Heaven's Vault is a different game than most, and that alone makes it worth celebrating. It comes with many a wart, and it never really gels together the way a more conventional game would, but I had a great go with this moon-hopping, language-studying archaeology adventure.
Fimbul is a case where I have to commend the developers for effort, but I also have to advise the customer to steer clear of this bland, snowed-out adventure. Literally everything Fimbul attempts to do has already been done better by a different game. It’s best if you leave this one buried in the snow.
Peeling back the layers of its mystery, I found a game that is deeply thoughtful and very, very sad. It's a game that pulls its sense of fear out of everyday emotions, out of love, ambition, and of course, devotion. In doing so, it emerges as a horror game that reaches far beyond trying to startle or unnerve you. It becomes a deftly told story about the nature of fear itself.
Whether it's the joy of reaching port, the excitement of engaging with a marauder, or the wonderment of the creatively-written fantasy, Sunless Skies filled my head with adventure and took me on a tour of marvels and monstrosities such as I'm glad to have encountered. It still has me itching to return to the High Wilderness for another go.
Rough design, a lack of polish, a discombobulated story, and hard-to-bear battles make it hard for me to recommend YIIK to anyone but the most fervent collector of 'odd' games. Save yourself the time, and replay the Mother/Earthbound games instead.
Thanks to its pleasant palette and meditative sound design, The Gardens Between is a calming experience. It may not have too much to say, but at least it doesn't overstay its welcome. A little sadly, I doubt I will be getting all that nostalgic over a game about nostalgia.
If you're an absolute sucker for life simulation games based on crafting and building, Graveyard Keeper will certainly be to your liking. Even if you're a genre tourist like myself, you'll find it hard to deny the game's ability to make you keep coming back for more. Whether you'll stick with it or not depends on how much you're able to tolerate busywork and planning without much of a narrative return.
The Dream Machine is a meaty, psychological adventure that looks like nothing else you've ever played. It's a game of surprising balance: surreal, yet familiar; humorous, yet deeply morbid; bizarre, yet logical; subdued, yet striking. Through it all, the game cuts a straight and narrow line of being consistently entertaining. Not unlike the best of dreams, then.
As with Planescape, Numenera is not a perfect game. It is, however, a unique game, brimming with weird tales that will take some 30-40 hours to explore on the first playthrough. The game's appeal is largely predicated on how much you enjoy falling into the rabbit hole, but fans of a more traditional RPG experience, or indeed, fans expecting a yarn to surpass the original Planescape might find Numenera wanting. Stick with it, though, and you will be rewarded with an highly unusual experience.
When thrown into a shopping cart amongst its other peers and stripped of its author, however, Pinstripe is a very brief, pleasant jaunt that refuses to challenge, surprise or be particularly memorable. It feels like a trinket you'd place in a showcase: beautiful, and perhaps even evocative to the right person, but ultimately something you'll forget is there in your library.
911 Operator is an original concept, and it's core gameplay hook of matching colours and watching vehicles trace blue lines across a city map makes for calming, even meditative play. You'd think that a game about being an emergency dispatcher might be stressful, but if the game taught me anything, it's that the job is mostly easy-going boredom. It's a game that suffers from having not much of anything: not much challenge, not much content, and not much to say.
Herald is an engrossing nautical tale about colonialism that heavily touches upon race and class, but brings with it a nuance and subtlety uncommon in video games. Developer Wispfire has made a powerful debut, leaving no rough edges or longueurs to sully a high-quality narrative experience. It left me simultaneously satisfied and wanting more—more than just the two planned books that will complete the game.
It could certainly be enough to hold a child's imagination—and I suspect that's who this game is made for—but for anyone expecting more than that, the game wouldn't offer much. What is on offer, however, is an elegant, sharp-looking and colourfully illustrated book of tales that are told according to the reader, just like a good storyteller would.
It's a game with gameplay so rough, breaking the game feels easier and more interesting than actually trying to play it as intended. Ultimately, it's a shame that a game with an idea so promising ends up not only lacklustre, but thoroughly disappointing. Minor Key Games has done better than this, and hopefully, they will do better than this again. Slayer Shock, however, will have to remain as a faux-Early Access oddity of a game.