Terra Invicta is a deep, interesting and engaging game that doesn’t quite play like much else out there. It spins a lot of plates and, by and large, manages to keep them in the air. There’s a political and conspiracy sim, a light-touch grand strategy game, a resource exploration and exploitation game and a full space-combat sim - any one aspect of which could have easily been spun out into a stand-alone game. There’s a whole research and tech tree system that works brilliantly differently from anything else I’ve seen in a game like this, with a competitive-cooperation angle that is really interesting! I’m genuinely surprised the game works as well as it does - it had sat on my Steam wishlist for many years as a curiosity; something I wasn’t sure would ever see a release and something I’d have been entirely unsurprised to find an over-ambitious failure. That I didn’t is a real source of delight - if anything I’ve touched on sounds at all intriguing to you then you owe it to yourself to sign up for what, in a year of big releases, might just be 2022’s most interesting game.
Ultimately a failure to stick in the imagination is my main criticism of Moonscars. Had this game come out a few years earlier I would almost certainly be more favourable to it, but as it stands it feels a little too familiar to other games I’ve played extensively, and with not quite enough going for it to make it shine. It’s a blast to play, and the combat feels great, but when there are so many other games with that and great character, and great story, and great world-building, so there’s just not quite enough to drag me back in.
Overall, it’s hard to recommend Biomutant when there are so many other games doing similar things better. The narration absolutely murders any immersion or character that the game might have salvaged from its focus-grouped setting, while the gameplay mechanics just aren’t strong enough to carry the game alone. Having one of these aspects work would raise the game to a respectable middle-of-the-road Late 2021s Video Game, but failing on both leaves a world that sadly isn’t worth exploring.
In summary Lost in Play is a great debut from this studio, and I’m eager to see what they come out with next. Fittingly for the game’s narrative there’s an overflow of imagination and charm to be found here in a compact package that won’t outstay its welcome; packed with story, puzzles and games that are clever and varied. And Goblin Poker, which might be worth the entry price alone.
Tarnishing of Juxtia is an interesting if unoriginal entry to the genre. It’s hard to recommend over other entries, as it feels a little bareboned compared to the atmosphere of Hollowknight, the fluidity of Dead Cells or the world design of Tails of Iron, nevermind the epic expanse of Elden Ring. But if you’re looking for another challenge (or if it’s on sale) you might find something to pique your interest in its workmanlike but enjoyable combat, or the hidden depths to its world-building and narrative.
Overall, then, Arise remains an interesting platform experience. The gameplay is fun, the time manipulation is a well-used and well-developed mechanic, the visuals and sound are solid, yet the narrative goes to some strange, tone-deaf places and the overall message is, at best, mixed. Joyful at the beginning, borderline offensive in places in the middle, and thoroughly bleak by the ending.
Overall Headland on the Switch sits at a slightly odd place. It’s a budget game but at too high a price, with very basic graphics but some pleasantly surprising depth to the combat and character build options. It’s certainly kid friendly, and good training wheels for someone looking to move onto challenging fare, but hard to recommend on this platform when it’s available elsewhere at far better value for money.
Ultimately The Lightbringer isn’t a bad game, it’s just not a particularly noteworthy or interesting one. If retro-styled puzzle-platformers are your thing, and you don’t really care about story beyond the most superficial level, then for the price you could certainly do worse, though if it’s a meatier experience that you’re looking for you may want to look instead to some of the titles that provided its inspiration.
If you enjoyed the escapism of Animal Crossing, Stardew Valley or Spiritfarer but want something a little lighter; something short and sweet yet not too saccharine, you could certainly do worse than a short break to Haven Park. The game is a very reasonably priced for its size and scope, and while unlikely to make anyone’s Game-of-the-Year list, is nonetheless a nice palate cleanser between meatier titles.
It’s a shame that this game locks what good content it has behind a boredom-wall of turgid cutscenes and pointless, button mashing combat. It isn’t a long game, with around 20 hours of content, but it feels like it could have been a stronger contender if a lot had been cut and a more interesting, better paced story had been presented as the hook. Everything it does well can be found better elsewhere, and, while I haven’t played it myself, the reception to the series’ own first translated title The Gate of the Firmament is far, far more positive
Tails of Iron is a solid, confident entry to the genre. The tightly focused encounter design, meaty combat and enjoyable world-building and storytelling with adorable rodents who think they’re people, I didn’t find much not to like. The difficulty may be a turn-off for some, but the game keeps to the core soulslike tenet of playing fair and making sure that when you die (and you will die), you’ll know what you did wrong to bring it about. If you’re looking for a challenging, rich adventure then I’d highly recommend joining Redgi to reclaim his kingdom and his crown.
Golf Club: Wasteland is a strangely compelling experience. I found the gameplay frustrating, yet your protagonist isn’t playing golf through the ruins of a post-apocalyptic Earth to “win”, and to get the most from this game neither should you.
Overall Minute of Islands is a deep, thoughtful narrative experience with just enough weight to its simple gameplay to keep interest as you push through to its conclusion. It deals with some difficult subject matter in an engaging and challenging story, and while there are aspects I’d have liked to see it go a little deeper on, for the length and scope of the game I really can’t fault it.
More than anything else I think the real issue with this game I have is the asking price. At time of writing it is going for around £30. You can get all four games in the series on mobile for just over a third of that, almost half of which is for the fourth (and newest) game. WitchSpring 3 on Google’s Playstore is priced at £3.87, a far more compelling price point for the title. Given how well it played in handheld compared to docked mode, and the implementation of the touchscreen controls, if you are at all curious about this game I would certainly recommend the mobile version over the Switch for price alone.
Cris Tales is a game with a lot of charm and good ideas that doesn’t quite deliver on its ambition. Some mechanics seem a little undercooked and the nostalgia for older RPGs will likely be lost on the younger players who seem, from the story and presentation, to be the game’s target audience.