Familiar 2


Shantae and the Pirate's Curse

The Shantae series finally finds its own and has a solidly good game, definitely recommended. Good place to start the franchise too if you’re looking to get into it.
Type Of Review: Familiar Run
Total Story Score: +17
Total Gameplay Score: +13
Golden Number: 72.58
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 2 days / 9.82 Hours
Time Reviewed: 8-9-2023

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Animations: Excellent as always, continuing the same quality from the previous game..
  2. Animations: …earning two positives
  3. Atmosphere: The continued Shantae charm
  4. Brickwork: Desert island
  5. Brickwork: Frostbite island
  6. Brickwork: Mudbog island
  7. Brickwork: Scuttletown island
  8. Characters: Generally amusing (and actually characters this time around)
  9. Cutscenes: Good usage of the animated vignette slides to portray emotion and scenes
  10. Dialogue: The dialogue honestly pops more than it has any right to
  11. Doodads: General
  12. External Continuity: Connects surprisingly well with the previous game
  13. Hub: The town slowly changing as Ammo Baron’s men alter it
  14. Humor: Yeah the game got me a few times
  15. Moment: Rotty’s lost soul
  16. NPC Set Dressing: Some really good usage in some scenes to flesh out the areas
  17. Outro: Much better than the previous games, with some good character moments despite a return to status quo

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Boss: Mother spider
  2. Boss: Saliva boss
  3. Controls: Controls pretty tightly, especially with the new kit
  4. Enemy Variety: Surprisingly decent
  5. Intro: The Intro does a lot right very quickly. Platforming, enemies, escalation, fun sequences, and an amusing boss fight…
  6. Intro: …earning two positives
  7. Itemization: Items are reasonably well spread out and dropped
  8. Kit: The new Risky items are legit and a good replacement for the transformations
  9. Level: Cackle Tower
  10. Level: Frostbite island
  11. Level: Generally good design throughout
  12. Level: Oubliette of Suffering
  13. Level: Saliva dungeon
  14. Level: Tanline dungeon
  15. Music: Best soundtrack in the series (so far)… easily earning…
  16. Music: …the full…
  17. Music: …three positives
  18. Traversal: It takes a while to get there, but once you have all the main kit the game is honestly a treat to navigate
  19. Tutorialization: Generally good tutorialization of concepts and new gimmicks in new areas
  20. Replayability: Generally replayable
  21. Outro: Okay for all the issues I have with the final dungeon, the final boss is legit. First phase is simple but fun, second phase is cool, third phase is awesome and brutal, fourth phase is just plain awesome…
  22. Outro: …earning two positives
  23. NG+: Pirate Mode isn’t quite a full new game plus but it’s leaning there, and having the full kit at the beginning is great
  24. Song: Back To The Roots…
  25. Song: …for two positives
  26. Song: Village of Lost Souls

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. MSQ: The Rottytops ‘minigame’… which, similar to the first game, sucks. It’s not as bad as it could be (the checkpointing is nice) but damn
  2. MSQ: So the forced stealth section in Tan Line Island is… not good. It could have been, but instead they made it binary failstate with no checkpoints, so it drifts right into irritating
  3. Boss: Squid Baron continues his trend of, honestly, just having way too much health
  4. Itemization: Money. Even when killing almost everything at all points there just is not enough cash
  5. Walkthroughitis: Getting the Death Mask and getting to the Ammo Factory
  6. Encounters: Bit of an enemy spam problem
  7. Boss: The Dagron is a weird boss. He’s either too frustrating, too annoying, or too easy…
  8. Level: Propeller Town. Too much focus on trial and error, instant death spikes, and memorization
  9. Boss: The Steel Maggot. You have to hit its buttons in the right order, which randomizes each time, then get a brief vuln period behind it, which can be eaten up by it being off screen, but on top of everything else… it’s boring (it has only one mechanic)
  10. Walkthroughitis: 100%ing. Some of these are just… honestly bonkers in how hidden they are, aka the Super Metroid Negative
  11. Outro: Screw this outro so hard. It comes out of absolutely nowhere with death spikes absolutely everywhere
  12. Outro: Special mention to the breakable blocks room which gets its own negatives, first for the usual (instant death spikes and having to redo the whole room if you screw up) but also…
  13. Outro: …because the breakable blocks don’t respawn, meaning if you screw up you have to reset completely and start over from scratch

Shantae Half Genie Hero

While the soft reboot of a story lags behind the previous game, the gameplay is pretty solid and the optional modes can be neat. Just be ready for that hub town area, because it’s straight up nausea inducing.
Type Of Review: Familiar Run
Total Story Score: +8
Total Gameplay Score: +21
Golden Number: 68.24
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 2 days / 10.37 Hours
Time Reviewed: 8-11-2023

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Cutscenes: Usual good usage of portraits
  2. Atmosphere: Usual charm… but like, the adorableness
  3. Atmosphere: Adorableness. So much adorableness
  4. Atmosphere: I’m sorry, the transformations are SO CUTE
  5. Brickwork: Town
  6. Brickwork: Counterfeit mermaid factory
  7. Brickwork: Desert
  8. Brickwork: The Race and Ammo Baron’s fleet
  9. Brickwork: Hypno Baron’s place
  10. Plot: Call me weird but the micro plots as we go through each being self contained stories works for me

Story Negatives:

  1. Cutscene: So Shantae is evil OH NO but no it’s okay because they knew she was inside there all along and she’s fine! In like… two minutes!
  2. External Continuity: Some obvious issues, but Risky is the big one, as she’s arguably completely out of character here (stupid and pointlessly cruel)

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Backtracking: The levels all vary up a bit the second time around
  2. Boss: Ammo Baron is simple but very fun, with good escalation
  3. Boss: Double Barons, however, is much more fun
  4. Boss: Giga Mermaid is neat, fun, and visceral
  5. Boss: Squid Baron is fun
  6. Controls: Usual good controls but what really sells it…
  7. Controls: …is the proper usage of quick select and shoulder swapping
  8. Difficulty: Hardcore mode actually changes up level design and makes the game properly more difficult
  9. Guidance: Pretty decent for the most part. Very few times where I felt lost, especially with the help NPCs in town
  10. Intro: Starts off a bit bland but takes off very quickly, with fun and interesting platforming, good indicators, and a fun boss fight…
  11. Intro: …earning two positives
  12. Itemization: Much better money drop rate than before
  13. Kit: Beach mode
  14. Kit: Jammies mode
  15. Kit: Ninja mode
  16. Kit: Officer mode
  17. Kit: Pirate Queen’s Quest, and all the fun from playing as Risky again
  18. Kit: Some really good kit in this one with the transformations and items both…
  19. Kit: …easily earning two positives
  20. Level: Counterfeit Mermaids is probably the best level in the game. Starts off as a simple moving platformer which evolves into a hook hopper, and mutates later into some fun stuff on the second time around…
  21. Level: …earning two positives
  22. Level: Hypno Baron’s stage is short but sweet
  23. Level: Some decent stuff in the desert overall, if a bit peppered and mostly interesting the second time around
  24. Level: The race stage is pretty fun throughout
  25. Minigame: General level design, making getting 100% decently enjoyable
  26. Minigame: Pirate Queen’s Quest and the alternate playthrough
  27. Music: While not quite to the dizzying heights of the previous game, the music in this game is just legit…
  28. Music: …earning two positives, easy
  29. QoL: Lots of little ones but they’re there
  30. Terrain: Variable, but still fun terrain design
  31. Enemy Variety: For essentially the same reasons as in the last game
  32. Replayability: Generally replayable
  33. Visual Distinction: In a first for the series, it’s pretty distinct to tell what’s what, where, and how
  34. NG+: While not quite new game plus, Hero Mode qualifies for the same reasons as last time
  35. Kit: Friends mode is neat but ultimately a bit too limited (one health bar with only three hearts, can’t swap in mid air or while hanging) but it’s still neat and fun to play as the trio

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Graphics: Town nausea… honestly what in the world were they thinking with this crap. I had to give a warning to viewers to not watch because of how nauseating and headache inducing the town scrolling is…
  2. Graphics: …earning an easy…
  3. Graphics: …three negatives
  4. Mid Mission Checkpoints: Or lack thereof. Just… everywhere, really, leading to tons and tons and tons of redoing the whole stage… the game also likes to put instant death pits or spikes right before a transition (aka a checkpoint) because screw you…
  5. Mid Mission Checkpoints: …leading to two negatives
  6. Level: And some bullcrap in the desert. Just… total bullcrap
  7. Outro: Final dungeon. You like flappy bird instant death spikes, right?
  8. Outro: Well no problem, we got flappy bird instant death spikes
  9. Outro: Final boss. So it’s a bit obtuse but what really makes it suck more than anything else…
  10. Outro: …is it’s BORING
  11. Outro: Final escape sequence and the lack of checkpointing
  12. Camera: We’ve got the Donkey Kong Country 2 problem going on here with the camera wibbling and wobbling to try and put itself behind Shantae, which can be disorienting at best and nauseating at worst
  13. DLC: General lackluster quality of DLCs across the board
  14. Level: The final few Friends stages can go directly to hell with their bullcrap

Dragon Age 2

So… it’s astonishing this game is as good as it is, but it’s still exactly as bad as it is. And that’s what it is. This game was made in 11 months, and boy howdy does it show. I will say the game is generally good until you hit Act 3, if you feel like cutting off there.
Type Of Review: Familiar Run
Total Story Score: +36
Total Gameplay Score: -4
Golden Number: 31.00
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 5 days / 35.55 Hours
Time Reviewed: 9-10-2023

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Atmosphere: Green, purple, red. The flavor this changes to your character and tone
  2. Banter: Generally good banter throughout
  3. Banter: Special points for Isabella and Aveline
  4. Banter: Varric and… everyone
  5. Brickwork: Beach and mountain areas
  6. Brickwork: Kirkwall Hightown
  7. Brickwork: Mark of the Assassin DLC
  8. Camera: Actually some good stuff helping to flesh out the cutscenes
  9. Character: The Arishok. Very well written, well acted, strangely sympathetic while never ceasing to be a villain
  10. Character: Aveline is just amazing. Reliable, relatable, well presented, great quests…
  11. Character: …earning her two positives
  12. Character: Carver & Bethany are both halves of a positive for the game as a whole
  13. Character: Fenris has his issues, but his presentation drags his character up to being overall enjoyable
  14. Character: Flemeth. Brief though she is here, she is both memorable and very well done
  15. Character: Gamlen is fascinating. He seems like a slimeball but ultimately he’s just a fairly normal guy, who is both loyal and friendly and is there for us when it matters… and he gets nice little backstory as the game progresses
  16. Character: Generally good supporting cast (Thrask, Petrice, Prosper)
  17. Character: Isabella. As per the Bioware Standard, she has a fairly coarse surface character and a lot more depth underneath that, especially in how she discusses things with other characters…
  18. Character: …earning her two positives
  19. Character: Merrill. In over her head but aware of it, stubbornly plodding forwards while knowing it’s a bad idea, and a good insight into blood magic and demons in general
  20. Character: The characters have their own interactions and relationships one with another, including cutscenes and developing rivalries and friendships, with a lot of possible permutations…
  21. Character: …for a full…
  22. Character: …three positives
  23. Character: Bonus points specifically for Aveline and Isabella’s growing friendship throughout the game
  24. Character: Varric. What can I say, he is absolutely carried by his voice actor and practically carries the narrative on his back…
  25. Character: …earning him two positives
  26. Cinematics: General style (the painted stone look)
  27. Dialogue: It’s intermittent, but there’s some sharp dialogue here and there
  28. Humor: Mark of the Assassin DLC
  29. Humor: Purple Hawke in general
  30. Moment: Anders, Vengeance, Karl, and Tranquility
  31. Moment: Aveline’s follow through on Leandra’s death
  32. Moment: Petrice’s death
  33. Moment: The Arishok finally being honest about everything
  34. Moment: The blood magic mind control scene in the brothel
  35. Moment: Varric’s introduction is exactly what it needs to be
  36. NPC Set Dressing: There’s a surprisingly large amount of work done to make Kirkwall sound and feel like a city…
  37. NPC Set Dressing: …earning two positives
  38. Plot: Act 1 (mother, money, home). It’s a really good hook, keeps us invested, and explains all the sidequesting rather neatly
  39. Plot: Qunari in general throughout Act 2
  40. Plot: The dilemma leading to the crisis of Act 2 is honestly very well nuanced and dynamic
  41. Prime Opt: Aveline & Donnic (and Isabella)
  42. Prime Opt: Fenris’s quest chain
  43. Prime Opt: The Tranquil Solution
  44. Prime Opt: Varric & Bartrand
  45. Secondary: The Magister’s son quest
  46. Storytelling Mechanic: Codex
  47. Storytelling Mechanic: For essentially the only good time in the entire game, the framing device of the interview is used to good effect with the Bartrand quest
  48. Storytelling Mechanic: Friendship & Rivalry
  49. Storytelling Mechanic: Letters
  50. Storytelling Mechanic: Party member interactions throughout the game (to be specific, it’s when you can get a special interaction to deal with a conversation or encounter because a party member is present
  51. Theme: The Mage Problem really comes to the foreground in this one
  52. Voice Acting: Varric
  53. Voice Acting: Female Hawke
  54. Voice Acting: Hawke male
  55. Voice Acting: Aveline
  56. Voice Acting: Merrill
  57. Voice Acting: Kirkwall citizenry
  58. Voice Acting: Fenris
  59. Voice Acting: Arishok
  60. Voice Acting: General
  61. Voice Acting: General
  62. World Building: Chantry
  63. World Building: Kirkwall
  64. World Building: Qun
  65. World Building: Tevinter
  66. Writing: Romances
  67. Writing: Corypheus is… a fascinating portrayal of an interesting character who is a great insight into lore long left forgotten in the series
  68. Writing: Generally high quality across the Legacy DLC, especially including its Outro
  69. Moment: Okay, you win, that last powow with the companions before the final battle is actually pretty legit

Story Negatives:

  1. Storytelling Mechanic: The framing device is… more ridiculous the longer you look at it
  2. Storytelling Mechanic: Limited party side, thy name is Bioware. But honestly, the banter and rivalry/friendship and additional dialogue options make it even worse than back in DA:O. Thus I have no real choice but to give…
  3. Storytelling Mechanic: …the full…
  4. Storytelling Mechanic: …three negatives
  5. Storytelling Mechanic: And an additional for the extra lost gameplay benefit
  6. Atmosphere: Over-emphasis of how awesome Hawke is
  7. Moment: Carver/Bethany’s death is so token and just raced by
  8. Pacing: Three days have passed… you can tell because it’s the same spot and the same day and everything looks identical. Then, minutes later, a whole year passed!
  9. External Continuity: So outside of my own general lack of satisfaction with the relevance of Origins, the fact is there are several niggling issues all over the place with 2
  10. Characters: Fenris has the same general problem Morrigan had; his character arc (and lack thereof) are in conflict with several of the options and preferences he has
  11. Characters: So… Sebastian. He suffers from being a DLC character pretty badly (hardly any dialogue in cutscenes, and very little new banter), but what really makes him bad is the total lack of anything interesting about him
  12. Spritework: So there’s no getting around it, DA2 is rather sexualized to the point where it detracts from the narrative
  13. Characters: Isabella falls to this the most, but as per usual some of the relevant character arcs just… stop unless you romance them
  14. Plot: So… Act 2… (and 3) why are we bothering? Excuses and headcanon can fill in the gaps but the game just sort of assumes we go along with everything
  15. Plot: Okay, the previous two were debatable, but the final time skip makes the least sense by far. The events of Act 3 follow immediately after the conclusion of Act 2, and should have happened days later, not years…
  16. Plot: …earning a second negative
  17. Plot: Tallis is Right in classic Janeway fashion in the Assassin DLC
  18. Character: Tallis… comes very close to a good character, but the specific execution just does not manage it
  19. Writing: General issues in Mark of the Assassin, but most especially its very abrupt and unsatisfying ending
  20. Prime Opt: So first, Isabella’s quest is built up across SIX years in lore and in almost every scene she’s in but then…
  21. Prime Opt: …when we finally go deal with it it’s just resolved, like that. Just… woof, gone. It’s astonishingly unsatisfying
  22. Prime Opt: So then there’s Varric’s Act 3 quest. It’s entirely too rushed, has a weird dichotomy, and establishes a point before doing nothing with it at all
  23. Prime Opt: And then there’s Merrill’s Act 3 quest which is really starting to show the seams in the rushed development time and lack of polish, and boils down to a very binary choice which isn’t well telegraphed at all
  24. Moment: So then we have the big ‘confrontation’ scene with Thrask and the mages and it’s just… so bad. Everybody acts stupidly, we just watch while Thrask dies, and it’s just… what?
  25. Storyboarding: Then there’s the cutscenes which just get noticeably worse in Act 3. Like, way worse. Cheap PS1 era stuff
  26. Plot: Then there’s Act 3’s Plot, a good idea terribly executed. The mage templar thing is a good idea, but the game is trying very hard to trim every branch other than the two extremes is left because… well…
  27. Writing: …Because Plot. Act 3 is, top to bottom, Because Plot
  28. Moment: So the destruction of the Chantry is… not a good scene. The effect is cheap, which I can excuse, but the scene itself is… weirdly rushed while also being ploddingly slow. The terrorist bomb goes off and then everyone just sort of stands around and debates it in this weirdly disjointed scene
  29. Writing: So, uh, Orsino goes crazy… in like the worst, grossest way possible… for absolutely no reason (because the executives wanted one more boss fight). This is so tonally out of absolutely nowhere…
  30. Writing: …it deserves two negatives
  31. Outro: So first we have the rather empty non-ending after beating Meredith which, by itself, is so vacuous as to deserve…
  32. Outro: …two negatives
  33. Outro: Then we find out it was all just about finding the Champion to lead the Exalted March or whatever

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Boss: Duke Prosper is easily the best fight in the game, with multiple phases, pay attention checks, kiting, and general design
  2. Boss: Okay, I’ll give you that, the Rock Wraith was decent enough of a fight
  3. Choices: Gifts reinforcing existing rival/friendship paths. While this is also bad, it’s still also good as it helps you to keep going down the path you’re on (assuming that’s what you want)
  4. Combat: The always-useful percentage potions
  5. Core Combat: And as before, the real time with pause and ability to give orders while paused
  6. Combos: Combo system and cross class fun
  7. Core Combat: Sustained System is back from the first game…
  8. Core Combat: …earning two positives
  9. Core Mechanic: Gambits. This one has an asterisk, but what’s really weird is the Gambits are even better here than they were in Origins. You have the default stuff of course (which also updates the moment you get a new ability), presets of course, custom stuff, but also a lot more options for more specific programming in the AI…
  10. Core Mechanic: …making for…
  11. Core Mechanic: …an unprecedented three positives for the core system
  12. Core Mechanic: The additional positive for the presets
  13. Core Mechanic: And a final positive for the sheer depth of the system
  14. Info In Game: There’s actually a pretty decent amount of info in game for this one
  15. Interface: Color and shape distinction
  16. Intro: Strong Intro with good tutorialization and a quick taste of power
  17. Kit: Mage is neat. While some of the mage pools are boring (looking at you Elemental) for the most part it’s good stuff…
  18. Kit: …for two positives
  19. Kit: Rogue is a weird one. It’s the type of class I wouldn’t enjoy because you always have to be trying, but if you are it’s got some great combos and burst potential…
  20. Kit: …for two positives
  21. Kit: Warrior is the best class, of course. Big, sweeping attacks and lots of ability to control the field while remaining extremely mobile…
  22. Kit: …for two positives
  23. Level: Most dungeons have a quick exit
  24. Map: Actually useful and functional, if not 100% accurate
  25. MSQ: The entire Mark of the Assassin DLC has a few issues but between the ‘free roaming’ Hinterlands, the party, and the escape sequence
  26. Music: Some good stuff here and there
  27. QoL: Loot all, target nearest, loot nearest, glittering loot indicators, crafting unlocking
  28. Respec: They cost gold and a DLC but they’re there
  29. Saves: Same good save system as before; Autosaves, quicksaves, manual saves…
  30. Saves: …for two positives
  31. Starting Options: Functional character creator. Not the best, not the worst, some decent stuff
  32. Viscerality: Try to be shocked, but the game prizing being flashier and actionier managed it…
  33. Viscerality: …earning two positives
  34. Encounters: Legacy DLC enemy design and encounter design
  35. Level: Actual puzzle and level design to the Legacy DLC
  36. Boss: Legacy DLC’s Corypheus fight is great
  37. Replayability: Differing options and paths and builds

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Backtracking: There’s a combination of problems here. First, available quests are not labeled, only existing ones. Second, some quests only show up after other triggers, meaning having to re-go over areas repeatedly. Third and finally, a lot of these quests require one to backtrack ANYways simply to cover the same ground again now that it’s available
  2. Boss: The Arishok fight honestly isn’t that great. He’s very basic and just has a giant pile of stats and health
  3. Choices: Friendship & Rivalry. So… you’re kind of locked into one or the other at a certain point, except it’s very easy to end up ‘evening out’ depending on your choices, and gifts barely make it better (or actively make it worse depending), meaning you’re disinclined to pick the choices you want and instead end up trying to guide your responses purely to help ‘farm’ those points
  4. Choices: So DA2 makes a mistake that ME1 also made; an NPC can ‘presume’ a romance with the PC which then leaves you with only two choices; go along with it, or shut it down hard
  5. Choices: TOR Effect (not as bad as it could be, but it’s there)
  6. Encounter: Battle positioning decided for you after dialogue… again
  7. Encounter Rate: Dragon Age 2 Syndrome… yeah it’s called that for a reason, and it’s really bad in this one. I was already tired of combat by Act 1…
  8. Encounter Rate: …so we’re giving it the full…
  9. Encounter Rate: …three negatives
  10. Graphics: Blur of Depth! But you’re probably wondering why this is triple negative. First is the obvious, it’s headache inducing, but what really shoves this into triple territory is it cannot be fixed. No, really. No toggle in game, no combination of settings, no manually editing the INI files, nothing. So that makes…
  11. Graphics: …for…
  12. Graphics: …three negatives
  13. Graphics: Untoggleable headache-inducing Fade effects
  14. HUD: The choices dialogue wheel is… weird, inconsistent, and doesn’t include things like numbering options or like how Mass Effect 1 would always put similar style of choices in the same ‘slots’ on the wheel. But worst of all, the game has zero indication of which dialogue options you have already picked or not
  15. Interface: Multi-party inventory juggling is a colossal pain. You have to swap party members, then check inventories, then swap, etc.
  16. Interface: The gambits, and occasionally some aspects of the menuing don’t do tunneling properly and/or are inconsistent in how they control
  17. Interface: There are inconsistency issues with item colors, labels, and irritations with figuring out what does what
  18. Launch: So if you buy the game on Steam and buy the DLCs there it won’t ‘decrypt’ those DLCs and as a consequence you will have no access to the DLC you just bought. This is a byproduct of the decryption step being tied to older servers and sites that do not exist anymore but that does nothing to prevent this from being…
  19. Launch: …a full…
  20. Launch: …three negatives
  21. Level: So I hope you like repeat dungeon design, because they sure do! This is… it’s so bad, I can’t even put it into words, so instead I’ll just give it…
  22. Level: …the full…
  23. Level: …three negatives
  24. Map: So while you’re doing the repeat dungeons the minimap shows the entire dungeon, not the part you can currently access, which not only gets in the way of navigation but renders the minimap functionally useless for said dungeons
  25. Overly Skippable Cutscenes: Mostly with banter
  26. Padding: So in some cases it’s fine and in others it is turbo not, so there’s a padding problem with fast traveling thanks to having to reach a fast travel node here and there
  27. Starting Options: Starting class determines Bethany vs. Carver
  28. Walkthroughitis: Friendship & Rivalry, same issue as listed above in Choices
  29. Sound Design: Occasional audio balancing issues
  30. Padding: So… the enemy health starts to get padded to hell and back in Act 3, to the point where even ‘trash’ fights suddenly take too long, and that’s before you take into account the waves of enemies
  31. Controls: Combat targeting can get wonky
  32. Guidance and Flow: Act 3 is, spontaneously, missing a lot of the previous markers, indicators, and other ‘flow’ that helped to know what to do when and where
  33. Encounter Rate: So Act 3’s encounter rate feels like it’s gone up due to related factors, which just… makes Act 3 (a short Act, all things considered) drag
  34. Choice: So in Act 3 you pick Meredith or Orsino and it… has no substantial variance at all. Same quests, same areas, same encounters
  35. Choice: And a special bonus negative for Choices gameplay in Act 3
  36. Traversal: Walk walk walk
  37. Choice: So throughout the game there’s options to try to make peace between the two sides… aaand then you are absolutely, no really, forced into picking a side, a choice even the developers think shouldn’t be
  38. Boss: So you fight Orsino. He’s… tremendously boring, he just stands there
  39. Outro: The entire Outro is… the exact same barrage of random corridors and encounters the entire rest of the game has been
  40. Graphics: Spiders! One of the few, the proud, the negatives
  41. Enemy Variety: If you can even call it that

Grand Theft Auto 5

I’ve said it for years and it remains true; For all its flaws, this is one of the best games ever made. Highly, highly, highly recommended.
Type Of Review: Familiar Run
Total Story Score: +105
Total Gameplay Score: +94
Golden Number: 593.71
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 6 days / 45.24 Hours
Time Reviewed: 9-25-2023

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Animations: Some truly excellent motion capture which always adds to the scenes…
  2. Animations: …for a full…
  3. Animations: …three positives
  4. Babylon 5: Tutorialization intro flashback thing
  5. Background Lore: A lot in the news bits, but really the Life Invader posts
  6. Brickwork: Beach
  7. Brickwork: Beach
  8. Brickwork: Beach
  9. Brickwork: Desert
  10. Brickwork: Desert
  11. Brickwork: Desert
  12. Brickwork: Downtown
  13. Brickwork: Downtown
  14. Brickwork: Downtown
  15. Brickwork: Franklin’s House
  16. Brickwork: Michael’s House
  17. Brickwork: Not rich district
  18. Brickwork: Not rich district
  19. Brickwork: Not rich district
  20. Brickwork: Rich district
  21. Brickwork: Rich district
  22. Brickwork: Rich district
  23. Camera: Aside from the wobbliness, the camera is always used very well in cutscenes…
  24. Camera: …for a full…
  25. Camera: …three positives
  26. Character: Franklin
  27. Character: Jimmy
  28. Character: Lester
  29. Character: Michael
  30. Character: Michael
  31. Character: Michael
  32. Character: Supporting cast
  33. Character: Trevor
  34. Character: Trevor
  35. Character: Trevor
  36. Cutscene: Dynamic cutscenes in general
  37. Cutscene: Establishing moments during Franklin’s early scenes
  38. Cutscene: Michael’s initial rant about his life establishes so much not only about his character but also how awful things are for the world and in general
  39. Dialogue: The dialogue is impeccable, again across the board…
  40. Dialogue: …for another…
  41. Dialogue: …three positives
  42. Doodads: City
  43. Doodads: City
  44. Doodads: City
  45. Doodads: Desert
  46. Doodads: Desert
  47. Doodads: Desert
  48. Doodads: Franklin’s House
  49. Doodads: General
  50. Doodads: General
  51. Doodads: General
  52. Doodads: Michael’s House
  53. Doodads: Trevor’s House
  54. Foreshadowing: Lots of it, most the kind you’ll never even notice unless you’re looking, some incredibly overt
  55. Humor: Internet in general
  56. Humor: Okay so… Princess Robot Bubblegum is a bit much but holy crap that Midwest joke really, really got me
  57. Humor: The Grain of Truth Organic Food Market and… all the food stuff really
  58. Humor: Weasel News
  59. Internal Continuity: The game keeps a pretty tight internal timeline through most of itself
  60. Intro: Really great Intro; the heist gone bad, the beach, the shrink session, the first boost…
  61. Intro: …easily earning…
  62. Intro: …three positives
  63. Lighting: Some truly excellent lighting design to really accent the scenes, world, and set pieces…
  64. Lighting: …for another…
  65. Lighting: …three positives
  66. Moment: Character introductions (especially Trevor)
  67. Moment: Lamar and Trevor’s ‘therapy’ session
  68. Moment: Michael and Trevor and their standoff
  69. Moment: The end of Debra and Floyd
  70. Moment: The first confrontation between Trevor and the family is honestly one of the best scenes in the game. It starts off as another day in screwedupville, then Trevor shows up and the temperature changes instantly, Michael goes to protect Jimmy while everyone else quietly cowers, and then shifts again when they find out about Tracey…
  71. Moment: …great, great scene
  72. Moment: The Poleto Heist is, for all its stupidity, really awesome
  73. Moment: Trevor, the proto-hipster
  74. MSQ: Franklin meeting Michael and salvaging the yacht is an astonishingly well done mission. Franklin cuts through Michael’s BS immediately, Michael sort of naturally slips into the fatherly/don role for Franklin, we establish that Jimmy is both a victim and a slimeball, and all while chasing a damned yacht down I-5…
  75. MSQ: …for two positives
  76. MSQ: LifeInvader mission
  77. MSQ: Lots of little details in the gas stealing mission, not the least of which being that great last scene with Trevor and Ms. Madrazo
  78. MSQ: The entire torture sequence. It could have failed so hard, but nothing about it is glorified or romanticized. This is something awful happening to someone for no good reason, and it’s made very very clear that Haines AND Weston just sadistically enjoy torturing in general, and the whole sequence is just properly awful…
  79. MSQ: …for two positives
  80. MSQ: The family finally bailing on Michael, even with Jimmy being awful
  81. MSQ: The first few missions are some absolutely fantastic stuff. Characterization, dialogue, world building, brick laying
  82. MSQ: The first jewelry store heist
  83. MSQ: The first Solomon quest, Michael coming in to his own, and the sheer happiness he has for it
  84. MSQ: The nuke heist is neat, tense, and fun but really what sells it is how well it characterizes Trevor and his desperate need to prove himself
  85. MSQ: The pebble. One tiny little thing and the whole story starts because Amanda was sleeping with her tennis instructor in Michael’s bed
  86. MSQ: The ‘rob Michael’ mission is fantastic. It does more characterization for the entire De Santa family (Jimmy is cussing people out, badly, while playing the most generic FPS game ever, badly… Tracy is negligent and casually is okay with her boyfriend cheating on her while also accidentally ostracizing her friend for being ‘ugly’ and just shrugs it off… and the mother is sleeping with her tennis instructor, all while Michael is waiting for said tennis instructor in the car with a gun), and then it does SO much for Michael (he takes absolutely no crap, but pays Franklin for his troubles… and beats up Simeon rather than kills him because this is about sending a message)…
  87. MSQ: …earning it two positives
  88. MSQ: Trevor initial missions and establishment of him, Wade, Ron, and the lay of the land out in the boonies
  89. Music Direction: Usage of licensed music
  90. NPC Set Dressing: Tons and tons and tons of NPCs fleshing out the world, with their own comments, routines, appearances, lives…
  91. NPC Set Dressing: …earning it…
  92. NPC Set Dressing: …three positives
  93. Pacing: Act 1
  94. Pacing: Act 1
  95. Pacing: Act 2
  96. Pacing: Act 2
  97. Secondary: Amanda’s robbery and the subsequent characterization for her and their marriage, Rampages, and a few other miscellaneous ones
  98. Secondary: Nigel’s chain is just… so awful. Hilarious, but awful
  99. Sound Design: Soundscape Coastal areas
  100. Sound Design: Soundscape Desert and boonies
  101. Sound Design: Soundscape Downtown LA
  102. Sound Design: Soundscape Wilderness regions
  103. Visual Storytelling: Floyd’s House
  104. Visual Storytelling: Franklin’s House
  105. Visual Storytelling: Michael’s House
  106. Visual Storytelling: Trevor’s House
  107. Voice Acting: Dave
  108. Voice Acting: Franklin
  109. Voice Acting: Lamar
  110. Voice Acting: Lester
  111. Voice Acting: Lester
  112. Voice Acting: Michael
  113. Voice Acting: Michael
  114. Voice Acting: Michael
  115. Voice Acting: Trevor
  116. Voice Acting: Trevor
  117. Voice Acting: Trevor
  118. Writing: Franklin and his life… before and after
  119. Writing: Michael and just how his life has gone
  120. Writing: The dominos from Trevor languishing until pushed
  121. Themes: Money
  122. Themes: Therapy
  123. Themes: Loyalty
  124. Moment: Michael, Tracey, and Lazlow’s dick on dick
  125. Moment: Okay yeah that big confrontation of the feds, the feds, the feds, and Merryweather was great
  126. Story Sequencing: Acts 1 and 2
  127. Outro: Okay yeah, Ending C does kinda hit. It doesn’t really earn it, but at least the pay off is legit, and it is quite satisfying taking down Haines and Weston
  128. Banter: For all my issues, Lamar and Franklin’s banter is legit
  129. Moment: One final, fantastic moment of killing our damned therapist
  130. World Building: The game really does build up the awful… awful world that this setting really is

Story Negatives:

  1. Camera: Shakey cam, quittit
  2. Atmosphere: Vulgarity, good lord
  3. Moment: The torture scene is… a bit much. It’s very, very well done, but it’s also exactly as horrible as it’s trying to be. And of course, there’s no opt-out
  4. Prime Opt: The final middle finger to the player for finishing the Epsilon chain (there’s actually two, so hey)
  5. Atmosphere: Gross. Just… a very, very gross game
  6. Internal Continuity: So from Act 3 onwards the story starts having trouble keeping track of and with itself, leading to issues that only get worse the longer it drags out
  7. Consequence Storytelling: Similarly, Act 3 and onwards has serious issues with how things just kind of… happen without much regard
  8. Fake Drama: God, so much Fake Drama, in general
  9. Plot: Poleto Heist. This is one of the most ‘because plot’ moments in the game. They need a helicopter so, naturally, they go to rob a bank to give money to the feds for them to buy a helicopter. Sure
  10. Fake Drama: Also Brad. They just keep bringing him up to add to fake drama
  11. MSQ: Burying The Hatchet is honestly one of the worst missions in the story
  12. Fake Drama: Not getting paid is a recurring element of Act 3 and onwards and it gets worse the longer it drags on
  13. Pacing: Everything about Act 3 onwards is so badly paced it’s hard to even properly vocalize…
  14. Pacing: …earning two negatives
  15. Plot: Family
  16. Writing: Family
  17. Characters: Family
  18. Characters: Franklin’s crew
  19. Writing: The game weirdly tries to frame Franklin’s crew as if they’re right which is just… what?
  20. Story Sequencing: Acts 3 and onwards
  21. Story Sequencing: Everything about the threads leading to the Outros
  22. Fake Drama: I’m really tired of Trevor in the Outro
  23. Outro: Ending B, top to bottom. It’s trying really hard to be this big, serious thing but fails at it miserably to the point of bad comedy, and basically every characer in it is completely out of character…
  24. Outro: …earning it two negatives
  25. Outro: Ending A is very flat and very vanilla and honestly pretty unsatisfying all around

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Controls: Driving. Good lord it feels so smooth and fun and fluid to drive in this game…
  2. Controls: …easily earning…
  3. Controls: …three positives
  4. Controls: Movement in general
  5. Controls: Shooting, especially with mouse and keyboard
  6. Core Combat: Shooting and combat in general is pretty legit, and fun to do, and with a decent variety…
  7. Core Combat: …for three positives
  8. Core Mechanic: Driving is just so, so good in this game I can’t even put it into words. I love just driving around in this game, whether racing, going full tilt, or even just driving normally…
  9. Core Mechanic: …earning it…
  10. Core Mechanic: …three positives
  11. Core Mechanic: Personal cars. Having one, locked-to-you car which always respawns and occasionally shows up in missions (fully repaired) is honestly a great feature, allowing you to fully upgrade it and keep all those pricey upgrades and customize the hell out of it and enjoy it through the whole game…
  12. Core Mechanic: …earning it two positives
  13. Difficulty Curve: Decently smooth
  14. Difficulty Options: Optional gold requirements, and the additional variety they add…
  15. Difficulty Options: …for two positives
  16. Enemy AI: General
  17. Enemy AI: Reaction to shots and injuries
  18. Guidance and Flow: So many, many little tiny details the game does to put you near things or facing things or next to optional missions and so on and so on…
  19. Guidance and Flow: …earning a full…
  20. Guidance and Flow: …three positives
  21. HUD: General. Clean, easy to see, useful
  22. Hyperbeam Moment: Poleto Heist. Good lord, hahaha
  23. Interface: General
  24. Interface: GPS
  25. Intro: Good variety of gameplay and nice pacing and intensity, without outstaying its welcome
  26. Intro: Tutorialization
  27. Kit: Guns in general
  28. Lighting: The lighting design in this game is bonkers good, some of the best I’ve seen in gaming…
  29. Lighting: …earning an easy…
  30. Lighting: …three positives
  31. Map: Generally good and useful map
  32. Mid Mission Checkpoints: Very good mid mission checkpoints, not just having good placement but good ‘resetting’ in some missions (and usually refilling your health too)…
  33. Mid Mission Checkpoints: …for an easy…
  34. Mid Mission Checkpoints: …three positives
  35. Minigame: Tennis
  36. Minigame: Golf
  37. Minimap: Useful in general
  38. Minimap: And also dynamic
  39. MSQ: Agency infiltration mission
  40. MSQ: First Solomon mission; Drive, stealth, fight, fly
  41. MSQ: Longshoreman mission
  42. MSQ: Madrazo’s plane crash
  43. MSQ: Prep work in general (very dynamic in many cases)
  44. MSQ: Robbing the kids’ supercars
  45. MSQ: The final bundle of Michael’s quests, up to and including the drug trip
  46. MSQ: The first ‘mission’ as Franklin; Great tutorial for driving, special abilities, losing cops, and the GPS system
  47. MSQ: The jewelry store heist is a bit simple compared to later ones, but still good and still fun
  48. MSQ: The mid air nab
  49. MSQ: The Nuke heist
  50. MSQ: The second mission as Franklin. Shooting, tension, dynamic driving run-down, again good tutorialization
  51. MSQ: The train heist has a lot of little details to make it better
  52. MSQ: The Yacht mission. Very, very well designed for such a scripted mission, lots of ways it can go thanks to the dynamic stretch of events
  53. MSQ: Three’s Company and rescuing the poor guy from the Agency
  54. MSQ: Trevor and torching the meth lab
  55. MSQ: Trevor’s initial missions do some good tutorialization for his ability, and the style of missions he leans on (shootouts against large numbers of enemies)
  56. Music: Great music for missions, scenes, moments, even some individual vehicles…
  57. Music: …for two positives
  58. Dynamic Music: Also the dynamic music, which changes based on tempo, action, or scene…
  59. Dynamic Music: …for another two positives
  60. Options: Generally good options
  61. Overworld: City, Center
  62. Overworld: City, Center
  63. Overworld: City, Center
  64. Overworld: City, Middle
  65. Overworld: City, Middle
  66. Overworld: City, Middle
  67. Overworld: City, Outer
  68. Overworld: City, Outer
  69. Overworld: City, Outer
  70. Overworld: Desert
  71. Overworld: Desert
  72. Overworld: Desert
  73. Overworld: Hills
  74. Overworld: Hills
  75. Overworld: Hills
  76. Pacing: The game is just brilliantly paced front to back, with different types of missions, built in breather segments between missions, most sequences not taking too long or too short to start the next one…
  77. Pacing: …effortlessly earning…
  78. Pacing: …three positives
  79. Penalty For Failure: Same as usual, but still decent
  80. QoL: General
  81. Replayability: I mean I love replaying this game in general
  82. Save System: Hard saves, quicksaves and autosaves as per usual…
  83. Save System: …for two positives
  84. Secondary: Adrenaline missions
  85. Secondary: Bridges
  86. Secondary: Paparazzi
  87. Secondary: Races
  88. Secondary: Rampages
  89. Secondary: Stunt jumps
  90. Secondary: Tow missions
  91. Sound Design: Very, very good sound design…
  92. Sound Design: …for two positives
  93. Traversal: Bike, truck, plane, boat. These all play and feel and work a bit differently than each other and all feel very fun to go through…
  94. Traversal: …for a full…
  95. Traversal: …three positives
  96. Traversal: Cars are above and beyond. Traveling is just a treat in this game…
  97. Traversal: …earning it…
  98. Traversal: …three positives
  99. Tutorialization: Mostly unobtrusive and built into the game
  100. Viscerality: I mean, yeah
  101. Visual Continuity: Lots and lots of great landmark and camera design to always help you navigate even if you have no map, no minimap, and no GPS…
  102. Visual Continuity: …earning itself…
  103. Visual Continuity: …three positives
  104. Visual Distinction: Very, very good visual distinction, very rarely does it make things difficult to distinguish…
  105. Visual Distinction: …for two positives
  106. MSQ: It’s a simple, set piece chase mission, but chasing Molly around the airport is very fun
  107. MSQ: The Bureau Raid is one of the best missions in the game. Best part is, it’s TWO missions. We either go in super hard, or super quiet, and both are brilliantly built…
  108. MSQ: …earning it two positives for one
  109. MSQ: And then there’s the other two Bureau mission positives…
  110. MSQ: …for another two positives
  111. MSQ: Another fantastic mission with escaping from the feds… and the feds… aaand the other feds… and Merryweather
  112. MSQ: The Big One is, just like the previous Heist, is really great mission… or rather, two missions. I can’t possibly do them justice in text so just trust me that the ‘loud’ option is great…
  113. MSQ: …for two positives
  114. MSQ: Then the ‘quiet’ option is just as awesome…
  115. MSQ: …for another two positives
  116. Outro: The final shootout in the steel mill is very well designed. Good layout, all three people, great positioning, good events…
  117. Outro: …easily earning two positives
  118. Outro: I also love the way the final three assassinations let you approach them however you want to
  119. Cosmetics: It’s not much but the car cosmetics are still pretty good

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. MTX: Shoving GTA Online into our faces right up front on the start page
  2. Secondary: Hang outs are dull, dreary, and boring…
  3. Secondary: …and worse, are near mandatory for some fantastic story elements
  4. Secondary: Robbing cars is also pretty damned dull…
  5. Secondary: …for another two negatives
  6. Graphics: Blurry blurgh (rampages, focus modes) which leads to wonderfully headache inducing moments
  7. Bug: Occasional Taxi issues (just not showing up or saying it will but then cancelling and so on)
  8. Secondary: Collectathons (Playing Cards, Spaceship Parts, Letter Scraps, Submarine Parts, Peyote). They’re just plain not fun, and there’s way too many of them in way too large of an area and it’s just… awful…
  9. Secondary: …earning it…
  10. Secondary: …three negatives
  11. Prime Opt: The entire ‘wait 10 days’ quest is absolutely awful for a lot of reasons. You cannot switch characters for extended periods of time, cannot do activities or missions, and just sitting and waiting takes eight HOURS of real time, or of course you just sleep… 40 times… in a row…
  12. Prime Opt: …earning it…
  13. Prime Opt: …three negatives
  14. Info In Game: Accidentally starting missions. It happens infrequently but more than a few times
  15. Walkthroughitis: Good luck finding all the content without one
  16. Prime Opt: So then there’s running through the desert for 5 miles. It took about 30 minutes real time. Do I even need to explain this nonsense? This quest…
  17. Prime Opt: …earns an easy…
  18. Prime Opt: …three negatives
  19. MSQ: Getting on the damned train (and some related issues in that mission)
  20. Difficulty Curve: While only periodic, here and there the (semi-forced) lack of armor and the ‘low health’ problem can be an issue
  21. Secondary: The real estate side quests (especially those damned signs)
  22. Permanently Skippable Content: There’s plenty
  23. Overly Skippable Cutscenes: Same issue as in previous GTAs, if less so
  24. Outro: So Ending B is the first mission in the game that’s railroaded in a bad way, and it’s not great
  25. Outro: Ending A honestly suffers from the same general problem

Ace Combat 7

More issues and problems than 0, but more quality and fun too. Still recommended, and I still had a lot of fun with it. Definitely worth it if you’re hungering for some more arcade flight sims.
Type Of Review: Familiar Run
Total Story Score: +6
Total Gameplay Score: +21
Golden Number: 58.26
Cheats: Yes
Total Play Time: 2 days / 13.58 Hours
Time Reviewed: 10-1-2023

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Banter: Mid-air banter, middle tier
  2. Brickwork: City
  3. Brickwork: Countryside
  4. Brickwork: Desert
  5. Character: Tabloid, Count, Princess Cosette
  6. Cutscene: The Mission 16 briefing by itself is some fantastic visual and audio storytelling
  7. Cutscenes: Briefings
  8. External Continuity: There’s a couple of cool usages of previous points (most notably Stonehenge)
  9. Level: 10… “Not that it was a load worth protecting”
  10. Level: 16. The tone and atmosphere of mission 16 itself is just great
  11. Moment: (sand storm, the Arsenal Gear’s reveal, the squad beating the misinformation
  12. Plot: War campaign
  13. Voice Acting: When it’s good it’s good
  14. World Building: Comes close to really developing the world a lot, but still close enough for a positive
  15. Plot: I actually like the dynamic between the princess, the granddaughters, and the evil scientist
  16. Outro: Okay I do like bits of the Outro narratively. Not the ending, but the build up, final mission, and final climb up the elevator are great moments
  17. Character: Captain Torres and his voice actor are honestly pretty good, selling the madman
  18. Doodads: Generally good doodads, especially in the cityscapes

Story Negatives:

  1. Character: The penal base commander. He’s already abrasive, but could have worked with a bit more polish, and instead he’s Udina or any other Obstinate Bureaucrat all over again
  2. Consequence Storytelling: Okay so we’re being accused of killing the (former) President Cargo
  3. Cutscenes: In betweens (bad narration, bad editing, lack of relevance)
  4. Dialogue: It’s either dialogue or localization but there’s several issues here
  5. Empty Text: Top tier mid air banter
  6. Plot: Way too many concurrent plots. Feels a bit kitchen-sinky and each one loses focus and interest as a result
  7. Theme: Did you know that information and misinformation ruuule the battlefield?
  8. Writing: So everything about the penal squadron doesn’t really work as written. They need to do something with them (of which there’s a lot they could do) but instead we’re just regularly abused and then on to the next mission
  9. Plot: Why in the world is the junk yard queen even in this game?
  10. Cutscene: The entire Cosette ‘dies’ missile cutscene is weirdly contrived (and then undone!)
  11. Outro: The game whitewashes… a lot because it’s trying to wrap things up, and Mihaly and Dr. Evil getting ‘good’ endings is… not great. This is in addition to several other weird decisions at the end (Tabloid dying almost ‘off camera’, and trying way too hard to wrap up too quickly among other things)
  12. Writing: DLC All the weird nonsense surrounding the two ‘bat’ rival aces

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Controls: Honestly controls just as well as 5 and 0…
  2. Controls: …earning two positives
  3. Enemy AI: Usual good stuff
  4. HUD: When it’s visible it’s good
  5. Interface: ACMR
  6. Intro: Good opening sequence of missions
  7. Kit: Parts are a nice additional customization option
  8. Kit: Planes, as per usual…
  9. Kit: Weapons continue to have good variety and kit
  10. Kit: …for the usual two positives
  11. Level: 11 is a bog standard points mission which could be improved in several ways, buuut it does have that core destroy mechanic which rewards precision with mass kills and points
  12. Level: 12 is a fairly simple mission but the ground troops actually being worth a damn and the encounter with Arsenal helps keep things varied
  13. Level: 13 and the bombing, followed shortly by the high-paced IRBM missile chase
  14. Level: 16 and the blackout. It’s one of the more memorable missions in the game and does some good stuff with unit placement
  15. Level: 17. More blackout, but better spread of objectives
  16. Level: 3, and the first assault on the Arsenal Bird
  17. Level: 4, radar dodging (and shortcuts), ground, and drones
  18. Level: 5, swarm for a bit, then take on the bombers
  19. Level: 7. While it has frustrations, it’s well checkpointed and the gimmick of the wind, clouds, and lightning is actually pretty neat
  20. Level: 8. The initial is a milk run to set you up for the follow-through; chasing down targets in a dust storm
  21. Level: 9. Starts off as a tense gradient avoidance canyon mission and then turns into a nice moment followed by super weapon avoidance shots
  22. Minimap: Still good stuff
  23. Music: Yep…
  24. Music: …yep
  25. NG+: Usual
  26. Sound Design: Combat barks
  27. Viscerality: The game finally feels, sounds, and looks visceral
  28. Song: Daredevil
  29. Boss: The second Arsenal Bird boss fight is awesome
  30. Outro: Okay yeah that final encounter wasn’t too shabby, and I rather liked the final trench run
  31. Core Mechanics: New buff/debuff mechanic with DLC
  32. Level: DLC 1, with the massive dogfight that develops and evolves as it goes
  33. Level: DLC 2, with the free for all doom
  34. Level: DLC 3, which is both unique and contains…
  35. Boss: …an awesome boss fight
  36. Replayability: Generally replayable, plus unlocks and optional stuff

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Audio Spam: Missile. Missile. Missile
  2. Boss: The first super drone. The thing shrugged off 40 missiles like it was nothing, and is bullcrap on every level, but good luck dealing with it if you weren’t prepped, and apparently is designed around using the gun sight which also didn’t work at all
  3. Bug: Crashes
  4. HUD: Related to the lighting
  5. Interface: The entire tech tree has lots of issues with control and readability
  6. Kit: So the tech tree is… not well designed top to bottom. Pricing is wrong, layout is wrong, unlocking per plane is wrong, and no resell / rebuy / respec is wrong
  7. Level: 14 and binary difficulty (instant pass/fail on both halves of the mission) and the arbitrary time limit in the second half
  8. Level: 6. Not a super well designed point mission, and built to screw you over if you over-spec or build the wrong way, and even with a good setup it’s easy to fail and have to start the entire mission over
  9. Level: Points missions in general are juuust irritating enough to, as a group, qualify for a negative
  10. Lighting: Good lord
  11. NG+: Mandated new game plus
  12. Options: Lack thereof (rebinding in particular)
  13. MTX: Overpowered drone microtransactions which are available from the beginning (and for multiplayer)
  14. Boss: The duel boss with the bats is legitimately headache inducing; prolonged fight up in very bright areas while constantly having blinking irritation
  15. Mid Mission Checkpoint: The DLC specifically has long, long stretches between checkpoints

Batman Arkham City

While it has issues common to the franchise, this is still a great game and absolutely worth playing, even by itself. Fun combat, fun predator segments, great story that uses the Batman mythos well, with good voice acting and presentation.
Type Of Review: Familiar Run
Total Story Score: +29
Total Gameplay Score: +27
Golden Number: 138.81
Cheats: Yes (Harley DLC)
Total Play Time: 3 days / 13 Hours
Time Reviewed: 10-6-2023

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Atmosphere: Love the overall atmosphere
  2. Babylon 5 Effect: The Joker and Clayface
  3. Banter: Usual good thug banter in the background
  4. Brickwork: City
  5. Brickwork: Mill
  6. Brickwork: Museum
  7. Brickwork: Underground
  8. Character: Bats. I mean, come on
  9. Character: Catwoman gets at least a little chance to shine here
  10. Character: Generally good supporting cast
  11. Character: Hugo Strange, his gigantic ego, and his constant need to prove himself
  12. Character: Joker, at his Jokeriest. Everything about him here is great…
  13. Character: …earning two positives
  14. Character: Penguin gets bonus points for being my favorite portrayal of the character
  15. Cutscene: The opening cutscene is well told and well presented
  16. Dialogue: Periodic good dialogue
  17. Doodads: Generally good doodads…
  18. Doodads: …for two positives
  19. External Continuity: Does a good job of connecting to Arkham Asylum
  20. Foreshadowing: Lots of great foreshadowing, especially regarding Strange and Ra’s
  21. Internal Continuity: Keeps very tight track of its own events
  22. Intro: Top notch Intro, very good at establishing tone, premise, setup…
  23. Intro: …and what Bruce is in for
  24. Moment: The thugs debating if they should shoot Bats after Harley abandons him
  25. MSQ: The entire Protocol 10 sequence
  26. MSQ: The entire Ra’s arc
  27. Music Direction: Great usage throughout
  28. Plot: Good initial premise; What the City is, why we’re here, why we don’t want to leave
  29. Story Sequencing: Events follow a generally logical path
  30. Storytelling Mechanic: Joker’s voice mails
  31. Visual Storytelling: Suit
  32. Voice Acting: Bats… RIP Kevin Conroy
  33. Voice Acting: General
  34. Voice Acting: Joker, and possibly Hamill’s best performance
  35. Voice Direction: Again, generally good

Story Negatives:

  1. Character: DLC Harley Quinn is just… raked over the coals in this one, but regardless of how she’s utilized relative to her in other canon, she’s just a bad one-note character here
  2. Outro: DLC Harley Quinn’s outro is just a nothing burger
  3. Secondary: Generally lackluster side quests
  4. Character: Talia. Not as bad as Harley but getting there
  5. Dialogue: Periodic bad dialogue
  6. Fake Drama: Why are we fighting Freeze again?

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Boss: Mr. Freeze. The best boss fight in the series perhaps entirely because it’s not a boss fight mechanically, but a predator encounter, with lots of variety and options and fantastic design to him, the room, and even the HUD…
  2. Boss: …earning…
  3. Boss: …a full three positives
  4. Boss: Ra’s al Gul is a bit simple, but fun
  5. Boss: Solomon Grundy, died on a monday
  6. Core Combat: Probably some of the best the franchise has seen, with good lockon, comboing, and general fun…
  7. Core Combat: …for two positives
  8. Core Mechanic: Predator segments are also very well designed, with good kit, layout, and options…
  9. Core Mechanic: …for two positives
  10. Encounter Design: A lot of thought is put into the specifics of what you encounter, with what, and where…
  11. Encounter Design: …for two positives
  12. Enemy Design: Generally good design
  13. Enemy Variety: Generally good variety
  14. Flow: The flow of the game is quite fluid, as it should be for a Batman game
  15. Guidance: Generally good Guidance, especially in side activities
  16. Kit: Between moveset and gear we’ve got a decent kit…
  17. Kit: …for two positives
  18. Level: General platforming
  19. Mid Mission Checkpoints: Great checkpoints, frequent, and refilling…
  20. Mid Mission Checkpoints: …for two positives
  21. Music: Bit different than Origins, but still very good movies vibe…
  22. Music: …for two positives
  23. Music: Dynamic music as situations escalate
  24. Outro: Decent enough final encounter and boss
  25. Overworld: Probably the best designed overworld in the franchise, with great layout, flow, placement, density, and navigation…
  26. Overworld: …for a full…
  27. Overworld: …three positives
  28. Princess Peach Segments: Catwoman sequences
  29. Terrain: General
  30. Terrain: Mr. Freeze’s fight alone gets bonus points for terrain design (but also for the Predator encounters)
  31. Traversal: While not the best, it’s still fun to zoom around Arkham City
  32. Tutorialization: Opening few moments; Combat, movement, platforming, combos
  33. Viscerality: Yep
  34. Visual Continuity: Pretty easy and smooth to navigate visually
  35. Visual Distinction: Good usage of color and outlines
  36. Minigame: Challenge mode and related alternate playables

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Bug: Crashes
  2. Difficulty Options: Lazy difficulty
  3. Kit: DLC: Forced removal of kit (upgrades)
  4. MSQ: Binary stealth section with Catwoman
  5. Outro: DLC: The Outro is really, really dull
  6. Padding: DLC: Health padding issues and enemy damage issues
  7. Secondary: Collectathon issues as usual
  8. Secondary: Generally lackluster side content throughout
  9. Secondary: Zsasz’s phone quests and how you can’t interact with them in combat, and the RNG dependency related thereto

Dragon's Dogma

A very flawed First Game with a near total absence of story, but the core gameplay loop is fun and it has a lot of great mechanics, bosses, and encounters. Definitely worth a playthrough if you haven’t had the opportunity to do so, though no judgment if you decide to bow out during the final dungeon.
Type Of Review: Familiar Run
Total Story Score: +1
Total Gameplay Score: +16
Golden Number: 31.97
Cheats: Yes (Bitterblack Isle grind avoidance)
Total Play Time: 4 days / 28.1 Hours
Time Reviewed: 10-13-2023

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Atmosphere: Night time
  2. Background Lore: A fair bit of it
  3. Brickwork: General
  4. Character: The Duke, arguably the only character in the game
  5. Characters: Supporting cast
  6. NPC Set Dressing: Schedule, NPCs
  7. Voice Acting: General
  8. World Building: World falling apart
  9. Lighting: While issues exist gameplay wise, the dark lighting really adds to night time ambiance

Story Negatives:

  1. Cutscene Incompetence: Why in the world do we just… stare at the cult leader massacring people. For like a solid minute. This is not an isolated incident, in fact in essentially every cutscene where the main character is present has cutscene incompetence…
  2. Cutscene Incompetence: …for two negatives
  3. Dialogue: There’s some issues here and there
  4. Plot: Or lack thereof
  5. Writing: Romance! (or lack thereof… the quest chain is clearly unfinished)
  6. Pacing: Kingdom Hearts Syndrome. Way, way too much story is backloaded to the very end of the game
  7. Outro: The narrative just sort of… fumbles pretty hard at the ending
  8. Empty Text: Honestly most of the game’s dialogue is empty text

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Boss: First Cyclops and Hydra fights
  2. Boss: Grigori has some jank and some issues but it’s still a good fight
  3. Boss: The Griffin fight
  4. Character Creator: Pretty well designed overall…
  5. Character Creator: …for two positives
  6. Controls: Mouse and Keyboard works weirdly well, with a lot of thought put into it
  7. Core Combat: General quality. Fun, neat core loop…
  8. Core Combat: …earning two positives
  9. Core Combat: Grappling and climbing and weak spots
  10. Core Mechanic: Pawns in general
  11. Core Mechanic: Pawns customization, selection
  12. Core Mechanic: Pawns learning, AI control
  13. Cosmetics: A few
  14. Difficulty: Variant spawns and stats at night time
  15. Fast Travel: Thanks to the DLC, ferrystones are suddenly much more legit
  16. HUD: Decent
  17. Info In Game: Generally good information on equipment and what it does, as well as spells and abilities
  18. Interface: Quest tracker
  19. Intro: Taste of power
  20. Kit: Fighter
  21. Kit: Archer
  22. Kit: Mage
  23. Kit: Warrior
  24. Kit: Ranger
  25. Kit: Sorcerer
  26. Kit: Assassin
  27. Kit: Magick Archer
  28. Kit: Magick Archer
  29. Kit: Mystic Knight
  30. Level: General level design
  31. Level: The Shadow Fort
  32. Level: The Watergod’s Altar
  33. Minigame: Speedrun Mode
  34. Music: When it’s there, it’s good
  35. NG+: Exists and carries over some basic stuff
  36. Pacing: Core loop
  37. Party AI: When they’re smart, the Pawns are actually pretty useful
  38. QoL: General
  39. Respec: Ability to swap classes from the inn
  40. Secondary: Escorting Symone
  41. Sound Design: Feedback and usefulness
  42. Starter Options: Gameplay relevance
  43. Viscerality: Decent
  44. Level: DLC BBI, general
  45. Encounter: DLC BBI, general
  46. Boss: DLC BBI, general
  47. Crafting: Reasonably good interface for what makes what and discovery thereof, and generally worthwhile
  48. Encounter: Generally well designed encounter design
  49. Enemy Design: Generally well designed enemies
  50. Enemy AI: Good when it’s good
  51. Enemy Variety: Decent spread
  52. Minimap: Despite the map issues, the minimap is consistently helpful and useful
  53. Replayability: Generally replayable

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Audio Spam: No, not from the Pawns (that’s toggleable) but from the friggin’ vendors
  2. Controls: Controller controls aren’t great
  3. Core Mechanic: Pawn management and clumsiness (and limitations… only get to make ONE pawn)
  4. Difficulty Options: Lazy difficulty
  5. Info In Game: A lot of mechanics and features are just totally unexplained
  6. Interface: Near total lack of filter and search options for Pawn finding
  7. Interface: Quests can only be tracked individually, then have to be manually checked on the map, individually
  8. Lighting: It is just… not easy to see, with or without a lantern, at night and in dungeons
  9. MSQ: The Hydra head escort quest. It’s arduously slow, has no mid-mission checkpoints, takes forever, the cart can die relatively easily (though you can heal it), it has flying enemies (though you can bring anti air), and worst of all; it’s mandatory. This is the worst damned quest in the game…
  10. MSQ: …for a full…
  11. MSQ: …three negatives
  12. Music: No Music problem
  13. NG+: Forced NG+ and forced deletion of old saves
  14. Pacing: Healing and the clunkiness of having to enter menuing to emergency heal (or wait a while for a cast)
  15. Padding: A lot of it… like a whole lot…
  16. Padding: …so much of it
  17. Party AI: Irritating when it sucks
  18. Permanently Missable Content: More than a little, including entire quest chains
  19. QoL: No wait feature outside of inns
  20. Save: One save slot (functionally)
  21. Save: One save slot (seriously, even when this game came out it was unacceptable)
  22. Save: Saving can be done manually but auto over-rides so… screw you
  23. Secondary: Escort board Tasks can go directly to hell
  24. Seconds In Minutes: Not as bad as some games but there’s a fair bit of it here or there, mostly with menuing or interactions with the world
  25. Terrain: Cliffside woes alongside jank
  26. Traversal: Or lack thereof
  27. Traversal: Stamina is reasonably designed… for combat, and TERRIBLY designed for traversal, leaving one better off just straight up walking half the time, especially for longer trips
  28. Walkthroughitis: Several instances of ‘uhhh’ with regards to quest design
  29. Level: DLC BBI, bullcrap
  30. Outro: Repeat dungeons and fights
  31. Outro: The plummeting ‘mechanic’ is awful. It’s not super clear where is what, it’s hard to find the specific level you get, there’s some RNG in actually getting it, the ‘control’ is jank…
  32. Outro: …it sucks
  33. Outro: The total lack of map and guidance in the aforementioned last dungeon is just awful
  34. Crafting: Frustrations and irritations with the menuing and functionality of crafting
  35. Map: Periodic issues where its unhelpful and/or unclear, and weird to navigate
  36. Kit: Sorcerer and early game hell
  37. Raspberry Jam: Yeah it’s there, and it sucks as per usual

God of War 5 Ragnarok

We played the PS4 version for this review. An extremely good story (in fact, the highest story score I’ve given to date), with good, very well presented story… wrapped in a very mid game that’s just kind of there. I still recommend it.
Type Of Review: Familiar Run
Total Story Score: +127
Total Gameplay Score: +3
Golden Number: 156.24
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 5 days / 35.15 Hours
Time Reviewed: 10-17-2023

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Animation: The motion capture and animation for every character in every scene is just fantastic…
  2. Animation: …for an easy…
  3. Animation: …triple positives
  4. Background Lore: Poems, lore tidbits
  5. Camera: Obviously the ‘continuous camera’ is excellent but is also well used for basically every single scene…
  6. Camera: …getting…
  7. Camera: …three positives
  8. Cutscene: Atreus’ first confrontation with Heimdall and Odin
  9. Cutscene: Everything… just everything about Odin’s walk and talk with Atreus is an absolute masterclass in establishing Odin and how horrific and manipulative he really is…
  10. Cutscene: …earning two positives by itself
  11. Cutscene: Odin’s introduction. Odin comes in and establishes himself immediately; the southern mob boss who is certainly a big fish, but puffs himself up more than he needs to all the same
  12. Cutscene: So there’s a slow build up leading to the creation of Draupnir, between Brok’s missing piece of his soul as well as the form and nature dichotomy, which pays off beautifully with the creation of the spear and Kratos, respectfully, asks Brok to bless it… the whole thing is great build up and pay off…
  13. Cutscene: …for a triple…
  14. Cutscene: …positive
  15. Dialogue: The sheer quality of the dialogue is difficult to over-emphasize how well written it is. No over-stating, no as-you-know, just… bypassing the dozens of writing snafus most writing falls into…
  16. Dialogue: …once again earning…
  17. Dialogue: …three positives
  18. Doodads: Brok and Sindri’s place
  19. Doodads: Dwarven town
  20. Doodads: Odin’s area
  21. Doodads: General
  22. Foreshadowing: Anti war, surprised ‘she lied’, immediately needs time away from party, buttering up Atreus, immediately picking at the Baldur wounds with Freya (and use it to further his agenda), speech patterns, where did he hear the name Loki, all earning…
  23. Foreshadowing: …three…
  24. Foreshadowing: …positives
  25. Humor: Atreus and Sindri
  26. Intro: Freya, setting, loss
  27. Lighting: Generally decent lighting
  28. Moment: Angrboda and her grandmother, followed immediately by the release
  29. Moment: Atreus being ganged up on by all the adults and his subsequent breakdown
  30. Moment: Atreus the bear, Kratos’ resentment for his departed wife, and his fear of once again being the General
  31. Moment: Atreus’ first confrontation with Freya. The lighting, the camera, Atreus keeps getting closer as he convinces her before she rushes him off, the whole deal
  32. Moment: Fenrir’s passing. Kratos, quiet but firm, and Atreus holding back tears
  33. Moment: Freya finally coming to grips with the fact that there is no ‘making it better’ but instead just… living with it. No forgiveness, no hatred… no regret, and no apology…
  34. Moment: …earning two positives
  35. Moment: Kratos and Atreus’ reunion
  36. Moment: Kratos carrying Freyr to safety while still being the best DPS in the group
  37. Moment: Kratos finally… finally finally chooses to change, embraces his son, and apologizes
  38. Moment: Kratos waking up from his nightmare and calling his axe to him in the process
  39. Moment: Then a separate positive for the revelation of the mask, the tear, and Odin’s obsession
  40. MSQ: Atreus and Agrboda’s sequence, while it has issues, is still legitimately adorable
  41. Music Direction: Generally good music direction
  42. Plot: The way Odin set up the dominos to completely manipulate Atreus is brilliant.
  43. Prime Opt: Freya’s closure after being freed
  44. Princess Peach Segment: Multiple as Atreus
  45. Secondary: Mimir trying desperately to free the whale, ‘failing’, but also ‘succeeding’
  46. Secondary: Releasing the desert jellyfish and, more importantly, Kratos and Atreus bonding
  47. Secondary: Too many to list but the little side ‘favor’ quests are actually pretty legit. The woman and her garden, the friends lost to corruptive magic, the father and son…
  48. Secondary: …all honestly great stuff…
  49. Secondary: …and worthy of triple positive
  50. Storyboarding: The choreography and coordination in the scenes is very, very well done and honestly helps sells a lot of the action sequences…
  51. Storyboarding: …earning itself…
  52. Storyboarding: …triple positives
  53. Storytelling Mechanic: Codex
  54. Theme: Kratos’ very real, very powerful fear is such a driving motivator for him the entire narrative. Even as everything and everyone is telling him what must be, what he himself knows to be true, he cannot accept it because he is so terrified of being that monster again
  55. Voice Direction: So many tiny nuances and usages of the voice direction throughout…
  56. Voice Direction: …earning itself…
  57. Voice Direction: …three positives
  58. Writing: General writing quality is top notch with so, so few issues…
  59. Writing: …earning itself…
  60. Writing: …three positives
  61. Moment: Thor’s relapse is exactly as tragic as it should be
  62. Bablyon 5 Effect: Tyr and the related reveal
  63. Moment: “Tyr” finally revealing his hand is a tense, powerful scene and a great payoff…
  64. Moment: …worth two positives by itself
  65. Moment: But then Brok’s cessation… his final words to Sindri… and Sindri can’t even speak
  66. Moment: Atreus’ dead voice as they go hunting, the hunt itself…
  67. Moment: …and Kratos interrupting the hunt, no more pointless killing, no more bleeding
  68. Moment: For as dull as the battle was, the valkyries were a great showcasing of storytelling; Their false blessings from Odin not helping them, Atreus and Kratos dual raging
  69. Moment: Kratos finally reaching out to Thor, and Thor’s death
  70. Outro: Odin’s final speechifying and talking his way around the situation
  71. Outro: Sindri’s final act against Odin
  72. Outro: Kratos and Atreus’ final farewell
  73. Outro: Brok’s funeral
  74. Banter: Kratos, Atreus, Mimir, Atreus, Sindri, and Freya…
  75. Banter: …for two positives
  76. Brickwork: Midgard
  77. Brickwork: The realm between realms
  78. Brickwork: Wetlands bog
  79. Brickwork: Mines
  80. Brickwork: Alfheim
  81. Brickwork: Vanaheim
  82. Brickwork: Asgard
  83. Brickwork: Helheim
  84. Brickwork: Niflheim
  85. Brickwork: Muspelheim
  86. External Continuity: Very well uses both 4 and the original trilogy…
  87. External Continuity: …for a full…
  88. External Continuity: …three positives
  89. Characters: Kratos
  90. Characters: Kratos
  91. Characters: Kratos
  92. Characters: Atreus
  93. Characters: Atreus
  94. Characters: Mimir
  95. Characters: Mimir
  96. Characters: Freya
  97. Characters: Odin
  98. Characters: Odin
  99. Characters: Brok
  100. Characters: Sindri
  101. Characters: Sindri
  102. Characters: Heimdall
  103. Characters: Thor
  104. Characters: Thor
  105. Characters: Hildisvini
  106. Characters: Surtr
  107. Characters: Lunda
  108. Voice Acting: Kratos
  109. Voice Acting: Kratos
  110. Voice Acting: Kratos
  111. Voice Acting: Atreus
  112. Voice Acting: Mimir
  113. Voice Acting: Brok
  114. Voice Acting: Sindri
  115. Voice Acting: Sindri
  116. Voice Acting: Freya
  117. Voice Acting: Freya
  118. Voice Acting: Odin
  119. Voice Acting: Odin
  120. Voice Acting: Heimdall
  121. Voice Acting: General 1
  122. Voice Acting: General 2
  123. Voice Acting: General 3
  124. Theme: Parenthood & children
  125. Visual Storytelling: Everything to do with Odin’s appearance
  126. Visual Storytelling: Heimdall’s fighting style
  127. Background Lore: Various boat conversations, with Mimir and Freya especially…
  128. Background Lore: …for two positives
  129. Secondary: Birgir and Chaurli in post game
  130. Consequence Storytelling: And quite a bit of it…
  131. Consequence Storytelling: …for two positives
  132. Internal Continuity: The pieces line up pretty well across the whole game…
  133. Internal Continuity: ..for a good double positive
  134. World Building: Lots of good stuff to flesh out the setting in general and out of the Norselands in specific

Story Negatives:

  1. Pacing: The Jotunheim section drags on a wee bit too much and includes a bit too much ‘better come take a look at this’ dialogue
  2. Padding: Aaand the Jotunheim section has a bit too much filler going against it
  3. Moment: Birgir’s completely pointless sacrifice scene is unearned and is weirdly badly constructed, given the rest of the story
  4. Moment: The initial charge into Asgard falls flat for a lot of reasons; No real prep time, typical Hollywood ‘chaaarge’ without thought, and forcing a ‘we lose dire moment’ without earning it
  5. Writing: The overall mis-use of Ragnarok just… doesn’t work, and worse, doesn’t pay off properly
  6. Outro: It’s hard to put it into words but parts of the overall ending just don’t… land. The pacing is all off, the tone feels like it should hit but it … doesn’t, which is very strange in a game that nails execution so well
  7. Overly Skippable Cutscenes: Lots of moments where you have to stand and wait lest the game cut off or talk over itself

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Boss: The first actually good boss fight in the game; Heimdall. Actual proper game mechanics, not the ‘guided tour’ the rest of the game has been practicing, nice phase design, good stuff all around…
  2. Boss: …for two positives
  3. Core Combat: Companion mechanics
  4. Difficulty Options: Able to change difficulty on the fly
  5. Enemy Variety: Decent enemy variety
  6. Guidance and Flow: Sidequest chaining
  7. Intro: Navigation, loot, enemies, and a good tutorial boss
  8. Kit: Moves and relics
  9. Kit: Weapons and variety thereof
  10. Itemization: Set bonuses and mutators
  11. Level: Actually good level design in Atreus’ segment leading up to his confrontation with Freya
  12. Options: Further acknowledgement for the sheer depth and quality of the accessibility options on top of the basic options…
  13. Options: …easily earning…
  14. Options: …three positives
  15. Options: Some of the best general options I’ve seen in gaming, with incredible variety and customization across the board…
  16. Options: …for another…
  17. Options: …three positives
  18. Princess Peach Segment: Atreus segments (noticeably different playstyle)
  19. QoL: Chest that gathers loot you might have left behind, among others
  20. QoL: Too many to list, but there’s a lot…
  21. QoL: …for three positives
  22. Save System: Save within a sequence at will
  23. Tutorialization: Ability previews and demonstrations in the select screen
  24. Viscerality: Visuals…
  25. Viscerality: …and sound
  26. Hyperbear Moment: Saving Sindri
  27. Outro: The final boss fight with Odin is actually a legitimately well designed, awesome fight (both phases even)…
  28. Outro: …and worthy of two positives
  29. NG+: Decent new game plus…
  30. NG+: …which carries forward most all of your stuff
  31. Animations: Generally good animations indicating attacks
  32. Mid-Mission Checkpoints: Generally decent

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Difficulty Options: Lazy difficulty
  2. Map: Irritating to see and generally unhelpful for anything other than marking quests…
  3. Map: …earning two negatives
  4. Core Combat: Generally disinteresting
  5. Controls: The game’s tank controls kiiiinda suck…
  6. Controls: …for two negatives
  7. Camera: Irritating camera for combat (especially trash)
  8. Pacing: Several issues with gameplay pacing…
  9. Pacing: …earning two negatives
  10. Guidance & Flow: Guys please SHUT UP about telling me the solution to puzzles 3 seconds into them showing up. This is probably the single most irritating thing in the entire game…
  11. Guidance & Flow: …earning itself…
  12. Guidance & Flow: …three negatives
  13. Guidance & Flow: : Also the helpful barks are wrong twice; They give too much info when it’s not needed and not enough (or unhelpful) info when it is
  14. Visual Navigation: Or lack thereof
  15. Backtracking: Lots and lots of dull backtracking…
  16. Backtracking: …for two negatives
  17. Collectathons: That hide lore behind them, even
  18. Trash Design: Some of the worst trash design I’ve seen in recent memory. Lots of trash, not spreading it out properly, not designed well enough, and completely hurts the tempo and pacing…
  19. Trash Design: …for two (three?) negatives
  20. Bug: Many bugs (Atreus getting stuck, falling through the terrain, rendering issues)
  21. Walkthroughitis: Post game tidbits
  22. Difficulty Curve: Some weird lurches in difficulty
  23. Encounter: Generally lackluster encounter design
  24. Visual Distinction: Legitimate issues telling where I was and what I was looking at…
  25. Visual Continuity: …for double negatives
  26. Padding: The game has… a lot of padding. Like, a lot a lot, from encounters to ‘puzzles’ to all kinds of crap, but where it’s really bad…
  27. Seconds In Minutes: …is in the seconds in minutes. Animations, having to tilt the camera to see what we can already interact with, slow walks, forced control removal…
  28. Seconds In Minutes: …for a full…
  29. Seconds In Minutes: …three negatives

Super Mario 64 DS

While it fails a bit compared to the original (the d-pad doesn’t gel with several people, and the graphics are eye straining) but otherwise the many, many changes to under-the-hood code, flight, power ups, playable characters, levels, and new content push this above the original for me. Definitely a Proper Remake and definitely worth a playthrough.
Type Of Review: Familiar Run
Total Story Score: +4
Total Gameplay Score: +22
Golden Number: 58.30
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 3 days / 13.98 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-4-2023

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Brickwork: General
  2. Sound: Delightful and adds to the…
  3. Atmosphere: …Usual fun stuff
  4. Outro: The ending continues the Mario ending streak of being simple but good

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Minigame: Early face drawing and manipulation
  2. Intro: Castle Courtyard. Honestly it’s a nearly perfect spot to get used to the controls, the platforming, and the very concept of 3D maneuvering
  3. Music: Honestly a bit worse than the original, but still good
  4. Guidance And Flow: Star select names and hints
  5. Intro: Bob-Omb Battlefield is in many ways the perfect Intro for the game; a safe space to maneuver, lots of enemies but they all have their own different quirks that make them easy to bypass, and the very mountain itself at the middle of the battlefield mandates understanding the 3D space (and all of this is with some fun, neat puzzle-style stars)
  6. Tutorialization: Bob-Omb Battlefield also tutorializes basically everything you need to play the entire rest of the game
  7. Tutorialization: Pretty much the entire first floor does a good job of getting you where you need to be to play the rest of the game
  8. HUD: The new HUD features do some cool stuff to keep you on top of things
  9. Minimap: Generally useful for navigation, but also helpful for finding power ups, red coins, and star locations
  10. Level: Whomp’s Fortress is a good escalation on Bob Ombs and starts the beginning of the vertical level progression
  11. Level: Boo’s Mansion continues the trend of good and tight level design, with a good layout and some fun new stars, and a better level than before…
  12. Level: …for two positives
  13. Visual Continuity: In general it’s pretty easy to tell where you are relative to where you need to be
  14. Level: Jolly Roger Bay is a fun, simple water romp
  15. Level: Lethal Lava Land is honestly one of my favorite stages, with a great recovery mechanic, fun stars, a layout designed for just plain fun, and an honest to goodness mid mission checkpoint in the middle…
  16. Level: …for a full…
  17. Level: …three positives
  18. Level: Bowser in Fire Sea is good for basically the same reasons LLL is
  19. Level: Dire Dire Docks continues the trend of simple but fun
  20. Level: General positive for several individual stars which are neat periodically throughout
  21. Kit: The new power ups are a nice addition, but what really sells me is the new playable characters with their distinct abilities
  22. QoL: The ability to swap in mission or at mission select between characters (as long as you’re Yoshi) is nice
  23. Level: Wet Dry is inventive, interesting, and has some fun exploration and layout…
  24. Level: …for two positives
  25. Level: Tiny Huge is another fun gimmick level
  26. Kit: General. While lacking traditional power ups, the moveset is legit
  27. Guidance and Flow: Coins and the like indicating secrets
  28. Level: Tick Tock Clock is even better than it was before, with the usual tight fun but also additional mechanics and stage layout…
  29. Level: …for two positives
  30. All Roads Lead To Rome: In general, you can pick and choose whatever stars you want to proceed with going forwards
  31. Minigame: Some of the minigames are kinda neat
  32. Replayability: Just the same as the original version
  33. Boss: General boss design throughout, notably the new bosses
  34. Song: Dire Dire Docks
  35. Song: Bowser In The Sky

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Prime Opt: 100 coins are still a pain to get in some levels and actively aggravating and run into the Mid Mission Checkpoint issue
  2. Mid Mission Checkpoints: Mostly on later levels but still way too easy to lose all progress for one minor hiccup
  3. Graphics: Blurry, eye-hurting visuals
  4. Controls: While better in my opinion than the N64s, they’re still bad in all new ways
  5. Camera: Camera’s a bit better, but still bad
  6. Level: The upper floor levels in general have enough issues to warrant a negative
  7. Level: Rainbow Ride is still irritating, though not as much so as before
  8. Level: The Rainbow In The Sky is a special example of a truly terrible level. The flight is… better in the DS version but the penalty for failure is a colossal, aggravating time waster
  9. Outro: The final stage has its own bullcrap but the final boss can go directly to hell. It’s already problematic like the original, but add onto that the required usage of the D Pad to manage the rotations and it drifts into physically painful…
  10. Outro: …for two negatives
  11. Minigame: Getting the minigames is a pain and some of them kinda suck
  12. Core Mechanic: Physics in general. What in the world
  13. Core Mechanic: Slope physics in specific are some of the worst I’ve ever seen

Super Mario Galaxy 1

We played the Switch version, which is a bit better in controls and precision. Either way this is still an astoshingly good game, with fun and creative stages, cheerful soundtrack, and fun boss fights. Tremendously recommend giving this one a try.
Type Of Review: Familiar Run
Total Story Score: +9
Total Gameplay Score: +71
Golden Number: 206.04
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 2 days / 15.33 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-6-2023

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Intro: Great, great stuff
  2. Sound Design: Everywhere and throughout adding to the vibe and flavor
  3. Music Direction: Absolutely adds to the tone
  4. Character: Rosalina is brief but memorable for a reason
  5. Brickwork: General. Most individual levels don’t get their own brickwork positives
  6. Atmosphere: Absolutely love the joyful theme and tone to the game
  7. Prime Opt: Rosalina’s story is brilliant in its simplicity and childlike construction…
  8. Storytelling Mechanic: …and the way the story is structured like a tale, but still indicates what really happened, is legit
  9. Theme: Rebirth… the creation of the new from the bones of the old
  10. Outro: Strangely heartbreaking for all that it is

Story Negatives:

  1. Voice Acting: Inconsistent voice acting

Gameplay Positives:

  1. All Roads Lead To Rome: In general, the ability to pick and choose which stars you want to progress with (and only requiring 60 out of 120)
  2. Boss: All the Bowser fights are legit in their own right. Proper usage of the 3D space, transparent spheres with lots of pickups, and proper escalation and rule of 3
  3. Bosses: Bedroom bosses
  4. Bosses: Engine Room bosses
  5. Bosses: Fountain Bosses
  6. Bosses: Kitchen Bosses
  7. Bosses: Terrace bosses
  8. Co-Op: Co-Star Mode isn’t much, but it is something
  9. Guidance And Flow: Bits and coins to guide
  10. Guidance And Flow: Intro camera pans and title, as per usual
  11. Intro: First stage tutorial
  12. Intro: Opening area as a safe, free control-learning space
  13. Kit: Power ups are actually pretty fun, unique, and interesting in this one
  14. Kit: Spinning is, by itself, a bit of a game changer in how much it adds to your motion and maneuverability
  15. Kit: Usual good moveset
  16. Level: Battlerock Galaxy is probably the first level that starts pushing the difficulty a bit, and really flexing with some gravity fun puzzles…
  17. Level: …for two positives
  18. Level: Dusty Dunes Galaxy wasn’t one I was expecting to like, but the way they work with the sand, the levels rising and falling, very fun stars…
  19. Level: …for a full…
  20. Level: …three positives
  21. Level: Freezeflame Galaxy gets back into unique, fun, exciting gimmicks and of course the two flower power ups for flavor…
  22. Level: …earning a full…
  23. Level: …three positives
  24. Level: Ghostly Galaxy is, as per the norm for the franchise, legit. All the ghost levels tend to just be inventive, fun, and unique…
  25. Level: …for a full…
  26. Level: …three positives
  27. Level: Gold Leaf Galaxy was another galaxy I wasn’t expecting to like, but the way they remix up the Honeyhive Galaxy is fantastic, and they do some very inventive stuff throughout…
  28. Level: …for another…
  29. Level: …three positives
  30. Level: Good Egg Galaxy is a great introduction to so many inventive and fun concepts, and still retains time to be unique and interesting with gravity warping and all kinds of variety…
  31. Level: …two positives
  32. Level: Gusty Garden Galaxy is simple but it just oozes fun
  33. Level: Honeyhive Galaxy continues the trend of fun and interesting dynamics and some interesting platforming…
  34. Level: …for two positives
  35. Level: Hurry Scurry (vanishing platforms) // Bubble Breeze (blowing the bubble over the traps)
  36. Level: Loopdeloop Galaxy (water slide) // Sweet Sweet (hole platforms) // Flipswitch Galaxy (blue buttons)
  37. Level: Rolling Green (golf) // A Very Sticky Situation
  38. Level: Sling Pod // Buoy Base // Drip Drop
  39. Level: Spacejunk Galaxy only has a few cool things but I’m rather fond of the webbing and angle mechanics
  40. Level: Toy Time Galaxy is where I start having to use a thesaurus to find another word for ‘inventive’. They just really start lunging into whatever the hell they want to for level design here and it shows…
  41. Level: …earning a full…
  42. Level: …three positives
  43. Mid-Mission Checkpoints: Present and generally good
  44. Music: Honestly probably the second best Mario OST I’ve ever heard…
  45. Music: …earning a massive…
  46. Music: …three positives
  47. Pacing: The gameplay pacing is fantastic. Just the right amount of space between levels, variety in levels, and downtime, along with the game not wearing out its welcome…
  48. Pacing: …for two positives
  49. Terrain Design: The ‘spherical platformer’ concept is probably best utilized here, to the point where that by itself deserves its own praise…
  50. Terrain Design: …for two positives
  51. Tutorialization: While I’ve seen better, even as far as the Engine Room stages were still doing little touches and hints in level layout and animations and sound design that service as absolutely fantastic tutorialization…
  52. Tutorialization: …for two positives
  53. Visual Distinction: Very clear, precise visual distinction throughout
  54. Yoshi Drums: Lots of stages start really leaning into that Yoshi Drums concept with the music in this one…
  55. Yoshi Drums: …for two positives
  56. Level: Bonefin // Choosing A Favorite Snack
  57. Level: Matter Splatter may be a one-off, but it’s very, very inventive and innovative and deserves its own positive
  58. Level: Deep Dark Galaxy is another excellent example of a simple but good kit, with the fun shrinking / expanding planets and related hazards…
  59. Level: …for two positives
  60. Level: Dreadnought Galaxy and the lovely mechanisms, gravity fun, and general threats everywhere approach…
  61. Level: …for two positives
  62. Level: Melty Molten Galaxy is when things get brutal and mean, but in a fun and wonderful way…
  63. Level: …earning two positives
  64. Bosses: Garden bosses
  65. Outro: The final stage is honestly awesome, not just in style and gimmicks and variety but in difficulty…
  66. Outro: …and in how it uses the different themes of the robust galaxies throughout
  67. Outro: And honestly a GREAT final boss, with multiple themes, styles, approach, and general fun
  68. Controls: While there’s better controlling 3D platformers, there’s not many…
  69. Controls: …earning itself two positives
  70. Camera: The camera is almost entirely out of the control of the player
  71. Difficulty Options: Comets
  72. HUD: Simple and functional
  73. Replayability: Game is very fun to replay with no real irritations interrupting that…
  74. Replayability: …and the game has multiple routes and stars on the way through
  75. Sound Design: Usual for Nintendo’s quality level

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Raspberry Jam: Low health beedleeps
  2. Level: Getting those stupid trash piles with the bombs
  3. Level: The SECOND trash pile bomb one is even worse
  4. Secondary: The purple coins are just straight up tasks

Super Mario Galaxy 2

A game severely hampered by being stuck on the Wii, but still an absolutely fantastic level pack to Galaxy. Story is absent, controls are off, but level design is top notch.
Type Of Review: Familiar Run
Total Story Score: +4
Total Gameplay Score: +72
Golden Number: 187.92
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 3 days / 17.73 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-9-2023

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Visual Storytelling: World backdrops, most notably in World 6
  2. Visual Continuity: The progression throughout the world backdrops
  3. Atmosphere: The general adventurous vibe endemic to the 3D Marios continues
  4. Sound Design: And, as per usual to 3D Marios, great sound design adding to things
  5. Music Direction: Lovely usage of the music to accentuate the stages
  6. Brickwork: General, single positive for brickwork

Story Negatives:

  1. Empty Text: Lubba… just… shut up please
  2. Outro: Very flat outro, especially with the ‘big loss’ of the Luma who… has no name and is never developed at all

Gameplay Positives:

  1. All Roads Lead To Rome: Usual ability to pick and choose levels to progress
  2. Boss: Bowser 1 is a really solid boss fight, with the sphere ‘arena’, meteors, and flames
  3. Boss: First bundle of worlds
  4. Boss: Second bundle of worlds
  5. Camera: The camera is reasonably well designed, just like in Galaxy 1
  6. Co-Op: As with Galaxy 1, it’s not much but it’s something
  7. Controls: Despite the related issues, the core controls are still good
  8. Difficulty Options: Comets, World 1
  9. Difficulty Options: Comets, World 2
  10. Difficulty Options: Comets, World 3…
  11. Difficulty Options: …for two positives
  12. Difficulty Options: Comets, World 4
  13. Difficulty Options: Comets, World 5…
  14. Difficulty Options: …for two positives
  15. Difficulty Options: Comic Helper mode
  16. Guidance And Flow: Bits and coins as a guide as per Mario standard
  17. Guidance And Flow: Intro camera pans and title, as per usual
  18. HUD: Simple yet fun
  19. Intro: Sky Station
  20. Kit: Power ups are honestly very fun and innovative in this one
  21. Kit: Spinning continues to be a game changer
  22. Kit: Usual movement tech
  23. Level: Battle Belt is surprisingly well constructed for what is otherwise a simple full combat area
  24. Level: Beat Block is wonderfully clever in its gimmick
  25. Level: Boo Moon Galaxy is probably our first triple positive level and good lord it’s just joy…
  26. Level: …for a full…
  27. Level: …three positives
  28. Level: Boulder Bowl is honestly a better tutorial level than Spin Dig in several ways
  29. Level: Bowser’s Gravity Gauntlet is friggin’ cool
  30. Level: Bowser’s Lava Lair is really showcasing how fun these boss levels can be
  31. Level: Clockwork Ruins is very teeth punching, but in a good way…
  32. Level: …for two positives
  33. Level: Cloudy Court Galaxy seems simple at first but the clever usage of wind and the clouds nails it
  34. Level: Cosmic Cove is a nice breather segment
  35. Level: Flash Black may just be a single stage but man it’s a great one, love the visibility variance
  36. Level: Flipsville Galaxy is yet another gimmick level (honestly I feel like I’m repeating myself at this point) with the gravity inverting flip mechanic
  37. Level: Freezy Flake is when things start to ramp up, using the ice and fire mechanics interchangeably (like the snow forming a pattern on the lava)…
  38. Level: …for two positives
  39. Level: Haunty Halls continues the tradition of great ghost levels…
  40. Level: …for two positives
  41. Level: Hightail Falls can be a bit frustrating, but I love the long difficult running sequences
  42. Level: Honeyhop Galaxy is a fun platforming romp
  43. Level: Melty Monster continues the trend of awesome fun while simultaneously being brutally difficult…
  44. Level: …for a full…
  45. Level: …three positives
  46. Level: Puzzle Plank does some wonderful Galaxy 1 style stuff with saws and lumber
  47. Level: Rightside Down continues the amazing gravity shifting mechanic fun
  48. Level: Rolling Masterpiece should be better than it is, but the controls hold it back. Still a fun gimmick level
  49. Level: Slipsland Galaxy starts to lean into the ‘good stuff’, with lots of gimmicks
  50. Level: Spin Dig is honestly a bit vanilla, but the tunnel segments help // Fluffy Bluff is another example where it’s salvaged by its gimmick (the power up)
  51. Level: Starshine Beach has all kinds of little tidbits that are just there for entertainment and gosh I’m running out of ways to say that the stages are fun and interesting in this freaking game
  52. Level: Supermassive is another simple but fun gimmick
  53. Level: Tall Trunk is a really neat F-Zero style slide
  54. Level: Think Before You Shake (inventive, control over swapping, gradual escalation)
  55. Level: Throwback is a bit much but it’s still damned fun
  56. Level: Upside Dizzy Galaxy is just amazing level design…
  57. Level: …for two positives
  58. Lighting: Surprisingly good, especially for the darker stages
  59. Music: Same very high standard of quality of Galaxy 1…
  60. Music: …for the usual…
  61. Music: …three positives
  62. Overworld: Some, along the lines of Mario 3
  63. Pacing: The pacing of this game is honestly bonkers good, exactly the right spacing of levels, challenge levels, and variety…
  64. Pacing: …for two positives
  65. Replayability: Pretty much the same as the first game…
  66. Replayability: …for double positives
  67. Sound Design: Oh yeah
  68. Terrain Design: Y’know honestly while this game has less of the spheroid thing from Galaxy 1, the terrain design is just kind of amazing in every single stage, and then there’s some truly inventive 3D gravity stuff on top of that…
  69. Terrain Design: …for a full…
  70. Terrain Design: …three positives
  71. Tutorialization: Same general, but not as good as before… still there though
  72. Visual Distinction: Absolutely great visual distinction, especially on the color axis…
  73. Visual Distinction: …for two positives
  74. Yoshi Drums: Even better than Galaxy 1, whole lot of great music variance based on the stage of the world, or being underwater, or actually friggin’ Yoshi…
  75. Yoshi Drums: …for two positives
  76. Mid-Mission Checkpointing: Manual, but still good
  77. Level: Sweet Mystery Galaxy has a great, gradient mechanic of slowly shrinking zones while progressing
  78. Level: Mario Squared is a great barrier to entry and is deceptive in how brutal it is…
  79. Level: …for two positives
  80. Level: Flip Out Galaxy is just the right brand of platforming brutality
  81. Level: Rolling Coaster Galaxy is the final, mean variant on the tilting mechanic
  82. Difficulty Options: World 6 Comets
  83. Difficulty Options: World S Comets are when the game stops holding any punches back at all

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Raspberry Jam: Beedleep… beedleep…
  2. Tutorialization: Lubba just will not shut up about stuff we already know
  3. Control: Waggle, bad for controller, bad for hand
  4. Control: Waggle, imprecise
  5. Control: Waggle, a near constant input
  6. Seconds In Minutes: They’re all small, but they are everywhere
  7. Padding: The fact that the game flat forces you to redo the final stage, and boss, and ending for absolutely no reason and no change whatsoever just to unlock the second half of the game is bonkers…
  8. Padding: …and deserves two negatives by itself
  9. Secondary: Green stars continue the trend of dull boring tasks
  10. Grind: Getting access to the very final star flat requires 9999 bits which is arduously grindy even if you’re gathering every bit as you go
  11. Walkthroughitis: Good luck finding the Green Stars in general (and with zero help)

Super Mario 3D Land

Simple, bite-sized fun with surprisingly good level design and surprisingly great usage of the 3D gimmick. Definitely recommend if you can get a copy.
Type Of Review: Familiar Run
Total Story Score: +1
Total Gameplay Score: +33
Golden Number: 80.22
Cheats: Yes (to bypass Coin grind)
Total Play Time: 2 days / 10.85 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-10-2023

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Brickwork: Effects and visuals per stage
  2. Atmosphere: I mean, it’s a Mario game
  3. Doodads: While honestly pretty spread out, there is still some good doodad design in the backgrounds and stages

Story Negatives:

  1. Visual Continuity: Each stage is so utterly disconnected from the rest there’s an absence of continuity
  2. Character: Princess Peach is a cardboard cutout of a character and it actively detracts from the story

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Boss: Generally fun boss design
  2. Boss: The ‘platforming boss’ of 8-Bowser is great fun, minus the issue
  3. Camera: A weirdly large amount of work was put into making the camera work for a lot of the levels, with it following around but also indicating where you should be going, and it works really well…
  4. Camera: …earning a double positive
  5. Controls: Controls pretty solidly, with good responsiveness and interpretive layer
  6. Difficulty Curve: The curve is honestly quite smooth up to about halfway through the Special Worlds
  7. Enemy Variety: Lots of enemy types and lots of variety in how they interact with you at different layers
  8. Guidance and Flow: Coin usage as per usual
  9. HUD: Solid as is pretty normal for the series
  10. Intro: Honestly a really solid first stage. Visual indicators of direction, lots of built in visual tutorials for how to play the game, multiple showcases of the powerup showcase (the feather) as well as lots of routes to go through a fairly linear area, and slowly escalating throughout the stage from ‘completely safe’ to ‘possible to die’ and all while the camera is covering where to go and being a nice, bite-sized example of how the game does levels
  11. Intro: World 1 in general is a lot of bite-sized, well constructed ‘here’s how to play the game’ levels
  12. Kit: Power ups are fairly basic for the series, but that still makes them good. Ranged attack, extra health, but most importantly the feather which allows for more aerial control and a horizontal attack and breaker
  13. Level: 8-3 is probably the best moving rotating platform hell of the game
  14. Level: 8-4 is probably the best ghost level of this particular bundle
  15. Level: 8-5 is the best execution of the jump flips, plus some usual castle-esque obstacles
  16. Level: 8-6 is probably one of the most properly challenging levels in the whole game and I love the way it balances obstacles and terrain
  17. Level: World S1 really varies up the starter stages and completely remixes them into some great stuff
  18. Level: World S2 follows through on the S1 stages but even more so, with tons of new, fantastic concepts based on the previous stages…
  19. Level: …for two positives
  20. Level: World S4 continues the mega remix concept, on top of a ghost level too…
  21. Level: …for two positives
  22. Level: World S5 is the final Special world to really mix stuff up quite a bit…
  23. Level: …for two positives
  24. Level: World 2 begins the escalation and starting to encourage the player to really vary things up
  25. Level: World 3 has several fun and silly levels
  26. Level: World 4 is probably one of the more solid level bundles in the game, with some creative and neat stuff…
  27. Level: …for two positives
  28. Level: World 5 is probably when they nail the ‘fun and neat’ gimmicky stuff, with all kinds of bonkers stuff
  29. Level: World 6 is when the difficulty comes out swinging
  30. Level: World 7 just brings the bat out to start walloping on the player in all the right ways
  31. Mid-Mission Checkpoints: In pretty much all but the final and boss stages
  32. Music: Neat, fun, and happy
  33. Pacing: Each stage is so bitesize that it really helps the pacing…
  34. Pacing: …plus the significant variety to types of challenges
  35. Replayability: Honestly, yeah this is a fun game to replay, at least up through the initial stuff
  36. Sound Design: As is pretty normal for a Mario game,
  37. Terrain Design: As with most of the 3D Marios, the terrain is pretty much always constructed around the concepts and ideas of the levels…
  38. Terrain Design: …for two positives
  39. Tutorialization: Usual Mario continuous tutorialization throughout
  40. Visual Distinction: Usual color presentation and selection
  41. Difficulty Options: It’s not linear, but the Special world remixes function the same as Comets did in the Galaxies
  42. Graphics: For once a graphics positive… for 3D! One of the very few 3DS games to use its 3D gimmick well
  43. Fast Travel: The ability to just instantly warp to a world you’ve already done is a nice little convenience feature, especially for 100%ing

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Mid Mission Checkpoints: Some boss and airship levels (also some levels just have way too spread out spacing)
  2. Walkthroughitis: Periodic with coins
  3. Padding: The nature of how coins don’t stay collected after you grab them until you finish a level, plus having to go back through a stage again (and then beat it) if you didn’t collect it or passed it by accident, is just straight padding…
  4. Padding: …for two negatives
  5. Grind: Requiring coins for main content is already problematic
  6. Grind: Requiring a LOT of coins for main content is awful
  7. Boss: Lack of mid mission checkpoints
  8. Level: 5-Castle is total bullcrap
  9. Level: World S8 in general is far too much remixed bullcrap and not enough interesting and fun levels
  10. Outro: A long no-checkpoint slog

Super Mario 3D World

We played the Switch version, which included Bowser’s Fury. Still one of the best Mario games ever made, with a weird combo of 3D and 2D level design, and some awesome additional fun in the Bowser’s Fury open world mode. Extremely recommended.
Type Of Review: Familiar Run
Total Story Score: +11
Total Gameplay Score: +80
Golden Number: 246.15
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 2 days / 11.80 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-12-2023

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Brickwork: World 1, 2, and 3
  2. Brickwork: World 6
  3. Brickwork: World Castle
  4. Brickwork: World Bowser is so damned good looking on so many levels, you can just stare at it for several minutes and keep taking in new details…
  5. Brickwork: …for a full…
  6. Brickwork: …three positives
  7. Brickwork: Level Brickworks in general. Grass stages, desert, beach, lava, snow… it’s good stuff…
  8. Brickwork: …for a full…
  9. Brickwork: …three positives
  10. Outro: Between both modes the endings are neat, but the final stage of the vanilla game is actually pretty legit
  11. Brickwork: The entire cat lake area is fun and brilliant
  12. Storytelling Mechanic: Bowser Jr’s approach to exposition (love the paintings)

Story Negatives:

  1. Visual Continuity: Same problem as 3D Land

Gameplay Positives:

  1. All Roads Lead To Rome: As per usual for this type of situation, with needing stars to progress but lots of options on where and how to get them
  2. Boss: Car Bowser fights are honestly pretty fun
  3. Co-Op: Exists
  4. Co-Op: Full campaign co-op
  5. Co-Op: Full online campaign co-op with co-op friendly options and modes
  6. Enemy Variety: Honestly pretty good variety for
  7. Fast Travel: Warping between worlds via menu at will from overworld
  8. Info In Game: Indicators on stages and in levels
  9. Intro: I mean it’s a Mario game, of course the Intro does everything it needs to to get the new players into the style of game and how these gimmicks work
  10. Kit: Each playable character plays differently
  11. Kit: Fun power ups (cherry, boomerang)
  12. Kit: Power ups as per usual
  13. Level: World 1 and the general tutorialization and approach
  14. Level: World 2 and the escalation of concepts and ideas
  15. Level: World 3 and trying to flesh out existing concepts
  16. Level: World 4 and really starting to escalate a lot before we really get to the good stuff
  17. Level: 2-3 and the amazing creativeness of the wall shadows
  18. Level: 3-3 and our first ghost house… not the greatest of levels, but inventive, creative, and a nice breather level
  19. Level: 4-3 and the switch block combined with the cherry cloner
  20. Level: 5-1 and essentially an ‘open world’ stage, with lots to do in any order you want
  21. Level: 5-4 and the open world safari gimmick
  22. Level: 5-5 and the very inventive, fun ‘chained bombs’ gimmick
  23. Level: 5-6 and a combination of platforming, swap jump platforms, and clones
  24. Level: 5-7 and the searchlight escalation and usage of enemies as methods of progression
  25. Level: B-1 has great atmosphere, difficulty, optional placement, and general fun
  26. Level: B-5 and the moving water platforms is right up there with the good Galaxy stages
  27. Level: B-6 is very creative and fun, as all ghost levels are, and appropriately escalates throughout
  28. Level: B-7 is a very mean, but fun gimmick and an exercise in precision
  29. Level: C-2 is simple but fun switches and top-down and plays with the concept to vary things up
  30. Level: C-3 is a great dash / drag race style mission
  31. Level: C-4 is mean, but in all the right ways, with indicated platforms, bullies, and lava
  32. Level: C-5 is a fun, compact, wonderful little puzzle level
  33. Level: C-7 is a typical but very fun and well designed lava doom level
  34. Level: Effectively comet mutators again in the World Mushroom and Flower stages…
  35. Level: …for a full…
  36. Level: …three positives
  37. Level: Minigame: Photo mode with decent options
  38. Level: Star-3 is the exact right type of brutal, challenging, fun mean
  39. Level: Star-4 is extremely creative and another great drag race mission
  40. Level: Star-6 continues the top down fun approach with good power ups and challenges
  41. Level: Star-8 is another open world explorative world which makes good usage of fog and multi layered obstacles
  42. Level: The mystery house levels in general are neat, bite-sized, brutal, fun, rewarding, and retain progress…
  43. Level: …for a full…
  44. Level: …three positives
  45. Music: Normally I’m not into this kind of jazz but the game really makes it work, and I love how they style the songs to the scenes…
  46. Music: …earning two positives
  47. Outro: The final Bowser stage and final platform boss are honestly pretty epic and fun
  48. Princess Peach Segment: Cap’n Toad stages are simple but fun side segments…
  49. Princess Peach Segment: …for two positives
  50. QoL: Swap party members on stage select, and… a lot of tiny things I’m not going to list
  51. Controls: Controls very well, as per the standard for the more modern Marios…
  52. Controls: …for two positives
  53. Difficulty Curve: Very smooth and very well constructed
  54. Guidance And Flow: Usual usage of coins and camera to direct
  55. HUD: Simple but effective
  56. Mid Mission Checkpoints: Generally good throughout
  57. Pacing: Absolutely great pacing across the gameplay, with good variety, style, and types of levels…
  58. Pacing: …for two positives
  59. Replayability: Yeah this one’s imminently replayable
  60. Sound Design: Usual good stuff to indicate
  61. Terrain Design: Generally good terrain design for the missions
  62. Tutorialization: Almost every single stage has at least a little bit of tutorialization to indicate what to do when and where…
  63. Tutorialization: …for two positives
  64. Visual Distinction: Easy to tell what is where, especially via usage of colors
  65. Level: Scamper Shores
  66. Level: Fort Flaptrap
  67. Level: Pounce Bounce Isle
  68. Level: Trickity Tower
  69. Level: Crisp Castle Climb
  70. Level: Risky Whisker Island
  71. Level: Mount Magmeow
  72. Level: Pipe Path Tower
  73. Level: Roiling Roller
  74. Level: Wasteland
  75. Boss: Ink Bowser is mostly spectacle but it’s damned fun spectacle
  76. Viscerality: A surprising viscerality positive just for Fury Bowser mode
  77. Info In Game: Lighthouses, HUD indicators, Bowser slowly emerging, rainfall and music
  78. Map: Surprisingly good map, with hints and indicators
  79. Music: Bowser’s Fury specifically
  80. QoL: The ability to store and recall power ups on the fly is such a huge jump in quality I can’t believe how much it changes how I play the game
  81. Power Progression: The way coins add up to power ups is honestly brilliant and I cannot believe it hasn’t been done before
  82. Visual Continuity: The lake and usage of landmarks and visuals to help you navigate
  83. Camera: Issues, but good elsewise
  84. Overworld: The lake in general is very well designed in Bowser’s Fury

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Camera: Some issues regarding isometric areas
  2. Co-Op: Some stage-specific issues with collision and the like
  3. Core Mechanic: While fun in many ways, the lack of control on Fury Bowser can be irritating (either it shows up too late or too early)
  4. Walkthroughitis: A few of the cat shines in Bowser’s Fury are a bit ‘go Google it’

Super Mario Bros 1

Incredibly historically significant in ways it’s hard to even summarize… but not exactly a great game. If you have somehow not played it I recommend it for the significance of it.
Type Of Review: Familiar Run
Total Story Score: +0
Total Gameplay Score: -1
Golden Number: -1.55
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 1 days / 3.38 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-12-2023

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Tutorialization: 1-1 established the gold standard of how to tutorialize in-game and is still well done even by today’s standards
  2. Level: General level design positive from 1 to 5
  3. Level: World 6 in general is probably the most innovative and fun section of the game, the first and only section of proper difficulty
  4. Song: Don’t front, you know the one
  5. Itemization: Spread of coins, lives, and power ups… early on
  6. Mid Mission Checkpoints: Believe it or not, yes… in every world except 8
  7. Prime Opt: Lots of warps and secrets throughout

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Itemization: Worlds 7 onwards are just awful when it comes to the spread of coins, lives, and power ups
  2. Gotcha: Yeah, especially in the later worlds
  3. Level: 8-2 is just a hellscape
  4. Level: 8-3 is actively boring, a flat terrain with too many enemies
  5. Outro: 8-4 is just dull. A long, empty maze with a few enemies and no coins, power ups, or lives, followed by a boss nearly guaranteed to hit you
  6. Core Mechanic: Hurtboxes are very inconsistent
  7. Core Mechanic: The absolutely bizarre jumping, physics, and squiggity
  8. Guidance And Flow: Virtually none, in fact the game barely indicates that secrets even exist

Super Mario Advance

This is a wild example of a remake. On the one hand, the level design, new boss design, and changed up itemization make the game almost universally better. On the other hand the physics engine is just kind of… weird and off, which makes several bosses far more frustrating than they should be. And on the other, the absolutely terrible, terrible camera makes the entire game fundamentally worse. The inability to see where you’re going and general dizziness of it in addition to not being able to plan ahead for jumps is just a wet blanket on the entire game. I’d skip this one.
Type Of Review: Familiar Run
Total Story Score: +4
Total Gameplay Score: -2
Golden Number: 3.91
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 2 days / 3.65 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-14-2023

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Animations: The little additions to animations really help sell the scenes and characters
  2. Brickwork: The new brickwork (from the All Stars version primarily)… is honestly really cool looking (except the, uh, legos)…
  3. Brickwork: …for a double positive
  4. Outro: Weirdly enough I enjoy this little ending for what it is

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Itemization: The game has tons upon tons of better itemization than the original
  2. Intro: World 1 in general is very well constructed to establish and design the type of game you’re into and are well designed, fun levels regardless
  3. Tutorialization: The initial drop, the enemies, the escalation, the introduction of ideas
  4. Visual Distinction: Generally well distinguished visuals
  5. Kit: Variance of playstyle between the four characters
  6. Level: So this is functionally an aggregate for all the new changes in the GBA version that really smooth out the level design. New items, new placements, new enemies, new placement of enemies, et cetera
  7. Level: Every digging level is a neat variance in pseudo puzzle platforming
  8. Mid-Mission Checkpointing: Good and well spread out
  9. Level: World 3 honestly does a lot of clever things, with the underground/overground, climbing, and really playing with the looping maps
  10. Difficulty Curve: The new variances and changes to individual level layouts really smooth out the difficulty curve
  11. Outro: 7-2 is weirdly a good stage. Multiple paths of progression, no real timer, lots of health and power ups, and good checkpointing

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Camera: The GBA version in particular honestly has just an absolutely terrible camera… at times it ‘wobbles’ and at others it doesn’t show you enemies (while they can already attack you)…
  2. Camera: …for two negatives
  3. Gotcha: The Gotcha in this game is honestly the worst I have ever seen. The inability to literally see what’s coming thanks to the camera issues combined with enemies being activated off screen means taking damage for having done nothing wrong…
  4. Gotcha: …for a full…
  5. Gotcha: …three negatives
  6. Controls: SMB2’s controls are already not good to begin with, so… here we are…
  7. Controls: …for two negatives
  8. Audio Spam: The new audio clips are neat but they’re also over-played to hell and back
  9. Level: World 4 is all the wrong kinds of difficulty. Ice physics, gotchas, and death pits everywhere
  10. Guidance And Flow: This game flat mandates having a goddamned map to figure out where the mushrooms are, and considering how important that health is…
  11. Guidance And Flow: …it’s a double negative
  12. Outro: The final boss is just terrible. Boring and repetitive, with too small of a window of attack
  13. Core Mechanic: Physics. The physics of this specific version of the game are just… wrong, and several bosses (Mouser, Clawgrip, and Wart come to mind immediately)

Super Mario Advance 4

This is a damned shame. Technically speaking this is a better version of Mario 3… except for whatever they did to screw with the controls. We did extensive testing and ultimately never came up with a solid answer for all this, but we were able to definitively prove the control issues existed which makes the game far too frustrating for me to recommend.
Type Of Review: Familiar Run
Total Story Score: +5
Total Gameplay Score: +19
Golden Number: 59.16
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 2 days / 7.15 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-15-2023

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Brickwork: In Worlds
  2. Brickwork: And in stages
  3. Visual Continuity: Across worlds in general
  4. Visual Storytelling: Several, but World 5 comes to mind (ground to sky) and World 8 (the army in front of the land in front of the fortresses)
  5. Outro: The ending is, strangely, kind of legit

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Tutorialization: As per the norm for the series
  2. Itemization: Overworld rewards and pickups
  3. Itemization: Coins and 1 ups
  4. Itemization: Power ups and distribution thereof
  5. Music: Yep, it’s still a good soundtrack
  6. Visual Distinction: Very visually distinct
  7. Intro: World 1 in general is a great build up escalation of concepts and ideas, culminating in a ‘final exam’ stage right before the airship level
  8. Level: World 2 really plays with its concepts
  9. Level: While it frustrates me, World 3 is still a well designed world
  10. Level: World 4 is mostly a breather world, but does some very fun and gimmicky stuff with its big/small concepts…
  11. Level: …earning two positives
  12. Level: World 5 has some very frustrating stages later on, but still really threw open the gates on level design and does some very unique stuff…
  13. Level: …earning two positives
  14. Level: 7-6 by itself is fantastically designed and very inventive and fun
  15. Level: World 7 is easily the best world in the game. You can tell a lot went into the design of this one, top to bottom, and they really stretch what the game can do…
  16. Level: …for a full…
  17. Level: …three positives
  18. Level: World 8 and its gauntlet of the military is great stuff, just punishing enough without being too much
  19. Overworld: It varies, but there’s some real design to the overworlds, especially in Worlds 3 and 6
  20. Outro: Yeah, no, Bowser’s Castle is a very well designed dungeon, and the final fight is very fun
  21. Enemy Variety: There’s a ton of enemy types in this one, and they attack you in a ton of different ways…
  22. Enemy Variety: …for two positives
  23. Kit: Power ups, as per usual
  24. Replayability: I mean it’s Mario 3, but with multiple paths and whistles…
  25. Pacing: Good pacing throughout
  26. Save: Good save system, retaining progress up to the level you’re currently at, and a ‘clear’ mode set after beating the game

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Mid-Mission Checkpoints: The weird and total lack of them honestly is the single biggest reason why this game irritates me so damned much
  2. Controls: Squiggity
  3. Controls: So it’s hard to pinpoint the specifics but the GBA version just plays… wrong, and that leads to micro mistakes, which lead to deaths, which lead to frustrations
  4. Core Mechanic: Hurtbox detection is just off
  5. Controls: So I’m putting this under controls but this is functionally a big aggregate negative for… whatever combination of things it is in the GBA version that makes it so damned frustrating to play. Framerate, hurtboxes, momentum, imprecision on controls, stuttering on rendering, it all makes a game that should be fun… frustrating…
  6. Controls: …earning it…
  7. Controls: …three negatives

New Super Mario Bros Wii

A really good core 2D Mario game completely ruined by an absolutely terrible control scheme. Until this game gets ported off the Wii I would never recommend it… which is a shame because the core content of the stages is honestly excellent.
Type Of Review: Familiar Run
Total Story Score: +4
Total Gameplay Score: +37
Golden Number: 106.23
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 2 days / 7.27 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-19-2023

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Brickwork: Worlds in general
  2. Brickwork: Levels in general
  3. Visual Continuity: Areas feel like the worlds they’re in
  4. Atmosphere & Tone: General fun, upbeat tone

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Boss: General, good variety to the Koopalings…
  2. Boss: …varying per iteration…
  3. Boss: …and continuing throughout
  4. Controls: Despite the waggle issues, the core controls control well
  5. Co-Op: Exists
  6. Co-Op: Full campaign
  7. Co-Op: Safety mechanisms and extra gameplay features to aid in co-op
  8. Core Mechanic: Jank… for headache-inducing laughter
  9. Core Mechanic: Safety net mechanisms (world map usage, mid mission checkpoints healing, variable power ups depending on current status)
  10. Enemy Variety: Good general enemy variety
  11. Guidance And Flow: Pretty legit throughout, at almost all points you can figure out where you can or should interact with the terrain…
  12. Guidance And Flow: …for two positives
  13. HUD: Simple but functional
  14. Intro: 1-1 is back to being a good introduction to the game
  15. Itemization: General good spread of power ups
  16. Kit: General usual quality
  17. Kit: Penguin and Helicopter are honestly pretty legit
  18. Level: World 2
  19. Level: World 3
  20. Level: World 4
  21. Level: 5-3 is a neat, mean rotating log level
  22. Level: 5-4 is inventive, and clever
  23. Level: 5-Ghost and more lighting fun
  24. Level: 5-Tower and spike hell
  25. Level: World 1
  26. Music: Honestly the music in this one is pretty legit, with good variety and some bangers towards the end…
  27. Music: …for two positives
  28. Overworld: One of the best Overworlds we’ve seen so far, with multiple routes, changing overworld gimmicks, and bonus stuff…
  29. Overworld: …for two positives
  30. Core Mechanic: So bad it’s good (with the co-op collision)
  31. Sound Design: Similar to some of the better Mario games, some very solid Sound Design giving really good feedback…
  32. Sound Design: …for two positives
  33. Tutorialization: Decent title demo, showcasing co-op mode as well as different stages and power ups
  34. Level: World 6 in general
  35. Level: 7-2 with its floating water
  36. Level: 7-Tower with the escalating bo-bomb analogue platform gimmick
  37. Level: 7-Ghost and the usual fun
  38. Level: 8-3 is a really fun, lava / platforming / control challenge
  39. Outro: For what it’s worth, the final level and boss fight is actually pretty legit
  40. Camera: Really well done camera design, adapting to need and scene as required…
  41. Camera: …for two positives
  42. Difficulty Curve: Smooth and mean
  43. Fast Travel: World warping as usual
  44. Mid Mission Checkpointing: There and decent
  45. Visual Distinction: Good color distinction, good outlining, good in general…
  46. Visual Distinction: …for two positives

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Co-Op: They have collision, and that… is awful
  2. Controls: Waggle
  3. Controls: Regular Waggle
  4. Controls: Constant Waggle
  5. Controls: Inconsistent Waggle
  6. Controls: Boss Waggle
  7. Level: 5-4 is total bullcrap
  8. Seconds In Minutes: Weird pauses and lapses here and there, plus the usual overworld issue
  9. Grind: Coin requirements for the optional worlds

New Super Mario Bros U

Still the best New game, even better on the Switch. Great level design, fun co-op, challenging, optional challenges, built in guide and manual, optional easy modes, great visuals. Hugely recommend.
Type Of Review: Familiar Run
Total Story Score: +10
Total Gameplay Score: +78
Golden Number: 258.38
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 2 days / 7.43 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-21-2023

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Brickwork: World Map
  2. Doodads: World map
  3. Brickwork: Grasslands
  4. Brickwork: Snowy area
  5. Brickwork: Underwater area
  6. Brickwork: Mountains
  7. Brickwork: Swamp
  8. Brickwork: The painted swamp
  9. Brickwork: Lava doom
  10. Outro: Silly and fun

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Co-Op: Exists
  2. Co-Op: Full campaign co-op
  3. Co-Op: Game has features designed around co-op
  4. Minigames: Optional challenge modes
  5. Minigame: Boost Rush Mode
  6. Info In Game: Hints page as a built in manual…
  7. Info In Game: …for two positives
  8. Info In Game: The built in ‘strategy guide’ of Bonus Videos…
  9. Info In Game: …for two positives
  10. Minigame: Luigi Mode is, functionally, a mutator of each existing stage done up in hard mode, similar to the Comet Medals of previous games…
  11. Minigame: …for a full…
  12. Minigame: …three positives
  13. Difficulty Options: Toadette and Nabbit
  14. HUD: Generally good, crisp HUD
  15. Overworld: Good, varied, multiple paths, and obstacles…
  16. Overworld: …for two positives
  17. Camera: The same thing the series has been doing for a bit now; the dynamic camera, where it will adjust based on the needs of the moment…
  18. Camera: …for two positives
  19. Intro: 1-1 and World 1 in general continue the trend of good opening stages
  20. Itemization: Overworld items and pickups
  21. Itemization: General spread throughout the levels
  22. Kit: Usual
  23. Kit: New power ups
  24. Kit: Yoshi
  25. Kit: Baby yoshis
  26. Yoshi Drums: Overworld and yoshis, but especially baby yoshis
  27. Music: Same general soundtrack as the Wii version and as such…
  28. Music: …two positives
  29. Boss: General variety in the Koopalings
  30. Boss: Iggy by himself is actually pretty legit
  31. Boss: Ludwig and his flight, cloning, and bullet hell
  32. Level: 1-Castle, lava, and swings
  33. Level: 2-3, fun with lighting mechanics
  34. Level: 2-Tower and the controlled crushers
  35. Level: 2-4 and the sand mechanic throughout
  36. Level: 2-5 and the general vertical obstacles while progressing across altering terrain
  37. Level: 2-6 and the wonderful rolling Lakitu fun
  38. Level: 2-Castle and the compactors
  39. Level: 3-Tower and the amazing crushing spiked death
  40. Level: 3-5 and the eternal Dragoneel chase
  41. Level: 4-1 and the snow, stars, and lighting
  42. Level: 4-2 and the good usage of ice, flow, and penguins
  43. Level: 4-Tower and the icicles of doom
  44. Level: 4-3 and the fire, seed, goomba gimmick
  45. Level: 4-4 is a wonderful bullet bill hell
  46. Level: 4-Castle and thwompville
  47. Level: 5-Airship and the cannons and homing torpedoes
  48. Level: 5-1 is starting to really get inventive with combining existing elements into fun stuff…
  49. Level: …for two positives
  50. Level: 5-2 and the soda of death
  51. Level: 5-3 and the brutal combination of blocks and denial enemies
  52. Level: 5-Tower and the snake blocks of doom
  53. Level: 5-Ghost and the singing light source
  54. Level: 4-4 and the painted swamp of doom
  55. Level: 5-6 and the star chaining across instant death
  56. Level: 5-7 and the clever usage of Wiggler weaving in and out of the terrain
  57. Level: 5-Castle and the wonderful usage of raising/lowering platforms during waves of lava
  58. Level: 6-5 and the wild swinging, falling platforms
  59. Level: 6-Tower and the return of the Sumo Bros
  60. Level: 6-Castle and the wonderful iron blocks in lava
  61. Level: 7-1 and the moving cloud and appearing blocks
  62. Level: 7-2 and the rotating blocks of hell while hounded by enemies
  63. Level: 7-3 and the bullet bills, but also the controllable moving platforms
  64. Level: 7-Airship and the usual airship funfest (and tilting platform)
  65. Level: 8-2 and the slowly advancing wall of doom combined with very inventive usage of the ‘limited space’ floating raft mechanic…
  66. Level: …for two positives
  67. Outro: The final boss fight is pretty legit… and co-op, even!
  68. Controls: Some issues, but still legit
  69. Core Mechanics: Safety net mechanisms (world map, mid mission checkpoints healing, variable power ups)
  70. Difficulty Curve: Very smooth difficulty curve
  71. Enemy Variety: Generally good variety
  72. Guidance And Flow: Very good guidance for power ups, side things, coins, etc…
  73. Guidance And Flow: …for two positives
  74. Mid Mission Checkpoints: Generally good mid-mission checkpoints
  75. Replayability: Generally replayable…
  76. Replayability: …and multiple routes and paths of progression
  77. Sound Design: Same quality sound design as the Wii version…
  78. Sound Design: …for two positives
  79. Tutorialization: Generally good throughout the stages, all the way up to World 8
  80. Visual Distinction: Generally good visual distinction

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Co-Op: Pretty much the same issue 3D World had; occasional collision issues
  2. Grind: Coin issue with unlocking special worlds

Untitled Goose Game

Simple, solid, fun. Ignoring the obvious charm and cute factor, there’s some surprisingly good gameplay here in puzzle design which regularly has multiple potential solutions and rewards you for being inventive. Big recommend.
Type Of Review: Familiar Run
Total Story Score: +6
Total Gameplay Score: +7
Golden Number: 31.88
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 1 days / 4.06 Hours
Time Reviewed: 12-31-2023

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Brickwork: Surprisingly well designed for how simple it is. Good impressionism
  2. Doodads: Good, varied, and well placed
  3. Humor: The game got me more than it really should have
  4. Visual Storytelling: Each person’s area and the design thereof
  5. Animation: Good, fun, interesting, invocative
  6. Outro: The final flight is neat in general but the final little tidbit of the pile of bells… classic

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Tutorialization: The intro area does a surprisingly good job of getting you into the basic puzzle mechanics
  2. Intro: The first level does a great job of giving you simple objectives, complex objectives, and some room to maneuver in
  3. Level: The shopping square area continues what the Intro began with even more options for progression, fun objectives, and a new meta objective
  4. Level: The pub is a neat one; several very clever ways in, out, and around the objectives
  5. All Roads Lead To Rome: The whole game has multiple solutions to multiple puzzles and I love it
  6. Outro: Surprisingly well designed. You now have everyone after you, and running generates aggro from a huge range
  7. Visual Distinction: Everything is extremely distinct in general, especially what you can interact with and how
  8. Level: The optional post hard objectives are actually really quite fun, unique, and challenging…
  9. Level: …for two positives
  10. Co-Op: Limited and local only but it’s there and it’s fun

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Controls: The game… does not control super well
  2. Camera: The camera is awful by default (literal nausea inducing) but once you change the options… it’s still bad
  3. Level: The ‘roll thing’ missions honestly suck, almost entirely due to the jank physics and controls

Breath of Fire 1

An interesting bit of gaming history marred by atrocious game design. Boring combat options, excessive backtracking, and you’d better have a walkthrough handy to figure out what does what and where to go next. Nevertheless it could be worse, and the visuals are unique and interesting. Skip unless you’re interested in the history.
Type Of Review: Familiar Run
Total Story Score: -2
Total Gameplay Score: -42
Golden Number: -93.64
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 4 days / 26.65 Hours
Time Reviewed: 1-4-2023

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Intro: The intro is weirdly solid. While crude, there’s still thought put into the animation and blocking to sell the scene, even with some foreshadowing baked in
  2. Brickwork: It varies pretty wildly but across the whole game there’s some decent thought and work put into the brickwork
  3. Spritework: Okay honestly this is probably the game’s most memorable feature, but it’s just… not great out of combat, so across the whole game (and primarily combat) it gets a single positive
  4. Doodads: Similar to the previous two points. There are occasional areas, usually indoors of houses, that look legit… then there’s the rest of the game with huge, empty swaths of nothing
  5. Background Lore: There’s not much honestly, but there is some, and it is interesting in fleshing out the world
  6. Humor: Ridiculousness abounds
  7. MSQ: Okay, the miniature section and the villain showing up and shrinking into the mouse hole is honestly kinda neat
  8. Moments: There’s a few that, collectively, earn an aggregate positive (I’d be remiss if I didn’t specifically mention Alan and Cerl)
  9. Outro: For what it’s worth, I do like the ending. The re-covering of the areas we’ve been to, and the little acknowledgements

Story Negatives:

  1. Localization: It’s not actually that bad for the era… but that still puts it firmly in ‘bad’ territory
  2. Story Sequencing: Events have absolutely no logic to them as you bounce from plot point to plot point
  3. Writing: Idiot Balling in general
  4. Cutscene Incompetence: Across the board, really
  5. MSQ: The entirety of Chapter 4 is total nonsense
  6. Plot: Meandering. The whole plot just… meanders, hard
  7. MSQ: Chapter 5 is completely bonkers nonsense and deserves its own comment of awful, from the nonsense to get the ship, to rescuing prisoners, to the weird underwater attack after using bugs to destroy the ships… just…
  8. MSQ: …awful stuff
  9. MSQ: So why did Nina leave the party and TIME TRAVEL again?
  10. MSQ: Just… everything to do with the princess sequence in Tunlan
  11. Outro: The rest of the Outro is just… what? There’s a total deflated nothing when it comes to the final bosses, and then a scene that’s probably supposed to be funny

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Encounter Rate: The Marble 3 is easily accessible, very cheap, stacks, and lasts a decent duration
  2. Fast Travel: Warp to (most) of the towns while out in the overworld
  3. MSQ: Mote’s spiral dungeon is honestly a pretty cool idea, and the Mote fight itself is honestly kind of neat (physical damage solidifies, magic damage pixelates, changing his defenses)
  4. Music: For the limited soundfont, the music itself is honestly quite good
  5. Penalty For Failure: Return to previous save spot with everything intact but a gold penalty
  6. Viscerality: Spells look cool, and the attack animations are pretty legit
  7. Itemization: Surprisingly good spread of recovery items, healing ponds, and equipment
  8. Overworld Design: Actually not too shabby, one of the better aspects of terrain layout in the game

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Backtracking: Having to redo an entire dungeon for no reason during multiple segments
  2. Backtracking: More redoing entire dungeons for no reason
  3. Backtracking: Yyyyep
  4. Boss: General boss design woes. A lot of bosses in this game are just trash mobs with more health
  5. Boss: Gremlin is probably the worst boss in the entire game. In addition to being a huge difficulty cliff, having a huge second health bar, and being too early in the game (meaning you don’t have the kit to deal with him), he’s just plain boring as the moment he enters phase 2 he just spams an aoe attack over and over (and you have no reliable source of aoe healing)…
  6. Boss: …for a full…
  7. Boss: …triple negatives
  8. Boss: Knight gets special mention for being way over-tuned at a point in the game where you don’t really have the kit to out-tactics it, instead just being a long boring slog
  9. Difficulty Curve: Several difficulty cliffs with no real rhyme or reason to them
  10. Early Game: No abilities except ‘attack’
  11. Encounter Rate: I’ve seen worse, and the Marble 3 helps, but…
  12. Encounter Rate: …this is still…
  13. Encounter Rate: …triple negative territory
  14. Graphics: Wavy underwater effect
  15. Guidance and Flow of Exploration: Or a total lack thereof. I’ve rarely seen a game so aggressively against the idea of even inclining you in the right direction, in the overworld and in dungeons (hell even in towns)
  16. Info In Game: Items
  17. Info In Game: Spells
  18. Interface: The entire interface is weirdly clunky and awkward to track and find information
  19. Interface: Special mention for the sub-standard inventory system. No auto sort, irritating to navigate, and cripplingly limited size
  20. Level: Dream Tower and the ‘screw you’ visibility
  21. Level: Everything about Scande sucks. Slow, long, empty swaths of samey terrain, irritating backtracking, and boring nothing
  22. Level: Poison Field and the blind, with encounters, damaging you if you screw up bullcrap…
  23. Level: …and I hope you enjoyed it the first time because you then HAVE to walk right back through it
  24. Level: Spyre. Huge, empty swaths of empty, pointless encounters, no markers, and no terrain to speak of
  25. Level: The second half of Mote’s dungeon
  26. Level: The Tomb, especially since you do it twice
  27. Minigame: The entire flea market thing. Entirely too RNG and boring for what it is
  28. MSQ: Gobi section. Just… Gobi’s section. First let’s toss you into a high level area while being a single character, also he has the worst stats in the game, also it’s relatively easy to get lost in, oh and good luck figuring out what to do this entire time…
  29. MSQ: Gobi section. …for two negatives
  30. MSQ: Random fetch quests with little to no guidance to fix Nina? Sign me up!
  31. Music: Song restarting at every replay
  32. Music: Songs are entirely too short of loops, making them aggravating very quickly
  33. Padding: Boss refights
  34. QoL: Or lack thereof
  35. QoL: Screwing with your party lineup regularly
  36. Unskippable Cutscenes: Not bad, but they’re still there
  37. Walkthroughitis: Chapter 2
  38. Walkthroughitis: Chapter 3 and the quest to find the right NPCs to talk to
  39. Walkthroughitis: Chapter 4 and the money tax
  40. Walkthroughitis: Chapter 4 and the ‘where do I go now?’
  41. Walkthroughitis: Chapter 5 and ‘good luck figuring out how to progress past Nabal’
  42. Walkthroughitis: Pretty much the entire final chain of fetch quests leading up to Myria Station
  43. Walkthroughitis: General. Good luck finding the dragon gear (required for the good ending). Also on finding the dragon shrines! Or… anything!
  44. Outro: The final dungeon by itself is triple territory. Long, winding, boring, dull music, dull visuals, dull trash…
  45. Outro: …for a full…
  46. Outro: …three negatives
  47. Outro: And then there’s the final Jade fight which is just dull as dishwater while also being awful
  48. Outro: And one last one for the final boss being dull and sloggy
  49. Kit: Or lack thereof
  50. Map: Not the worst I’ve seen, but not great either