Justin Mercer


18 games reviewed
68.3 average score
75 median score
66.7% of games recommended
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8 / 10 - Soulstice
Sep 20, 2022

Soulstice absolutely works as a love letter to action games of the bygone PlayStation 2 era. Vitally, however, it does so without losing a clear identity of its own. Its combat system is unique in the way it asks players to actively monitor mechanics while also avoiding enemy attacks and dishing out flashy combos in true character action game fashion. Its boss battles leave quite a bit to be desired, and the level design may be a bit too narrow at points, but <em>Soulstice</em> manages to make up for these shortcomings with an emotional story and a unique brand of observation-based gameplay that ensures its status as a confident addition to the genre.

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Sep 12, 2022

Metal: Hellsinger is exactly as in-your-face and easy to pick up as a rhythm FPS featuring death metal should be. If you’re even remotely a fan of metal music and first-person shooters, you’ll have a great time with the six or so hours that it takes to reach the game’s credits. By the same token, if you’re not a fan of the two elements, there probably isn’t going to be much here to change your mind. It’s a bespoke marriage of concepts that work together perfectly, and all core elements are finely crafted to create an experience that’s difficult to put down once you really get going.

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7 / 10 - Steelrising
Sep 7, 2022

Steelrising has the clearly defined bones of a great Soulslike. It features development team Spiders’ most well executed and fluid combat to date, offers players a plethora of build options that feel meaningful in customizing their approach to combat, and delivers on its unique historical aesthetic well. Unfortunately, these obvious positives are dragged down by level design sorely lacking in verticality, enemy encounters sorely lacking in variety, and a narrative sorely lacking in investment. It’s one of the more admirable attempts at the Souls formula in recent memory, but it doesn’t have every piece of the puzzle.

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4 / 5.0 - Islets
Aug 24, 2022

The combat itself is a bit lacking, and it may be on the shorter side for some at about 10 hours, but it successfully delivers on its unique concept to provide a fun, concise experience. When you combine all of the above with the lower price point, Islets is an easy game to recommend to fans of the genre looking for a more relaxed Metroidvanian jaunt.

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Jul 19, 2022

Had more steps been taken to engage the player in the minute-by-minute gameplay or encourage replayability, the number below might have been a notch or two higher. As it stands, however, Endling is a game where the gameplay and mechanics are readily outclassed by its theming and presentation. It’s certainly an experience worth having, but not one that lives up to its full potential.

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8 / 10 - Trek to Yomi
May 5, 2022

Trek to Yomi is a game with a voice and a vision. The title takes every liberty to adhere to its inspirations without ever feeling like a film masquerading as a game, and the reverence the development team has for that era of Japanese films can be felt in every aspect of the experience. The dynamic camera, the gorgeously realized environments, and the personal, character-driven narrative work in tandem to deliver a game that’s wholly unique. It might not be an easy recommendation based purely on gameplay alone, but it’s certainly easy to recommend for just about everything else.

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7 / 10 - Young Souls
Mar 10, 2022

With a more concerted effort to keep the experience exciting as the playthrough carries on, Young Souls could have easily been so much more. Instead, you have a game where you’ve seen the lion’s share of what it has to offer after three or so of the game’s ten hours. And yet despite the lack of variety in the encounters and the receding relevance of an initially intriguing storyline, I never wanted to put it down thanks to an abundance of heart. It’s charming, it’s a joy to look at, it’s challenging, and its accessibility options are lightyears ahead of most beat ‘em ups, but what you see is what you get in Young Souls: a demonstrably good game, but not a great one.

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Feb 11, 2022

With the release of King of Fighters XV, SNK has done what they always do with the King of Fighters series of late: provided a complex, difficult, engaging, and satisfying team fighter. It offers incredible levels of depth to those who really delve into its systems, but vitally presents them in a way that’s still approachable, even if it’s not quite as approachable as the latest entries of its contemporaries.

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8 / 10 - Lost Ark
Feb 8, 2022

Visible effort went into nearly every avenue of the game, making it an easy recommendation even if it doesn’t bring much innovation to the space. The quality of the combat and the variety of content on offer elevates this ARPG experience to be a cut above the rest. The only thing you can stand to lose in trying out Lost Ark is time, and even in a gaming landscape defined by competition for said time, it’s absolutely worth giving a gander.

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4 / 10 - Blackwind
Jan 19, 2022

It’s difficult to recommend on a story basis thanks to its generic narrative, and even harder to recommend on a gameplay basis thanks to the slew of glitches, loose controls, and boring progression. With more time and refinement, Blackwind could very well have been an enjoyable experience, but alas, it didn’t seem to be written in the stars.

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8 / 10 - Scarf
Dec 21, 2021

Scarf is an endearing experience. It wears its inspirations on its sleeve and doesn’t shatter the genre’s conventions with innovative ideas, but still finds enough sure footing to set itself apart from its contemporaries. Moreover, an unsurprising story and a few instances of intentional time-wasters in puzzles aren’t enough to lessen the benefits of its brisk pace and variety of gorgeous environments. It may not hit the highest highs of the genre, but if you’re in the mood for an atmospheric puzzle platformer, you could do much worse.

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Nov 2, 2021

It says a lot that the best way to experience this game is grabbing its original cartridge and plunging it into a Sega Genesis/Mega Drive rather than buying it digitally on PS4 or Switch, and the price for this experience is almost humorous given its release proximity with Gleylancer. One would hope this monumental shortcoming can be fixed with a patch, but as it stands, this port of Panorama Cotton—a blast of a game in its original form—is a nonstarter.

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Oct 21, 2021

In spite of a unique aesthetic and passable puzzles, Tandem: A Tale of Shadows struggles to keep itself exciting. The almost complete lack of narrative thrust and droning gameplay progression drag it down from the moment it begins, and its failure to capitalize on its more attention-grabbing elements guarantees a disappointing experience out of a game that could have easily been more.

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Sep 13, 2021

The addictive moment-to-moment gameplay and the amount of content on offer is well worth the price of admission on either Switch or PC, but it’s hard not to prefer the latter for its higher resolution and smoother framerate. It really gives the game’s beautiful artwork the treatment it deserves.

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The game falters somewhat under the weight of its ambitious premise—the various ramifications of killing or sparing certain NPCs in each five-hour playthrough probably won’t wow you to your core—but fun combat, charming visuals, and thorough commitment to its namesake elevate Hindsight 20/20 – Wrath of the Raakshasa to a unique experience that’s absolutely worth a playthrough (or three) to see what it has to offer.

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4 / 10 - FORECLOSED
Aug 12, 2021

I wouldn’t go as far as to say that Foreclosed is a complete waste of effort to play. It’s clear the developers were trying to make something cool here, but whether you’re looking for a third person shooter, a cyberpunk game, or a story-heavy game, your time would almost assuredly be better spent elsewhere. Every system presented to the player works on a functional level, but their implementation simply isn’t up to par with what’s required to make an engaging video game—even one that’s only about four hours long—and this culminates in an experience that ends up being more half-baked than hard-boiled.

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6 / 10 - Cris Tales
Jul 29, 2021

Cris Tales is the type of game you really want to love. You see the gorgeousness on the screen and hear the lovely score… but then you remember you have to play it. The visual and auditory elements are so stand-out in quality that they cause the more simplistic gameplay and unexciting narrative to feel stunted in comparison.

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Jul 26, 2021

Samurai Warriors 5 is a lot of a good thing, but you have to be confident you’ll enjoy that good thing for it to be worth the price of admission. If you’re already a fan of the singular “1 vs 1000” gameplay that can only really be found in Warriors games, your time will be well spent with this title.

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