Premieres 6


Diddy Kong Racing

A fun, experimental, interesting game full of janky physics, odd controls, and irritating boss fights. The game also barely tells you anything you need to know while playing it. But if you can get past those irritations, it’s definitely worth trying out.
Total Story Score: +1
Total Gameplay Score: -1
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 10 Hours
Time Reviewed: 9-17-2021

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Charm. Between the light aesthetic and happy voice acting, the whole game exudes charm

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. HUD (ability, ranking up, lap, time, turns, non-intrusive)
  2. Three distinct playstyles (kart, hovercraft, plane)
  3. Music is, as per usual, bopping
  4. Aggregate: Yoshi drums are infrequent but still good // The usage of the hub as an extra exploration and connective tissue thing helps with Visual Continuity // While some of the coin levels can go to hell, the idea of them as a mutator to difficulty is pretty cool
  5. Aggregate: Shorter maps help keep things bite sized and prevent it from growing too sloggy or boring // The quick retry option is a nice QoL // The idea of only having set balloons give set power ups which improve or replace the previous adds a nice layer of tactics to the power up mechanic
  6. The boss fights are fun concepts and enjoyable the first time around…
  7. Maps! There are actually a fairly large number of good, varied maps, and while individual courses don’t really stand out…
  8. …the maps deserve two positives in general
  9. Graphics design is very distinct, colorful, and generally adds to the playthrough

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. The Intro is… not good. There’s almost no information on what to do or how to do it and if you don’t backtrack or explore you’ll actually end up getting ‘stuck’ and being unsure of how to progress
  2. The hit and hurt boxes are, as per Rare standard, just… all over the place, and the inconsistency hurts the gameplay substantially
  3. The second Tricky boss fight. It’s over-tuned, has very little margin for error, and is just frustrating
  4. The second walrus boss fight
  5. The second kraken boss fight
  6. The second dragon boss fight
  7. The first Wizpig boss fight
  8. Lack of info in game (tons of things that just have no explanation or detail like drifting or the rainbow boost or where the keys are or how they work or what they unlock or how to progress with the trophies)
  9. The hovercart can honestly just go to hell. It’s not a substantial gameplay change over the kart and handles so, so terribly
  10. The final Wizpig boss fight is so laggy and has so many geometry issues that it’s just frustrating and irritating to do and redo and redo and redo

Age of Decadence

This game essentially mandates either repeated replays and failures to learn its insides and outs, or using a walkthrough. If you can get past that (or enjoy it!), then the massively branching narrative, wonderfully down-to-earth storytelling, and tons of choices and builds gameplay are more than worth the while.
Total Story Score: +11
Total Gameplay Score: +7
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 8 Hours
Time Reviewed: 9-18-2021

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Flavor text and descriptions on skills adds to the flavor of the lore
  2. Writing quality in dialogue is excellent
  3. Lots and lots of internal continuity, with things constantly affecting one another
  4. Intro of Teron is surprisingly good at not only establishing the setting, characters, tone, hooks, and backstory of the setting, but also giving multiple possible motivations for the player to continue
  5. Consequence storytelling is absolutely everywhere, with actions you take consistently coming up in later efforts
  6. World building through interaction and natural dialogue
  7. Branching Narrative. Very, very branching narrative
  8. Atmosphere and tone. It’s very bleak and very horrible and does a very good job of conveying it
  9. Visual storytelling is all over the place, with ruins of rock walls barely covered by wood barricades, desert sands shifting over wrecked roof-less homes, and the like
  10. The trip through the crater is a trip, and probably the best single moment of the game for its severe surreal creepiness
  11. The ambiance, atmosphere, and tone of the bleak and desolate music really adds to the work

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Character stats screen and info available in game
  2. Variety of dialogue options as a major function of core gameplay
  3. Non combat leveling and options, and its relatively easy to do an entirely non combat playthrough
  4. Quest branching! Very, very quest branching
  5. Replayability thanks to the shortness of the game and the multitude of options in progression
  6. Fast travel around towns and the overworld
  7. Mastery system. The game is designed around you replaying it many times, failing, taking notes, and learning more about what gives you what, where, and how
  8. Build gameplay. There are many possible builds and many viable builds
  9. Intro. The Teron sequence is great gameplay wise, with a huge number of quests that interweave with each other, vary based on your background, and do a good job of giving you an idea of what you’re in for
  10. Save system (multiple slots for quick and autosave, autosaves are at transitions and combat, very quick and easy to save/load)

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Interface is… very 2004, and its more than a bit cumbersome to move through
  2. The very same Mastery system which is a positive is also a negative, because it necessitates repeated failings to progress… or just using a walkthrough
  3. The game is very firmly in the brown era of gaming, and more to the point at times it’s literally difficult to tell what you’re interacting with

Bloodborne

This is a very gross, very good, very bad game. It does many things right, several things wrong, and squicked me out completely. But if you’re already a fan of the Soulslikes and haven’t played it, I strongly recommend it.
Total Story Score: +14
Total Gameplay Score: +9
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 8 Days // 64 Hours
Time Reviewed: 10-6-2021

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Lighting is well designed and helps with the aesthetic
  2. Doodad utilization is fantastic and varied as usual
  3. Doodads get a second positive for how quantity and quality
  4. Brickwork is some of the best I’ve seen in the soulsborne games
  5. Color utilization is very well utilized to accent tone and style throughout
  6. Atmosphere is appropriately… bloodborney
  7. The Rom fight has lots of interesting little tidbits designed into it that add to the narrative; The adds defending the mostly defenseless gestating creature lost in an empty landscape within a dream, Rom (and the spiders) all animate as if they’re afraid of you, etc.
  8. Gameplay and Story Integration in general but most especially in the boss fights
  9. Insight is a cool Storytelling Tool in so many ways. The Doll, the baby’s cry, the creatures, the enemy changes, etc
  10. The voice acting, when it’s there, is honestly quite brilliant
  11. The gross factor is used very well to help accentuate and add to themes, horror, and atmosphere
  12. The usage of items and descriptions as world building
  13. The Intro absolutely serves the overall feel and vibe of the game and is an immediate and proper intro into what the entire game is about
  14. Outro (Mergo and the Wetnurse, the house being on fire, Gehrman’s final speeches)
  15. Aggregate: Side quests (little girl, helping people find a safe haven) // Banter of NPCs (especially the ones you can’t even see) // The horror of the character stories

Story Negatives:

  1. Presentation of squid ending is lacking in visual continuity, style, or approach

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Penalty for failure: Retrieve echoes upon death, body goes away upon second death
  2. Visual distinction. With few exceptions it’s always very clear what you’re looking at, what you can interact with, where you can go, etc.
  3. Switch-attacks is a fun way to add a layer to the combat
  4. Flow of combat (counter, stagger, attack to gain health back, etc.)
  5. Storage mechanic (excess loot goes to bank automatically, portaling auto refills from bank stock) and other related QoL mechanics
  6. Sound design is quite informative on what is where, and helps decide how to deal with off camera enemies
  7. Level design and layout (slowly expanding areas of access, shortcuts, etc.)
  8. Enemy variety (different attacks, styles of attack, strategies)
  9. Quality of autosave (autosaving virtually every few seconds)
  10. Gascoigne is an excellent tutorial fight in how Hunter fights work, the parry mechanic, recovering health, etc.
  11. % heals are, as usual, really quite useful and help a ‘potion’ retain relevance throughout the game
  12. NPC helpfulness, while it varies, is generally more good than bad when summoned
  13. Blood-Starved Beast was a very fun fight. While arguably ‘just’ a berserker, there’s a lot of good design to the arena, the helper, the weaknesses, and the attacks
  14. Weapon variety (not just in damage, but in arcs, switch attacks, etc.) is really good, warranting…
  15. …a second Weapon Variety combo
  16. The weapons have good ‘weight’ to them in how they feel to use, adding to visceral enjoyment
  17. Vicar Amelia has lots of ways to tackle her, and lots of ways to recover from how she operates, and is generally well designed
  18. Lecture Building encounter design (large open area with enemies to be maneuvered around or chokepointed, enemies designed to take advantage of both)
  19. Shortcut level design
  20. The music for boss fights is pretty well designed and clearly specifically picked for each boss in question
  21. Ludwig fight! The variance of the two phases, the music, the styles and telegraphs and options
  22. Logairus was a very fun fight. Lots of big flashy attacks which limit movement but still are reasonable to avoid, nice obvious phase transition which allows you to do things about it (free hits, recover, interrupt), lots of fun interesting attacks which you can do things about (like his planting the sword), etc.
  23. The Maria fight was fascinating, being a relatively ‘normal’ fight about watching for animations and timing, but each phase adding mutators to said attacks
  24. While not as much or as full as I’d like, the co-op is still smooth and works well and is fun
  25. The Orphan has two major issues with the fight (which are covered by separate negatives) but the core fight itself is actually a really well designed berserker boss fight
  26. Decent new game plus system
  27. Decent variety and mix-and-match of cosmetic armors and runes
  28. Clearcut information about certain things is quite available in game (most notably the stats and effects of leveling up)
  29. The Intro does a lot right. While you can’t level, you do have access to multiple weapons and armor, a good variety of enemy types in terms of defenses, attack patterns, and aggressiveness, it has tons of branching paths and good guidance, and is generally fun
  30. Generally decent kit in terms of tools, the quicksilver usage, and buffs
  31. Outro (the Wetnurse and Gehrman fights)
  32. Cainhurst (while it has some issues, there’s some cool stuff here, unique enemies and fun layouts)
  33. Aggregate: Shadows of Yharnam (variable attack styles which each cover each other’s ‘ranges’ and sweeps, which alter and change the further into the fight you go) // Amygdala (lots of nice big telegraphs, multiple safe zones, possible to ‘bait’, overall fun)

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Save system, reliant autosave, one save slot, force ironman mode, etc.
  2. No pause, which is a problem for many reasons, not the least of which being RL happens
  3. Load times are… really, really bad in a game all about zoning to level and zoning on death
  4. Framerate and blur (without toggles) make me pretty nauseous while playing
  5. The camera issues are bad in general…
  6. …but they’re made even worse on every boss that’s especially large it becomes literally impossible to see what you’re doing at times, especially for enclosed arenas
  7. Getting stuck on terrain while dodging
  8. The run back problem is a bit less than in some Souls games but it’s still bad, which is especially irritating given how easy it’d be to bypass
  9. The Rom fight is a long, slow, boring fight that can two shot you which leads to redoing long, slow, boring fight over and over
  10. The Rom fight continues to be absolutely atrocious. It’s completely mandatory to progress (which makes it worse), the camera issues are awful given how difficult it is to see what to dodge when, there’s zero indicator of when meteor attacks are coming other than the animation which you have to be watching her to see for when it’s coming, the meteors themselves are very tight window to dodge
  11. The Nightmare Frontier is easily the worst designed area I’d seen in the game to date. The visuals, while certainly setting the tone, have the worst visual distinction I’ve seen in a while, with a lot of noisey details with grey on white on grey, and large areas of area denial (lots of tiny gravestones interrupting movement, the puke swamp preventing running) alongside enemies with reach and range (giants that fling rocks with supreme accuracy, Winter Lanterns that instantly kill you in seconds just by seeing you, etc.)
  12. Lock on. Binding it to R3 is already questionable, but the inconsistency with it locking on, losing lock on due to LoS, distance, hitting, or being hit… and the fact that if you ‘miss’ the lock on your camera swivels wildly… not great
  13. Chalice Dungeons. A side, optional place to grind is a nice thought but they’re confusingly laid out, boring as sin, and require you to do and redo and re re do them excessively to really ‘progress’ through them
  14. There are several areas of the game where the level design honestly just fails, which is especially weird in contrast to the places where it’s awesome
  15. Context sensitive jump screwing you out of dodge rolling
  16. Gross factor. The gross is so over the top and pervasive that it actively removes the enjoyment of the work and (more to the point) would have actually prevented me from playing the game by its presence
  17. Second gross negative and…
  18. …third, for being the grossest game I’ve ever reviewed. I mean, a newborn corpse monster attacking you with a placenta
  19. The Yar’gul area in general is not great (respawning trash, irritating fights that hit way too hard, not great lamp placement) buuut what pushes it to negative territory is that damned staircase. Lots of molotov throwing, suicidal, respawning hags on a crowded staircase with terrain you can get stuck in and around with a fast firing laser that nearly kills you
  20. Winter Lanterns. They have tons of health, their frenzy attack builds stupidly fast, their grapple basically guaranteed kills you, in several cases the only way I was able to kill them (with frenzy resist armor on) was to abuse i-frames of chugging sedatives
  21. The game has a bit of an overtuning issue. Even after spending some hours grinding, while taking care to keep gems and runes up to date, the ability to just straight up die (or get two shot by a boss) is pervasive throughout and it takes what could be challenging and interesting combat and (occasionally) changes it into ‘make no mistakes’ binary difficulty
  22. The need for grinding blood, bullets, and other mats (especially in early and mid game) is just egregious
  23. There are just too many things the game doesn’t properly explain in the game, in terms of weapons or item usage or whatnot
  24. Aggregate: Inability to set respawn without entering dream and exiting // Inability to warp without entering the dream and exiting