There’s a kind of scrappy, desperate feeling to a firefight in Jagged Alliance 3. Hits to the arms reduce accuracy, and damage to the legs impedes movement. Cover can be destroyed. Losing line-of-sight allows your merc to re-enter Sneak Mode and return to surprise the enemy. Saving a couple of AP to drop into a prone position at the end of a turn can be the difference between seeing the next turn or bleeding out. Yet, despite all this tactical granularity, the successful play is often a matter of running around the cover the enemy is hiding behind and shooting them in the back. Assuming you don’t miss, of course.
Lunark wears its inspirations on its sleeve. It is littered with subtle and blatant nods to Flashback, in particular. In an under-populated genre, the heavy weight of those influences are conspicuous. Yet, at the same time, it’s just pleasing to encounter another cinematic platformer that understands the appeal of the genre, and doesn’t try to fix what ain’t broke. Sometimes, slowing down is precisely what you need.
Revisiting Colossal Cave is a peculiar, uncanny experience. I understand Roberta Williams’ desire to bring it back to life, even if I’m not convinced the format she’s chosen to present it in does justice to the original’s pioneering spirit or the grip it managed to hold on the imaginations of those who played it. But perhaps that was always an impossible task.
Through interactions with these people and many others – the insights into their lives gleaned from talking to them while they work, or the hopes and fears they reveal around the dinner table as you share pottage and bread – Tassing comes to feel like as real a place I’ve ever visited in a video game. As the months and years roll by, you feel those layers settling in, the weight of decisions these people have made – and that you’ve made too – shaping the history of the place.
The strange politics of its dystopia feel fresh. Numerous cuts to other points of view leave you disoriented in a way that only adds to the intrigue. There’s also a pleasing glitch aesthetic that permeates every aspect, from the writing to the art direction, raising doubts whenever something tangible threatens to materialise. It’s a mystery well worth falling headfirst into.
It was perhaps around the time I found myself feeding mulberry leaves to my silkworms so they could produce the silk I need to run through my loom in order to make the fabric required to produce the parachutes the island's meteorologist had requested for her research balloons… somewhere in that long chain of intertwined chores, anyway… that I realised Wylde Flowers was indeed a very good chore game. And by this point my wife was very much in agreement.
Wayward Strand is a delicate piece of work, as its title might imply. Despite the flight of fancy proposed by the very idea of an airship hospital, it's a remarkably unassuming game–not literally down-to-earth, but certainly grounded in its portrayal of lives nearing their end and one just beginning, and the common hopes, dreams and fears that connect all those lives together.
Stray gets so much right about being a cat. It's not just the way you travel through the world. There are moments when you stop to rub your side against someone's legs. You can press a button to scratch the carpet and there are even a couple of puzzles that make smart use of this ability. The way you stretch out one paw to tentatively bat at a suspicious object or how you curl up on a cushion in the perfect pretzel… it's just so exquisitely, believably cat-like.
Pupperazzi struggles to go beyond the obvious premise suggested by its witty name. Other than photographing a lot of dogs – so many, many dogs – there’s almost nothing else to do. While it remains charming and silly throughout, you’re not able to form any sort of lasting bond with any of these dogs. Your interactions with them are too fleeting, too inconsequential. That cute little pug I found snoozing under the picnic table doesn’t have a name, and she’ll be gone the next time I drop by. I can send you a photo of her I took, I suppose, but we both know you’re just going to delete it.
Sable’s non-linear structure is liberating and lets you explore at your own pace and in whatever direction your whim takes you. But its many technical issues–including poor performance and game-breaking bugs–contrive to stymie your journey to the extent that your Gliding may never leave the launch pad.