James Paley


168 games reviewed
75.0 average score
75 median score
41.7% of games recommended
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55 / 100 - Gods Will Fall
Jan 28, 2021

From a narrative perspective, the elevated difficulty and unfair mechanics are perfectly appropriate. How else do you make players feel like they’re taking on the gods themselves? Uneven rules and impossible odds, combined with the sinister music and the desolate world, create a lasting feeling of hopeless doom. And yet for me, it’s too much. I get that fighting the gods should be crazy hard, but the strange combat rhythms and the extra-permanent death system are a bridge too far. Hoping for the right weapon, losing that fighter to a mis-timed jump, and then struggling for 20 more minutes for a brief, ill-fated boss attempt? This kind of cruelty feels downright excessive. If, like me, you’ve grown weary of toil and suffering in your games, consider this your fair warning. On the other hand, if you’re thirsting for a relentless challenge, Gods Will Fall will be all you’re looking for and more.

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70 / 100 - Calico
Jan 16, 2021

Such was my time with Calico. The troubles I had were as unobtrusive and gentle as my enjoyment. You’re so laid back, that something like floaty controls or vanishing walls is barely an inconvenience. Conversely, the soft pastel skin of this game is difficult to get a grip on. Players looking for a more involved life sim will come up short, but if comfy gaming is your aim, you’ve struck gold. Calico is a brief, blissful vacation in a world of gentle magic and cute companions. If you’re looking to just relax for a little while, Calico will be exactly your speed.

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Dec 2, 2020

VR still comes with a lot of caveats, but the experience is rapidly improving. Though even with our current limitations, visual novels feel like a natural fit for the medium. The elevated immersion, the low levels of interactivity required, and the pace all feel like inevitable steps forward for the whole visual novel genre. To that end, Beyond Chronos is a great example of what can be done with visual novels in VR. While the voice acting and some of the dialogue is a little rough, the major story beats are truly engaging.

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Nov 23, 2020

This game is kind of a rare beast. The gameplay is more accessible than ever, while the story has reached a new plateau on Mount Convoluted. Players who missed it the first time will be thrilled, but even experienced fans will have good reasons to double dip. The features included make this an excellent Special Edition while being a decent PS5 release. I’m not so invested I want to go back and play the games I missed, though I am glad I came back to the series. If smooth gameplay is your yardstick, then this is the definitive version for you. On the other hand, there are better graphical show pieces for the PS5 out there. Even so, I can easily recommend Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition for new and old fans alike.

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Nov 18, 2020

For me, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity succeeds on two separate fronts. This is a prequel with the narrative heft required for a game in the Zelda franchise. But, this is also a Musou/Warriors game that twists that formula into something unique and engaging. What emerges from this strange union is an experience unlike either set of source material.

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Nov 9, 2020

All I know is that I had more fun than I was expecting, while still being cognizant of the game’s weird, cluttered assembly on full display. I’m padding through the dark, a tourist reading placards to seasoned scholars. In spite of this, I feel confident that fans and newcomers alike will have a pretty good time here.

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70 / 100 - Ghostrunner
Nov 2, 2020

Without my suffering-tinted lenses, Ghostrunner is a fast-paced, tough-ass platformer. Every stage is a non-stop barrage of fresh new challenges. Death is around every corner if you ever stop moving. You’ll experience crushing defeat in a host of different ways, but your victories will be all the sweeter. You can choose your path to victory, with multiple routes available through some of the larger stages. On the aesthetic side of things, more or less every stage is drenched in cyberpunk minutiae. The neon, the grime, and the violence lend an electric urgency to your already death-defying exploits. My only warning is this: know what you’re in for first. First-person action platform games aren’t for everyone. Of course, I had to play one to discover this, so who knows! Maybe a new favorite subgenre is waiting in the wings.

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If you’ve got fond memories of this series, then the Definitive Edition of AoE 3 will hook you good. This new model looks and sounds great, there’s a ton of new battlefields to conquer, and new ways to do that conquering.

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90 / 100 - Disc Room
Oct 22, 2020

I had no real expectations for this game, and I still managed to be blindsided by what I discovered. Tough, tiny indie games often try to supplement their size with atmosphere, but the results are often mixed. Here, a small project from a smaller team has brewed a fabulous blend of mechanical finesse and atmospheric splendor. The game is crazy hard, and some of the puzzle elements are pretty obtuse, but I still loved it. If you’re not so impressed by the screenshots and the trailers, take my word for it: Disc Room is so much better than you’re expecting it to be.

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Every design choice made in this game is sensible and wrong at the same time. The motion controls are an essential feature that rob you of any capacity for precision movements. The courses themselves are marked by a ‘race track’ that enables navigation and interrupts your sense of elevation. The disappearing dialogue boxes keep cutscenes from feeling static while distracting you from what’s being said. VR Broom Racing constantly gets in its own way, and the game is somehow right to do so. If you’re looking for a well-designed magical racing game, Little Witch Academia: VR Broom Racing is just what you’re looking for. I’m just not sure you’ll enjoy it.

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