Absolute Tactics: Daughters of Mercy is a solid entry-level tactical RPG that just needs…more. More enemies, more level variety, and a more compelling story. Newcomers to the genre will find a lot to like here; experts, your mileage may vary.
Cursed to Golf is a brilliant little golf game. Its smart design encourages creativity, and its roguelike elements, while harsh, aren’t brutal enough to derail the experience. It’s astonishing how well the individual parts from different genres mix into a cohesive whole—or should I say “hole”? More than anything, though, it’s just fun. That’s all there is to it: it’s just a fun game that deserves your attention.
I think there’s a solid game here under all the technical issues, but it’s hard to say. XEL’s combat and time-based puzzles are satisfying, the setting and narrative are engaging, and its aesthetically charming. But until those issues are addressed, XEL is largely unplayable. I’ve spent way more time dealing with those issues than I have playing the game. I’d like to revisit it in the future, assuming it gets fixed.
Spacewing War is a straightforward shmup in a crowded genre. Its Game Boy aesthetic is pleasant, it controls well, and it provides a decent challenge. It just doesn’t have that spark to set it apart from its brethren. It needs a shot of adrenaline and a confidence boost. Still, it’s not a bad way to spend an afternoon if you need to scratch that shmup itch.
Much like its inspiration, Freezer Pops is a one-note experience. We all know the narrative is just a flimsy pretext for getting these guys into ostensibly sexy situations. It only takes a few hours to complete, and there’s little reason to revisit it. It’s kind of a wild ride while it lasts, though.
A creative and clever experience from start to finish, Dungeons of Dreadrock simply should not be missed. It’s a brilliant little puzzler and an endearing homage to both dungeon crawlers and action-puzzlers. Just be prepared to die, and remember, there’s no shame in getting a hint or two (or five).
Get-a-Grip Chip, and its educational sequel, is a charming platformer with a ton of heart. Its simple mechanics and complex designs will get your heart racing and your fingers twitching. For such a tiny robot, there sure is a lot to love here. Hopefully we won’t have to wait too long for Chip’s next adventure.
Kombinera is a smart but vicious little puzzler. It doesn’t pull any punches. Fans of puzzle platformers should absolutely check it out but be warned: you’re bound to learn new some new colorful language before all is said and done. Despite its accessibility, it’s not for the faint of heart (or those with high blood pressure).
Dark Deity is a flawed—but enjoyable—take on the classic Fire Emblem formula. I wish some of its elements weren’t so obtuse and vague, but I still found it impossible to put down. There’s room for a sequel, so hopefully, it won’t be too long before we get a chance to revisit Terrazael.
Is Ocean’s Heart worth playing? Absolutely. The low difficulty and complexity make it feel like Zelda for beginners, but that’s not necessarily a fault either. It might not reinvent the wheel, but Ocean’s Heart has just enough heart to make it worth it.
Monster Bash has aged surprisingly well, and the HD version helps make the game accessible and preserves its identity. It’s not especially long, but there’s a ton of content here should you choose to seek it out. The developers clearly had a soft spot for this charming little horror game, and it’s not hard to see why. There’s even a new secret level, which is a wonderful addition if you can find it. If you’ve never played a Shareware title or one of Apogee’s early games, this is a great place to start.
Nostalgic and engaging from start to finish, The Lightbringer is a solid puzzle platformer with a lot of heart that’s easy to recommend. It’s not perfect—the combat element needs a bit of work—but it’s easier to overlook its weaker elements when everything else is so smartly designed. While The Lightbringer ends sooner than I would have liked, it also feels like the prelude to something grander. After all, is the darkness ever truly vanquished?
Tails of Iron is not for the fainthearted. It’s a bloody, brutal, blistering experience from start to finish. Its combat smartly mixes skill and strategy. The game will push you to your limits, but it’s hard not to have fun skewering and slaughtering your way to redemption. While the game’s scope is, unfortunately, a bit limited, I have a feeling this won’t be the last time we hear from Redgi.
A Monster’s Expedition is a brilliant little puzzler. It gets incredible mileage out of a simple mechanic and manages to use it in unexpected ways. The game’s zen-like presentation, open-ended exploration, and sense of humor create a relaxing environment that soothes away the frustrations found in other puzzle games. I do wish I had a little assistance in the late-game portion, but maybe I’m the only one who needs it.
Labyrinth City: Pierre the Maze Detective is a wholesome, whimsical stroll through a lively and beautiful world of mazes. Its relaxed gameplay might not appeal to everyone, but it’s so charming that it’s difficult not to recommend it. As a final observation, this game made me smile so much that I had to briefly ponder my legendarily sardonic nature. There’s something to be said for an experience that creates such happiness.
Mina & Michi is undeniably cute, but that’s simply not enough. After the charm wears off, its gameplay is just too basic. It might be a good fit for younger gamers who need help, though. Let them control Michi while you do the rest of the work, and they’ll enjoy themselves. If you’re in the market for a breezy action game that you can complete in an afternoon, then check it out. It might be a good fit for speedrunners, too, as it has a built-in clock for that exact purpose.
Wave Break is a frantic, over-the-top skateboater with style and moves to burn. Its campaign mode is a welcome addition, and online play and a park editor add variety. All the pieces are here for a sublime tricking experience. The only thing missing is the Steam version’s features, most notably local play. The game is practically screaming for it, and the gameplay perfectly lends itself to local matches.
Paradox Error is so concerned with crafting a meta, fourth-wall-breaking experience that it completely neglects the platformer genre’s fundamentals. It is as dull as it is frustrating. Aspects of its design are unnecessarily hostile to the player. There are thousands, if not tens of thousands, of better platformers out there. Aside from a morbid curiosity, there’s little reason to suffer through this one.
A blistering, brutal battle from start to finish, Astalon: Tears of the Earth is not for the fainthearted. It rewards talent and curiosity as frequently as it punishes inability and complacency. It will test your patience, abilities, and resolve, but the journey through the Tower of Serpents is so worth it.
Long Ago: A Puzzle Tale is an accessible, inviting puzzler with a wonderful variety of mechanics that will absolutely test your puzzling skills. It’s a no-brainer for puzzle aficionados, even if everything doesn’t quite come together in the end.