Alisa is a real standout in the world of indie horror games, both in terms of aesthetic and gameplay. It's very tough when you first start in the mansion but once you get to grips with the controls and enemy patterns it becomes relatively easy to work through the game. It ends with plenty of scope for a sequel and there are many unanswered questions so hopefully one appears. Still, in the here and now, if you like the look of the screenshots then I can heartily recommend playing in this dollhouse.
Blood West is a great addition to the horror western genre with level design and a range of approaches that would be fitting for an immersive sim. The chapter bosses can be a little underwhelming, but after nearly 30 hours spent in this world, I highly recommend you do the same. Just don't expect to come back alive…
The narrative in Undying is touching and I really wanted to see it through to the end but the main issue here is a tonal mismatch between the emotional narrative and the traditional grind of a survival/crafting game. If you prepare yourself for slow incremental progress then there is a solid survival sim here, just not quite what I was hoping for given the fascinating setup.
Gargoyles Remastered is a disappointing time. Fans of the original will delight in getting to play it on a modern system and the quick rewind helps to alleviate some of the more egregious design choices, but it also highlights how barebones this remaster really is. The rough and ready feel isn't helped by modern visuals that look aesthetically worse and seem to add extra lag and imprecision to the controls. This is one oldie that perhaps should have been left to sleep in stony isolation.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time back with The Penitent One and would heartily recommend it both to fans of the original and newcomers alike. There are enough changes to make it feel like a new title whilst still having continuity in setting and aesthetic.
Full Void is a cool little indie game that makes the most out of its influences and offers up a nice mix of puzzling and platforming within its short playtime. While it doesn't revolutionise the genre, it is a nice throwback to cinematic platformers of old that removes many of the more frustrating elements of its predecessors. If you remember the likes of Prince of Persia fondly then you could do a lot worse than jump into the Full Void.
Aliens: Dark Descent is a fantastic Aliens game. It absolutely nails the feel of the films and brings exactly the kind of tense and thrilling strategy combat you would want. The iconic motion tracker and creature design fit perfectly with the genre and there is even an interesting narrative that introduces some new perspectives to the series. While game over can come far too swiftly at times, there is always something to draw you back in.
In its best moments, Amnesia: The Bunker joins Outlast and Alien: Isolation at the pinnacle of this style of horror, but this is a game with a split identity. Combat feels out of place and mostly ends up being a navigation tool, while I would have liked to see better use of light as a defence against the creature. The story is somewhat predictable, but Amnesia: The Bunker excels with its atmosphere and the kind of tense gameplay that will thrill genre fans.
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.