More than anything, Card Shark is an experience. It’s not an exceptionally long game, coming in at eight hours, but it very much suits its length. I wasn’t left unsatisfied, nor did it feel padded. The emphasis on the tricks themselves was oddly compelling as well. By the end of the game I had learned the theory behind a good number of techniques, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted to practice some of these for real.
I want to like this game, I really do. When it works, it works really well. The core gameplay loop is satisfying, the two ideas mesh believably, and figuring out how best to manage the species on a given level is like a fun little puzzle. Actually reaching later planets makes me feel like Sisyphus rolling a boulder up a hill, with the content I’m repeating feeling no different than it did an hour ago when I started my last run.
It’s buggy, the balance is off, and a good 80% of the locations only really serve as random sidequest destinations. But the storytelling drew me in, the stealth worked rather well, and on the occasions when I felt like I had resources to burn it was just so dang satisfying to slow motion dive out from behind a corner while blasting a barrage of shotgun shells.
Infernax keeps the things that worked from the nostalgic classics of yesteryear while changing what didn’t. I haven’t had this much fun with a game in a while. It’s just a perfect blend of difficulty and discovery from start to finish. It’s basic, sure, but sometimes shaving off the excess parts is how you polish something down to its core.
Really, if I had to boil down my issues to one thing, it’s that the developers need to understand how to add content to a game. Games are all about what we as players choose to do, and for extra content to actually mean anything it should ask me to make different choices. For every dating minigame I’m making the same choices every other time that minigame shows up, for every frame of bowling I am making the same choices as every frame before it. All the pretty visuals don’t change that it is the same minute or so of content repeated over and over.
In Sound Mind feels like a call back to yesteryear, in a good way. A style of game design not often seen these days, more of a niche title but one that hits that niche VERY well. It’s easily the best psychological horror game I’ve ever reviewed here, and the amount of polish and sheer heart help it stand out even outside of the niche. Above all else, In Sound Mind is fun. The horror and melancholy of what’s going on in the plot is balanced out by light-hearted camp, the levels are all interwoven exploration puzzles where a new tool invariably makes you realize several new areas you can discover, it’s all so easy to just get lost for hours and hours until next thing you know it’s 3AM.
For all my complaints, Aragami 2 does pull off making you feel like a ninja rather well. Planning just the perfect route to ambush everyone one by one or slip in and out without disturbing anyone felt really satisfying. It manages to tread that fine line of letting you get away with more than is realistic while still making a perfect run challenging that makes a great stealth game. I just can’t help but feel they took a few gambles with changing things up from the original, and took a step backwards as a result.
Fuga: Melodies of Steel is perhaps one of the most impactful games I’ve ever played. The story and gameplay both serve to complement each other, with the story adding so much importance to your decisions, but with the horrible impact of firing the cannon entirely within your power to prevent if you pay attention to all your options. I don’t know if my experience will match everyone else’s, but I sincerely and genuinely felt something from this, and sometimes it just feels good to have something connect with you even as it hurts.
Whether you’re an old fan of the series, looking for a fun visual novel about courtroom intrigue, or just saw a few of the series memes flying around and want to know what it’s all about, you owe it to yourself to pick up The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles.
While it’s true the target audience is a bit niche, at its core Winds of Change is a thrilling fantasy visual novel about the oppressed and downtrodden finding hope and doing everything they can to change their world for the better, a story everyone can enjoy.
Everhood is nothing if not memorable. There’s flaws here and there, but they pale in comparison to the fun and unique time I had. It’s not a very long game, taking around six hours or so for the true ending, but there’s plenty of different choices to make and self-imposed challenges to try.
Nioh 2 is a refinement of an already great game. The biggest flaw in my opinion of the previous title was that it was difficult to hop into. Truly getting to know a moveset required an investment that wasn’t always easy to recover, and trying to put together a build felt foolish for anything you’d replace down the line. Now it feels a lot more open to experimentation.
It feels like someone put a lot of heart into Habroxia 2, but heart only goes so far. It’s a decent enough attempt at a side-scrolling shooter, but lacks the polish I’d expect from a game these days. A bit more balance considerations, some more context for why you’re fighting the things you are, and some longer music tracks, and it would be an alright retro throwback. As it is, it’s a bit mediocre.
Tadpole Treble Encore is certainly what I would call “content dense.” It’s not a long game by any stretch – one of the unlockables is a mode where you go through the whole game in one life with no saving – but it delivers a lot in the time that it has.
I really think of all the ways to adapt Animal Farm, this is definitely one of the best ways. Actually making the decisions and watching corrupt leadership undermine them, or being the one to justify sacrificing the “lesser” people for the “greater good,” really emphasizes how easily selfishness ruins a perfectly good dream.
It has the weighty action and focus on learning enemy patterns to punish, but at eight hours to beat it’s relatively short and is lacking depth in many of its systems. At $30 and with an easier learning curve this is a good starter for anyone who hasn’t played this style of game, but veteran players may find the experience underwhelming.
While I wouldn’t list Fallen Angel as my game of the year, it’s definitely entertaining while it lasts. It’s hard to enough to be satisfying, has a fantastic variety of areas, and the combat is fast and snappy. There’s a few flaws here and there, namely in a few minor bugs and the combat stagnating partway through, but it’s definitely worth the asking price.
Radical Rabbit Stew isn’t a long game, it isn’t a super complex game, but it IS a fun game, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it. The levels are perfect little bite-sized chunks I can pick up whenever, and it hits that mix of challenging enough to be engaging without being frustratingly so.