John Cal McCormick
- Final Fantasy IX
- Persona 4 Golden
- Mass Effect 2
If you buy into the mystery and you can tolerate the obnoxious characters then you'll get more out of this than we did. But by the time we were lost in the maze, bamboozled, for what felt like an hour, we just didn't care anymore. We played it twice and got different endings and neither was worth it. Maybe there's an ending that's a banger and we just missed it. We suspect not.
Eternights' great success is that it manages to be more than the sum of its parts. The witty writing papers over the shakier aspects of the storytelling, the slight combat is used sparingly enough that its flaws rarely frustrate, and above all, it's got an undeniable charm despite its rough edges. We're swiping right on this one.
But the soundtrack is excellent and perfectly complements your lonely swimming, the atmosphere is thick, and the occasionally wondrous moments are suitably awesome, in the literal sense. While you spend most of your time swimming alone in the grim dark of the sea, the moments where you find a sunken wreck or a friendly octopus act as a kind of catharsis, and always feel special.
And then there's the games. Watching a video describing Jordan's first attempt at making a video game and then actually being able to play that build — framerate dips and all — is a remarkable experience. On their own most of the games here would be little more than curios, but presented here as they are they're a fascinating time capsule, and an enthralling window into the creative process. For anyone interested in the history of video games we can't recommend this enough.
The coolest mechanic is the ability to pause the game and give each crew member instructions that they'll all perform in tandem with a tap of the triangle button. Planning a co-ordinated attack and then watching it unfold like clockwork is a pleasure that never gets old, and if you mess the whole thing up you can always just rewind time and tinker with your strategy until you get it right. These moments are Shadow Gambit at its best, and the game in a nutshell; it leaves you feeling like a tactical genius, even if it took you seven tries to get there.
As the end credits appeared on our screen it felt like we'd been on a generational journey — one that was both happy and sad, disappointing and hopeful, and above all, sincerely moving. We had a tear in our eye and everything. Four days later, writing this review and thinking about our experience playing Venba, we're smiling, and considering going back for a second helping.
Another double-edged sword is the brevity of the game. While we'd argue that a lot of visual novels pad out the running time and get a little long in the tooth, the eight hours we spent with Harmony weren't enough to effectively flesh out the world or the characters. That said, the story moves at brisk pace, and we never found ourselves bored even if we were sometimes a little confused.
Park Beyond will probably be pretty good one day, but it is not this day. Currently, it's a theme park building sim that doesn't include features that we'd consider to be a basic requirement of the genre, it's poorly balanced with systems that feel wildly misjudged, and it's also riddled with bugs and glitches that range from comical to pad-tossingly infuriating. Avoid it like Alton Towers during the school holidays.
There's a kernel of a fantastic tactical role playing game in Miasma Chronicles, but it lacks polish in a few key areas, and while the lore and the characters are endearing in their own right the overarching fiction that binds it all together disappoints.
Mask of the Lunar Eclipse is an old school survival horror game for better and worse. It's charmingly old school, and for people who grew up on a healthy diet of Resident Evil and Silent Hill back on the original PlayStation like we did, there'll be something nostalgic to the control foibles and camera issues. But there's no getting away from the fact that this is a game that feels older than it is, and the leaden pace will be off-putting to many.
Do well and everyone is happy and they might leave tips. You can spend your hard-earned coin on new cooking equipment, décor for your bistro, furniture, that kind of thing. As you progress, you learn new recipes, and you can add new flourishes to old ones. Eventually you get more chefs you can lead to help you out. And if you're really struggling there's options to lower the difficulty significantly, which makes the game quite chilled out if that's more your thing.
Wild Hearts is, at times, an utterly thrilling game. It's a game that will leave you kicking yourself for a poorly timed dodge or a missed opportunity, and jumping out of your chair when you finally topple a troublesome foe with a last-ditch, go-for-broke attack. There's a handful of technical issues, a mite too much repetition, and some quibbles about the difficulty, but the core monster hunting experience is spectacular enough that the joys far outweigh the frustrations.
We upset the cliché goth girl who is like, really into horoscopes and stuff. We upset the ow'right guv'nor lad's lad who looked like he was AI generated using only the phrase "probably watches Love Island". We upset the dork student who actually got her book out and started reading it mid-date rather than talk to us. We upset everyone. Speed dating? Spite dating. That's the future.
Brewmaster is really laid back. There are no fail states — or certainly none that we found. There’s no drama. Nobody dies. It’s just about brewing beer, and learning about beer, and then eventually entering a beer brewing competition to be crowned the titular Brewmaster™. That’s it. And we like it.
Star Ocean: The Divine Force is like a comfortable pair of JRPG slippers. If you're in the mood for a Japanese role playing game and you've played all of the good ones then you can rest assured that this one is fine. It's okay. It's comfort food. You know that feeling when you just wish Netflix would make another season of Mindhunter and so you end up watching Criminal Minds? That. Only in space.
We can scarcely recall an occasion where we were more disappointed by a sequel than New Tales from the Borderlands. We wanted to love this. We'd have accepted liking it. But we hate this game. This is a ten-hour narrative adventure that feels four times as long as it needs to be, with dreadful characters, and appalling, relentlessly unfunny jokes. It's a spectacular misfire, its only success to speak of being the rare example of a sequel so bad that it ruins the original, too.
Valkyrie Elysium is a game of two halves. The level design and objectives feel at least two generations old and the characters and storyline are more like placeholders than the finished article. There's no capital F feelings here or much in the way of narrative justification, but if you're okay with that and you just want fifteen to twenty hours of fast, frantic, fluid combat then we can just about recommend this one.
It's apt that the character you play as in Destroy All Humans! 2: Reprobed is named Crypto. Like crypto, the game is an interesting idea on paper, but we don't really need it, we don't want to hear about it, it keeps crashing, and if you invest any money into it then you're probably going to end up with buyer's remorse.
Cult of the Lamb is a game that is much more than the sum of its parts. Taken on their own neither the combat nor the cult management would be strong enough to carry the title, but together they form a compelling whole that's then further enhanced by the delightful art style and pervasive sinister tone. It's evil and wonderful and more than a little unhinged. It's also one of the most impressive games of the year.
The lack of genuine stakes means that Two Point Campus never becomes truly gripping, but the easy, breezy vibe makes for an enjoyable, leisurely build-'em-up. It's the perfect management sim for newcomers or children or even fans of the genre who just want a palette cleanser between more challenging titles. It's the sort of game you play on a Sunday afternoon, still in your pyjamas, with one hand because you've got a Cornetto in the other. And we're totally okay with that.