Is The Banner Saga for you? Could be, if you’re into SRPGs, stories with tough choices and real consequences, or Viking stuff. The combat isn’t what I’d call super addictive or mind-blowing fun, but it’s nevertheless unique and engaging. I like that it’s fairly simple yet quite challenging (unless you play on Easy difficulty). I love that the visual novel element is very, very substantial. It’s half the game’s weight, even if not half the game’s length. Combat isn’t merely broken up by cutscenes where you’re passively watching. Here, you’re directing the story. Or at least the details, if not the overall plot. Most notably, you decide if major characters live or die. The Banner Saga trilogy is an all-rounder. Despite an initially confusing plunge into the deep end, I came out gasping at its beauty, most of all the landscapes and hand-drawn combat animations. Both story- and combat-wise, expect a meaty game lasting 30 to 40 hours or more.
I’ve gotten the same enjoyment from Curious Expedition 2 as I did from its predecessor: the fun of exploring uncharted lands, the thrill of danger, the satisfaction of shrewd planning. I’ve spent over 20 hours with CE2 and haven’t tired of it. If you like survival, resource management, or elaborate board games, you might enjoy this unique strategy game. The colonial elements might turn some players off but not trouble others. Curious Expedition 2 makes many improvements, like offering an easier game to first-time players. If you can’t endure roguelikes, you can switch off that element by changing the difficulty settings, even mid-game. The lovely new art style and generous offering of new content also make CE2 worth picking up for old fans. My only big complaint is that each run is longer than it needs to be. A word about the Nintendo Switch port: I love playing this handheld. I just have two minor grouses about the UI. Scrolling through inventory takes a bit longer in CE2 than in CE1. And while trading, tool-tips often block half the screen. But overall, it’s an excellent port.
Space Scavenger is a neat little game, made by two guys in Sweden (Jacob Selg and Jonas Holgersson). I’m delighted by this simple but fun space shooter, even if victory lies beyond reach of my current skills. It’s nice to pick up for 30 minutes a day and see what motley ship configuration will emerge each run. Last but not least, Space Scavenger has a great soundtrack! Putting the soundtrack, ship-building, and short but tough levels together: if you play in short bursts, it’s unexpectedly relaxing for a roguelike shoot-em-up.
What’s the optimal number of players? I suspect any number of players works well (except for playing solo), which makes Papa’s Quiz a versatile game in this respect. Playing alone is pretty lacklustre. In these Covid times, it’s harder to meet friends in person for a gaming session. We’ve been playing party games online, so I’m happy to have found us a new title. Unfortunately, I don’t find Papa’s Quiz as engaging as some of the better titles from Jackbox Games. For comparison, Trivia Murder Party is funnier, more varied, and more interesting; though, on the downside, its trivia questions are more obscure. Still, Papa’s Quiz is a pleasant, relaxing way to spend time with friends—for a game or two. Do consider this title if you’re looking for a casual party game. It’s a decent one to play with non-gamers, as it’s uncomplicated, has simple controls, and is good for a 15- to 20-minute session.
Among roguelike deck builders, Griftlands is an ambitious one. But it actually pulls off those ambitions. The gameplay is unique, combining a two-deck system with a relationship system. Visuals, sound, and controls get one thumbs-up, while the writing gets two thumbs. Even run-of-the-mill conversations have a spark of wit, or at least a dash of snark. More importantly, it’s fun to play (though there’s lots of terminology to digest at first) and enough reason to replay on a higher difficulty if you love a good challenge. At $19.99, this is seriously a steal.
A short, snappy visual novel in which you commit major mischief, Overboard! makes being the bad girl fun. It taps into the human instinct for self-preservation and perhaps a latent desire to see what badness we can get away with. Good writing, fun gameplay, and a light thinking challenge. The game’s replayability makes it worth the price of admission.
If you’re up for a numbers-based puzzle game, I highly recommend Mystic Pillars. Adding a hint system would make it perfect, but it’s still a good game without one. Not only is the gameplay solid, but the visuals and sound show that Holy Cow Productions went the extra mile to present a polished game.
I just hope that later updates will introduce more content, such as new enemy abilities. Or at least improve the user interface. The thing Spire did well with UI was to provide, through tooltips, all the information you might need to make a good decision. In Slime, informative tooltips weren’t always there to remind me of what certain terms meant—or, they were partially blocked by something else on-screen. Card and button selection could also be better highlighted on certain screens. If I could ask for just one “small” improvement, though, it would be a larger font size. I haven’t played long enough to settle on a definitive verdict, but for now, I can say this: Slushy the Great is still a long way from greatness, but the potential and groundwork is there. I’m keen to see how it develops over time with further updates.
I expect promising things in the future from Provodnik Games based on Dull Grey‘s writing and interesting gameplay premise. But I also hope to see better translation and editing as this can make or break impressions, especially for a visual novel of this brevity. There were jarring moments when the quality of translation dropped significantly. I appreciate that there are many possible endings, but the most interesting ones ended up more confusing than satisfying. For these reasons, I hovered between rating the game “I Like It” and “Not Sure.” Overall, though, the game holds together well enough.