James Paley


218 games reviewed
75.0 average score
75 median score
40.8% of games recommended
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Sep 30, 2022

Sim games approach their subjects with a mix of reverence and intense focus. Unlike more arcade-style skateboarding games, Session is a pure, unfiltered experience. If you want to recreate the slow, careful process of learning how to skate, this is your game. But be warned! The mix of intense difficulty and self-directed gameplay isn’t for everyone. Anything less than a pure, powerful love for skateboarding will leave you feeling dissatisfied with this game. But if you’re looking for a pure challenge, and don’t mind a few bugs, you’re in luck. Session: Skate Sim is exactly what you’ve been waiting for.

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This game is a great time, with a couple minor caveats. If you don’t mind the random, roguelike nature of the combat, then you’ll love it. If you’re playing on PC, you’ll love it even more. The writing is snappy, the action is fast-paced, and the character designs are terrific. I had a hard time grappling with the roguelike elements, however. There’s certain patience this sort of system demands of you, and I don’t have enough of it. On the other hand, if running experiments on hapless humans in dank dungeons appeals to you, take heart! Despot’s Game will be right up your alley.

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90 / 100 - Splatoon 3
Sep 16, 2022

Taken as a whole, Splatoon 3 is an engaging, exciting experience. You can cycle between weapon load-outs, game modes, and gear to keep things fresh. The solo campaign is always there if you ever get truly stuck, though it does nothing for your overall progression. The Anarchy Battles are a massive boost, with enough game types to keep you hooked for ages. The battles themselves are slick and speedy, with a host of potential strategies to help you eke out a win. I’d love more customization, and I’ve no patience for motion controls, but these are minor troubles. While it doesn’t re-invent the wheel, Splatoon 3 is a lot more of an already great idea.

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70 / 100 - Splatoon 3
Sep 7, 2022

The Alterna campaign is only a slice of the Splatoon 3 pie. As such, my final score comes with some caveats. Though the mechanical elements are rock solid, the look and feel of the game is still off. At least for me, this campaign content feels subdued and a little lonely. Taken as part of the complete experience, the single-player content is something of a safe house. A quiet space where you can sharpen your skills and experiment with new weapons. Even so, the solo campaign for Splatoon 3 had me longing for the chaos of the online arena.

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I’m not sure how I feel about this collection. I didn’t enjoy most of the games I played. And yet, this release does an admirable job gathering up so much Turtles history and memorabilia. You’ve got the games, the box art, the concept sketches, the music, and the TV stills. You have a clear snapshot of the Turtles hype train running at full speed. The effect is so complete this collection feels like a curated museum exhibit. On the other hand, the games are mostly bad. The action is repetitive, the difficulty balance is busted, and the stage design is mostly an afterthought. If you’re looking for a thoughtful essay on Ninja Turtles history, then look no further. If you want a bunch of fun games, The Cowabunga Collection is not for you.

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80 / 100 - Cult of the Lamb
Aug 10, 2022

If you want a roguelite with a sinister twist, you’re in luck. Cult of The Lamb is just the game you’re looking for.

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Jul 26, 2022

This review might seem short, especially for such a gigantic game. There’s just so much I can’t disclose. Bits of the combat and the mechanics of course, but mainly the story. It’s just much better if you experience these things yourself. I will say that this story manages to be both relatable and enormous. You want – almost desperately – to see how this thing shakes out. I wish the combat wasn’t so sluggish at times. It almost obstructs the narrative, having to wade through these disconnected battles. But the quest system is engaging, and the battles do eventually make sense. The writing is great, and the voice acting is getting better with every game. Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is a gigantic, epic adventure. It’s also bloated, hyperactive, and easily distracted. It’s beautiful but flat, it’s weird yet familiar. If you’re looking for a massive new JRPG, the latest Xenoblade game is here for you.

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72 / 100 - Live A Live
Jul 21, 2022

Although these are fairly bite-sized adventures, each one packs a remarkable punch. Every chapter works to distinguish itself from the rest of the pack, and it shows. While I can’t recommend each story with equal vigor, I am impressed with the total package. Sure, I would prefer fewer chances to soft-lock yourself. I’d also love to leave behind some of the level grinding. But the core gameplay loop is still fun. Between the wild stories, the engaging combat, and the incredible voice acting, Live A Live feels like much more than the sum of its parts. If you’re any kind of fan of classic JRPGs, you owe it to yourself to check out this game.

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Jun 22, 2022

Three Hopes combines the epic narrative scale of Fire Emblem with the massive fights of a Warriors game. The end result feels properly grand, at least during those colossal end-of-chapter battles. You can still get pretty lost in the side quest sauce, but that’s fine. It’s those diversions that make your characters matter, at least when they’re off the field. I’d love a little more combat complexity, but I get why it’s absent. Not everyone makes it home, after all. If you’ve been missing this franchise since Three Houses, take heart! Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is a gigantic adventure jam-packed with everything you love about the series. If you can open your heart to the Warriors gameplay, you’ll find a terrific entry in the FE series awaits you.

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70 / 100 - Sonic Origins
Jun 21, 2022

Sega is straight-up hooked on compilations. Their old catalogue has come out on everything from the PS2 to the Mini Genesis. You almost certainly own half the games in this collection several times over. On the other hand, Sonic 3 and Sonic CD are two terrific games that deserve your attention. Plus, Sega has done an admirable job in filling this collection with bonus content. And we can’t overlook the accessibility win that is Anniversary Mode. While there are a lot of old Sonic games that deserve this treatment more, Sonic Origins has earned a place of sorts. If you’re looking for a glittery shrine to Sonic’s 2D era, this collection has got you covered.

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Shredder’s Revenge has a pretty specific target audience. But if you fall within that narrow strike zone, this game is amazing. The animation is incredible, the action is well-crafted, and that Turtles attitude is on full display. If you aren’t an old-school TMNT fan with a penchant for beat ’em ups, maybe you can appreciate the pixel art. The actual game design is excellent, as well. It’s just hard to imagine what this game looks like without nostalgia goggles on. Even if you’ve never seen a single episode of that extremely dated cartoon, check this game out. I promise TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge is a blast either way.

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50 / 100 - Diablo Immortal
Jun 9, 2022

I wanted to like this game a lot more than I did. It feels great to go ripping around dank little dungeons, snagging loot and slaying demons. I love the visuals and the sound design, I love the fast-paced combat. Hell, I even love level grinding! But the game is crammed to the rafters with predatory In-App Purchases. Blizzard wants to squeeze you dry, and they’re not shy about it, either. The endgame makes it clear that players are being treated like cash cows, livestock with active credit cards. The first half of Diablo Immortal is a competent, compelling action RPG. But under no circumstances should you touch the endgame.

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Jun 8, 2022

Once I got past those first matches, Battle League was a lot more fun. Every match is tense, fast-paced, and packed with action. You’ve got a layer of strategy with the gear, and every character plays differently. If you’re looking for some Mario-style soccer, this game delivers. On the other hand, it’s a thin offering for solo players. Online matches will greatly extend the life of this game, if you’re looking for more challenges. I wish the teammate switching system wasn’t so clunky. I’d also love a larger roster to choose from. But if you’ve got enough opponents, Mario Strikers: Battle League is a pretty great time.

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80 / 100 - Souldiers
May 31, 2022

For a game composed of familiar elements, Souldiers still managed to surprise me. If nothing else, the game’s execution is exemplary. Even if you’ve played a ton of pixel art, soulsborne, and Metroidvania titles, this particular blend is a satisfying one. The art direction is beautiful, the controls are tight, and design is rock solid. If you’re looking for a new 2D adventure, Souldiers will easily scratch that itch.

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May 18, 2022

Are you thrilled by the prospect of elevating a town to its full potential? Do you relish the thought of digging up treasure with a growing cast of companions? If so, Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is just what you’ve been looking for. Otherwise, I suggest you proceed with caution.

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Apr 27, 2022

All of these games are great in short bursts. It’s only over repeated play sessions that they start to falter. To that end, your enjoyment is tied to your playstyle. Will you bust out Nintendo Switch Sports whenever friends drop by or log on? Perfect. You’ll get months of use out of this game. But if you lean too hard on these activities all at once, you’ll be burnt out in a couple of days.

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Apr 24, 2022

Honestly, Zombie Army 4 is exactly what you’re expecting it to be. Which is totally fine! If you’ve got a craving for gory undead violence, this game has just what you’re looking for. In spite of the weird pacing and curious boss placements, there’s still a lot of fun to be had. Especially if you’ve got a propensity for long range kills and curious weapons. If you want a dang decent undead action game on the Switch, check out Zombie Army 4: Dead War.

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Apr 20, 2022

The Force Unleashed is a fascinating slice of video game history. Unfortunately it’s not exactly fun history, not anymore. Again, your mileage may vary. Perhaps you’ve lately grown wistful about motion controls. Maybe you long for the days when quick-time events were a much bigger part of mainstream gaming. For me, revisiting this chapter of gaming’s history was downright unpleasant at times. I loved messing around with force powers and lightsabers, but that only gets you so far. If you’ve got fond memories of this game, they’ll likely survive a subsequent playthrough. Otherwise, I’d be wary of jumping into Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.

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For all the flaws I’ve dragged out, I still love this game. The powerful music, the ethereal visuals, and the fascinating plot all deserve special attention. And yes, there’s a lot of weird, dense mechanics to wade through. But this just requires some patience and planning. To that end, Chrono Cross: The Radical Dreamers Edition isn’t for everybody. But if you’re looking for a unique 32-bit RPG that will stick with you for years to come? You’ll want to check out Chrono Cross.

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75 / 100 - Weird West
Mar 31, 2022

The beautiful thing about Weird West is also what makes it critically impenetrable. At least for me, my enjoyment of the game is tied to my particular playstyle. If you’re more ruthless with NPCs, if you’re more stealth-focused, or if you’re more patient, this is a very different game. So my frustration with the stealth is a sign to sneak around less. If I’m unhappy with the story, I can always change how it ends. Conversely, the movement and aiming controls are a tangible way of making your platforming choice. If you’re looking for a western RPG with this sort of blissful, overwhelming freedom, you’ve come to the right place. For better or for worse, Weird West has that freedom.

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