If Death’s Door is not mentioned in a list of the year’s best indies, it will only be due to its finer focus and lack of complexity or significant depth, which also speaks to the game's utter lack of bloat. Those who are looking for the cavernous biomes of Hollow Knight or the lore-rich epistolatory storytelling in a Souls game may feel shorted by the 10 or so breezy hours on offer here, but Death’s Door is a precisely engineered and immersive adventure which will fully satisfy anyone seeking that exact experience. Isometric action RPGs are a dime a dozen, but rarely are they polished to such a brilliant sheen.
Ages ago, when Castle Crashers hit Xbox Live, fans were happy to just pay out for a few new character and weapon skins, but the Mr. X Nightmare DLC appears to have been treated with the same level of care as the original game. Anyone who’s been looking for a better reason to go back to Streets of Rage 4 than just crawling up the leaderboards should jump on this DLC release, and the Survival mode’s 2-player online capability provides a great excuse to bring a friend along for the ride.
Unlike Wildfire, though, Within the Blade works marvelously on the Switch and seems perfectly optimized for the platform, although the speed of the game does make more sense when docked on a nice TV. Little control and camera niggles - inputs to activate skills are constantly stumbled on Joy-Cons, and orienting the camera during stealth attempts is a pitiful chore - don’t compromise what is a weirdly deep, potentially satisfying low-rez action ninja sim. Elaborate and overflowing with optional content and a snappy narrative, Within the Blade should be a hit with the Sengoku set.
Though there is plentiful evidence here of worthy inspirations which should feed into a fun run ’n’ gun experience, the finished product fails to deliver. There’s style and pizazz on offer, but even an assortment of unlockable abilities and AI-controlled companions can’t enliven a game which feels this flat and underdeveloped. Mighty Goose is sure to move a few units based on its visuals alone, but they’ll be little comfort when no one can tell what’s happening on the screen.
Narita Boy is a curious and risky 2D adventure that isn’t always what it seems. Issues with some game mechanics shouldn’t deter anyone from playing through the story, and its soundtrack’s passionate synthwave-leaning collection of themes somehow stands out amidst a sea of new titles which share these sonic leanings. Narita Boy will be more impactful and absorbing to those who fully immerse in its narrative, and what may first appear as hastily written nonsense informs a lyrical and consistent fictional universe. Give in to its mysteries and enjoy.
Telling too much of ALTDEUS: Beyond Chronos’ story would compromise what it’s really trying to do, but this isn’t to imply that it’s reliant on some sort of obligatory Shyamalan twist. No, like the best visual novels, it remains focused on its character growth, and unveils its secrets and motives with time. For someone with even a light taste for anime who may not normally take to visual novels, ALTDEUS: Beyond Chronos should make them a believer.