Yes, The Beginner's Guide occasionally fumbles its narrative, Wreden sometimes overacts, and the writing can be a little ham-fisted—but the game also provokes incisive, critical thought about the way we read and evaluate games, and does so not by laying out a definitive "message" to be delivered to players, but by prompting us, through play, with open-ended questions.
Still, in a world of HD rehashing and the seemingly obligatory impulse to re-render old games with the latest in photorealistic graphics tech, it warms my heart to witness the stylistic human touch of Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap. It's a splendid homage, a playable history exercise, and an unexpected touchpoint for the expressive potential of hand-drawn animation in 2017.
At its core, Nidhogg 2 is still Nidhogg. And you can turn off the new weapons and still fence your way across a castle stage if you so desire. But unless you're a hardline hater of Nidhogg 2's sludgy aesthetic, the sequel enhances the formula across the board. Don't be put-off by Nidhogg 2's rainbow slop, there's still a silly white-knuckle, slay-your-friends action game underneath the mess.
Xrd expounds upon that tendency, eschewing nostalgia in favor of profound iteration that will likely only register to the niche-loyal. And as someone who successfully made it inside the club, even if it feels at times that I did so with a fake ID, the band in here is playing some mind-blowing stuff.
FRACT offers a glimpse into what that reality could look like, but presents a new source of magic at the same time. Instead of bobbing your head out in the audience, now you're behind the decks, steering the ship wherever you want it to go, even when you don't know where you'll end up. FRACT proves that it's through your own creative input that you can continue to surprise yourself beyond those initial magical moments. It's true that FRACT isn't the most mind-bending puzzle game out there or the most powerful music production software on the market; its triumph is in forging a middle path.