Martijn van Gent
While definitely rough around the edges, I thoroughly enjoyed Penny's Big Breakaway. There is a lot to get out of its levels whether it's a faster time, higher score, or all of its collectibles but I don't even need a specific reason to play through them again because controlling Penny is entertaining enough in and of itself. If you're looking for a fun and fast 3D platformer then look no further. 🪀
As you would expect from the genre, both of the Baten Kaitos games are quite lengthy. Even if you use the speed up features like I did, they could still easily take you anywhere from 40-60 hours to beat. In that sense, Baten Kaitos I & II HD Remaster is definitely a solid bang for your buck – but how many of those hours are genuinely fun? That heavily depends on if you can put/keep up with the battle system – and even then the other aspects of the duology aren't winning awards either, with the exception of Monolith Soft's signature worldbuilding. The "quality of life menu" defines the remaster, for better and for worse – if its implementation was more mindfully done it could've actually made the originals great, instead of merely showcasing how flawed they were and making their worst parts more tolerable. I'd be willing to overlook these flaws – especially in the case of Origins because of its story and characters – if only they just let me pick my cards in peace. From my perspective, its age is the primary thing that holds the series back – in fact, I have no doubt that if Monolith Soft were to make Baten Kaitos 3 today, it would be amazing. I don't know who to recommend Baten Kaitos I & II to though – I suppose big JRPG fans could do worse for the price, as long as you're aware of what you're getting into.
Overall, I had a lovely time with Mr. Run and Jump. It has pretty much everything I could ask for in a 2D platformer: responsive controls, fun movement options, solid level design, and adequate production values. The game is difficult but also has enough options to accommodate most skill levels – nevertheless, as discussed earlier, people who love the challenge shall probably get the most out of it. To those people, it's an easy recommend from me. If you're more of a casual platformer fan, Mr. Run and Jump is still entertaining – just be aware that the game will likely be less of a time investment, for better and for worse.
Out of the ten hours I spent playing Little Friends: Puppy Island, I think I must have spent at least seven of them just mindlessly trudging from one place to another. It feels like the game replicates a lot of the worst parts of owning a dog without capturing too much of what makes it fun, besides how darn cute the little guys are. I could look past some of its faults if it wasn't sold at nearly full price, but there is honestly not a single person on this planet that should pay that much for such a shallow and repetitive experience. If the price got cut in half, I might cautiously recommend it to kids that really love dogs and don't have one – that's honestly the only demographic of people I could see finding some enjoyment out of Little Friends: Puppy Island. To anyone else, I recommend going outside if you desire a good walking simulator.
In conclusion, Trinity Trigger is a great game! The gameplay and soundtrack really make it stand out, and allow me to overlook the mediocre graphics and story pretty easily. I spent around 35 hours playing it, and that is while doing all optional content as I said earlier, which took up about a 1/3rd of that time. That number may sound low for an RPG, but seeing as the game is not sold at full price this is not a bad amount of content whatsoever. I only wish the game was longer because of the potential I see in it – I wanted more time to flesh out the gameplay, the characters, the world, everything. I wanted Trinity Trigger to be truly outstanding, but it sadly doesn't go far enough with its ideas and concepts to earn that label. Even so, I most definitely recommend the game to fans of action RPG gameplay – and I'll be wishing for a (spiritual) sequel in the meantime.
In conclusion, Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp is the pure strategy experience I never knew I wanted. And that is without having even mentioned all of the other modes the game has to offer besides the two campaigns; such as the Design Room where you can make your own maps, and the various ways you can test your CO skills against opponents – whether they are CPUs or humans, both locally and online. These are nice extras that I'm sure other people will enjoy more than me, but none of them were needed to make me a new fan of Advance Wars. I want more of this – more of this genre, and more revivals of franchises that were thought to be dead. Simply put, if you like strategy games, you owe it to yourself to pick this game up.
Atelier Ryza 3 certainly does have depth below its pretty surface – having said that, it is unfortunate that you'll be diving into that depth without adequate assistance on the gameplay side of things. It's funny how in some way, playing the game actually brought me right back to my uneducated thoughts about the series before experiencing it – the characters and aesthetics really are the best parts, or at least the easiest parts to like. For better and for worse, the backbone of the Atelier Ryza 3 experience is its complex crafting system – so if that sounds appealing, I think you'll have a good time with the game. Even when taking that away though, it's still a pretty decent JRPG with fun characters, a beautiful overworld to traverse and a good amount of content to keep you busy.
I had high expectations for Octopath Traveler II, and yet it somehow managed to meet basically all of them. It certainly doesn't deviate much from Octopath Traveler I's formula and thus will probably not convince detractors of that game, but they managed to improve upon every aspect of it while also making a beautiful self-contained experience that doesn't require any knowledge of said predecessor to be enjoyed. The battle system is expertly designed and incredibly fun, the characters and their stories are wonderful, and the presentation is top notch – there's really not much more I can ask for in a JRPG. So if you like that genre even a little bit, this game is one of the easiest recommendations I can give.