You do have to reward creativity, and Legal Dungeon is genuinely creative. This is not a job or process that you would have ever imagined could be gamified, but there you have it. It tells a fascinating story, especially as an outsider to the Korean legal system, and while it's not a particularly comfortable experience on the Nintendo Switch, and perhaps a little imprecise for a puzzle game, it is very difficult to put down.
Littlewood is charming and bright, and wears its “indie spirit” on its sleeve. The developer has created something highly playable that also acts as a lovely homage to the Harvest Moon tradition. By all accounts, Littlewood has been a commercial success, too, on its prior release on PC. That success is deservedly so, but hopefully the developer can invest some of that into some refinements for whatever their next project is, but there’s more ambition in Littlewood than the scope of the budget allowed.
Maquette - and the development team - deserve better. There's some real talent evident in the unique, interesting, contemplative and rewarding puzzle design here, and that kind of quality occurs less and less frequently in this vapid and action-obsessed industry. The development team also know how to write interesting and emotionally engaging narratives - we don't see stories about love told with this kind of sincerity anywhere near often enough. Unfortunately, the one and only problem that the game has is also the thing that almost breaks it; the two elements that the entire experience relies on are at near-complete odds with one another.
You know what? I was going to give this game the respect of a full review. It's unmitigated trash, but I firmly believe that everyone's creative ideas deserve the respect of full and proper criticism. But then I kept playing and this game became too insulting to my intelligence to entertain the idea of giving it any respect in return.
Neptunia Virtual Stars is an intelligent, relevant, topical and timely satire. It does represent a new direction for the series, and is clearly an effort to find a way to stay relevant now that the jokes that previously provided the foundation for the series have lost their relevance. In doing so Idea Factory decided to experiment with the gameplay, and while that wasn't executed to a particularly fine degree, the heavier focus on narrative and the sheer energy of the whole package means that I found it impossible to remain disappointed by the game's rough edges. The rest of it was too much of a laugh-out-loud delight.
In many ways, it's a highly metafictional thesis that explores what people love about JRPGs, and what is genuinely important to the genre. In doing so the game has become this wonderfully nuanced, beautiful, entertaining and emotive experience, and in my book, that makes it a masterpiece.
Really, though, Curse of the Dead God's biggest problem is simply that it exists in a ridiculously over-saturated space, and doesn't do anything meaningful to help it stand out. In a world post-Hades, it's hard to see where this one fits into the library of any but the most over-committed roguelike fan. That's not a fault of the game in itself. Once you understand how to play it and have learned its rhythms and studied its enemies, it's perfectly competent at what it's doing. It's just lacking a bit of verve and panache, so it will never have the same appeal as its already-storied peer.
So there are some very clear positives and very clear negatives to Little Nightmares II. The narrative is quite good, solid with lots of meaning flowing beneath the surface. The gameplay is mostly simple enough, the settings are ugly-pretty, the music enhances everything. Basically, it does wrap into a neat little package that can be unwrapped in layers. I can't ignore the issues, though, mainly with the lack of options and repetitiveness that can happen with failure. Still, Little Nightmares II does in fact feel like a conclusion to the first game in the series, yet still manages to turn it into a never-ending story so that someone else would be able to continue with the world. In that sense, it's actually quite clever.
If you've ever enjoyed a Metroidvania before, then you'll probably enjoy Cathedral. The fewer of the genre that you've played the better, however, as the lack of original creativity will wash over you easier with less experience and fewer points of comparison among Cathedral's peers. Otherwise, it's a perfectly competent example of the genre. It's just a pity that the Metroidvania genre, in particular, is so over-saturated that we just didn't need more of it.
If you've played either of the two previous Choices That Matter titles, then you know right now whether And Their Heroes Were Lost is for you. If you're not sure about which to try first, go by genre; And The Sun Went Out is a crime thriller with a dash of Lovecraftian tone, And Their Souls Were Eaten is a steampunk story, and And Their Heroes Were Lost is a thing for people who enjoy narratives like Total Recall. They're all brilliant examples of interactive narratives in their own way, and while the Nintendo Switch now has ports of all the currently available ones, I can only hope that this isn't the end of of this little project (this is also the point where I make my pitch and beg: can I please write one, nice developer, Tin Man Games?)