The name of the game is simplicity. Nelke and the Legendary Alchemists: Ateliers of the New World offers an experience that takes aspects of many genres and boils them down to the basics, for better and for worse.
On that note, there's little you can get from The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II that you couldn't get from other titles that likewise do it better. The narrative is winding and confusing, the characters are off-putting, and the visuals are a sore sight for the eyes. While the music and gameplay show some glimmers of promise, they ultimately end up feeling lifeless and overcomplicated, respectively. At the end of the day, Trails of Cold Steel II ends up feeling like a middle-of-the-road shonen anime that's a little too scatter-brained, and you have to slog through the off-screen battles.
At the end of the day, the charm and well-loved characters are not enough to save Asterix & Obelix XXL 2. It feels like a slog of collecting a certain number of items to get from point A to point B — lather, rinse and repeat. Nothing lands well, other than the updated graphics. No amount of cheesy puns and well-pandered references could save a game from itself when it's poorly made, even if it was decently remastered.
The unfulfilling combat further weakens the game. The positives of giving players access to many different game modes, including a hefty amount of content, and providing really cool music makes Unexplored an overall average title. It's still fun to explore, but the game's lack of flair inhibits the desire to try another round, and the gameplay alone isn't enough to sell it.
Dragon's Crown Pro makes strides in updating the side-scrolling beat-'em-up genre by incorporating light RPG mechanics well. The overall setting and simplicity of getting into the game are intriguing, but the art style is jarring, and the story paper-thin. While I understand the latter is not the reason to play this type of game, it's frustrating to see and feel how flimsy it comes off. The gameplay is solid, and the innovations are intriguing, but the rest of Dragon's Crown Pro is rather shallow.
Overall, Farming Simulator 19 plays well and effectively puts you in the shoes of a farmer. Many use games as sort of escapism, to become something fantastical, powerful, to overcome evil, etc. Farming Simulator serves the same general purpose, only in a more realistic and tangible way by sating our curiosity about a profession that many of us will never know.
Runbow works against itself by creating needless tedium throughout the game. The controls, shaky and particular platforming, and waiting for the background colors to flip in order to progress are all damning in a platforming game, and the frustrating background music makes the title feel so much longer. This isn't the only takeaway because the game's aesthetics and premise are pretty good: racing to the end of the level with cool '60s aesthetics and deft maneuvering through visual gameplay cues! 13AM had a really cool idea that mostly works but unfortunately gets lost within a slew of issues. Runbow could be a great game for the dedicated speedster, but for most others, it comes off as pretty, but lackluster.
For Switch owners, especially those looking for a quality management sim, New Star Manager is a must own. At just $19.99, It represents a carefree amusing experience absolutely perfect for your daily travel or free time at home. This is no doubt a very pleasant portable gaming experience that provides a level of depth that's more than heavy enough to hold its own.
The VideoKid takes the idea of nostalgia and runs (or skateboards) with it. Not only does it use the likes of Baywatch, Bill & Ted, and Fraggle Rock to grab the attention of potential players, but also tops it off as a speedy homage to a classic Atari game. As far as planning goes, it's intriguing. It's fun to throw VHS tapes and jump over the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but the presentation and design don't hold up. With a single level that becomes repetitive after a few hours, gameplay changes that are prohibitive or distracting, and the overall feel of an app game on a console, the quality of The VideoKid is slightly above average. It doesn't feel like a game I'd boot up my console to play, but it feels like something I'd play while another title is downloading.
Death's Gambit saw the opportunity to take two genres and tweak them enough to make a new game out of it — and it worked. The core mechanics, while markedly unoriginal, are genuinely fun to play, and the stunning sound and visuals make it a treat to experience. This game is far from perfect, though, with a lacking story and unfortunately glitchy points, but is still worth the time and money to check out. While I wouldn't say that Death's Gambit is an improvement upon either Metroidvania or Souls-like games, it's a great addition to both genres.
Throughout Mugsters, Reinkout has created a game that solidifies how well interactivity and fun work together. The addition of a simple goal and no instructions makes this game an absolute blast to play. While the controls can sometimes be wonky, Mugsters still works well. In general, even the game's side missions (collecting people to save from the levels, destroying certain weapons, etc.) are fun, intriguing, and feel like they're worth the time. Coupled with the vibrant aesthetics and minimal tone and sound, this makes Mugsters a fascinating puzzle game that feeds the player's curiosity like few other games have.
Steel Rats presents an interesting idea to the player: an affable biker gang hounded by metal fiends, combining two wildly different game genres by using your bike as a weapon while riding through a dingy, destructible world. This all sounds incredibly intriguing on paper, but unfortunately, it falls flat on the delivery. Tate Multimedia tried to pack too much into Steel Rats for all of its parts to work together in a fun and cohesive way. It can be done, as proven by roguelike rhythm game Crypt of the Necrodancer, which stuck to the core elements of each genre. Frequently in Steel Rats, the solution is to use one tactic and move on, or skip it entirely rather than fumbling through the different genres. When this kind of gameplay meets the unassuming visuals and banal audio, the title becomes lackluster.
This review began before with a parallel to early man, so why stop now? Narcosis, in its own way, brings humanity's drive for survival to the forefront of the player's mind, showing that the will to live is truly a harrowing war of attrition. The game is unrelenting in its goal of putting you into the shoes of someone haunted by the depths of the sea, both figuratively and literally. The story is simple but well-written, with even the flavor text of the fallen co-workers showing humanity in a couple of sentences each. The visuals are good, the controls are formidable, and the audio is stunning. Sure, the gameplay and story can be a little slow, and the narration is somewhat gauche and not well mixed, but these are minor issues in an otherwise intriguing, original game that shows the potential of human helplessness in a visceral and highly informative way. Narcosis is a mystery that plays on how little we know about our own world, as the game aggressively reminds us with elements of supernatural terror.
As an action JRPG that focuses on music and European themes, Shining Resonance: Refrain hits about half of its marks. The European aspects with gallant warriors fighting off the impending doom of dragons is incredibly fun in this game. It's the perfect amount of challenge, and it almost presents the player with a JRPG-Musou hybrid that's rewarding to play. However, music and story are largely lacking in the game, either being convoluted or unimaginative, if not both. Given the overly complex customization and sexist tones, the whole project drops from above average to lackluster. Shining Resonance: Refrain is a learning opportunity in recognizing when parts of a game are overextended or outdated.
Adventure Pals seeks to be the weird alternative game that your kids will love, and it looks attractive because it's reminiscent of a mix of different games and familiar shows. Unfortunately, its unashamed emulation of other works is both glaring and disappointing. What isn't disappointing, though, are the game mechanics, which may be similar to others, but can be framed as a teaching mechanism for game experiences to come. Combined with punchy controls, this makes for a wonderful skeleton of a game, although it's regrettably tightly draped in the likes of superstar media from yesteryear.
While Bleed 2 offers all of these points of nostalgia, it still lacks the flourish to establish itself. It's a fun game, but it suffers from being pulled in two different directions — appealing to an older, nostalgic audience while adding new game modes and variants to keep it fresh and replayable.