Classics 5


Super Mario Bros 2

A very impressive game… for the time. Still reasonably fun and worth a playthrough if you haven’t, though playing the GBA version or on the Switch is probably preferable to avoid the game over issues.
Total Story Score: +1
Total Gameplay Score: +4
Cheats: Yes (savestates on game over)
Total Play Time: 1 Days // 2.5 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-13-2021

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Visual storytelling is pretty fun here and there, mostly the desert, snow, and cloud levels

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Intro. It does so much right so quickly and efficiently
  2. In-game tutorialization is fantastic and spot on. The initial drop, the enemy, the screen wrapping, it slowly introduces new ideas and new concepts as you go and it’s fantastic
  3. The game has good visual distinction as usual
  4. There’s good variance in playstyle between the four characters
  5. The level design in general has good escalation of themes and good back-and-forth style
  6. Mid-mission checkpointing is surprisingly good, putting you back to the last ‘load screen’ on death
  7. Aggregate: Music, for what little is there, is good and memorable // The game isn’t super replayable but it does have replayability

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. The controls are super squirrely, even more so than the Mario norm
  2. The penalty for failure in this game is just too harsh. Starting over at the world is fine, but having to start the entire game over upon losing continues is awful (especially since nothing indicates where the warp pipes are at all)
  3. Aggregate: No real tutorialization on death pits which is odd considering the game’s vertical nature // The Ninja Gaiden respawn is inconsistent and only occasionally an issue, but it’s there // The difficulty curve is a bit weird, it’s mostly smooth except when it’s not

Super Mario Bros 3

While there are, in my opinion, better Mario titles… the truth is almost all of them sit on the shoulders of this game. Very, very innovative for the time and a true giant of game design, if you somehow have not played it I highly recommend it.
Total Story Score: +2
Total Gameplay Score: +27
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 1 Days // 4.25 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-16-2021

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Visual storytelling (especially in worlds 5 and 8) and…
  2. …visual continuity (especially in worlds 5 and 8)

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Tutorialization is on point, as per Mario standard
  2. Itemization (inventory on the overworld map, mostly optional overworld interactions to gain power ups)
  3. Itemization mk. 2, especially for the end of stage guarantee 1 ups
  4. Itemization mk. 3 for excellent general distribution throughout stages
  5. Music is the usual Koji Kondo excellence
  6. Visual distinction is generally good
  7. World 1 doesn’t have any stand-out levels really, but it’s a good tutorial world overall and a good Intro
  8. World 2 continues the trend of good stage design across the board
  9. World 3 remains fun, if difficult (as the gloves are officially off) and has a huge variety of stages throughout
  10. World 4 isn’t super well designed in terms of challenge or layout but it’s just… fun. It’s a good, gimmicky breather world and likes to play with its concept…
  11. …leading to another plus for World 4
  12. World 5 has good climbing gimmick early on…
  13. …good ‘sky’ gimmicks in the latter half…
  14. …and actual difficult stage layout and design, some of the earliest proper challenges in the game
  15. 7-6 is fantastic in its innovation and design, between the wrapping and the ghost platforms
  16. World 7 is legitimately fantastic in its concepts, innovation, combination of themes, and general design. There’s avoidance levels, vertical platforms, wrapping avoidance, enemy gauntlets, mini levels littered with plant types that reward items, etc…
  17. …which is why World 7…
  18. …gets three positives
  19. World 8 has some limitations in its level design but is still generally good across the board
  20. Overworld design with routing and layout, with multiple paths and shortcuts (mostly for continues)
  21. The Outro is awesome. Bowser’s castle has multiple paths forwards depending on your route and the final boss is unique and fun
  22. Generally good spritework and brickwork
  23. Enemy Variety is, as usual for Mario games, great…
  24. …with a wide variety of enemy attack styles and movements
  25. The power ups are great, if limited, and offer nice Kit
  26. At all times the game is utilizing its terrain in service of level design…
  27. …constantly and in innovative ways
  28. Replayability (one of the more replayable early Marios)

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Aggregate: No save feature whatsoever in a fairly large game // Difficulty curve is a bit weird. It’s a full smooth curve other than the dip for World 4, with a few spikes in 6 and 7 // Mario squiddidy is very minor here, but it’s here

Super Mario World

Honestly, what can I even add to this one? This is one of the best ‘first video games’ ever made, and a perfect game for someone to enter the hobby. If you somehow haven’t played it, I massively recommend it.
Total Story Score: +2
Total Gameplay Score: +40
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 1 Days // 5.75 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-17-2021

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The post-castle cutscenes are cute and, honestly, still get a grin out of me
  2. General tone of fun, adventurous romp

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Tutorialization is… really the best it’s ever been in gaming…
  2. …with constant effort throughout over half the game…
  3. …to constantly introduce, escalate, and explain via very careful level design
  4. The Intro (all of Yoshi’s Island) is, as usual for the Mario series, excellently designed to wean new players into video games as a concept and Mario World in specific
  5. The Star World isn’t designed to be super challenging, but super interesting. Every stage encourages the player to think
  6. Almost all of the special stages are, really, quite legit. Gnarly and its verticality and usage of different climbing gimmicks…
  7. …Tubular and its turning the balloon gimmick into a shmup…
  8. …Way Cool and its ‘maze’ of the platform and having to navigate it via the toggle blocks…
  9. …Awesome and its very careful application of enemy placement and utilization while still giving you tools to deal with it…
  10. …Groovy and its useful and fun presentation of elements…
  11. …and finally Funky, which is a short but sweet victory lap
  12. Donut land and its multi level presentation of multiple paths and of course the ghost houses
  13. Vanilla Dome continues its excellent grouped level design
  14. The bridge segments are probably the hardest, best designed levels in the game…
  15. …easily deserving a second positive
  16. While most of the castles aren’t noteworthy individually, each one serves as a form of a tech demo and advances how you can interact with the game
  17. The Forest of Illusion doesn’t have much cohesive theme going for it, but several fun stages and it plays with the multiple exits thing quite a bit
  18. Choco-Ghost House is probably the best Ghost House in the game; challenging and with three concurrent gimmicks
  19. Mid-mission checkpoints are consistent, well placed, power you up, and stick across levels
  20. Music! While not some of the best, there’s very memorable, catchy tunes in this one
  21. General graphics. While not the best, across the sprites, background, and animations it’s worthy of a positive
  22. Enemy variety is the usual Mario excellence
  23. The game controls quite well, especially for a Mario game, and in general feels like you’re actually in control the entire time
  24. The sunken airship level is great. Love the fading Boos, and love the continuity it adds
  25. Ghost Houses are generally fun, interesting, and encourage you to think in new and different ways… with all but one of them having multiple exits…
  26. …deserving of a second positive
  27. Larry’s castle is probably one of the better non-special stages in the game, with lots of good theme mixing and variety of challenges
  28. Terrain usage is consistently considered at all levels of design
  29. The core mechanics of this game are incredibly solid
  30. Difficulty curve never really stops doing at least something to engage and keep the player moving forwards
  31. The game does a really good job of distributing items throughout every stage across the entire game
  32. The cape is an amazing bit of tech, putting a ton of the control in the player’s hand and offering tremendous utility and tech while also having a very high skill ceiling
  33. A second positive for the general power ups which includes the aforementioned cape
  34. Yoshi is surprisingly well designed for his first entry. He can be recovered, he can double your jump height, he has the different shell and color power ups, and the variance on how you can get hit on him…
  35. …leads to two positives for Yoshi
  36. The Outro does some good stuff, with the multiple paths through Bowser’s Castle, and the fight itself being both unique and well designed
  37. Chocolate Land is, as with previous levels, very well designed in its general layout
  38. Bowser’s Valley has a lot of possible paths forwards, and some well designed interesting stages
  39. The game is in general replayable…
  40. …but between the ability to continue, the multiple paths through the worlds, and the many exits, secrets, and special stages… the game deserves a second Replayability possible
  41. Usual good visual distinction

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Aggregate: The overworld movement is honestly just too slow and drags the game down on backtracking // The bosses are underwhelming at best, and pathetic at worst, glorified tech demos // Outrageous is aptly named. It’s an enemy bonanza, with parts of the stage being obscured, while having very few recovery mechanics throughout, all on top of careful platforming requiring either the spring or Yoshi to progress

Innovator Point: Yoshi Drums

Super Mario 64

Iconic, significant, and important… but the game is only sub-par upon re analysis. The good is great, but the frustration just drags it back. Despite my issues, it’s still a net positive, and if you haven’t played it I still recommend giving it at least a go.
Total Story Score: +3
Total Gameplay Score: +13
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 15.83 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-19-2021

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The tone, music, and humor in dialogue
  2. The stages have good, varied Visual Storytelling within them
  3. The Outro is yet another good example of a simple but enjoyable ending

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The minigame of the Mario face alteration at the beginning needs to be mentioned
  2. The Castle courtyard is a wonderful tutorial. It’s a nice, big, open, mostly safe space to just play around with the concepts the game was introducing; physics and 3D platforming
  3. The music is, as usual, awesome
  4. The ‘stage select’ for each course gives hints in the star name for how to obtain it
  5. Bob-Omb Battlefield is exactly what it should do as an Intro; It sets up movement, enemies, tech, stars, coins, red coins, etc.
  6. Whomp’s Fortress is very vertical and does a lot to encourage the player to figure out the different ways to navigate the 3D space
  7. Boo’s Mansion uses its space and camera very efficiently…
  8. …and further has an excellent aspect of visual continuity which at all times helps to inform where you are in relation to what
  9. Lethal Lava Land has good recovery, multiple interesting stars, and the mid-mission checkpoint of the volcano
  10. Bowser in the Fire Sea continues the trend of good platforming and interesting jumping puzzles
  11. Dire Dire Docks still has a few irritations (the whirlpool comes to mind) but between the usage of the underwater mechanic and some fun pole hanging puzzles, it’s enjoyable
  12. Wet-Dry World is unique, interesting, and fun with its gimmick and layout
  13. Tiny Huge island still has issues, but honestly between the gimmick and the visual continuity it’s still fun to go through (unless you’re getting 100 coins)
  14. While there aren’t many power ups in this one, Mario himself is given substantial kit in terms of his moveset and a lot of it is anchored on the Z button, using good shortcutting for the most part
  15. Tall-Tall Mountain is a nice escalation from Thwomp Fortress; very vertical, very climbing focused, and with multiple types of platforming and maneuvering required to ascend
  16. Most stages do something very right; they show you something very specific as part of the initial stage direction, so you are ‘inclined’ to certain areas or avenues
  17. Tick Tock Clock is a great example of what a difficult stage should be, short and dense with the changeable speed walking into it
  18. The difficulty curve if you’re just going for 70 stars is quite smooth, with each ‘floor’ serving as an escalation of mechanics and encounters
  19. Outro positive for Bowser in the sky as well as the final boss fight
  20. The hub (overworld) is reasonably well designed
  21. The game goes out of its way to allow you to route your own way through stars, leading to good mechanical replayability
  22. Aggregate: Bob-Omb 1, raising the ship, penguin slide, King Thwomp, Bowser’s Sub, Tall Mountain Slide, climbing the Volcano // Checkpointing, when it’s there, is nice
  23. Aggregate: Snowman’s Land has some interesting concepts and stars // Yoshi Drums periodically // The power ups aren’t that great and aren’t that frequent but when they’re there they’re well designed
  24. Aggregate: Cool, Cool Mountain and Jolly Roger Bay both don’t do much really exceptional, but both serve as guides and tutorials for their respective concepts and still have aspects of decent design to them

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Hazy Maze Cave. First of all it’s visually disinteresting, it’s full of small corridors which compounds the camera issues which already are problematic, made worse by the fact that the camera controls literally don’t work in half the areas, with bad initial stage direction and a near total lack of visual continuity on top of the absolute jank of the arrow platform…
  2. Shifting Sand Land is substantially worse designed than virtually every other stage to-date. The core ideas aren’t bad but the prevalence of the instant-kill quicksand and the unusual physics interactions with weird ledges in the quicksand and the pillars makes the level more frustrating than it has any right to be
  3. The controls in the game are imprecise, at best
  4. The camera ranges from being irritating to being actively antagonistic…
  5. …and are some of the worst camera controls I’ve ever seen. The camera by itself is not good (getting stuck on things, awful random angles) but the controls or lack thereof are even worse
  6. Blast to the Lonely Mushroom is the worst star in the game. It’s a cannon shot into nothing with no possibility of recovery after a small to medium trek to the spot to attempt it again with no actual method by which to see your arc other than trial and error which, of course, involves dying each time
  7. The 100 coin stars are a bit arduous and a bit too many, take away healing potential, and have no checkpointing built in, which also completely kills the pacing and, worse, means it’s quite easy to lose a lot of progress for no good reason to a small mistake…
  8. …and for this reason (most especially the checkpointing issues) it earns a second negative
  9. Rainbow Ride is easily one of the least designed stages in the game. It’s random geometry in a boring skybox with clearly-made-for-2D platforming on top of relying on the long, slow, boring carpet ride which is very easy to screw up and lose all your progress on for no less than three separate stars…
  10. …leading to a second negative for Rainbow Ride
  11. Aggregate: The snowman in Snowman’s Land is a dick, compounded by the penguin being a dick and the controls in general // In addendum to the earlier issues, the underwater and flight controls suck

Codifier Points: 3D Platformers and Collectathons

Super Mario Sunshine

I am… surprised at how bad this game is. The things I remember fondly are still there and still good, but the entire game is marred by awful level design and near constant frustration. You can probably go ahead and skip this one.
Total Story Score: +10
Total Gameplay Score: -5
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 9.83 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-23-2021

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Visual continuity really helps tie the whole island together
  2. The hub (Delfino Plaza) has fantastic flavor and really helps keep the whole vibe of the tropical island
  3. The game has wonderful NPC set dressing, in pretty much every stage too
  4. Visual storytelling across islands is great, and very well done per stage. The Bianco Hills and its rolling green and nice lake and windmill…
  5. …Ricco Harbor and the, uh, harbor, the workers, the docks, the fishing…
  6. …Gelato Beach and the lounging, festivals, and waves…
  7. …Pinna Park and the, uh, park complete with park-goers and plenty of rides…
  8. …Noki Bay (before and after the poison problem)…
  9. …Sirena Beach and its gorgeous sunset…
  10. Doodads! So many good doodads…
  11. …it deserves a second positive
  12. Pianta village continues the visual enjoyability
  13. The atmosphere of the tropical paradise is awesome
  14. The music almost always adds to the aforementioned atmosphere

Story Negatives:

  1. The Intro is stupid for three major reasons. The first is obvious (the hell is this nonsense?), the second is it’s totally unnecessary (of course Mario would help! Why wouldn’t he?!) and the third is it never comes up again
  2. The ‘big reveal’ scene where Bowser Jr. reveals himself is… not good. The reveal is lackluster, Peach doing nothing is weird, Mario doing nothing is cutscene incompetence, and the… ‘plot point’ of Peach being Bowser Jr’s mother is so weird I don’t even know where to begin
  3. Peach is just… way too airheaded in this one, to an extent that it’s actually aggravating
  4. The Outro is just… weird and bad and awkward, between the weird cheesiness that doesn’t fit the attempts at seriousness, the 1 minute 28 second death of FLUDD, and Bowser Jr’s randomness… no

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Bianco Hills doesn’t do much, but it is a good, safe environment where each of the shines helps get you into most of the interactions and movement tech in the game
  2. The hub is fantastically designed, easily one of the best hubs in the series…
  3. …not just visually and audibly, but with regards to the tools and kit throughout that allow for swift and smooth navigation
  4. The music is, as usual, consistently excellent
  5. The game’s use of color and palette is really noteworthy
  6. The spritework is nothing short of stunning
  7. The game’s brickwork is even better…
  8. …really above and beyond, especially for the time
  9. The game is exceptionally visual distinct
  10. Visual continuity in helping to navigate
  11. Terrain design is, sometimes, built around the levels and movement
  12. The game retains the tight movement set and kit of the 3D Marios in general
  13. FLUDD surprisingly adds a lot to the overall kit and mobility of Mario’s moveset, functionally being the ‘power ups’ of the game
  14. As with 64, the game keeps shine hints in title and in the opening pan
  15. Noki Bay is just generally fun, with several interesting and enjoyable gimmicks between the unique boss fights, movable ruins, and enjoyable platforming…
  16. …leading to a second positive for it
  17. While few really stick out, the bosses were generally enjoyable

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. FLUDDless stages. They take away your tool… okay, that’s fine, but they don’t do anything to really add to it. Instant death, wonky physics, no checkpoints, all contribute to them just being more frustrating than they should be
  2. The red coin on the water shine in Ricco Harbor. The shine itself isn’t actually that bad, getting the red coins is fun enough and the timer is generous, but nothing indicates the different controls of the bloopers and, much worse, you can still die (easily) after finishing the coins
  3. The Sand Bird level is legitimately badly designed. It’s very easy to physics to death, doesn’t track your jump properly, is slow and boring, and any mistake results in death and starting over from the beginning
  4. Pinna Park’s ferris wheel shine sucks. It’s several fun, tight jumps absolutely ruined by a camera that’s constantly fighting you and an ease of losing all progress instantly
  5. Sirena Beach in general sucks, without a single enjoyable shine…
  6. …but some of those specific shines suck so badly they literally made me quit the game over it back in the day (manta ray, clean the beach, Bowser Jr)
  7. Pianta Village’s goopy inferno is probably one of the worst stages in the entire game. It’s frustrating, very narrowly railroaded into one intended path, the lava does the exact opposite of what it does in every other 3D game, and the bottomless pit can go to hell
  8. The chuckya secret stage, by itself, is just awful
  9. Lack of info in game on shine requirements
  10. Lives system. It’s normally excusable but here there’s so few lives, and restarting adds a crucial Seconds In Minutes problem to already frustrating shines, compounded by the game over sound
  11. Mandatory progression in the first 7 shines of each course. As usual, something bad that’s bad that’s mandatory is worse
  12. Low health Beedleeps
  13. 100 coin shines are even worse than in Mario 64
  14. Blue coins in general can go to hell
  15. So, so many of the 100% shines are just the worst, entirely too many to list here…
  16. …deserving of, honestly…
  17. …one of the worst 100% games I’ve ever covered, and a full 3 negatives
  18. The difficulty… ‘curve’ is one of the most insanely all over the place I’ve seen
  19. …which deserves a second negative
  20. While some of the game’s secrets and shines are well guided, the rest are… absolutely nonsensical or completely hidden. Worse, some of the primary shines’ hints are just absent
  21. The boat in Corona Mountain is so, so, so bad it deserves its own negative
  22. The Outro in general is lackluster at best. Corona mountain has that damned boat, there’s limited retries on the cloud, and the Bowser fight is disinteresting at best and literally buggy at worst

Zelda Ocarina of Time

While Master Quest does drag the score down a bit, this is still an incredible game with many of the hallmarks of Nintendo’s fantastic game design, wrapped in a very atmospheric story with wonderful implications.
Total Story Score: +15
Total Gameplay Score: +27
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 4 Days // 36.12 Hours
Time Reviewed: 12-01-2021

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Intro. The initial section does everything it needs to to establish hooks, tone, and get you invested in both the backstory and the plot… and of course that lovely camera work
  2. Animations in cutscenes
  3. Music across the board really adds to the atmosphere and tone of each distinct area
  4. Camerawork in almost every cutscene is legit
  5. Castle Town after time skip. The lack of music, the wind sound effect, the change of lighting, the redeads in town
  6. Forest Temple. Implications, quiet horror, atmosphere, tone
  7. The Fire temple, the implications for Darunia, the slow dread
  8. While I hate going through it, the Shadow Temple and all it means for the background of the setting
  9. The Spirit Temple is just a treat… narratively
  10. Dialogue is sparse but good
  11. Background lore in the war, the world, and the setup
  12. Reveal of Ganon in final battle. It’s still an awesome, terrifying scene, and I love it to death
  13. The Outro build up through the tower is fantastic, and the ending is nicely enjoyable
  14. Sheik, aka Zelda (spoilers!) is actually treated reasonably well. The reveal is nice, but ultimately it’s the little snippets of character moments she gets that helps sell it
  15. Generally good visual storytelling throughout
  16. Special mention to the tone-setting Brickwork throughout

Story Negatives:

  1. The general vibe and atmosphere and tone of the Shadow Temple is so bad I honestly hate going through it everytime I replay the game

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The Kokiri Forest ‘town’ is an excellent example of tutorialization in-design, with very little of it being mandatory
  2. The Intro in general is incredibly well built, from the town to the Deku Tree and how the game (as per Nintendo’s standard) informs through gameplay and level design, camera usage and presentation…
  3. …which gets a second positive
  4. Most if not all dungeons built in ‘shortcuts’ to their design so as you progress you have less repetition
  5. Master Deku Tree. The recurring fire motif, having to be clever about avoiding lo**sing the torch, and frantic gauntlet rooms
  6. Master Dodongo Caverns. The bombs are used to much greater effect overall, and the puzzle routing is generally enjoyable
  7. Master Jabu-Jabu’s belly is as gross as ever, but the re-arranged procurement of the boomerang works quite well and smooths out the whole dungeon
  8. Master Forest Temple. A bit too heavy on backtracking, but still enjoyable overall
  9. Sound design is some of the best in the business…
  10. …earning two positives
  11. The interface is smooth and very quick to use
  12. The map is informative and helpful, especially once you get the compass
  13. Controls are good in general, but…
  14. …between the shortcuts and the gyro aiming it gets a second positive
  15. Music is, as usual, excellent
  16. Fast travel in the form of the songs
  17. Good pacing in non-dungeon, dungeon content, followed by the mini-dungeon / dungeon format…
  18. …earning two positives
  19. While not the fanciest of stuff, there’s still good kit in items and the like
  20. Core combat is enjoyable
  21. Minigames are fun, optional, and rewarding
  22. Animations of enemies are always indicative and helpful
  23. Generally good, smooth graphics
  24. General positive for boss design
  25. Enemy variety in terms of how you’re attacked and general encounter design
  26. The ascent and descent through Ganon’s Tower is legit. Perfect fun, hoype, and presentation along with proper pacing and engagement
  27. The final Outro and final boss fight are just generally awesome, and easily the best boss fight in the game…
  28. …earning two positives
  29. The difficulty curve remains legit, as it usually is for Nintendo games
  30. Good itemization in drops and distribution
  31. There’s generally good mid mission checkpointing within dungeons, usually keeping all progress unless you quit the game
  32. Game is quite replayable
  33. Generally good visual distinction (except in the Shadow Temple)
  34. Generally good visual continuity with regards to landmarking (especially in the ‘overworld’)
  35. Navi and Saria assistance and guidance
  36. Dodongo’s Cavern is very staggered in staircase design; introduce, introduce, escalate, escalate, and it’s good fun
  37. The Forest Temple is the perfect ‘first adult dungeon’, encapsulating what is required for future dungeons and getting across everything you need to know about routing, mapping, backtracking, and the overall escalation
  38. Spirit Temple is honestly one of the best dungeons in the game. Sure it does a lot right visually and audibly, but the puzzles are interesting and engaging, and nicely mirror each other the two times you go through
  39. Jabu Jabu’s Belly has its issues, but its well laid out and loops in on itself nicely, and has good built-in shortcut progression
  40. The Fire Temple has some aggravations (don’t fall!) but aside from that the verticality is nice and the variety in obstacles is great
  41. Aggregate: Barinade // Twinrova

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Unskippable cutscenes (nice, long tracks of them too)
  2. Kaepora Gaebora (long, unskippable dialogue with the default option being please repeat,which is easy (thanks to how the text is coded) to hit by accident
  3. Low health beedleeps
  4. The Ice Cavern is… not a good dungeon. It has no good puzzles or encounters, is needlessly repetitive in its texturing, has nothing but irritating stun-locking enemies, and ice physics
  5. Walkthroughitis sections in Master’s Quest dungeons periodically
  6. Mandatory double damage in Master’s Quest and unnecessary mirrored thing
  7. Camera woes, as per usual
  8. The Master Quest Water Temple is all the problems of the original but honestly worse, with esoteric dungeon design and weird puzzles but worst of all no possibility of reset, which can lead to being ‘stuck’ trying to figure out how to get back to where you need to be with the water levels
  9. The Master Quest Shadow Temple is honestly the worst dungeon in the game. It uses gotcha! Mechanics, relies entirely too much on platforming for a game that doesn’t support it, and the visual distinction is actively bad between the tight corridors and samey brown and grey terrain
  10. …second negative for MQ Shadow Temple
  11. The Spirit Temple is… tedious. Everything takes too long and the whole thing is honestly just boring
  12. The final spirit trials are the weirdest inclusion in the entire game. They absolutely destroy the otherwise excellent pacing of the game, and kill any momentum prior to the finale
  13. Memes and jokes aside, the Water Temple has issues. The dungeon requires you to keep multiple variables in mind at once, which isn’t bad, unless you skip over any one of them, in which case not only is your progress completely halted but it’s an entire chore to backtrack thanks to the water level thing and figure out what you missed
  14. The Shadow Temple has issues in vanilla as well, mostly the same as the Master Quest version (palette, cameras, corridors), mixed with some questionable layout decisions

Zelda Majora's Mask

This one was even better than I remembered. While it stumbles a bit in the intro, and the weird factor certainly pulls it down for me, this one is still very replayable, still very emotional, still very good.
Total Story Score: +25
Total Gameplay Score: +28
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 3 Days // 25.95 Hours
Time Reviewed: 12-04-2021

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Demo does a lot to establish the style and tone of the game
  2. The Intro does a great deal to set up the tone of malaise and gloom, both in the initial tidbit and in the first loop of the town. They also establish the casual racism of Termina, people’s reactions to events and how they change over time, and the reality of what you face
  3. The lead up to Snowhead, with Darmani, the elder, and the son is nicely melancholic and well done
  4. The Skull Keeta moment, the pause before the salute, great scene
  5. Generally good quantity and quality of dialogue throughout
  6. Just a stupid amount of detail in every crack and crevice of the game
  7. Visual storytelling is all over the place
  8. Wonderful doodad utilization
  9. The internal continuity of this game is bonkers, with so much of it referencing and acknowledging itself…
  10. …earning a second positive
  11. Gameplay and story integration
  12. Little moments. Most aren’t worth a plus by themselves, but there’s lots of little moments which are well done. The Gidbo father and his daughter, Lulu’s despondency, the goron worried about his comrade…
  13. …which doubles up for a Characters positive, just for the sheer depth and breadth of the supporting cast
  14. As with Ocarina, the music is always used beautifully and accurately to accentuate each area it’s played for
  15. The general atmosphere, tone, and vibe of Ikana is beautiful. The desolation, the worn-down feeling of the eternal war, it’s all appropriately horrible
  16. Clock Town deserves special mention for being one of the better Zelda towns, not just with plenty of NPCs but each one having their own route, schedule, role, etc.
  17. The game hits themes harder than most games I’ve played. Themes of division, themes of age, themes of experience, themes of powerlessness and helplessness, and over all of it is the theme of death. And yet it takes these themes, weaves them into almost every side story (and main), and at all times promises a point of hope at the end (which we can provide)… for this…
  18. …the themes of the game…
  19. …deserve a full three positives
  20. The big quest. Anju and Kafei. It’s fun, it’s emotional, it’s heartwarming, it’s a positive
  21. Good animations to assist with cutscenes
  22. Second positive for several interesting and engaging characters throughout
  23. Majora (and Skull Kid) are well characterized in their absence, as almost everywhere we go is touched by their influence
  24. The Outro is really good stuff, an absolute smash hit really. The confrontation with Skull Kid, the Majora interactions, the inside of the moon, the final boss fight…
  25. …and the ending, all great stuff
  26. Generally good world building throughout

Story Negatives:

  1. The Intro has some almost unavoidable pacing issues with regards to its waiting around or forcing time forwards as well as general confusion and drugginess (as an addendum, I literally put this game down during the Intro… twice… before forcing myself to play through the game proper years later)

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Intro. Gets you used to the Deku form’s abilities, forces you to learn the town, learn the concepts of the days and the changing schedules, and gets you into the mindset of sidequests = main content
  2. The Bomber’s Notebook is a very good ‘quest log’, with events and people’s schedules tracked automatically, the ability to set alarms, locations on map, as well as useful information and stuff you’ve completed or not…
  3. The interface is, as per Ocarina, good stuff, but it’s made even better with the shortcuts…
  4. …and how that coincides with the Mask mechanics and gimmicks
  5. Controls are, as per Ocarina, good…
  6. …but improved even more via the QoL features and additional shortcuts and gyro aiming
  7. Generally good checkpoints, just like in Ocarina
  8. Woodfall is a nice layered dungeon with good design around pseudo backtracking
  9. Snowhead is very nicely vertical in its complexity, slowly climbing and knocking down parts of the temple in order to progress, with some neat ice and melting puzzles…
  10. The optional fairy pieces in the dungeons are a great way to escalate the difficulty of each dungeon in a rewarding manner
  11. GOHT! Goht isn’t exactly super complex, but it is very fun
  12. Gameplay and story integration
  13. Generally good brickwork
  14. A second positive for the quest log
  15. Transformation kit
  16. With the stones, generally good info in game
  17. Minigames are, as with the previous game, optional and rewarding
  18. The Skulltula houses deserve special mention for being fun minidungeons, very dense but still interesting
  19. As per usual for a Zelda the game is quite Replayable…
  20. …but due to the time loop, mastery, and breadth of side quests and ‘do it however’ gameplay, it earns the coveted second Replayable plus
  21. Between enemy drops and plants, as well as what you can get where (notably the ‘drops’ next to warp points), the game is well Itemized
  22. The Stone Tower Temple is easily the best designed dungeon in the game, though it has some issues it’s very clever and serves (functionally) as the final dungeon concept (a ‘final exam’ of all the other modes and puzzle types)
  23. Anju and Kafei’s quest is quite a fun puzzle to do and easily the best quest in the game, and further even has a Princess Peach segment
  24. Core combat is still enjoyable
  25. Core mechanic of timer and loop is well designed (if polarizing) with lots of options to mitigate it and get through or around it
  26. Good fast travel system
  27. Guidance and flow of exploration
  28. Good map design
  29. While more ambient, the music is nonetheless good
  30. Much better overworld design, with good item distribution, routes, density, and general design
  31. Clock Town also gets a positive for being a generally well designed hub town
  32. It’s fun to get around in this game, between the Goron, Zora, Deku, and of course Epona (and bunny)
  33. Visual continuity is the usual good stuff
  34. Visual distinction is high quality throughout
  35. Sound design is the usual Zelda quality
  36. The final boss fight with Majora is legit. There’s not much else there in the lead up, but the fight itself is multi-phased, multi-tiered, properly difficult, and has the Fierce Deity Mask as an option to absolutely crush it
  37. There’s a good variety and enjoyment to the various side quests in the game
  38. Aggregate: A partial positive for item kit // Animations assist in gameplay sometimes // The fun parts of the Twinmold fight are fun

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Intro. There’s other things they could’ve done to smooth it out the general lack of guidance and understanding of the tutorial loop, such as allowing us to actually progress or more clearly indicating the ideas of the townspeople and the ‘instances’ of time, alongside the obvious problem of not being able to get anything ‘real’ in the first loop except some rupees and a few heart pieces
  2. Low health beedleeps
  3. …Snowhead has some serious issues with lack of shortcutting. Normally the Zeldas are good about this, but Snowhead it’s exceptionally easy to lose some, a lot, or a huge amount of progress due to no shortcutting in the layout or design
  4. Unskippable cutscenes
  5. The entire section leading up to the Great Bay Temple kind of sucks. The extended stealth sequence is pretty easy to lose progress in and not helped by the camera, the eel section is pretty slow and boring and repetitive, and the water controls in this version don’t help anything
  6. The Beaver race can honestly go to hell. Bad controls on a timer through rings that have physics while dealing with water physics and wobbly visuals and a bad camera barely keeping up… no
  7. Twinmold. It’s actually pretty awesome, but takes so long it destroys its own impact, going from fun to actively boring (a common problem in this kind of thing in gaming)
  8. The final Goron and Zora sections in the moon suck. Between too-tight controls and unforgiving start-over-from-scratch difficulty
  9. A second negative for the final Zora segment in the Moon
  10. The camera has the same issues that Ocarina did

Max Payne 2

The game is quite overt with its tone and style; noir cheesiness. If you’re into that, it’s a blast. If you’re not, it probably isn’t for you. But it’s still fun to slow-mo leap around shooting mobsters.
Total Story Score: +16
Total Gameplay Score: +4
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 1 Days // 7.5 Hours
Time Reviewed: 12-21-2021

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Atmosphere and tone of cheesy noir is prevalent throughout
  2. Mona and Max have good chemistry and banter with each other
  3. Generally enjoyable characters throughout
  4. The comic book style approach to the cutscenes is good…
  5. …but the audio design of said scenes is just fantastic
  6. The dialogue is beautifully noir
  7. Doodads remain good in most areas
  8. There’s small but critical points of foreshadowing throughout
  9. The television shows are, honestly, just hysterical and always worth a watch (and advance as you go through the game!)
  10. Game, as per Remedy standard, has great internal continuity
  11. The Intro is risky but rewarding, and not only sets the tone and characters immediately but has some great hook straight of the bat
  12. Well written dream sequences (each one is Max putting together pieces already laid out in the previous section, and a proper insight into his mind)
  13. The narrative beats follow a good beat and pattern of pacing throughout
  14. Max’s narration is cheesy, tone-setting, and honestly somewhat required for the overall vibe of the game
  15. The brickwork does an excellent work of selling the setting
  16. Most of the characters were well voice acted and did a good job with their lines
  17. The writing is, let’s be honest, very high quality throughout almost the entire work

Story Negatives:

  1. The confrontation of Mona, Vlad, Max, and Woden is… honestly very ham-fisted and not well blocked, especially weird in an otherwise excellently written story

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Save system (autosaves, quicksaves/loads, multiple easy to access manual saves)
  2. Shoot dodging is honestly just fun to do, leaping and diving around while dodging and shooting, what else to add
  3. The Intro was well done tutorialization without being overbearing or undercooked
  4. Itemization, primarily in drops but also in locations (mostly for pills), ensuring you have a good variety and flow of ammo and pills
  5. Part 2, Chapter 2 (explosives factory) is noticeably better designed than the other stages in the game. The layout, looping route, enemy placement, it was good
  6. The Part 2 Chapter 5 (escort mission with Mona) is actually quite fun, and shows off the sniper gunplay well
  7. Game is generally well paced, rotating between exploration, combat, and mild platforming
  8. General fun in ragdolling, janky physics, and entertainment in kill cams

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Absence of music for action sequences
  2. Lazy difficulty (health and damage) which…
  3. …you also have to beat the game to even unlock the other difficulty options (and dynamic difficulty doesn’t really mitigate the issues)
  4. The Vinnie escort was frustrating, irritating, and … honestly a typical bad escort quest

Resident Evil 4

The classic holds up for a reason, still being an enjoyable romp with great design and fun story. Even if you aren’t particularly into the series or horror in general, I could easily recommend this one.
Total Story Score: +14
Total Gameplay Score: +22
Cheats: Yes (for the Separate Ways DLC)
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 16.65 Hours
Time Reviewed: 12-23-2021

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Intro. The game does a pretty good job of establishing the cheesy tone with the creepy village and (while it does get a bit irritating later) the dull brown village really sets the mood
  2. The entire Village sequence has generally good, appropriate visual storytelling
  3. Doodad placement and utilization is pretty good
  4. Lovely atmosphere as usual in the Castle section
  5. The game has generally good voice acting
  6. Cinematics are reasonably well presented in terms of camera
  7. Salazar is probably the best character in the game overall, make of that what you will
  8. The cheese is embraced, as it should be, and it adds to the game’s enjoyment substantially
  9. The narrative pacing is actually quite tight, with no real issues in its flow
  10. The sound design is absolutely on point narratively, really selling the scenes
  11. The knife fight between Krauser and Leon is honestly probably one of the better cutscenes in the game, cheesy and ridiculous and just the right blend of camp and stupid
  12. Mike and his big scene were, honestly, kinda awesome
  13. Usage of the enemies as a storytelling mechanic. First we have the villagers, then we see the plagas, and we see quite a few other examples but special mention goes to the regenerators
  14. The cutscenes and QTEs had a lot of ridiculous / fun animations (dodging lasers and the like)
  15. Aggregate DLC: Separate Ways did add some neat stuff and flesh out some things (puzzles, characters, etc.) and of course Wesker

Story Negatives:

  1. The Outro is honestly one of the only narrative beats that just doesn’t fit. It’s not weird or cheesy or awesome enough for the tone of the rest, and it’s not serious or interesting or engaging, and it has that awful line with Ashley

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Intro and tutorialization in first Village (teaches you about the flingers, slow advance vs. charge, barricading in houses to survive, and has good distribution primarily of healing items with little ammo encouraging you to mainly just live)
  2. Generally good checkpointing regardless of saves
  3. Tetris inventory and making inventory management an actual mechanic which ties into…
  4. …the itemization, which is not only good in general but…
  5. …is actively dynamic based on what you need and what you’re using
  6. This is on top of the treasure you can garner which functionally serves as ‘exp’ aka ways to upgrade and gear up
  7. The first three bosses aren’t super special, but they are enjoyable for what they are in terms of arena design and ‘phases’
  8. The entire Village segment is well constructed and well paced, dipping in and out of heavy combat, light combat, ‘empty’ areas, puzzles, and of course loot distribution
  9. Village encounter design
  10. The Castle adds some nice variety to affairs, really mixing it up between the maze, the tunnels, the dungeon…
  11. …and of course a surprisingly fun Ashley Princess Peach section
  12. Castle encounter design
  13. The enemy variety is, of course, quite good
  14. Music is, when it’s there, quite good
  15. Weapon variety is not just good, but…
  16. …between the upgrades (especially the Exclusives) just about any combo of guns is feasible as a ‘build’
  17. The terrain is almost always designed around the manually thought-out encounters
  18. The game’s pacing is really excellent, deserving a second positive
  19. The Krauser fight (the actual one) is legit. Nice, complex arena with multiple paths and items, and a good variety of things to fight through or avoid, while dealing with Krauser himself
  20. The Outro (mostly the final boss fight with Saddler) is legit. Good arena with lots of options for how to damage and defeat and bring him down
  21. QoL Features: Use items on loot, visual distinction on interactables and items, ‘push’ mechanics on enemies, etc.
  22. Generally good animations on the various deaths, attacks, and reloading
  23. Mercenary Mode is a fun little Horde mode, with unlockable characters that play differently and a nice quick repeat loop
  24. As usual, good new game plus is a plus
  25. The game does a lot to encourage you to enter, see, or explore for treasure, items, and routes
  26. Between unlocks, difficulties, and new game plus (and general fun factor) the game has good replayability
  27. The sound design is always informative on what you’re fighting and relatively where it is
  28. Aggregate: The Regenerators // The claw minigame // Enemy variety bonus

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Controls are… just kind of bad
  2. Port Issue: The controls have issues on any version but they are just actively awful on the PC port
  3. The Krauser QTE fight is easily the worst QTE in the entire game. The window for hitting the buttons is far too short, any failure means death (and restart), and worst of all (and what prompts a second negative), there’s no real indicators of when QTE’s pop up in the cutscene itself other than the actual button prompt
  4. DLC Assignment Ada is honestly thrown together a bit, lacking most of the polish and level design of most of the other parts of the game, but worst of all it’s just kind of boring. It’s just going through, looting the things, and leaving and that’s it
  5. DLC Separate Ways was honestly pretty padded in terms of design. Too many enemies with too little encounter design and too little enjoyment
  6. The music in Ada’s sections was so repetitive I almost pulled my headphones out

Tales From The Borderlands

Easily the best Telltale game I’ve played, and absolutely worth a playthrough if you like Telltale, Borderlands, or just good storytelling.
Total Story Score: +57
Total Gameplay Score: +4
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 9.68 Hours
Time Reviewed: 12-25-2021

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Intro does everything it needs to to quickly establish the characters, the setting, the villain, and is amusing to boot
  2. There is a large amount of foreshadowing, brick laying, and general construction of events well in advance
  3. The entire Loader Bot duel in town is well storyboarded, written, and awesome
  4. The deal scene, seeing it from both angles, brilliant and fun stuff
  5. Rhys’ plan montages
  6. The entire roller derby sequence is, as usual, awesome (and a surprisingly good action sequence)
  7. The Intro for episode 2 is, as usual, legit. Starts with an action scene, great credits sequence, push the stakes forwards, and of course pulls the tone down to keep the pacing good
  8. Bro bro bro bro bro.
  9. The entire Hollow Point sequence does a lot of great stuff, establishing their past, re-establishing perspective, and emphasizing how much the sisters are hurt by what’s been happening
  10. The finale of Episode 2, the musical build up, the escalating threat, de-escalating, re-escalation, and overall vibe of the scene is great
  11. The narrative is very well paced, usually dipping up and down pretty smoothly throughout…
  12. …easily earning a second pacing positive
  13. The proper usage of unreliable narrator
  14. General banter in the exploration segments
  15. The entire Sasha / Rhys ‘I’m gonna let go!” sequence
  16. The friendship between Rhys and Vaughn is just legit
  17. The camaraderie between Rhys and Fiona is amazing
  18. Face pizza… it’s amusing, but more to the point it’s a great scene for Jack and his growing accustomed to his new environs
  19. Scooter’s final send-off. Catch a riiide…
  20. Honestly, Scooter’s final scene is arguably the best scene in the game. Second positive for it
  21. The finger-gun scene is really just all kinds of hysterical and awesome…
  22. …and worse, really says so, so much about Hyperion, the setting, and the people therein
  23. The finale of episode 4 really, really shows the kind of person Jack is
  24. The final death of Handsome Jack is a powerful, emotional, incredible scene…
  25. …easily deserving two positives
  26. The honest, smile-inducing, heart-warming scene of Loader Bot’s reveal
  27. The entire Traveler fight is legit
  28. Camera-work really adds to the scenes
  29. Humor. The game gets a laugh out of me…
  30. …sufficient to warrant a second positive
  31. Rhys is just an awesome character, with a full arc and a wonderful showcasing of what Jack could have been…
  32. …and his voice acting is just fantastic
  33. Vaughn is a great bro, well voice acted, and a great presentation of the person wanting to break out of their mold
  34. Vasquez is one of the best written ‘Krennic’ character types I’ve seen in fiction
  35. Loader Bot isn’t just a meme, he’s actually a pretty awesome character who has his own motivations and struggles
  36. The theme of ‘the ants as they struggle amongst the giants’ and the constant perspective usage
  37. Scooter is at his best here, and manages to be sweet and hilarious at the same time
  38. Gortys is adorable, cute, and fantastic…
  39. …in addition to being amazingly well voice acted
  40. Fiona is, of course, a very well done character…
  41. …and special credit to her voice actress
  42. Generally good sound design, especially in the space sequence
  43. General storyboarding throughout, especially in the action sequences
  44. The game is fairly consistent about following through logically on the consequences of its own storytelling
  45. The dialogue is tightly crafted, well presented, well written…
  46. …easily deserving a second positive
  47. Doodad utilization is surprisingly good throughout
  48. The external continuity is fantastic. It connects seamlessly with the rest of Borderlands, changes the status quo thereof, and does a better job with the setting than the ‘main’ games do…
  49. …earning a second positive
  50. Internal continuity is good when it’s there, and totally absent when it’s not
  51. The Outro is a nice balance of serious and silly and is a good capstone for the whole work
  52. The Plot is, as so correctly put by Pillarsofsnow, a comedy of errors
  53. The story is very well sequenced, with few (if any) holes in events
  54. Voice direction is generally great across the board
  55. The game does more and better world building than the main Borderlands games do
  56. Handsome Jack. He is easily the most dynamic, well written, well presented character in the entire game. He’s brilliantly voice acted, manages multiple tones and styles, and is integral to the entire piece…
  57. …easily earning…
  58. …the coveted three positives

Story Negatives:

  1. Yvette suffers the most from the writer change-off, and is honestly just kind of… inconsistent

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The choices and how they affect the flavor of the story are well designed consistently
  2. Music is very well selected and suits the scenes
  3. Death animations are varied and multitudinous
  4. The exploration sections offer good connective tissue which is in service of feeling like you’re playing the game (and offer some small cosmetic changes throughout the work depending on your choices)
  5. The usage of ‘combos’ in QTEs is honestly inspired (I’m amazed no other games do this) and helped make the last boss actually fun
  6. Despite the lack of a load option, the ‘choose your lane’ linear adventure is built for replays and the game is good enough to support it

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. No ability to load, rewind, or otherwise try out other choices without just starting a whole episode (or the whole game) over
  2. Once you ‘succeed’ you miss out on all the other text during interaction segments

Portal

If you somehow haven’t played this game, I highly recommend it. Even if you have, I recommend playing through with developer commentary on, watching my VoD, or both. There’s so, so much good design on display here.
Total Story Score: +14
Total Gameplay Score: +26
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 1 Days // 1.95 Hours
Time Reviewed: 12-30-2021

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The Intro is astonishingly well done on how it gets you into the mode, tone, and vibe of the game
  2. Visual storytelling in ‘blank’ design
  3. Ellen McClain as GlaDOS…
  4. …and GLaDOS herself
  5. Knock at the door approach to horror…
  6. …mixed perfectly with the horror
  7. Level 16. It’s our first REAL look into a lot; The test malfunctions, we see our first Ratman area, it gives us an idea of the rot underneath the pristine, and we see portions of the test chamber literally malfunctioning
  8. The turrets in general
  9. Level 19 and everything to do with it
  10. Brickwork from level 19 and onwards really helps sell the nature of the underbelly of the test chambers
  11. The Outro in general is excellent, but most notably for the way GLaDOS just sort of descends throughout the fight as we destroy her cores. Her dialogue sells it (especially the part about what’s going on ‘out there’)
  12. The general atmosphere and how it changes throughout is legit
  13. The dialogue is generally awesome, between the Turrets and GLaDOS, it’s legit
  14. Doodad utilization is, ironically, on point

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Tutorialization is, really, some of the best in gaming…
  2. …establishing concepts and allowing you to play with them…
  3. …before naturally, seamlessly, escalating them
  4. Many, many little things are done to add to visual distinction…
  5. …each one helping the player in what and how to do
  6. There is an astonishing amount of work done in designing the cameras, the corridors, and the flow to guide you in what and how to do…
  7. …earning a second positive
  8. The core portal mechanic needs its own positive to really emphasize how genius it is and the impact it has, really branching out with what you can do and how you think about puzzle design…
  9. …easily earning a second positive
  10. Checkpointing is on point
  11. Lighting design is legit
  12. Level 15 and the introduction of dynamic puzzles
  13. Level 16 does such wonderful, beautiful things with the introduction of the turrets
  14. Level 17 serves as a wonderful final exam level, and really challenges you on everything you’ve learned throughout
  15. Level 19, the real one, is an even better take on the puzzles… because it’s suddenly non-standard, and effectively serves as a mutator on top of the existing game design
  16. The entire sewerish / pumps section of the game…
  17. …and the big ‘combat’ arena with the turrets
  18. Sound design is generally good, especially at warning you about what is where
  19. The Outro is surprisingly engaging and ultimately a good snapshot of the game as a whole; It starts off completely safe and contained, slowly escalates as we progress, and adds a stressor (the timer) to make it seems more complex than it is
  20. Meaty post-game with mutator maps and time trials
  21. Developer commentary and all that it adds to the game
  22. The difficulty curve is wonderfully staircased, always adding new concepts and letting you play with them before really throwing them at you
  23. The game’s graphics honestly hold up quite well
  24. The entire Intro is, of course, very well designed
  25. The game, of course, gets a Replayability positive
  26. The save system is, of course, quite good
  27. Between manual, auto, and quicksave and load, it’s pretty much the Valve standard of save system

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Honestly the radio is just irritating, and there are surprisingly large swaths of the game where you just hear it audio spamming you

Portal 2

This is one of the best games. Just, in general. Go play it.
Total Story Score: +41
Total Gameplay Score: +43
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 13.52 Hours
Time Reviewed: 01-01-2022

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Wheatley. ‘Nuff said
  2. Second positive for Wheatley
  3. Stephen Merchant really just nails his role as Wheatley, it’s silly…
  4. …to the point of earning a second positive
  5. Intro is fantastic, it establishes tone, sets up the setting, and gets us into things very efficiently with so much info dumped so quickly
  6. The game constantly uses its graphics and brickwork to really sell what’s going on at all points and time
  7. The animation on Wheatley is just weirdly good
  8. The game is hysterical…
  9. …easily earning two humor positives…
  10. …and the unprecedented three positives
  11. The game is beautifully horrifying
  12. …and just gets worse the further in you get
  13. There’s a weirdly large amount of foreshadowing leading up to the fall (and the potato)
  14. The dialogue pops in almost every single section of the game
  15. The banter between first Wheatley and later GLaDOS really adds when it needs to, and is absent when it shouldn’t be
  16. The writing is top notch in general
  17. GLaDOS is, as usual, awesome
  18. …more so than in the first game
  19. Ellen McLain is, as usual, incredible
  20. Chapter 1 in its entirety
  21. Chapter 2 and GLaDOS’s attempts at hurting you while rebuilding the rooms as you go
  22. The pacing of the story is just fantastic…
  23. …easily earning a second positive
  24. The big confrontation between GLaDOS and Wheatley at the fulcrum of the story is a great scene
  25. Music direction is spot on
  26. Cave Johnson is just absolutely horrifying and brilliantly done
  27. Made even better by JK Simmons and his incredible voice acting
  28. The slow descent of available test people and the Background Lore of Aperture’s fall
  29. The visual storytelling of the salt mines depth
  30. Visual storytelling of the Wheatley Laboratories
  31. Banter between GLaDOS and Wheatley
  32. This Is The Part Where He Kills You
  33. The final boss fight is just an awesome scene, between the cores, Wheatley’s falling apart, and of course the moon shot
  34. Co op campaign is, let’s be honest, amusing
  35. The overall atmosphere and tone of the game’s dark humor is, as usual, spot on
  36. Doodad utilization is just spot on…
  37. …to the point of being worth a second point
  38. Turrets are still cute, the Prometheus Turret is neat, but the Frakenturrets are just awesome
  39. The External Continuity from Portal 1 really helps the work
  40. Internal Continuity is tightly crafted and constantly tracks its own events
  41. The sound design constantly adds to everything
  42. The story events are always sequenced logically and brilliantly

Story Negatives:

  1. The opera ending is, honestly, tonally jarring and comes out of no where and just feels weird and out of place

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The Intro, as usual, does a wonderful job of all that it needs to and getting the player into the game smoothly
  2. Tutorialization is, as usual for the franchise, fantastic..
  3. …easily earning a second positive
  4. The game’s graphics have aged brilliantly and look good to this very day…
  5. …but more to the point, are actively part of the experience (seeing through portals, color distinction, etc.)
  6. The game actually has music, and uses it well
  7. The game has proper ‘mod support’ in the map making, TTS, and campaign design tools…
  8. …easily a second positive for mod support
  9. Visual distinction is everywhere, in fact…
  10. …it’s a central theme of the game (dark grey vs. light grey, orange, blue, etc.)
  11. Sound design is on point (indicators of danger, whether something turns on or off, is activated, etc.)
  12. The game uses its Lighting insanely well, between the indicators of what is facing where…
  13. …as well as in the darker segments of the game, to indicate where you should go, and help you progress
  14. The game, as usual, has excellent checkpointing…
  15. …easily earning a second positive
  16. Chapter 1 in its entirety
  17. Chapter 2 in its entirety
  18. Chapter 3 in its entirety
  19. Chapter 4 in its entirety
  20. Chapter 5 is brilliantly constructed and does wonderful stuff with the lighting and puzzle design
  21. The difficulty curve is fantastic, not only does it build smoothly but it actually lowers when new mechanics are introduced before escalating again
  22. The core mechanics of the portal gun remain interesting and fascinating…
  23. …and are used to brilliant effect
  24. The hard light, laser, and launcher really add to the depth and complexity of the puzzle design throughout
  25. The pacing of the game is brilliant. At no point does it overstay its welcome in any given tempo or tension level…
  26. …easily earning two positives
  27. The save system is, as per Half Life usual, just excellent…
  28. …between manual saves, autosaves, and quicksave/loads
  29. While it’s mild, the Yoshi Drums are used to good effect
  30. Easily one of the best tutorialized games ever, third positive
  31. Special praise, as usual, for the developer commentary
  32. The repulsion gel by itself really adds to the core mechanics, alongside the movement beam…
  33. …the propulsion gel and moon rock gel
  34. The early salt mine levels
  35. The mixed orange and blue levels
  36. The first Wheatley levels
  37. The final boss fight is actually pretty fun and well done, making for a good Outro
  38. Full campaign co op…
  39. …which as usual is two positives
  40. Two general positives for the high quality of the co op levels…
  41. …because they’re very challenging and very fun
  42. Guidance and Flow of Exploration is, usually, good
  43. Replayability, of course

Gameplay Negatives:

Metal Gear Solid

While it shows its age in many ways, it holds up better than expected. Definitely worth a playthrough if you haven’t.
Total Story Score: +13
Total Gameplay Score: +10
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 10.55 Hours
Time Reviewed: 01-06-2022

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Opening briefing (VCR segment)
  2. Roy Campbell is, honestly, probably the second best character in the piece, with layers and nuance to him but managing to remain relatable throughout…
  3. …especially in part thanks to Paul Eiding’s voice acting
  4. Babylon 5 Effect is on full display
  5. The game has a surprisingly large amount of competent foreshadowing
  6. The animation, while a bit canned, does work quite well to add to the scenes
  7. The game is hilariously ridiculous
  8. Hal is, honestly, pretty awesome and while he absolutely races through his character arc…
  9. …his almost immediate connection and chemistry with Snake is just awesome
  10. CODEC as a storytelling mechanic (extra bits of dialogue and storytelling)
  11. The expressions and usage of the CODEC faces during CODEC ‘cutscenes’
  12. Wolf’s death has some issues, but is overall well done and well presented
  13. The plot point of a stealth nuke is, unlike several other things in the game, treated without a shred of cheesiness, melodrama, or elsewise, and is just as terrifying as it sounds
  14. Generally good supporting NPCs
  15. Generally good voice acting
  16. Outro is, in general, enjoyable
  17. The overall plot is, let’s be honest, actually pretty interesting and engaging
  18. Liquid is surprisingly charismatic and engaging, despite everything…
  19. …honestly helped tremendously by Cam Clarke and his wonderfully hammy voice acting

Story Negatives:

  1. Repeating exposition with unnecessary questions
  2. Exposition pacing
  3. The dialogue really has issues at times, flitting from topic to topic without proper segway and jerking about in tone wildly
  4. Preachiness. I get the message but the game doesn’t handle it well and beats you over the head with it in a way that defeats its own point
  5. The game feels the need to repeat a cutscene we just saw 20 minutes ago for no good reason, then tries (too hard) to make us feel sad about it, then immediately does a very awkward segway into setting up a ‘twist’ with Naomi
  6. The game overall has a pretty bad padding issue with dialogue and scenes

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The music is, of course, quite good
  2. For an early PS1 game the Brickwork is surprisingly well designed
  3. Similarly, the checkpointing is better than expected
  4. The Psycho-Mantis boss fight is probably one of the better designed ones in the game
  5. Minimap is very useful in determining what and where in the immediacy, exactly like a minimap should
  6. Itemization and spread thereof is always thought out and well designed
  7. Vulcan Raven boss fight is pretty legit
  8. There are multiple bosses where there’s different tactics and strategies you can use to take said boss down
  9. The Grey Fox fight isn’t super amazing, but it’s interesting enough and varies things up from the rest of the encounters of the game
  10. Avoid / Evade mechanic, while simplistic and obviously just getting started really, actually works pretty well
  11. The difficulty options change quite a bit other than just health and damage
  12. The Intro is, at the very least, well designed and a good intro to what this type of game will be
  13. The final boss fight with Rex is at least fun, despite issues
  14. Surprisingly good visual distinction despite color issues
  15. Aggregate: Sound design, while not super well used consistently, is good for when it’s there // The grenade fight against the tank is reasonably fun

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. This particular version of the game has several issues with the port. Graphics not rendering properly, issues with cutscenes, controls being honestly pretty terrible, etc.
  2. Backtracking issues during the Sniper Wolf fight
  3. The PAL padding. It’s straight up dull backtracking for no good reason
  4. The final fights with Liquid and the turret section aren’t… great, especially in this port
  5. Aggregate: The entire Meryl codec number problem // The run up the communications tower is just a little it too padded

Super Mario RPG

While there’s some substantial issues on the Gameplay axis, the story holds up firm, making this game absolutely worth a playthrough. Might want a walkthrough handy just in case though.
Total Story Score: +27
Total Gameplay Score: +2
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 12.47 Hours
Time Reviewed: 01-07-2022

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The Intro starts off classic, but almost immediately subverts it, but also does two important things; it establishes tone (humorous) and it establishes tone (horror)
  2. Animations. It’s actually silly how good the animations are in this game…
  3. …not just in general, but giving ‘voice’ to Mario and the various puppetry sequences
  4. The light-hearted tone still gets a smile out of me to this day
  5. Bowyer’s scene leading up to his boss fight is awesome
  6. The dialogue is really well crafted overall
  7. The localization is really on point (especially for the time)
  8. NPC Set Dressing is on full display
  9. The storyboarding for cutscenes is weirdly well done
  10. Bowser is just plain awesome
  11. Mallow has a weirdly engaging story arc across the game
  12. Peach is, similarly, awesome
  13. There’s a large amount of internal continuity as the game builds up to its eventual payoffs
  14. There’s a lot of visual storytelling in general…
  15. The game still gets a laugh out of me, to this day
  16. Especially with Booster! Booster’s awesome
  17. Doodads are on point for almost every area
  18. The entire Marrymore sequence is hysterical, and probably one of the more memorable parts of the game
  19. Nimbus’ section kinda rocks, with great dialogue and general amusement…
  20. …and special bonus points to Valentina and Dodo
  21. There’s so, so, so many tiny details and fluff and general tidbits that add to the flavor of the game
  22. The visual storytelling and honest horror of the final dungeon is beautiful…
  23. …between the dead world, the Machine Made enemies, the assembly line, the broken and the damned
  24. Smithy is a very well done example of a negative-space villain, we don’t even see him until the very end but we’ve built him up and characterized him in his absence
  25. The Outro does some wonderful stuff, the final boss fight by itself is fantastic and psychologically horrifying…
  26. …but then the ‘here’s where they are now’ ending and parade really cap it off
  27. Supporting cast is good across the board
  28. Mario is surprisingly well characterized in a game where he has no dialogue

Story Negatives:

  1. The game is just… weird at times, and usually for completely random, pointless reasons (Punchinello? Bowyer??)

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The Intro does everything it needs to and properly, giving you time to get used to combat, movement, etc.
  2. The shortcut menu system is great, as it actually reduces unnecessary padding in menuing and selection, keeping combat and the game flowing smoothly
  3. While one of her first full games, Yoko Shimomura’s music does some great stuff in this one
  4. Gameplay pacing is on point, bouncing between dungeons, towns, and using minigames as ‘breather’ segments
  5. Bowyer. Aside from being generally well balanced, his gimmick of cancelling out menus (and changing his pattern to suit) is cool
  6. Encounter avoidance design (can just dodge enemies in areas)
  7. Staircase leveling (each stat and level matters, gear can overcome levels)
  8. General QoL features (memory cursor, equip convenience, equip in shops, etc.)
  9. Bowser’s Castle is probably the best dungeon in the game, with the Bowser-makes-enemies-flee mechanic, multiple paths forward via the doors, and generally better than average layout and itemization
  10. Itemization in the game is actually quite good, both in consumables and in equipment, always pushing you towards upgrades
  11. The Outro has some stumbles, but really nails it where it counts; in the final boss fights
  12. Enemy variety is reasonably good across the game
  13. There’s surprisingly enjoyable viscerality to the animations of the various weapons and spells
  14. The game is short (and funny) enough to warrant a Replay positive

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Some of the songs (not all of them) are honestly just way, way, way too repetitive (in an extreme case, one song’s loop is literally 14 seconds)
  2. Unskippable cutscenes
  3. Croco. Both encounters are unbalanced, in terms of stats and moveset
  4. The sunken ship isn’t a good dungeon to begin with (crammed hallways, status effects everywhere) but the Johnny fight really pushes it into negative territory
  5. There are several bosses that are clearly lacking the polish of others, either in terms of overtuning or the stats being ‘off’ or their placement making no sense
  6. Generally bad Info In Game
  7. Platforming is not good in this game, between perspective and lack of depth at multiple segments
  8. Nimbus’ section kinda sucks. It’s very tight hallways with very hard to dodge enemies who are irritating to fight, but what really takes the cake is the RNG solo fight with Dodo with no warning
  9. The game likes to just bucket-dump encounters in dungeons… in a way that would make sense if they were Mario enemies, but each one involves a full encounter, and they don’t give enough reward to really be worth doing all of them, making the whole thing unnecessary and irritating
  10. There is a huge amount of secrets with no indication where or what they are, ranging from neat to actually useful
  11. Timed Hits issues. Hitboxes vary, sometimes they’re outright deceptive, and nothing indicates this other than trial and error
  12. The Bundt fight has several issues (difficulty spike, unclear directions, mean if you’re not ready for it) but what really pushes it into negative territory is the long, long stretch between the last save and the boss (multiple cutscenes, a minigame, and a fight)

God of War 1

I’ll be honest, it’s rough. It has some irritations and some early weirdness, but the game was better than I thought and if you’re wanting to try out the series it’s not a bad place to start.
Total Story Score: +6
Total Gameplay Score: +2
Golden Number: 21.46
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 12.02 Hours
Time Reviewed: 6-8-2022

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The Intro does a lot to establish the tone, the main character, and the vibe of the game very quickly and efficiently… for good and for bad
  2. Usage of background visuals, like the battle with Ares or Kronos crawling in the desert
  3. As much as it sucks elsewise, the puzzle where you drag the screaming man into the fire is great
  4. The general visuals of the Temple of Pandora are honestly quite legit, with the unique and interesting Zelda-esque areas for each puzzle segment
  5. Pathos Verdes III’s story is, honestly, one of the most engaging and interesting ones in the first game, detailing in such an elegant way how he slowly lost everything in servitude to the gods (and neatly mirroring Kratos’ own existence)
  6. The general tone and vibe of the game does a pretty good job of getting across consistently just how messed up the greek pantheon is and how its mere interactions with mortals, as playthings or tools, shapes the events to come
  7. The sequence where you have to save your family, while being legitimately awful gameplay wise, is legit storywise; Kratos fighting against slavering monstrous versions of himself to save his family
  8. The foreshadowing with the box, the sword, and the grave is actually pretty nice

Story Negatives:

  1. A general negative for excessive edge factor. Later games would refine this into something more interesting, but in the first game it just comes across as juvenile
  2. The Outro overall is a bit rushed and feels flat after the build up to it

Gameplay Positives:

  1. There is a good amount of control in how you maneuver, between animation canceling and being able to adjust aim in mid swing
  2. The core combat is (surprise) pretty enjoyable
  3. The way you can combo between attacks is, further, a great way to keep things interesting
  4. Enemy variety is pretty good
  5. Encounter design in how and what is fought with what is great
  6. The game’s music is appropriately big and bombastic
  7. Game is generally good in the viscerality department
  8. The Intro (with one notably huge exception) does a lot right, getting us a feel for what to play, and easing us into things in the form of a big epic sea battle disguising the tutorial
  9. Mid-mission checkpointing is actually quite good in this one
  10. The Blades of Chaos are, by themselves, worthy of a positive for how well designed and generally fun they are to use
  11. Generally good puzzle design in the Temple of Pandora
  12. Special mention to Hades’ entire section which honestly feels better designed and more engaging than the rest
  13. The Minotaur was a surprisingly fun boss fight, and well designed too; successful phase transitions reward health and mana, multiple methods of attack, and a small puzzle component too
  14. The game has generally good pacing, bouncing between exploration / puzzle sequences and action sequences
  15. The various spells and their upgrades are good kit…
  16. …as is the variety of combos and moves you get as you upgrade the blades
  17. Generally good itemization in power ups, pick ups, etc.
  18. Good power progression curve as you increase in kit and abilities throughout
  19. Aggregate: The uniqueness of the siren audio home-in puzzle // A general positive for the neat platforming segments of the Architect’s Tomb

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Lazy difficulty settings
  2. Box section of the Intro is honestly really, really bad… not only does the box have entirely too little HP, but their arrows are rapid and accurate and you’re slow in both pushing and kicking, AND it’s during the tutorial…
  3. …leading to a second negative
  4. Ironically for a game that has good mid mission checkpoints, it also has bad ones… just depends on where and when
  5. The bullcrap with the dragging the guy into the fire puzzle can, itself, go into the fire (enemies that are designed to waste time, that spawn infinitely, while having to slowly drag an item up a hill)
  6. Lighting isn’t just too dark, it’s too difficult to even see and worse there’s distinction issues periodically due to color usage
  7. The fixed camera really does have some issues. Ignoring the total lack of camera control, there are several areas where sudden jarring camera swaps can and do cause issues
  8. There’s some definite health issues with regards to certain enemies throughout, which leads into…
  9. …a general drag in pacing, mostly due to animations or actions simply taking too long
  10. The spike box pit puzzle is absolutely awful, entirely too tightly tuned to be anything other than frustrating. Only the quick checkpoint and reset prevents this from being worse
  11. The final gauntlet before Pandora’s Box is honestly more irritating than challenging; moving floor, no safe place to stand, and only two types of enemies spawning (and a LOT of them) both of which do interrupt attacks
  12. The Hades segment is clearly unfinished, with a lack of detail in terrain and design, and actually incorrect hurtboxes on some of the hazards
  13. The Hades climb the bladed tower section can go straight to hell… no pun intended. A long, irritating climb with a camera too zoomed in and starting all over when you screw up
  14. The final boss fights have a few issues which I won’t recount here…
  15. …but special mention must be made for Phase 2. Essentially everything is wrong with the fight; An escort mission with a huge number of fast, high armor enemies that stagger you easily, that can absolutely obliterate them effortlessly, with a ranged jackass and no ‘hp bar’ (aka no way to tell how far you are in the fight) while fighting on a very small space where the enemy can juggle you off the ledge, and on top of all of it there’s a degree of pure RNG to the fight…
  16. …making the whole thing two negatives by itself
  17. Aggregate: The aggravation of the siren desert sequence // There are occasional irritating QTEs (looking at you, cyclops) // The camera continues to be irritating

God of War 2

I was worried… for no reason. This game is a bit weak on plot, but is absolutely fantastic in gameplay, and is hugely recommended. Seriously, just go play it.
Total Story Score: +16
Total Gameplay Score: +47
Golden Number: 173.35
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 12.15 Hours
Time Reviewed: 6-9-2022

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The opening cinematic is honestly quite legit, immediately and brilliantly establishing theme and tone, Kratos’ position versus Athena and Zeus, and the brutal collateral damage of the uncaring gods fighting amongst each other
  2. The Intro is just damned good. Well paced, good tone setter, good foreshadowing, great cinematography, and not only resetting us in lore but giving us our next goal and quest…
  3. …thus earning the Intro a second (or arguably third) positive
  4. The visual storytelling of the first section of the game is spot on, with sweeping vistas and great background events, the frozen wastes of Typhon’s prison, and the slowly encroaching island in the distance
  5. Doodad utilization is substantially better than the first game, really accenting each area
  6. Good general visual continuity, at almost every point of the isle you can tell where you are in relation to where you’ve been
  7. Several of the ‘side characters’ who try to kill you as you go are amusing in general, but also serve as interesting foreshadowing for the central plot
  8. The game generally has good, dramatic, and epic set pieces for sequences
  9. Visual storytelling of the temple to the Fates, especially in direct contrast to the previous bogs, swamps, and ruins
  10. The primary plot of the game… or more accurately the background plot of the Fates being the actual cause of all the horribleness in the Greek plane, including all the nonsense with the Titans and the Gods long before the series started, really adds to things
  11. The visual detail of the beauty hiding the rot is wonderfully overt in how understated it is in the final Fates section
  12. The game has plenty of foreshadowing in the dialogues, background details, and small snippets throughout
  13. The game maintains good internal continuity with itself
  14. The music direction absolutely adds to scenes repeatedly
  15. The game’s overall tone of epicness, tragedy, and similar atmosphere
  16. Voice acting is actually quite improved, and does what it needs to to be a positive
  17. The Outro has several problems, but that final shot of Olympus and the build up to the final battle is just fantastic

Story Negatives:

  1. The inconsistency of the time travel is, as usual, problematic and trips over what would otherwise be an excellent plot twist

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The Intro is just fantastic. Good pacing, good tutorialization in gameplay, good viscerality and spectacle, good encounters, just generally awesome across the board and (frankly) one of the best Intros in gaming…
  2. …earning…
  3. …three full positives
  4. The ‘demo’ segment each new power comes with is great (infinite mana and enemies designed to play around with it)
  5. The improvements to Rage of the Titans (making it a spendable resource rather than a lengthy cooldown) makes it a nice and useful addition to kit, putting more control of your output into the hands of the player
  6. The Pegasus sections are fun diversions that are functionally minigames but (importantly) don’t overstay their welcome
  7. The Theseus boss fight is actually kind of fun; His attacks are well telegraphed (with one noteworthy exception) and the fight gives you tools to refill while fighting him, and it doesn’t wear out its welcome with its gimmick
  8. The barbarian king boss fight is nicely layered and escalates well as it progresses, and is generally fun (especially when an familiar face pops in)
  9. The platforming and puzzle sequences of the horses and temple are fun, well spaced, and enjoyable
  10. The poison swamp and navigating the loop is a very tightly designed, well crafted level
  11. The Golden Fleece, by itself, is a game changer. While the ‘parry’ mechanic has been present since the first game, many enemies can now be interacted with differently via this unique parry and the ‘reward’ part of parrying is suddenly added to the equation
  12. The game controls beautifully, with reduced input lag and a great deal of (ironically) control over what you do when and how…
  13. …leading to two positives
  14. The core combat gets a plus by itself
  15. The way you can combo and shortcut into movesets also gets a plus by itself
  16. The animation canceling and animations and… just everything has so much fat trimmed that the flow of combat is fantastic
  17. The enemy animations really help with reacting and acting around attacks
  18. The game’s pacing is fantastic. There is almost a metered rhythm to the shuffling between combat, exploration, puzzle, talking sections…
  19. …and it easily deserves two positives
  20. Athena’s blades, as in the first game, deserves a positive by itself for its excellent design
  21. The music is not just great, it’s excellent and varied too…
  22. …leading to two positives
  23. The post-Barbarian bog, ruins, and forest level
  24. While I honestly think it’s too gross, the core mechanics and design of the Atlas stage are actually quite good
  25. The early portion of the Fates Temple has inventive and fun puzzles and platforming…
  26. …the second area has even better stuff, foreshadowing and playing with temporal mechanics
  27. And the third area is just some great danger puzzles, timed fights, and general quality
  28. The Kraken puzzle-boss is one of the better puzzle-bosses in the game, good escalation of events without changing the core concepts
  29. Generally good mid-mission checkpoints throughout
  30. The Fates boss fight is probably the best fight in the game, with good reward and multiple methods of progression on top of great escalation of establishing 1, establishing 2, then combining…
  31. …plus the entire sword sequence is great
  32. The final gauntlet is actually well designed in terms of the rotating walls, the combinations of enemies, and the refills designed throughout (chests, kills)
  33. The Clotho final gauntlet is not quite as cool as the Kraken, but is still a good ‘environmental’ puzzle boss
  34. The final fight against Zeus was a lot better than I remembered, only really stumbling right at the end (and even that has a mid mission checkpoint right before it)
  35. The spear is just an awesome weapon in its own right, with fantastic impact and reach and range
  36. Athena’s blades / blades of chaos are, as usual, positive worthy in their own right
  37. Generally good guidance of exploration and flow
  38. Generally good encounter design, where what enemies you fight where is clearly well thought out
  39. Enemy design is top notch
  40. Enemy variety is honestly a bit better than the first game, even though similar enemies are used, they are refined in their usage
  41. The difficulty curve is a nice gradient curve upwards
  42. The power progression curve similarly makes you feel more and more powerful as you progress
  43. Good New Game +
  44. The game is very well itemized, to the point where there’s clear thought and design into where bonus chests are, what gives health, mana, and rage (and based on which weapon you’re using), as well as chest placement…
  45. …leading to two positives
  46. The game is fun, has new game plus, and is generally replayable
  47. The game has good visual distinction, only rarely is it unclear what you’re looking at or have to do
  48. The game’s visual continuity and general navigation is almost always helpful in how to go when and where
  49. The game has excellent viscerality, from the sound, to the sights, to the impact…
  50. …earning it a second positive

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Difficulty options are, as usual, lazy
  2. Remaster bugs (including 1 hardlock, and double jumping issues post-Icarus)
  3. The final gauntlet also kind of sucks because it has no mid mission checkpoint and it is loooong

God of War 3

This one surprised me. I wasn’t expecting it to rate as good as 2, nevermind surpass it, but with analysis and re-review I stand by that statement. The already phenomenal combat, puzzle design, pacing, encounters, enemies, and kit of the second game are all polished to a fine shine. Hugely, hugely recommended.
Total Story Score: +17
Total Gameplay Score: +52
Golden Number: 202.34
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 9.90 Hours
Time Reviewed: 6-11-2022

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The general spectacle and presentation of the Intro is, as usual, excellent
  2. The visual presentation of the underworld is honestly excellent; In just a few seconds we know everything about this place, and as we go through the stage we learn even more just by looking around
  3. Hades is actually made into something approaching a character here, both in his modus operandi but also his sadism, and is brilliantly presented regardless
  4. The stylized presentation and usage of the cinematics is really good this time around
  5. I just… I have to give a plus for Hermes’ death. It’s too amusing
  6. The contrast in Hera’s concern for her flowers alongside the dead and dying is one of the better analogies in the whole game
  7. Voice acting is pretty legit, just like in the last one, with a decent spread of cast members adding to the pile
  8. The apocalypse’s progression as we kill the gods one by one, and all implied therein
  9. The body language and animations of Kratos in particular are great, especially in how differently he interacts with those around him…
  10. …tied in with Kratos actually having actual characterization and character growth in this one, as his tone and movements slowly shift around both Pandora and Athena
  11. The visuals and tone of the labyrinth are great as usual
  12. So the Outro does have some issues, but I honestly love Kratos’ journey into his mind and his coming to grips with his grief, his guilt, and his trauma
  13. And honestly I really enjoy the final Outro. Kratos, the god of hope, killing himself to release everything to the mortals, ending the reign of the gods entirely… and Athena being revealed as the one behind everything from the beginning, just like before
  14. While not many individual characters leap out at me, there’s a pretty good supporting cast in this one
  15. The music direction, as with the last game, really adds to things
  16. The foreshadowing is, as usual, all over the early parts of the game
  17. As usual the atmosphere oozes and presents itself well throughout
  18. Back to the good doodad presentation
  19. Several surprising moments of gameplay/story integration

Story Negatives:

  1. Pandora’s box and subsequent retcon. Confirmed by interviews and shown in the game, the idea sort of deflates a lot of the previous games, making for bad external continuity
  2. The story’s pacing does suffer a bit of Kingdom Hearts Syndrome; entirely too much of the story is at the very beginning and very end

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The Intro isn’t quite on the gameplay level as the second game, but it’s still generally awesome to fight the giant water crabs and pummel Poseiden
  2. Demo mode returns (infinite usage / mana when gaining new abilities)
  3. The construction of interlocking combat and puzzle in the early Underworld segment is a good, fun tutorialization
  4. The entire Hades statue puzzle sequence is pretty clever and fun
  5. The Hades fight might actually be one of the best ones in the game. Hard hitting, fair in his telegraphing, good and multiple ways to counter, rewarding to execute, multiple escalating mechanics, and great presentation…
  6. …easily a two positive fight
  7. The ascent up to Helios is alright, but the surprisingly well designed darkness section thereafter (and the proper tutorialization of the mounted combat mechanic) is legit
  8. Further praise to the ‘minigame’ of ascending the chain of Olympus, does most of what the Pegasus sections in 2 did right but a bit better
  9. The Hermes boss fight (aka the race) is actually a really good setpiece, well presented and tightly designed
  10. The Hercules boss fight is still quite enjoyable, using him against himself, phase changes refilling, and the slow escalation of his attack style as he loses his armor
  11. The weapons are above and beyond the previous games. Starting with the Blades of Chaos which are even more refined than before…
  12. …with huge coverage, reach, range, and timing, they are the catch all
  13. The claws of Hades are deceptively mobile, difficult to direct properly but allowing you to ‘dodge play’ to your hearts content while doing damage
  14. The cestus is a brawler’s dream, each swing giving us huge range… We get caught in animation locking longer, but can break out of it effortlessly with proper blocking and the aforementioned maneuvering
  15. And finally the nemesis blades, which encourage and reward careful input with insane damage output at a cost of reduced reach but increased area
  16. A final general aggregate positive for all the weapons being just fantastic
  17. The brief but interesting portal room and surrounding areas are fun, interesting puzzle segments
  18. The Garden of Hera is honestly one of the more interesting puzzle segments in the entire game, with the unique perspective movements and maneuverings
  19. The way spells are tied to weapons is somewhat limiting but the spells and moves are still good kit
  20. The music isn’t quite at the level of 2, but it’s damned good
  21. As with 2, the viscerality is fantastic and spot on, both in audio, visual, and feel…
  22. …leading to two positives
  23. The Scorpion boss is enjoyable and a great way to play around with the cestus
  24. The entire cube puzzle is short but very sweet, and very fun and creative
  25. The labyrinth gauntlet is actually kinda a neat elevator sequence, especially in how you can use it against the enemies
  26. The second bundle of star fox segments is even tighter than last time, and more fun to boot
  27. The Zeus fighter section is actually really good, surprisingly well designed given the genre shift
  28. The second Zeus fight is similarly brutal, but well balanced with good recovery and a great setpiece
  29. The final boss with Zeus is enjoyable in its own right, but the fact that they give you the first person beatdown of Zeus as the victory lap, and finally being able to beat the snot out of Zeus for however long you want to
  30. Gameplay/story integration throughout
  31. Gameplay animations help with maneuvering, especially the attacks designed to be blocked
  32. The game controls exceptionally well, the player has a stupid amount of control over what happens and where and it all flows in terms of layout of buttons to chain abilities and attacks…
  33. …leading to…
  34. …three positives
  35. The core combat has already been talked about a bit but must be emphasized how fantastic it is, anything I could say wouldn’t even be a good summary of it so instead…
  36. …I’ll just…
  37. …give it three positives
  38. The game’s difficulty curve is very smooth and well designed…
  39. …earning two positives
  40. As before, encounter design is good. It flounders a bit earlier, but gets good later on
  41. The enemy variety is, once again, fantastic
  42. The game has legitimately great guidance and flow of exploration…
  43. …at almost all points encouraging and rewarding thereto
  44. Between drops, optional kill methods, chests, and the variable chests…
  45. …the game once again has great itemization
  46. Good mid mission checkpointing is back
  47. The game once again continues 2’s trend of fantastic pacing, bouncing between platforming, puzzle, and combat…
  48. …leading to a second positive
  49. The pace and progression of power is much more noticeable and enjoyable in this one
  50. The game is generally replayable
  51. The game has excellent viscerality…
  52. …just like the second game
  53. A final bonus positive for how awesome the ‘swap between weapons in combat’ move is

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Difficulty settings are, as usual, lazy difficulty

Space Marine

Okay so if you have a multi-thread CPU, you cannot get this game working on PC. This caused us no end of troubles for the review, we had to buy the PS3 copy and review that version, which is substantially worse. Nevertheless it is a solid experience, a good showcasing of the fantasy of the space marines, and an overall fun experience.
Total Story Score: +8
Total Gameplay Score: +12
Golden Number: 58.17
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 1 Days // 7.64 Hours
Time Reviewed: 6-27-2022

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The opening cinematic does so much with so little; text on a screen, careful word choice, and debris in space. Love it
  2. The Intro in general does a great job of setting up everything you really need to about the marines, guard, Orks, etc.
  3. Voice acting is generally good
  4. The visual storytelling, brown aside, is quite good; the savagery of the orks, the portrayal of the Guard (locked out to die, fighting to the last), the Marines, the car-sized ammunition, etc.
  5. The audio logs, as usual, add some nice additional background storytelling
  6. Captain Titus is weirdly down to earth and humble, helped by his voice actor (Mark Strong), and is generally likable in addition to being awesome
  7. A bonus positive for the game retaining a general vibe of total badassery; for the Guard, the Marines, and the Orks
  8. The big reveal about Drogan, Chaos’ introduction to the narrative, and the Warboss being awesome
  9. The overall atmosphere of … well of ‘space marine’ is very well executed throughout
  10. For the parts that work, the external continuity really adds to the flavor and vibe of the game

Story Negatives:

  1. The Outro overall is weak at best, and a cliffhanger to boot
  2. For the parts that don’t work, the external continuity and retcons and other handwaves kind of detract from things

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The viscerality of the attacks and guns and enemies and everything is great…
  2. …easily worthy of a second positive
  3. The entire system of attacks, stuns, and executions is a great concept that encourages the player to keep moving and killing as the primary vehicle for progression…
  4. …easily earning a second positive for flow of combat
  5. Music is the exact awesome rawr it needs to be
  6. The tutorial is quick, efficient, and to the point; here’s everything you need to know to be able to play the game in about a minute and a half
  7. Jump jets! Just… the joy of leaping into the air and crashing down on a target you control
  8. The initial ‘mission’ (deal with the cannon) is a great intro threat; establishes the Orks, their threat range and variety, and challenges you in a good variety of activities (jump jets, meleeing minibosses, ranged shoot outs, large packs, holdouts, etc.)
  9. Sound design is great, not just in distinction and adding to enjoyment…
  10. …but in letting you know what’s attacking when and where
  11. The enemy variety just in the Orks is fantastic, with lots of enemies encouraging different tactics and themselves approaching you in different ways
  12. The encounter design almost always takes into account terrain and weapon kit, making for fun and interesting design
  13. The kit is surprisingly good for how relatively small it is, but each gun and melee weapon acting and feeling differently
  14. A bonus positive for how the game properly escalates your power progression
  15. The mid mission checkpointing is inconsistently good, but when it is it’s good
  16. The Hyperbeam Moment of the assault up the spire is exactly as awesome and fun as it should be
  17. Surprisingly good visual distinction despite the brown issue
  18. The game’s sound and impact of attacks has generally good viscerality…
  19. …but what pushes it into two positive territory is the satisfying finishers, variety of kill animations, and pink mist

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. One save slot issues (PS3 problem)
  2. Lack of proper options
  3. The companion AI is honestly awful; they do very little damage, infrequently, rarely take aggro, and essentially provide nothing to gameplay
  4. Not the worst, but decently bad raspberry jam
  5. The controls in general (PS3 problem) are not great
  6. So that last boss fight, if you can call it that, is not great… it’s essentially just a mook fight and then a QTE sequence
  7. There are several shootout areas where the terrain design… isn’t, without proper mechanics or elsewise to support good arenas

Suikoden 1

Surprisingly good for being a very textbook example of a First Game; good ideas, bad implementation. If you haven’t played it and have access to a copy, definitely recommended.
Total Story Score: +3
Total Gameplay Score: -3
Golden Number: 0
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 3 Days // 19.67 Hours
Time Reviewed: 8-11-2022

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The Intro is actually quite strong; Within about an hour we know the nature of the setting, our role in it, the underbelly problems, and have hints of how things are more complex than they appear
  2. While most individual characters don’t shine much, each one usually gets one scene of amusement or characterization
  3. The game has decent dynamics between several characters
  4. Though vague, the political undercurrent is nice
  5. Gremio’s sacrifice still hits a bit, and the way the game lets you process it briefly afterwards is still well done
  6. The Neclord chapter is fully sidequesty, but actually works pretty well as a little insight into where Flik is from, does some good stuff with Viktor, and ties the Ted thing up with the jaunt to the past
  7. While infrequent, the game is legitimately funny more than a few times
  8. Generally good background lore
  9. The ‘before the battle’ character tidbits we get before Shasarazade are micro, but good
  10. Mathiu is one of the rare characters who is good by himself, having an actual presence and arc throughout most of the game and being a consistent source of competence
  11. For what it’s worth, I liked Barbarosa just being an incompetent idiotic ruler rather than mind controlled, and his foolish confessions to Windy are appropriate
  12. I do like the finale ‘here’s what happened to them’ tidbits
  13. The pace of the game is surprisingly tight, with events flowing well through each other

Story Negatives:

  1. Localization is not the best. It’s not the worst but there is consistent bad grammar and awkward sentence structure
  2. I’m going to go ahead and add a second negative for the localization getting noticeably worse further into the game (and the game’s insistence on calling Mathiu a medical officer…)
  3. The early game is plagued with a combination of cutscene incompetence and us just sort of… going along with everything, which honestly gets aggravating pretty early
  4. There’s what I can only call anti-doodads in this game, as several areas literally feel more basic and plain than they ‘should’, reminding me of NES RPGs and pulling me out of the narrative as a consequence…
  5. …and while I’ve seen worse, not by much
  6. The absence of visual storytelling is bad in general but made all the more stark when compared with virtually any other game, even previous ones…
  7. …leading to two negatives
  8. Gremio’s sacrifice… is ridiculous. The scene leading up to its necessity has at least two examples of cutscene incompetence, and the presentation really just isn’t there
  9. The morons who shouldn’t be our enemy who die for melodrama’s sake because moronic loyalty are morons
  10. The finale ‘here’s what happened’ has the usual localization problems, but that was entirely too fast paced to be worthwhile (and there’s no pausing or rewinding)

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Spritework isn’t the best, but it is good
  2. The catch-up level mechanic and its anti-grind support…
  3. …earning it two positives
  4. The at-will auto-battle option is a nice feature
  5. Music isn’t the best, but it is catchy (and actually directed well…)
  6. Let go and its presence as an auto-avoid encounters
  7. The game’s power progression curve is actually quite smooth, and only gets better over time
  8. The rune system itself is basic, but good
  9. Combat is swift both in, during, and out
  10. Decent fast travel system (mirror and Viki), which doesn’t get more positives due to limitations and the fact that you can permanently lose the mirror
  11. Lots of possible party members and the six sized party means a lot of possible combinations and the option to bring your favorites
  12. The Keep mechanics are basic, but fun
  13. When it’s good, the difficulty curve is quite smooth
  14. There is a decent amount of enemy variety overall
  15. Itemization is generally good, good spread of items and gear throughout
  16. Due in part to its mechanics and systems as well as the tightness and pace of it, the game is generally replayable
  17. Due to the overall segmentation of ‘chapters’, not an excess of fights or bosses, and spread of dungeons to ‘town’ sequences, the game has good pacing
  18. Aggregate: The fact that actions can resolve at the same time or after enemies die in combat // The weapon upgrade money sink as a way to keep up on raw damage // The animations are generally good

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Overworld design, or lack thereof
  2. The first three dungeons are, per the series standard, pretty crappy dungeons (plain paths with bad graphics and absent design)
  3. The next bundle of dungeons continue the boring and bland approach to dungeon design
  4. The interface is clunky at best, requiring too many inputs to accomplish even basic tasks, and with very little info in game to assist or smooth over inventory management
  5. There’s some good songs in this game, but there’s also lengthy swaths of the game where a very short, repetitive song plays
  6. The total lack of tutorialization on both the army and the duel mechanics isn’t the worst, but it’s not great
  7. The extremely basic rock paper scissors ‘strategy battles’ are entirely too random and luck based
  8. The 108 are pretty walkthroughitisy in this one
  9. Further, several 108 recruits are straight up grindy… pure luck based or pure grind based
  10. Pahn’s survival by itself is its own problem
  11. The second chapter’s backtracking problems are awful, and the only reason it’s not more negatives is the presence of the fast travel system
  12. Legitimately bad, repeated stretches of no mid-mission checkpoints between dungeons, battles, bosses, and duels
  13. The encounter rate could be worse (and it is mitigated a bit) but it’s definitely too high for a game like this
  14. When it’s bad, the difficulty curve is awful, lunging up and down at will
  15. More bad dungeon designs
  16. General but consistent 108 recruitment aggravations
  17. Saving your game is very limited, only able to save at inns or crystals, which is further compounded by the slow irritating save method
  18. The Outro… where do I begin. It’s a series of boring corridors with the same fights over and over and over again…
  19. …made worse by the repetition and length…
  20. …and further compounded by the last boss being the suckitude
  21. There is a pretty bad lack of info in game on top of the interface issues

Lufia 1

More interesting for the franchise it spawned then being a good game itself, it has a couple of decent ideas buried in some truly awful artifact design. Do not recommend.
Total Story Score: +2
Total Gameplay Score: -34
Golden Number: -17.23
Cheats: Yes (grind, grind, grind)
Total Play Time: 3 Days // 17.16 Hours
Time Reviewed: 8-14-2022

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The Intro is pretty strong; actually shows us the battle of legend, implies connections between characters and the Sinistrals, and mentions a few key things like our energy and the Dual Blade
  2. While rushed, the game does a good job of establishing Hero, Lufia, and the state of the world in brief
  3. The first encounter with Gades is well built up (the dead and dying in town) and paid off (he absolutely stomps us, and only retreats because of Lufia)
  4. Medan’s fake ruby to bring in tourism money (and as a stealth tax) is surprisingly interesting, especially since there is no ‘real’ ruby
  5. The game is legitimately amusing multiple times
  6. There’s some weirdly well done foreshadowing early on
  7. The world feels surprisingly lived-in, with little references and NPCs that have nothing to do with your quest, just people living their lives and interacting with each other
  8. The dynamic between the main party is actually pretty decent, leading to several good banter scenes
  9. The over-arcing theme of complacency isn’t very well presented, but it’s almost continuously showcased throughout, as people simply stopped trying or bothering since… why bother? And this leads to most of the issues in the game, as a properly prepared and resolute populace probably could have dealt with the resurgence of monsters and Sinistrals themselves
  10. The big reveal of Lufia’s identity could be handled better, but it still has some impact, especially in how its used (namely, people’s reactions to it)
  11. I will admit I do like how Lufia’s final moments with the Hero are all about how she preferred her brief time with him over her endless time as a Sinistral

Story Negatives:

  1. Guy’s death is… weird. It’s literally his second (and final) scene in the entire game, has none of the impact it’s clearly going for, and comes out of no where
  2. While not as bad as some other games, the Doodad utilization is pretty bad
  3. This is further dovetailed by a fairly bad visual storytelling issue
  4. The pacing of act 1 is… weird. It starts off strong, then meanders really badly for a really, really long period of time
  5. The pacing problems continue as the game essentially tries to have a central plot and a lot of seemingly unrelated side quests at the same time
  6. The entire ‘find the professor’ sequence is aggravating in the worst way
  7. And then we have the extended sidequest of ‘find the Alumina’… good lord
  8. Localization is honestly not good. It’s not the worst, but it’s not good
  9. That Outro is… not good. Ignoring the massive repetition problems, and the irritation with Lufia surviving, the fact is that it’s rushed and involves a year skip for no good reason and just kinda falls flat

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Music has a few flops, but there’s still some great songs here
  2. The Intro serves as a serviceable tutorial in its function as a taste of power, letting us try out abilities and get used to combat in what is effectively a safe environment as we push through the Fortress (and of course giving us a hint of what we’ll eventually get)
  3. The way the game uses spells is actually pretty cool; They’re not the best kit I’ve ever seen, but they are useful, and (this is the important part) they’re cheap, meaning they go from being big cooldowns (or useless) to a regular part of your strategy
  4. Enemy variety is bolstered almost entirely by the spell kit, which they have access to
  5. The Warp spell functions as a decent fast travel system (especially when combined with Escape)
  6. Decent penalty for failure system (warp back to previous save spot, minus money and with some people staying dead)

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. The game doesn’t change target automatically upon target death, a problem that was solved in the NES era
  2. The goblin boss is a hell of a difficulty cliff, and grinding at this point (even with a free instant heal nearby) takes forever
  3. Encounter rate isn’t the worst I’ve ever seen, but it’s pretty bad…
  4. …earning two negatives
  5. For reasons best left to the imagination, the movement speed in dungeons is slow…
  6. …this is a recurring irritation, only mitigated by not being active outside of dungeons
  7. The music restart problem has the usual issue (everytime you enter/exit a state, like combat or the overworld, the music starts over)…
  8. …but anytime you change major zones (usually within a dungeon) the music stops, then restarts
  9. The game at least tells you how spells work, but it does not tell you anything about equipment…
  10. …or items
  11. The game’s save limitations (can only save at the save dudes) is bad on several levels…
  12. …earning two negatives
  13. Gotcha issues (no real indicators of when you can or should save or heal before, surprise, doom fight)
  14. Targeting issues. The game literally prevents you from targeting enemies, only enemy groups. This makes several aspects of the game worse, not the least of which being it literally removes an aspect of tactics from the player’s hands, but also makes encounters ‘harder’ by preventing you from focus firing…
  15. …leading to two negatives
  16. There’s worse games for it, but the backtracking problems are definitely there (walking out of dungeons and back to town being the biggest offenders)
  17. The game has one of the worst difficulty curves I’ve seen in a JRPG, with some enemies being push overs, others in the same zone being capable of killing you entirely based on RNG, and boss battles that yo-yo up and down in relative difficulty…
  18. …leading to two negatives
  19. Now this is made worse by the power progression curve being legitimately awful, with every encounter giving you a tiny increase in overall capacity…
  20. …which further bleeds over into the gold problem, as you get so little gold from encounters…
  21. …while everything in town is super expensive. It’s quite literally possible to run a gold deficit for several stretches of gameplay
  22. Meanwhile that experience problem I mentioned wouldn’t be the end of the world if each level meant something, but instead you’re literally expected to run in a circle and straight grind at EACH major area in order to keep up with the yellow line… In our playthrough we fell behind the orange line and into the red line inside of just a few hours…
  23. …so this isn’t the grindiest game on the face of it, but it is a lot of grind…
  24. …and it is MANDATORY grind
  25. Meanwhile the dungeon design is not what I’d call inspired. I’ve seen worse (recently, even, with Suikoden 1) but most dungeons are straight boring slogs through disinteresting areas with too many encounters and samey visuals
  26. Meanwhile! The boss designs in general in this game suck. Each boss is designed to be a straight stat wall (contributing to the grind problem earlier), and most of them have ‘screw you’ attacks that can, for no other reason than pure randomness, screw you…
  27. …leading to two negatives just for boss design
  28. The towers section deserves special mention for being absolutely awful. First there’s the ease of falling and having to start over. Second is the increase in status effect enemies (notably petrify, which we have very few ways to cure at this point). Then there’s the fact that you have to do the towers a minimum of two times (more if you screw up), oh speaking of which you can screw them up too…
  29. …so, yeah, screw the towers section
  30. Then we have the entire ‘find the professor’ section. It’s not the worst… until you start the backtracking, then the backtracking on top of the backtracking, then the near total lack of direction, then the wasting our time, all to go up yet another tower and find out our target is back in town
  31. Unskippable cutscenes
  32. This is partially related to the multiple grind issues earlier, but the game has too many large swaths of sections where random trash encounters simply take too long or are too costly to beat (for how little reward they give)
  33. One more bonus negative for the entire islands side quest of time wasting
  34. The Outro continues the trend of not-good-itude, with literally repeating the same dungeon as the beginning of the game which would be forgivable if it wasn’t just another boring dungeon with too many encounters and the music restarting constantly. Further, the last boss ‘rush’ is… weird, literally flawed, and essentially requires yet more grind to just stat wall your way through it
  35. Controls aren’t great, between the odd button choice and the weird ‘having to hold down to select’ problem
  36. The game’s graphics honestly look pretty bad
  37. The game’s guidance and flow of exploration is not good
  38. Absence of an in game map
  39. I’ve seen worse, but the overworld isn’t great
  40. There are several segments of the game which are moderately walkthroughy

Lufia 2

While it lags a bit in the middle, and has most of the usual “JRPG of the time” problems, this is a fantastic game that holds up well and I hugely recommend.
Total Story Score: +36
Total Gameplay Score: +13
Golden Number: 127.19
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 3 Days // 25.50 Hours
Time Reviewed: 8-17-2022

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The opening cinematic does so much in a very short period of time; We learn about the Sinistrals, Erim, Arek, and a small character tidbit for each of our major characters (playable and otherwise)…
  2. …earning it two positives
  3. The Intro overall is still good, quickly establishing world, characters, and stakes
  4. The entire Ruby Apple scenario continues the series’ trend of amusing ruby ‘gems’
  5. The scene where Maxim chastises Selan for falling down after Tia falls, but then immediately lunges after Selan when she falls, is beautiful in how under-stated it gets across its point
  6. Much as I don’t care for the character, Dekar’s establishing scene does a lot to set up the type of person he is very quickly; Stupid, strong, arrogant, and competent
  7. Tia is probably the most complex character in act 1, with multiple signs of actual depth to her emotional web, her focus on Maxim being clearly more complicated than she shows, and the dynamic between the two remaining good throughout…
  8. …earning her two positives
  9. A bonus positive for Tia demonstrating that intelligence and emotional strength in loving Maxim sufficient to… leave, and no longer be in his way, despite what this will mean to her, and despite actually being right overall
  10. The visual storytelling of the destroyed towns is rather well done
  11. I’ve seen better, but I think the spritework is quite good
  12. I’ve seen better, but I think the brickwork is excellent…
  13. …deserving a second positive
  14. Towns, in general, are pleasant to perceive and really get across the tone and vibe therein
  15. Doodad usage is back to some good stuff… in towns and the like
  16. Music direction is on point, being used to good effect in essentially every scene…
  17. …worthy of two positives
  18. Animation does a good job of helping with the…
  19. …storyboarding of cutscenes
  20. There’s a definite amount of Lindblum Effect going on with the towns…
  21. …earning a second positive
  22. The game doesn’t offer it often, but there is good humor throughout
  23. The game is surprisingly well constructed in terms of world building, with lots of bits and pieces implying and connecting the world around it
  24. The Sinistrals using agents, who in turn use monsters, is an interesting insight into how they operate
  25. The scene with Karyn is surprisingly logical, and helps to set up Amon for future interactions; She required the stored energy of the shrine merely to banish him, and the effort cost her her life
  26. While too short to be better, I actually rather enjoy the bit where Maxim and Selan agree to not even look into the mirror of truth to determine their feelings for each other
  27. The followers of the ‘Dextrals’ are neat in their own right, but what really turns the whole sequence on its head…
  28. …is the women who willingly, and are asked just to verify, give their lives to assist the heroes in their endeavors. They can’t go and fight, but they can do this to empower and assist, and that’s the whole point
  29. The cutscene leading up to Doom Island is honestly pretty good
  30. The victory lap of just curb stomping the Sinistrals, while weak in gameplay, is great in narrative; We’ve already won, really, we’re just cleaning up a few loose ends
  31. Daos doesn’t get much characterization, but he uses his screen time surprisingly well, and his petulant and childish refusal to accept that either someone else should rule than him, or that someone else can be better than him, is something that makes him lash out and refuse to accept reality repeatedly
  32. Selan’s death hits so hard, even after knowing it was coming
  33. Erim and Iris’s dynamic and personality are fascinating, and show sides of what has been and what will come
  34. Bonus narrative points for the music. The Last Duel and For The Savior are amazing, and beautifully and perfectly carry the emotions and scenes they play throughout
  35. Maxim giving his life and ‘laying down’ besides his wife at the end is just… powerful, painful, and tragically beautiful
  36. The actual final ending sequence is just as touching as it is fantastic
  37. …but I have to give one final, bonus point to Tia’s scene. It’s… I can’t put it into words, but it hits, even to this day
  38. Maxim isn’t much of a character (really), but there’s implications and inferences that he’s literally not normal which help
  39. Selan similarly is on his wavelength (she literally waves a sword around when they argue after marrying) but still is an interesting character
  40. A bonus point for the party’s dynamic with each other
  41. And a bonus point for banter
  42. Decent, if not great, external continuity with Lufia 1

Story Negatives:

  1. While it’s periodic, there are pacing and placement issues with the overall story across act 1; From the weird meandering early on, to the very sudden and offputting timeskip at the end
  2. So there’s this story sequencing / padding / pacing issue which is kind of all over the place in the second-to-last arc, where some things of relevance (either character or plot or world building) happen but come and go with weird rapidity, and just a weird amount of padding without proper fluff in between
  3. While infrequent, the localization issues are there and do have issues
  4. The shortcutting towards the end of the game gets pretty bad
  5. The just… weird, honestly out of character-ness of the main party in the Gratze section is… weird. It would fit if they established Gratze as, y’know, evil (nazis and all that), it might work if they tried to negotiate or work with them and were turned down, but instead it’s just… off
  6. Dekar’s random survival out of no where just to have him help keep our rear guard is pointless and, as usual, cheating death

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Music? Music
  2. Yeah no, second music positive
  3. The puzzle dungeon tutorial is a bit overt, but honestly necessary, and does a good job of getting across how the puzzles will work and introducing the rules thereof
  4. The Intro overall is very simple, but effective in its own right, with basic puzzles, access to items and spells, a simple boss, but still gets you into the mindset of exactly what type of game this is
  5. IP moves serve as a nice additional layer of tactical choice (before and during combat)
  6. Similarly, the design of equipment and which had IPs and which didn’t, as well as when you got it, was well designed
  7. The option to make spells hit a number of targets (rather than just all or one) is actually a nice additional choice for putting more choice and options in the player’s hands
  8. The first ‘real’ dungeon (the Alunze labyrinth) does a really good job of tutorializing the bombs and what the game expects in puzzle design
  9. Alunze cave is a well thought out, fun, interesting cave with only one real flaw
  10. Tanbel Tower is another good example of another good dungeon
  11. The lava dungeon continues the trend of good dungeon design
  12. You guessed it; Sword dungeon is a good dungeon
  13. Gades’ Tower continues the dungeon trend
  14. The bonus party member aspect of the Capsule Monsters is kind of neat, as well as the way you progress them by feeding them items
  15. The Northern Labyrinth continues the quality trend
  16. QoL Features (color indicators of stat changes, showcase of how many items you still have, hold A on results screen, equip in shop, R and L swapping, HUD party bars)
  17. Generally good fast travel system
  18. Good usage of spells as kit (relatively cheap, good utility)
  19. The Ancient Cave is an interesting challenge-mode minigame for people who are really into the combat
  20. The final Idura shrine gets back to good dungeon design
  21. Priphea Mountain (I know that’s not its name) is still a good dungeon
  22. The Amon tower of doom continues good puzzle design
  23. The Mountain of No Return is STILL good puzzle design
  24. I’m going to interrupt myself and give a bonus positive to dungeon variety, as they somehow keep coming up with new gimmicks and new mechanics across quite a few dungeons…
  25. …earning a bonus positive
  26. Retry Mode adds some good replayability to the work
  27. Gratze is our last real dungeon, but it’s still decent
  28. Bonus point to the best song in the game
  29. Difficulty curve is quite smooth
  30. Power progression is similarly smooth
  31. Generally good enemy variety
  32. The game is surprisingly well itemized, with most dungeons having the right spread of items and gear, and actual thought going into what you get where

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. There’s some feedback issues with regards to the HUD, buffs, debuffs, etc.
  2. The music restarts everytime it’s triggered
  3. Unskippable cutscenes
  4. There is a total lack of in-game information on the specifics of how Capsule Monsters work
  5. There’s also a frustrating amount of RNG in how Capsule Monsters work
  6. Finally the fact that they can just decide to do whatever (including ‘nothing’ and ‘RUNNING’) is ridiculous
  7. So there’s a thing where you ‘lose’ the gear off party members as they leave the party. It can be found later in an optional town, but it happens frequently (and with no warning) and is essentially only mitigated down to one negative via the aforementioned town
  8. The Ancient Cave is long. Looong long long, and with no way to stop, pause, or save on the way down, it all has to be done in one run…
  9. …earning it two negatives
  10. The Ancient Cave is random… entirely too random, which can completely screw over your run or otherwise prevent you from progressing, and that’s on top of the relevant chests (the blue ones) also being random…
  11. …earning two negatives
  12. A final negative for the Ancient Cave for general boredom (long, empty rooms with enemies… and that’s… it)…
  13. …earning two negatives
  14. Okay so there’s not really an encounter issue or a grind issue, buuut I do think there’s too many combat encounters in this game, so it gets a solitary negative for it
  15. Bugs. They aren’t the worst, but they can be game breaking, and then there’s the bugged shrine
  16. The lack of map is not super great
  17. The Outro has several issues gameplay wise… First the Three Towers are, honestly, pretty simple (they’re literally just corridors with encounters), second the bosses are pretty boring (big health blocks and not much else to them)
  18. The combat has a bit of a seconds in minutes problem with just how plodding and slow everything takes
  19. The limitations on when and where you can save is actually pretty bad