How many other games can keep you glued to the screen for 20 minutes while a little cartoon guy chops away at a crystal? At the same time, the tendency of some to ascribe brilliance to media tinged with novelty is misguided. Any meaning that runs deeper than the shallow concepts directly addressed in-game will be more a case of your imagination running amok than the game trafficking in deep ideas. The Longing definitely won’t be for everyone, but as an interesting departure from what ordinarily constitutes a “game,” I’d say that it’s worthwhile for the most part. Just be aware going in that it can run out of steam long before you’re finished.
Half Past Fate can be an incredibly sweet game, and the way even its minor characters reappear so that you can track how their lives change (or don’t) can be incredibly fulfilling. Rarely, though, the good intentions of characters can cause some of this sweetness to feel a touch contrived and unbelievable. Still, the story comes together in a really nice way, and the game’s simple mechanics rarely get in the way.
At its best, Ori and the Will of the Wisps has the area design and pacing of an unforgettable platformer, and the ways it improves on its predecessor are every bit as welcome as they are subtle. Every so often, however, it forgets how to keep that momentum up and instead throws a gimmicky chase sequence or annoying area gimmick into the mix to slow you down.
Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight isn’t a bad game by any stretch of the imagination. Still, I can’t wrap my head around why it’s considered superior to Minoria. The absence of a leveling system and rarity of mandatory enemy encounters make this a faster game to complete, and the smaller player character makes it feel like you have more room during boss fights, but I continually found myself missing Minoria‘s interesting movement techs and stun-based combat.
Hypergalactic Psychic Table Tennis 3000, or as I came to know it, “that game I’m totally going to copy/paste the name of because there’s no way I’m not screwing up such a mouthful at some point,” is a game that answers a question that gaming has left unaddressed for almost 50 years: what if a Pong paddle could enter into shallow Mass Effect-style romances with its opponents and experience an existential crisis? This is a game that takes Pong, throws some interesting mechanics on top like magical abilities and paddle durability, and then goes so completely bonkers with its writing that it’s impossible not to respect it.
While wasp swarms didn’t prove crucial to the gameplay like I expected they might, being able to domesticate them with hugs is nevertheless a handy metaphor for Dwarrows‘ gameplay—a little painful, but so charmingly weird in its positivity that it’s easy to overlook some rough edges that break puzzles and cause your town expansion to grind to a halt.
All 9 levels are paced well, being superbly balanced so that they’re doable but difficult, and the combination of Project AETHER‘s ubiquitous leaderboard and numerous short challenge levels allow it to last longer than you’d expect given its relatively brief campaign length. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, however; there are a fair number of bugs to contend with, and some of the stages have backgrounds that are a dull orange or red that obscures enemy projectiles in an annoying way.
It’s only once all of the ill-advised puzzle and platforming mechanics have been introduced and enough time has passed for you to become comfortable with them that things begin to click, by which point you’ll also have extra attacks that help to paper over the inconsistent context-sensitivity and frequency with which you become stuck in the floor. Even then, Darksiders Genesis can go horribly awry—boss fights are weirdly unbalanced and gimmicky, and it’s often impossible to differentiate between platforms and decorations that cause you to void out and take damage—but there’s an underlying charm that almost makes it worth it.
Despite looking like a management-style game and bearing many of the signature elements of such a game, the goal isn’t necessarily to follow the rules. In fact, there isn’t really a set “goal” that you’re aiming for, as bad endings can be every bit as amusing as good ones, and you’re mostly figuring out how much you can get away with before experimenting with killing and sparing people based on coin flips, the voice of Grim’s conscience that sometimes confronts you in the mirror, and whatever capricious whims strike when reading a short synopsis of a person’s life. There aren’t any bad decisions, after all: just ones that can accidentally wipe out the human race.
LUNA The Shadow Dust is an excellent example of this genre when most everything clicks, with its room-by-room structure and clever puzzles complementing the slower movement speed rather than feeling hindered by it. There are also some downsides to be aware of, among which a final puzzle that stretches LUNA‘s wordless insistence that you figure out the rules to each puzzle to its breaking point, but they do little to diminish the charm.