It’s when you begin to view Fallen Angel as a gameplay-centric game that things begin to click; between the unexpected openness of the world and the new weapons, perks, and melee attacks that are constantly being handed to you, you’re always given more than enough to break the difficulty wide open. And even when you feel absurdly empowered, it’s still possible for Fallen Angel to humble you with unexpectedly close fights.
I found much of the gameplay to be frustrating in a bad way, with plenty of cheap shots and unclear mechanics making the questionable momentum even harder to deal with, and yet I kept playing after unlocking the bad ending. I even kept playing after obtaining the normal ending, spending several hours slashing at random walls in search of the secret switches that have to be activated to get the best ending. Why? The easiest explanation is that the characters—most of whom start out as joke-and-sarcasm dispensers—had grown on me to the point that I wanted everyone to have a good ending. Despite all of my gameplay complaints, Batbarian has a surprising talent for growing on you.
There’s no better way of describing Foregone than calling it a Dead Cells-inspired action platformer that eschews roguelite elements in favor of hand-crafted levels and checkpoints. It is, for better or worse (depending on your viewpoint), a game suited to those of us who have become exhausted by the randomization and permadeath features many indie developers have been using as a crutch over the past half-decade or so.
The prospect of finding another game that cleverly establishes emotion rather than just throwing a sad pianist into the background and bombarding the player with frowny faces was appealing to me, and it lived up to that promise in most respects. Still, I can’t say that I found Spiritfarer particularly touching; the underlying premise of growing attached to a bunch of characters before shepherding them to death’s door (literally) has potential, but in practice, the gameplay is so distractingly repetitive and the writing so wordy that only a third of the passengers made me feel anything but irritation. This is a brilliant 5-hour game that completely loses focus by insisting on lasting for 20+ hours.
Even the gameplay I’d seen praised for its promise ended up being a disappointment, with major performance problems and bugs worsening what would already be a below-average experience. I suspect that what happened is that the monetization and multiplayer grind proved so tedious and horrible for some players that everything else seemed better by way of comparison, leading many to treat the game’s underlying problems with kid gloves. Call it the “ugly friend” effect. Marvel’s Avengers has a decent story, though, even if it’s merely a cynical ploy to trick you into eventually paying.
Wasteland 3 could be an entertaining game if not for its nonstop softlocks, disappearing items, and idiotic pathfinding (I’ll get into that later), but these problems stood in the way of my enjoyment while chipping away at my patience in a way few other games ever have.
Deliver Us The Moon‘s gameplay is trash, with its only challenge coming from timed sequences with decorative oxygen canisters and the fiddliness of its context-sensitive prompts. Its story, meanwhile, is strongly reminiscent of Interstellar at several points but so melodramatic and poorly developed that it becomes a predictable soap opera version that’s worse in every way. Finally, there’s the performance, which is so bad that it puts the lie to the assertion that the Switch version was canceled because of coronavirus. This doesn’t even run adequately on a Playstation 4 while using textures so downscaled that text is borderline unreadable.
Roughly speaking, Paradise Killer is a game about an exiled detective being welcomed back to solve a heinous crime everyone is a little too quick to pin on a lower-class citizen, but that glosses over many of the weird details that make it shine so brightly. I’m talking about aliens, demons, gods, and immortal upper-class residents of a parallel realm who harness the psychic energy of thousands of their slaves in order to resurrect the cosmic beings that they were once thralls to. These extra touches do a lot to separate Paradise Killer from similar games—Disco Elysium, Smile For Me, and Phoenix Wright seem like adequate comparisons once you squint and picture them as nightmarish bizarro versions of themselves—and no charm is lost in the process.
My lack of experience with the Pokemon series’ modern releases makes me unqualified to claim that Nexomon: Extinction is superior to them, but its large cast of adorable goofballs and unexpectedly competent worldbuilding play to the strengths of the classic jRPG genre (which this monster-catching branch of gameplay is derived from) while largely avoiding its pitfalls. This may look like an amusing jaunt in a crazy world, but by the end, you realize that an unexpectedly epic journey has snuck up on you.
“Censorship” is one of those words that always feels oppressive, and yet Aokana – Four Rhythms Across the Blue doesn’t need any of that adult content because it’s not the game’s point; this is an uplifting, frequently hilarious visual novel that succeeds on the quality of its characterizations and the sneaky rhythm of its conversations that makes it possible for deep-seated trauma and dirty jokes to coexist without either extreme being jarring. It’s fantastic.