Digitally Downloaded's Reviews
Those irritations aside, I really had a good time with Outshine. It offers a slick typing challenge with a solid wall of difficulty for the hardcore to sink their teeth into. There’s also the simple reality that a game like this doubles as an educational application, as it teaches speed and accuracy with typing, as well as the ability to touch type. These are all increasingly critical skills in modern society, so that’s an important added bonus with Outshine.
I was really looking forward to Gungrave G.O.R.E. While I’m not deeply invested in the series, I enjoyed Gungrave: Overdose on the PlayStation 2 as an entertaingly trashy B-action exprerience. Unfortunately, while I do admire the attempt to give players the power fantasy of playing as a guy so utterly, brutally powerful that he can calmly walk through a bullet ballet, Gungrave G.O.R.E burns its goodwill far too quickly and from there it’s too exhausting to bother with.
The team is pacing Loathing releases out nicely, too. Four years between Loathing games is a good rate, to ensure that the jokes don’t become stale to the player. See, more than anything else, playing Shadows Over Loathing has reminded me, yet again, just how much I enjoy the zany antics of these silly stick figures, and apparently this humour remains relevant no matter how old and jaded you become. The video game industry is better for having developers like Asymmetric in it.
I’m really stretching for things to criticise though, because overall I have had such a wonderful time with Pokémon Violet and Scarlet. None of the issues that I have with these games are anything but the most mild and forgivable irritations. Meanwhile, the promise of a big but blissfully uncomplicated world, filled with adventure and monsters to collect, brought me right back to what drew me into the whole Pokémon franchise in the first place. Is Scarlet and Violet a technical mess? Sure. Do I care? Not in the slightest. I’m here for the pokémon. Not to count frames.
While it’s a stretch to call it a great and memorable game, because it doesn’t really do anything to stand out in terms of gameplay and design, the concept of This Way Madness Lies will stick with you. I would have perhaps liked a little more emphasis placed on the magical girl aesthetics, since, aside from the transformation sequences that doesn’t come across as well as it could have, visually, but that aside, this attempt at asking the question “what if Shakespeare invented magical girls?” is a resounding success. It is the perfect little game to play in between the endless stream of overweight content we now need to deal with.
In short, the only thing Succubus With Guns has going for it was the most generic fan service you can imagine, and no one’s going to care about that. Not when Google and the key phrase “Rule 34 XXXX-Favourite Character-XXXX” is right there. It’s stuff like this that gives artful (or sexy, or just plain fun) fan service a bad name.
At the same time, after Supermassive Games promised us an anthology that celebrated all the different kinds of horror out there, what they’ve given us instead is a stagnating series of sequels. Do I hope The Dark Pictures continues? Yes. Very much so. I still believe we need an anthology of horror in the vein of Cabinet of Curiosities to explore a wider range of horror in video games. But come the second “season”, Supermassive Games needs to start delivering an anthology.
Aside from excluding a vast swathe of the world from having the same opportunity to take control of their favourite teams as most Europeans do, Football Manager 23 Touch is a substantial step forward for the developer. For perhaps the first time they’ve figured out how to make the enormity of data that you’re going to spend hours looking at and tweaking playable with a controller. It might not sound like much, but that must have been a monumentally challenging UI effort, and the development team really did nail it.
While Harvestella takes a while to get going, the journey is rich, rewarding and wholesome. For a genre that is usually the province of the mid-tier developers, having something like this that doesn’t cut corners, doesn’t feel like a series of concessions and feels creatively liberating is an inherent joy. Many years ago I read a wonderful analysis of Harvest Moon that effectively argued that the series has been so popular in Japan for so long because farming is a genuinely aspirational pursuit to so many people, who feel locked into soul-crushing and exhausting work in concrete jungles. That being the case, the pure fantasy escapism of Harvestella makes a particularly potent example of its little genre indeed, and for just about anyone on the planet right now, this is exactly what we needed.
Not every Atari game stands up today as a playable masterpiece, and that’s just fine. Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration provides just about the best contextually driven system for playing and appreciating classic retro games that I’ve ever hit, and it’s an absolute must-have for any gamer of any age. I mean, Tempest 2000 is worth the price of admission alone, but along the way, you’ll learn a lot about gaming history, gaming development and even the weird and wonderful deals and dodgy antics that Atari got up to in its golden age.
For everyone else, there is nothing quite like Mount & Blade. This expansive, massive, deeply immersive blend of open world, open-ended RPG and medieval strategy might be the biggest time sink on the PlayStation 5, but it’s also one of the most rewarding. The stories of heroics and failures that you can write for yourself while playing this game are positively Shakesperean, and this is one of those rare times where failure is as entertaining as success, because there’s an excellent, emergent story in that.
Tactics Ogre Reborn is the essence of one of video game’s true masterpieces. On this, the second remake, it has proven that it is functionally timeless, both in terms of storytelling and the quality of play. There weren’t many tactics JRPGs around before Tactics Ogre, and those that were largely looked to Fire Emblem for inspiration. Now, though, the isometric combat system that so many tactics JRPGs use these days was inspired directly by two classics – this one, and Final Fantasy Tactics. We have a lot to thank Tactics Ogre for, and Reborn demonstrates just how playable it still is.
Whimsical fantasy has always been the name of Doraemon, and in this context, both the original Story of Seasons collaboration and now this one is the perfect video game partner for the beloved manga icon. I do find it slightly strange that these games get localised, given that the anime, manga and films don’t tend to be, but perhaps Bandai Namco is counting on the warm spirit and people’s never-ending love for Story of Seasons to draw them in, rather than the iconic mascot. And if so, that makes sense, because once you peel past the Doraemon exterior, you’ll realise that this is a classic Story of Seasons title, to the point of being nostalgic, and in this case, that’s a very Good thing.
Paradigm Paradox is not terrible. It’s a perfectly readable visual novel, and the twist it gives to the magical girls story – putting it in the context of an otome – was one worth exploring. However, I’ve got to say that I expect far better from Otomate. This is a studio that produces the most beautiful visual novels, with the most vivid characters and settings, of all. Against that studio’s lofty standards this one is, unfortunately, a big misstep.
An incredible amount of work went into this game. I mean, there’s the original songs, plus diary entries, notes, voicemails, interviews, quizzes… The overall quality of the game is excellent. Yes, I have my qualms with it, mainly with the difficulty and lack of song lyrics. But I can see past the difficulty, at least, to understand the narrative puzzle game that’s in front of me. I wouldn’t quite call it a masterpiece, but I will say that it’s exceptionally unique.
I would say Taiko no Tatsujin: Rhythm Festival is a release for the more hardcore side of the Taiko fanbase, but that would be overlooking the sheer joy and accessibility of the main game. Perhaps I’m merely bitter at the lack of supplementary features, shallow party modes, and a somewhat cynical subscription service that makes Rhythm Festival lag behind Drum ‘n’ Fun. But ultimately, this is more Taiko, and more Taiko is good. It’s not my favourite of Bandai Namco’s outings on the Nintendo console, but it’s not without its charm either.
That being said, Yomawari: Lost In The Dark is such a fascinating, beautiful little horror game. With some smart mechanics, spot-on perfect pacing and atmosphere, and an intense, melancholy narrative this horror experience achieves something rare for video game horror: spooky good times that will make you think and even feel.
With a better localisation Richman 11 would be essential to people who enjoy digital board games. It’s not quite as good as Square Enix’s equivalent series, but, again, since Square Enix isn’t localising those, good on Softstar for stepping up. Unfortunately the poor localisation does mean that the game comes across as obtuse and will only be for people who have a lot of experience in this kind of experience, and the patience to learn this one’s quirks over several sessions.
I don’t want to take anything away from this game, though. I have enjoyed Star Ocean: The Divine Force more than any game in the series since the third one. The developers have calibrated just about everything about this game perfectly, from the classically entertaining JRPG plot and characters, to the incredible aesthetics and superb pacing. The Divine Force is by no means a short game, but it has a way of making the hours fly past so that it never feels like it’s dragging on your time. Yes, the combat is a little unrefined and too pacey for its own good, but it’s still very playable, and totally worth dealing with to enjoy the most exotic JRPG of 2022.