Ashley Bardhan


12 games reviewed
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Unscored - How Fish Is Made
Oct 2, 2023

There are benefits to embracing a game like that, playing catch in your mind with how often you’ve chosen wrong, and why. Putting so much value in your actions can make you feel like you really are alive. There are consequences to it, sure, but there’s also relief you identify as grief. Or, maybe, the weird, free Steam game is only a weird, free Steam game. Either way, I’ll be thinking about How Fish Is Made for a long time.

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Unscored - Fae Farm
Sep 6, 2023

I’m over seeing girls’ cuteness being understood as their obedience—to social expectations, to men’s interpretation, whatever—and I don’t need Fae Farm following suit by serving us hollow chocolate bunnies, something easy to eat. Other modern cozy games have already demonstrated that the genre can handle emotional depth, and I prefer that to the worn-out Harvest Moon picnic blanket. We can wrap ourselves in something more prickly, life sims’ primarily female audience is certainly capable of complexity. Women like more than flowers and marriage. We contain multitudes. It’s not a big deal.

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Aug 28, 2023

Aside from being constrained by dialogue—which, for my taste, sometimes relies too much on pain to get me invested (“I tried to kill myself so many times that I can’t even [...] look at myself in the mirror,” comes up as a choice for Fortuna more than once; “If we don’t dig into the intense stuff we might as well just have a normal conversation,” she says another time)—I am powerful in this game. But in its customizable cards and in its story, in which witches are obsessed with strength and disappointing each other, The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood encourages me to think about this seriously. How selfish am I? What matters more, me or my community?

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Unscored - Fort Solis
Aug 23, 2023

Thinking back on my playthrough, there were positive times where I’d notice myself admiring some of Solis’ design details, like Jessica’s rubbery glove caught in her glinting headlamp as she shielded her face from the smoggy storm, or narrative decisions, like when Jack passed his hand over a murder victim’s open eyes to empathetically close them. But they don’t create a unified image; I can neither value nor reject what I’ve done here. I put Fort Solis down confused and disengaged, with half a mind on my email notifications.

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Aug 18, 2023

I’m only hoping that future added content and skilled players will help Texas become, as macabre as this is, a bit more fun. Dying and reviving under a searing, neon sun is a rare opportunity; from the safety of my console, I’d like to enjoy it.

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Unscored - Homebody
Aug 2, 2023

I tend to avoid seriously talking to people about my OCD, too, especially in times where it’s been as physically and emotionally isolating as it is for Emily. Because of how personal it is, I don’t thirst for OCD representation in games, or in any media at all, really, but playing Homebody has been surprisingly cathartic. It’s an autopsy of the run-of-the-mill terror I’ve learned to live with and let go.

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Jun 15, 2023

Whereas something like Faust satirizes the tortured artist, conveying that creative people aren’t necessarily special people, that they can be as bad as anyone, Layers of Fear seems to say that art is uncontrollable. It’s a hungry, magical force, and if a wife, or a sister, or a daughter are caught and bloodied in its insatiable mouth then, well. So be it. I find that difficult to accept. I think it’s damaging, too, to contextualize art as something dangerous and wild, however reverentially Layers of Fear phrases it. Art isn’t the boogeyman. It’s not the problem—people are, usually. Blaming a monster, like the Rat Queen, feels too easy to me. That’s a narrative issue I’ve had with Layers of Fear since the beginning, and the new Writer and Musician stories have unfortunately made it snowball.

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Unscored - Dead Island 2
Apr 18, 2023

Through its skillful environmental design and indulgent combat, Dead Island 2 is one of the best, most disgusting playgrounds I’ve ever played in.

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Feb 16, 2023

And I’m thankful for that. I’m old enough now to witness girls partake in the video game industry outside of “girl games,” and to experience its full breadth for myself. Metroid Prime Remastered isn’t as perfect of a game as it seemed to be over 20 years ago. Too much time has passed for that to have ever been the case. But it will always know how to let a woman live.

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Jan 30, 2023

15 years later, we have more compelling protagonists to choose from, and even more interesting space zombies, like those in Dead Space creator Glen Schofield’s The Callisto Protocol, which is also mired by repetitive bosses, but at least looks and sounds incredible. The Dead Space remake accomplishes what it set out to do, it makes an old game compatible for modern consoles. But that’s all it does. 2008’s lightning stays in its bottle.

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Dec 2, 2022

I consider The Callisto Protocol one of the most ambitious games I played this year, maybe even the most next to Elden Ring (though I think Elden Ring is in a league of its own—I don’t know if anything will be able to approach its depth and sophistication for a long time). Its thoughtful attention to environment, sound, and touch is what, I think, next-gen gaming should be like: an experiment with the senses and with story. The game has its issues, too, which can’t be ignored. But at least it feels human.

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Unscored - Immortality
Aug 30, 2022

I want art to be a place where I can find love, beauty, or truth. Without these things, Marissa Marcel was better off lost.

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