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The Punished Backlog

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50 games reviewed
83.2 average score
86 median score
90.0% of games recommended

The Punished Backlog's Reviews

Feb 9, 2024

Silent Hill: The Short Message feels like an echo of an echo. Its existence reverberates through the horror genre, but it is a noise we first heard 10 years ago replicated time and time again. The P.T. comparisons are still possible because of its initial stirring. The aesthetic and gameplay echoes are now indistinguishable in a way that comparison is inevitable. The difference is that this echo comes from the publisher that set that first sound into motion.

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Feb 8, 2024

Turnip Boy Robs a Bank was an absolute joy to play, and I’m thankful it made its way to Xbox Game Pass. It runs incredibly well, aside from some minor lagging during a boss fight. The game may only be on a few platforms right now, but if it’s anything like its predecessor, it will be on nearly every device soon enough. My total playtime was around five hours each session, with the second time reaching 100% completion. If you enjoyed Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion, you’ll enjoy Turnip Boy Robs a Bank. Or, like me, you may even like its sequel much more than the original, due to its genre change-up and updated gameplay mechanics. I had an amazing time playing Turnip Boy Robs a Bank and it is likely to end up on my 2024 Game of The Year list in December. Heck, I may even play it a few more times by then.

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Jan 26, 2024

The Lost Crown isn't a perfect game. Quests can be buggy, graphical errors pop up now and then, and you may find yourself fighting to jump in the right direction. Overall, however, it's a magnificent package that's well worth your time. Sargon’s journey was a joy to experience, and I will long remember the elation from nailing a hard puzzle. What could have been a simple odd project from Ubisoft is instead both a love letter to a beloved genre and a wonderful next step for Prince of Persia. My only hope is that you can love the exploration and journey as much as I did.

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7 / 10.0 - Born of Bread
Jan 2, 2024

I enjoyed my time with Born of Bread. The characters are cheery, the combat is smooth (if simple), and the dialogue, though verbose, offers just enough charm to keep the player reading. That said, it’s far from a perfect substitute for a Nintendo-level release. We’ll see whether a patch (or a few) helps ameliorate some of its bigger technical stumbles. For now, though, Born of Bread is a competent Paper Mario-like that’s held back from truly leavened greatness.

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8 / 10.0 - A Highland Song
Dec 8, 2023

A Highland Song is a beautiful game about a difficult journey, uplifted by gorgeous watercolor art and a gracefully told story. I felt a deep kinship with Moira. This is a game for anyone who has ever looked at the world beyond their window and felt an ache to crest the horizon.  Inkle’s newest release is a meditative adventure that would be perfect for anyone who’s a fan of games like Old Man’s Journey, A Short Hike, or Inside (if Inside was happy and not a horrifying nightmare). It’s not for everyone, but then again, neither is running away. A Highland Song is a game for and made by those who know what it is like to yearn and dare to try.

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8 / 10.0 - Ghostrunner 2
Nov 15, 2023

I wasn’t a believer at first, but Ghostrunner 2 won me over. Sure, the story’s forgettable, and the technical performance takes a hit here or there. But the combat is sharp, the platforming is sharper, and there are quite a few surprises lying in wait. (I’m intentionally not spoiling one of the game’s coolest gameplay twists, but trust me: It rocks.) If you have room on your 2023 gaming plate for one more adventure, and you’re ready to grind through the pain, Ghostrunner 2 is well worth your time.

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9.5 / 10.0 - Alan Wake 2
Nov 4, 2023

The first Alan Wake could have been a Stephen King story. Alan Wake 2 doesn’t shy away from some of this influence, but this is firmly Remedy’s story—both their postmodern detective thriller and their writer’s nightmare. Alan Wake 2 is a horror story with every jump scare and unnerving moment. But it’s not just a horror story. This sequel is also an experimental narrative that challenges not only how we think about video games but stories and the fictions we tell ourselves about how they are created.  Alan Wake 2 is poetic. Developer Remedy Entertainment has crafted not only an excellent sequel to a now 13-year-old game, but the best horror game in nearly a decade.

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Nov 2, 2023

For a franchise that’s been around for nearly 40 years, Super Mario Bros. still has a number of new tricks up its sleeve, and even after beating every single level, I keep finding new pockets of joy and excitement at every turn. I don’t know precisely where I’d rank Super Mario Bros. Wonder in comparison to the older titles, but I can say for sure it’s one of the best 2D platformers I’ve played in a long time, and without a doubt a worthy contender for the top five of 2D Mario games. It convinced me there’s still so much more Nintendo can accomplish with its greatest mascot.

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9 / 10.0 - Mail Time
Oct 25, 2023

Mail Time is one of the sweetest and most comforting experiences I’ve had in a long time. Despite its relatively short five-hour runtime, Mail Time doesn’t feel small. It’s a great example of quality over quantity. If you are remotely interested in cute forest animals and/or the mail, you’ll want to add Mail Time to your gaming route.

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8.3 / 10.0 - Forza Motorsport
Oct 24, 2023

Perhaps one day I’ll get over my insecurity and lack of motivation around driving. Maybe I’ll get over any fear of harming myself or others in a freak accident, or I'll tire of taking commuter rails anytime I want to travel upstate and eventually take matters into my own hands. Until then, Forza Motorsport lets me feel the thrills of high-speed racing and, more importantly, gives me confidence that I can drive a car as well as the best of them. The game doesn't reinvent the wheel, but it provides more of those amazing feelings.

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8.5 / 10.0 - Saltsea Chronicles
Oct 19, 2023

I thoroughly enjoyed playing Saltsea Chronicles and will happily play through it again. I’m interested in finding out what else the story holds based on decisions I didn’t make in my first run. I loved meeting new characters and learning about their backgrounds—it’s so easy to root for them and their happiness. If you’re a fan of narrative games with an unpredictable yet heartwarming story, then Saltsea Chronicles is perfect for you. It’s a must-play cozy game and feels like a perfect bedtime story. I loved my time with the game, and it is so worth your time and attention.

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6.7 / 10.0 - World of Horror
Oct 18, 2023

I really wanted to like this game. More than that, I wanted to love this game, which is perhaps why this review comes across as so scathing. I’ve been let down. I followed this game for years, awaiting the full release with a heart full of hope. I wanted to spend hours upon hours exploring Shiokawa and the game’s other environs. As it is, it’s a game begging for quality-of-life updates that would make it a joy to explore the undoubtedly impressive selection of mysteries that it has to offer. At present, World of Horror vacillates between being overly tedious, pulling you around by the nose, and sometimes being the game that I really wanted it to be. It’s a frustrating experience, with moments of brilliance that shine through like the color out of space.

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Oct 17, 2023

El Paso, Elsewhere might not be Max Payne, but the inspirations are there. James Savage asks players to believe in him during the early moments of the game. That statement early on, as he discusses his sobriety, addiction, and Draculae, carries more weight on this side of his elevator ride through the void.  I enjoyed the game’s gameplay loop, even when I grew frustrated with its repetition. I found the “You Keep Going” screen to be encouraging. With James, I kept fighting through the void even when my faith faltered.

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Oct 16, 2023

The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood is a fantastic story-driven game with beautiful art and delightful gameplay. There’s something here for anyone, whether it’s your first cozy game or your thirtieth. You don’t need to be femme or a tarot-lover to enjoy what this lovely game has to say about being alive, loving yourself and others, and our power to shape the world around us. If you need a palette cleanser between this fall's major releases, I hope you’ll consider this gem.

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Oct 13, 2023

If you want to experience the comfort of the Pokémon world without the stress of battling, then I think Detective Pikachu Returns serves its role admirably. However, I don’t think it’s a great video game, much less a great detective game. If you can tell yourself that Detective Pikachu Returns is essentially an interactive anime episode, rather than an actual video game, then I think you’ll have fun.

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8.7 / 10.0 - Cocoon
Oct 11, 2023

While I wouldn’t say Cocoon achieves wordless narrative perfection, it succeeds in presenting a story full of emotional resonance and mental stimulation with little to no communication to the player. What results is a great video game, and more importantly a great work of art, one that causes those who engage with it to mull over its events, its structure, and its atmosphere.

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9.2 / 10.0 - Smushi Come Home
Sep 27, 2023

What else I can say about Smushi Come Home without spoiling its finer moments? Its characters are charming, its gameplay is soothing, and it has a great sense of style. (Just listen to that feel-good soundtrack from composer Failpositive.) And while the experience is a bit on the short side, it’s one that hardly feels undercooked. If you’re looking for a breather between AAA epics or simply searching for a wonderful indie, Smushi Come Home has enough charm to make you blush. Come for the adorable mushroom; stay for the tender narrative and cozy vibes. This is one homecoming you don’t want to miss.

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9 / 10.0 - WrestleQuest
Sep 22, 2023

WrestleQuest is a love letter to professional wrestling and everything it represents, from the smallest details to the biggest. The respect for the greats of the past and what they mean to the present and future is evident, and the way in which Mega Cat Studios matches that with some excellent RPG gameplay is commendable. This is a fully fleshed-out RPG experience and one I believe needs to be experienced regardless of your affinity for wrestling. It’s just flat-out a great game.

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9.3 / 10.0 - Sea of Stars
Sep 12, 2023

Sea of Stars brought me in with its clever gameplay, pretty worlds, and exciting battle system, but the vibes made me want to stay. The vibes compelled me to seek out secret treasures. The vibes made me seek out every possible fight with aplomb. The vibes even allowed me to overlook some of the wonkiness of the plot (and the writing). Most of all, the vibes made Sea of Stars truly stand out in an especially difficult year to do so.

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7.8 / 10.0 - Atlas Fallen
Sep 6, 2023

Atlas Fallen is a competent action role-playing game that supports some interesting play styles with its Momentum gauge. While the story and voice acting disappoint, the stars of the show here are the sand surfing, platform navigation, and world.  Serviceable as it is, however, Atlas Fallen could have been so much better. Despite some interesting mechanics, its gameplay is so generic that it never really establishes its own identity. Players can enjoy it without much complaint, but in a year of stellar titles, its competence never truly shines.

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