The story that should compel us to keep playing instead becomes an annoying digression from what the game does well. These environments, those puzzles, and the size-changing gimmick that lets you solve them comprise a unique and fascinating vision that depends on the kind of esoteric thinking familiar from classic point-and-click adventure games. Instead of pulling us in deeper, though, Michael and Kenzie's romance pushes us away. That's the real tragedy of Maquette.
It all comes down to the aesthetic-the muted color palette, the hushed tones when characters speak, the overarching sense of loss and despair that permeates the game. And most notably, those archaic visuals that look like they're from the latest Sierra game you and your friend play on his Tandy computer every afternoon after school. Olija roots its mysteries in the ever-distant, increasingly forgotten past, with all the warmth and sadness that implies.
Still, simply acknowledging real world problems isn't enough, even if most games refuse to even do that. If Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales is going to raise real-life issues, it needs to treat them with the respect and thoughtfulness that they deserve. As good as this game is, it could've been something genuinely special if it was as brave and confident as the comic book hero it stars.
If Bugsnax wants us to seriously question our relationship to animals, our food sources, and nature itself, it probably shouldn't turn its equivalent to our livestock into run-of-the-mill videogame bad guys who need to be killed. It shouldn't portray these characters' escape as success. It'd be a far bleaker and more depressing game than anybody ever would've expected from that first trailer if the Grumpuses wound up being punished for their hostility to nature, but if Bugsnax isn't willing to fully engage with these weighty subjects, it shouldn't bring them up in the first place.
The genius of Spelunky 2 is that it somehow adds new possibilities to a game that already had endless possibilities. That's legitimately impressive. And that's why I'm sure I'll be playing this for as long as I've played the original, both games coexisting blissfully together as one of the absolute best parent-child pairs in gaming.
Maneater is a fantastic central concept around which an intermittently enjoyable game has been built. It might not be a classic, but it'll be hard to forget, and that's the kind of game that typically seems better as time goes by. Expect to see this absurd bit of bloody, barbaric business pop up on lists of cult favorites for years to come, and deservedly so.
Panzer Dragoon: Remake barely makes an concessions to how games have grown over the last 25 years, and that makes it hard to care about it. The superior sequel will be getting a remake next year; this might be one of those situations where the first game in a series can easily be skipped over in the hagiography. Even the biggest members of the Dragoon Squad can sit this one out.