At an absolute bare minimum, Essays on Empathy is a fantastic project. Very few games have really given this level of insight into the world of the developer. Truly, this is one of the most impactful games I have played in years. Some of these titles touch on private pains and give a sense of clarity and non-judgemental exploration. I am honestly so appreciative.
The occasional bug and missing stamina upgrades are really the only negatives I can lodge at Sable. I can think of very few games that have presented such a beautiful harmony of its attributes. Everything supports everything else. The story implores you to go out into the world, to see all that there is to see. The gameplay ensures that the focus is always on the vistas that lay before you, and it’s all stylised beautifully. The game creates a view of which I cannot tire. This is truly one of the most well-conceived and executed games that I have seen in a very long time. It’s one of those games that truly is using everything to its maximum potential.
Transitory issues aside, We Were Here Forever is, at least at the time of writing, my favourite game of the year thus far. At times it frustrated, but all that did was make the completion of its various brain teasers all the more satisfying. The mark of a truly fantastic game is one that aligns all its elements around a central purpose or goal. In this title, everything orbits around testing the skill of its participants, and that makes for a truly memorable experience for its pairs of players.
RPG Time: The Legend of Wright is a game with the kind of visual presentation that must be revered and venerated by all, despite some weird fundamental gaps in its user-friendliness. Whilst there are absolutely some opportunities for additional polish, it’s ultimately a minor ding in what is otherwise an insanely impressive game. This is an example of the best of what indie games can bring to the table. It is beautiful, it is dumb, it is dorky, and it is constantly tripping over itself to show you its new cool ideas. The Legend of Wright deserves recognition and love for all the amazing stuff it’s bringing to the tabletop.
Disc Room is a great example of a little indie game doing a damn fine job. From a small idea of bullet hell meets dungeon crawler, the developers have polished the concept up quite nicely. The variety of design ensure that each room feels unique. The innate difficulty of the game provides a satisfying challenge although it can also lead to some frustration. But thankfully the difficulty settings here are highly customisable and allow for great accessibility. Sure there are some confusing rooms, but they’re balanced out by amazing boss fights that left me wanting more. Overall, whilst there are some missteps, it’s definitely one game that’s well worth a try.
Sizeable in the grand scheme of things is a very well-crafted game. There has been a lot of work and effort put in to ensure this small project is packed densely with great ideas. The core mechanic, whilst simple in execution, is used to achieve an impressive array of effects, which make for some entertaining puzzles. The length of the game may disappoint some, but with the game sitting at an equally bite-sized price, I would encourage those interested to absolutely check it out anyway.
As is the case with many annual sequels, MLB The Show 21 is an iteration and improvement over its predecessor. Having said that, if you bought The Show 20, I personally can’t see enough of a change to justify getting 21 in my opinion. There are improvements to the game modes that deserve praise, though I don’t know if it will keep me on the hook for a very long time. Having said that, both titles share some fantastic elements, such as the impressive depth of mechanical customisation, which by itself carries the game into high regard.
As is the case with many good multiplayer games, the game itself is well made, but mileage may vary with your actual experience playing it. Mechanically, I was impressed with the depth and breadth of everything that you get to play with. Combat itself is incredibly detailed, and the capabilities to have such a compelling game in a crowd of warring factions is impressive. However, the chaos of the battlefield may be a dealbreaker for you; you may find it compelling, or you may find it frustrating. At best I can say it is part of Chivalry 2’s charm, but I’m not able to say that I always appreciated it. Regardless, the specific flavour of madness it provides makes for a fun, violent time, even amongst the varying degrees of chaos.
Twelve Minutes is a game of dualities. It is very economic in how it presents itself. The focus is tight on three characters, in a small apartment that houses the few instruments of change at your disposal. This allows each little detail to have a nauseating amount of depth to it, including the fantastic performances of the characters and their backstories. The downside to this is that it can lead players astray, due to the limitless possibilities and comparatively limited guidance. Regardless, Twelve Minutes is a tidy and reasonably well-told pressure-cooker drama with few divots, provided you can follow the path.
Despite some rough edges, Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One has its heart in the right place. Frogwares is taking the classic Sherlock mythos and spinning off some impressive original work here. The story is well-presented, with the partnership between Sherlock and Jon particularly pleasant. Other cases show some interesting new puzzle types that I have not yet seen before. Whilst the two strengths of this title are separate, which annoys me somewhat, it’s the annoyance I feel when a game is a few decisions short of me showering it in unqualified praise. As it stands, Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One is a standard-setter for open-world mystery games.
Sunblaze earns its place as a brutal but mostly fair challenge. It is exciting and fresh in its gameplay in a lot of ways that people should pay attention to. The difficulty will be satisfying for some but frustrating for others. Whilst a lacking story holds it back, clever design mechanics propel it forward. With all that said, when you’re dying every seven seconds, it’s easy for any shining praise to start to dull.
Boomerang X is truly a spiral of interlocking gameplay loops stacked on top of each other. After a slow start, Boomerang X whips up an absolute whirlwind of bullet-time style combat that can be an absolute sight to behold. So much love and care have clearly permeated the gameplay of this title. The problem is that beyond the loop, there isn’t a lot going on. Some frustrating design elements and a feeling of repetition is present, although it doesn’t fully dampen what is undoubtedly some fantastic moment-to-moment gameplay.
Whilst not a true tragedy, Twin Mirror didn’t live up to expectations in my book. The visual and auditory style of DONTNOD is fantastic, and the way it ties into the gameplay is nice. However, it doesn’t stack up to its peers both inside and outside the developer’s library. The magical realism is a bit confusing and lacking in context and the eleventh hour save doesn’t pull it above criticism. A mystery existed but there just wasn’t enough meat on that bone. I can see this game aging well for me, as I remember only the nice parts and filter out the bad stuff. But as it stands, as I write this review, there is just too much of a gap between me and unqualified praise to be able to give it a proper stamp of approval.
I want to like Olija much more than I do. When the game works it truly works. The gameplay is slick and brutal and fluid. I will never deny the enjoyment that this game provides. The problem is quite simple, which is that there are only so many fresh, exciting encounters the game can give you. They are a finite supply. However, the time wasted through unclear instruction and a lack of accessibility to information is unforgivable. Perhaps other players will find the ambiguity to be less of a problem, but for me it was a real obstacle.
Golf Club: Wasteland is a rather standard golf game bolstered by an experimental narrative approach. This iteration is, have no doubt, an improvement on the niche ideas therein, and for that, I applaud the developers. However, good as these ideas are, they suffer from feeling incompatible with each other. Everything is OK, with the distinct sting of feeling like they could have been great, given the right conditions.
The parts of Where Cards Fall I remember most fondly are when it gets out of its own way. When the game successfully captured my interest, it directed my attention towards a beautiful world with a welcoming atmosphere. I vibe out on the board game aesthetic and enjoy the puzzles. But when the game is running too fast near the start, or too slow at the end, you can see the faults that are being concealed. Beyond the mask lies a story that does not engage and presentation that at times does a disservice to its mechanics.
RPGolf Legends leans too much into its influences to be really entertaining in itself. As a fan of Sports RPGs, RPGolf Legends demonstrates there is some wiggle room to experiment with the formula. I’d be doing a disservice to not congratulate the developers on the boss fights that succeed at demonstrating how RPG mechanics and golf mechanics can integrate well to make some unique and special gameplay moments. However, it must be said that outside of those boss fights, the game is largely satisfactory, but not exciting. It’s not the worst game I have played in recent memory, and it’s not a bad game to kill time on. Yet, for the ambition on display, I find it hard to get particularly enthusiastic about RPGolf Legends.
A Fold Apart goes on a sadly well populated pile of games that suffer from “good idea, poor execution”. The use of perspective gameplay gels well with an interesting idea for a story. But the gameplay is less than fun, and the story loudly and busily goes nowhere. Not quite up to scratch I’m afraid.