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.
Tough, beautiful retro games might seem like they’re everywhere these days. You might be losing track of them all in the midst of this recent deluge. I promise Cyber Shadow is one of the good ones. A delicate balance is struck between challenge and accessibility, leaving you bloodied and eager for more. The art and the music is among the best you’ll see all year long. Finally, the mechanical guts of this game are perfectly tuned. While some players will be rebuked by certain NES-era sensibilities (like the knockback effect), the overall experience is practically sublime. If you’re looking for a Ninja Gaiden send-up that’s been dragged into the 21st century, look no further than Cyber Shadow.
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.