I went into Street Power Football hoping for an enjoyable take on the sport and was genuinely astonished by how bad the whole package is. This would be unforgivable were it a budget title, but to then have the temerity to stick a full retail price on this just takes the biscuit. I have wracked my brains but couldn't find anything positive to say about this title. Even my kids (who are not fussy when it comes to multiplayer gaming) only managed about 10 minutes before turning it off. Perhaps the best thing to come from playing this abomination of a game is that it encouraged me to dig out my GameCube and Sega Soccer Slam to try to cleanse my palette.
Röki is a brilliant and emotional adventure that will appeal to all lovers of adventure games and well-told stories in general. The mature themes are handled in such a wonderfully appropriate way that it would make a perfect family game, and I loved the time I spent with Tove. Rather than a flatpack indentikit product, this is a game that has all the hallmarks of true artisanal craft and skill.
What Happens is an interesting and mostly successful addition to the growing field of games that focus on mental health issues. Most of what it sets out to do works well despite the glaring issues with polish and acting ability. There were moments which were more successful than others and it would benefit from making it clearer where alternative approaches were available. It is clear that Genius Slackers' ambition is greater than their abilities but I applaud the attempt to use gaming for such a vital and powerful message.
Maid of Sker is a great addition to the survival horror genre and offers a wonderfully intimate and local threat that takes its influences from Welsh folktales. Eschewing the combat and weaponry of many entries into the genre, its gameplay loop of sneaking and hiding proves compelling and successfully manages to keep you feeling in danger at all times. When you add in some excellent sound design and atmosphere you have a Victorian horror that deserves a rousing reception. There may not be a welcome in these valleys but this is one vacation that genre fans should have no reservations about taking.
I had an enjoyable time playing The Innsmouth Case on PC several times through, but it's probably better suited to its mobile iteration, as the adventure book format works brilliantly on handheld devices. As a distraction from commutes (or a companion to lengthy visits to the toilet) The Innsmouth Case is a great little tale that will entertain fans of either cosmic or comic horror.
The Academy isn't a bad game, per se, but promises far more than it delivers. Its influences are too clearly worn on its sleeve and it ends up less than the sum of its parts. The school is too small and the puzzles just not exciting enough to really draw you in. The target audience is probably much less jaded than me and younger players will probably enjoy the combination of Hogwarts-esque schooling and puzzles, but it's a difficult title to recommend for experienced puzzle gamers.
Those Who Remain is difficult to recommend, but there is an interesting meditation on guilt, redemption, and judgement hidden amongst an unfortunate mass of clunky design and gameplay. It might even be that watching someone else play the game is the best way to enjoy it, so you won't have to fight the controls and frustrating checkpoints. Ultimately, the game itself fails to live up to the potential of its ideas. This is one that should remain on the shelf.
Project Warlock is a Doom-like that packs a punch. The levels are full of secrets, the enemies have a great range of behaviours, and the weapons – boy, the weapons – are a joy to use. Add all of that to the 60 levels to learn and explore and the challenges provided by the higher difficulty levels and you have a winning formula. Even if the pixel graphics aren't your usual cup of tea, Project Warlock is more than worth your time. This is a journey to Hell that is well worth the ride.
Old Gods Rising takes a great premise, but unfortunately does very little with it. The barren, but confusing campus leads to pointless wandering that does little to reward exploration and the narrative is delivered through generic exposition. The one successful aspect is the sense of uncertainty and unease that permeates the experience, yet this isn't enough to maintain interest. The Old Gods may have been better off staying put.
Waking is a fascinating experiment that tries, but ultimately fails, to combine two radically different ideas together. Less would certainly have been more here, as the clunky and overly confusing action parts get in the way of the interesting narrative and psychological aspects. While I was drawn in by the central conceit and the use of meditation, the end result is more likely to leave you in a coma than drag you into the light.
Summer in Mara is a lovely experience with an abundance of charm and a welcome engagement with environmental and emotional subjects. It makes for a perfect introduction to the genre for younger gamers, and a great relaxing escape from the real world for more mature sorts. It doesn't have the depth of last year's My Time at Portia but is both more accessible and has more developed characters. While there may be little prospect of a summer trip to sunny islands in reality, you could do a lot worse than take a holiday with Koa and explore the wonders of Mara.
Skelattack is a fantastic platformer with a real sense of character and gorgeous aesthetics. Blending cutesy graphics with challenging platforming and some strategic boss fights, it manages to really stand out and deserves to do well. Here's hoping for more adventures with Skully and Imber in future.
Song of Horror is one of the best indie horror games out there. Taking the key aspects of genre classics like Silent Hill and Resident Evil, and combining these with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the genre in other media, Song of Horror really gets under your skin and, just like The Presence, will haunt the dark corners of your mind. But don't worry, that noise was just the wind. Or was it…
Pixel Ripped 1995 is a VR love letter to an integral part of gaming history, building on the strengths of the original as it once again blends authentic retro games with an innovative VR world. If you remember the golden days of home gaming and the thrill of waking up at Christmas to see a console shaped box under the tree, then this is the game for you to relive. If not, then there's still plenty here to enjoy without the nostalgia.
When Someday You'll Return is at its best, it is one of the finest immersive horror games I've played. Its take on psychological horror and ability to create a sense of dread is second to none, but that comes with some caveats. It can drag in parts, has some frustrating stealth sections and some puzzles that are needlessly obscure, but if you're prepared to make it through the less successful moments, there is a lot to love here.
The Procession to Calvary is very rude, very silly, and a whole lot of fun if taken as it is intended. Much like the Monty Python sketches that have influenced it, it walks the thin line between humour and heresy, but as long you don't mind a bit of irreverent blasphemy mixed in with your silliness, there is a great evening of fun to be had within. You don't even need to have spent 10 years getting a PhD to enjoy it…
The Inner Friend isn't a bad game, but it never really rises above mediocrity. As a result, it's difficult to recommend unless the narrative premise attracts you. There are some moments of greatness amidst an interesting take on trauma and the idea of replaying unresolved memories from one's past, but the overall feel is distinctly average.