When it's all boiled down, Pathfinder: Kingmaker - Definitive Edition is a text-heavy, buggy experience on the PlayStation 4. While the level of depth into the original tabletop game is laudable, it ultimately makes for a less game-y experience, opting for faithfulness to the original material rather than focusing on the experience for the console player. Even when factoring in the art, music, and somewhat streamlined gameplay choices, Kingmaker isn't able to break away from its tabletop roots. Instead of scaling up or down based on a player's ability, the game acting as a GM thrusts the onus of knowledge of the game and its rules on the oft-unknowing player from the get-go, alienating many in the process. While the title strips down its core concepts for the video game realm, it simply isn't enough. Seasoned tabletop players and those who are willing to invest the time and effort into learning the systems could sink their teeth into this one if they're willing to look past its buggy warts, but Kingmaker doesn't offer enough different or intriguing content to win over someone who isn't already invested in this system and world.
Much of Kandagawa Jet Girls is done incredibly well. The gameplay is varied and interesting, allowing the player to explore how to best approach races and competition, while also offering fun and upbeat music and visuals along the way. It's all strung together by a well-defined aesthetic, from the menus to the loading screens and the UI. What cannot be forgotten - and what takes away the most from this game - is the obsession with these teen girls' bodies in the design. It's cheap and gross, and it completely detracts from the experience. While the races sometimes become bland with ease, the most glaring point that I took away from the experience is how girls' bodies are depicted and designed in media. When it comes down to it, you can make a game that knocks it out of the park in every way, but if you can't show your teen characters without highlighting their massive cleavage or design them without massive breasts in the first place, then frankly, it's not a respectable product that should be taken seriously, and therefore it isn't good.
Mighty Polygon unabashedly stands on the shoulders of giants with Relicta. The wheel is not reinvented but rather pleasantly spun around and flipped on its head. While further investment into the artistic aspects of this game may have helped clarify some of the issues with sameness and emptiness, the gameplay and narrative overpower these concerns. Puzzles pose just enough of a challenge to keep the player fascinated while the narrative, strong character, and world give the player incentive to progress. Throw in collectibles to round out the details, and you've got quite the adventure for the curious. With a $20 price tag, Relicta may have its shortcomings, but it's challenging, narratively compelling, and - dare I say it? - magnetic. If you enjoy the likes of Portal, get this game.
In sum, Skater XL tries to fill a void in the world of skateboarding video games by offering a valiant blend of the familiar and innovative. The music and aesthetic are warm and welcoming to build a carefree experience for the player. The settings are bright, crisp, and appealing, but the controls and game layout that Easy Day Studios decided to embrace seems misguided. The freedom to explore and create your own lines may be liberating for some, but the lack of direction can leave players cold. Most sandbox games offer something tangible to work toward, to build, to interact with, etc. This same sort of goal isn't in Skater XL, which makes the experience feel blasé. While the game's website touts that there are no specific inputs for tricks as a selling point, this sort of freedom is a nasty combination of overwhelming and undefined. Games generally work when the player is either presented with goals to reach or a world to explore, but Skater XL doesn't provide enough of either to be a fulfilling experience.
Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus is incredibly intriguing and draws in the player with its world-building and tone. The art and music provide just enough to pique one's interest, but as a game, Mechanicus leaves a lot to be desired. I makes itself into such a cookie-cutter experience that progression doesn't feel rewarding, and it reduces the battles to pauses in narrative progression. Top that off with insufferably written narrators, and you get an experience that's tough to sell. The concept and world of Mechanicus are interesting, but the follow-through, laced with lethargic gameplay and sometimes indecipherable characters, is lacking.
At the end of the day, Dungeon of the Endless attempts to scratch a lot of itches by meshing together a lot of different genres, and it manages to do so in a satisfying way. The collection and allocation of resources aren't the most intriguing aspects of the game, but the gameplay is still pretty solid. Meanwhile, the character selection and roguelite elements provide plenty of replayability. The visuals and music are predominantly well developed, but the UI could use some extra attention. For enthusiasts of pixel art, 16-bit music, and games that utilize light strategy elements, Dungeon of the Endless is for you.
Ultimately, Without Escape is a sad shadow of a genre from the past. Point-and-click adventure games fell from favor years ago due to progressing technology. Some of the originals of the escape room genre may soon be lost to time (due to Adobe's support of Flash ending in a few months). Now kids can play Roblox with a quick download and Minecraft on a web browser. Perhaps if this game offered more in terms of narrative or visuals, it could be worthwhile, but it doesn't offer enough to be appealing. While some attention was given to the visuals and music, Without Escape largely feels dissatisfying and lackluster.
Azur Lane: Crosswave is essentially a visual novel with some brief moments of action. Everything works as intended, and there's no need for a combat strategy, but the equipment and upgrades systems are cryptic. The visuals look good, and the chibi characters are adorable. The game can be a decent way to pass a weekend. However, Crosswave and all games under the Azur Lane banner espouse views on females — especially young girls — that I cannot look past, and it's troubling to me that this title is deemed appropriate for teenagers.