While there is a lot to love in Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth, it left me disappointed in its main narrative. I wish it was more focused on telling the story set out in Remake and its constant need to push the kitchen sink into each plot beat wore on my resolve throughout the game.
Pacific Drive is a mystery that draws you in little by little and rewards you for staying dedicated with both a better vehicle and more ridiculous threats. Every excursion left me wondering just what I’d discover, both from survival and story standpoints, as well as what kind of crazy threats were going to try to make my life harder. Fun and interesting characters and a pretty great soundtrack help to keep things fun, but maintaining the station wagon is easily the most compelling part. It’s your best friend through thick and thin, even if it’s trying to eat your mind. That can be somewhat forgiven since it makes up the core of an ultimately great rogue-lite survival game.
If anything, I’m grateful to qomp2 for introducing me to the concept, and eventually to experiencing the first qomp. I can see why that game hit the way it did, and inspired Atari to pick it up and try its own version. It’s a cool subversion of one of gaming’s oldest-standing innovators. But it feels shortsighted to hand the project off to a different set of hands, when the first set is the one that made the magic happen in the first place. And there’s genuine effort here, but the vibes are off, man.
After being in early access on multiple platforms, Inkulinati delivers a satisfying game with an original art style in its full release. The colorful, humorous character art and animations are impressive and entertaining. A lot of effort went into creating a dense and intense combat system. However, Journey Mode becomes predictable within a few runs and could have been more innovative. The lack of online multiplayer is unfortunate too, especially for a game based on dueling. Inkulinati is a fun page-turner, but it’s still in need of several revisions.
Honestly, just take a look at your social media platform of choice right now. Helldivers 2 is exploding, in a way that even fans of the first game have not expected. And there’s a reason for that. This game is rough around the edges, but those edges are serrated; there’s an authorship to the chaos and slight jank that feels woven together from top to bottom. The systems, humor, structure… every aspect of this game feeds into the other for an experience that nails cohesion. Helldivers 2 plants its flag in the dirt and announces itself with a rare confidence in video games today. Now get out there and serve some piping-hot Liber-Tea, soldier.
What changed and what remains the same in Mario Vs. Donkey Kong on Switch is a little confusing at times, and it raises the question of why a remake was the best choice and not a full new game. Still, "if it ain't broke" and all that. The original Mario Vs. Donkey Kong holds up nearly 20 years later, and nearly every new addition makes the already-strong puzzle game even better.
I definitely had fun solving a bunch of puzzles, especially ones that involved finding the right visual path through a group of rings or playing a sort of reverse Minesweeper with black and white squares. Others, like hidden objects or hunting for nodes inside a boundary, were annoying but I never felt forced to try them. There’s a lot to like about that idea of zero pressure puzzle-solving. But everything else, like leaping, floating, and gliding around the open world, filling in the skill tree, or deciphering the map and other UI elements, bogged me down. Islands of Insight is a shot at blending together ambitious scale with cozy gaming, and has to try harder than it should to not collapse under its own weight.
Ultros is a kaleidoscope game. It takes a handful of ordinary things, shakes them up and sticks the pieces together, and then spins it all around. It's just a different version of what we've seen dozens of times before, sure. But it feels special, and it sure does look good.
The clever puzzles and vivid visuals can only do so much to quell the frustration caused by the unfortunate glitches and bugs I encountered throughout the game. However, if you can push through the myriad of technical hiccups, Airhead is a decent puzzle-platformer that simply needs a bit more tuning under the hood.
I feel sad more than anything, because buried underneath the live service slop, there's real potential for a good Suicide Squad game in here. The boss battles show the game's potential. Now imagine more varied missions, different enemy types, and a more interesting gameplay loop that makes the most of this license. Above all else, imagine a better Rocksteady game. Instead of being trendsetters, like with the Arkham series, this studio is now reduced to being trend followers.
Under Night In-Birth 2 Sys:Celes is a great addition to what we had that improves upon previous games in pretty much all the right ways. The new characters are fun, the new attacks for existing characters make new gameplans fun to learn, and there is a nice variety of online and offline modes in which to explore them and hone your game. I wish the music, story, and online lobbies gave me more, but UNI2 hits the right notes where it counts and delivers as a fantastic bastion of 2D animated fighting game goodness.
Persona 3 Reload is a treat for not only fans of the 2000s classic, but newcomers as well. ATLUS does an excellent job at preserving everything that made the original game special while modernizing it for those that may be experiencing it for the first time. It’s JRPG excellence at every turn, and one I’ll be sinking many hours into between now and the release of the next mainline Persona game.
It feels like there were some very specific ideas the creators of Graven wanted to communicate. But while those ideas sometimes weave together with the game’s dark fantasy, old-school shooter style to form some immaculate vibes, that’s about as deep as it gets. The game seems confused about whether or not it wants to be an awesome action game, a thoughtful explorative puzzler, or some kind of mutant Soulslike gimmick. It sputters across the finish line not really achieving anything but a cool look, undermined constantly by boredom. It’s a shame, because Graven has a hell of a vibe. But there’s simply too much bonkin’ and not enough bangin’.
Despite this not being the traditional type of story we associate with Kiryu, Infinite Wealth is a fitting send-off to a legend of gaming. In the words of Kiryu, "Even if I'm not as strong as I once was, I'm still me. And I'm starting to think that's not so bad."
The three latter Ace Attorney games are certainly uneven, and the first two never quite reach the level of narrative power, or even general coherence, of the original trilogy. However, they do challenge the idea of what an Ace Attorney game can be and introduce some memorable characters in the process. Dual Destinies might be the sour one of the bunch, but Capcom wins the case of Apollo Justice v. the test of time.
The newly added roguelite elements in Turnip Boy Robs a Bank make for a lengthier, more replayable experience that kept me engaged throughout. The transition to roguelite gameplay may seem somewhat off-putting for players who expected a more Zelda-like adventure akin to the first game. However, even with its shift in gameplay direction, the sequel remains faithful to the original with its humorous tone and cute aesthetic while offering a fresh experience for both new and returning players.
At this point we’re circling back to the beginning. I think it’s super awesome that Another Code: Recollection exists. A deeply underrated classic I thought was, due to the literal expiration of its dev studio, never going to see the light of day again has come back. It’s also the first time the second half of the story is available outside of Japan and Europe! Unfortunately, I’d probably prefer to actually revisit and play the originals because of how the remakes sand the edges off. Between the middling voice acting undermining the story, the barely-there puzzles, and the sterility of the visuals, it feels like the magic of adventure games on Nintendo’s older, gimmicky hardware hasn’t been recaptured. But I still had a great time taking it all in. Weird, huh? That’s what being a history nerd feels like.
Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown shows that this long-running franchise still has plenty of life left in it. The main narrative is sharp, with interesting twists and reveals about the universe at large. It’s only surpassed by the combat, which challenged me in all the right ways.