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.
In my eyes, Happy’s Humble Burger Farm is a genius game. A horror game tied to the drudgeries of life isn’t a new concept. Even the idea of avoiding the wrath of cute mascots has been done before. However, Happy’s Humble Burger Farm does it with such dreamlike depth and panache that I can’t help but be impressed. I doubt this will be the last time I dawn the ugly apron and sling fattening food, and I just know there are more pieces of the mystery waiting to be scraped off the grill.
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.
Not everyone is going to think that way, clearly. Each individual has their own expectations for a remake, and Actraiser Renaissance may have put hands on facets that were once sacred. Some will find the changes intrusive. It would have been nice if there was a classic mode included that strips out the tower defense to make everyone happy, but that’s not in the cards. In my eyes, however, Acraiser Renaissance was one of the biggest surprises and the most enjoyable gaming experiences I’ve had this year.
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.
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.
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.
Hot Wheels Unleashed impressed me on basically every marker. It looks terrific, it feels great, and the track design is extremely well done. I kind of hate the blind box approach of unlocking cars, but that’s a small complaint when getting my wheels on the track is always a delight.
There are some rough edges to be found, and one person’s relaxation will be another’s repetition. However, Grow: Song of the Evertree succeeds in its attempts at presenting a wholesome, laid-back experience. Its successes are admirable, and its missteps are negligible. It lives up to its philosophy and presents something that has all the satisfying progression of a typical game experience, but without all the violence. There’s still room to grow, but the roots are firmly planted.
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.
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.
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.
Personal grievances aside, I think Lake succeeds in its aims, and that’s the important thing. It set out to be a slice of small-town life, and that’s what it is. I think there’s a rather narrow audience for that kind of thing, but it will be perfect for those who know what they’re getting into. If you think you’d be into a narrative about escaping the city life, then here it is. The writing is solid, the production values are decent for its asking price, so it’s worthwhile to check out of that’s your thing. As for me, I’m just eager to get back to the city.
With that said, I did enjoy Inscryption. Part of me is tempted to dive back in to see if I can scrape any more secrets out of its cracks. Really, that’s where it excels: not the misdirection, but the hidden crawlspaces where it hides all the bodies. At its best, it feels like you’re actually uncovering a deeper plot. At its worst, it feels like you’re watching a magician pull handkerchiefs out of their sleeve. It’s cool, I guess, but you know they’re just screwing with you.
With all that said, I can clearly see why Corpse Party is a cult classic. It’s a dismal, oppressive horror game that sinks you into the hell it has constructed. It presents a thick, sticky mystery to wade through and presents it with panache. It’s maybe not the most essential remaster of a game, but the same spooky tale of hopelessness is still present. I just wish it would keep its obvious fascination with human excrement to itself.
For what it’s worth, I enjoyed my time with Windjammers 2. It sucked me in for hours as I slaved over a hot arcade stick. The single-player is very challenging, but it can only hold up the overall product for so long. It’s also not as transcendental as something like Streets of Rage 4 was in its revival of an old formula. It is as it says on the box: a sequel. It might as well have come out in 1996 for all it adds.