James Paley


186 games reviewed
75.2 average score
75 median score
41.9% of games recommended
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75 / 100 - The Riftbreaker
Oct 14, 2021

I didn’t know what I wanted out of The Riftbreaker. But the result feels both natural and necessary. Of course, you would blend careful base planning with high-speed swarms of monsters. Why wouldn’t we mix these three ideas into one? The RTS strategy, the survival sim resource management, and the tense action all make for a singular experience. This isn’t for everyone, to be sure. Less of a sprint and more of a marathon, the challenge of The Riftbreaker is both sustained and intense. This means things like pacing hiccups feel a lot more potent. Even if the prospect of an extended campaign like this seems daunting, the game’s lush visuals are a soothing balm. If you want something more out of the RTS genre, The Riftbreaker will have what you’re looking for.

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88 / 100 - Metroid Dread
Oct 6, 2021

Metroid Dread takes small, but significant, steps to expand and innovate upon the established series formula. Metroid and Metroidvania fans alike won’t want to miss this entry.

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68 / 100 - In Sound Mind
Sep 28, 2021

All told, In Sound Mind wasn’t the game I was expecting. But I still found myself pushing forward, eager to uncover a little bit more. If you’ve got any appetite for cerebral horror and puzzle solving, In Sound Mind might be just what you’re looking for.

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75 / 100 - SkateBIRD
Sep 16, 2021

Admittedly, my expectations for this game were somewhat low. So long as there were birds on boards, what else could I ask for? And yet, SkateBIRD manages to capture a little of that pure boarding mana, scuffs and all. The controls may skew wide and weird at times, but isn’t it only appropriate? How else would it feel to make a tiny bird steer a skateboard around its owner’s room? I don’t love the initially limited music selection, but I do appreciate going on the hunt for more tracks. Beyond the controls, the customization, and the music, there’s a solid core of skating here. You can easily fall into a calming loop of practice and progress. While it’s not perfect, SkateBIRD’s cute premise and its reliable mechanics make for a pretty fun ride.

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Sep 1, 2021

Great Sonic games are a rare breed. At least from a gameplay perspective, it’s tough to nail that balance between blistering speed and precise controls. While Colors: Ultimate never reaches that platonic ideal, it gets pretty close! Really, it’s hard to ask for much more than that. Plus, the writing is snappy, the graphics are vibrant, the soundtrack is amped up, and the difficulty scales up nicely. You can glimpse the plateau of mastery on the horizon, and it feels attainable. As far as remasters go, everything looks and feels great. There’s not a ton of new content, but the original release is still very strong. If you’ve been searching for the elusive ‘good’ Sonic game, then Sonic Colors: Ultimate will easily scratch that itch.

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Aug 24, 2021

Rather than score the game itself, what follows is an evaluation of the remaster. On that front, this is a fantastic release. I ran into a slight snag running it on the PS5, but that was it. Between the five campaigns, the console mods, and the multiplayer, this is a lot of bang for your buck. The controls are intuitive, the graphics are crisp, and the soundtrack is still excellent. I wish you weren’t tied to your Bethesda login, but that’s a grievance I can live with. As far as versions of Quake go, this one is exemplary. The platonic ideal, one might say. If you’ve found yourself missing those frantic, gib-centric days of chunky violence and blistering speed, Quake Remastered is exactly what you need. You really can’t get more Quake than this.

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Aug 20, 2021

Any game that mixes genres like this has to make cuts somewhere. In this case, a little depth is traded for accessibility. While this isn’t the most complex dungeon crawler or dating sim, the final result is still quite satisfying. You’re given ample space to explore your violent and romantic impulses. The dating pool is both expansive and inclusive, with excellent writing to match. Though the combat gameplay loop is simple, it offers an engaging challenge with narrative relevance. On the other hand, each half of the gameplay can feel like a distraction from the other half. Maybe this is the price required when smashing two disparate systems together. Even if you end up missing the absent depth, the laid-back pace is a rewarding compensation. If only one-half of this mashup premise appeals to you, what you’re looking for may lie elsewhere. But if you’re looking to blend hacking, slashing, and smooching, Boyfriend Dungeon will be a perfect match.

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On the other hand, if you truly could care less about the plot, there are some fascinating mechanical elements to mess around with here. Using homebrewed potions to level up is a terrific idea. Having a difficulty scale that’s both harsh and forgiving is a great way to hook a wide swath of players. And the hefty list of skills, spells, and summons means you can fight every battle in a new way. But otherwise, you’d best be wary about picking up Witchspring3 Re:Fine – The Story of Eirudy.

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80 / 100 - Button City
Aug 9, 2021

Like a good diorama, Button City has a lot of fine detail. Sure the story is breezy and the characters are charming, but what about the games? What about the simple, engaging level design? I wish the sidequests were less about long walks, yes. I want a run button so very badly, it’s true. And the games could actually be harder. But I still want to visit this weird little town. I want to keep coming back to this arcade, I want to get sick of the only good games, I want to save up for the only good prizes. Whether you remember places like this or not, Button City is a delightful escape to the lost world of arcades. Heck, if you’ve got one in your town, this might convince you to start going again.

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66 / 100 - Blightbound
Jul 27, 2021

Grinding is a pretty delicate balance in games. If you include too much, or not enough, or the wrong kind, you can really throw people for a loop. Blightbound upsets that careful balance, but only slightly. But that’s all it takes! If the pacing, or the difficulty, or the drop rate fall out of sync, you can end up in a nasty slog. All the separate pieces are present, they just don’t hang together quite right, at least not for me.

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