I understand the hate that Pokémon Violet is getting. Frame rate issues, glitches, and design choices that make little sense are everywhere. Making characters less customizable is unforgivable. Developers saying their game is open-world when there are level caps is redundant. But I'm still having more fun than I've ever had in a Pokémon title. Violet takes the Pokémon formula and twists it into what I hope becomes the new normal in many ways. Three stories to play through and a UI that feels easier to use than ever before deliver elements Pokémon fans have long been looking for. Violet gave me the same emotional high that I got from the original game, which isn't easy to do. I love being able to take on gym leaders, knock out giant oversized Pokémon, or break into someone's hideout all in the same game. The heart of Pokémon is still here, still beating, even if the outside is full of fatty nonsense at times.
Harvestella is a fresh coat of paint on a familiar wall. It's a good wall, solid foundation, level, able to withstand the elements, and damn good paint. But it's still a wall. If you want to play the newest, most innovative farm sim to date, it's not going to be Harvestella. If you want to play the best version of the farm sim for the modern era, look no further. While it does some odd things, like invisible walls to areas you can clearly see, or not being able to jump on a rock, in the end, those don't matter. Farming is fun, dungeon crawling is fun. The visuals and soundtrack help make Harvestella one of the best possible versions of the farm sim.
Is Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor - Ultimate Edition the best action RPG that isn't about the devil guy everyone knows about? No. Is this a groundbreaking ARPG? Also no. Is it great for those who are super into the Warhammer lifestyle? Probably. A few gameplay elements felt like frustrations instead of straight-up turn-offs. Text that is hard to read, combat feels less action-packed, and the cover mechanics confused me. But there are plenty of bright spots for people who like ARPGs to enjoy. The way the missions work, you could play this indefinitely if you don't get bored of the repetitive action that most ARPGs tend to provide. Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor - Ultimate Edition isn't a ground-breaking formula shift to ARPGs. Instead, it's a well-made ARPG that makes you feel like you're playing in the world of Warhammer 40,000.
With Cultic, the nostalgia hits hard. So hard that it was easy to overlook some of the lighter features of the game. Enemies are mindless cult fanatics, sometimes with a gun, other times with an ax, and on occasion dressed in more than just robes. But that doesn't matter. What matters is that Cultic made me feel like I was sitting on a kitchen chair in my friend's house, taking turns trying to clear levels like I was ten years old. When I find something that gives me that goosebump feeling of nostalgia, I eat it up. Cultic made it feel like Thanksgiving; I can't wait to see what the solo developer, Jason Smith, cooks up for chapter two.
It's a shame I can't see myself playing more Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed. It feels like developer IllFonic pulled out all the stops to make this a great asymmetrical title, including notable attention to detail with all the Ghostbusters callbacks. In single player, the enemy AI was fine, but the teammate AI was horrible, driving home the fact that I was playing alone. If I could convince four other humans to play with me, I could invest hours of time without blinking; it's a shame this game requires five people to enjoy it properly.
Since solving Lego-based puzzles is at the forefront, Bricktales doesn't feel like it's aimed directly at the younger crowd; the sometimes difficult-to-solve conundrums might turn kids off. There is plenty for them to get into, like collecting in-game items or the Lego player customization. The physics-based puzzles to solve were excellent; some were easy, and others were a challenge, but all were rewarding. Even with the challenge, Lego Bricktales is the closest I've come to feeling like I was playing with physical Lego bricks. Playing Lego Bricktales is not the same as sitting on your bedroom floor and letting your imagination run wild, but it's close.
You begin with nothing; what you make is up to you. Let's build a Zoo allows players to be as creative, or not, as they want. Design a layout that feels more like a theme park, or tourist trap if you want. Be the leading zoo breeder in the world if that's more your thing. The vast array of in-game options allows the imagination to make your zoo whatever you want it to be. The game's controls make it a little harder to bring your vision to life. Let's Build a Zoo does a poor job of showing you all the possibilities, but if you can get through the semi-steep learning curve, it's easy to zone out for hours building your zoo.
Shovel Knight Dig is a fun little rogue-lite. While it took me over ten hours to beat, I know better, more rogue-lite skilled players will not need as much time. I did not encounter bugs or errors with my time; but more than a few of what felt like unfair deaths. The chaotic gameplay of Dig makes it hard to see how great the pixel art is at times, but being able to literally slow down the gameplay or adjust my health and damage output makes it easier to appreciate the visuals. I can see myself returning to Shovel Knight Dig in a few months just to give it another spin, but the overall replay did not entice me back immediately.
Potion Permit has you go from unwelcomed guest to belle of the ball. This doesn't feel like other life-sim game in a couple of ways. The handful of mini-games, the romancing, and the gifting feel different, in some good - and sometimes only decent - ways. The pixel art looks great, and load times on the Switch were a breeze. I would have liked more of an overall challenge; the game never feels hard or very difficult. Potion Permit works best when throwing on some headphones and listening to a podcast.
Nine Noir Lives reminds me of childhood Point & Click titles with a grown-up edge. The cat detective and his misadventures with his voice recorder held my attention the whole time. If I were more into the genre, my detective skills might be better. Some puzzles that slowed me down probably won't stump others, but I found them challenging. A story that required my attention throughout made Nine Noir Lives worth my time.
Destroy All Humans! 2 - Reprobed looks and sounds great, like a well-made game from 2022 should. The issues start to arise with the gameplay. Open world maps feel small, missions are short, and the story lacks depth. I never hated my time spent with Reprobed; it started as pushing a pea up a hill but felt like heaving a boulder up a mountain by the end. There are times when I like to think back to being a 13-year-old boy who finds fart jokes amusing; you just don't see games with the same raunchiness to them as you did back in my youth Destroy All Humans! 2 - Reprobed has kept that level of humor, for better or worse.
If I hadn't played Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance II when I was in high school, would I have enjoyed it now? I don't think so. The simplistic look did not age well. The city of Baldur's Gate feels empty and lifeless. The couch co-op is good; being able to play online would have been great, but only the PC version has that. The only real update was the rapid loading times and smooth frame rate. But I did play this back in high school. The memories carried over from 18 years ago. I'm lucky that the nostalgia was strong enough for me to look past the obvious flaws of Dark Alliance II. Because I was able to distance myself from the flaws, I was able to have a blast playing. Exploring, fighting, and the characters all had a familiar feel that made my time enjoyable. It might not be as sharp and crisp as a modern hack and slash game, but it didn't matter.
It's easy for Coromon to be labeled a clone. It almost begs you to think of it as one. On the surface, it looks like a new set of monsters were dropped into a nearly identical world. But dig a little deeper. A story that doesn't have gyms or badges, customization in both difficulty and player options that you don't see in the competitor. Coromon feels more like a spiritual successor to monster trainer games of decades past. Sharper pixel graphics and features that people ask for are present throughout. The look of Coromon is more refined than what you'd expect from a "clone". If you enjoy collecting monsters, then Coromon has it. If you want a new twist, something that helps define the genre moving forward, you're might be let down.
What's my final piece of advice for Long Live the Queen? Shake it off and try again. Is it worth the challenge? Yes. Being successful is gratifying. But having said that, this is a menu game; navigating menus is the core mechanic. There's also plenty of reading that is required, skipping over it makes playing this game almost pointless. The soundtrack is beyond repetitive, nearing an annoyance, but it isn't required to play. Touch controls are fantastic, elevating this to being a great game to sit on the couch and play.
Firegirl: Hack 'n Splash Rescue DX is kindling; easily combustible and not much else. A platformer that makes platforming impossible at times. It also wants to borrow from roguelikes and Metroidvanias, but ends up taking all the wrong elements from them. Firegirl feels repetitive well before it should, including a camera that frustrates and leads to cheap deaths. The art of Firegirl is excellent. The 2D-HD made me feel like I was sitting in the living room of my parents house and I was nine years old again. But that's nothing more than smoke and mirrors.
Sitting down for even ten minutes with Neon White makes me feel like I've gotten a lot of playing time in. Stages are fast, and replaying them when things don't go your way doesn't feel like a drag. The addictive nature of Neon White meant I was going back to the same stages again and again until I was able to ace them. The story isn't for me, and feels predictable, but I can see how it might hit the right crowd. The easy to learn gameplay, with the unique weapon cards made for an experience I couldn't get enough of.
Saying that Legends of Kingdom Rush on PC doesn't feel legendary is not to say I didn't enjoy my time with the game. There is plenty of content to see, even through multiple playthroughs. Combat is a highlight, the AI does not let up on the harder difficulty. The leveling system, items, and dice rolls just don't do it for me here. This is for people who want small gameplay experiences, with a lot of replayability. That being said, Legends of Kingdom Rush has a pickup and play vibe that I can dig while binge-watching tv.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: the Sith Lords expands upon the ground-breaking original. Story choices change depending on who you put into your party at the time. Conversations that take place between party NPCs can also get spicy, depending on who you bring along. Sith Lords does lean on some traditional Star Wars tropes a little harder than I would like, and the menus and UI are a bit dusty. Though I was afraid my rose colored glasses wouldn't hold up, I fell in love with these unique characters once again.
Card Shark has a few things going for it, not the least of which is unique gameplay. I've never played anything like this. The watercolor style looks great. But the story feels like an afterthought; it never felt important or drove the actual game anywhere. The card playing part of Card Shark is nonexistent, instead focusing on the tricks you are trying to pull. While the tricking is fun, there is a lot to remember, and some of the tricks feel silly to perform. This might not be Devolver Digital's biggest game to date, but it does have that feel that most Devolver Digital games give off - a unique game with a unique look and feel. Card Shark doesn't fit into a genre, which is something to admire.