As time goes on and Thomasina becomes haunted by strange dreams and flashbacks of her past alongside some disturbing encounters in Bewlay, the cosmic horror elements of Hob's Barrow slowly come to the forefront, leading to the game's harrowing conclusion. With a recent resurgence of the point-and-click genre, this game is a great example of how to do the style justice. Although it's occasionally stifled by less-than-stellar quests, the overall storytelling, acting, and general ambiance of The Excavation of Hob's Barrows make it well worth a player's time.
Dwarven Skykeep prides itself on being incredibly hard to master, which is either a pro or con depending on the player. The game only has two difficulty levels, the lowest of which is Hard, and levels are meant to largely require multiple tries prior to victory. The game's boss battles are particularly challenging, which means they also provide a solid sense of satisfaction once beaten. Dwarven Skykeep is definitely best for RTS and tower defense fans, as it includes more of these elements in its moment-to-moment gameplay than it does deckbuilding, and certainly isn't for those who prefer the ability to adjust a game's challenge. While Dwarven Skykeep doesn't deeply reinvent any of the genres it borrows from, the way it combines them is very worthwhile, and alongside a silly and entertaining - albeit simple - storyline, Dwarven Skykeep comes off quite well-rounded and enjoyable.
Wobbledogs isn't perfect, and players looking for an incredibly involved pet simulator or a sandbox game with satisfying crafting loops will likely be disappointed. However, for those who don't mind a more idle playstyle, Wobbledogs offers a strange, charming experience, albeit a fairly simple one both in terms of its graphics and gameplay. The game's gut flora and breeding mechanics are fun to experiment with, whether players are setting out to simply make the cutest pup or test the game's laws of nature. While the game might not scratch the itch of a player looking for an involved pet simulator, Wobbledogs is a great source of silly, open-ended, sandbox fun.
Harvestella is a game full of immersive environments, beautiful music, and an engaging and meaningful narrative for both its world and main characters, which is enough to redeem the game's more mediocre elements. There are several areas of Harvestella, like it farming, animations, and social simulation elements that would have greatly benefited from more depth and care put into them, but despite these flaws the game manages to be incredibly addictive. It's easier to notice these issues when comparing Harvestella to games like Rune Factory, but standing on its own Harvestella is a fairly strong title that's worth players' time. It may not be perfect, but it's very easy for players to fall into a "just one more day" loop in Harvestella nonetheless as they uncover the mysteries of its universe.
Though Rusty Lake: The Past Within has many of the same themes of a horror video game, it's not an outright scary title. Its cartoony graphics make sure that nothing ever gets too disturbing, and some moments meant to be spooky actually look quite silly, but the game's soundtrack does a good job of setting a generally eerie tone throughout. The Past Within is quite short, with its two chapters clocking in at about two hours total, although there is some replayability to be had via the ability to choose between "Butterfly" or "Bee" mode, which changes the answers to the puzzles. Overall, at the price of only a few dollars, Rusty Lake: The Past Within will likely be a worthwhile enough experience for long-time fans of the series, but players not familiar with the story or those seeking a challenge should look elsewhere.
While players shouldn't go into Monorail Stories expecting a Telltale Games-level of branching storylines, it's a simple and charming title that despite its elements of conflict is an overall relaxing player experience. The replay aspect of the game ensures nothing ever feels too high stakes - if players make a mistake, they can simply readjust their approach the next time around. While the repeated playthrough element may not be for everyone, it's an interesting concept that's easy for players to jump into for short play sessions. Although sometimes repetitive, Monorail Stories tells a mostly engaging and charming story that seems to have a bright future ahead of it.
If players are looking for a sandbox game where they plan to solely focus on building, Hokko Life may be the answer. The customizable crafting elements of the game are strong, and players can even share their designs with other players online in the game's city center. However, if players are looking for a new life simulation experience, Hokko Life will likely not provide the depth or addicting fun they're looking for.
At its core, Wylde Flowers is much more of a narrative-driven social simulation game than a game about farming and other such activities. The surface-level nature of some of the game's elements could be a problem were it not for the fact that Wylde Flowers absolutely excels at the story it's trying to tell utilizing a brilliant cast of characters. With Wylde Flowers, players get an eclectic game where they can brew potions and cast spells while somehow also enjoying a fairly grounded, small-town life alongside unique characters. While it may not be the most complex title on some fronts, Wylde Flowers succeeds at telling a bewitchingly beautiful story.
However, despite these frustrations players will likely still find themselves returning to Potion Permit for hours at a time - it's incredibly easy to get in a "just one more day" loop despite some of the game's duller moments, because the puzzling and progression elements like improving as a chemist, forging friendships, and upgrading the clinic are so satisfying. At its core, Potion Permit is a unique and cozy indie game that clearly has a large amount of effort and ambition behind it, which helps it overcome some - but not all - of its flaws. For players looking to sink dozens of hours into a different style of simulation title, brewing up a life in Potion Permit may be just what the doctor ordered.
Despite these few flaws, Ooblets is an incredibly strong title that combines several genres into one deeply cute and satisfying experience that stands on its own. Ooblets is not a game to be strategically min-maxed or sped through, and the lack of stakes in the game - particularly the fact Ooblets can't die - is incredibly welcome, encouraging players to take their time. Ooblets is hands-down one of the most unique simulation games of the last several years, and offers a truly creative new take on cozy gaming.
Despite this handful of shortcomings, Bear & Breakfast offers exactly the experience most players will be looking for with the title: the ability to play as a cute bear managing quaint bed and breakfast establishments in the woods. Players can continue to complete challenges for their resorts outside of direct story progression to earn rewards like clothes for Hank that add hours of additional gameplay to the title, and can spend as much time as they like making their resorts the perfect experience for guests. Bear & Breakfast is an incredibly cozy game that manages to capture the best strategic elements from the management simulation game genre while still staying true to its intended tone.
The Sims 4 High School Years truly excels when it comes to building personalities for teen Sims, and wonderfully captures teen moments like asking your crush to prom or starting drama online. Although somewhat dampened by its large amount of useless set pieces, the world of Copperdale is quite beautiful and the perfect setting for high school. The lack of depth and functionality in some elements of The Sims 4 High School Years Expansion Pack is particularly disappointing because of how deep other features of the game go, but the title does an excellent job overall of encapsulating most of the key parts of adolescence.
Good Company is described as a game "inspired by the trail-blazing spirit of Silicon Valley," an essence that it manages to successfully capture in the way players advance and adapt in an ever-changing technological landscape. However, alongside this comes the sterility of its assembly line-focused mechanics and a depth of work required that may be intimidating to those not incredibly familiar with the management simulation genre. For experienced players who value creating efficient task loops and the utmost optimization, Good Company provides a slew of tools that let players micromanage to their heart's content, but it may lack the human touch some players are looking for.
Although developers have noted fixing the issue, given the fiasco that surrounded the release of the incredibly broken My Wedding Stories Game Pack and the time it took to be patched, fans should undoubtedly be wary of the bug's status upon the official release of The Sims 4 Werewolves. However, the contents of the Game Pack is incredibly solid, and if the issue is resolved it will stand as one of the strongest Game Packs yet. The Sims 4 Werewolves showcases what is perhaps the most outstanding occult The Sims 4 has seen 7 years into its lifespan, and offers players a huge amount of cute clothing, useful items, and ways to tell their own werewolf stories.
Chinatown Detective Agency is a superbly told story with memorable characters and incredibly engaging gameplay. The unique noir-style take on Carmen Sandiego presents a strong, admirable protagonist that strives to be the hero even in the darkest of times, while provoking the question of what heroism really means. The game's case-cracking gives the player a true feeling of accomplishment and justice-served, with the added bonus of learning about interesting new topics. The game's greatness makes the fact it cannot be finished even more disappointing - without the large bugs, Chinatown would be a nearly flawless game. However, under the assumption the development team is able to make the necessary changes to the game, Chinatown Detective Agency has the potential to become a great modern point-and-click adventures.