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It's been some time since I finished SIGNALIS and parts of it still linger with me. I feel a chill when I think about the implications of some sequences, the dark distorted beasts glitching hidden in the shadows of the room, and the horrifying mental scars the game's characters were left with. While in the moment, the frustrations felt bigger than anything else, they've all but melted away with time. All I can remember is how great of a horror experience this was.
That all being said, Prodeus is everything classic shooter fans could ask for. It's gory, it's heavy (and I mean HEAVY) rock and roll, it's pure fun, and all wrapped up in a package with the best old-school aesthetics amplified by the power of modern technology. I don't regret a single minute spent strafing through Bounding Box's alien halls, and if you're looking for a vacation back to the '90s, Prodeus is calling. (It's on Game Pass too!)
At its core, Exocolonist is a fascinating story about collective survival, finding harmony with the planet, and how a blank slate for humanity is, well, not really a blank slate at all. The memory of the crumbling planet Earth pursues these colonists, literally. And with the colony constantly on the brink of disaster, the old systems of militarization, power imbalances and overconsumption of resources starts to make a tempting appearance. It’s up to you as the player, and as part of the colony, to decide if you’re willing to give into that ghost of a collapsing society or if it’s better to try something new.
Color Gray Games could never release another game and they'd still be a team I'd remember years down the line. Case of the Golden Idol is an incredible first showing that may just revolutionize the mystery game genre in the way that classics like Return of the Obra Dinn did at launch. When I was done with it all, I was left with this hunger to create art, because that's what happens when I consume a piece of truly great art.
While I spent most of my time with Simulacra 3 waiting for the game to reach its full potential and never quite seeing it happen, Kaigan Games continues to deliver one of the more unique horror series out there. Scrolling through a phone to discover the world's horrors is always worth it — it at least adds a new definition to doomscrolling, I'll tell you that — but I can't help but wonder what Kaigan Games could do if they met the full potential they continue to showcase throughout this trilogy. Regardless, it's a worthy expansion of the series, and with an affordable price tag, I definitely recommend giving it a shot.
In the end, Jackbox Party Pack 9 delivers an uneven Party Pack experience. But Jackbox 9's missteps are so slight that uneven still equals a great experience. It's because the highs are so HIGH that the lows stand out the way they do, but with the right group, even the lows can be enjoyable. When you've got two games that may just be entries into the Jackbox Hall of Fame, anything can look a little paler in comparison. If you're looking for a Jackbox Party Pack that really sows some chaos within your friend group, all while truly expanding your mind with some abstract thinking and creative problem-solving — you can't do much better than Jackbox 9.
When you set out to make something truly unique, you may find that what you make simply isn't for everyone. Even with the short couple of hours it takes to reach one of the game's endings, I find it hard to completely recommend this to everyone. It's weird, it's abstract, and it asks more of you than you'd expect. But for the weirdos who are seeking something brand new, willing to overlook some moments of stagnancy, and are open to embracing the love of helping your fellow neighbor, Witch Strandings is worth experiencing. And if you aren't a weirdo, why'd you just read 1500 words about a "strand game?"
Serial Cleaners is a unique game, one that asks you to clean up the kinds of messes you'd usually leave behind in some other violent game. It pushes forth a stylish story with compelling characters, wrapped up in a package that some may be understandably disappointed by and others might be surprised (and relaxed) by. With its easy-to-dupe AI, the need to be perfect in your work fades away, and instead a calming, weird sense of comfort lures you in. And in this world, sometimes "weirdly comforting" is all you can ask for in your pastimes.
The Fridge is Red is a fascinating horror game. Essentially six short experiences in one, this package highlights the best and the worst of the indie horror genre all in one. It simultaneously features some of the most innovative and interesting mechanics I've seen in horror games in a long time and some of the stalest. But with its satisfying ending and an overall dedication to establishing a sense of dread through its atmosphere and liminal settings, The Fridge is Red is still ultimately a batch of traumas worth exploring.
In short: if you have 1 - 3 friends, love punny restaurant names and micromanagement, and are unafraid of failure, put PlateUp! on the menu. And for the love of all that is holy, please look out for those beige puddles the customers left on the floor. We really don’t know what’s in them, but judging by the sound effects, it can’t be anything good.
Jack Move is exactly what you'd expect. Maybe too much so, bordering on generic at times. Other than a same-y but enjoyable narrative, a few fun battles, and some light puzzle work, there are no exciting twists to pull you in. But you don't always need that. Not all RPGs need to be 40-60 hour epics and Jack Move proves there's a place for the shorter contained experiences too. It proves that some great aesthetics and some fun writing can be more than enough to anchor otherwise generic RPG action.
It took a lot to Return to Monkey Island. Like I said in my intro, there was a lot of hesitation that came with me starting this game. Media revivals are extremely hit-and-miss, and I couldn't stand to watch a franchise so close to me fall apart. But when the credits rolled and I wiped the tears from my eyes, I realized why I was actually scared. I already knew when I started that I didn't want it to be over.
Retreat to Enen requires you to fully give yourself over to its experience to enjoy it. It requires you to go full zen, to release all the stressors, to breathe out all the negative energy that the game places in your lap and enjoy only the good. But sometimes in life, you can't do that. Sometimes you have to face the negatives and accept them. Take them and learn a lesson for the future. And that's what I hope Head West does, because Retreat to Enen proposes some ideas worth honing.
Card Shark is a one-of-a-kind experience, one that has the potential to completely immerse you in the life of a card cheat in ways you'd never expect. Nerial has gaming's equivalent of a pair of aces in Card Shark, and I wouldn't even mind if they'd cheated to get this winning hand. I mean, as they say, cheaters always prosper.
When the last sips of tea are finished, Lord Winklebottom Investigates proves to be a more than enjoyable entry into the modern point-and-click adventure library. Taking key lessons — both good and bad — from the legends of the genre, Winklebottom's got all the pieces to endear itself to fans of the genre. If you've been burned by point and clicks in the past, there's nothing new that Winklebottom does to pull you in. But if a posh giraffe in a suit does something for you, you owe it to yourself to give it a try. We hope to see Lord Winklebottom back sooner rather than later and look forward to seeing what else this universe might provide in the years to come.
All in all, Symphony of War is a mechanically sound turn-based tactical RPG that hearkens back to the best games in its genre. Dancing Dragon is clearly a team full of passionate folks who have bright futures ahead of them. It shines through in every layer of this experience, with its chapters of lore, a serious approach to war, a light approach to characters, and an intricately detailed visual style and gameplay system.
Even with Barlow's previous games in mind, I've never played anything like IMMORTALITY and might never again. It's a 10-15 hour experience that speaks to people who love stories, and to those who love creating and consuming art. It's a love letter to the oral tradition, to cave drawings, plays, films, dance, music, and games. It blends so many mediums, it contains so many different forms of art, and it examines it all through these displaced films — and through its characters, it reveals in the end that at the root of humanity are stories and storytellers. And we can't wait to see what else these storytellers do because it sure does feel good to just feel human in this chaotic time. It's for that reason, and a million others that could add to our pages and pages of notes we took during our playthrough, that VGG is giving IMMORTALITY the highest honor we can bestow.
I cannot recommend this game in its current state and do not want to let it slide that this game released in a very buggy and incomplete condition, but I want to believe in developers. I've seen many games surprise with their growth years after launch and I want to believe that Bleeding Tapes is capable of doing just that. I want to believe that the team believes in Neon Blight, and so I'll leave my thoughts here and hope the team takes something away from this feedback. Bleeding Tapes, there is a lot of work ahead of you, but your output since launch shows you're more than ready to face that challenge.
Coin Crew Games delivered something special with Escape Academy. A true-to-its-roots escape room experience (and in our opinion, one of the most successful attempts to recreate this digitally). A compelling world. Puzzles that are just difficult enough that you are constantly surprising yourself with your own brain's ability. It's all quality. While their focus has primarily been on the arcade space, we hope this establishes Coin Crew's foothold in the at-home gaming world. As long as their next few games don't feature pipe puzzles. Please.
Tribute Games, working with a property so near and dear to a whole generation's sentimental hearts, somehow managed to honor TMNT's roots both in gaming and in general while providing an experience worthy of a pedestal right alongside its many inspirations, if not above them. This cover band has become so much more — and I look forward to the day when we look back and see Tribute Games' greatest hits laid out in front of us.