- Devil May Cry 3
- Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
- Mother 3
It's quite telling that Ever Forward's demo (released independently with the subtitle Prologue) isn't that much shorter than an actual full play-through. Despite the title's tense stealth sections, and fairly involved puzzle-solving, the fact of the matter is that the final product plays out like the tutorial to a much longer adventure that never starts. By the time Maya's story starts to breathe, and the core gameplay begins introducing complex and layered puzzles, the journey is more or less over. The atmosphere is commendable, as are the puzzles actually present, but the is sure to leave genre veterans disappointed, and newcomers desperate for some meat to chew on.
Creepy Tale certainly lives up to its namesake, courtesy of superb sound design and art heavily inspired by the works of John Kenn Mortensen, but it's a title which falls apart under scrutiny. A completely silent narrative is ambitious, as is designing puzzles exclusively around visual cues, but there's barely an hour of actual content in-game. Any puzzle-solving veterans are basically guaranteed to roll credits within 45 minutes. What's worse is that while the atmosphere is palatable (with enough mild scares that feel earned), Mortensen's "influence" borders on plagiarism. He's mentioned in the staff roll for what it's worth, but under a very specific "Inspired By" credit. Regardless of any involvement Mortensen may or may not have had, the fact the game is dripping in his style does it no favours - if only because it's a blatant imitation lacking artistic integrity. Creepy Tale is fine enough on the cheap, but it won't satisfy competent gamers, nor is it a suitable introduction to newcomers given its emphasis on gore.
The genuinely thought-provoking Ring Battle system, engaging puzzle design, and care given to Olivia's characterisation all make The Origami King the best Paper Mario since the series' Wii outing, but that wasn't a high bar to begin with and the series is still struggling to come up with an engaging gameplay loop in light of the lessened RPG elements. Without experience or levelling, random battles lose their lustre fast. Likewise, Accessories don't make up for a lack of Badges or traditional equipment, keeping combat relatively static and offering little in the way of non-Toad rewards for uncovering secrets. Worse is Intelligent Systems' love affair with bloated pacing holding back otherwise well-designed dungeons and set pieces. The Origami King is an overall step in the right direction, but it's emblematic of the fact that Paper Mario has no interest in honouring its legacy or living up to its potential. If nothing else, a direct sequel could easily unfold Origami King's many creases.
Considering how mindless and tailor-fit for mobile audiences the substanceless gameplay loop of Shop Titans is, one has to wonder why Kabam saw fit to pursue a PC release. Of course, the "why" is made painfully clear the moment players hit their first wall. Progression is very blatantly designed around micro-transactions. Anyone who doesn't want to spend a dime will need to contend with a very long grind. Even then, the game actively withholds items and content from players who don't want to spend real money. Worse yet is the monthly subscription service, which Kabam fully expects anyone who wants to play Shop Titans in earnest to purchase. Already aggressively mediocre experience by design, jumping from mobile to PC has done Kabam's shopkeeping "simulator" no favours. Shop Titans is worse than video game junk food; it's slop.
Looks can be deceiving, and while In Other Waters does look too simple for its own good, it's a title overflowing with depth. Between a well written script, intensely atmospheric sound design that begs for headphone use, and methodically slow pacing, it's hard not to think of Ellery Vas' expedition through the depths of Gliese 677Cc long after all is said and done. Moody and sombre, In Other Waters is a must read… and must play.