James Paley


177 games reviewed
75.1 average score
75 median score
41.8% of games recommended
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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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While it’s not perfect, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD is a massive improvement over the original release.

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DLC content needs to walk a fine line between substantial and exhausting. Pulse of The Ancients doesn’t always pull it off, but it almost isn’t meant to. This is endgame content, you see. There’s no handholding or pleasant jaunts happening here. This is a vicious gauntlet, a sweaty sprint through harsh plains under a blistering sun. The boss battles are brutal, the Royal Ancient Tech Lab is crazy long, and there’s little relief on the horizon. Players hoping for a victory lap after the main campaign might find one, but only if they fully dominated the base game. Otherwise, Pulse of The Ancients is a tough new challenge that sits neatly at the end of Age of Calamity.

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70 / 100 - Legend of Mana
Jun 22, 2021

On the surface, this game has all the ingredients to make a great RPG. The graphics are gorgeous, the soundtrack is infectious, the combat is approachable yet complex, and there’s a ton of replay value. Unfortunately, the disparate pieces don’t hang together quite right. Without a strong central narrative, you’re left bouncing around for the whole playthrough. And without a comprehensive walkthrough, you’ll be doing so for quite a long time. There’s a serious barrier to entry, but I still managed to enjoy myself in spite of all this. If you read all that and still want to dive in, then don’t hesitate to do so. Despite all the strange roadblocks, Legend of Mana has a lot to offer any action RPG fan with a little patience and perseverance.

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Should you play this game? That depends. If you haven’t played Final Fantasy 7 Remake before this, you absolutely must. The PS5 version is the definitive way to do so. The upgraded framerate alone makes a strong case in Intergrade’s favor. Although if you already own the original, the upgrade isn’t new enough for a second playthrough. I’m playing it a second time, but you totally don’t have to. As for the Intermission DLC, it serves as an excellent appetizer while we wait for part two. By the time you’re done with Final Fantasy 7 Remake Intergrade, that wait will feel like an eternal one.

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90 / 100 - Backbone
Jun 7, 2021

Between the clever mechanics, the compelling narrative, and the gorgeous pixel art, there’s a real fire lit beneath you from the very start. If you’re looking for a detective story with glistening fangs, glittering eyes, and sharpened hooks, Backbone will be perfect for you.

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72 / 100 - Miitopia
May 26, 2021

Personal freedom and flexibility are essential components in any good RPG. Miitopia has this in spades, yet it’s sorely lacking in some other key areas. Things like the main narrative and the RPG portion are relatively threadbare. Even so, the highlights are charming enough that you’re not so concerned about that. In some respects, there’s barely a game here at all. And yet, I’m still charmed by what I consider to be the core gameplay. Not the tedious battles or the humdrum story, but the interpersonal bonds and endless customization. If you’re looking for some laid-back fun in short chunks, this will be perfect for you. On the other hand, the game is missing big sections of what makes a good RPG. So long as you’re up for a leisurely tour through an endless succession of inns, Miitopia will be a great time.

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68 / 100 - King of Seas
May 24, 2021

If you can get sufficiently sucked into the gameplay, every other problem seems insignificant. On the other hand, if any part of the moment-to-moment experience starts to drag, it can pull you right out of the game. In other words, if all you want to do is sail around starting fights, slowly gathering power until you become a force of nature on the waves, King of Seas is perfect for you. Conversely, if you’re looking for something more multifaceted and less focused, you may want to steer clear. I thought sailing and sea battles would sustain me. Perhaps there’s more to being a pirate after all.

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May 11, 2021

The various gameplay loops have been tweaked, modified, and expanded from the original, but fans of the first game will find a lot of this very familiar. On the other hand, if you’ve been starving for more Subnautica, Below Zero is an absolute feast. You’re constantly scanning, salvaging, crafting, cooking, and expanding your little empire. Depending on your tolerance for stress, this can either be a serene little salt-crusted sandbox, or a nail-biting marathon. Either way, Subnautica: Below Zero is one ocean expedition you won’t want to miss.

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75 / 100 - Skate City
May 4, 2021

Beyond the actual gameplay, Skate City has some serious merit as an introduction to the world of lo-fi hip hop. These tracks will haunt you in the kindest fashion possible, quiet and blissful beats that bounce around your subconsciousness for weeks afterwards. If you’re looking for a more soft-focus, laid-back skateboarding game, Skate City is not to be missed.

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