James Paley


173 games reviewed
75.2 average score
75 median score
42.2% of games recommended
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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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86 / 100 - Battle Axe
Apr 22, 2021

Battle Axe might be an excellent arcade game, but that’s a flaw as well as a feature. Extended play sessions, like those you find in Infinite Mode, can quickly wear out their welcome. You can only blow apart so many orcs before you start yearning for more. Maybe the gameplay loop doesn’t escape that cabinets and coins territory, but it doesn’t need to. The action that’s available is nothing short of exemplary. Fluid pixel art animation, tight controls, retro music and audio, and an intense challenge all elevate this game beyond ordinary nostalgia. If you’re looking for your next arcade game, you absolutely can’t miss Battle Axe.

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Apr 15, 2021

Abe’s weird little world is a bit darker than I was expecting, but it works, after a fashion. The curious juxtaposition of the art design and the narrative makes a strange, yet compelling, impression on the player. The gameplay can trip you up if you’re not used to that stiffer 90s PC platforming style, but you eventually find those muscles. I ran into a few nasty roadblocks, but I never got impossibly stuck. More than the mechanical hurdles, my biggest hurdles were conceptual. Returning to this world, this flavor of frustration and satisfaction, won’t be for everybody. If you’re looking for a portal into an oft-forgotten slice of gaming history, Oddworld: Soulstorm will open that for you. This is an elevated, modernized window into puzzle platformers of the recent past. A little patience and a little perseverance will introduce you to a strange new world.

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72 / 100 - Outriders
Apr 5, 2021

What we have here are two stories told with mixed results. The grim, gorgeous sci-fi saga fell flat for me. I couldn’t get invested in this last leg of the human race turning to tribalism and violence in the face of adversity. I’m pretty bored with ‘special soldier saves the day’ stories. But the loot cycle was a different matter. This tale of frustration, anticipation, determination, and joy was immediately compelling. I dug into the mechanical guts early and easily. The combat is varied, breathless, and brutal. The character progression is a decent mix of stats and skills, there’s a ton of customization to mess around with, and the difficulty scaling is perfectly fluid. I can tolerate a lot of nonsense in exchange for a good gameplay loop. But if you’re hoping for a package as good as the prize, you might be disappointed. So long as you’re prepared to dig a little for that glittering pearl, there’s a ton of fun to be had with Outriders.

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Farm sims, at least the cute and casual ones like Story of Seasons, fall into a comfortable groove. You know what you’re getting into when you fire up one of these games. Pioneers of Olive Town is no exception. Yet, is that really so bad? If these kind of chop/craft/till/harvest/date cycles appeal to you, Olive Town will be just the dose you’re looking for. The game loop is well-crafted, the systems are polished to a glittering sheen, and the pace is downright swift. On the other hand, if you’re sick of the usual farm sim routine, this isn’t gonna win you over. We’re in well-trodden territory here. But of you’re anything like me, more adorable farming is exactly what the doctor ordered.

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