Thoth’s main addition to the twin-stick shooter is its constant intimidation tactics. The short segments you set out to beat—64 in all—keep you aghast constantly, and you’ll learn quickly that even when things look peaceful it can mean that something deadly hasn’t shown itself to you yet. Silence is just an opportunity for a bomb to go off.
With Obduction, Cyan has created another game that’s an art of personal journaling. What you know, what you’ve gathered, will save you. The tools seem familiar but it is details that are your weapons. As the otherworldly overlaps the banal, you’re trapped in a labyrinth of places and things.
OmniBus would work better if it rolled with its own punches instead of creating a system that only exists to be fought with—the reward is smaller when randomness does so much of the grunt work. Just sit back and let the car drive you into the sun. Life just flies by so fast when you’re having fun.
Harvest Moon is not that game, and its bells and whistles are traditionally much more limited, structured, and harder circled on the calendar. Despite all odds, it seems Stardew Valley is a different game than the one it mimics. And a pretty fun, different game at that.
This Fatal Frame is hoisted by one specific element. This can feel truest during some truly arduous backtracking. Not the necessity to survival kind of backtracking, but the different characters literally retracing each other's steps from chapter to chapter kind of backtracking. Thankfully, the lynchpin for this game is a pretty decent lynchpin, so if you love ghosts and Instagram and don't mind redundancy, then Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water is the sixth scariest thing you can do with a camera.
Downwell may not have the lifespan of Spelunky or Nuclear Throne, games that have continued unfolding over years for their players. But it also doesn't appear to be aiming for such heights. Its focus is as straight and unyielding as the well down which it drops you. It is fun and addictive, but moreover it's adrenaline-pumping and shocking in its barbarity.
Armikrog squanders the real, doing nothing interesting with its sense of space and temptation to explore, because every new chamber seems identical to the last. In fact, if The Neverhood has a sequel, it may be 2003's Samorost, from Amanita Designs—a precious cosmos of tinkering little mysteries. By the time it's done, Armikrog feels more like The Neverhood's mulligan. As if this is the first one, the prototype, the do-over, with less to offer than familiarity, all of which leads to the more lavish incarnation made nearly two decades ago. And after that loses steam, and you want a bit of action in your life, then you make Skullmonkeys.
When Dropsy's quest becomes grander, based around a larger conspiracy, some of this charm wears off. As the game becomes more "normal," Dropsy's original challenge of endearing himself to those he repulses fades, and the puzzles start seeming a little tedious. So many are based around a difficult to manage day/night cycle, and many others around the talents of collectible animals. But before things escalate, when it's just the story of a clown without a circus, the sentiment warms you like a hug.
We live in an age of endless possibilities, especially when it comes to possibilities that don't better civilization in any mountable way or save the planet from its inevitable ghoul-faced doom. You can be a cat or a duck or a goat or a rock in a videogame! You can be all kinds of things! You can be bread. I can be bread. I can be destructive. I am destructive. I am bread.
In short: I didn't need Drake for long. Actually I played about two chart-toppers before I no longer felt the need for his voice as a lighthouse through the darkness. I began to feel comfortable in a horror game, which is a problem. I slept soundly that night.
While many new arcade games are built for spectatorship, they can be a little unwelcoming, full of secrets favouring someone who has survived a few rounds. That applies to most videogames, after all, but Smash Bros. found a middle ground, with enough combos and generally good ideas to feel rewarding, but none that can consistently overcome a monkey wrench. TowerFall Ascension, then, is the new arcade's Smash Bros.: an answer to a new genre that may be more alienating than it realizes, despite its inclusive agenda.