So, that's where I'm at. I enjoyed playing Everhood and the music was extremely enjoyable, but before we could apply for the marriage certificate, I realized how loudly it breathes when it sleeps and now I just want to suffocate it. I'm still giving it a recommendation, because not everyone is going to share my grievances with the narrative and the technical issues can be ironed out. There's some definite high points here, but I don't think it's going to achieve immortality.
It comes across as a diabolical labor of love. The game is obviously made by people who cared for the property, as it conserves everything that was great about the original title while tightening the screws on the old doomsday device. Even without the multiple campaigns, it's a ridiculously long game. But the fact that I was rarely annoyed or bored, while continuously finding new elements to love, is a testament to how well-executed the sequel is. If the first game wasn't diabolical enough for you, this one should scratch that evil itch a bit better.
Simply put, it's a title that knows what it is and seems to hit all its targets with deadly precision. This results in a game that isn't exactly transcendental, but is as solid as bedrock. Even if you're not a fan of the Record of Lodoss War source material, it is worth a look. At the very least, it took me back to my days of binging on Castlevania's Game Boy and DS titles, which I mean as a compliment. It may not be the freshest meal in the cafeteria, but it's still a tasty dish at the right price.
That's not to say Spacebase Startopia is a bad game, it's just something of a disappointment. At best, it feels like a remake that makes a few missteps. It's a forgery at worst. If you really want more Startopia but can't stand to look at its dated graphics, there's definitely something for you here. Otherwise, you're better off docking with a different donut.
What it comes down to is that Shadow Man Remastered is an excellent title that I enjoyed thoroughly. However, it is an excellent twenty-something-year-old title, and some people just can't go back to that era. I get it. But for the rest of us, this is definitely a title worth pulling back from Deadside.
Perfect Gold is one such game that did manage to hit paydirt. It's absolutely solid, and finding a narrative, even in the VN genre, that deserves to be called that can be difficult. The characters are flawed without being annoying, interesting without being archetypal, and the storytelling does a great job of focusing on them. It's worthwhile if you're into watching two people in love while figuring themselves out.
I had a lot of trouble tearing myself away from Biomutant, and a lot of my grievances didn't really surface until I'd finished it and had time to digest. Before that, I was absorbed in exploring its well-designed world, plumbing ruins, collecting dopey looking mounts, and dressing like I just survived a landfill explosion. There are some unwanted mutations in its genes, but they're covered in fur and easy to overlook.
I also have to stress that Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World isn't a bad game. Some of the backtracking got annoying, but mostly it's just monotonous. The mechanics are tight enough, I just can't help but shrug at the final product. I'm always happy when an old title is given new life, but that doesn't mean I'm going to end up loving it.
As a whole, Backbone is stylish but not exceptional. It’s a good time with an enjoyable story, but otherwise it’s just kind of routine. The visual style is great, but it’s offset by uneven audio design. There’s definitely a lot to love about Backbone, I just don’t feel it sticks the landing quite well. It will be worthwhile playing for most, but I’m more interested in what comes next from EggNut.
Not only is Chicory a fun game, and not only did it speak to me on a profound level, it also made me want to be a better me. I’m not exaggerating nor using hyperbole, it’s a well-built experience with a tremendous amount of heart. It wants you to be you, and it wants you to know that the best you can do is always good enough.
I wrack my brain trying to figure out Dark Alliance’s strengths, and I’m not coming up with much. The level design works surprisingly well for multiplayer. I was afraid looting would fall by the wayside, but every time a fight would wrap up, everyone would run off in different directions and grab chests before finally moving on. I didn’t feel like things were getting missed. Well, except for the shoes that would pop out of chests some other player would open. Those just rot, forgotten on the ground.
I played Secret Agent HD pretty flat out. I ate through the episodes hungrily until I hit the end. For all its flaws, it’s an easy game to get sucked into. The levels are just short enough that I fell into the “just one more level” trap. The inclusion of leaderboards, additional difficulties, and a level editor help extend the game’s lifespan and breathe new life into it.
Most of the time, though, it’s like playing a stripped-down version of Yakuza. You wander a Japanese neighborhood, shop, do side-quests, build up your character, much like in that venerated series. But then the combat sucks and the story is poorly paced. On the other hand, I can’t deny it grew on me. It feels like one of those janky, Japanese, early PS2 titles like Mr. Mosquito or Robot Alchemic Drive. It might not be the most fun to play, but it’s unique enough to captivate.
Even if you’re at peace with managing deliverymen with tommy guns, City of Gangsters is a bit of a difficult sell. At its core, it is a long and unexciting game. A lot of the time I felt like I was trying to decode the game’s logic and keep plates spinning rather than run a successful bootlegging operation. When everything clicks, it can be somewhat satisfying, but that happens so rarely, you’d think the game was sampling its own wares.
I think it’s narratively weak; a few sparks, but never a fire. The games held within are not just overly basic, but often not even fun. Even the quest design is an escort quest and a forced stealth section away from a broken controller. It makes me feel like the bad guy when I say these things to such a cute and innocent game. I absolutely wanted to love Button City, but it gave me no reason to give up another quarter.
Yet, I can’t help but feel entranced by Road 96’s framework; the depiction of a journey as being a bunch of moments. Moments where you dig into a character’s psyche or just have fun playing air hockey. It’s lightweight, effective, and I can’t think of another place where it’s this well-executed. If you’re willing to stomach the rough patches and politics, there’s a rich game within. One that explores how people affect and are affected by the world. Personally, I think it’s worth the trip.
A huge impact was left on me by Psychonauts. While that’s not likely to be the same story for Psychonauts 2, I wasn’t disappointed. There was no single place that let me down so severely that it soured the overall experience. Nothing that struck me as starkly inferior. It’s maybe not quite as genius, but it’s still a mind worth exploring.
Which is fine. Buck Up and Drive is just a silly little game and doesn’t pretend to be more than that. There’s a dearth of bells or whistles, but the core gameplay is ridiculous and easygoing enough that it’s probably impossible to not be entertained. It’s a fun diversion, for as long as it lasts, but your mileage might vary. For me, I think it’s time for another radical cruise.
The port is also quite nice, but it’s going to be an affront to purists. The modern upgrades change the feel of the game immensely, and while I’d argue it’s for the best, it’s also at the expense of the challenge. It’s a short, breezy experience. A comfortable slice of ‘90s platforming. It’s up to you if that’s what you need right now, but I certainly enjoyed it.