Arcade Spirits is a game about working in an arcade while striving to balance practicality with idealism, but more importantly, it's also a celebration of gaming and all of the distinct but nevertheless overlapping subsets of gamers it inspires, articulating all sorts of familiar little joys and fears and motivations that are bound to reverberate with many—if not most—of us. This isn't even as heavy-handed as one might expect; Arcade Spirits' preoccupation with bizarre humor provides enough distractions that you'll rarely see emotional moments coming, and they never outlast their welcome.
I enjoyed the original game greatly, but its sequel surpasses it in almost every way; whereas the original game was a highly enjoyable distraction, One Finger Death Punch 2 quickly becomes an addiction that you can lose huge chunks of time to without noticing. This is simply a bigger, more complex game sporting more moving parts, and while its changes take a little getting used to at first, it’s such an improvement that the original pales in comparison.
Anodyne 2: Return to Dust is a game that defies classification, but if I had to make an effort to describe it, I’d call it a combination of The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages, Super Mario 64, and Jade Cocoon. Then again, you never know when it’ll decide to be something else entirely, diving headlong into a different genre and experience that you had no reason to expect based on what came prior, but that’s polished and unexpectedly enjoyable nevertheless.
Shantae and the Seven Sirens isn’t just a return to form for a series that’s shown a proclivity for unexpected experimentation. Much like how its characters begin the game vacationing on a tropical island that’s hosting a half-genie festival, the game serves as a lighthearted and much-needed break from 2020’s unceasing assault on everything good and decent.
This is the first game attached to Square-Enix that’s genuinely impressed me in over 8 years; the amount of detail put into translating the art into something totally different but nevertheless nostalgic is mind-boggling, and it’s possibly more impressive that the team behind this knew which things could be changed/replaced without undermining the entire project. Trials of Mana is how remakes should be done.
“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.
The original Planescape: Torment is the very first game I ever reviewed here. It was an awful writeup that was eventually wiped from existence. Now, eight years and 499 reviews later, I finally have the writing ability required to describe why this game is so important to me and many others.
While this may not be what many players originally envisioned the launch version of We Happy Few being like, it’s hard to deny that it’s one of the more consistently interesting open-world games I’ve played, sporting deeply enjoyable lore and writing that make up for some gameplay shortcomings.
Of course, the way you move from left to right is by manipulating a giant contraption through a series of buttons that you have to manually run around and press, relying on a sail and the release of steam built up by its engine to maximize your speed and distance while minimizing the amount of fuel that you use. It’s a bizarre concept that ends up being incredibly entertaining, and while FAR: Lone Sails may only last 2-3 hours, it’s filled with more than enough memorable moments to be worthwhile.