Checkpoint Gaming's Reviews
Three games down in quick succession, Voice of Cards: The Beasts of Burden manages to mostly avoid that infamous and known series fatigue. That's largely thanks to yet another compelling fantasy story and enchanting immersion of a tabletop campaign journey. It's in fact my favourite story of the trilogy, complete with a new and welcome mechanic that is monster collecting. It just is ever so slightly barred from being great due to more obvious padding and traipsing around until it reaches its wondrous conclusion. Regardless, we have another good entry in this weird little Square Enix series. That voice inviting you to play cards? Trust it. It's as enjoyable as ever.
Potion Permit is a game I can sink my teeth in and play for hours, not realising that it's actually 5am. The days are quick, so it's tough to do everything in one go, but the game also doesn't pressure you to complete things in a timeframe very often. There are annoying bugs that can limit access to side-quests and mini-games, which is disappointing to see. Though with loads of things to do, you never feel that dreaded sense of aimlessness. Potion Permit is a cozy game that makes me excited to get back into it.
Despite taking clear inspiration from other prominent Soulslike and Metroidvania titles, Moonscars does enough with its unique art direction and gameplay features to stand out from an increasingly populated crowd. Although its lore and plot could have stood to be more clearly communicated, and not all of its additional mechanics feel as enjoyable as the core combat and exploration, Moonscars' visceral gameplay and gorgeous visuals make it worthwhile to check out for Soulslike fans seeking a new challenge.
With its skilled application of a foreboding atmosphere instead of cheap jumpscares, The Excavation of Hob's Barrow is the perfect game to lead us into the spooky season. It's a well-crafted mystery that is creepy in all the right places, taking us back to a not-too-distant past of superstition. If you're in the mood for a suspenseful tale of oft-overlooked folklore and themes of grief and loss, the Excavation of Hob's Barrow gets my firm recommendation.
As a franchise newcomer, I found my entry point with The Legend of Heroes: Trails From Zero utterly fascinating, tantalising, and enjoyable. Within are some of my favourite blending of mechanics and tidbits within turn-based combat I've seen yet. It's a comfy RPG that you can lose plenty of time to, sinking into the moving character narrative, all set within the colourful world of Crossbell. Character models will occasionally show their age and menus are a little funky. Still, it's easy to forgive and just hang out with Lloyd and friends, saving the better part of humanity. Team SSS forever.
Featuring a fun and slightly silly setting for this genre, Grounded comfortably provides the basics that allow it to create an engrossing and at times horrifying survival experience. Add a good amount of worldbuilding and a narrative that compliments the gameplay nicely and you have a cooperative experience well worth your time, even if a few bugs (and not the good kind!) have stuck around throughout its pre-release period.
Shovel Knight Dig is definitely worth playing for both platformer and roguelike fans. The twist on the Shovel Knight formula makes Shovel Knight Dig feel fresh, despite the mostly unchanged controls from the original. The fair random elements and generous meta-progression make it a good entry point for platformer fans unfamiliar with roguelikes, whereas hardcore roguelike fans can enjoy the tough bosses and challenges required to get the True Ending. Although the main campaign may seem rather brief, it's a blast while it lasts, and an easy recommendation.
Beacon Pines effectively creates an uneasy atmosphere through contrast. The branching story helps build the exposition as you peer into the lives of the other townspeople. It's a simple game that is on the shorter side with a few seemingly unnecessary features, but all loose ends are wrapped up by the end, leaving an enjoyable story that doesn't overstay its welcome.
Wylde Flowers is what you get when you take a farming/life sim, such as Stardew Valley, and focus more heavily on the narrative and characters. A constant shift of events and huge amounts of voiced lines brings this world to life, even if that focus does mean the simulation aspects of the gameplay are reduced. With a lovingly detailed world and equally lovely examples of diversity, you could do a lot worse than spend your week playing Wylde Flowers.
Return to Monkey Island brings the beloved classic point-and-click series into the modern puzzle adventure genre, and it's a perfect fit. It's a fine addition to the Monkey Island series, but it nevertheless seems held back by Monkey Island 2's strange ending. In its attempt to explain it away, it just hurts its own narrative, which had the potential for more than it achieved. But it is still a fun ride, full of wild, funny, and surprisingly sincere moments. I will be keenly looking forward to the next Monkey Island game from the mind of Gilbert and his team.
Soulstice is a truly great action game, which despite taking many cues from stylish action titles of the past, carves out enough of an identity to stand out on its own. The system of controlling both sisters and maintaining auras while slashing through foes is intuitive and simple to master. Although the plot leaves many threads hanging, the development of the central sibling relationship and setting were enough to draw me into Soulstice's world and want to see more. If you're a fan of challenging action games and can forgive a slightly annoying camera, Soulstice is definitely worth checking out.
Temtem isn't just a copycat Pokémon. Incorporating MMO elements and engaging characters into fan-favourite gameplay is an overwhelming success, with an abundance of addicting endgame content. Unfortunately, Temtem suffers from optimisation issues and needs to present its most captivating features at the forefront rather than behind the MMO grind and a slow main story. I can't deny how much fun it is to play Temtem, it just needs more time and polish to be the best there ever was.
At the end of the day, Foretales offers a broad and delightful journey all within a digital tabletop setting. Its card art and party are diverse. Clever and varied card mechanics, along with party members' abilities, make for a fun suite of solution tools to use against some tough and fantastical narrative-based obstacles. However, with a lack of checkpoints, players may at times feel like they have bitten off more than they can chew in a run. Still, this remains a funky, unique little indie worth checking out for ambition and coziness alone. Carry on.
A silky, suave graphic novel art-style and engaging Cyberpunk world can't save Sunday Gold. With every strength on offer comes some weird design choices or bugs that will ruin your fun at every turn. This game is an experimental risk, blending both the point-and-click genre with turn-based combat, peppering in RPG progression. That mixture shows promise at the start but ultimately ends up being an average net loss. A gamble that's not worth taking. Don't place your bets on this one. Go all in elsewhere.
If you haven't picked up a Splatoon game before, then Splatoon 3 is a great place to start. It takes a lot of steps to make it easier to play with friends and has a variety of different modes to play, meaning everyone will have something they enjoy, even if they just want to play single player. The game is more customisable than ever and you are free to change the appearance of your character at any time if you find yourself wanting a new look. The only real problem with the game as it stands is the connection issues. When it works, the game is amazingly fun and you will find yourself playing match after match, only for the connection to drop again out of nowhere. Hopefully this gets fixed soon so I can be playing Splatoon 3 for even longer during my next session.
Metal: Hellsinger aims to be a full-featured first-person shooter as well as an engaging rhythm game, and I am so glad it delivers on its ambition rather than falling flat. Fun, frantic combat paired with a crushingly heavy, star-studded soundtrack makes Metal: Hellsinger one of the most unexpectedly enjoyable games I have played this year, and I urge anyone with a passing interest in metal or shooters to give this a spin.
On the surface, Steelrising looks like “just another soulslike with a twist”, but the more I played, the more I felt enamoured by its gorgeous aesthetic, its likable robot protagonist and its variety of horrifying, angry automaton enemies. By incorporating cutscenes, a linear narrative and traditional RPG quest structure, it keeps the action and progression feeling very focused throughout, with no real roadblocks aside from the difficulty itself. Then, if that’s bothering you too, you can turn on Assist Mode and still enjoy the experience your own way. Despite some simplistic combat and unmemorable boss fights, Steelrising is a satisfying robot action romp that earns bonus points for being one of the most accessible soulslike titles on the market, meaning more gamers will be able to enjoy its haunting vision of alternate history Paris overrun by dastardly machines. Bon travail!
Tinykin delivers a fun-sized chunk of satisfying 3D-platforming joy for all ages. Its charming cartoonish visuals and delightful cast of insectoids are bursting with personality and whimsy. While it doesn't provide much of a platforming challenge and drags its feet a bit through some repetitive escort missions, it's impossible not to smile at this joyous mini-world of anxious dung beetles and partying silverfish. A relaxing, cozy little adventure that will entertain the young-at-heart.
I can see LEGO Brawls' appeal as a free-to-play mobile game, where its simple mechanics and repetitive game modes are more excusable. As a full-priced console game, standing up against feature-rich AAA titles and even free-to-play titles, LEGO Brawls just doesn't stand out in the slightest. Although a less complex brawler aimed at a younger audience might make sense, in this case it's TOO simplified, where every character behaves the same and the only strategy is to run at your foes and mash the attack button. Combine that with the lack of additional single-player content and glacial progression system, and it becomes difficult to recommend LEGO Brawls to anyone other than the most devoted LEGO aficionados.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection is a well-presented time capsule of classics, porting its beloved titles not only without lag but with modern-day improvements and a smorgasbord of extras to boot. While the collection won't be for everyone, those willing to dive in and see what Digital Eclipse have to offer should be blown away with what they find. For those who've missed that nostalgic feeling, it's truly time to love being a turtle once again.