Premieres 4


Luigi's Mansion 3

While differing substantially in tone from the first game (haven’t really seen the second game to compare), this game was astonishingly well crafted and fun. Lots and lots and lots of little features that were done right, and a generally fun puzzle adventure. Big recommended.
Total Story Score: +5
Total Gameplay Score: +12
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 3 Days // 16 Hours
Time Reviewed: 4-11-2020

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • Luigi is, as ever, just amazing in his presentation and portrayal
  • Animation and graphical style are very well done
  • Doodad placement and usage is fantastic and detailed (and destructible!)
  • Sound design really adds to atmosphere and the different ‘themes’ of each floor
  • The variety and personality to the various bosses are quite fun and have good personality
  • Aggregate: Camerawork for cutscenes is quite fun // The ‘establishing Mario in contrast to Luigi’ scene was actually pretty good // The usage of King Boo as an actually villainous character works in contrast to the rest of the game

Story Negatives:

  • Aggregate: Cutscene incompetence (which hits Luigi mostly, but also Mario and crew) which also happens during… // Inconsistent usage of continuity (the Mario bit was nice but why can Luigi not jump?)

Gameplay Positives:

  • Between Gadd and Polterpup the game is nicely tutorialized and introduces concepts pretty fluidly into level design
  • Combat pacing with flashing after grabbing
  • Clear indicators of what can and can’t be interacted with (plunger ‘hud’, color coding on flash items, usage of mirrors)
  • Sound design is just fantastic
  • Cleaning mechanic is surprisingly fun and enjoyable to do, thanks in no small part to good variety of things and ways to clean
  • The piano boss was very fun, very dynamic, and had some great moments
  • Music design and yoshi drums
  • The entire movie stage and boss was quite fun and surprisingly heartwarming (and also you can be evil and kill the boss after you help him)
  • The camera is very smart about how it’s used in showing what it needs to (to guide the player) but also making sure the player can clearly see what they need to
  • Proper (local) campaign co-op
  • Variety to themes of levels as well as puzzles
  • Second positive for level design and general fun
  • The ScareScraper mode is pretty fun for what it is; full online or local co-op, randomized floors, bosses every 5, team based, etc.
  • Aggregate: Many little nice touches, including but not limited to; increased run speed when out of combat, controls persist despite animations and reactions, lip synching with babble speech, being able to interact with plenty of optional stuff just for fun, option to change movement and turning while aiming, town portals, ability to interact with items in a fairly large ‘range’ around them so no finding the sweet spot, aim assist to show what things can be fired at, built in mechanics to prevent softlocking

Gameplay Negatives:

  • Health beedleep
  • Aggregate: Gems ‘respawn’, which makes it irritating at times to tell which ones you have // Coins scatter everywhere and disappear quickly // The precision required on the musical puzzle was silly // Partially unskippable cutscenes (boss intros)

Super Mario Maker 2

While a game that doesn’t really lend itself towards streaming except in chill capacity, I still had a ton of fun with this (and played it for several hours off camera). Great options to make some fantastic levels hindered by some odd design choices and limitations, and the story mode is a great way to try out fun and creative levels as well as to get ideas for your own. Definitely recommended.
Total Story Score: 0
Total Gameplay Score: +9
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 11 Hours
Time Reviewed: 4-13-2020

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  • Interface is well designed
  • HUD has a lot of info readily available easily
  • Controls are smart and quick while playing
  • Smart functionality with regards to how to interact with what
  • Combos of items and enemies leading to tons of options
  • Variety of item usage which is through the roof
  • Variety of terrain which also has multiple options
  • Showcasing of info with regards to how to see what in your level (trails, death spots, etc.)
  • The story mode’s missions are fun
  • The story mode’s missions are creative (and varied!)
  • Lots of filter options for looking up maps
  • Between speedrun categories, the Link updates and new functionality, and the Ninji Speedruns, there’s a decent amount of post launch content with meat

Gameplay Negatives:

  • Some odd limitations (such as the absence of being able to change height / width in the opposite type of area)
  • Additionally, while the missions idea is great, you simply cannot do it with checkpoints, drastically limiting what you can do with an otherwise great mechanic
  • Some small quibbles (works better with a touchpad interface, cannot search by name, controls like to lock in at times)

Crash Bandicoot Insane Trilogy

So… bit of a mixed bag here, mostly because the quality bounced around across the games. I have to admit that I really disliked the first game, but the second was demonstrably better, and I was actually enjoying myself by the third.
Total Story Score: +2
Total Gameplay Score: +1
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 3 Days // 16 Hours
Time Reviewed: 4-16-2020

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • All: Wackiness, zaniness, humor
  • All: Voice acting is consistently good throughout

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  • All: Sound design
  • All: Animations are pretty good for what they are, both for the players and the enemies, and especially bosses
  • 1: Music
  • 1: Checkpoint, mask, and life placement
  • 2: Music
  • 2: Checkpoint, mask, and lives distribution
  • 2: Good recovery mechanics built into level design
  • 2: There are quite a few levels which either have interesting or fun challenges (if the lives system wasn’t there) and there’s fairly well done exploration built in
  • 3: Music
  • 3: Checkpoint, mask, and lives distribution
  • 3: Variety of level design and main/side objectives
  • 3: Recovery mechanics and reasonable boss designs
  • 3: Fun and interesting levels

Gameplay Negatives:

  • 1: Hitbox issues with collision on both platforms and enemies (very Donkey Kong Country)
  • 1: The hitboxes are… such a consistent, constant issue
  • 1: Memorization / Trial and Error in terms of some levels (where there’s no real time or availability to react to an obstacle, you have to know where it is and where it’s coming from)
  • 1: Thanks to the lives and restart system, the game feels more punishing than difficult, requiring you to redo portions of the level over and over (and over) which is further exacerbated by the ‘you die to anything instantly’ mechanic
  • 1: Bridge levels
  • 1: Level length is, honestly, just too long
  • 1: Actively bad recovery mechanics built into level design
  • 2: The delay in getting back into action is just too punishing; between lives, the long game over screen, losing progress, it works contrary to the overall ‘die instantly, challenging platforming’ nature of the game
  • 2: Hitboxes as per usual with the remake
  • 2: The jetpack sequences aren’t that frequent but good lord those controls
  • 3: The second race level sucks. Its controls are awful and sluggish, the enemy karts ‘bonk’ you which actually removes control temporarily, it requires high precision to get 1st (which is required), and it’s mandatory
  • Aggregate: 3: Hitboxes. Hitboxes. // Vehicle controls in general are non intuitive, awkward, and frustrating

Final Fantasy 7 Remake

I can’t summarize my thoughts on this one. Where it was good, it was great. Where it was bad, it was face palming. And I have no idea what to expect going forwards. I will say it absolutely shined in characterization and presentation of the main scenes and content.
Total Story Score: +18
Total Gameplay Score: +2
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 5 Days // 40 Hours
Time Reviewed: 4-23-2020

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • Attention to detail and brickwork in main cutscenes and primary focus
  • Doodad usage is legitimately incredible in most main areas
  • Visual storytelling is excellent, usually down to animation but also camera usage
  • Camerawork for main scenes is fantastic
  • Music direction and usage thereof is good in almost every scene
  • The voice acting is some of the best I’ve heard lately
  • …voice acting continues to be some of the best I’ve heard lately
  • The banter between the main characters is good and, further, develops across the game
  • The motion capture animation is fantastic and really helps sell the characters
  • Barret (in over his head, mask, speechifying, adorable, stupid but well written, Marlene, and a full character arc just in this game)
  • Cloud (trying to seem stoic, mask skips, dorky, struggling, and the best portrayal of Cloud we’ve ever had)
  • Tifa (everyone likes her, overprotective, pushing agenda with Cloud, vulnerable, cares, and very well presented)
  • Aeris (observant, mischievous, stronger than she looks, manipulative, and clearly in over her head with the responsibilities shoved upon her)
  • Lindblum Effect is on full display, with tons of fleshing out of the world
  • Additional Lindblum Effect as the game goes on (especially for Wall Market)
  • Dialogue is surprisingly well written almost across the board
  • All of the characterization and enjoyment of Jessie, her family, and those connected scenes are good stuff
  • Jessie and Biggs are great characters and are well used, memes aside
  • Wedge is wonderful by himself and his expanded role helps tremendously
  • Side characters with names are good stuff where they’re there (the ‘angel’, Madam M, Bob, Andrea, Jules)
  • Don Corneo is wonderfully animated and voice acted (of course) and comes across as pretty much as horrible as he needs to
  • The Honeybee Inn was just… great, the absolutely perfect slice of cheese
  • The immediate fallout of the Platefall was… incredibly well done, completely sold by the animation but mostly Barret’s voice actor
  • The overnight scene (Aeris, Tifa, Barret) and the follow up
  • Elevator scenes and the staircase sequence are both hysterical and perfectly presented
  • Shinra Tower in general is beautifully presented and has some very clear polish and shine throughout
  • Shinra Tower in how they flesh out, cover over, and explain the entire sequence so beautifully (Domino, Hojo’s disinterest, Reeve, just… everything)
  • Turks, Hojo, Reeve, Rufus are all just kind of awesome and well done throughout

Story Negatives:

  • Cutscene incompetence is something that happens far too often to ignore
  • The side quests are mostly disinteresting but what pulls them into negative territory is the presentation, which is actively detractory (bad camera, bad lip synching, bad animation)
  • Pacing issues are near-constant in how the story lurches forwards
  • Roche unnecessary and odd pacing of events (flashback timing, Roche coming in then leaving you exactly as he found you)
  • Occasional terrible graphics (badly used backgrounds, or awful resolution close ups) and generally awful brickwork where it ‘doesn’t matter’
  • Improper design and balance of background audio, both when they are talking over each other but also during conversations by main character dialogue (also anime grunts)
  • Wall Market is… just off pacing wise… and then there’s these great character moments (Cloud’s flashback with Tifa, Aeris’s childhood memories) which are incredibly badly placed
  • The audio and visual direction of the Sector 7 Platefall was… bad. Tonally incorrect, lacking any emotional punch, and far too concerned with flash
  • Ghosts… the ghosts just… detract from the story for me, even if they make sense (as extensions of Sephiroth, a form of WEAPON, or just a general arbiter of time). They’re entirely too on-the-nose and just… no
  • Zack’s inclusion actively ruins what otherwise would make a fairly large amount of sense but, more to the point, also makes the game far less accessible for new players and, on top of that, seems to have no purpose in existing (to be determined in future games)

Gameplay Positives:

  • Music is fantastic, both the original stuff and the remixes
  • …music continues to be fantastic, with multiple iterations of the same song depending on the scene and need
  • Yoshi Drums are excellent, often-times having a dungeon and combat song be the same song for areas
  • Bestiary / Scanning and related information which is readily and easily available
  • Weapons level independently but all gain SP simultaneously (separate pools), no builds but nonlinear progression, automate based on preference VIII style, and also level out of party
  • On death, go back to last battle, checkpoint, or save
  • Each character plays substantially different from each other, which can lead to some fun variety
  • Between weapon skills, materia, and weapon customization there’s a decent amount of kit available to the player
  • Rufus boss fight is easily the best designed fight in the game and, more to the point, very fun
  • Good New Game + is, as usual, a positive (complete with chapter select)
  • Aggregate: Difficulty swapping ( out of combat) // Party leader positioning into combat // Selecting options on Airbuster // Can still dodge, attack, and stagger as a toad! // Menu actions in combat are quite intuitive (hotkeys, shifting, can see enemy data without losing menu position) // Quest turn in auto warp

Gameplay Negatives:

  • Party members suck when not controlled (ATB, control, forced swapping)
  • Combat camera just has… issues with terrain and tracking
  • Issues with context sensitive areas of interaction and trying to interact with one specific thing
  • Boring difficulty / Just affects damage and HP values (for Easy and Normal)
  • Dungeon pacing is just an awful, boring slog
  • The HP barrier / stagger drain phase lock-in of bosses just gets irritating after a while
  • Dungeon pacing… combined with padding in several areas
  • The entire Outro design was kind of… blegh, with disinteresting ‘final dungeon’ and ultimately disinteresting final boss sequences
  • Ultimately combat has a lot of issues with it, including but not limited to; basically forcing the player to constantly switch characters, massive problems with stunlocking from all enemies (even trash), positional mattering but no real ability to reposition, issues with how the ATB bar fills, the ATB being used for everything rather than some things, etc.

Grand Theft Auto 5

While I think GTA 4 has a stronger, and more impacting, story… GTA 5 after replay and with analysis mode on really takes the cake. The best way I can summarize it is this is the first GTA game I’ve ever played where I enjoyed it all the way through, and never wanted to skip a mission or quit the game in frustration. While it fails at the parody and humor level for me, I still dig the main story and love the power trio.
Total Story Score: +18
Total Gameplay Score: +15
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 5 Days // 46 Hours
Time Reviewed: 5-11-2020

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • The entire Intro is fantastic, easily and effortlessly setting up Michael, Trevor, Dave, Franklin, Lamar, and expositing on the overall theme
  • Mocap and animation is top notch
  • Directing of cutscenes and usage of camera and angles is great stuff
  • As per usual for the series, the voice acting is top notch
  • Doodad placement is mind blowingly good throughout the city
  • Brickwork is top notch, with astonishing attention to detail
  • Terrain and the design thereof is memorable, well laid out, and makes the ‘non-city’ areas fun to be in
  • The city of Los Santos itself is a very well designed living breathing city
  • Exposition is really well designed, very show-not-tell, and very efficient throughout
  • The big scene where Trevor first shows up to Michael’s place and everything about it is poetry. The tension, the body language, Michael defending Jimmy, the interactions with Fabien, and Trevor only quitting his immediate* revenge rampage to go after Tracey
  • Storyboarding and sequence of cutscenes is actually very well done
  • The… torture scene is exactly how it needs to be. It is unflinchingly horrifying and brutal and makes it very clear what’s being done and how, and is probably the best bit of characterization for Haines that it could be
  • The reveal mission about Brad is just… really well done, pays off a lot of the build up across the entire game, and serves as a critical climax for the story
  • Michael’s genuine love and enthusiasm for the movie business is great, and the series of missions surrounding the shoot are great
  • Pacing is generally excellent, with no sections that go too high or too low and no filler
  • Dialogue is top notch, as per usual for the GTAs
  • Trevor is close to my favorite character in the entire series, only held back by the (in my opinion) arbitrarily gross aspects of him. He’s wonderfully acted, voiced, presented, just amazing
  • Michael is my favorite GTA Protagonist, who is understandable, interesting, multi-dimensional, and can’t quite seem to figure himself out
  • Ending C, aka the real ending, is actually quite satisfying and serves as a nice fullfilment of…
  • …the core themes of the game, which I really enjoy. Loyalty, the relativity of value, the falsehood of the ‘almighty’ dollar, all great stuff which all pays off in Ending C
  • The final conversations and general post game wrap up is good stuff

Story Negatives:

  • A degree of both shock and gross value that just pushes the lines a bit too far and hard, leading to multiple unpleasant scenes I just sort of endure to get to the rest of it
  • Lamar is… a character I want to like, but he just goes so far over the line of irritating (deliberately, but still) that he drifts into ‘get off my screen’ territory
  • Aggregate: Irritating characters which, deliberate or no, are just kind of irritating (Haines, Weston, Michael’s family, etc.) // The ‘kill Michael’ ending really just does not work // Some unnecessary drama towards the end

Gameplay Positives:

  • The Intro is extremely well done and some generally great tutorialization, quickly getting across aiming, movement, swapping, driving, etc.
  • Taxi system (summonable, can fast travel, and relatively quick, can set to specific waypoints)
  • Customization options cars (lots of options, game useful upgrades)
  • Customization options appearance (tons of options and mix and matching)
  • The in game music (not the radio stations) is good stuff, and wonderfully tuned to the scenes it plays in
  • Driving is the funnest it’s been in the series for me, and it’s legitimately enjoyable to just drive around
  • Swapping and hot swapping is a neat mechanic that’s well used in a lot of missions throughout
  • Each character’s special ability not only adds nicely to the core gameplay but also helps differentiate the core trio
  • The city design is excellent, with good layout and landmarks and flow to it
  • All roads lead to Rome mission design, where in many missions there’s plenty of ways to get to where you need to be
  • Mission variety is excellent, on-par with San Andreas
  • Mission fun is fantastic, I love doing the missions
  • Stranger missions and encounters are almost always fun and interesting and the ‘how to find them’ is better designed than back in IV
  • The rest of the world that isn’t the city is also fantastically designed and fun to cruise around in
  • Heists are fun, fun, fun and I love doing ‘em and I love replaying ‘em the other way to see how it goes
  • Aggregate: Pausable cutscenes // Fast-forwardable cutscenes and phones // Save anywhere // Flash indicator of kills // Regenerating health below 50% // Mission skip option // Replay missions option

Gameplay Negatives:

  • Aggregate: Health bar is just not well placed and hard to see, would be resolved with some HUD options // Map is… not good // Possible to permanently skip dialogue occasionally

West Of Loathing

A surprisingly good game, with legitimately good game design, fun quests, and a ton of replayability. My biggest recommendation is play it in bursts, so the constant jokes don’t wear thin on you. Definitely recommended otherwise.
Total Story Score: +3
Total Gameplay Score: +5
Cheats: Yes (walkthrough)
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 14 Hours
Time Reviewed: 5-13-2020

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • Humor (what can I say, the game’s funny)
  • Ghostwood in its entirety (good lord)
  • The Gun Manor DLC was very well written and generally satisfying to go through

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  • Leveling system is one of my personal favorite methods of vertical leveling (gain an experience pool, spend the pool directly to raise skills directly)
  • Surprisingly large amount of build options and kit for both combat and encounters
  • Animation is actually quite good and uses its style very well
  • Fast travel from basically anywhere to anywhere you’ve discovered
  • Music is pretty good (if loud) and keeps the tone going properly
  • All Roads Lead To Rome quest design
  • Substantial and fun side questing

Gameplay Negatives:

  • Forced ironman mode in save
  • Aggregate: There’s some small niggling issues with the interface (selecting targets in combat, mouseover text going off screen, inability to see the party member’s level) // Some walkthroughitis with the Gun Manor DLC (smother the chili with a pillow? Seriously?)