Gwent became a means to an end by the finale, a necessary thing to do to unlock the next story segment, and something I would avoid when possible. Its a shame because Thronebreaker does some good work modifying the familiar Gwent rules, they just get easily overshadowed by the main storyline and the various decisions you can find along the way.
There was a lot of potential afforded by the world jumping mechanic as well as its emulation of recognizable classics, but Old School Musical doesn't do much with them. While the story, and especially the Chicken Republic post-game mode, can offer some challenging rhythm tapping, Rob and Tib's tale stumbles to offer more than a textbook case of saving the world.
Despite my minor frustrations at the way I had finally reached the epilogue, upon watching the credits roll and various screens appeared bringing up memories of earlier game moments I felt a fondness for each of the characters. Over the course of 428: Shibuya Scramble I had grown to know these characters and see them through tough situations. I was genuinely concerned when some were put in danger, and often found myself chuckling at whatever ludicrous situation or funny ending I happened upon. 428: Shibuya Scramble left an empty feeling in my stomach once I had finished, as I realized my time with these characters had come to a close and no new significant time would be spent with them. It's a familiar feeling, one that punctuates the end of stories that I was always sad to have to finally put down.
I enjoyed a lot of what 2064: Read Only Memories had to offer. Gameplay is focused on dialogue and puzzles, and while the latter can be a toss-up between frustrating and satisfying, the former outshines it in both quantity and quality. If not for the relationship between yourself and Turing, as well as the backstories, interactions, and performances of the secondary characters, there wouldn’t be much to keep one engaged. Thankfully all of that is present and make Neo-San Francisco and the stories it holds worth playing through to the very end.
While I enjoyed my time with Shantae: Half-Genie Hero, I was left a bit wanting in regards to gameplay. It just wasn’t satisfying to engage with the platforming and enemies, it was too simple, too easy. I’m not looking for a punishing experience, but I do enjoy having my skills challenged in platformers. Regardless, the beauty on display and the energy in both the soundtrack and movement of each and every character impressed me. I just wish it had a little more bite.
Most of Darksiders Warmastered Edition work rather well. Even if you can easily attribute the major elements to other games, Darksiders adapts them for its own use and mixes them together in such a way that it is surprising it had not been done before, and really hasn’t been done since. The gameplay is greatly satisfying and, while the story is very dumb, completing dungeons and slowly building your power does a great deal to helping you overcome that shortcoming. Sure the executions are more like an FMV than an engaging QTE, and the lip syncing is really bad, but this is a game worth checking out, especially if you haven’t touched the original.
Sadly, even Duke’s attitude can’t save the majority of the game, which is the same Duke Nukem 3D that released 20 years ago, from being a labyrinth of key card doors with instances of fun shootouts. Jumping from platform to platform while shooting an RPG at groups of enemies is fun, but the frustration of running into a locked door and realizing a missed a panel in some room earlier is a hindrance that occurs too often. Remastered graphics helps perspective, though doesn’t do much more than that. Developer commentary is sparse and mostly skippable, while a multiplayer mode was given prominent space despite there being nothing to do beyond bot matches. Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour is a good romp for those who have never picked up one of the previous eleven ports, but doesn’t offer anything substantial for everyone else.
Despite some great options and customization available, Seraph’s narrative doesn’t go anywhere with what is presented or hinted at and the gameplay has many elements that don’t feel significant enough to be worth investing into. There is a lot to dig into both in mechanics, systems, and game modes, but the foundation of what is there doesn’t compel me to make multiple returns. Including Twitch integration and inclusive options for all opens up the audience, although I don’t think they’ll stick around after the first playthrough and toying with the additional options.
While Owlboy may have small sections that cause numerous restarts, those portions are buried underneath the overwhelming amount of great moments found within. Nearly everything about Owlboy is well-crafted. From the graphics, the soundwork, the characters and their inter-relationships, the changing state of the world, the gameplay, and the title’s ability to introduce and drop mechanics in a dynamically-paced way, Owlboy is a perfectly executed composition of story and gameplay.
Yomawari: Night Alone has small elements that may be frustrating, with repeated death and wasted time spent wandering, looking for the one thing that will cause some progression. This is mitigated by its short run time and great sense of atmosphere. The reserved score, reliance on player imagination, and world building make it a worthwhile investment for those who aren’t afraid of surrealistic creatures lurking in the dark.
XCOM 2 rises above these small errors, and is still a highly recommendable strategy game for those both new and familiar with the franchise. Both friendly and hostile upgrades are doled out to yourself and the opposition over the course of the entire campaign, ensuring variety through to the end. Whether or not you will make it there is entirely on you, which is why success is celebrated and losses so discouraging. XCOM 2 introduces new elements that keep the strategy game fresh, continues to overwhelm the player with options, and challenges you to overthrow the alien overlords in power. There isn't much more I could ask for.
I wanted to enjoy Virginia, but the nonsense ending left me annoyed and puzzled as to its meaning. Even playing a second time, I still am not sure what really happened. Some aspects I understand, such as a scenario in which the player character ascends to her bosses rank and basically becomes him down to both the smoking and tossing a file to the person at your desk. I had someone else play for any insight, but the continual edits and metaphysics left them confused as well. There may be something there for others, but for me it was simply a good mystery gone wrong, and not one I enjoyed upon completion.
I very much enjoyed all of my time with Jazzpunk. Slowly understanding that a character from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas had made its way into the tropical resort level was one of my favorite realizations while playing. Jazzpunk knows its all about the joke and never spends too much time on one singular scenario. Due to the speed of which these are thrown at you though, you may lose your place or forget what exactly you were supposed to do and how to do it. Despite that I still find it recommendable to almost anyone who can appreciate absurdist humor and a irreverence for logic when it comes to comedy.
While I enjoy the arcade flavor of gameplay with high score chases and B-movie acting, all three Dead Rising games are not suited for the current generation. Zombies are played out, well beyond their shelf life and now devoid of any interesting storytelling. Beyond the zombie genre, the loading times and hard save system can’t help but show this series’ age. Some off-the-wall characters keep things engaging, as does the curiosity of seeing what weapons are most effective against crowds, but overall they are best left as fond memories than contemporary experiences.
Despite that problem, and the overall roughness of Verdun, I still find myself enjoying it. I can’t stand to play it for more than an hour or two per night due to the default match length currently being thirty-minutes. Sometimes it can be a very boring or frustrating game — one where I die much more often than not and barely get to engage with the enemy. Other times I can pull off a long distance shot to take down an enemy or make it through the enemy trench unscathed. Those moments are great, but it doesn’t make the lack of a large player count or the lack of teaching its mechanics any easier to deal with. Verdun is at its core a good game, but one that is hard to recommend beyond a niche audience who enjoy punishing and somewhat accurate World War I shooters.
The more I think about my time with Hyper Light Drifter, as well as my continued journey in New Game Plus, the more I realize how much I like this game. Every aspect of it contains a high bar of quality. The sound work, composed by Disasterpeace, is subtle, but will crescendo at just the right moments. The graphics are a throwback to a bygone era of gaming, but also effectively convey a real and lived in world rich in mythology and fantastical events. Combat has a solid foundation that it builds upon, and enemies are fun to fight or watch plummet to the abyss below thanks to a disappearing platform. Hyper Light Drifter is a game you should not miss out on.