Matt Sainsbury


1457 games reviewed
73.5 average score
80 median score
59.5% of games recommended
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Jun 4, 2024

I appreciate Yeo for being willing to put himself out there, put the art ahead of the commercial best practices, and craft something that is eccentric, nuanced, and even profound. Fading Afternoon isn’t an “entertaining” game in the traditional sense, but it’s a powerful one that will leave you reflective and pensive by the time you put it down. The games industry needs more people like Yeo.

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I understand why the developers set Crown Wars: The Black Prince during the Hundred Years War. It’s a compelling era of European history and you inherently want to play it. It got me playing a game I otherwise would have glossed over because of the promise of its theme. The problem is that once you have someone’s attention this way, you need to deliver on what you’ve promised them. Crown Wars doesn’t quite get there and fails to fill the void with something memorable.

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There’s not much else I can say, given that any commentary on the story would be a spoiler to the first game, and as much as I can breathlessly enthuse about the aesthetics and presentation, that’s something you’re going to have to see to get a feel for just how well it works despite being so eclectic. Cupid Parasite: Sweet and Spicy Darling is a sequel to a game you should play before it. But it’s also a game you really should play, because it is the most artfully unique and downright entertaining otome visual novel out there. Sweet and Spicy Darling is more of the same, and that’s all it needed to be.

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Duck Detective: The Secret Salami is a delightful, wonderful little game. My life is better for the joy that it has injected into it and there’s not a thing about it that I think the developers could have done better.

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That is probably a big part of the reason that Thousand-Year Door doesn’t feel like a “retro” game to play, despite being 20 years old and this “remake” being barely touched from the original. It’s rare for a game to be quite this timeless, and thank goodness it hasn’t been lost to the GameCube platform and now people can discover or rediscover it on modern hardware.

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The authentic Taiwanese ghost stories, an intriguing university campus to explore, and a fun – if B-grade cheesy – cast make The Bridge Curse 2 well worth your time. There are also some genuinely memorable monsters and eye-opening scenes. This is one of those super-niche horror games that you’ll be glad you discovered.

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Neptunia Game Maker R:Evolution is an admirable effort to find a way of introducing more characters and an all-new plot-line, while also in some ways going back to the fundamentals in terms of storytelling and structure. I do wish the Idea Factory people would give up on this action combat system when the turn-based approach was less obviously affected by the budget, but the usual gorgeous fanservice art and antics of the characters kept me smiling throughout.

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I went into QUALIA expecting it to be a fairly run-of-the-mill big boob fanservice game. And in some regards it is. It’s not really breaking new ground on how these stories are told. On the other hand, the subject of the game is inherently interesting and highly topical, and while the presentation is very familiar, it’s exactly what the target audience likes to see. It’s also an impressive example of how to build a visual novel on a minimal budget without needing to make concessions to the goals of the project. The android at the heart of QUALIA might not be my idea of the ideal love robot, but I certainly enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about her here.

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The fact that El Shaddai has been remembered as a cult classic (albeit with a fleetingly small cult) that has never been replicated, while its immediate peer from a decade ago has been relegated to the deep collective memory of “content that was kind of fun, I guess, but I have new toys to play with” highlights which of the two we, as a collective, should be trying harder to encourage more of. We need to stop acting like “complexity” (i.e. some abstract ideas and the occasional metaphor) is an inherent flaw.

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I typically give visual novels with poor localisations 1/5. After all, the exclusive point of the game is to share a story and if the localisation is bad it has failed in that task. The score I’m giving The Hungry Lamb: Traveling in the Late Ming Dynasty should highlight just how disappointed I am by the localisation, because this could have very easily been one of the most powerful stories in video game history.

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I am the target audience for Demon Slayer: Sweep The Board in that I’m both a Demon Slayer fan and the three Mario Party titles on the N64 Virtual Console on Switch are (by a significant margin) my most played titles on it. I got everything that I expected out of this game and had a lot of fun with it right throughout. In fact, with Mario Party itself in a weird kind of limbo of diminishing returns of late, perhaps we do need a new property to pick up the baton.

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May 1, 2024

I’d be doing everyone a disservice if I sat here and said that Emerald Beyond was for everyone. It isn’t. It isn’t even close to everyone. It’s a JRPG made for the most hardcore, veteran JRPG fans. Specifically, it has been designed for a very specific kind of JRPG fan who, firstly, loves things that are genuinely different. Secondly, its for JRPG fans that like complex, textured and nuanced combat systems that reward people who are willing to tinker and learn them, and punish those who don’t. For a niche within a niche within a niche, SaGa Emerald Beyond is the kind of game that the new, “improved” blockbuster Square Enix hates, but if this really is the end of this series, at least it’s gone out having delivered the full promise of what SaGa has always stood for.

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Apr 30, 2024

It’s ironic given everything I have just written above that I would never be game to go scuba diving myself. I can be pretty severely risk averse, and just like bungie jumping, skydiving, and motorsports, I’m not going to be jumping into the ocean depths anytime soon. That just makes me appreciate Endless Ocean all the more. It’s a chance to enjoy the qualities of scuba diving at their best (at least, as I imagine them to be), without having to actually put myself out there. This is a beautiful, serene and relaxing experience and I loved every second of it.

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For a collection that will only ever appeal to a very limited niche, the Epyx Collection does a decent job of making those games playable on the Switch, but a terrible job of celebrating them. The only way this thing had a chance was to go the full virtual museum tour, and they completely missed that opportunity. As it stands, most people will buy this, play it for five minutes to remember the console they lost to the garage storage boxes decades ago, and then move on.

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Apr 25, 2024

In so many ways Stellar Blade comes across as reactionary. It’s a rejection of the way that modern games aim to be accessible with crystal clear wayfinding, easy-to-solve puzzles and an easy mode that plays itself. It’s also a rejection of the idea that video game characters should be humanised and “realistic”, instead opting for the mannequin look with hyper-idealised femininity. It resolutely refuses to be profound or meaningful, or be anything other than a wildly entertaining video game. It’s all exceptionally well made and achieves everything that it sets out to, and it’s a genuinely good experience. The developers have totally successfully delivered what they intended to but it is also fascinating that Sony of all companies chose to pick it up and publish it, because more than anything else Stellar Blade feels like a response to everything that Sony has been driving towards over the past decade.

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There’s really not much else I can say about Class of Heroes 1 & 2: Complete Edition. You’ll need to love old school dungeon crawlers like Wizardry to get much out of these games, and if you do like those kinds of games you know that you’ll love these (and you would have likely played them on the PSP before anyway). There’s nothing wrong with any of this. It’s pure comfort food for the genre faithful, and it’s a particularly generous and well-layered slice of cake.

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Apr 22, 2024

There aren’t too many truly authentic games set in Australia, made by Australians, telling Australian stories. Broken Roads is one, and it is one of the most different and interesting games you’ll play this year on that basis alone. Yes there are more refined RPGs out there, but none of those will take you on a crash course through Australian mannerisms while delivering a compelling narrative of human resilience, community, weakness and savagery.

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Apr 18, 2024

Sker Ritual would have been easier to get along with if it had its own identity. It plays well and is genuinely entertaining, but if the developers are going to treat their work as a totally transient effort to exploit and leap on the money train, then I’m going to treat the game in-kind. The creative vision behind this game is so shallow and unformed that the game will be forgotten in a few years.

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Apr 15, 2024

Game developers, I am begging you. If you want to place your game within a literary or cinematic genre, then, by all means, do so, but understand what that genre is about, first. Cyberpunk is not an aesthetic with angry robots, neon colours and body modifications. Cyberpunk is a warning against alloying corporations and the political elite to take technology and leverage it for their gain over the good of humanity. If your game doesn’t have that message at its core, you’ve missed the point of the genre.

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So, while Outward is certainly a port with limitations due to the platform, I’m not entirely sure I would have enjoyed it any more on any other console. Yes, there is a joy to being dropped in a big world and left to carve your own journey through it. Outward is a fundamentally appealing experience. The problem for Outward is that there other games that have done that with much more soul.

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