Premieres


Secret of Mana port

Secret of Mana’s remaster is an acceptably enjoyable port of the original. While the combat has been tuned, and in many ways improved, it does suffer from some bug issues. But the selectable music, improved dialogue, and addition of inn ‘vignettes’ makes it overall a recommended choice.
Total Story Score: +4
Total Gameplay Score: +8

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Vignettes and what they add to character and story (inn sequences)
  2. Voice acting (varies in quality BUT every single NPC is voice acted)
  3. World building and storytelling in the video records from the modern era of the past and increased NPC dialogues
  4. Main character’s portrayed as down to earth (not counting the pointless plot twist)
  5. Weirdly enough, the game really does make me laugh
  6. Large chunks of the Outro are good… it’s not even in one chunk, it dips in and out of quality
  7. Good Visual Continuity in almost every zone
  8. Visual Storytelling is good, mostly in the wilds and dungeons

Story Negatives:

  1. Bad usage of amnesia as a plot point and nothing else
  2. Majority of characters are one-note and/or not fleshed out
  3. Rushing through story points and not actually doing much with them
  4. The Outro is good… right up until the Mana Beast fight, and that ending just is sort of way too rushed

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Options for remade or original music
  2. Otherwise good quality of life features in menus
  3. Voice acting options (everyone is voiced, reasonably good quality, japanese or english and changeable on the fly, AND can just turn it off)
  4. Screen transition autosave that keeps after shutting down or crashing
  5. Shoulder buttons editable shortcuts
  6. Significantly improved, funner boss fights
  7. Aggregate: Fun and more precise combat, especially at diagonals, and regarding hit and hurt boxes // Respawning enemies is per cell not ON screen increased size of terrain in general // Good animation and good usage of art style for gameplay
  8. Good, local Co-Op
  9. Generally good HUD design
  10. Very good Overworld design, layout, and flow
  11. The early parts of the game do some great work at Tutorializing, up to and including the spellcasting with Undine

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. No online support (for a modern game, built on co-op, on modern systems)
  2. Buggy (softlocks, CTDs, and bizarre melee bugs)
  3. Aggregate:Lack of cursor memory // Weird and arguably bad options in the settings menu (notably more keyboard than controller options)

Dissidia NT

Dissidia NT is an unusual entry in the series. For the purposes of a competitive, versus fighting game it does many things right and indeed superior to previous entries. For anyone seeking a new Dissidia game, it is lacking in stage design, gameplay, and most critically story. Thus whether it’s for you or not depends on what you’re looking for.
Total Story Score: -11
Total Gameplay Score: -5

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

Story Negatives:

  1. Story presentation and acquisition
  2. Entirely too little story to gameplay ratio
  3. Incredibly lackluster and unsatisfactory ending
  4. Characters are devolved into basic caricatures of themselves
  5. Cutscene Incompetence in many scenes
  6. Lord that Dialogue is awful
  7. A near total absence of Doodad usage, in cutscenes and combat both
  8. The Intro does nothing to really set up anything… other than accurately showcasing how bad the story is
  9. Special mention for just how absolutely awful the entire Outro is
  10. Cutscenes happen utterly disjointed from each other, with awful Story Sequencing
  11. Near total lack of Visual Storytelling

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The graphics are excellent
  2. Controls are tight, responsive, and don’t wear out the hands
  3. Matches are legitimately fun to keep playing
  4. The Bahamut boss fight was amazing and genuinely challenging
  5. Music selection, variety, and ability to do an over-ride playlist or set playlists per character

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Lack of any real customization of modes, setup, or characters
  2. Lack of a real co-op option, and clear boss design leaning towards co-op gameplay
  3. Online AI difficulty is tied to online PvP player ranking to unlock
  4. Having to do online ranked matches to increase co-op AI difficulty
  5. Alexander and Leviathan fights are complete bullcrap and terrible examples of artificial difficulty
  6. Shinryu is a generally terribly designed boss fight
  7. While not the worst, the Audio Spam is not good (“Buckethead!”)
  8. The various additional modes are threadbare and not very fun to boot
  9. Special mention for the Outro being awful, with a terrible boss and terrible build up to terrible payoff
  10. There’s so much visual and HUD noise all over the place that Visual Distinction is actually a problem in some fights and in some arenas

Middle Earth: Shadow of War

While there are concerns regarding its stretching of pre-existing lore, the tone and theme remain strong and the flavor of the characters and orcs are fantastic, and the gameplay was generally fun and engaging throughout.
Total Story Score: +8
Total Gameplay Score: +9

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Celebrimbor; his presentation, voice acting, and character
  2. Bruz is just an amazing character throughout
  3. Good ambient storytelling with background dialogue
  4. Ratbag is consistently amusing and endearing, as well as a nice foil to other characters
  5. The entire Bruz story arc is fantastic; from Ratbag, to Ranger, to Bruz breaking in the end
  6. The fleshing out of several Nazgul characters, as well as who they were before and during their corruption
  7. The cinematic directing is excellent and services the story well
  8. The finale in its entirety is just fantastic, and includes both Talion and Celebrimbor separately as part of it
  9. The Plot is actually quite engaging
  10. Sound Design is nice stuff
  11. Good Storyboarding in basically every cutscene

Story Negatives:

  1. Talion is a complete idiot, to the point where it gets irritating
  2. There are several incidents of railroading in the plot that are blatant and frustrating
  3. The Postgame narrative just sort of… stops

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Combat is good and varied with good options
  2. Mobility is great, with lots of ability to move in, out, and regardless of combat
  3. The Nazgul boss fight is just a lot of fun, and appropriately challenging
  4. The improved and mores smooth Domination mechanic which makes dominating in-combat more enjoyable and more of a feasible tactical choice
  5. Improved army building and pokemon mechanics with the orcs
  6. The sound design is phenomenal across the board
  7. The finale’s bosses as both Talion and Celebrimbor are very fun and challenging fights
  8. Generally excellent Graphics design
  9. Good HUD design
  10. The Intro gets you into the vibe of conquering and claiming and is generally fun to play
  11. Not counting post-game, the Pacing of the game is excellent
  12. One of the better Traversal mechanics in these types of games, second positive
  13. Visual Distinction is great in enemies and interactions

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Lack of any proper setting options in the menu
  2. Contextual problems in combat, as well as occasional control issues
  3. Disappointing, tacked on, and generally disinteresting post-game
  4. Second negative for that awful, paddingy Post-Game

South Park: Fractured But Whole

While lacking in some of the more crass and over-the-top humor of the first game and South Park as a whole, the game managed to make me laugh several times and I found the more tactical grid-based combat to be far more interesting, and the boss fights far more varied and enjoyable.
Total Story Score: +7
Total Gameplay Score: +10

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. “CAR!” Periodically the game is interrupted by the mundane reality of the setting despite the fantastical imagination side of things
  2. The game is genuinely funny, repeatedly
  3. Wendy in general is awesome
  4. The entire finale was legitimately awesome
  5. While not something you’d think, the pretty much spot-on Animation really helps add to the South Park vibe of everything
  6. Dialogue is well written… for, uh, what it is
  7. Voice Acting is quite good (which, I mean, it should be)

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Combat and narrative integration
  2. The boss fights are engaging real time / turn based hybrid
  3. The combat is fun and legitimately tactical
  4. The graphics style retains the best features of the show
  5. The music is surprisingly good and adds to the scenes
  6. The gameplay varies more than expected, in a good way
  7. The UI is nearly universally good
  8. Core Mechanics of classes and related gameplay
  9. Enemy Variety is pretty good throughout, including the DLC
  10. Good Kit across party members and classes
  11. Smooth Power Progression Curve
  12. Good Visual Distinction, probably helped by the graphic style

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. The difficulty is very lazy
  2. Aggregate: The filler puzzle design, the disinteresting last dungeon, the slow crafting, and unskippable cutscenes

Super Mario Odyssey

This game is incredibly amazing. It controls better than any other 3D Mario to date, has a huge variety of content and challenges, as well as differing levels and styles to levels. There’s some background lore and flavor lore spicing things up, and the presentation is endearing and shows a massive amount of polish.
Total Story Score: +11
Total Gameplay Score: +56
*Sushi Game*

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Tourist tidbits with background lore
  2. Great ending to the main game
  3. Lovely, absolutely lovely Atmosphere and Tone of… just… joy
  4. Surprisingly interesting and varied Characters across the kingdoms
  5. Really good Doodad design
  6. Special mention for Doodads, which are good everywhere, not just in the city
  7. The game is actually quite Funny
  8. Intro works pretty well at setting up the overall tone and vibe of the game
  9. Surprisingly excellent NPC Set Dressing across the kingdoms (especially after you beat Bowser the first time, and they start cross pollinating)
  10. Excellent Visual Continuity to each kingdom
  11. Great Visual Storytelling to each kingdom

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Presence and execution of casual mode
  2. Absolutely amazing music
  3. Fantastic art style and direction
  4. Smooth and intuitive control scheme
  5. Proper gameplay settings
  6. Waypoint warping within and without worlds
  7. Finally getting rid of the lives system and replacing it with another penalty for failure
  8. Varied and fun boss battles throughout (Mechawiggler, Torkdrift, Knuckleotec, Cookatiel)
  9. Second positive for varied and fun boss fights (Mollosque, Ruined Dragon, RoboBrood)
  10. Stellar level design
  11. Level design plus for Mushroom Kingdom, Cap Kingdom, Lost Kingdom, and Cloud Kingdom
  12. Cascade Kingdom is great fun with lots of fun stuff to do and…
  13. …some truly excellent music
  14. Third positive for some absolutely fantastic, joyful music throughout the whole game
  15. Sand Kingdom is probably my second favorite Kingdom, with lots and lots of fun and interesting moons, puzzles, enemies, traversal, etc.
  16. Lake and Snow Kingdoms both are great
  17. The Wooded Kingdom is just chock full of amazing and fun puzzle design, plus a T-Rex who you can mind control
  18. The Seaside Kingdom, Moon Kingdom, and Bowser’s Kingdom both have great elements, and fun new methods of traversal thanks to enemies you can take over
  19. The Metro Kingdom is easily my favorite in the whole game, with lots and lots and lots and lots of individual tiny details I could spend hours gushing about
  20. The Luncheon Kingdom is surprisingly well thought, bucking the ‘dessert food’ trend and instead being savory and focusing on what is essentially a lava level, with a whole slew of fun challenges throughout
  21. Good auto-camera as well as camera-control
  22. Excellent Intro and generally good tutorialization through level design
  23. Good animation throughout
  24. The Cappy system offers a huge variety of kit and playstyle across levels
  25. Good recovery mechanics built into level design
  26. Genuinely challenging and fun last boss
  27. Amazing escape sequence from the moon, as Bowser
  28. Meaningful and enjoyable post-game with good meaty content
  29. Lots and lots and lots of meaningful, manually crafted, meaty post-game content
  30. Selectable music while playing
  31. The DX bosses are enjoyable additional difficulty
  32. Game is consistently fun and encourages replay
  33. Additional plus for continuing enjoyable moon gathering
  34. Additional plus for variety and creativity of moons
  35. A final plus for sheer joy of playing
  36. Second positive for Animations, notably on Mario’s various cap forms
  37. Excellent Camera control
  38. Second positive for the Controls, notably in the various cap forms
  39. Surprisingly good Cosmetic choices throughout
  40. Great Encounter layout and design
  41. Great Enemy Variety
  42. …and a second positive for that Enemy Variety… even more noteworthy since you can get most of them for yourself
  43. Really fantastic Graphics
  44. The game does a lot to Guide you towards everything
  45. A second positive for the many ‘power ups’ of the cap forms
  46. And a third one for the quality and quantity of cap forms
  47. Another positive for general level design and…
  48. One last positive for level design which, if I’m being honest, is probably lowballing it
  49. Pacing is the smoothest I’ve seen in a Mario game…
  50. …and deserves a full…
  51. …three positives
  52. Great Quality of Life Features
  53. Replayability is through the roof
  54. Sound Design is great
  55. Game Tutorializes itself well throughout the entire game
  56. Lovely Visual Continuity to help navigate the larger kingdoms
  57. Some of the best Visual Distinction in Mario gaming
  58. And it’s not like Mario games have bad Visual Distinction
  59. So, yeah, a third positive

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Aggregate: Inconsistency of ledge-grabbing, and Bowser Amiibo functionality not accessible in game
  2. The beachball 100 moon by itself is just absolutely awful
  3. Several moons are truly terrible, notably the jump rope, bouncing race, and master races

Call of Duty: World War II

While the gameplay and combat itself is acceptable, the level design is significantly lacking. The set pieces and character moments are good, but the overall flow of the plot is disinteresting. CoD WWII does as much right as it does wrong in both story and gameplay, and unless one is exceptionally interested in the multiplayer can only be recommended as a sale buy.
Total Story Score: +2
Total Gameplay Score: +2

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The Normandy landing is pretty awesome
  2. The banter between characters is natural and well done
  3. The spy section is suspenseful and enjoyable
  4. The motion capture is top notch
  5. Aggregate: For one moment the story does not rely on cliche and has a surprisingly well done meaningless death // The characterization is good

Story Negatives:

  1. Zussman somehow lived through a gut wound, and being dragged through 100 yards of hell, while fighting
  2. The dream sequence was generally not well done
  3. The entire finale and ending were just bad

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The graphics are legitimately stellar
  2. Good variety of action and set pieces instead of purely cover based shooting
  3. Music touches, ques, and quality
  4. Aggregate:The spy section was a lot of fun // The tank battle, while short, was awesome // The objectives are well distinguished visually
  5. Surprisingly good Enemy Variety throughout the campaign

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. The level design is just awful, with heavy reliance on invisible walls
  2. In addition to bad level design, the types of actions and tactics the player can take are heavily railroaded, with very obvious scripting
  3. Bad Microtransactions littered throughout

Sonic Forces

While not as enjoyable or as polished as some of the stronger Sonic entries, modern or classic, Sonic Forces embrassed the silliness of its own premise and ran with it grinning the entire way. An enjoyable, if ultimately forgettable, romp that’s worth picking up on sale.
Total Story Score: +2
Total Gameplay Score: +1

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Embraced the ridiculousness of a Sonic Original Character fanfic
  2. Cheesy and hilarious cutscenes
  3. Visual storytelling on display in the background

Story Negatives:

  1. Short, and effectively no story replay value

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Damned good music throughout
  2. Aggregate: Smooth and intuitive controls // Proper and well-done character customization // Removed the out-dated lives system // Awesome boss fight with Infinite
  3. The Replayability for the game is weirdly good, though I suppose that’s the norm for Sonic games

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Has only one save file, which is inexcusable in a modern game
  2. The actual Outro stage and last few bosses are kinda bleh and boring

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

While moderately fun to play, Wolfenstein II blew me away with its willingness to embrace ridiculous over-the-top super science alongside very down to earth, believable, and powerful character moments. Exceptionally well fleshed out characters and moving, quiet moments accentuate the game’s willingness to showcase its point unabashedly and right in the player’s face. A definite recommended buy.
Total Story Score: +11
Total Gameplay Score: -4

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. No holding back during the intro
  2. Amusing and enjoyable background events throughout
  3. Mature storytelling and lots of consequence
  4. Distinct and fantastic characterization
  5. The going back home mission is just damned powerful
  6. A successful implementation of tonal whiplash, aka the Yakuza Effect
  7. The Venus acting scene in its entirety is gold
  8. Sigrun’s big scene at the end was so awesome
  9. Top notch voice acting
  10. Really good Animations in cutscenes
  11. Second positive for those Animations
  12. Good Doodad usage
  13. Game has some really good Humor

Story Negatives:

  1. Very lackluster and distinteresting endings (both of them)
  2. Boring, generic ruins actively hurt the Visual Storytelling

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Huge sections of non-combat roaming which are reasonably well paced
  2. Fantastic music as well as music direction
  3. Armor rewards from killing help maintain gameplay Flow

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Lackluster effect and sound to weapons throughout
  2. The level design is almost universally poor, failing to capitalize on concepts (like the mecha wolf tank)
  3. Aggregate: Lackluster number and variety of guns. Limited heavy weapons design. Lack of significant tactics throughout game.
  4. There’s some serious lackluster Encounter design
  5. The entire Outro is really not fun and frankly just feels like any other level
  6. Pretty bad Raspberry Jam
  7. Pretty bad Visual Continuity, probably because of that ‘generic ruins’ problem

Battlefront 2 EA

While the single player campaign had its ups, it also had its share of downs which restrained it from being as powerful as it should have been. The main characters also shift far too quickly from the Empire to the Resistance, which hampers its storytelling style. There is, however, some genuinely great characterization of the main characters, as well as several other nice sequence set between Return of the Jedi and Force Awakens. Sadly the gameplay is merely average at best, and the multiplayer (even ignoring the loot boxes issue) is just not as supported as it should be. A sale buy.
Total Story Score: +8
Total Gameplay Score: +2

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The ancillary perspective of people in the background helps add to a lot of scenes
  2. Several elements of fleshing out Imperial soldiers and officers early on
  3. The Lando mission is just awesome throughout
  4. The epilogue is playable, and great fun to play through
  5. The Battle of Jakku is one of the better moments of the game
  6. Excellent characterization of Iden, Del, Shriv, and Lando
  7. Some surprisingly good Doodad design for the missions
  8. The Intro is probably the best narrative section of the game, really helping to sell the post-Endor vibe and feel
  9. Visual Storytelling, especially in the later levels
  10. Good Voice Acting throughout

Story Negatives:

  1. As presented within the game, Operation Cinder is just kind of awful and ham-fisted
  2. The narrative construction is far too rushed, everyone except the main characters is one-dimensional, and repeated usage of lazy writing throughout

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Space combat is quite fun and well presented
  2. The Lando mission is just awesome to play through, too
  3. The Battle of Jakku is a lot of fun to play through
  4. Enemy AI design is pretty decent
  5. Generally good Graphics design
  6. Missions are pretty well Paced within themselves
  7. Good general Visual Distinction

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. The stealth design is just lackluster and not well thought out
  2. The sound design and options are actively bad
  3. Multiple problems with multiplayer, including but not limited to: Matchmaking is off, almost no proper options, gear relevance is aggravating, the freemium infrastructure (since removed), and no proper co-op mode for the objective based missions
  4. Some of the worst Microtransactions of recent memory
  5. Second negative for those awful, awful lootboxes, good lord

Assassin's Creed Origins

One of the funnest Assassin’s Creed games from a purely gameplay perspective, it was a treat to go through and the polish was self apparent. Combat is fun and varied, there are plenty of interesting and challenging things to do, and exploration feels rewarding. That being said the story is lackluster; the main plot is actively lacking, and it actively makes me disinterested in several aspects of it. The story is, however, salvaged somewhat by Bayek, as well as the side mission story arcs going through each town that are much better written overall. A definite recommended buy.
Total Story Score: +11
Total Gameplay Score: +21

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Proper acknowledgement of alternate quest routing in events and dialogue
  2. The simple humanity and general presentation of Bayek
  3. The side quests are interesting stories, and have interesting characters
  4. The Crocodile Arena cutscene is just fantastic, with good direction, characters, investment, and payoff
  5. The voice acting helps sell many of the characters
  6. Amazing visual representation of Egypt
  7. The attention to detail and doodad utilization is just jaw-dropping
  8. Animations are really well done, especially for Bayek
  9. The visual design of Egypt is mind bogglingly good
  10. Good opening cinematic, as usual for the series
  11. This might be one of the best Doodad designs I’ve seen in a game…
  12. …with absolutely insane quantity of Doodads, but also…
  13. …actual thought put into what should be where, to help visually tell stories based on regions
  14. In line with this, clear effort was put into NPC Set Dressing to help sell the ideas of towns, cities, ports, etc.
  15. The Intro quickly establishes time, character, and motive

Story Negatives:

  1. The modern story side of things is just bad, with failed potential, bad presentation, irrelevance to the current modern story, AND irrelevance to the plot of AC:O, as well as actively interrupting the story of ancient Egypt
  2. The main plot is weak at best, almost every main plot character is completely immemorable, and Aya shifts perspective in a way that implies multiple writers who disagreed with each other
  3. The entirety of the finale was bad, including unnecessary drama, characters acting out of character, unnecessary repetition, and a general feeling of the whole thing being rushed
  4. A rare moment where the Animus actually makes the story worse

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The UI design is fantastic, with good at-a-glance
  2. The autopilot and seek-to-road mechanics of mounting are intuitive and well designed
  3. Everything about Senu is great, from the UI, the tracking, the homing in, the movement, and the ability to keep going with him an exceptional distance
  4. The side quests aren’t just better story, they have a variety of activities and are fun to do
  5. The boat missions are fun, well designed, and engaging
  6. Many weapon styles, which vary in playstyle and are fun to go through
  7. Boats will spawn and rush up to you while swimming (and other miscellaneous quality of life choices)
  8. Combat is great, combat is good, combat is fun
  9. The music is fantastic and atmospheric
  10. The menu options are good
  11. The Discovery Tour mode is just amazing in every way
  12. The Discovery Tour mode also is convenient and well designed
  13. Surprisingly good enemy AI, most notably on the elites
  14. Animations are fantastic, easily letting you know what’s going on where in combat
  15. Speaking of those elites, they’re some awesome boss fights…
  16. …and the ‘mythical’ boss fights are great fun too
  17. Good fast travel, as per the series norm
  18. Great kit and variety of tools and weapons, per the series norm
  19. The Intro works in gameplay too, helping to set up how Bayek operates and the multi weapon function
  20. While it fails narratively, the Outro is quite fun to play through (especially since it’s a bit more ‘typical’ assassiny)
  21. The Overworld design of Egypt is clearly laid out and structured for good flow and events
  22. Good, quick, efficient save system
  23. Good visual distinction, can always tell what you’re looking at, where

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Aggregate: A few of the usual Assassin’s Creed control issues. Camera had trouble in smaller areas keeping up. The in-game store was shoved into my face (once). The daily quests seem oddly poorly designed considering the high quality of everything else.
  2. Microtransactions shoved into the game

Total War Warhammer II

I’m a bit biased towards this one, because this is the first Total War game I really enjoyed. While lacking significantly in the strategic layer, the tactical layer is fun and engaging and allows for player tactics to overcome numbers to a huge degree, as well as encouraging the player to experiment with different strategies. Each side plays differently in feel as well as mechanics, and it’s a nice entry representation of Warhammer lore for someone new to the franchise. A recommended buy for fans of Total War, Warhammer, or RTS’s in general.
Total Story Score: +4
Total Gameplay Score: +12

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Representation of and presence of story is good
  2. Good introduction to Warhammer lore
  3. The voice acting is excellent
  4. Good connections overall to the rest of Warhammer

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Significant amount of and quality of options in the menus
  2. Each faction feels unique in playstyle and flavor
  3. The graphics are surprisingly good, with more detail than necessary, and very visually distinct
  4. Presentation of the map has good ease of determining information at-a-glance in tactical and strategic layers
  5. Many tactical options in tactical mode that put emphasis on player skill and actions
  6. The terrain matters significantly to combat
  7. The game encourages the player to change up their army composition as well as try new strategies
  8. Good overall Graphics design
  9. Pretty good HUD, mostly in the tactical layer
  10. Lots of fun Optional Modes in how to play outside of simple campaigns
  11. Mod Support
  12. As is usual for most of these types of games, good Replayability
  13. Second positive for Replay value

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Cities aren’t as relevant as they should be. The strategic layer is lacking in engagement. Siege battles are repetitive and lack interesting gameplay. Incredible difficulty in properly managing larger and larger swaths of territory, which function as an irritation.

Yakuza 0

Yakuza 0 astonished me with how high quality it was. Telling an incredible story while simultaneously being ridiculously silly, having consistently varied and fun gameplay, and making me truly care about the characters. The density of content is through the roof, and never gets boring or old. A hugely definitely recommended buy.
Total Story Score: +42
Total Gameplay Score: +34
*Sushi Game*

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Presentation of the three types of cutscene (slideshow, standard, and in-game render) help the flavor and variety of the story
  2. Doodad placement is excellent throughout
  3. A wide variety of interesting, manually generated side quests
  4. A continued positive for side quests
  5. Majima’s ‘perfect revenge’ was a joy and a treat
  6. Amazing and in-depth characters (Sagawa, Dojima, Makimura, Shibusawa)
  7. Daisaku Kuze is surprisingly interesting of a villain, having actual layers to him and legitimate loyalty in the otherwise messed up society of organized crime
  8. I cannot put into words how much I love Majima throughout this game. His subtlety, layers, and arc are beautiful
  9. A second plus for Majima being the lynchpin of investment in the entire game
  10. Tetsu Tachibana is another excellent character, probably my second favorite character in the game
  11. Somehow, the game manages to ride the thin line of having serious drama and ridiculous silly and pulls off both beautifully
  12. Tons of tensions and drama for most of the main story
  13. The end of Chapter 6 was fantastic, with Kiryu, Kuze, Purple, and Bro
  14. Excellent, and understated presentation of major plot points and twists (not being too overt, or too subtle)
  15. Excellent weaving of many multiple plot threads together into one tapestry
  16. Fantastic pacing in main story to maintain a pace of tension, action, information, and then looping
  17. Really great Animation for those cutscenes, good lord
  18. Like, it really helps sell every scene
  19. A third positive for that great Animation
  20. Lovely Background Lore
  21. Great Camerawork for pretty much every scene
  22. Second Camerawork positive
  23. Lots and lots of Consequence Storytelling in the narrative
  24. Love the Dialogue
  25. Second Dialogue positive
  26. Second positive for that great Doodad usage
  27. The game is really funnier then it has any right to…
  28. …but that’s normal for the game that coined the term Yakuza Effect for me
  29. Great Intro for setting everything up
  30. Excellent Lighting usage in most cutscenes
  31. Some really great primary missions…
  32. …but also some really great secondary ones too
  33. Music Direction for scenes is phenomenal
  34. Second positive for Music Directions
  35. Some excellent NPC Set Dressing and Lindblum Effect in the city
  36. Second positive for that NPC goodness
  37. Outro just nails the tone and vibe it needs to
  38. Second positive for great Pacing
  39. Excellent Story Sequencing, as events follow a really well reasoned and logical flow
  40. Second positive for Story Sequencing
  41. Storyboarding for cutscenes is great (as it should be for a beat’em’up)
  42. Love the Visual Storytelling

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Combat styles are fun and each significantly alter gameplay
  2. Second plus for the method by which you can so effortlessly adjust your combat style on the fly
  3. Good variety and enjoyment of most side quests throughout
  4. Variable fluid and dynamic music for combat and non combat
  5. Good music in general, as per Sega norm
  6. Even more combat styles and variety for Majima, in addition to Kiryu
  7. Amazing directing for grabbing the player’s attention in the right places throughout
  8. Good gameplay and story integration, as well as segregation
  9. New Game +, which is well executed
  10. Excellent side quests
  11. Varied and fun side quests
  12. One of the better designed ‘open world’ games I’ve seen in my life…
  13. …which deserves two positives for incredible layout and density, with it only taking a couple of minutes to traverse but having a hundred things to do on the way there
  14. The final boss and its ‘final exam’ nature and allowing you to really play with the various combat styles is just a blast
  15. Great Animations
  16. Those Animations deserve special mention for being so helpful in figuring out how to react to and with enemy and boss attacks
  17. Let’s get those Boss positives out there
  18. Seriously, some great Boss fights
  19. Especially those last few, woof
  20. Very, very nice Control scheme….
  21. …especially for how you can swap stances in mid combat
  22. Core Combat is really, really fun
  23. Difficulty Curve is actually very well designed…
  24. …so much so that it spikes and smooths out beautifully
  25. Absolutely amazing Graphics
  26. Second positive for those great Graphics
  27. The entire Intro is great, fun, and sets up everything gameplay wise
  28. Three full positives for Minigames and side activities, there are so many and they are astonishingly well designed and fun
  29. Minigames mk.2
  30. Minigames mk.3
  31. Second positive for Music
  32. And third positive for Music
  33. Game’s Pacing, between navigating, combat, cutscene, and minigames, is great
  34. Power Progression Curve is really smooth
  35. Save System is smooth and quick

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Aggregate: Incredibly poorly labeled purchasable territories with no real map help. Hitbox detection issues. Sprinting feels wonky. Too many menu clicks to activate certain actions, like healing in combat. Too many invisible walls. Tedious to have to manually collect real estate money each collection cycle.

Romancing SaGa 2 Remaster

An unfortunately faithful recreation of the original SNES Romancing SaGa 2, with all the good and the bad that that implies. This is, ultimately, a decent port but not much else. If you were a fan of the original, the touched up graphics do help a little, but the content is effectively unchanged. Not recommended, unless you were a fan of the original.
Total Story Score: +2
Total Gameplay Score: -8

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Awesome premise of a generational RPG, with kingdom building, expanding to gain more taxes, etc.
  2. Excellent central story around the Seven Heroes
  3. Individual story arcs and relevance to the Heroes
  4. Okay, the Core generational Mechanic is actually pretty well done

Story Negatives:

  1. Exceptionally bad flow of story in terms of directions, dialogue, etc. (one must talk to a specific NPC to unlock an area, NPCs look almost identical and most repeat irrelevant information, heavily scripted quests and events, etc.)
  2. Most of the depth of the story is barely represented on screen

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Saving anywhere
  2. Good music throughout
  3. Surprisingly good New Game + feature
  4. Choices matter and change the course of the story and events

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. The trash fights are too numerous, too easy, respawn too easily, and are exceptionally boring
  2. There are no settings whatsoever to customize the game
  3. Ultimately a lazy port from the phone version
  4. Lack of proper transparency on many, many game mechanics
  5. The difficulty is all over the place, with a very uneven and wonky difficulty curve, a lack of design features to accommodate its non-linear nature, and heavy randomness of player progression
  6. A near total lack of direction in what to do or how to do it
  7. Generally bad Boss design
  8. The game is exceptionally Grindy
  9. Really bad Power Progression Curve
  10. This is right up there with some of the worst Walkthroughitis games I’ve covered
  11. Second negative for Walkthroughitis
  12. And a third

Ni No Kuni 2 Revenant Kingdom

While lacking a lot of the heart, writing chops, and core thematic power of Ni No Kuni 1, this one nevertheless manages to be an enjoyable outing which is a blast to play, with tons of side stuff to occupy many hours, and a weirdly engaging kingdom building mechanic and army skirmish mode which are both primary gameplay features. A recommended buy.
Total Story Score: +8
Total Gameplay Score: +9

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The entire Goldpaw section is interesting, and humorous
  2. The conclusion of the Hydropolis arc was pretty powerful
  3. The general art design is good, but the visual style of each locale is amazing
  4. Consistently good and varied visual design throughout, deserving a second plus
  5. A successful embracing of the simplistic ideal of a child’s fairy tale
  6. A successful culmination of unification themes throughout, leading to an awesome finale setup as all the armies and characters you’ve gathered help you against the final bosses
  7. Really excellent Animation usage (especially on the Evan)
  8. General positive for good Characters
  9. Good Doodad design throughout, especially in cities
  10. The Intro is probably one of the best sequences in the game; the President, the introduction of Evan, the political upheavel, all of it
  11. Generally great Localization

Story Negatives:

  1. Sudden and contrived shift from threats of grisly murder to happily joining the party
  2. Unnecessary dialogue all over the place, poorly constructed sequences of events, and the story is just too simplistic
  3. A sudden and out-of-nowhere time travel explanation for the sole purpose of having a twist, and the utter lack of explanation for why the First World is suddenly fine instead of a hellscape nuked land

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Combat is great fun, with good iframes, auto locking without aggravation, customizable skillset, avoidance approach, fast pace, and general enjoyment
  2. The skirmish RTS sections are fun, simple but not too boring, with enough options to vary playstyle, different types of maps and victory conditions, and being generally fun
  3. Excellent presentation and execution of the puzzle segment early on, with a top-down visual mode, ease of resetting, ease of checking hints on the fly, and good music
  4. Excellent and fluid animation across the board, with very little clipping or other normal issues
  5. Very fun, despite playing for some time the game continued to be fun
  6. The kingdom gameplay is well thought out, well integrated into the rest of the gameplay, and isn’t a minigame so much as a core concept
  7. The finale setup and fight is just awesome, and gameplay relevant, with unified troops helping in the last skirmish fight
  8. Substantive post game content with tons and tons to do, though lacking in real story relevance, none of it feels tacked on or lazy
  9. Legitimately enjoyable Boss design
  10. Encounter Rate is nice since you can generally avoid most of it
  11. Good general Enemy Variety
  12. Good HUD design for both combat modes
  13. Good Gameplay Pacing
  14. Good Visual Distinction

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Several UI issues, like bad and cumbersome equipping and optimizing, removal of equipped items from other characters with no prompt or notice, occasional double clicking, and a cumbersome tactic tweaker
  2. Music direction is generally inappropriate, with music too short and too looped, and in some cases not matching the tone of the area or events at all
  3. Design of the difficulty curve is off, design of the leveling curve is actively bad, heavily excessive trash, and health sponge problems
  4. The Power Progression Curve has several issues, requiring long sections of catching up or being too overpowered
  5. Entirely too many problems with Trash design

Celeste

One of the best Punishing Platformers I’ve ever played, this game is properly difficult in almost every stage, with heavy use of checkpoints and quick respawns to get you back into it rapidly, and very clever puzzle design across the entire game. The game also has a hard and a super hard mode, as well as the second best difficulty options I’ve ever seen in a game. And finally the story is strangely down to earth and human while retaining the fantastical, and is both powerful and well presented. A hugely recommended buy.
Total Story Score: +12
Total Gameplay Score: +30
*Sushi Game*

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The Gondola sequence is great, with a visual representation and gameplay of a panic attack, servicing gameplay and being well written
  2. The entire breather section has good dialogue, is obviously written by people who understand mental issues, and the second dream sequence has no penalty for failure to accent moment for main character
  3. Endearing ending, and a good overall message about one’s self and finding the balance point
  4. Consistent usage of literal metaphor on a magical mountain to examine psyche
  5. Free DLC story mission is a well done examination of what it’s like to have to let go of a loved one
  6. Music really adds to the atmosphere of basically ever area, and moreover also fits the tone of any given level and the plot at that point
  7. Atmosphere of the mystical remains a constant throughout…
  8. …as does the overall Tone of, for lack of a better way to put it, taking care of yourself
  9. Good Characters throughout
  10. Good usage of Doodads to really accent the stages (especially the hotel!)
  11. Great gameplay/story Integration at almost every stage
  12. A bonus point for the consistent, excellent Themes of self

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Excellent use of graphics and animations that aren’t retro, but use retro concepts in modern ways to good effect
  2. Fantastic music direction in emphasizing challenges, areas, and story points, with lots of Yoshi Drums throughout
  3. Good design on B levels, with checkpoints per screen, allowing players to look ahead, very contained per-room challenges, and being fully optional
  4. Varying themes and mechanics across stages to ensure the gameplay doesn’t get boring or disinteresting
  5. The second dream sequence is fantastic story / gameplay integration
  6. The strawberries provide excellent optional difficulty
  7. Many, many, amazing difficulty options which can be toggled individually, including setting game speed, changing stamina, a selectable number of air dashes, and outright invincibility
  8. The music is just incredible throughout
  9. Second plus for music
  10. The Forsaken City really serves as an excellent tutorial about how the game functions in almost every way
  11. Old Site and the ‘dreamstate’ effects and puzzles
  12. The Celestial Resort is nice in its semi-non-linear manner and introducing new gimmicks and mechanics
  13. Golden Ridge is when the kiddy gloves come off, but pulling off some of these absolutely bonkers jumps feels very satisfying
  14. The Mirror Temple is fantastically creepy, uses good tutorialization (especially when you play as the enemy unit so you understand how they work), and has great launching puzzles
  15. The Summit is such a beautifully difficult area to go through, amazingly frustrating in just the right way and so satisfying to get right
  16. The design of the room-specific challenge ensures that the game never goes overboard with regards to punishment, and instead remains truly difficult instead of merely punishing
  17. The game Controls brilliantly
  18. The general Spritework really pops
  19. There’s a lot of wonderful Flow to how the game plays, even when dying over and over
  20. The Intro does everything it needs to to get you into the zone for what to expect and how the game will be played
  21. A special bonus mention for how the game approaches Penalty to Failure…
  22. …by almost not punishing you in anything other than time and effort
  23. The entire Outro is just fantastic, between the increasing escalation of jumps, the musical score, and the final few moments with Badeline
  24. Multiple good Quality of Life features in the options
  25. Between the Cherries, stage select, ease of picking the game up at any time…
  26. …and optional modes and challenges, there’s a lot of Replay value here
  27. Good Sound Design, especially on the ‘boss’ fights
  28. Like any good platformer, the game never really stops Tutorializing new mechanics and gimmicks as it goes on (special praise to the madness temple’s monster tutorial)
  29. The game is very Visually Distinct…
  30. …while not losing its aesthetic, so you can tell immediately what you’re looking at and how to deal with it

Gameplay Negatives:

God of War 4

This is the best God of War game I’ve played by a huge margin, somehow making an amazing, impactful, powerful, and emotionally traumatizing game out of Kratos and his interactions with those around him. While having few characters, almost all of them are well fleshed out and generally awesome. The gameplay isn’t the best, but is still fantastic, with only minor irritants and issues throughout. Eagerly looking forward to a sequel. A massively definitely recommended buy.
Total Story Score: +43
Total Gameplay Score: +13

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Approach to exposition is consistently amazing, lots of showing and not telling
  2. Fantastic moment of Atreus having to kill a human for the first time; his reaction to it, Kratos’ reaction to it
  3. Continued development of Kratos and Atreus’ dynamic
  4. Sindri and Brok are just awesome
  5. The game somehow managed to make me genuinely laugh. Many times.
  6. The siren light, pseudo death sequence, as Atreus’ rescue of us from within
  7. The voice acting and voice directing are just damned incredible
  8. The slowly developing and very natural growth of fondness and respect between Kratos and Atreus
  9. The signs and ways in which Kratos shows how he really feels about Atreus; all that is, and leading up to him entrusting Atreus to Freya
  10. Athena’s return was chilling, and the re-claiming of the Blades of Chaos was one of the most powerful moments of the game
  11. The absolutely incredible animation, with astonishing detail in motion capture
  12. The side content is meaty, fun, and good
  13. Continuous and good usage of a close range, cinematic directing with few cuts in camera style during cutscenes
  14. Very human and down to earth story, adding to its relatability
  15. Does cliche often, but does it so well it’s amazing
  16. Mimir is just damned good
  17. Incredible art design and presentation of the different realms
  18. The finale in its entirety
  19. A second positive for that amazing Animation…
  20. …and the fantastic motion capture
  21. The overall somber Atmosphere…
  22. …and the mythic Tone are great
  23. A second positive for that Camerawork
  24. And a third
  25. Lots of Consequence Storytelling, probably aided by how relatively small scale the overall story is
  26. Lovely Dialogue
  27. And a second positive for that Dialogue
  28. Lovely Doodad usage
  29. Internal Continuity retains its quality
  30. The Intro is beautiful, and brilliantly sets up the initial state of all aspects of story
  31. Rarely good Lighting design in service of the visual storytelling
  32. Good Music Direction in multiple scenes
  33. A second positive for the Doodad utilization, especially in how they vary between realms
  34. Weirdly good usage of External Continuity, in how it not only changes events, but also is important for many characters within
  35. A second positive for that great Outro
  36. The Pacing is great, knowing exactly what beats it needs to do where
  37. A second positive for that Pacing
  38. Story Sequencing makes perfect sense
  39. A second positive for Story Sequencing which really has good thought put into its overall structure
  40. A second positive for that cutscene Storyboarding
  41. Visual Storytelling is everywhere, but especially in the realms
  42. Love the World Building
  43. Generally good Writing

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Massive number of gameplay options, including for people with issues or disabilities
  2. Multiple feasible approaches to combat, tactically
  3. Attention to detail and general polish are everywhere and are amazing
  4. Usage of both outlines and highlights to draw player’s attention to items, directions, or secrets
  5. The Zelda style approach to level design, with no missable content or items, gradually improving ease of backtracking, and relative linearity with optional sections
  6. The dragon boss fight was fun and amazing
  7. The Magni and Modi boss fight was one of the better designed fights in the game, with both using completely different styles of attacks and coordinating against you and Atreus
  8. The Blades of Chaos add a whole new dimension to the combat
  9. The final boss fight with Baldur was fantastic, included callbacks to his previous fights, varied up consistently, and was enjoyably challenging
  10. Fantastic animation of puzzle sequences and combat
  11. When music is played it’s excellent, and music direction in cutscenes is top notch
  12. The ability to simultaneously control Kratos and Atreus is an awesome idea, that only gets better the further into the game you get
  13. A second plus for the dual party gameplay control, via hotkeys and context sensitive abilities
  14. Great Animations which help with combat, especially on bosses
  15. Core Combat is enjoyable, despite its issues
  16. Good Enemy Variety
  17. Very nice, fun bonus fights as an optional end/postgame
  18. A second positive for that awesome Graphical design
  19. The Intro build up of interaction, puzzle design, and combat are great
  20. And that Outro deserves a special separate mention
  21. Sound Design is excellent

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Lack of ability to rebind keys properly
  2. Controls are just awkward enough to make playing continuously mildly annoying
  3. Music direction is just off outside of cutscenes
  4. Several issues with Backtracking, especially given how long it takes to unlock anything faster than just walking or rowing
  5. The camera is too close and too slow and causes issues
  6. The Map is, arguably, badly designed and actively irritating to figure out what’s where
  7. There’s issues with Invisible Walls and railroading periodically when just roaming around
  8. Getting from Point A to Point B is honestly just a chore, and detracts from the gameplay especially when you’re trying to do optional stuff

BATTLETECH

This scratched a very serious Battletech itch, and while not quite at the level of quality as, say, XCOM 2, it was a very nice turn based tactical game with a good strategic layer. The campaign had some issues but was fun to go through. Biggest issues were pacing and slowdown, both of which are actively being fixed by patches. I would highly recommend this to any fans of the franchise, or of turn based tactical games in general.
Total Story Score: +5
Total Gameplay Score: +20

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Inclusion of a massive, well designed, and easily skippable exposition dump during character creation
  2. Skippable but otherwise interesting and fun character chatter while hanging out on the ship
  3. Overall well presented and visually interesting vignettes for cutscenes throughout the main campaign
  4. Excellent mercenary tone for missions, and work on the periphery in general
  5. Good voice acting
  6. Good world building, a great entry point for the Battletech setting

Story Negatives:

  1. The story is weirdly one-dimensional, with far too many characters being one-note, stating the obvious, and having overtly good and bad guys. The story lacks the depth that it otherwise seems to present.

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Good and well presented information on the battle UI
  2. Terrain actually matters, a lot, to overall strategy and is enjoyable to work with
  3. A significant amount of tactical choice exists in individual skirmishes, helping to engage the player
  4. The terrain itself is well designed visually so it not only looks nice, but you can tell at-a-glance what’s what and how it will impact combat
  5. Armor functioning as replenishable HP after mission is nice, and actual HP being repairable is nice, and ammo finally ammo and armor both aren’t bogged down with additional bureaucracy or upkeep in gameplay
  6. The method of salvaging is the usual Battletech standard of quality, garnering pieces of mechs based on how they’re destroyed ensuring you’re not drowning in mechs, while at the same time increasing priority on salvage and emphasizing different tactics to garner as much salvage as possible
  7. The degree of player choice in mission rewards is excellent, varying between reputation, salvage, and cash
  8. Mech customization is awesome, with usage of hardpoints as well as soft-space, easy to access buttons for stripping and repairing, and the all important undo button
  9. Evasion chevrons are a great idea; their acquisition via abilities or movement, their removal via abilities or just shots, and the benefit it adds to mobility
  10. The story missions vary significantly in their level design, making each one unique and with their own gimmicks, and very fun to play
  11. Enemy AI is reasonably well designed
  12. Core combat is some fun stuff
  13. Good encounter design
  14. Good enemy variety (though it’s kind of your own variety as well… being mechs and all)
  15. Lots of info in game to help you decide how to kit out your mechs
  16. Good interface design in combat
  17. Good interface design while designing said mechs
  18. Good variety of mechs for you, too
  19. The new post game career mode is a nice addition
  20. Well designed power progression curve as you go through the campaign, in terms of gear, mechs, and tonnage
  21. A decent amount of thought and work goes into…
  22. …the design of how you set up your team, who you send where, and the general strategic layer
  23. Visual distinction is quite good in combat

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Aggregate: Consistent camera issues (taking control away for ‘scenes’ during combat, then reverting to whatever it was before last action finishes) // Occasional bugs, such as literally getting mechs ‘stuck’ on terrain or dropships // UI issues here and there, such as unclear LoS indicator during sprinting vs. walking
  2. Absolutely massive memory leak issues, leading to hourly restarts
  3. Utter lack of difficulty settings makes the game less accessible for those who want a challenge or those who want something easier, which also limits replayability

Kingdom Come Deliverance

This game was an absolute treat, with amazing characters, plots, side stories, and world building. The idea of a non-fantasy non-sci fi RPG has fascinated me for years, and this delivers better than any other game has to-date. The many mechanics in the game are fun and interesting, combat is engaging, crafting is surprisingly enjoyable, and there is a good amount of player choice regarding how you proceed through quests. The game isn’t nearly as buggy as its reputation suggests, mostly due to a barrage of patches. I do highly recommend you play with a save mod though.
Total Story Score: +14
Total Gameplay Score: +12

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Smooth weaving of exposition and political situations into normal chatter and dialogue
  2. The perspective of the game is of being an ant skurrying about as the world turns around you, and it’s very well presented
  3. The very nature of the story as a historical RPG deserves mention and praise
  4. The characters are interesting and memorable, with effort made to make the nobility more than stereotypical bad guys
  5. Excellent doodad placement and attention to detail in the enviroment adds to the setting and to general immersion
  6. Absolutely ridiculous levels of attention to detail really help to flesh out the areas as you travel from place to place
  7. The side quests are just fantastic, with multiple options, fleshed out characters, and interesting plots
  8. The entire quest surrounding the monastery is just amazing, including the characters we interact within, as well as how much we learn about everyday life there, the history of the region, the practices of the religion at the time, and more
  9. Hans deserves special mention for being an interesting and engaging character, who doesn’t fit any particular mold, and develops very naturally over time as his character arc continues
  10. Some really good Consequence Storytelling, as events follow through on previous things properly
  11. Really good Intro (despite the ‘doomed hometown’ cliche), that really puts us into the proper perspective and sets the tone perfectly
  12. Good usage of NPC Set Dressing in towns and surrounding farmlands to help flesh things out
  13. The core Plot is weirdly engaging for (and perhaps because of) how low tier it is
  14. Yeah lots of Visual Storytelling in this one, pretty much the whole game
  15. Really good Voice Acting across the board

Story Negatives:

  1. The final act of the story was disappointing at best, lacking the polish and nuance a lot of the rest of the game had in spades. In particular Toth was a very one-dimensional and, frankly, disinteresting enemy

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Graphics are consistently good, but also consistently varied in style and aesthetics, avoiding everything looking the same
  2. Lighting is consistently well done and visually enjoyable, day or night, and also manages to be functional while still being believable
  3. The quest design is just fantastic, following the all-paths-leads-to-Rome design theory which allows for tremendous player choice
  4. The quests are so well designed they make even ordinary or mundane tasks enjoyable
  5. The invisible timer on some quests, which most importantly does not lead to artificial fail states, increases replayability and adds to immersion
  6. The game was good enough to want to keep playing despite being very sick, so points for fun factor
  7. The UI, despite being heavily stylized, is very informative and good at showing a large amount of information in an efficient area
  8. The Assault on Pribyslaviz was a very fun mission and worthy of note. It offered enjoyable squad tactics, made your earlier choices significantly alter the outcome, and culminated in an enjoyable solo duel
  9. The usage of minigames to flesh out side activities is great, making pickpocketing, lockpicking, grindstoning, and most importantly alchemy enjoyable
  10. The map design is excellent, with multiple tiers to it, good information, and good at-a-glance, while also being stylized like the rest of the UI
  11. The entire monastery quest is just awesome, with many different ways to play through it, it being dynamic in adapting to your actions in ways that can also change the outcome, and the fact that you can either breeze through it immediately or take weeks at your discretion
  12. The Animations really help with the sword combat
  13. Good Choices throughout, despite the relatively linear playstyle
  14. Core Combat is pretty well designed overall
  15. Good Fast Travel system

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. The music is inconsistent in its presentation, leading to long and awkward stretches of silence
  2. The total lack of difficulty options, which as usual limits challenge, ease, and replayability
  3. The lack of a save system and how it limits player choice. Note that I spent several hours debating this one negative, and did not give it lightly, but the fact that it discourages player experimentation, or might not gel with a player’s playstyle, takes choice away from the player, and most importantly leaves the player at the mercy of bugs (several of which we encountered during our playthrough)

Pillars Of The Earth

While mostly a visual novel, with little in the way of branching narrative, the game was nonetheless enjoyable to go through and overall fun. The story itself is its shining quality, obviously, and does a good adaptation of Ken Follett’s story, with a distinct art style and good voice acting adding to the performance.
Total Story Score: +9
Total Gameplay Score: +2

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The voice acting is solid and appropriately subtle
  2. There are several powerful moments, like dolling out the last of the bread amongst the refugees
  3. The jumping between protagonists is really well done, and their stories interweave very well
  4. The story remained engaging throughout, and the characters and their story arcs were not only interesting but made me significantly invested in their lives
  5. The conclusion was enjoyable, very grounded (keeping with the tone of the rest of the work), and satisfying
  6. Very good Atmosphere and Tone throughout
  7. Engaging and interesting Characters
  8. Well written Dialogue throughout
  9. The game lives on Internal Continuity

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The sound design is overall good, and varied, and also the musical application is good
  2. Small convenience features like double clicking to skip scene transitions help tremendously

Gameplay Negatives:

Detroit Become Human

I’ve admittedly never cared for David Cage games, but this one really caught me. While Markus was, frankly, disinteresting, I found Connor and Kara’s stories extremely engaging and cared, a lot, about what happened in their stories. Further, the sheer amount of branching paths and how much those actually change the story in huge ways is amazing and a breath of fresh air. The music design and visual storytelling also really help sell the work.
Total Story Score: +20
Total Gameplay Score: +11

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The entire Todd incident was good, well paced, and wonderfully branched
  2. The entirety of the interrogation scene was just great across the board
  3. Legitimately awesome acting on behalf of most of the voices and most capture artists, most notably Conner who just sells it
  4. Multiple characters are well fleshed out, and I genuinely cared what happened to them
  5. The music direction is exceptional, and the modular usage of music dependant upon action really adds to the work
  6. Hank in his entirety is a fantastic character, who changes significantly based on your actions and is likeable throughout
  7. The tone and atmosphere across the entire work remains consistently good
  8. Honestly this is some of the best motion capture and Animation I’ve seen in a game
  9. Down to tiny details in facial features…
  10. …and tiny little movements that add to the believability and presentation
  11. Good Background Lore, fleshing out the setting and how… messed up it is
  12. Great Banter, especially between Connor and Hank
  13. Great usage of Camerawork in just about every scene
  14. The game really does have great Dialogue… most of the time
  15. Lovely Doodad usage for every area (special mention to the police office)
  16. Okay, I’ll give the game this one, it made me laugh out loud more than a few times… especially with Hank
  17. The game has fantastic Internal Continuity
  18. Great usage of Lighting to accentuate a lot of scenes
  19. Second positive for Music Direction
  20. The Outro really had me invested, engaged, and eager to see how it would go
  21. The narrative Pacing is surprisingly good
  22. So, when it’s good, the Themes are really good…
  23. Second positive for Voice Acting
  24. Good World Building
  25. Great World Building

Story Negatives:

  1. There are issues with predictability, especially in Markus’ sections, and there are far too many Cageisms
  2. Several instances of Cutscene Incompetency, notably in Markus’ sections
  3. The rest of the time, the Dialogue really sucks
  4. There really are some bad examples of Fake Drama
  5. …when the Themes are bad, they’re really bad

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The droid UI is clean, well designed, and very informative
  2. The music is excellent and great for the mood of any given scene
  3. Generally fantastic sound design, helping to bridge the more tense sections of the narrative
  4. Good variety, presentation, and usage of gameplay (via QTEs) which makes it feel closer to actual gameplay instead of just a series of QTEs.
  5. Good replay value in the many, many branching paths
  6. Chloe and her developing presentation as well as the final decision with her serving as a final nod to the overall theme of the game
  7. Second positive for well designed Choices throughout
  8. Good Graphics Fidelity
  9. Great Graphics Fidelity
  10. Special notice for that Music, goodness
  11. There’s so many ways for the Outro to go, dependant upon what you’ve done before and how you react in the moment
  12. Second positive for that Replayability

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. The lack of proper fast forward, skip-to-action, savestate, or other feature makes replaying more irritating than it should be

Bloodstained Curse Of The Moon

While short, this game is good. Really, really good. This is one of the best side scroller Castlevania-style games I’ve ever played, and does so many things right it’s hard to properly list. At a glance it seems to be a typical retro sidescroller, but it has many, many great features which reward skill, encourage players across multiple levels, and removes irritation or aggravation in playing. It’s also relatively cheap. This is a definite must buy.
Total Story Score: +3
Total Gameplay Score: +35
*Sushi Game*

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Good gothic Tone and Atmosphere
  2. Surprisingly good Doodad utilization across the levels
  3. Good Visual Storytelling in the background as you progress

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The music is good. Really good. It doesn’t just do an 8 bit theme, but tries to make good music with the old style.
  2. The spritework is excellent and distinctive, with good animation
  3. The player agency in party members and how it lets you change which type of playthrough you do is just great, letting you recruit, kill, or ignore them as you go
  4. The branching options themselves are just great, are based not only on character usage but the interaction between them
  5. The ability to swap characters on the fly, instantly, in mid-action, adds a huge amount to what the player can do in this game
  6. The level design is top notch and clearly had a lot of thought put into it, with branching paths and multiple methods to progress through enemies and challenges. This is well shown by Stage 1 (Moonlight Temptation) does so much right to quickly establish the overall approach, made even better by…
  7. …Stage 2, which also introduces the benefits and alternate routes of having other party members
  8. Stage 3 retains the high level of quality and really starts varying up the enemy challenges
  9. But not as much as Stage 4, which is where they really start shoving enemies plus terrain against you
  10. Stage 5 officially ups the difficulty, allowing for lots of alternate paths (especially for the recently recruited Gebel)
  11. Stage 6 is visually distinct, and absolutely cranks the environmental challenge up
  12. Stage 7 is the closest to a clocktower stage we get, with lots of moving platforms, floating and flying enemies, and very little margin for error
  13. Stage 9 is just fantastic, forcing the player to use each character in turn and having fantastic specific, difficult, fun challenges per area
  14. The Zangetsu final boss is so, so good
  15. The different characters aren’t just different in terms of attacks, but their overall playstyle is different
  16. Aggregate: Casual mode exists and you are not penalized for using it // Nightmare Mode is a form of New Game + and opens up new options in stages
  17. Aggregate: The bosses are all fun and have interesting and varied mechanics // Ultimate Mode is a lot of fun, and the new last boss hard mode is fun
  18. Animations are some great stuff
  19. Bonus for boss design
  20. The Controls are extremely tight and well designed…
  21. …and responsive in basically every way it needs to be
  22. The Core Combat is exceptionally fun…
  23. …and is balanced enough that it’s always enjoyable, no matter who you’re playing as
  24. Each Encounter is manually designed to compliment the area and design
  25. Enemy Variety is really good…
  26. …with lots of types of attacks and consequences thereof
  27. The optional modes are really fun to play through
  28. The Intro does a great job of getting you into the gameplay smoothly and beautifully
  29. Bonus positive for Music
  30. The Outro is fantastic, with an excellent final dungeon and well designed setup in terms of items so that…
  31. …when you hit the final boss, you’re ready for it. This is true for both major routes through the game
  32. With alternate paths and modes and playable characters, the game has a lot of Replayability
  33. Good Tutorialization in the early stages
  34. As is usual for a game of this level of visual quality, the Visual Distinction is excellent…
  35. …so at all times you know exactly what’s going on, where, and why

Gameplay Negatives:

Subnautica

This game really impressed me. Amazingly atmospheric, absolutely terrifying, with excellent map design and tons of fun features. Further, the options to change your playstyle help make it accessible to a variety of players, and the graphics and sound design are top notch. The story mode really helped bring the whole thing together, giving the player decisive arcs and purpose, even though it can still function as a freestyle building simulator.
Total Story Score: +12
Total Gameplay Score: +17
*Sushi Game*

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The atmosphere in the game is incredible, immersive, and absolutely terrifying
  2. Good and different approaches to storytelling in what is otherwise a survival oriented game, with audio logs, codecs, visible ‘cutscenes’, and other interactables
  3. The game is just… wonderfully terrifying
  4. The sound design is just fantastic and really adds to the atmosphere and presentation
  5. Lovely Background Lore (seriously, think about the tech level on display)
  6. Truly good Doodad usage for the underwater floors
  7. The Intro puts you immediately into exactly the right mindset and mode for the entire game
  8. Honestly some of the better usage of Lighting I’ve seen in a game…
  9. …especially when it gets dark at night… or when you start going deeper
  10. A second positive for Sound Design
  11. Lovely Visual Storytelling in the various biomes
  12. Love that World Building

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Well done, interesting, and manually-crafted environment
  2. A good variety of difficulty options, without penalty
  3. The sound design isn’t just atmospheric, it helps you to distinguish animals, locations, and danger
  4. Absolutely gorgeous underwater visuals, which are also color coded for good at-a-glance information
  5. Base building is good and fun, and integrates nicely into the story
  6. The thought and design to layout of the ‘overworld’ is very well done, both in terms of availability of pieces and salvage…
  7. …but in a natural progression of enemies and terrain dangers, culminating in the underwater volcano of doom
  8. Vehicle functionality and general progression is great, helping you to slowly push out the corners of the ‘unexplored’ map, but never losing the general terror atmosphere
  9. Aggregate:100% efficiency in base building and reclaiming is great and encourages the player to experiment // The controls are smooth and intuitive on ‘foot’ and in the sub // The Cyclops as a mobile base is just awesome
  10. Core building and gathering Mechanics are quite fun and loop nicely
  11. Generally good Graphics design
  12. Guidance and Flow of Exploration is brilliantly constructed, as you’re intended to spiral further outwards (with occasional hints and prompts)
  13. Intro is really good. It looks and feels terrifying but it’s actually the safest part of the game, to ease you into gathering, crafting, building, and slowly heading further and further out… very expedition-style gameplay
  14. The game’s Pacing between it’s various playstyles is great
  15. Excellent Replayability
  16. It’s just fun to get around, especially when you start building the later vehicles
  17. Excellent Visual Continuity to help you figure out where you are at a glance (unless it’s night) which really helps with a game like this…
  18. …and a second positive for that

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Aggregate: The inability to link inventories, coupled with a fairly limited inventory space, leads to some frustration and runaround when building late game constructs // The controls of the Prawn are, frankly, irritating, and it can get ‘stuck’ on terrain too easily

Mario Tennis Aces

I was admittedly looking forward to this one, but expectations aside, this game was just massively disappointing. The story mode is just bad, with nothing fun or interesting story wise, and artificially difficult challenges. The random versus mode is just random matches with no meat to them. And the tournament mode lacks the options to make it funner more than a couple of times. This is not a game I recommend.
Total Story Score: -1
Total Gameplay Score: -3

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

Story Negatives:

  1. The story is actively disinteresting. It has a good premise, with the idea of tennis as either magically augmented or an actively cultura cornerstone of the island, and it does nothing with that premise

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The boss fights in story mode are innovative takes on tennis gameplay, and add good variety
  2. Aggregate: The controls are responsive and customizable // The flavor of matches is well done, with different audience members and good commentary // Excellent sound and visual design overall, with good audio and visual indicators for gameplay mechanics

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. The minigame sections are just aggravating. They have short time limits, heavy penalties for failure, and just take too long or require too many successes to progress
  2. There is a lot of general frustration in many of the story campaign modes, especially given the lack of checkpoints in multiple phase encounters
  3. Aggregate: Massive difficulty cliff // A total lack of options in Tournament mode makes it mildly fun at best, and irritating at worst // Total lack of difficulty options in story mode
  4. The Difficulty Curve has no idea what it’s doing, with enemies being either too easy or too hard and nothing in between
  5. Total lack of any real Difficulty settings

20XX

Wasn’t sure what to think walking into this one, but it impressed me quite a bit. This might actually be my new favorite Roguelike/lite to-date, as it combines some excellent design choice in levels, extremely precise controls, great settings and options, good progression across runs, and good music and visuals. While there’s effectively no real story (just some flavor lore here and there) it nonetheless was a joy to play and I ended up buying it a second time on the Switch to keep playing after the review was done.
Total Story Score: +1
Total Gameplay Score: +26

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Generally good visual storytelling

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The music is stellar throughout, and the loops aren’t too short that it gets repetitive
  2. The graphics are very visually distinct and generally well presented; The colorized trails for dashing help you see where you are in the screen even in the midst of chaos, you can always tell what’s a pass-through platform and what isn’t, and enemy presence and attacks are always clear and noticeable
  3. The methods of progression through the ‘roguelite’ parts of the game are good stuff; Nuts to refill health and energy, as well as to buy temporary power ups, gives you progression in a single run. And the Soul Chips you gather give you more permanent account unlocks for future runs, meaning if you get anywhere at all in your first few runs you will get overall stronger (or potentially stronger)
  4. The playstyle in each run varies wildly depending on which Augs you pick up, allowing for totally different jumps, dash types, weapon types which hit different areas, et cetera
  5. The co-op mode is awesome, and well implemented. Lots of fun features, like being able to rez the other player, teleport when safe, shared resources except health, et cetera
  6. The general quality of life options are amazing. These include but are not limited to; Lots of options to have a ‘pure’ run or not, lots of mutators for runs, good settings for sound / screen shake / explosions / debris / etc, rebinding of powers, Energy pickups not spawning in first level, no damage or Energy cost in post-boss recovery, saves in between levels as an option, Soul Chips can’t fall into pits, Shop indicators to show what type of abilities they sell, and many more
  7. The segmented-procedural design is just phenomenal, with excellent approach to levels and bosses both and their clearly modular nature leading to the best benefits of randomly generated and manually crafted design. I especially like the use of varying boss rooms to make bosses more challenging in addition to different tactics and stats
  8. As per usual for a roguelite, good backtracking
  9. Good boss design
  10. With the variety of power ups and abilities you get, some good build gameplay
  11. A second positive for excellent campaign co-op, with online support
  12. Controls are smooth, intuitive, and responsive
  13. Excellent difficulty modes, options, and mutators
  14. Good enemy variety
  15. Very good spritework
  16. Item distribution and variety is good across levels and…
  17. …in the unlocks system
  18. There are some really good stages…
  19. …no, really, some really good ones
  20. While dependant upon the mode, there is some good mid mission checkpointing
  21. Lots of fun optional modes of play
  22. A second plus for excellent music
  23. Great, mean, fun Outro
  24. While progressing through there’s a very smooth curve of increased power as you select and buy upgrades through a given run
  25. The game has amazing replayability…
  26. …which shouldn’t surprise anyone given the genre

Gameplay Negatives:

Dragon Quest XI

While there are some logical hiccups here and there, with a couple aggravating story points and some bizarre gameplay choices, the overall presentation and polish shine here. Amazing at almost every level, this is a game I’m looking forward to playing through again when it comes out on the Switch. Definitely recommended for any JRPG or RPG fans.
Total Story Score: +31
Total Gameplay Score: +31
*Sushi Game*

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The voice acting ranges from good to absolutely amazing, with a lot of details, subtleties, and nuance in the performances
  2. The foreshadowing leading up to, the emotional impact of, and the significance after the big cutscene with Grandpa Chalky
  3. Sylvando is an interesting character from the moment he steps on the screen, and remains that way the entire time through, ranking as one of my favorite DQ characters of all time
  4. Rab is also one of my favorite characters of all time, and is brilliantly voice acted. His scenes ooze emotion and power, and he really sells the seriousness of his role
  5. The entire Lonolulu quest was well written, well acted, allows for choice to vary the quest up, and was emotionally powerful
  6. Virtually all the major characters are multi-dimensional and interesting
  7. The dialogue deserves special mention, for being well constructed and well designed
  8. The entire sequence of events and sidequest about Erik, his sister, the cursed necklace, and the Seer
  9. Veronica’s death. It had emotional impact, the gameplay UI didn’t spoil, it was built up to, it was a logical explanation of events, and had gameplay impact on Serena’s skill tree
  10. Severe and massive consequences of time travel, in lore and in gameplay
  11. Significant and substantial post-game story
  12. Aggregate: Good variety of dialects and accents across regions // Haiku land was fun // Color coordinated and seamless dialogue for NPCs
  13. Animation always helps with the cutscenes
  14. Atmosphere and tone manages the usual excellent Dragon Quest Effect
  15. Some delightful Banter between party members and NPCs
  16. Camerawork really helps with cutscenes
  17. That opening Cinematic is legit
  18. Lots of Consequence Storytelling, as per usual for the series
  19. A second positive for Dialogue construction
  20. Doodad utilization is good in towns…
  21. …and out in the fields too, really fleshing things out
  22. The game makes me laugh more than I’d like to admit
  23. I suppose that’s normal for a DQ game, but yeah that Humor is on point
  24. The Intro is cliche, but very well executed, especially our character bits with Gemma and Chalky
  25. As is the usual excellence for the series, the Localization is on point
  26. Second positive for Localization, easily some of the best in the series (up there with DQB2, or DQ8)
  27. Music Direction helps the cutscenes a lot
  28. Excellent usage of NPC Set Dressing for fleshing out the world
  29. Outro fails at a few points, but narrative is not one of them
  30. Story Sequencing is logical and follows good beats
  31. Several cutscenes are quite well Storyboarded
  32. Second positive for that awesome Voice Acting
  33. And a bonus point for Voice Direction
  34. General Writing positive

Story Negatives:

  1. The scenes surrounding the Hero, Mordegon, and the second time loop were unnecessarily and aggravatingly stupid
  2. Aggregate: The Snifelheim quest, with too-on-the-nose storytelling, excessive idiot-balling, over-exaggerated foreshadowing, and generally uninteresting developments // The entire Phnom Nom side quest was just filler, padding, and boring
  3. Aggregate: Total cop-out on the Erik & Mia situation, with a 5 second sacrifice and everything turning out perfectly // Total lack of consequence or even acknowledgement of the Nautica genocide and sacrifice // What the hell was up with the last Serenica scene? It either violates previously established time travel rules or actively makes no sense

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The Horse is a great mechanic. Easily summonable, faster than running, possible to avoid encounters, can still loot while mounted, and can still fight while mounted if chosen
  2. The graphics are surprisingly good
  3. The graphics aren’t just good, they’re very well designed.. especially when it comes to details! Massive amount of detail in almost every area
  4. The map design is one of the best I’ve seen in a while; Icons are toggleable, one can navigate to nearby areas infinitely, it shows the time of day, it has a zoom, it has a nearby quests button, and a nearby loot option
  5. The difficulty curve is damned good, with hardly any necessary leveling and no necessary grinding so long as one uses strategy, and tries to loot for crafting
  6. The difficulty curve continued to be amazing all the way into the post-game, which is astonishing and awesome
  7. The ease by which one can avoid enemy encounters is amazing, plus the fact that it’s totally optional
  8. Crafting is interesting and fun, levels up allowing for more options, it’s very rewarding, the multiple special attacks and heat management is interesting, and you can remake looted or purchased gear to improve it
  9. The post-game has a lot of fun and interesting things to do
  10. There’s a lot of kit in how you can build your characters, which combines with…
  11. …a huge variety of tactical options in combat, which makes combat actually fun and engaging
  12. Aggregate: The auto battle is pretty good, editable AI, no presses once initiated, and interruptible at will // The ability to Zoom indoors is nice // The ease by which you can fast travel around to towns, campsites, and points of interest is great
  13. As per usual for the DQ series, the Auto Battle AI is great
  14. The talent trees make for decent Alternate Leveling
  15. Generally good Boss design throughout
  16. Core Combat is quite enjoyable
  17. Second positive for the approach to how you can hit or avoid encounters on the overworld
  18. Good Enemy Variety in what they do and how they do it
  19. The Postgame stuff is reasonably meaty
  20. As is usual for the series, good Fast Travel mechanics
  21. Leveling is a treat, and the game is almost anti-Grind
  22. Good in combat HUD design
  23. The Intro starts off a bit slow but gets across all you need to know about exploring, fighting, crafting, and building your characters
  24. The game’s Inventory management is on point… as is usual for the series, with infinite storage space but limited in-combat space
  25. Good Music throughout
  26. The Overworld has good flow and design to it
  27. Two positives for the Power Progression Curve…
  28. …which in addition to being smooth and following Staircase Leveling, it also legitimately feels like the curve is right where it should be at all times
  29. Generally good Quality of Life features
  30. Option to Respec character talents
  31. One of the only Dragon Quest games that has decent Save System
  32. Good Visual Distinction so you can always tell what you can interact with, how, and where

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. The cutscenes can’t be skipped… sometimes. It’s very inconsistent

Marvel's Spiderman

An extremely fun game with very few complaints (one of which got patched shortly after the Premiere Run!). Swinging around is fun, combat is fun, the characters are interesting and well animated and voice acted. The story skipped a couple of beats, notably towards the end, but still managed to be powerful throughout. I had an absolute ball with this game and can’t recommend it enough.
Total Story Score: +26
Total Gameplay Score: +26
*Sushi Game*

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Mary Jane is pretty damned well done throughout, with only one hiccup, and remains an interesting character throughout
  2. Otto Octavius is extremely well presented; we see the monster he always was, the idealist struggling to improve himself, and a few unique takes on his egomania
  3. Miles is fantastic basically throughout, coming across as exactly the kind of crazy person who’d charge into an area filled with gun-toting terrorists just to see his dad
  4. The scripted banter that’s manually crafted for any given mission is great, and very Spidey. Made me laugh more than once
  5. The motion capture is good across the board, but they really nailed it with Otto (and his degenerative disorder) and Parker (and his anxiety, mentality, and personality)
  6. The side missions have actual story, are interesting, fun, and help flesh out the characters and the setting
  7. The entire ‘capture Li’ mission was just great, especially the characterization it offers and the screw ups going through it
  8. The award ceremony, Jeff’s final act of heroism, and Miles’ stupidity and desperation were all well written, well presented, and engaging
  9. The Scarecrow sequences with Otto and Scorpion were great, because we can tell it’s really just Parker talking to himself.. with total, brutal, and horrible honesty
  10. The connecting points of continuity throughout the work are great, with lots of little details and foreshadowing throughout
  11. The death of Aunt May was just as powerful as it should have been… plus it showed an understanding of Peter Parker and exactly what he’d do, and how, in that situation
  12. J Jonah Jameson… is amazing
  13. (DLC)J Jonah Jameson, somehow, continues to be hilarious and awesome in the DLCs
  14. Very well done Animations for cutscenes, getting a second positive
  15. And a third
  16. Really good Camerawork…
  17. …which helps sell a lot of scenes better than they should be
  18. Great Doodad utilization across the city
  19. Second positive for that Doodad utilization
  20. The Intro isn’t super strong, but it does neatly set up where we’re at for both new and recurring Spiderman fans, and establishes the change to the status quo
  21. Great Music Direction, really helps with scenes
  22. Fantastic NPC Set Dressing for the city below (high five!)
  23. Sound Design is good stuff
  24. Excellent Storyboarding in cutscenes
  25. Lots of good Visual Storytelling
  26. Some fantastic Voice Acting
  27. Second Voice Acting positive
  28. And a third
  29. And a plus for Voice Direction (pretty much entirely for Parker himself)

Story Negatives:

  1. The radiant banter for random fights gets very repetitive, very quickly
  2. Aggregate: The ham-fisted way the game shoved Miles and MJ into Parker’s ‘team’ during the building fire, especially when both were already on said team // MJ’s obvious and frankly stupid self narration during the Norman infiltration // Otto survives a fall that’d kill a healthy person in a disease ridden body with no real consequence
  3. (DLC) The overall writing of the DLC is consistently worse than the main game, bringing me out of the story at multiple points (Black Cat, massive cliche fest in the second one, needless drama in the third one, etc.)

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Web slinging is just as fun, smooth, and intuitive as it should be
  2. Web slinging was continuously fun and good, and in fact you can get better at it over time with skill
  3. The graphics are great, but the attention to detail is amazing
  4. The gear implementation is nice; suits you unlock, which gives new powers, mods to change playstyle, and the fact that you can mix and match suits, powers, and gears at will on the fly
  5. The UI is good, informative, easy to navigate, and has a lot of at-a-glance information
  6. The collectibles and side content were fun to do, and never got boring
  7. The research missions were just awesome, varied, and fun ways to mix up the usual gameplay and use the system well
  8. The award ceremony and Princess Peach section with Miles was good, especially at showcasing what it’s like to be a normal human in a super-hero situation
  9. The tactical Princess Peach section of Grand Central was amazing, with switching of perspectives and varied gameplay
  10. The actual side missions are fun, engaging, varied, and have fun and interesting story to them as well
  11. Good accessibility options, notably auto-complete QTEs, the option to hold rather than mash, and skippable puzzles, all as separate options
  12. Reasonably good fast travel system (optional, fast, travel from anywhere)
  13. (DLC) The final boss fight with Hammerhead was great; large scale, teamwork applied with Sable, tactical choice of reduce or avoid, it was fun
  14. Second positive for in game Animations
  15. A second positive for generally good Boss design
  16. Good Camera controls
  17. While it has issues, good Core Combat overall
  18. The many suits add good Cosmetic options
  19. A second positive for general Graphics quality
  20. Between the super moves and Spiderman’s basic abilities, there’s some decent Kit in this one for how to approach combat
  21. Good Map design, easy to tell what’s where and what you still need to do
  22. Which helps that the Overworld itself is quite well designed
  23. Great Pacing in gameplay; Likes to bounce between all sorts of tempos and tones and types of gameplay
  24. Second positive for Pacing
  25. Good Save System
  26. Good Sound Design
  27. A third positive for Traversal (web swinging) for honestly being probably the single funnest Traversal mechanic I’ve seen in gaming
  28. Good Tutorialization throughout the early stuff
  29. Good Visual Distinction (even when using the cartoony cosmetics)
  30. Second positive for Visual Distinction

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Base missions can be just awful, in several small ways; Large numbers of enemies across multiple waves with no ability to continue if you fail, control issues made worse by tight combat, and even if you successfully stealth the entire first wave the second magically knows where you are instantly and perfectly
  2. Aggregate: Occasional control issues, most notably when on the side of buildings, or when trying to do something slow and precise // The excessive binary nature of the stealth sections being completely pass/fail // Lackluster Princess Peach sections from time to time
  3. (DLC) Aggregate: Issues with binary fail-states in several missoins // Weird and inconsistent bugs with several missions
  4. (DLC) The Screwball missions in general are just awful; irritating to play, frustrating difficulty, and aggravating background dialogue throughout

Kirby Star Allies

One of the better Kirby games I’ve played across the franchise, easily up there with Return to Dreamland and Planet Robobot, an absolute blast to play through. I look forward to playing it with friends in the future using the local co-op, and 100%’ing it just for fun. While a bit short, it did a lot to vary up the gameplay and stages, and kept a strangely consistent narrative throughout. Probably it’s one weakness is it only barely references the other Kirby games, rather than going full in on continuity like Robobot.
Total Story Score: +2
Total Gameplay Score: +16

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Weirdly enough, the Plot is pretty engaging, especially in how it relates to Kirby himself
  2. As per usual for Kirby games, there’s a lot of decent Visual Storytelling in the background

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The music is not just good, it’s great
  2. The visuals and color usage are very distinct, allowing for ease of knowing where your character is in the visual chaos relatively easy by tracking its color
  3. The variety of power ups are, as per Kirby standard, good, varied, and fun and significantly alter playstyle
  4. The boss fights are fun and interesting, have multiple phases and gimmicks, and were generally enjoyable to go through
  5. The level design is made in a way to encourage using many different powers and power combinations rather than just having one or two ‘best’ options
  6. Occasionally levels branch out into new and fun gameplay, adding to the variety and giving good breathers in between standard sections
  7. The AI is surprisingly smart for your companions, knowing how to fight, avoid obstacles and enemies, using their powers for puzzles, healing, and gathering items
  8. Aggregate: Good checkpoint design throughout // Good sound design, with everything being distinct and nothing being too repetitive or ear piercing // The minigames are not super great, but they’re still fun to play with for a bit
  9. Good, campaign, but limited to local Co-Op
  10. The Core Mechanic of absorbing powers remains awesome (especially with making ally friends)
  11. Good, manually placed Encounters
  12. Really good Enemy Variety
  13. A second positive for Enemy Variety
  14. The entire Outro is a lot of fun, despite how long the final boss fight is
  15. Very good Pacing of gameplay, with good variety therein
  16. Very Replayable

Gameplay Negatives:

Mega Man 11

First classic Mega Man game in years, and definitely worth picking up. Good voice acting, attempts at actual story beats, fantastic level design, great music, and fun weapons and weapon modes make this a pretty standard classic Mega Man game. Probably its one real flaw is the fact that it didn’t try even more new things, but despite this I highly recommend this game to anyone who’s a fan of the series, wants a good challenge, or is looking into starting the franchise for the first time.
Total Story Score: +4
Total Gameplay Score: +39

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Aggregate: Lovely backstory and setting building in the gallery // Legitimately good voice acting, which helps sell a somewhat weak plot // The beginnings of actual character development for the franchise
  2. A familiar positive for background lore as the game has many interesting visual elements in all its stages which tell a story in their own right
  3. Honestly, some really good Doodad design in this one
  4. Enough that I’m willing to give it a second positive

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The level design is as good as it should be, but also properly escalates throughout, is varied, and is just fun
  2. Impact Man’s stage is great, containing the usual fun stuff but also Impact Man’s parts themselves adding to the challenge the whole way through
  3. Tundra Man’s stage uses terrain, wind, and enemies very well to keep things interesting and fun
  4. Torch Man’s stage and the theming, escalating fire wall, tight platforming, and unique enemies is awesome
  5. Blast Man’s explosive stage with detonatable terrain, traps, and predominantly standard enemy focus made for great fun
  6. Fuse Man’s stage centered around activated and de-activated energy changing when lasers hit and how, or what terrain is active or safe, combined with lots of area denial enemies makes it one of the more hectic stages
  7. Bounce Man’s stage deserves special mention for being fun, interesting, unique, and just really well designed across the board
  8. Acid Man’s underwater hijinks are decent enough but the way they change up how what chemicals can be depending on enemy interaction, with lots of careful platforming and one of the better minibosses in the game is great
  9. Gear Castle 1 does what all Wily Stages should and cranks things up substantially, with lots of varying types of enemies, gear-themed platforming, and great intensity
  10. Gear Castle 2 serves as a nice final exam for the 8 stages, using and combining gimmicks and mechanics from almost all of them, often multiple at once
  11. The bosses are actually pretty decently designed and use their own Gear gimmicks to make the fights fun
  12. Second positive for boss design and enjoyment
  13. The mini-bosses, similarly, are also well designed and have a good variety to them
  14. The music… is awesome
  15. Very tight and responsive controls, even in the non-standard modes of play
  16. The Double Gear system is an awesome addition; its use as a ‘heat’ meter of resource management, the way both can be used simultaneously, and how much it adds to the playstyle to be able to use one or the other at will
  17. The challenges are great and add good replay
  18. The usage of the boss Double Gears as a functional ‘phase 2’ helped make the robot masters better and more interesting than the norm
  19. Aggregate: The tutorial power up areas letting you experiment with boss weapon powers infinitely, with gear, and with enemies is a great addition // The increased range of enemy respawns helps prevent ‘Ninja Gaiden’ syndrome // Dr. Light’s upgrades aren’t just nice options, but offer great accessibility (special note to the ‘don’t hold to charge’ one)
  20. Animations really help with gauging how to deal with enemies and bosses
  21. Controls and shortcuts get a second positive
  22. Core Combat, as usual for Megaman
  23. Second positive for some of the better classic Megaman combat
  24. Good manual Encounter design
  25. As per usual for Megaman, good Enemy Variety
  26. Second positive for Enemy Variety
  27. Positive for general Graphics quality
  28. Second positive for Graphics
  29. Good usage of Itemization throughout the stages
  30. As is usual for a Megaman game, good Kit
  31. Some of the better ‘power ups’ of the series, earning a second Kit positive
  32. A second positive for Music
  33. The Outro is great, as most Wily stages usually are…
  34. …but a second positive for some really fun, great stuff
  35. Great Pacing in Gameplay
  36. Secondary Pacing positive
  37. Between variety of weapons and Challenges, the game has nice Replayability
  38. Second positive for Replayability
  39. Good Sound Design
  40. Good Terrain Design regarding platforming
  41. Great Visual Distinction

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Boss refights are lazy, like they always are, especially when so much could be done with them
  2. Aggregate: Lack of difficulty toggling on the fly, or indeed the ability to change difficulty at all without starting a new save // Unlocks for Dr. Light’s shop are per save, leading to useless unlocks // Checkpoints on normal and up are just awful and way too spread out

Assassin's Creed Odyssey

I won’t beat around the bush, this is a game I do not recommend. The main plot is weak at best, and badly paced throughout. The main character is a piece of cardboard, and most of the secondary characters are barely memorable or one-note cameos. The side missions are actively boring and provide no fun or investment. The core combat is alright at first, but due to a lack of real depth in long-term design becomes repetitive and frankly bad the further in you get. And the stat-gating and level-gating is just atrocious, mandating you do secondary content to progress through the main story (with level requirements jumping up as much as 9 in between missions). While there are some nice features, this is definitely not recommended.
Total Story Score: -10
Total Gameplay Score: -3

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Aggregate: Phoibe’s death, and the fact that they took the time to establish her character before killing her // Reuinification with mother, as well as the hesitation and emotion prior to and during
  2. As is, let’s be honest, usual for an Assassin’s Creed game the Doodad utilization is excellent…
  3. …but it’s rarely been better than here. Some really impressive stuff
  4. Man, there is a lot of good NPC Set Dressing in this one, really sells the idea of the cities and townships
  5. Credit where it’s due, the Intro is actually pretty strong narratively, as it quickly establishes our position, powers, and mentality
  6. Visual Storytelling is really strong on this one. Lots of places you can just look and ‘see’ the background narrative
  7. Reasonably good voice acting throughout

Story Negatives:

  1. The story is actively boring, and at no point had me invested in what happens next
  2. The story meanders a great deal, which means any points of interest or competency are spread out so far that they lose any impact
  3. The main character is basically a non-character despite being able to pick dialogue choices, and those choices only really change tone between ‘violent’ and ‘not as violent’
  4. No time or effort is put into establishing the main character’s motivation, either for them or the player, leading to just bizarre actions and plot points
  5. The dialogue rigging is very obvious, jarring, and poorly executed, actively detracting from the enjoyment of cutscenes
  6. After playing the game for five days, the story continues to be uninteresting, failing at all six points of story
  7. The pacing is all over the place, to the point of being awful, with some events just zooming by while others stand still for hours
  8. A final negative for the fact that I actively wanted to quit playing, and do not recommend this game
  9. One last negative for the ending, viewed on youtube, which is just face-palming in how Layla being the literal chosen one to bring balance to the universe, Kassandra having lived for the last two millennia just to give her the staff, and generally awful presentation and setup
  10. The camerawork is not what I would call pleasant, and actively detracts from most scenes
  11. A very real Empty Text problem…
  12. …especially visible over the course of this absolutely gargantuan game
  13. It’s rare I say the post-game makes an Assassin’s Creed game worse but the entire arc with the staff and Leyla was just… what?
  14. Man they love that fake drama. Especially when you start to find your family
  15. I cannot stress enough how anti-climactic and generally sub-par the entire Outro is
  16. There is a fairly decent amount of raw padding in a lot of the quests
  17. For once the usage of the Animus actively detracts from the story (just like it did over in Origins… huh)

Gameplay Positives:

  1. There are many good options and settings, including fully selectable HUD features, music frequency, accessibility, and the like
  2. The HUD and UI are both good, lots of convenience, at-a-glance, and generally few button presses to accomplish actions
  3. The eagle is still a good mechanic, allowing you to mark targets, find areas, go full distance, and smooth to control
  4. The music is good in general, and dynamic based on actions (tense and quiet in danger, increased drum beat when enemies are alerted, and full on action when in combat)
  5. The variety of weapons is good, and each weapon feels and plays completely differently
  6. The Mercenary system is fun, with each having weaknesses and strengths, the option to kill or recruit them, the fact that they hunt you rather than the other way around, they respond directly to your wanted level (which is manageable), and the super high level mercs will ignore you even with a wanted level unless you attack them
  7. The ship gameplay is fun, if a bit less complex than previous games. The little customizations of cosmetics and lieutenants are fun, and the strategy of flanking and ramming is enjoyable
  8. As with Origins, the Discovery Tour Mode…
  9. …is still just generally awesome and worth the ticket price by itself
  10. Aggregate: Enemies respawn very slowly, allowing you to feel like you’re progressing // The ability to sequence break, even unintentionally
  11. Good animations, making it easy to tell who’s doing what where at any point in time
  12. Good fast travel system (almost the same one as in Origins)
  13. As mentioned above, the Intro is legit, even on the gameplay axis. Gets us aware of how to climb, fight, our abilities, our bird, and of course the Sparta kick
  14. The general kit is good
  15. Good save system, quick and efficient and easy to do
  16. Good visual distinction, easy to see what is where and how at all times

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Difficulty just changes enemy damage, not their numbers, health, or attack pattern, which is just disinteresting and lazy
  2. Stat gating, which is clunky and makes for a very wonky difficulty curve
  3. There’s a lack of a proper progression curve, more or less mandating doing side content
  4. The continued hassle of stat-gating just gets worse the further into the game you get
  5. The design of the game feels weighted-down in almost every respect, probably in service of the real money store
  6. The core gameplay is not fun
  7. The side content is honestly so boring and disinteresting that I stopped doing it
  8. Multiple days in and the core gameplay continues to not be fun
  9. Despite actively having ‘choices’, the choices are awful and do nothing really
  10. As with every Assassin’s Creed game, the controls have issues
  11. The itemization, loot generation, and overall attached system is not great
  12. Negative for the Launch being glutted with Microtransactions
  13. Lots and lots and lots of examples of pacing issues or gameplay padding

Red Dead Redemption 2

This is one of the best written and acted games I’ve seen in my life, without exaggeration. Some of the level design is wonky, some of the missions are just weird, the controls are hit or miss depending on your preference, and it’s prone to bugginess. But ultimately it’s more than worth pushing through all of that for a very long, amazing game that never once got boring or disinteresting.
Total Story Score: +48
Total Gameplay Score: +4

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Voice acting has the right tone and flavor to it
  2. An additional plus for the voice acting continuing to be good throughout
  3. Yet another plus for the voice acting, most notably on Arthur, who just nails it
  4. The banter between characters is natural and fluid, and sounds like real people talking
  5. The dialogue is extremely well written throughout the work
  6. The dialogue continues to be well written throughout
  7. The music is excellent and varied, and really adds to atmosphere and tone in each scene
  8. Consistently excellent character stories in side missions
  9. Without exaggeration, one of the best written games I’ve ever seen
  10. Somehow maintaining a consistent level of high quality writing despite being an incredibly long game
  11. Blessed are the Peacemakers mission deserves special notice for direction, as well as gameplay/story integration
  12. The finale of the feud quest lines was great, most notably on the music and voice acting, completely selling the severity of the situation
  13. The character chemistry is good, and most of the named or spoken characters have good connections and interactions
  14. The attention to detail in doodad placement is top notch
  15. Arthur is worth a plus by himself. His character arc, acting, presentation, and most importantly how his arc changes based on your choices in the late game
  16. Dutch is also worth a plus by himself. His voice is perfect, the timing of how he does what to whom, and his slow descent into honesty or depravity, depending on interpretation
  17. There are a slew of interesting and fascinating characters throughout, even in the ‘strangers’
  18. Most of the side quests were well written and consistently enjoyable
  19. Second plus for the cast of characters, many of whom have their own contained stories (special mention to the Sister and her arc)
  20. The mission to save the natives in the attack on the oil field was intense. It showed Dutch’s true colors (which is up to interpretation), had great callbacks with Charles, the german family being involved, and Arthur’s actions in previous missions
  21. Arthur’s final mission in its entirety is powerful and awesome, and let’s you choose what kind of man he dies as
  22. The mission where John takes Abigail out for a portrait, a movie, and a proposal is very well written, very well acted, and way more emotionally powerful than it has any right to be
  23. While a bit fast paced compared to the main game, the epilogue John quests are good, continue to develop the characters, and introduce new colorful characters as they go
  24. Honestly that motion capture Animation is just really, really good
  25. Not just in the obvious ways…
  26. …but in catching tiny nuances in body language too
  27. Some really good Background Lore
  28. Second positive for Banter
  29. Really good Camerawork
  30. The game does a lot of acknowledging its own events…
  31. …and following through on them, leading to a bunch of Consequence Storytelling
  32. A third, ridiculous positive for that incredible Dialogue
  33. A second…
  34. …and third positive for insane Doodad utilization across the wilderness and towns both
  35. The game ties neatly into RDR1, with some good External continuity, related to…
  36. …the nice and well spread out amount of Foreshadowing for what’s to come
  37. The game also pays attention to its Internal Continuity quite nicely as well
  38. That Intro sets up the characters, the gang, the setting, the tone all brilliantly
  39. Great usage of Lighting in so many scenes (a lot of it optional too)
  40. Special mention to that fantastic Music Direction
  41. While exclusive to the cities, the NPC Set Dressing is some great stuff
  42. The story does zig and zag a few times but otherwise is well Paced, mostly through the first half
  43. And similarly, the Story Sequencing is all logical and flows well… until that little trip to the island
  44. Every scene has very clear effort into its Storyboarding
  45. Lots of Visual Storytelling, mostly in the cities
  46. Special mention for that fantastic Voice Direction
  47. The World Building is very on display, as we build up the alternate GTAverse old west…
  48. …and see how it’s falling apart very slowly but surely
  49. An insane third positive for general Writing quality

Story Negatives:

  1. There are simply too many examples of missions where the narrative tries to pose things as serious or intense or ‘my gosh look at how bad things have gotten’ but they all devolve into increasingly ridiculous shootouts, which just hurts any impact they should have

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The graphics on the weather and snow are great, and not only good but they were so great that people in stream kept commenting on how good they looked
  2. The music is consistently excellent, properly varied in tone and tempo depending on the scene, and knows when to be loud, quiet, and shift between the two based on action
  3. A second plus for the music for just being great
  4. A THIRD plus for music, this one emphasizing how, despite the huge number of missions, almost every single one has its own songs
  5. An unheard of fourth plus for music, for just being incredible throughout a very, very long game
  6. The UI is informative and well placed, and fully customizable
  7. Blessed are the Peacemakers mission gets special props for excellent gameplay/story integration
  8. Most of the side missions remained legitimately fun to do even by late game
  9. While not always true, there are several main missions that are legitimately well crafted to add variety to playstyle, varying up objectives and types of activities, keeping things fun
  10. Counting the John section as Postgame, it’s pretty meaty and pretty fun
  11. A second…
  12. …and a third positive for truly insane Graphics design
  13. Real thought is put into the layout and flow of the Overworld of the wilds
  14. The Pacing is really good… except when it isn’t
  15. Good, well designed Save System
  16. Great Visual Continuity throughout the wilds, letting you always know where you are at a glance and where to go

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Aggregate: Inventory is clunky and unintuitive // Inability to properly interact with fleeing witnesses in some situations // Infinitely respawning enemies in forts and towns // General irritation as a consequence of GTA5 style game being grafted onto RDR setting
  2. Aggregate: Punching minigame is just not fun, and a mildly irritating rock/paper/scissors affair // Frustrating to disengage from some actions // Game constantly equips the wrong gun and wrong ammo, even after immediately re-equipping the guns you want to use // No real way to wait, despite time-specific quests
  3. No proper camera options
  4. Controls are just not enjoyable to play, as per the usual GTA standard
  5. Specific control issues; Repeated rhythming required to maintain pace, lack of any meaningful auto-pilot, occasional instances of the character doing things completely contrary to input
  6. A constant irritation while playing due to periodic bugs, lack of options, and a general lack of polish in gameplay
  7. Major bugs, which included softlocks and hardlocks
  8. The fast travel system is lacking at best, absent at worst
  9. The railroading, while understandable, is nonetheless frustrating in how severe it is, up to and including the final mission
  10. The entire John section in terms of mission design and overall quality is significantly lacking compared to the Arthur sections, and lacks any substantial polish
  11. The final mission is just not interesting, engaging, fun, or well done. It is just another wave of nameless goons like every other shoothout mission
  12. Serious issues with gameplay Pacing… except when it’s great

Resident Evil 2 Proper Remake

First and foremost, this definitely qualifies as a Proper Remake. While they do change several things from the original, and there’s a few niggles, this is a strong entry that didn’t lean too heavily on either of the sides I was expecting it to (gore and jump-scares) and instead leaned heavily on tension and atmosphere. The controls were smooth, the two campaigns were fun, the optional modes were fun, and while the story was mostly absent what little was there I enjoyed. Overall a definite recommended.
Total Story Score: +21
Total Gameplay Score: +28
Cheats: No.
Total Play Time: 3 Days // 18 Hours
Time Reviewed: 2-4-2019

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Tension, just so much wonderful tension
  2. Mr. X adds a tremendous amount to both atmosphere and tension, especially at the police station where you can hear him when he’s nearby
  3. Mr. X himself is intimidating as hell, is always staring at you when he’s got you in sight, he keeps pace and juggernauts towards you, he’s terrifying, and the sound design is just fantastic
  4. Side characters get surprisingly good scenes, notably Kendo, Marvin, and Irons
  5. Proper Remake positive
  6. Great Animation usage for cutscenes…
  7. …and even just roaming around, really adding to the flavor
  8. Lovely, lovely, lovely Atmosphere, some of the best in gaming
  9. Great Background Lore
  10. Excellent Camerawork throughout
  11. Great Doodad usage, especially in the police station
  12. The Intro does a lot to set everything up very well, in fact it’s so good you could effectively start the whole franchise here fresh and really get into it
  13. Lighting design is fantastic for this one
  14. Really good Localization
  15. Several really good Moments (escaping from Irons, descending into the lab for the first time, etc.)
  16. Excellent Music Direction
  17. Pacing is fantastic throughout, going up and down just how it should
  18. I mentioned it before with Mr. X, but the entire Sound Design deserves special credit
  19. Well, actually it deserves two
  20. Lovely Storyboarding, which is impressive for a zombie bit
  21. Excellent Visual Storytelling in the police station…
  22. …and everywhere else
  23. Voice Acting is good except for Leon

Story Negatives:

  1. Leon’s voice actor is so… unemotive and generally out of it that it actively took me out of the story everytime he spoke
  2. Aggregate: The lack of proper continuity between A and B modes while insisting they work alongside each other is jarring to say the least, and takes away from an otherwise good experience // There is a general lack of proper cheese in the main story, which feels off with both a Resident Evil game as well as what is, let’s be honest, a fairly cheesy game to begin with

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The graphics aren’t just good, but have good lighting design and color contrast too
  2. There is a generally fun and interesting level design (in the police station especially) that feels properly Metroid-style and encourages mapping and planning
  3. The nature of distribution between consumables, spendable resources, quest items, and health, all of which function as resources to be carefully spent in survivalist progression. Also, since items once-discovered are on the map for future consideration, it assists in both routing and planning
  4. The lighting design and direction really is excellent
  5. The sound design is very good, with only a few small weak points throughout
  6. Additional plus for excellent use of positional sound design, not just for atmosphere but assisting actual gameplay
  7. Mr. X. He can be avoided, you can hear him coming, you can stun him, you can out-maneuver him, if he hits you he gives you a second to recoup in narrow hallways, and certain areas are safe. Overall Mr. X is just awesome
  8. There is truly excellent level design in the flow and approach throughout… it shines best at the police station but later on they continue to show their chops
  9. Proper Remake positive
  10. Aggregate: Indicator when quest items have no more use // Difficulty scalable down to Assisted from Normal as an option upon death // Map design showcasing items, color coding depending on room completion, and the types of obstacles // B story intro is smartly edited and summarized to help the second playthrough
  11. Animations really help sell enemy types and variety
  12. As with any good Metroidvania, there’s some good Backtracking on display
  13. Controls are fantastic and intuitive
  14. Core Mechanics of inventory management and survivalism are great
  15. Some amusingly good Cosmetics within
  16. Encounter design is really noteworthy
  17. …a second positive for Encounter design
  18. While there’s not that many enemies specifically, the game still gets a positive for Enemy Variety in how differently they operate and have to be handled
  19. Really, really love the Graphics on that engine
  20. No, seriously
  21. Excellent Guidance of Exploration, again especially in the police station
  22. Special mention to the distribution of items throughout the game
  23. The optional modes are really quite fun
  24. While only a single positive, the Music, when it’s good, is great
  25. The Outro is nicely tempo’d and wonderfully built up to
  26. Excellent gameplay Pacing throughout
  27. The game has fantastic Replayability
  28. Great Visual Continuity
  29. And a second positive for Visual Distinction, even in the darker areas

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. The Zelda-style noise indicators of being in Caution or lower health got really, really annoying, to the point where I would waste health items just to shut Leon up

Kingdom Hearts 3

While I’ll freely admit I had several issues with it, several of which are pretty normal for Kingdom Hearts games at this point, this was still a treat to play through. The first half of the game got a bit padding’y, but the latter half was satisfying and concluded almost all the story threads across the franchise to-date. I also find the overall gameplay to be one of the best in the franchise, with good options and excellent combat, and some of the best boss fights I’ve played.
Total Story Score: +16
Total Gameplay Score: +47
*Sushi Game*
Cheats: No.
Total Play Time: 6 Days // 41 Hours
Time Reviewed: 2-13-2019 / 1-24-2020

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Full voice acting of all lines of dialogue, with reasonable to good quality of voice acting
  2. The sheer quality and attention to detail on the Toy Story and Pirates worlds is insane in high quality
  3. The animation, variety of color usage, and presentation of the outdoor worlds
  4. Expansive usage of Lindblum Effect in multiple worlds
  5. The Toy Story world was good, with only a couple stumbling blocks; a new story instead of a retread, fitting neatly into the narrative of both Kingdom Hearts and Toy Story, and with an awesome scene between Young Xehanort and Woody
  6. Sora is, in rare form, actually funny and well done as a character, managing childlike without childish
  7. The Vanitas scene in general is good for the presentation of Vanitas, the usage of nearby characters, the impact on Sora, and of course… the DOORS
  8. The music being scored per-scene and/or properly directed to accentuate scenes instead of generic presentation
  9. The Big Hero 6 world followed the movie, naturally followed the themes of Kingdom Hearts and Big Hero 6, and concluded satisfyingly
  10. Satisfying connections between the 7 Lights and increased development of their backstories
  11. The Union Cross scene in its entirety
  12. The post fight cutscenes with Luxord, Larxene, Marluxia, Xigbar, Repliku, etc. were all good stuff
  13. Xion’s return, Roxas’s return, Roxas beating the HELL out of Saix, Saix’s farewell
  14. The final bosses were excellent, great visual design and storytelling in the fight and the background, and demonstration of Xehanort’s twisted mindset
  15. The ending was satisfying, with a happy ending for almost everyone thanks to Sora’s sacrifice
  16. (DLC) There are several good moments improved by the DLC, with the added context, and of course there’s a great moment with Mickey
  17. (DLC) Special mention for the ‘tone’ of the boss fights conveying so much information as you fight them
  18. Animations are well done in service of cutscenes…
  19. …especially in some of the worlds and the more main plot sequences
  20. Surprising for the franchise, the game does a good job with using Camera in cutscenes
  21. Second Camerawork positive
  22. Great intro Cinematic
  23. Good External Continuity at times…
  24. Surprisingly good Humor throughout
  25. Good Localization throughout
  26. Second positive for that usage of Music Direction across the scenes
  27. For all the issues with the Outro, the good parts really are awesome
  28. Good Storyboarding for just about every cutscene
  29. Pretty much every world (notably Tangled’s) has really good Visual Continuity (again, a rarity for the series)

Story Negatives:

  1. Multiple scene transitions across the game are just awkward and weird, feeling like they’re missing pieces
  2. The Frozen World is a pathetic and poor aping of the movie, losing any context and meaning beyond meandering
  3. Pirates world is a… weird aping of the movie, combined with over half the movie literally happening off-camera, assuming the viewer has seen the movie to understand what’s going on at all
  4. Story pacing has the usual Kingdom Hearts problem, a huge backloading of the main plot, with far too much padding up front
  5. Multiple examples of cutscene incompetence, especially at crucial moments
  6. Incredibly disjointed, lengthy fake-out ending which leads to a sudden reversal of time and warnings from Young Xehanort and then a PHONE CALL from the chipmunks and then back to the past and… what?!
  7. Utter waste of Kairi; having her train half the game, finally fully wielding a keyblade, then suddenly kidnapped and killed out of no where
  8. Aggregate: Skippable, relevant content in the Final World // Unnecessary Buzz drama at the beginning of Toy Story // Occasional but noteworthy cringe and awkward directing and dialogue now and again // No satisfying answer for several story questions
  9. (DLC) Aggregate: A lot of un-clearly indicated retreading in the DLC // While I get the symbolic connection of the recusant, it just sorta happened out of no where and felt completely out of place // There’s a lot of ‘as you know’ with the DLC early on // Dragon Age 2 Syndrome in the 1 year timegap
  10. …actively bad External Continuity at times, to the oint where I feel the game makes bad use of previous concepts and honestly doesn’t fit that well with the rest of the franchise
  11. The game’s mis-use of Internal Continuity is pretty bad (Lea and Kairi train for nothing, several worlds which mean nothing, an entire ‘quest’ for replacement Lights which is just a feint, etc.)
  12. Almost the entire first half of the game is just plain Padding, with some notable exceptions (which, honestly, is usual for the series)
  13. And related to this, there’s some all over the place Story Sequencing of events (in some cases literally making no sense)

Gameplay Positives:

  1. General high fidelity on graphics
  2. The music is good
  3. The music is great
  4. The usage of music in the finale and last boss fights is amazing
  5. The Wind Titan was just a really fun fight, especially in the immediate wake of Fire and Ice
  6. The Davy Jones fight was excellent, and a good combination of ‘monster’ and ‘duel’ combat
  7. Combat is generally enjoyable, smooth, with lots of options for kit and playstyle
  8. A general plus for good boss design throughout, as per Kingdom Hearts standard
  9. (DLC) A second positive for combat with the new changes, making it smoother than before, adding more options for animation cancelling, and also making the whole thing flow wonderfully
  10. The combined boss fights in the finale are really, really great
  11. Final boss fights are easily some of the funnest boss fights in the franchise
  12. Excellent variety and visual presentation of the finale and final fights
  13. (DLC) The Data Marluxia fight, and its wonderful gimmick
  14. (DLC) The Data Repliku fight, honestly showing us what Riku is really capable of
  15. (DLC) The Data Larxene fight, and her love of clones
  16. (DLC) The Data Xigbar fight, and his usual terrain altering fun
  17. (DLC) The Data Saix fight which is just absolutely nuts, and probably one of the best showcasings of berserker gameplay ever
  18. (DLC) The Data Terranort fight
  19. (DLC) The Data Xemnas fight which somehow actually manages to top his showing back in KH2
  20. (DLC) The Data Ansem SoD fight, which is a great showcasing of what the Seeker of Darkness could accomplish at his height
  21. (DLC) The Data Xion fight, which is probably my favorite fight in the entire game
  22. (DLC)Aggregate
  23. The Data Luxord, Young Xehanort,

  24. (DLC) The additional music added in ReMind, most notably the remixes (one for each boss!) is amazing and deserving of an additional positive
  25. (DLC) New difficulty options are fantastic, with the only flaw being that you can’t mix and match between the ‘hard’ and ‘easy’ bundles
  26. Really good Enemy AI design, especially on bosses
  27. Great Animations to help with combat, especially on bosses
  28. One of the better uses of the selectable auto battle for party members in the series
  29. Good Camera design and controls, especially for the large and expansive areas
  30. Game Controls really well
  31. A third plus for really just super fun Core Combat
  32. A surprisingly smooth, well structured Difficulty Curve
  33. Good thought put into manually placed Encounters
  34. Great Enemy Variety, as per usual for the franchise
  35. Second positive for Enemy Variety
  36. Some truly fun and interesting post-game content (mostly bosses)
  37. Leveling is just fun to do
  38. Good HUD design
  39. Some of the better HUD design of ARPGs in general
  40. Surprisingly good Interface
  41. Great Intro for establishing everything you need to do gameplay wise, culminating in an awesome (if easy) boss
  42. Good Kit for Sora and all the many, many things he can do
  43. Second positive for Kit (keyblades, combo spells, mega spells, summons, attractions, etc.)
  44. While I rather dislike it narratively, the Outro is just awesome to play through, with just one amazing boss after another
  45. A second positive for that Outro, damn
  46. Good gameplay Pacing for most of the game
  47. Great gameplay Pacing, as you weave in and out of navigation, crafting, combat, exploring
  48. A good and smooth Power Progression Curve
  49. Good and smooth Save System
  50. Good Sound Design
  51. It’s legitimately fun to go from Point A to Point B in almost every area (helped by how large and open they feel)
  52. Good Tutorialization in the Hercules world
  53. For once there’s good Visual Continuity for the worlds, so you can always tell where you are and where you’re going
  54. Very nice, color-based Visual Distinction

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Multiple minigames that are mandatory for progression, of varying quality
  2. Frozen World is just lacking in detail and presentation with only two exceptions (Labyrinth and boss), however even the Labyrinth made no sense and the boss was wasted
  3. Gummi exploration areas are too devoid of proper content, and the actual ‘missions’ are simply not as fun or well designed
  4. The Zelda bedeebeep for health and no options to toggle, or other design choices
  5. Aggregate: No option to disable Attractions // No larger map mode // Lock on and camera just feel awkward and weird // The hoops you have to jump through to unlock the new difficulty options
  6. Several nice, long sections of Backtracking (looking at you, Frozen)

Vampyr

While the gameplay was interesting and the story was excellent, the combat was just… sufficiently bad that I found myself aggravated by it fairly quickly. Fortunately as of the time of this Premiere Run they’ve patched in a story mode, which I highly recommend. Regardless of combat though, the core gameplay concepts of finding out hints, connections between people changing what happens to them, and the narrative flow all work very well. The main plot is engaging and while there’s only a few NPCs in the game, each one is memorable to some extent or another, and real effort was put into making them well written and spoken. Overall definitely recommended.
Total Story Score: +12
Total Gameplay Score: -3
Cheats: Yes (Generally bad combat, and time-wasting padding)
Total Play Time: 4 Days // 31 Hours
Time Reviewed: 3-6-2019

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Voice acting is good stuff, notably being a peculiar mix of normal and melodramatic but never crossing into irritating
  2. The vampire and overall setting ‘rules’ are woven into the narrative fairly smoothly, thus Jonathan learns as we do. Further, there are multiple accounts of information which, together, give us a more complete picture
  3. The characters and NPCs are memorable, well written, and interesting
  4. A second plus for the characters, their connections one to another, and their interlocking stories. Also good quality of both personal and regional stories.
  5. The music is good. It isn’t overbearing, it has good ambiance, excellent use of atmospheric strings, good variance between types of scenes, and never gets old
  6. The interactions between connected people and the district they’re in really help the narrative
  7. Absolutely lovely Tone (“What is glass but tortured sand?!”)
  8. Good Doodad usage across the city streets
  9. The game probably doesn’t mean to be but it’s very Funny
  10. Intro is quite good
  11. The Plot is actually pretty good throughout
  12. Very good Visual Storytelling in the city design

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. HUD and at-a-glance information is good
  2. Interactions between connected people and how they affect the district, and associated gameplay
  3. Music is good, varying based on scene and event, and transitions smoothly between songs
  4. A large amount of kit, with good hotkey usage for abilities on the fly
  5. Aggregate: Blood vision mode and proper usage of color saturation // Generally excellent visual design // Doodad placement is awesome // Story mode and hard mode both exist, helping tremendously
  6. The game is surprisingly Replayable, especially given how many things can happen with the various characters and the city

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Combat is stilted, disinteresting, and actively aggravating
  2. No fast travel, compounded by no waypont system, made intolerable by the denial of interaction while stuck in ‘combat’
  3. Loss of items after dying, leading to irritating loss of progress and extra padding for item farming
  4. Plot doors combined with invisible walls and extremely limited ‘warp to’ points make getting around just a pain
  5. Aggregate: Permanently skippable content and lore // Inability to save, quicksave, or relad // Effectively locked into playthrough in a choices-matter game with no toggle // Improper porting to PC with regards to resolution scaling and positioning
  6. The game does… not Control very well
  7. The Map is not particularly well designed, to the point where it gets in the way of getting around
  8. The Outro really falls flat
  9. And related to the Map, the City’s layout and overlay really is just kind of thrown together and irritating to navigate

Devil May Cry 5

While the story wasn’t the best, it was still just as cheesy and enjoyable as I was expecting. But the gameplay was absolutely amazing. This game was a complete treat to play; it was everything I love about the Devil May Cry series, possibly edging out DMC3 in terms of sheer fun factor. The usual spread of difficulties, multiple playstyles across multiple characters, a huge variety of options in combat, and overall satisfying presentation. Absolutely recommended.
Total Story Score: +13
Total Gameplay Score: +37
Cheats: No.
Total Play Time: 3 Days // 14 Hours
Time Reviewed: 3-10-2019

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Wonderful, glorious, hilarious cheese
  2. V is both interesting, well voice acted, and well showcased as a character
  3. Animations really help with cutscenes…
  4. …and with the characters
  5. Very fun Atmosphere and Tone throughout
  6. Surprisingly good Banter with just about everyone
  7. Good Camerawork in cutscenes, and…
  8. …great Camerawork across the cutscenes
  9. Credit to the Cinematics
  10. While I have issues with the visuals, I will give credit for the Doodad usage
  11. Intro really helps set up everything. Characters, tone, vibe, risk, plot
  12. Music Direction really helps the presentation throughout
  13. The Outro does some great stuff narratively, with one minor hitch
  14. Great usage of Storyboarding in cutscenes
  15. Visual Continuity makes it relatively easy to tell where you are, where you’ve been, and where you’re going
  16. Surprisingly good Voice Acting, given the game in question

Story Negatives:

  1. Aggregate: Cutscene mundanity and inconsistency // Revelation about Nero’s father felt tonally dissonant and, frankly, too rushed
  2. The near total absence of NPCs actively hurts the game… which, honestly, is pretty normal for a DMC game
  3. Lots and lots of ruins and organic bluck sort of… hurts the overall Visual Storytelling

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The void mode is awesome, with full on training capacity
  2. Combat is fun, smooth, and well controlled
  3. Combo’ing in combat for style is fun and interesting
  4. V is arguably the simplest of the big three to play as, but still very well designed (can’t use summons to dodge while attacking, context sensetive range attacks, etc.)
  5. Dante’s multiple weapons and the huge variety of moveset, plus being able to change at will
  6. Devil Breakers and the options both for standard use and consumable use for Nero, with lots of options and variety in what they can be used for
  7. Ability to select and redo missions while retaining progress, even across difficulties (effectively a form of New Game Plus)
  8. Animation is top notch and informative in-combat
  9. The music is good, but the Yoshi Drums are fantastic
  10. Good and interesting difficulties, with easy being as easy as it should be, and a good spread on harder difficulties without being too HP spongey
  11. Great series of challenging and fun bosses
  12. The Artemis boss, Goliath boss, and Nidhogg bosses
  13. The Elder Geryon Knight boss, Scrap Demon boss, and the real Urizen fight
  14. The refights against V’s summons is great
  15. The final fight against Vergil is brilliant, fun, and challenging
  16. Good enemy design and usage in level design
  17. Good Enemy AI
  18. Second positive for those Animations and how they help you know how to react to enemy attacks
  19. Good and smooth Camera usage
  20. The game Controls exceptionally well
  21. At all points, how well you play is entirely on you, Controlling really really well
  22. Second positive for Core Combat
  23. Third positive for Core Combat
  24. Great Enemy Variety throughout
  25. Excellent Graphics Fidelity
  26. HUD is informative and helpful
  27. The Intro (which goes on for a bit, admittedly) helps set up Dante, Nero, and V, how differently they play, and what to expect from exploration, combat, and bosses
  28. Did I mention that Music?
  29. Second positive for effective New Game +
  30. Outro is some fantastic build up and payoff in terms of bosses
  31. Excellent Pacing
  32. No, really, the Pacing of gameplay is fantastic
  33. Power Progression Curve is quite smooth
  34. Between styles and chapter select…
  35. …and general fun factor, the game has great Replayability
  36. Quick, easy, efficient Save System
  37. Sound Design at all times informs and helps with gameplay
  38. Enemies, abilities, playables, and terrain are all Visually Distinct

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. There are issues with the Visual Continuity, as many areas just look like the same dull ruins or wrecks

Octopath Traveler

I know this is an unpopular opinion, but I actively despised playing through this game. The stories were acceptable, though ranging wildly in quality, and I appreciated the combat concepts as well as the idea of class options and min-maxing. But ultimately the absolute slog of fights, arduous boss encounters, and a host of other problems that just compound on top of each other made me hate finishing this game. Not recommended.
Total Story Score: -2
Total Gameplay Score: -18
Cheats: No.
Total Play Time: 34 Days // 78 Hours
Time Reviewed: 3-15-2019

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Prim’s intro was well crafted and interesting, and her overall story arc was fairly well crafted and engaging
  2. Ophilia’s chapter 1 was well well written, touching, and sweet
  3. Large amounts of setting lore and world building in investigations of NPCs
  4. The voice acting is generally good and well directed, and good at conveying nuance
  5. Cyrus is a treat, and his story was also fairly well done and interesting
  6. Primarily low-tier, mundane, ground-level storytelling which is both refreshing and interesting
  7. Olberic’s story is simultaneously wonderfully cheesy, and yet had strangely well done complexity in background lore and events
  8. Dialogue is surprisingly well written
  9. Pretty good Doodad utilization, in towns and dungeons both

Story Negatives:

  1. Inconsistent and intermittent voice acting, often stopping or starting in mid cutscene
  2. Cutscene incompetence and disconnect is constant and irritating
  3. Cartoony, ridiculous, uninteresting, and badly written villains in almost every one of the story arcs
  4. Aggregate: Unconnected storytelling, to the point where it not only hampers each character’s story but actively makes no sense at times // The demon god doom thing out of no where actually ruined my investment and enjoyment of the entire story
  5. The game likes to completely ignore Consequences throughout their stories
  6. Some pretty bad Empty Text sequences throughout
  7. The post-game can go to hell
  8. There is an actual absence of proper Foreshadowing to the big twist
  9. Total lack of good narrative Pacing
  10. Lots of narrative Padding all over
  11. The Story Sequencing actively makes no sense at times

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Entire intro sequences for new characters are completely skippable
  2. The UI is good, informative, and has a lot of information in a small space that’s well presented
  3. The combat concept is good. The UI is informative, the BP allows for timed unloads of abilities, there’s easy shortcuts for changing weapons and boosts, there’s good menuing, and the entire vulnerability and break system is interesting
  4. Truth be told, the class and cross class system is actually really good Alternate Leveling
  5. Second positive for Alternate Leveling
  6. Interface is actually pretty well designed, font scaling issues aside

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. The blur is bad, badly executed, and actively headache inducing
  2. The blur continues to be bad, actively making some scenes just look awful in addition to causing issues
  3. The arduous lead up to and awful design of the 8 superbosses and 2 final bosses
  4. Inaccurate level guidelines and completely inconsistent difficulty curve across chapters
  5. Every battle requires you to constantly be on and paying attention (unless you overwhelming overpower them) which gets arduous given sheer amount of grinding and combat
  6. Every fights lasts way too long (as part of previous problem), especially bosses, which drags and becomes dull and boring after a while
  7. Every single fight gives very little reward; experience gives very tiny boost in stats, JP takes forever to accumulate, and money is far rarer than the price of useful items
  8. The difficulty curve is all over the place, with repeated and multiple difficulty cliffs and chasms, not just in bosses but in trash mobs throughout story, depending on specific types of enemies
  9. The power progression curve isn’t bad of itself, but when combined with the above problems leads to a very slow increase in relative power against enemies (leaning heavily on equipment for actual power output increase), which makes combat become more of a chore the further into it you get
  10. Boss fights are just marathon slogs, including one in particular that I timed out at, no joke, 46 minutes and 13 seconds
  11. Note: Originally this was a negative for spending weeks (literally, weeks) grinding but under the new system this will ‘merely’ be three negatives for being an excessively Grindy game
  12. Grind mk. 2
  13. Grind mk. 3
  14. Aggregate: Non-party members don’t gain anything // You have to go into town to change party members
  15. A lot of Audio Spam issues in combat (same clip each time too)
  16. Bosses are really, really boring
  17. And often designed to be very binary in difficulty (there are a few notable exceptions)
  18. Encounter Rate is too high
  19. Encounter design… isn’t
  20. Second negative for that post game bleh
  21. The Outro of each 8 chapters is always pretty boring and bleh, with just another dungeon and just another boss
  22. The game is actively anti Replayability
  23. The issues with blur, flickering lights, and bloom make the game have actual issues with Visual Distinction
  24. The game really has bad Walkthroughitis… imagine, if you will, that while there’s useful items and classes to go find in dungeons and towns, it’s only about 5% of them so you either have to hit and talk to literally everyone and do every interaction, or… have a guide

Two Point Hospital

An excellent spiritual successor to the old Theme Hospital, with plenty of interesting challenges and quirky humor. Interface is clean, and the various difficulties across the areas vary things up sufficiently to keep one interested. Also I like how it rewards you with new stuff to build if you do challenge stars. A definite recommended for any fan of management strategy games.
Total Story Score: +1
Total Gameplay Score: +7
Cheats: No.
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 16 Hours
Time Reviewed: 3-17-2019

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. A genuinely humorous tone to the whole work, and occasional jokes that got a good laugh out of me

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. UI is good; lots of information conveyed neatly and efficiently
  2. Music is enjoyable despite being, basically, elevator music, and it never got old for me
  3. The challenges are a great way to upset the standard gameplay flow, and have good risk/reward
  4. Rooms, items, interface all have a combination of color and outline distinction so you can, at a glance, tell what’s going on, where, and why
  5. The missions themselves are nicely varied, with new and different types of difficulties and challenges
  6. Good overall Core Mechanics of routing, layout, and thinking about what you build where
  7. Pacing of each mission is very smooth
  8. As is usual for games of this variety, some good Replayability going on

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Aggregate: Pathfinding has issues, requiring large and open areas for the people to traverse, and they have issues going between buildings // The camera controls don’t allow for panning side-to-side and up-and-down simultaneously, which makes it more awkward than it should be // Unnecessary amount of clicks needed to build items, requiring you to select a room then select building within that room, even though the game already disallows items based on rooms

Binary Domain

The game sort of flops in multiple ways, with repetitive gameplay and long, boring levels and boss fights. The story also flops substantially, trying too hard to be serious and failing. Personally I think it would have worked better if it had just embraced the cheese and gone with it. As is, not really recommended.
Total Story Score: -2
Total Gameplay Score: 0
Cheats: Yes (Screw the Gorilla boss)
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 11 Hours
Time Reviewed: 3-19-2019

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Cain is just the right amount of ridiculous cheese, and it’s great
  2. The setting in the background is actually quite good, though it gets very little attention, there’s some good stuff here and there
  3. Credit for the voice acting

Story Negatives:

  1. Rather than embracing the cheese, or the seriousness, the game comes off as half managing both and just generally feeling awkward in virtually every scene
  2. As a consequence of not fully embracing either side, scenes that feel like they should have impact or be meaningful… don’t, and aren’t
  3. Cutscene incompetence is all over the place, also leading to needless drama in the finale
  4. Aggregate: Way too much telling when showing would work better (and they also show) // Weird, random logic leaps all over the place, even right at the beginning // Lots of ‘just can’t spit it out’, leading to the usual artificial drama
  5. The Outro really is just… very lacking

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The music is legitimately enjoyable throughout
  2. The destructible armor and nodes on enemies is a cool idea, and encourages target priority when fighting different enemies
  3. The voice system, when it actually works, is pretty neat and is a cool way to provide team-mate control during combat
  4. Aggregate: Several bosses are pretty fun, including the spider, chandelier, and gauss cannon // The level immediately following the gauss fight as working through the trash section is well designed, well escalated, and has good tone

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Regular, bad mid-mission checkpoint placement
  2. The gorilla boss was just bad; No checkpoint, ammo carrying is awkward and your team-mates don’t do it, adds add to frustration, the boss aggro varies wildly, the boss can just sit on the machine gun, boss can continue to aggro you while you are dead leading to him instantly killing you again, and a very short loop song
  3. Aggregate: Have to leave game to adjust settings // Controls are bizarre, and inconsistent // Not a good PC port // The blood splatter health meter is bad, as it always is // The camera shake is distracting // Very long stagger times for player // Bosses tend to have super short vulnerability phases // NPCs will not shut up during combat about what you’re supposed to do, repeated over and over
  4. The difficulty curve is all over the place

Finding Paradise

While, naturally, somewhat lacking in gameplay, the story is strong, powerful, emotionally impacting, and serves as an excellent continuation of To The Moon and A Bird Story. Absolutely recommended.
Total Story Score: +7
Total Gameplay Score: -1
Cheats: No.
Total Play Time: 1 Days // 5 Hours
Time Reviewed: 3-20-2019

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Excellent dialogue, that is written well to the point where, when spoken out loud, it flows naturally
  2. Memorable and interesting characters, not just in the main two but in the various we meet throughout
  3. Manages to weave a suitably complex tale without leaning too heavily on simplistic or basic tropes
  4. Managed to evoke a substantial emotional reaction out of the narrative
  5. Excellent interaction and foreshadowing leading to the eventual twist
  6. Great Atmosphere of melancholy and heartbreak
  7. Good Doodad utilization, surprisingly for the game’s structure

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Amusing utilization of engine to create mostly optional minigames here and there

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Controls are clunky and partially unresponsive, as a natural byproduct of engine
  2. The slogginess of movement and occasional ‘hunt the pixel’ mode hurt the interactivity

Sekiro

A well designed Fromsoft game, with actual presentation of story upfront, and leaning more on player skill, memorization, and utilization of toolkit to progress rather than more typical RPG elements. In the interests of honesty, I never actually beat the game legitimately, as I ran into a wall of time and skill.
Total Story Score: +9
Total Gameplay Score: +29
Cheats: Yes (Because I suck too badly)
Total Play Time: 4 Days // 34 Hours
Time Reviewed: 3-25-2019

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Aggregate: Generally enjoyable storytelling, and memorable characters // Good voice acting throughout, which really helps distinguish characters // Some suitably subtle background events help move the plot forward as we progress
  2. Really good Animations for cutscenes and events
  3. Second positive for Animations
  4. Great Camerawork, again for cutscenes and events both
  5. Good Doodad usage everywhere
  6. Excellent Intro to really establish character, tone, premise, setting, and stakes
  7. Each cutscene has some excellent Storyboarding
  8. Visual Continuity is very good across ‘zones’
  9. Visual Storytelling is very present, especially in the later areas

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Graphics and animation are crisp, distinct, and very well done
  2. Atmospheric music is absolutely great, varies slightly from area to area, and adds to tone
  3. Mobility with the hook is smooth, quick, and very fun
  4. Several bosses are both fun and interesting, with multiple valid strategies and approaches to conquering them
  5. The Lady Butterfly fight is easily my favorite boss in the whole game, love the wires and knocking her out of the air and just everything about it
  6. The Folding Screen Monkeys is probably the most unique and interesting fight in the game
  7. The two Ape fights are legit
  8. The two Monk fights are awesome
  9. The Divine Dragon fight is mostly flash, but it’s fun flash. There’s also the Owl fight, and the Demon of Hatred
  10. The resurrection / death mechanic is great, with death costing xp and money but not allowing de-leveling, with cost of resurrection in kills, the time between resurrections, the loss of NPCs, and the availability to undo NPC damage with effort… it’s all good stuff
  11. The level design is excellent; good connections between areas, good density, multiple paths and types of traversal, good visual distinction which helps memorization and routing
  12. Good New Game + feature, with the option to increase difficulty (by making enemies hit harder, and be harder to block)
  13. Aggregate: The focus on a singular weapon type feels more polished than Souls games // A fun and interesting toolkit in the form of the arm abilities // The choice of avoidance, block, dodge, parry, and stealth gameplay
  14. As is necessary in a game like this, the Animations are well designed to let you know how to react to enemies and bosses
  15. Second positive for Animations
  16. As is usual for this type of game, the Backtracking is generally well designed
  17. Game Controls very well
  18. Core Combat is very tightly designed
  19. The Core Mechanics of whipping and dying twice work well
  20. The Difficulty Curve is pretty well designed overall, spiking temporarily at each boss before smoothing back out
  21. Encounter design is carefully placed and thought out
  22. Very good Enemy Variety
  23. And very good Enemy Variety in how you deal with them and how they deal with you
  24. The Intro does a lot to get you into the game’s various mechanics and combat very well
  25. Generally good Kit, especially with the arm enhancements
  26. Outro is appropriately epic and difficult
  27. The game’s Pacing is very smooth between stealthing, exploring, and fighting
  28. Second positive for that Pacing
  29. Good Sound Design, especially as pertinent to enemy attacks
  30. Good Tutorialization throughout the first half of the game
  31. The Visual Continuity is very well designed to assist with navigation
  32. Second positive for Visual Continuity. As of literally typing this up right now, I can close my eyes and picture the layout and how to navigate around the game world
  33. Very good Visual Distinction in what’s where and how to deal with it

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. The lack of save, controlled saves, and forced ironman mode are a negative for the usual reasons
  2. Game periodically just loses enemy lock-on in mid combat, which disorients the character and screws up the camera even further, which can and does lead to mistakes (in a game in which getting hit at all is a bad thing)
  3. Issues with artifact design and the gameplay being something new and branching out means that, periodically, the game doesn’t quite… click. A few encounters, bosses, and sections are far more irritating than they really should be
  4. Aggregate: Buff items take too long to use and last far too little time // The lack of customization in build or builds in general // Stats are either too simplified or are simply under the hood

Ace Combat 7

A very fun, surprisingly interesting story with excellent gameplay for the most part, and some nice variety in missions and styles of play. Hampered by the occasional roadblock of irritating mission design (such as having to do an escort mission, on a timer, while in a storm, while going around rocks). Despite irritations, if you’re a fan of arcade flight games, definitely recommended.
Total Story Score: +4
Total Gameplay Score: +5
Cheats: Yes (To bypass Annihilation missions, and going up that damned corridor at the end)
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 14 Hours
Time Reviewed: 3-27-2019

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The live chatter really helps with atmosphere and pace of events during missions
  2. The weaving of background narrative and foreshadowing into radio chatter is very well done
  3. Aggregate: Good voice acting // Fun, if weird, characters that are cheesy // Memorable cutscenes sliding in between CGI and live footage
  4. The moments surrounding the IFF being knocked out were legitimately tense and well done

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Controls are smooth and intuitive, with little delay and good precision
  2. Music is good, changes based on events in missions, and adds greatly to atmosphere
  3. The music remains consistently good throughout the game
  4. Several missions are legitimately clever and innovative, notably after the IFF is knocked out
  5. Good amount of information for enemy location, missile location, missile direction, and several others on the HUD which help
  6. Good enemy variety
  7. Large variety of planes to fly

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Mid-mission checkpoints vary substantially in quality of placement, and frankly Annihilation missions can go burn
  2. Aggregate: HUD colorization choices are weird, making it difficult to distinguish details on occasion // Significant audio issues // A lack of proper targeting options

Darksiders III

While occasionally managing some good stuff, the game falls completely short of the previous two Darksiders games. The story only manages to hold up on the strength of its main characters, and the gameplay is constantly hampered by odd or bad design choices.
Total Story Score: 0
Total Gameplay Score: -6
Cheats: No.
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 14 Hours
Time Reviewed: 3-29-2019

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The voice acting is, as per usual, quite good
  2. The personalities and dynamic between Fury and her Watcher are excellent, and consistently enjoyable
  3. There are several good scenes showcasing angel mentality, the power of the Deadlies, and surprisingly subtle insight into Fury’s character
  4. Consistent and well done foreshadowing, as well as misdirection, on the Envy twist, as well as slotting the story neatly into the pre-existing structure of Darksiders 1 and 2

Story Negatives:

  1. Aggregate: Aside from the Fury and Watcher’s interplay, the dialogue is just bad without being fun or cheesy // There are multiple bizarrely directed, or simply bland, cutscenes that might as well not even be there
  2. The Outro is a good crux of everything wrong with the story as a whole; Bizarre dialogue, direction, and plot
  3. The bland, drab ruins and caves all really detract from the Visual Storytelling
  4. The game actually kind of sucks on the World Building angle, barely building up the setting

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The Zelda-style puzzles are, as per usual, pretty fun
  2. A good variety of weapons and subsequent attack styles
  3. While not quite at Metroid level, the gathering of new moves and unlocks as well as the attached exploration is pretty fun
  4. Aggregate: Difficulty and play modes are adjustable live and on the fly // Good cool factor in the hair, as well as the elemental ‘modes’
  5. For how awful it was narratively, the Outro is actually quite fun gameplay wise, being one of the better fights in the game

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. No proper camera options for inversion
  2. Lack of proper save options is, as usual, a negative
  3. Very lackluster, badly designed, or actively boring boss fights across the entire game
  4. Aggregate: No keybinding options for controller, even though keyboard can be rebound // The difficulty just adjusts enemy damage and stagger // In the Scar, the respawn option is just terrible // The whirlwind auto-kill despite all logic and reason is just stupid
  5. There’s a decent amount of very dull, boring sections of Backtracking across ruins and caves
  6. Core Combat is, honestly, quite dull
  7. Very little thought or design put into Encounters
  8. There’s a lot of dry Padding in this one
  9. Lots of Invisible Walls that get in the way of exploration
  10. It’s generally not fun to Traverse from point A to point B
  11. Thanks to the dull, repeated areas, the Visual Continuity is actually against helping navigation

Frostpunk

I cannot recommend this game enough. Fantastic music, excellent visuals, great and tightly designed management which allows for good recovery and a wide variety of playstyles, each scenario is varied and fun, an endless mode, and lots of options. This is a gigantic recommended.
Total Story Score: +9
Total Gameplay Score: +15
*Sushi Game*
Cheats: No.
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 13 Hours
Time Reviewed: 3-31-2019

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The music really, really adds to the mood and feel, especially when the Storm shows up
  2. The atmosphere is incredibly dark, but never goes too far
  3. The tension is fantastic, and the game is tremendously intense, especially when the Storm is first seen, and then hits
  4. The manually crafted events, branching paths of said events, and little tidbits of lore while exploration fill out the world and tone wonderfully
  5. A second positive for that amazing Atmosphere
  6. Great, surprisingly horrifying Background Lore
  7. Doodads are great in this one, really adding to the storytelling
  8. And consequently, great Visual Storytelling
  9. Good World Building

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The potential for recovery despite screw ups or blundering is very well built in
  2. The interface is clean and effective, but more noteworthy for how they manage the stylized presentation of frost and cold without negatively impacting the player’s ability to see what’s going on
  3. The graphics wonderfully grab the steampunk aesthetic and combine it with the cold
  4. Multiple feasible playstyles, which each have detriments and positives
  5. Multiple difficulty options with good variety
  6. The scenarios are good, varied, require different focus each, and are quite fun
  7. Aggregate: The circle-centric building design works better than it should, is unique, and fun // The color usage is excellent for tone and gameplay // Fun new maps for Endless Mode // Different Endless Mode modes as well as difficulties
  8. Core Mechanics of the circular building and branching are great
  9. HUD design is excellent
  10. Love that Music
  11. Thanks to how the events go through, the pacing is really great
  12. So many features and options and paths…
  13. …lead to excellent Replayability
  14. Great Save System
  15. Love the Sound Design
  16. Lovely Visual Distinction despite the stylized graphics

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Improper font scaling for multiple resolutions mean it’s ridiculous or outright impossible to read the text, and a related issue, occasionally there’s a graphics flicker which causes mild irritation

Frozen Synapse

While an interesting concept, I overall found the execution of said concept to be a bit of a drag. At best I found the game boring and, ultimately, we didn’t end up finishing the game by popular vote. Not really recommended.
Total Story Score: 0
Total Gameplay Score: -2
Cheats: No.
Total Play Time: 1 Days // 5 Hours
Time Reviewed: 4-1-2019

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The music is good, varied, and never got old
  2. The concept is a fascinating one, with some interesting tradeoffs between turn based / real time tactics

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. The interface is weirdly unintuitive, stacking multiple actions on single presses (such as right click)
  2. The puzzle-like approach to strategy does not gel well with the plodding nature of pacing, the campaign in general, and the massive loading issue
  3. The visual presentation is flat disinteresting; not the simplicity, but the way it’s done
  4. Constant load times are just awful. They’re frequent, they’re long, and they utterly destroy the flow of the game

Star Control Origins

While irritating in several ways, notably the base combat itself, and of course ignoring the legal drama surrounding it, I’d still say this is a fun enough game to pick up. The story is interesting, the ‘characters’ of the species are memorable and fun, the voice acting is quite good, and the pseudo RPG adventure gameplay is fun… though hampered substantially by a large ‘grind wall’ about mid-game. Still recommended.
Total Story Score: +5
Total Gameplay Score: +1
Cheats: Yes (money, to bypass grinding)
Total Play Time: 4 Days // 22 Hours
Time Reviewed: 4-4-2019

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. As with previous games in the series, the interactions with the various alien races are fun, memorable, and interesting
  2. Genuinely humourous anecdotes and jokes here and there, most notably the Tywom fanfiction
  3. Love the variety of aliens, and their approach to the ‘race of hats’ concept
  4. The voice acting in general is quite excellent, and varied from race to race (with the notable exception of the Human)
  5. Good World Building pretty much from the moment we hit space onwards

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The music is excellent, both in the original pieces and the remixes
  2. Some good ideas with the interface, including locking items to prevent sale, visible danger vs. defenses on landing, stars dimming on map if visited, no possibility of dying from lack of fuel, and many other convenience options
  3. Aggregate: Many, many possible routes to proceed through the game in whatever order you wish, with lots of dialogue and references to ensure you don’t miss anything // The actual connecting quests between species, and solving events and mysteries, is quite fun

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. You’re basically stuck with combat as is, with no real options to do anything but fight through every encounter, which (when combined with how easy it is for enemy ships to smash into you) gets pretty old
  2. It’s probably worth noting that the Core Combat is just not fun to play

Warhammer Vermintide 2

A fantastic sequel to Vermintide, and a great Left For Dead style co-operative shooter. Lots of customization options, across multiple classes, with multiple equipment load-outs changing gameplay style and functionality, in addition to the usual builds, buffs, et cetera. Also some very well done, well crafted levels and the usual excellence of the Director leading to no given run feeling the same. Absolutely recommended, especially with friends.
Total Story Score: +12
Total Gameplay Score: +21
Cheats: No.
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 9 Hours
Time Reviewed: 4-6-2019

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The banter between characters is good, but also great for fleshing out the lore, setting, and characters
  2. The voice acting, while over-the-top, is well done and distinct, so you never miss who’s talking when
  3. Love that Atmosphere
  4. Second positive for the great character Banter
  5. Bonus positive for Characters… not just the playable ones, but the NPCs and the villains as well
  6. Great Doodad usage in the stages and hub
  7. Excellent External Continuity to Warhammer and the end times
  8. Internal Continuity is pretty good too
  9. That Intro is actually really well done, as effectively a long playable cutscene
  10. The core Plot is surprisingly enjoyable
  11. Lovely Visual Storytelling in each stage (special mention to the ‘city sliding into the pit’ stages)
  12. Great World Building

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Generally good LFD style gameplay; team focused, outlines on party members and items (which is optional), swarms of weaker enemies, variety of debilitating elites, bosses, all the usual good stuff
  2. The Director is, as per usual, an excellent implementation of difficulty and variety in its dynamic interactions
  3. Level design is great, with a good variety of locales and goals
  4. The music is both good and well directed to match events and scenes
  5. Proper co-op campaign mode
  6. Aggregate: Some mod support // Fun for co-op // Nice, if limited, built-in Twitch integration // Generally good graphics and audio design
  7. Great Enemy AI design
  8. Special mention of how well designed the Enemy AI is on the ‘hero’ mobs, often taking care to consider party makeup and positioning in how they operate
  9. Animations are great
  10. Love the Boss fights
  11. Second positive for that wonderful Co-Op
  12. Core Combat is just plain fun
  13. Love the Difficulty Mutators
  14. Great Enemy Variety
  15. Excellent Graphics Fidelity
  16. Second positive for those Graphics, which I’ve had the fortune of seeing in 4k and good lord, it’s gorgeous
  17. The Intro does some good setup and establishment of the game and is fun to boot
  18. Good overall Kit with the talents, weapon setup, and careers
  19. Second positive for Level Design
  20. Great Lighting usage
  21. Love how a dead player can both be resurrected on the spot, but later in the level recovered as well
  22. Lots of fun optional Modes, especially now with the new Chaos Wastes mode
  23. Gameplay Pacing is smooth as butter
  24. Lovely, lovely Replayability
  25. Second positive for Replay value
  26. Very clear Visual Distinction

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. The options for audio volume, audio channels, font size, subtitle size, and so forth are pretty bad
  2. The game is excessively Crashy, not just for me but for many people
  3. A second negative for the Crash problems, as it often happens in mid mission which means losing all progress on that mission for everyone
  4. Game likes to really push its Microtransactions
  5. A total lack of Mid Mission Checkpointing which is especially bad with that crash issue mentioned earlier

Atelier Sophie The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book

While not exactly my style of game, the core gameplay concept of crafting is actually very well done, landing on a nice balance between complex while retaining accessibility. The characters are fun enough, and the story is great up until the end. Most importantly, most of the story is a wonderfully down to earth, simple RPG about just living life, which is refreshing. Reasonably recommended.
Total Story Score: -1
Total Gameplay Score: +4
Cheats: Yes (to bypass grind towards the end)
Total Play Time: 4 Days // 25 Hours
Time Reviewed: 4-9-2019

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The story is refreshingly down to earth and well presented as a ‘slice of life’ story
  2. The voice acting is actually really good; there’s plenty of it, and they manage little nuances in speech and tone
  3. The flavor lore of characters talking to each other in the encyclopedia entries for each item throughout the entire game are fun and informative
  4. The general tone and atmosphere are quite enjoyable through most of the game
  5. While no individuals jump out at me, the characters are pretty good and help keep things interesting
  6. Good visual storytelling, especially in town

Story Negatives:

  1. Aggregate: The entire plot twist about Luard is just awful // Amnesia being super convenient to the plot, as always // Just about everything to do with Luard and the finale of the game doesn’t fit at all
  2. The tone fails, pretty badly, towards the final acts of the game
  3. As tends to be true in games like these, bit of an Empty Text problem
  4. The Outro is easily the worst part of the game narratively. Hey, there’s this evil doom dude who is going to remake the world or destroy it and go stop him, okay cool
  5. Related to the above, there’s some general writing issues through most of the game

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Alchemy itself is very interesting, requiring thought on material type (and multiple options to procure them), quality of item, space it takes up, tetrising, upgrading traits over time, and many other options
  2. Methods of learning new recipes is varied enough and interesting, with only a few more obtuse ones here and there
  3. Aggregate: The initative meter being visible and results of actions is good for planning and general fun // The map is fun looking, looks good, and shows useful information // Occasional convenience features are welcome, such as being able to craft sub-items directly from items
  4. While only present in town, the fast travel system is quick and convenient to use (and optional)
  5. A huge amount of the necessary info for the crafting and alchemy is all in game
  6. And speaking of which, the interface is very well designed around said crafting
  7. The game’s inventory system and crafting itemization are also well designed

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. The combat is, at best, unnecessary and, at worst, actively disinteresting. The difficulty varies between pathetically easy and overwhelmingly hard. The difficulty and power progression curves fluctuate wildly
  2. The grind isn’t super awful, but it’s still unacceptably bad, especially given the occasional combat barriers to progress through the plot and random chance of certain effects or traits landing
  3. The boss design is lacking at best, and often is just a stat wall