can spend an hour or two beating and then be done with it.
And while I appreciate on some level the hypersimplicity and the central conceit of this game…
I just didn’t really have fun playing it. It’s just kind of... there. There's really nothing to engage you as a player beyond the bare-bones concept.
I got this as part of the Monthly Humble Bundle, and those games tend to be pretty hit and miss, but this was a miss for me. It didn’t really waste too much of my time, being as short as it is, but I can’t really imagine recommending this to anyone.… Expand
Average User Score: 7.0Mar 27, 2019Omensight is a action game/murder mystery. Made by the same people as Stories: The Paths of Destiny, this game, too, makes use of a branchingOmensight is a action game/murder mystery. Made by the same people as Stories: The Paths of Destiny, this game, too, makes use of a branching narrative structure, a time travel loop, and a cast of anthropomorphic animals (i.e. furries). Much like their other game, this game has a somewhat repetitive gameplay loop, and relies heavily on the story and its characters to sell the game to you.
Fortunately, much like their previous game, this game is pretty solid in those regards.
You play as the Harbinger – a mute glowing humanoid guardian. It’s the end of the world, and it is the Harbinger’s job to stop it. Unfortunately, the Harbinger only shows up moments before the end of the world; wandering arcoss a battlefield, the player is beset by enemies intent on killing them. You find first the corpse of Ludimir, a mighty bear warrior who tried (and failed) to assassinate the Emperor Indrik, then a dying Imperial general Draga, Indrik’s finest general. But it seems the war you’re observing is moot as Voden, a horrible magical serpent, breaks free and destroys the world and everyone in it.
The Harbinger is then introduced to the central game mechanic – at the end of every day, when the world is destroyed, the Harbinger is brought to the Tree of Life, the one place safe from the serpent. From here, you can level up, turn in “Amber” (the game’s currency) for purchasable upgrades, and then go back into the world, starting from the morning of a character of your choice – you start out being able to only follow Ludimir and Draga, but over the course of the game you unlock additional characters you can follow as you find their corpses (or more often, simply kill them yourself so you can start following them).
Your goal in doing all of this is to figure out how to prevent the end of the world at the hands of Voden. The Godless-Priestess Vera, a Dalhai Lama-esque figure, has been murdered, but worse, her spirit has somehow been trapped, preventing her from returning to the world and protecting it, and at the start of the game, it seems like your goal is pretty simple – find out who murdered Vera. But this being a mystery game, things aren’t as they seem, and there are a number of twists and turns in the plot as you make your way through.
Unlike Stories, this game actually has a pretty clear progression as you make your way through it, via the titular Omensight mechanic. As quickly becomes clear, your real goal in each cycle is to find an Omensight, a vision of what happened to the Godless-Priestess that would point towards what happened to her. This is typically achieved by finding someone who will teach you how to open a seal, a big magical lock thing that is found in several places, hiding off various secret areas and hidden memories. By going through the cycles, the characters will hint at who you should follow next or where you should be going by discovering things, or outright help you by teaching you how to open the seals.
At first, you are following around your allies, but after you start getting Omensights, each day, you show them the latest Omensight, which causes them to start changing their behavior – this leads you through the various levels in different ways, and even causes them to go to different levels entirely in pursuit of different characters. This can lead characters into conflicts that they never encountered normally, and also allow you to spare characters who would ordinarily get into fatal conflicts.
There are even a few points where you have a mid-path choice, where two characters come into conflict and you can either choose to help the person you’re following (starting a boss fight) or share your Omensight with the opponent as well, earning their trust and forcing them to collaborate with the person you’re following around. Each of these leads to different paths and different clues about what is going on.
Each run through a day is pretty short – most of them clock in around 30-40 minutes, but some are significantly shorter or longer than others. In some cases, virtually everyone in an area is friendly to the person you’re following around, while in others, you have to take a circuitous route through the level and fight everyone you come across. This is a good thing, however, as you’re going to be running through at least 10 days, and closer to 25 if you’re trying to do everything.
Action-wise, the game is alright - a bit on the repetitive side, and it has few normal enemies (only 10 or so), but it has 8 bosses, which is fairly decent.
All in all, I ended up liking this game – I thought that it, like Stories, played with player choice in an interesting way. But at the same time, I feel like this game had many of the same weaknesses as their previous game – the gameplay ends up being repetitive by the end of it, and the story’s ending is kind of a letdown.… Expand
Average User Score: 4.1Mar 9, 2019Anthem is a looter-shooter made by Bioware. Coming on the heels of other major successful franchises, like Dragon Age and Mass Effect, thereAnthem is a looter-shooter made by Bioware. Coming on the heels of other major successful franchises, like Dragon Age and Mass Effect, there were enormous expectations laid on this all-new IP.
In Anthem, you play as The Freelancer, a man (or woman) who is suited up in a powerful javelin exosuit – basically a suit of power armor similar to what Iron Man wears. You can fly, you can hover, and you can unleash powerful abilities like rocket launchers or lightning blasts.
This is a really cool power fantasy, and the game actually delivers quite well on the core experience – you zoom around through the sky in a very satisfying manner, you land with a satisfying clunk, you blow up enemies with powerful explosions or lay into them with potent weapons. This is all pretty good, and the game as a whole is very pretty (even if the environments are limited to three or four major types).
The game has four main suit types – the generic middle-of-the-road Ranger, the pseudo-mage Storm, the agile Interceptor, and the huge stomping colossus. Each of them has a different ability set and plays differently – the Storm hovers around the battlefield, while the Interceptor dodges very rapidly and the Colossus stomps around and uses a shield instead of dodging. All of them feel pretty satisfying to play, and they all have their own distinctive abilities and playstyle.
The core of the plot starts out reasonably – you are one of only two survivors of an expedition into The Heart of Rage, a Cataclysm caused by an out-of-control artifact left behind by the Shapers, a race of neglectful precursors who tried (and failed) to harness the Anthem of creation and all left (or died) long ago, leaving their artifacts behind to periodically explode. It is up to the Freelancers to stop this, but after the Heart of Rage, they’re scattered and dispirited.
You, as The Freelancer, try to rebuild the reputation of the Freelancers while protecting Fort Tarsis, a walled town near the still-raging cataclysm. You get missions around town from the various major factions – the remaining Freelancers, the Arcanists (scientists who study shaper relics), the Sentinels (basically the police/army), and Corvus (a spy agency that works for your government), trying to make things better. Most of the plot of the game is consumed with trying to get back into the Heart of Rage to silence the relic that is causing the disaster, but there are a number of side missions with the various side factions which help them to accomplish their own goals – finding various artifacts and scrolls, hunting down outlaws who are ambushing people, saving people who had gone missing due to mishaps with the artifacts.
None of this is particularly remarkable – the main plot is merely serviceable, and also feels like some parts of it were cut out due to time constraints (or excessive numbers of bugs), and the side quests are of similar quality (though more coherent, if slightly lower budget in terms of cutscenes). While the actual plot is unremarkable, the various characters you deal with around town are interesting enough, and have solid voice acting and are reasonably fun to talk to, even if a few of them regurgitate their life stories out onto your boots at the slightest provocation.
All in all, the core of this game is reasonably competent – the gameplay is fun, and the plot is mediocre but with some reasonable character moments. There’s some enemy variety, from your standard dudes with guns to enemies in the various types of exosuits you use to gigantic titans which send out waves of fire at you, but it runs kind of thin by the end, and there’s only about six types of boss in the entire game, plus a couple other elite enemy types to mix things up.
But at the same time, it is a game that is really hard to recommend, because I’m really not sure whether the people who made it ultimately had a cohesive vision for how it should be, and how to keep players engaged. The game ultimately runs out of things to show you before it runs out of gameplay, and while at its present length (about 30 hours of content) it is reasonable, it still felt a bit lacking in variety by the end. Once you get to the end, you run out of content entirely, and there’s little value in sticking around – and yet, this is somehow a Games as a Service game, which intends to dribble and drabble out content over the course of months.
And the game is quite buggy; while the patches have made it better, it still has some real issues.
All in all, I liked Anthem, as did a number of its players. I definitely had fun playing it, even if it was frustrating at times. But if bugs bother you, this game will absolutely enrage you, and the game is only "good enough", not exceptional.… Expand
Average User Score: 1.1Feb 11, 2019Star Wars Battlefront 2 superficially looks like Star Wars. You’ve got the green and red blasters, you’ve got guys with lightsabers, you’veStar Wars Battlefront 2 superficially looks like Star Wars. You’ve got the green and red blasters, you’ve got guys with lightsabers, you’ve got the heroes and villains of Star Wars, you’ve got Stormtroopers… at first glance, all seems right as rain. There are moments in combat where the flash of blaster fire and the sound effects all combine to make it seem like all is right in the world.
And then you watch your character move around awkwardly in 3rd person and the illusion is totally broken.
This is a game that awkwardly tries to put on a veneer of being Star Wars, but any sort of abrasion rapidly rubs off the paint and you’re left with something that never feels right. The whole thing feels very superficial, like you are awkwardly puppeting characters who are meant to represent stuff from the Star Wars universe, but you never feel like a part of the universe, or like any part of it is authentic. Movement is stiff, jumping is awkward, you cannot dash around in a satisfying way, and the characters who use the Force and light sabers feel weird as they run around waving their lightsabers around weightlessly and awkwardly zapping each other with lightning.
The whole thing just feels off. It has the veneer of Star Wars, but it fails to make you feel either like a Jedi or like a Stormtrooper.
The single player campaign is in the same vein – superficially attractive, but hollow. You are introduced to Inferno Squad, a group of elite Imperial commandos who realize that they are the baddies and switch sides to the Rebel Alliance after the Empire starts torching its own worlds for no sensible reason but the evulz. The characters show some resistance to just up and switching teams, but it is very obvious where it is going, and the whole thing is really a setup to stick you into a bunch of pretty environments (which have nice visual variety), as well as let you play as Luke, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Lando Calrissian, and even the latest not Darth Vader knockoff from the Disney sequels. Unfortunately, while all of this happens, it is not really all that satisfying; the missions are all quite visually varied, but in the end you’re just mowing down basically the same people in almost every mission, with the enemies just model swapped between them. There’s no real difference between Rebel fighters and Imperial Stormtroopers, and a few missions that involve dogfighting in TIE fighters and X-wings help to mix things up a bit, but are at best okay.
The story is pretty mediocre, and while all of the locations are attractive enough, it basically just feels like a series of arbitrary vignettes, and I never built any connection with the new cast of characters.
Multiplayer, too, doesn’t feel all that great. There’s a mode where heroes fight against villains, which lets you play with all of the really cool characters, but while this mode is somewhat interesting, it also highlights the general awkwardness of it all. Fighting with lightsabers doesn’t feel immersive at all; the Emperor runs around with his hands stuck out in front of him like some sort of Frakenstein’s monster parody, zapping people with lightning; and characters with ranged weapons feel like second class citizens in that they mostly don’t do anything all that cool, and yet they’re equally competitive with the ostensibly cooler lightsaber-wielding combatants. It isn’t terrible, and there’s some reasonable variety between characters, but it just feels kind of awkward, and it has none of the charm that hero shooters like Overwatch have. Teamwork mostly consists of zerging around the map together as a group rather than interacting meaningfully with your teammates, and while it is okay for a while, it just didn’t hold my attention for very long.
The assault mode – grand battles involving 40 players – seem like a cool idea, but they didn’t feel great in practice. I really liked the idea of it – you play as an ordinary trooper, but every time you die, you gradually gain score. You get more points for killing people and for playing the objective, and when you gain enough points, you can respawn in as a special trooper using special weapons, or as someone in a spaceship fighting overhead, or someone in a vehicle, or even as one of the heroic characters. All of these are stronger than the base troopers, and can help to swing the battle in your favor – but it also means that the other team can get them and (in theory) cut into your team like a hot knife through butter, though in practice, I found that while they were scary, they were often very beatable even as normal troops if you kept your distance and stuck together with other people.
Unfortunately, the sheer scale of these battles made it hard to feel like you were making a difference in a lot of cases.
In the end, Battlefront 2 feels superficial. It has the veneer of Star Wars, but is mechanically unsatisfying.… Expand
Average User Score: 8.4Feb 10, 2019Ghost of a Tale is a very densely packed Stealth/Fetchquest game. That may sound like a joke, but it really isn’t.
Ghost of a Tale starsGhost of a Tale is a very densely packed Stealth/Fetchquest game. That may sound like a joke, but it really isn’t.
Ghost of a Tale stars Tilo, a mouse minstrel who has been unjustly imprisoned in the crumbling Dwindling Heights, a great fortress built over the tomb of the hero Dunlain, but which is today little more than a prison where rat soldiers who have screwed up one too many times are given jobs as punishment. One day, Tilo finds a key and a note hidden under a piece of bread delivered to his cell, entreating him to unlock his cell and sneak through the fortress meet with his anonymous benefactor on the top of the highest tower in the keep.
But Tilo is a tiny little mouse in a world full of rats, magpies, and other larger creatures. One of the first people he runs into, a frog, entreats him to murder a snoring guard, but Tilo refuses, on the grounds that he is no murderer – or indeed, a criminal at all.
And so the stage is set for a stealth game, as our cute little mouse protagonist scampers and sneaks his way around the world. This is a world akin to Redwall, where all of the people are anthropomorphic animals – but only slightly anthropomorphized. They walk on two legs, but Tilo will scamper on all fours when he runs, and they’re all designed to look rather like real animals.
It seems at first like the racism of Redwall is present as well – the rats are at first depicted as being rather mean, and the mice as good. But it quickly becomes clear that the rats are indeed the heroes of the setting, and that the mice betrayed them in ancient times to a terror known as the Green Flame. The mice you run into in the game are thieves, and it becomes clear when you read more about the world that a number of mice have been rebelling against the rats – and while their treatment as second-class citizens is perhaps unjust, a number of the rats seem to be sympathetic towards mice.
The game, thus, subverts the player’s expectations about a setting like this, and the game keeps doing so throughout. The whole game takes place in a very small area – a single fortress and a bit of surrounding wilderness – and there’s only about a dozen real characters in the game, but there is more to almost all of them than meets the eye. Thus, as you explore the keep and try to make your way to freedom and find your wife, you also learn more about the world and the people around you, and find that things are nowhere near as simple as they seemed. Everything you believed might be wrong, and your benefactor, Silas, warns you not to trust anyone – even him.
But Tilo is a kind creature, and the NPCs are so cute… how can you not want to help them out?
The weird thing about this game is that while it appears like it is a stealth game at first glance, it actually only is one for about the first quarter or third of the game – one of the first quests you get is a quest to sneak around the keep and gather pieces of guard armor to make yourself a disguise. Once you complete this disguise, weighed down in heavy, oversized rat armor, you pass yourself off as a runty new rat recruit who was supposed to be transferred in. At this point, it becomes possible to walk past and talk to every guard in the place, and the game goes from a stealth game to being focused on exploration and, ultimately, doing what amounts to fetch-quests for a number of NPCs.
What you enjoy about this game is probably not going to be the gameplay – sure, the stealth bit is decent enough, but the mechanics never really evolve because instead it focuses around disguising yourself to pass as various people to get others to help you out. The game is really mostly fetchquests and exploration, trying to find things for people who might help you escape from the prison or help to find your wife.
The real draw of this game is the writing. The fact that the whole place is pretty small means that a lot of what you’re doing is going back and forth, trying to find stuff or get people to give you stuff or convince them to do stuff, or just talking to people to learn more about the world. And the fact that the game world is so small means that, despite all of the backtracking, you don’t actually spend all that long between plot points – the game is pretty dense, and you’ll frequently complete tasks and go turn them in to get new fun bits of dialogue with people. The conversations are often funny, but can deliver emotionally powerful exposition; the hidden depths of characters are nice to see, and you end up caring about the core cast of characters because there are so few of them and you get fond of them by talking with them over time. From the rascally Gusto and Fatale, mouse thieves extraordinare who make you write a ballad for them, to Silas, your mysterious benefactor with ulterior motives, to the blacksmith Rolo, who seems to always be willing to sell you advice for a bit of coin, they're a highly likable bunch.… Expand
Average User Score: 6.8Jan 29, 2019Sunset Overdrive is a stylish open-world action game focused on using highly agile movement and silly weapons to fight a variety of foes. YouSunset Overdrive is a stylish open-world action game focused on using highly agile movement and silly weapons to fight a variety of foes. You play as a nameless protagonist, a former member of the janitorial staff who manages to barely escape from a horrible horde of people who have been mutated into monsters by drinking an energy drink.
The game’s core gameplay is very good. The protagonist has the ability to grind along things like power lines and the edges of roofs, bounce high off of cars and dumpsters as if they were springboards, swing around off of poles to get higher, and smash the ground with a ground pound attack then immediately jump for a super jump. Combined with the ability to skate across the surface of water, air dash, and wall run, the protagonist is hyper-agile, and the game exploits this to its fullest. Enemies will spawn in large numbers and swarm you, and if you stand still, you’ll quickly get surrounded and pounded on; by moving around the environment, you both avoid getting hit as well as give yourself more breathing space to aim and fight. All of this naturally encourages you to exploit the movement mechanics to their fullest.
The weapons, too, are fun to use. Unlike all too many third person shooters, this game has an enormous variety of weapons, and they *feel* highly varied. There are some classics – the grenade launcher (reflavored as a launcher that launches teddy bears with explosives strapped to them), a rocket launcher (a rigged-up propane tank launcher), a hand cannon style pistol, a shotgun (with a pair of metal balls on it that definitely aren’t compensating for anything), and an assault rifle. But you also get many strange weapons – deployable sprinklers that spread acid all around them, pistols taped to propellers that float around and shoot nearby foes, a vinyl record launcher that bounces records between enemies, a freeze bomb. There’s even special weapons that are given out on specific missions, like a nuclear powered magical sword and a kitty launcher that summons a robotic dog to tear apart your enemies.
The protagonist also has a crowbar they can use to beat up enemies in melee combat, swing around in a circle while grinding on stuff to clear off nearby enemies, or use to pound the ground.
On top of all this, there’s special amps that you can equip to yourself and to your weapons which add additional effects. Weapon amps add things like random nuclear explosions when you kill enemies, or extra ammo drops, or levelling up your weapons faster (as weapons gain xp in the game by using them more often, and become more powerful as you do so). There are melee amps which add special effects when you attack enemies, mostly in the form of expanding the AoE with some sort of added effect, like setting enemies on fire or pushing them away with wind. There are “epic amps”, which shoot out fire and lighting around you.
All of these amps are activated by building up enough “style” in combat, which is gained by doing special maneuvers (like grinding or wall running) and killing enemies; the more you do these things, the higher your meter gets, and the more of your amps turn on. Standing around or not doing much in the way of special maneuvers will cause the meter to drain, further encouraging the player to keep moving.
This all adds up to a very dynamic combat system, and it is a lot of fun maneuvering around the city and shooting stuff.
Where the game ends up struggling a bit is with repetition. Like most open-world games, the game has a main storyline, as well as some sidequests. Unlike most open-world games, there’s actually relatively few sidequests, and they mostly do something at least quasi-interesting. The game will periodically add in new random mechanics or minigames to try and mix things up, like defending a moving boat or fighting with a unique quest weapon. There are also challenges, which are all minigames, often focusing on platforming or killing a lot of enemies in a short period of time. And this is all well and good.
But the game clocks in around 30 hours long, including all the DLC, but there’s only 14 types of enemies, and none of them are especially threatening. While the game spaces out its new enemies, gradually introducing them over the course of the game, you do end up spending a lot of time throughout the game fighting the same sorts of enemies over and over again, and the enemies can't really threaten you.
If you’re a fan of open-world games, this is a great example, and you’ll probably think it is pretty great. And if you want to unleash your inner 12 year old, this game will definitely do that.
But if you don’t like open-world games, this won’t be what changes your mind.… Expand
Average User Score: 7.8Jan 13, 2019Yoku’s Island Express is an open-world 2D Metroidvania Pinball game.
Yes, really. I have played a couple of creative pinball games inYoku’s Island Express is an open-world 2D Metroidvania Pinball game.
I have played a couple of creative pinball games in recent years, but this is by far the best of them. Yoku’s Island Express makes use of pinball mechanics to navigate a large 2D island environment, collecting various upgrades that allow you to progress to new areas without fundamentally upsetting the core pinball nature of the game.
The main character of the game is Yoku, a dung beetle who has been appointed as the postmaster of Mokumana Island. Rather than rolling around a ball of dung, however, Yoku rolls around a large, smooth round stone which doubles as a pinball. Yoku can roll the ball around on relatively flat ground, allowing them to move around the island between puzzles and engage in other navigation. Yoku has no ability to jump and cannot go up steep inclines, requiring you to find other means – the numerous paddles distributed around the world – to make your way around.
This allows the game to be more than a bunch of pinball tables, instead interspersing with other forms of environmental navigation. While paddles appear quite heavily in the game, many springboards also appear, launching the player through the air. Acquired abilities like swinging off of flowers, diving underwater, and sucking up explosive slugs serve to allow the player to access new areas, as well as mixing up the core pinball game with some other pinball-esque environmental navigation.
All of this allows the game to include the secrets and exploration that is key to Metroidvania games, while simultaneously mixing up the gameplay and keeping it fresh and allowing the player to navigate the island and access what amounts to a bunch of environmental pinball tables. The variety here is reasonable – the game not only has a bunch of traditional pinball, but also has sections where the player must play with what amounts to multiple pinballs at the same time. The game even features (fairly simple) boss fights in the form of pinball tables!
The game is also quite aesthetically pleasing. The whole island is very vibrantly colored, and the 2D hand-drawn art here is quite excellent. While the characters are mostly fairly limited in their animation, they still are fun to look at, and there’s a nice variety of environments, from a dark and dreary underground to vibrant tropical beaches to overcast rainforest to snowy mountain peaks.
Yoku’s Island Express is unapologetically a family game, suitable for people of all ages, so long as they don’t find pinball too frustrating. The animal characters in the game are mostly very cutesy, but they aren’t excessively so – they’re basically the sorts of things you’d expect in a family game, generally being fairly one-dimensional, but doing their job in populating the world and giving the player hints in where to go and a small number of quests to do. There’s only a relatively small amount of cartoonish violence, and on the whole, this is a broadly acceptable game. The humor in it is fairly light, and while it never made me laugh out loud, I found myself enjoying the game for what it was.
Following on the idea of broad accessibility, there’s no way to die in this game. Where there is a drain for your ball to fall into in a number of puzzles, the penalty is at worst only a few fruit, the game’s currency that you end up with far too much of anyway, and which can easily be made up for; the player will then quickly be put back into play to continue trying to solve the physics puzzle. Thus, the challenge is not in running out of lives or anything so mundane, but in simply completing the pinball puzzles, which are of a reasonable level of difficulty – not excessive, but not so easy that it feels facile. These are definitely not the hardest pinball tables of all time, but for someone like me who only periodically plays pinball, it was fairly easy but difficult enough that I felt like I was modestly challenged by a number of the puzzles.
Yoku’s Island Express knows what it wants to be, and also knows that it only has so many tricks to show the player. Thus, the game only clocks in around 6-8 hours to beat, and perhaps 10-12 if the player wants to get everything. I felt like the game was the appropriate length; while I enjoyed my time with it, I’m not sure how much more of it I would have actually enjoyed.
This is a game I’d recommend, especially to people who enjoy pinball mechanically but who feel like playing the same tables over and over again gets repetitive.… Expand
Average User Score: 8.2Jan 11, 2019What Remains of Edith Finch is a rather depressing walking simulator. You play as the titular Edith Finch, who returns to her abandonedWhat Remains of Edith Finch is a rather depressing walking simulator. You play as the titular Edith Finch, who returns to her abandoned childhood home after the death of her mother. It is immediately obvious upon looking at the house that her family was a bit eccentric, but once you get inside and start seeing the glued-shut doors, it’s obvious that there was something seriously wrong with the Finch family.
As a walking simulator, this is really more of a story that you interact with by moving around and looking at items in the environment than a game per se; there’s no challenge to be had here, and virtually nothing in the way of meaningful choices to be made. The closest point of comparison is probably Gone Home – a young woman goes home to an empty house in the Pacific Northwest and over the course of the game you learn about the family drama that had unfolded there.
However, I feel that this work is a major improvement on the typical walking simulator formula.
What Remains of Edith Finch features shifting perspectives and art styles which serves to break up the gameplay and give it much more of a sense of variety. As you make your way through the game, you view the final moments of each member of the Finch family in turn, learning about their tragic and often self-inflicted history of bad stuff happening. These sequences are very creative, and vary considerably, ranging from a cel-shaded playthrough of a comic about a character’s death, to someone taking tragic family photos, to more abstract, fanciful scenes which imply how a character died.
Even outside of the memories, this game oozes with character. The eccentricity of the family – along with one character’s tendency to make dead people’s bedrooms into makeshift memorials – allows the game makers the excuse to make a variety of distinctive rooms, each reflecting the character of an individual, well, character. The family’s eclectic, schmaltzy, and kitschy tastes give us both insight into various characters’ personalities as well as interesting things to look at as we make our way through the game.
This game touched me emotionally, a rare feat in such works. That being said, I’m not sure if I can say that I actually enjoyed it; many of the events in the game were deliberately not only depressing, but also kind of pointless – the events just get progressively worse and more depressing as the game goes on. It’s just tragedy after tragedy, and while I’d be tempted to call it melodrama, the game does a pretty good job of selling it to the player – the pointlessness of it all is the point of the story, or as close to a point as Edith Finch has.
If I had a complaint about the “gameplay” interface itself, it would be the protagonist’s slow walking speed – while this is partially justified in the story, it is still a bit annoying in a few sections (particularly in the outdoor areas) where you walk around and it can take quite a while to get from point A to point B. The fact that I couldn’t turn off my controller’s rumbling via an in-game option (at least, not one that I found) was also an annoyance. Both of these issues were quite minor, though the latter did result in me switching over to using my controller halfway through to prevent it from rattling its way off my desk.
Overall, I think that this was one of the better examples of a serious walking simulator. The game’s overall presentation was on point, and it actually made me feel things. It didn’t belabor the point – the game overall is just a few hours long, and none of the individual sequences end up dragging on too long.
And yet I am not in love with this game, in part because it mostly seemed to be just trying to make me sad, but I didn’t really feel like it had much in the way of a meaningful message.
If you are interested in walking simulators, this is definitely one to check out. If you are looking for something with actual gameplay, this is not for you.… Expand