John Cal McCormick
- Final Fantasy IX
- Persona 4 Golden
- Mass Effect 2
Roger Ebert once famously opined that video games are not art, and Ghostbusters is Exhibit A for his case. This is not art. It barely qualifies as a game. Sure, it's not broken like some games are. It's functional. It works. But there's no risk, no ambition, and not a trace of anything resembling the personality of the Ghostbusters movies or cartoons. This is a game that seems like it was made with the specific purpose of tricking parents who don't know any better into buying it for their kids.Who ya gonna call? The Samaritans, probably.
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.
Oh dear. Empire of Sin has a fantastic idea at its core, and the jolly soundtrack perfectly complements the over the top character designs. But the game is a technical mess, littered with a spectacular array of bugs, and crippled by poor design choices that derail whatever little momentum the game may otherwise have had. Empire of Sin? They should have called it Buggy Malone.
WWE 2K Battlegrounds is a game that seems like it exists purely to house its storefront, offering predatory microtransactions which would be overly pricy in a free-to-play game. In a paid title - even a budget one - they're offensive. The only silver lining here is that the game is rubbish anyway, so feel free to skip it without feeling like you're missing out.
Past Cure is a bad game. It's bad bad. But it's also the best kind of bad game, in that it's not for a lack of effort or that the team were bereft of ideas that the finished product doesn't come together. If anything, the game is too ambitious, with too many ideas, and it inevitably crumbles under the weight of numerous poorly implemented gameplay styles and a total lack of a cohesive identity. It's a bit like when your mum tries making Baked Alaska for the first time – sure, the end result is a sloppy mess, but you've got to applaud the audacity to try it in the first place.
Valkyria Revolution is like a bizarre, alternate reality version of Valkyria Chronicles in which everything that the original got right has somehow been twisted into something awful. The devolution of interesting and quasi-relatable characters into eye-roll inducing stereotypes is upsetting, and the technical shortcomings of the game are disappointing. But it's the combat of Revolution that suffers most in comparison to Chronicles, and indeed, in comparison to practically anything else in the genre. Where Valkyria Chronicles was a constantly rewarding strategy game, Revolution is an action RPG so utterly devoid of any potential to challenge or delight that the only strategy you'll require is working out the quickest bus route back to the shop to get your refund.
Dino Dini's Kick Off Revival doesn't attempt to compete with FIFA and that's fine. There's a place on the market for simpler, old school sports games that rely on arcade fun rather than authenticity. But this reboot of the franchise is actually a step backwards for the series in some ways, and the lack of a tutorial or help of any kind results in the learning curve being more of a learning brick wall. There's nothing wrong with being difficult to master, but the game is difficult to pick up and play too, and the rewards too few to justify the effort. Kick Off Revival can be okay in short bursts, but the sheer weight of issues with the game make it hard to recommend to anybody other than fans of the original Kick Off games. And even they will likely be disappointed.
Shadwen is a stealth-action game in which there's no action and the stealth is completely undermined by counter-productive design choices that defy logic or reason. The whole package suffers from a distinct lack of polish and is chock full of half-baked ideas and badly implemented mechanics. It's a Frankenstein's monster of a game stitched together from the dead bits of other, better games, but ultimately it possesses the heart and soul of none of them. There's no reason to recommend Shadwen to anybody other than prospective game developers looking for a lesson in what not to do.
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.
There's an interesting story here and the horror-JRPG vibe is much appreciated, but whatever enjoyment they could bring you is utterly annihilated by the outrageous, egregious amount of grinding you'll need to do to see the game through. Monark is gaming reduced to a thick, treacly sludge to wade through, no cutscene or story beat or reward ever feeling like it was worth the struggle. Just play Shin Megami Tensei while listening to Nine Inch Nails and you'll have a better time.
There's monsters, too, but these encounters are somehow annoying and tedious at the same time. You don't really battle with the denizens of evil so much as complete mini-games, such as depressing the triggers in time with your breathing, to avoid being murdered by ghosts. The problem is, once you've done this once, it never really changes and it's never particularly challenging, so any time a baddie turns up it's just irritating.
If all you want is a facsimile of Crazy Taxi that you can play without dusting off your old Dreamcast then Taxi Chaos just about fits the bill. But that's all it does. For anybody coming into this without the benefits of nostalgia or more money than sense, Taxi Chaos is just a dull arcade driver with precious little to offer other than the dubious pleasure of chasing a high score. Send this one to scrap yard.
Peaky Blinders: Mastermind is a strategy game that requires very little strategy for much of its short running time. While it does eventually present a little more challenge in the closing chapters, the hum-drum narrative and bargain-basement cut-scenes won't provide you with much incentive to persevere through the duller moments which make up most of the game. If you're a massive fan of the show waiting for the next season, then you're probably better off just forming your own gang while talking in a comedy Brummie accent.
Blair Witch's strongest aspect -- its eerie woodland setting -- is perfect for a focused, streamlined, horror experience. Unfortunately, that's not what this game is, and the superfluous, gimmicky gameplay mechanics that are thrown at you with reckless abandon only serve to make the game less effective as a whole. A disappointing story, frustrating level design, and precious few genuine scares leaves us hoping that this is one franchise that gets lost in the woods.
Vane is exhausting, ponderous, bewildering, endlessly frustrating, needlessly obtuse, narratively unsatisfying, mechanically clumsy, and technically shoddy, all shot through a camera so ill-equipped to deal with the rudimentary task of showing you what's happening on screen that you might as well pop a blindfold on and try using The Force.
The story is slight, and possessed Dad – Jim Carver from The Bill for the 30-somethings among you – is more amusing than scary. The constraints of filming during a pandemic are clear – no two people are ever in the same room at the same time – and in terms of production values it's more school play than Hollywood. But Julie Dray is a sympathetic lead and the run time is barely an hour and change so it never has an opportunity to outstay its welcome.
Ultimately, how much you enjoy I Saw Black Clouds is going to hinge on your appreciation level for schlocky horror and low-budget psychological thrillers. It's an amusing enough diversion, but the story may leave you unsatisfied depending on your route through the game, and there's nothing here that you haven't already seen in a dozen straight to DVD clangers starring Stephen Baldwin or Tara Reid.
We played it three times over a couple of bottles of wine, cringing together, laughing at the awkward conversations, and rolling our eyes in unison when one girl announced she was "an influencer". So if you've got a big bottle of claret and someone to play this with we'd recommend it. If you're on your own and after a romantic comedy, we'd probably go for The Wedding Singer.