Gaz and I have known each other for decades and have played a lot of puzzlers together over the years, but we both agreed that We Were Here Forever stood out as one of our most enjoyable experiences. The creepy fantasy theme is delivered in a great visual style and hammered home by some phenomenal voice acting, and each cut-scene dragged us deeper into the lore and kept us invested in what we were doing. The puzzles are well designed (for the most part) and require enough thought to be challenging without causing frustration that disconnects you from the game. Yes, some voice chat problems and a couple of broken puzzles did cause annoyance, but that wasn’t enough to turn us off from a fantastic experience – We Were Here Forever is an absolute must for puzzle and escape room fans alike.
Terra Invicta is a deep, interesting and engaging game that doesn’t quite play like much else out there. It spins a lot of plates and, by and large, manages to keep them in the air. There’s a political and conspiracy sim, a light-touch grand strategy game, a resource exploration and exploitation game and a full space-combat sim - any one aspect of which could have easily been spun out into a stand-alone game. There’s a whole research and tech tree system that works brilliantly differently from anything else I’ve seen in a game like this, with a competitive-cooperation angle that is really interesting! I’m genuinely surprised the game works as well as it does - it had sat on my Steam wishlist for many years as a curiosity; something I wasn’t sure would ever see a release and something I’d have been entirely unsurprised to find an over-ambitious failure. That I didn’t is a real source of delight - if anything I’ve touched on sounds at all intriguing to you then you owe it to yourself to sign up for what, in a year of big releases, might just be 2022’s most interesting game.
Paper Cut Mansion is a quirky and fun little indie to play when you have an hour or two kicking about and you don’t want to exhaust your brain with anything too taxing. While it has a lot of positives going for it, like cute little puzzles, peculiar characters and buckets of charm, it fails to deliver any substance to go with it. The puzzles are not hard, the story isn’t captivating, and the tedious repetition makes it somewhat of a chore to pick up again. For me, it doesn’t maximise that full potential to make me want to come back for more.
While I like the low poly X pixel graphics style and think that the pulsing (albeit limited) soundtrack is great, I didn’t fall in love with Lone Ruin. Despite marketing itself on replayability, the main problem is that it didn’t do enough to make me want to keep coming back for more. The rapid-fire spell slinging is pretty good fun and there’s plenty of variety, but the short run length and lack of plotline or overarching upgrade systems makes Lone Ruin feel more like an arcade game than a roguelike. I’ve no doubt that the pick-up-and-play style will appeal to coin-op fans who like short-burn, intensive action, but I think traditional roguelike fans might lose engagement after just a couple of runs with the lack of a long game on offer.
OPUS: Echo of Starsong might not hit the mark in every area - mixing together the worst elements of a visual novel and a puzzle game might not sound like the most enthralling video game experience but it somehow just works. Sure, there are problems with some aspects of the game but sticking with Starsong will reward you with a story that, despite its fantastical setting, remains a very human affair that's full of feeling.
Destiny 2: Beyond Light is certainly a worthy expansion in the operatic space war. At this point it is given that there is a wealth of exotic weapons and armour to get to grips with, but the new Stasis powers are worth the investment alone. Throwing freezing walls at enemies adds a layer of defence that was sorely missing. These new powers change the tide of battle in such a way that just has to be experienced to be believed.
Ultimately, Yomawari: Lost in the Dark shows very little progression from the previous two entries, which is a shame, since the series has tons of potential. While this plot has something of a more meaningful framework and boasts an unexpectedly impressive final chapter, this game continues to be bogged down with the same glacial gameplay and woolly storytelling as Night Alone and Midnight Shadows. Lost in the Dark will be greatly enjoyed by existing fans of the series, as it follows the established formula closely, but those wishing for more than the same pretty hand-drawn graphics and well-rounded sound design will be left disappointed, as there’s been little evolution between entries one, two and three.
She Wants Me Dead is a concentrated precision platform experience that doesn’t take itself too seriously and wins as a result. My dash through the game was a fun-filled and blood-soaked affair, and despite taking me just an hour, chasing perfection will pose a significantly sterner challenge for those crazy enough to give it a try! With some genuinely tricky patches, the makings of a great soundtrack and swathes of collectable options, this is a game that could (and should!) easily be built upon into a much fuller experience.
Save Room cleverly takes one of the oldest games in existence and makes it relevant as a stand-alone idea again, albeit only briefly. While the actual inventory management in a survival horror game is a massive pain in the backside, Save Room capitalises on the satisfaction you feel when you finally squeeze in everything you need and it’s legitimately good fun while it lasts. Fractal Projects nail the theme by adding in some ammo-management and health tricks that we’ve all used over the years, but perhaps missed the opportunity to use scenarios to add some depth (or even plot) to the otherwise simple gameplay.
Ultimately a failure to stick in the imagination is my main criticism of Moonscars. Had this game come out a few years earlier I would almost certainly be more favourable to it, but as it stands it feels a little too familiar to other games I’ve played extensively, and with not quite enough going for it to make it shine. It’s a blast to play, and the combat feels great, but when there are so many other games with that and great character, and great story, and great world-building, so there’s just not quite enough to drag me back in.
The Kao the Kangaroo: Oh! Well DLC is both a trick and a treat. The new levels may be short in length, but they certainly pack a punch, as they are both frustrating and irritating, but overall simply brilliant. I didn’t expect five of the hardest platforming levels I’ve played all year to be found in Kao the Kangaroo and I absolutely loved it. These extra levels are pound-for-pound worth it, just for the sheer delight I got for finishing a level after multiple restarts, and while the additional costumes are purely cosmetic, they round out the package nicely.
Dorfromantik is a highly addictive puzzle game that rewards patience and attention to detail whilst also offering a laid-back experience; the challenges are there for the tackling, but only if you want to take them on. Pleasing to the eye and backed by a relaxing soundscape, this is a game you can pour non-stop hours into, or simply pick up and put down at your leisure, making it perfect for the Switch. Yes, the Switch controls are a little clunky, and I’d like some minor accessibility help in the visuals, but none of these are major problems and these improvements would only bolster an already stellar title. I can see Dorfromantik still having an army of fans in 10 years time - perhaps more than it does in its prime – it has an appeal that will prove timeless.
You Suck at Parking is a breakneck romp that manages to balance tricky gameplay with hilarity and good fun, resulting in a wonderful all around experience. It’s bright and vibrant, with an adorable visual style that fits the gameplay style to a tee, and while the limited audio tracks aren’t quite as engaging, that’s probably a nit-pick. With 100 levels ‘out of the box’ and many more to come for those willing to pay for the Season Pass, there’s a tonne of enjoyment to be had - especially with a manic, if a little laggy, multiplayer mode available too. Perfectionists and speedrunners will have a field day, but a word of warning to those players short on patience - this might not be the game for you!
Overall Trifox is a game that on the surface looks like an enjoyable experience and one that would be right up the street of any nostalgia seeking 3D-platform player. It is such a shame that it fails to deliver anything truly enjoyable or challenging and is mostly just a bit of a slog. I take my hat off to the ideas and efforts of Glowfish Interactive but the execution is where this game falls down. To sum up my time with Trifox in one word, it would be ‘frustrating’.
I wanted to like Kraken Academy!! more than I did. It’s a game that’s wonderfully strange, full of great ideas and has an engaging main story. While I was at the school, I was thoroughly absorbed into the rotting world, obsessed with cleaning it up and building out my friendships. The problem is that outside of the main story there was nothing to keep me past Wednesday, sure a few side quests are present, but they can easily be ignored. In fact the amount of time logged in our ‘At A Glance’ table is predominantly me collecting bottles, even though it was a pointless endeavour. Don’t get me wrong, I recognise this is an indie game and Happy Broccoli Games have done wonders with what they have created, but if the game had just a few additional classes, or something to work towards such as an alternate ending, it’d be a game I’d recommend in a snap. For the price, it is worth a look, so long as expectations are set accordingly.
Yomawari: The Long Night Collection is an attractive but ultimately long-winded experience. The hand-drawn backgrounds are beautiful and, alongside the impressive sound effects, manage to build a wonderful level of immersion in the static environments. But with no combat to speak of and very little actual action, you’re forced only to run away from the host of spectres at an achingly slow pace. Stumbling through two disjointed stories is slow going since they hang on just a few scattered, but admittedly fun scares without much other meat on the bone.
Triple Take is a new school precision platformer with an old school vibe; fans of the 8-bit era will feel right at home with the blocky sprites, simple colour schemes and fun (but limited) soundtrack. There’s enough variety in the levels to keep you interested, though it does undermine the premise a little, and the physics aren’t as tight as I would personally ask for, but boy, does it deliver on storytelling. The plot of Triple Take carries so much more water than I expected from a platformer, and the immersive, fourth-wall breaking ride is an absolute treat. Whilst not without its flaws, I encourage platform fans to give Triple Take a go - it’s an experience that you’ll not forget quickly.
Necrobarista: Final Pour is a heck of a visual novel. Route 59 has taken care to create a game that epitomises the genre, with a story that is funny, charming, and engaging throughout, and is wrapped up in a stunning package that is not seen enough in the world of VNs. While the shortcomings aren’t deal breakers, it would have been nice to see a few tweaks here and there, particularly showcasing other customers. I think having random pieces of text littered around the coffee shop did the game a disservice; if a few more of them had been animated in the same way as the two extra DLC stories, it would have created a real buzz within the Terminal to make it feel more alive. That being said, the main plot of Necrobarista is rare in that it kept me engaged all the way through and didn’t drop the level of humour despite what was unfolding on screen.
The Last Hero of Nostalgaia has every right to call itself a ‘soulslike’ game. It happily rips off every aspect of the Dark Souls series with gleeful abandon and with a giant smirk across its face. If you’ve played a Souls game, then it's all here; the controls, menus, and attack patterns are all where you’d expect them to be. The story is remarkably solid and never takes itself too seriously, and throughout the quest, random interjections from the Narrator consistently lift the mood and throw unexpected curveballs. I was left feeling like The Last Hero of Nostalgaia is an irreverent, self-deprecating, and above all else fun game that everyone should at least dip their toes into.
Overall I can say that I really enjoyed The Room Two. It is the perfect puzzle solver with enough atmosphere and immersion to make it stand out from the crowd. The puzzles have a lot of variety and you won’t find yourself thinking “I’ve already done this one”. Despite the short run time I think that anyone with an affinity to puzzlers and creepy games will have a blast, and I definitely will be getting on to the other three games in the series.