Games can often feel like some kind of sorcery, impossibly complex and created by people with inhuman ability. But they’re just people. Highly talented people, but still. Anodyne 2 is not sorcery, but it is a kind of magic, an ordinary magic that is all the more exceptional because of it.
I am not sure if Evan’s Remains entirely earns its thematic heft when so much of it is inscrutable, but that it is willing to end its plot in a moment of intense duress is daring enough to elevate its weaker moments. It's untidy, its themes barely cohesive. But if Evan's Remains was not so unusual, if it had simply doubled-down on puzzles and pretty screens, I do not think it would have left half the impression it did.
Saving You From Yourself is just one story. In this one, it is possible to have a happy ending, for the experience of transitioning to be as friction-less as possible. But at every point it emphasizes how discrimination corrupts that process, making a moment of self-actualization a sequence of bureaucratic roadblocks. It was timely in 2018 and has only grown more significant in the time since release.
Had Signs of the Sojourner allowed the player to fail without having the door slammed in their face, it would be easier to forgive some of the flatness present in its card system or the brevity of its script. But by framing conversations as games to be won without anticipating how often they’d be lost, huge chunks of the game become sequences of frustrating nonsequiturs.
Near Death consistently hits the highs of the best survivalist fiction, so engrossing as to cause me to turn up the heat in my own home out of fear. But it is a story we have heard before. There is little to take away from Near Death that has not been played out in other works, and it made me long for the stories of survival that position life as not an individual pursuit but a collective triumph.
Games like Orwell recklessly attempt to work backward from the lies used to justify surveillance, rather than recognizing that we have to fight the concept itself. It is a game decades too late to matter and does more to legitimize its target than it does to take them down.
Corruption 2029 feels like a straight to VHS sequel. Zoomed out it looks like what you’d expect the studio to do next, albeit with a different theme and fewer talking ducks. But there is no soul, no justification for the game’s existence, and numerous moments where it feels actively inferior to a game that came out two years ago.
I like so much of what Mutant is attempting to do. Dux and Bormin are delightful, adding stealth gameplay onto a tactics game is clever and works well before becoming played out, and there are so few tactics games to speak of that even one which is otherwise derivative provided a welcome excursion for a few hours. It's so frustrating that everything begins to fall apart right as the game comes into its own.
Wandersong is a game of cosmic circumstances on a humble scale. It deals with questions of archetypes, destiny, an understanding of the self, and how our actions shape the world around us. It is a game that begs to be read as analogous to the hopeless pessimism that permeates modern life as well as a commentary on the tropes games so consistently employ, using our familiarity with both these elements to subvert the traditional hero’s journey.
Beyond Eyes is fragmented, half-hearted, and dull, and I doubt I would have cared enough to write this much if it wasn’t also irresponsible with its subject matter. I do believe Tiger & Squid had good intentions, and Beyond Eyes is far from paving any roads to hell. I just wish they had spent as much time considering Beyond Eyes’ framing device and mechanics as they did editing its trailer.