- Nights into Dreams...
- Mega Man 3
- Dark Souls
Ambling around a cursed utopia and interrogating its eccentric characters while listening to jazzy, saxophone-obsessed electronica remains a fitting masquerade for a mercurial murder mystery. Almost two years after its first release, Paradise Killer's commitment to its vaporwave aesthetic remains a model for creative fiction and an amusement park for industrious detectives.
As designed, Sable is a freeform journey across gorgeous landscapes in pursuit self-discovery. Agency is at a premium and the player can go as far as their initiative can take them. As executed on an Xbox One, Sable is a devastating technical calamity unfit for basic service. It was a cruelty to observe the heights Sable was capable of reaching and yet not be able to experience them for myself.
DariusBurst Another Chronicle EX+ is as thin as $40 can stretch the fifth iteration of its namesake. Its cumulative and sweeping arrangement of DariusBurst's horizontal shooting excellence is, objectively speaking, worth an investment of time. Its position against Dariusburst: Chronicle Saviours in the same marketplace, along with its own slapdash assembly, weakens its necessity in any enthusiast's collection.
Fatum Betula finds virtue in the 32-bit generation. It is impossible to return to the ethos that powered games from a quarter century ago, but Fatum Betula captures their spirit and respects their integrity. The wild sense of experimentation, the natural invitation to curiosity, and the harsh beauty imposed by technical limitations shine through every austere texture and restrained polygon.
Genesis Noir is genre fiction that slow burns from a hard-boiled detective mystery to a cosmic exploration of potential and possibility. It showcases a form of storytelling exclusive to an interactive medium, not only immersing the player in rhapsodic visual landscapes, but expecting them to find tactile interpretations from its collection of curiosities. Genesis Noir doesn't position chaos as a subject for control, only an objective to be experienced and appreciated.
Haven presents a lush alien world, one rife with resource gathering and loaded with turn-based combat, as a suitable venue for its forbidden love story. Such an unorthodox collection of disparate elements may have had trouble connecting if not held together by widely relatable and sharply written interpersonal dialogue. It's an assembly that allows its pair protagonists to thrive inside moments of tedium, suggesting a story worth telling takes precedent over action not always worth doing.
Foregone is a whirring pastiche of ideas that came to define the last decade of side-scrolling action games. There remains an artful satisfaction to cutting through hordes of exquisitely fashioned monsters across splendid vistas but, without a thought to call its own, Foregone's performance will be consigned to oblivion the moment its player puts down their controller. It's a beautiful, sterile wasteland.
Moon's commentary on the nature of its hero, expressed not only through its narrative but also its entire suite of mechanics, is its toolbox for deconstructing the template of the JRPG. Learning it's a long-lost game from 1997, operating with the inescapable sentimentality and eccentricity of the modern indie scene, underscores how long it took the rest of the world to reach places Moon had already been. Even with its anachronisms, Moon is a surprising novelty.
Post Void is a barrage of garish visual information parading through the interface of a first-person shooter. As either an act of mercy or a concession to humanity, modest roguelite trappings force all of Post Void's noise and fury into manageable dosages. This leaves Post Void as a wonderful party drug, provided you can sustain the party and handle the drugs.
Lithium City's neon violence is a fountain of ideas that expands until it explodes. Its objective may be to clear tricky bad guys out of hostile rooms, but its justification is to force creative and spontaneous solutions out of an evolving set of kinetic problems. What's left on Lithium City's table is a full meal served in a medley of exquisite morsels.
Strikers captures the affable singularity of Persona 5 while shifting its perspective from a turn-based slow burn to an action-focused escapade. At the same time, Strikers' devotion to its source material succeeds in keeping the player active and invested amid the turbulence of its strained support structure. It's a summer vacation masquerading as a sequel, and that seems to suit the Phantom Thieves just fine.
Umurangi Generation's vibrant ambience validates the rebellion of its doomed youth culture. It also renders the player a transient witness to a surging tragedy. Umurangi Generation's key is its camera, as it allows its protagonist and its player the agency to access and capture a world beyond their control. It creates a vantage point untended since Jet Set Radio, and Umurangi Generation didn't even need skates or spray paint to get there.
Volume One of Tales From Off-Peak City is an escalating procession of existential crises staged through instances of gentrification, corporatism, and pizza delivery. It's a kitschy nightmare laundered through eccentric characters and their bizarre conditions and the product is a surreal but eloquent presentation on preventable social decay. A single city block and a couple of hours is all Tales From Off-Peak City needs to tell a grotesque, distinctive story.
80's Overdrive asserts that Out Run's combination of breakneck racing and frantic traffic negotiation will fit neatly inside the progression-focused model of a modern game. It doesn't, and 80's Overdrive almost runs out of gas before it reaches a comfortable destination. All the lavish neon and thumping synthwave in the world can't help 80's Overdrive make twenty minutes last six hours.
Pattern's blossoming world and ethereal music, forever trapped in a constant state of flux, are pathways to understanding the ambiguous complexion of the creative process. It suggests that ideas can be transitory as it explores the rivalry between indecision and confidence. The limitations are clear, by Pattern's own admission it's a fleeing experience, but with it comes the power to articulate one of the more abstruse processes of the imagination.
Paper Beast allows players to lose themselves inside pastel daydreams of soft shapes and delicate zoology. They could also lose patience with some tedious mechanics and suspicious tests of logic. Paper Beast is full of gratifying ingenuity, beautiful optimism, and elegant communication. And maybe an overabundance of zealous whimsy.
Saints Row: The Third was a sacred moment in time where lunatics reimagined the animus of an open-world crime game. It enabled players to thunderously lead a prestigious gang of miscreants and also turn themselves into a toilet. Nine years later Saints Row: The Third Remastered's glut of Content is more difficult to digest, but its outrageous ambience is still so sweet.
Space Channel 5 VR: Kinda Funky News Flash! presents an opportunity to inhabit 1999's idyllic vision of 1960's culture through 2020's virtual reality. Delivering this extremely specific hallucinatory novelty required an alarming price tag and the notice of a brisk runtime. Space Channel 5 remains a lustrous expression of the Dreamcast's ethos, and a chance to actively embrace it merits attention and applause. Space Channel 5 VR is a brief, beautiful celebration of a bygone era.
Kentucky Route Zero is lost in the illusive premise of the American Dream but found in the elusive dream logic of its weird, wild, and wonderful prose. Through it all are characters who conceal pain and loss with whimsical musings of hope and escape and locations engulfed in a meditative haze where brutal reality is indistinguishable from isolated reverie. At the end lies a paradox that suggests a circuitous path was the shortest course to an inevitable destination, and the assurance that Kentucky Route Zero's seven-year voyage knew its direction all along.