[T]he absence of a specific achievement and some telling dialogue about how my character isn’t strong enough to confront a key character despite having obtained every collectible phrase in every chapter of the game suggests that Kotodama: The 7 Mysteries of Fujisawa simply failed to register my progress. As a result, I had to restart the game from the beginning in the hope that it’d work, and my second attempt to reach the end resulted in a bug that gated off a crucial dialogue choice.
Many plot threads are resolved, and the observant will be able to narrow down the catalyst for the overarching mystery to two possibilities, but a number of details and ancillary mysteries are left unaddressed so as to impart to the ending the same feeling of creeping uncertainty that defines much of the preceding game.
Undead Horde is an action RPG blended into an Overlord/Pikmin-style management game where your horde of resurrected enemies deal the bulk of your damage and have to be continually replaced with freshly-fallen foes as they suffer a final death. The gameplay difficulty, then, arises from poor party configurations that lead to your numbers being overrun faster than they can finish off enemies, ensuring that your numbers continually thin until you’re all alone against a group of enemies.
[T]he moment-to-moment gameplay is actually remarkably solid when everything is working as expected, and the underlying brilliance of the gameplay systems and their numerous tactical possibilities shines through even when it isn’t. With some rebalancing, quality of life improvements, and bug fixes, Zombotron could be quite the special game.
Yes, you can interact with some of the animals in minor ways and use trees to give yourself a burst of forward momentum. Yes, you can throw seeds down to create trees. Yes, you can create bridges and wander around a handful of different biomes while the scenery grows around you. Without a goal driving you, however, this carries the same amount of weight as being lost in a supermarket.
Bizarrely, Witch Thief is a bullet hell game where bullets are the least of your concerns; a sudden freeze can leave you with a single frame to react to a fireball (and you don’t move fast enough to get out of the way even if you have the reflexes to respond appropriately), while other times you find yourself hit by objects that are either behind you or obscured thanks to the camera’s refusal to cooperate.
I enjoyed the original game greatly, but its sequel surpasses it in almost every way; whereas the original game was a highly enjoyable distraction, One Finger Death Punch 2 quickly becomes an addiction that you can lose huge chunks of time to without noticing. This is simply a bigger, more complex game sporting more moving parts, and while its changes take a little getting used to at first, it’s such an improvement that the original pales in comparison.
Of course, the way you move from left to right is by manipulating a giant contraption through a series of buttons that you have to manually run around and press, relying on a sail and the release of steam built up by its engine to maximize your speed and distance while minimizing the amount of fuel that you use. It’s a bizarre concept that ends up being incredibly entertaining, and while FAR: Lone Sails may only last 2-3 hours, it’s filled with more than enough memorable moments to be worthwhile.
As desperately as I wanted to love Grimshade, it’s a broken game—its mechanics are a mess, popups that explain how things work are either needlessly vague or outright empty, bugs lurk around every corner, and it’s difficult to understand what’s happening at any given point because the dialogue is filtered through a prism of typos and wrong portraits/names that make it impossible to tell who’s speaking during conversations.
Claybook is a racing game, a physics platformer, and a resource management game at different points, existing as a kind of playground for numerous different experiences of wildly varying quality, but all of this evens out into a “jack of all trades, master of none” type of game that’s surprisingly easy to walk away from.
The story is vanilla to a fault, the mechanics are clumsy and imprecise, and the methods used to ramp up the difficulty aren’t always fair (or even fair-adjacent), but Eternity: The Last Unicorn has that nebulous spark of magic often referred to as “heart” burning beneath it. As always seems to be the case with such games, that means that there’s a 50/50 chance that you’ll either love it or hate it.
There’s not a huge amount of variance, but that’s to be expected of a game with 4 worlds, and it allows Overcome to be a very tightly-paced experience—I ended up finishing the game a couple minutes shy of 1½ hours, while I could see someone more at home with difficult platformers finishing in 30 minutes to an hour. Average players, on the other hand, might end up needing 2-3 hours.
Degrees of Separation is a charming puzzle-platformer, though that charm occasionally gives way to devilishly challenging puzzles designed to prey on your expectations and force you to think outside the box. It’s easy to respect the amount of effort that went into the constantly varying puzzles and puzzle mechanics on display here, even if one or two gameplay twists end up being more trouble than they’re worth.
All of these elements coalesce into something unexpectedly coherent and interesting, and while there are some minor performance issues to contend with on the Switch, Airheart‘s gameplay loop and general oddness make it a good fit for the platform.
Arcade Spirits is a game about working in an arcade while striving to balance practicality with idealism, but more importantly, it's also a celebration of gaming and all of the distinct but nevertheless overlapping subsets of gamers it inspires, articulating all sorts of familiar little joys and fears and motivations that are bound to reverberate with many—if not most—of us. This isn't even as heavy-handed as one might expect; Arcade Spirits' preoccupation with bizarre humor provides enough distractions that you'll rarely see emotional moments coming, and they never outlast their welcome.
I managed to make it through my first playthrough with only relatively minor bugs posing a problem, but my second attempt was so fraught with technical issues and crashes that finishing it proved impossible. Robothorium is built around a single autosave, and certain configurations of levels crash 100% of the time, meaning you can find yourself saved into an unwinnable situation.
Thea: The Awakening is one of many games that ended up slipping through the cracks around here for one reason or another, meaning the Nintendo Switch release is my first real experience with it, but all of the talk I’d heard about how it incorporates a number of totally different genres without becoming defined by any of its disparate elements was 100% accurate. Chatter about Thea: The Awakening‘s PC version being superior to its console counterparts also ended up having some substance behind it.