Premieres 7


A Plague Tale Innocence

A great stealth game with a great story. Hugely recommended on both axis.
Total Story Score: +29
Total Gameplay Score: +26
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 11.54 Hours
Time Reviewed: 01-27-2022

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Gilded storytelling; things seemingly fine on the surface, but cues and hints of things being much worse
  2. Intro does so much right in such a short period of time…
  3. …and honestly earns a second positive
  4. Narrative pacing is excellent throughout…
  5. …with tons of ups, downs, breathers, and tension
  6. Usage of color as atmosphere both highs and lows
  7. Music direction is spot on…
  8. …easily second positive worthy
  9. Amicia’s VA is incredible…
  10. …honestly earning a second positive
  11. Village sequence in its entirety
  12. Animation in cutscenes
  13. Voice acting during stealth sections
  14. The dream sequence is well constructed in general…
  15. …but the way it built and crescendo’d into walking through a sea of rats as we struggled, screaming, to reach Hugo…
  16. Hugo is an adorable beacon of light in an otherwise dark game, and is brilliantly used strategically throughout to perk things up…
  17. …even further helped by his excellent voice actor
  18. Amicia is similarly an excellent and well done character
  19. General voice acting positive
  20. The rats themselves easily earn a positive for their usage and their tone
  21. Gameplay / Story Integration positive
  22. The ratnado is, surprisingly, pretty terrifying
  23. Lucas is enjoyable in his own right
  24. Melie is, similarly, enjoyable
  25. Generally good supporting cast
  26. Dialogue is generally well written
  27. Good doodad utilization
  28. The sound design always adds to the narrative
  29. Generally good story sequencing
  30. Visual storytelling does a lot to add to the story
  31. Voice direction is spot on

Story Negatives:

  1. Vitalis was just… not an engaging villain at all. I’ve seen worse, but ultimately he detracts from the narrative
  2. Aggregate: Cutscene incompetence here and there, most notably with… // …the way Arthur died to Nicholas

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The tutorial section is honestly very legit, does a fantastic job of escalation and giving the player ways to ease into mechanics before testing them
  2. The Intro is, similarly, brilliantly designed from a gameplay perspective and deserves its own praise
  3. The Rats and Light mechanic in general
  4. The stealth and avoidance mechanics in general
  5. Difficulty curve (especially due to non-binary difficulty)
  6. Generally good checkpointing
  7. The entire Village level
  8. The pig farm level
  9. The aqueduct mass grave level
  10. The forest level
  11. Music in general is excellent…
  12. …but the way it Yoshi Drums is fantastic
  13. Sound design is good in general…
  14. …but also really helps inform who is what, where, and how to deal with it
  15. City level
  16. The cathedral / library level
  17. Everything about the alchemy and garden section
  18. Pacing of gameplay is excellent throughout…
  19. …easily deserving a second positive
  20. The kit is good and varied throughout
  21. Encounter design is generally good
  22. Periodic multiple paths gameplay design
  23. Gameplay and Story Integration
  24. Continually escalating mechanics introduction and further tutorialization
  25. The entire Hugo section of going through the prison is a wonderful Princess Peach segment
  26. There aren’t many, but the enemies that are there are good variety, each one having different tactics that work for them
  27. The Alternate Leveling of having to balance inventory for consumables/ammo as well as upgrades
  28. The generally enjoyable stealth / action gameplay leads to a single Replayability positive

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. The controls for, uh, controlling the rats as Hugo kinda really suck
  2. Aggregate: Controls are wonky in general (and depend on the scene) but are clearly made for controller and not M&K // AI pathfinding had occasional issues

Star Trek Shattered Universe

This game is atrocious at every level. Do not buy. Do not play.
Total Story Score: -18
Total Gameplay Score: -30
Cheats: Yes (game is nearly unbeatable)
Total Play Time: 1 Days // 6.50 Hours
Time Reviewed: 01-27-2022

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

Story Negatives:

  1. The intro cinematic is terribly done in almost every way. Storyboarding, pacing, writing, directing, and just… wow
  2. The plot is nonsensical even for Trek
  3. They somehow warp over into the very bodies and ship of the mirror universe but remain theirselves… somehow??
  4. The starbase keeps repairing the Excelsior despite openly calling them traitors… and then clamps and self destructs to destroy them… but… what?
  5. Meanwhile we have to beat the M5 by solo killing four constitutions… in a row… THEN the Orions…
  6. Should I mention how Sulu’s refusal to use his brain to think a way around Chekov leads to a totally unnecessary rivalry arc?
  7. There’s a total absence of pacing in this game. It just lurches around doing whatever it wants to
  8. The story sequencing similarly has no logic or thread to it other than ‘random episode references’
  9. The fact that our fighter is just… a doom death destructo machine and has to solo massive quantities of enemy fighters AND capital ships
  10. The entire wormhole mission is various layers of just… nonsense
  11. The ‘cavalry has arrived’ moment in Vortex is terribly presented
  12. The Mirror Mirror opening cutscene is bad at every level. The mirror ship, the fact that they (somehow) have tons of fighters despite also having lost their crew and are somehow here at the same time and of course, finally, a terrible ‘oh my’
  13. The Outro is bad in general…
  14. …but the WAH WAH nature of it, the awful writing, the terrible line reading, pushes it down even more
  15. The entire game is the opposite of consequence storytelling
  16. The dialogue is some truly awful writing
  17. External Continuity actively makes this game worse
  18. It’s very clear the voice direction on Takei and Koenig was not there, and it’s especially true on everyone else

Gameplay Positives:

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. The mission design for the second mission is not good. Endless waves of klingons interfering with objectives you can’t do until they’re cleared, followed by more waves of irritation
  2. The third mission. First fight fighters (what else), but then release the clamps or an invisible timer will instantly kill the Excelsior, and then destroy a capital ship by yourself
  3. Controls are… really loose and barely designed
  4. The HUD is not well designed in general, barely explained, and worse is actually covered by in-game dialogue
  5. The lack of weapon variety and balancing is immediately noticeable
  6. The brickwork (skybox) is actively bad (blue crap!)
  7. Targeting is bad, bad, bad. It’s inconsistent how it targets what
  8. The knockback effect from getting hit is bad in its own right due to frustration but also screws with you because…
  9. …the game in general is very disorienting, to the point of being vaguely nauseating
  10. Audio spam is pretty bad
  11. Enemy ships are just faster than you, even if you’re constantly holding down dash
  12. Mission 4 is actually terrible. Defend the Excelsior who is doing nothing against four Constitutions and an Orion. Even going completely suicidally berserker, the Excelsior is at 20% health and no shields by the time the Constitutions go down
  13. A second negative for Mission 4
  14. Capital ships exploding forces a ‘cutscene’ but doesn’t pause the action, so you and your ally can still take damage (and die) during the cutscene
  15. Mission 6 can go to hell. It’s the exact same friggin’ mission structure as the previous ‘gather minerals’ mission and is, thus, boring…
  16. …but is made worse by the waves upon waves upon waves upon WAVES of enemies which, as usual, kill the Excelsior
  17. Mission 7 is, as usual, an awful escort mission
  18. The… ‘difficulty options’… aren’t
  19. As usual, escort missions suck
  20. The Balok mission is pure insanity. Fifty hyperbalillion enemy fighters swarming you constantly, and despite killing them so quickly I was doing so once per couple SECONDS they still nearly killed the Excelsior before I could kill them all
  21. The amoeba mission was boring dull and stupid
  22. The wormhole mission was aggravating to play in almost every way…
  23. …but deserves a second negative for the visuals being legitimately disorienting
  24. The Tholian defense mission is really frustrating and irritating to maneuver through while having the usual timer / escort issues
  25. The Vortex mission is honestly really quite boring
  26. The Outro is one of the worst Outros I’ve seen. It’s yet another boring escort mission for the Excelsior, while the enemy spawns an infinite wave of way-too-many-fighters, while having bad controls…
  27. …earning a second negative
  28. AI is bad in general; not acknowledging collision, no real maneuvering or tactics, and the friendlies are completely useless
  29. The core combat is, at absolute best, boring
  30. The game’s difficulty curve is beyond stupid

VA-11 Hall-A

While lacking on the Gameplay axis, the Story is quite strong and well constructed.
Total Story Score: +30
Total Gameplay Score: +1
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 18.64 Hours
Time Reviewed: 01-29-2022

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Dialogue is not only well written in general…
  2. …but varies in tone between characters
  3. Game is reasonably humorous
  4. Generally good world building…
  5. …but also continuous, natural world building as characters slowly explain to each other things that we, the audience, don’t know
  6. Betty’s bit about trauma, hating an idea not a person, is indicative of the kinds of great lines that exist in this work…
  7. …which I will give a second positive for sheer writing quality
  8. The prologue did some… amusing stuff but was reasonably well fleshed out, especially between Beatrice and Deal
  9. The first day was interesting pretty much across the board
  10. The porch scene between Dana and Jill
  11. The game manages good perspective, but manages to keep it interesting… this is something I love when stories do right, the ‘real’ story is happening over there but you’re not part of that story, so you only see snippets…
  12. …the viewpoint of the elephants fighting from the perspective of the ants
  13. News articles and reddit threads as background lore
  14. Internal continuity is very tight…
  15. …as the game keeps track of what’s going on elsewhere and within its characters very well
  16. The Outro between Jill and Gaby is really awesome
  17. Sei is adorable, straightforwards, and a great support
  18. Jill is interesting enough to be worthwhile
  19. Dana, the retired Punk, is awesome in all the right ways
  20. Dorothy is probably one of the best and most complex and fleshed out characters in the game, with a good head on her shoulders and surprisingly multi-faceted personality…
  21. …earning a second positive
  22. Stella is another multi-faceted character who bounces off Jill and Sei beautifully
  23. Alma is great, supportive, and engaging
  24. Kira Miki is really quite well done despite her lack of screen time
  25. Vergilio is pretty legit, and shows signs even early on of what’s really going on there
  26. Betty and Deal make a nice two-part act
  27. Supporting cast in general
  28. Really good chemistry and connecting threads between characters
  29. Sei and Dorothy’s scene together did a good job on a lot of levels
  30. Sei’s freak out and calm down shortly after the bank situation
  31. Anna Start was pretty legit

Story Negatives:

  1. The entire… loli… thing with Dorothy is gross on several levels, but even if one were to remove the emotional reaction, the fact is it adds nothing to the story and actively detracts from it

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Music is pretty enjoyable
  2. Decent new game +
  3. Good replayability
  4. Aggregate: Chat log // Pseudo-branching gameplay // Forcing the player to pay attention

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Lack of rebinding
  2. Jukebox is unnecessarily irritating to interact with
  3. Aggregate: Lack of chapter select // Walkthroughitis

Return Of The Obra Dinn

A startlingly well designed deductive puzzle game, which I cannot recommend enough. Absolutely worth the price of admission.
Total Story Score: +14
Total Gameplay Score: +15
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 1 Days // 6.72 Hours
Time Reviewed: 2-1-2022

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The cold-open nature of the Intro does a good job of pulling you in and hooking you early on, as well as clearly indicating there is more going on here than it seems
  2. Plots. Several interesting, seemingly unconnected plots
  3. Visual storytelling pretty consistently
  4. The Kraken reveal (pretty much indicates the types of story this will be as soon as it shows)
  5. The Soldiers of the Sea reveal (spider… crab… things)
  6. Storyboarding of posing the scenes
  7. Story sequencing (events are very clearly connected properly)
  8. Consequence storytelling (just about everything is one long domino)
  9. Foreshadowing (we learn a lot in our very first tidbit)
  10. The Internal Continuity in this game is spot on…
  11. …to the point that it just is crazy how well it keeps track of itself
  12. The Outro and the final reveal of how the captain was, really, behind almost everything
  13. The sound design helps add to each, uh, ‘scene’ quite well
  14. Gameplay and story integration

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Intro. The initial three fates are relatively easy to learn, but more to the point are very clearly linked to each other and designed to get you into the mood and mode of what type of game this is
  2. Good guidance and flow of exploration
  3. Gameplay and story integration, of course
  4. Sound design literally helps you determine what’s going on in each ‘scene’
  5. Visual continuity (at all times you can pretty much immediately tell where you are on the ship, regardless of time frame)
  6. Some small QoL features (in how the book operates, the ‘flies’, not being able to lose the corpse beam)
  7. Core frozen vignette freeze mechanic
  8. Core deduction mechanic (identity, cause of death)
  9. Voice acting (for identification purposes)
  10. Book usage and availability
  11. The ‘after three’ mechanic to tell you when you have three accurate things is a great decision because it doesn’t let you purely brute force guess (like telling you immediately would) and it’s not irritating (like not telling you at all would) and of course this also builds in a feeling and tangibility of progression
  12. …easily earning a second positive
  13. Storyboarding and how it gives clues and helps with deduction
  14. Level design, too, is clearly designed with the overall deduction in mind
  15. Info in game in the form of map, crew manifest, and glossary
  16. The very well designed sketches and how they… help you deduce what’s going on
  17. Internal continuity of what happens when … once again helps with the deduction

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. The showpiece, followed by forced fade out, followed by book fill in
  2. Aggregate: The game literally doesn’t allow the player to change resolution, or move the window, without bugging out completely // Near total lack of options, most egregiously in sound options (only one volume ‘slider’ for all audio)

Tex Murphy Tesla Effect

The gameplay is… not great, but weirdly skippable, and the cheeky enjoyability of the FMVs and acting are worth the playthrough.
Total Story Score: +18
Total Gameplay Score: -2
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 1 Days // 9.79 Hours
Time Reviewed: 2-2-2022

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Humor. The game got some silly laughs out of me more than a few times
  2. Performances! Usually this is ‘voice acting’ but in this case it’s just plain ‘acting’
  3. Lighting, which is well done enough to warrant notice
  4. Makeup design for the actors
  5. Murphy himself is… well, Murphy
  6. Mojo is easily one of the best characters in the game…
  7. …alongside Louie, and his varying tones and good acting…
  8. …as well as Taylor, who is just generally legit and the actress is clearly just having fun with the role
  9. Cutscene direction is pretty top notch
  10. Archie is pretty legit
  11. Smart Alex is, as you might expect, appropriately amusing
  12. The unique atmosphere and tone of serious, silly, slapstick, noir, Bond film
  13. Good banter between Murphy and just about everyone
  14. Generally good camera-work
  15. The Translator is exactly as hammy and ridiculous as a Bond villain should be
  16. Intro does some good stuff in establishing our core cast, ourselves, and our connections
  17. Dialogue is generally well written
  18. External Continuity is reasonably well done
  19. The Outro with the Tesla Lab, the confrontation at the tower with Slade, while it had some issues it was still enjoyable
  20. Generally good writing throughout

Story Negatives:

  1. Aggregate: Periodic issues with camera // Periodic issues with acting // Periodic issues with someone trying a bit too hard with a line
  2. Pacing is… not. It’s just sort of whatever, probably because of the format of the game

Gameplay Positives:

  1. In-game hint system and Flashlight mechanic are both nice ways to keep the game going forwards
  2. Generally enjoyable puzzle design
  3. Pretty good autosave system
  4. Choices, not only changing the ending but scenes and the flavor thereof

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Font size is just way, way too small and makes the game difficult to read or understand
  2. TOR Syndrome is pretty bad (if limited)
  3. Pacing has some pretty serious issues
  4. Intro has several issues. It’s arguably one of the worst walkthroughitis moments in the game, with some vague hints and nothing really indicating the rock, and otherwise bleh
  5. The Outro (the Tesla base) has many issues. Instant-death binary issues, lack of direction at multiple points, and the vague inconsistency issues coming with an ill-used engine
  6. Aggregate: Lighting design was problematic at times // Periodic audio spam // Occasional walkthroughitis issues (nothing too bad)

The Dig

One of the better of the classic LucasArts point-and-clicks. Without spoiling, definitely worth a playthrough if you haven’t… probably worth a replay even if you have.
Total Story Score: +11
Total Gameplay Score: +1
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 1 Days // 8.14 Hours
Time Reviewed: 2-3-2022

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The sprite animation is actually really quite good, and always helps sell the scene
  2. Tone and atmosphere of dread, wonder, and exploration is very well presented
  3. Banter, mostly towards the first two acts, is really quite good
  4. The game’s ‘camerawork’ for scene construction is actually quite good (not counting the cartoon animations)
  5. Some smartly written dialogue throughout
  6. The Intro does so much so well. The stakes, the premise, the characters, the banter, the escalation, the tension, the crater…
  7. …it’s one of the better Intros I’ve seen, it’s easily two positive material
  8. Music direction is spot on, adding to essentially every scene
  9. The suicide jump was honestly almost perfect
  10. Sound design really adds to basically every scene
  11. Truly marvelous brickwork and visual storytelling
  12. Several good bits of voice acting
  13. Generally good writing

Story Negatives:

  1. Brink’s… big climatic death scene was just kind of… really awful
  2. The Outro… has pretty serious issues. It’s abrupt, it’s unearned, and it flies in the face of previously established facts and themes

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Music is, as per Michael Land’s usual, is legit
  2. Generally well done graphics, the game is pretty gorgeous
  3. Not all the time, but quite often the game is pretty good at guiding you in how to progress forwards

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. There is some pixel hunting here, especially due to poor visual distinction
  2. There are several issues of walkthroughitis throughout, peppered across the game

Gone Home

Honestly a pretty lacking game, on both axis. It does a few things quite right, and several things are just… lacking. Worth picking up on the cheap if you haven’t played it.
Total Story Score: +1
Total Gameplay Score: +1
Golden Number: 5.48
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 1 Days // 2.47 Hours
Time Reviewed: 2-4-2022

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Visual storytelling of the house is honestly pretty well designed
  2. The storytelling mechanic of learning piecemeal what happened and what’s happening as we explore the house
  3. Aggregate: Intro does enough right to be noteworthy, some good hooks laid down early on // Pacing isn’t super amazing, but it’s actually decent // The voice actress playing Sam is decent enough, some minor issues and some problems with quantity

Story Negatives:

  1. The Outro has several substantial constructive issues with it…
  2. …and fails utterly to fulfill on the emotional impact it is so clearly going for

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Built in developer commentary mode
  2. The game, with one notable exception, actually has pretty good guidance and flow of exploration in its level design

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Never did find the locker code which is literally mandatory for progression, which… is walkthroughitis and/or bad flow of exploration design

Tiny And Big

A lackluster, quirky, disinteresting game with a cool core mechanic that it fails to capitalize on. Not super recommended, but worth it for the uniqueness if you can get it on the cheap.
Total Story Score: -2
Total Gameplay Score: 0
Golden Number: -1.17
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 1 Days // 2.30 Hours
Time Reviewed: 2-4-2022

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

Story Negatives:

  1. The core concept of quirky humor is poorly constructed and poorly realized, actually making it unfunny and hurting the work as a consequence
  2. The entire Outro is lacking on almost every level, with a weird non build up to a weird confrontation and another lawl so random moment with the critters, and then a near wah-wah conclusion

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Intro is reasonably well done, good layout of things to interact with and (optional) tutorialization while you figure out your kit and progression
  2. Physics based puzzles in general
  3. Slice and grab are both good mechanics
  4. Mid mission checkpoints are pretty good

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Controls are honestly bad. Too loose, not enough platforming aids, game would literally go the wrong direction at times
  2. The in game music is not great
  3. The final stage is honestly pretty bad, with bad visuals and tiny draw radius …
  4. …and the final boss fight is just kind of badly designed and unnecessarily random

Nefarious

A very well done, interesting, fun story… with gameplay that’s, at best, irritating. It’s not super bad if you’re into platformers, just don’t expect much on the gameplay axis.
Total Story Score: +16
Total Gameplay Score: +1
Golden Number: 49.07
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 1 Days // 4.42 Hours
Time Reviewed: 2-5-2022

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Tone and approach (status quo alteration and ‘now what?’)
  2. Humor. Game gets a good deal of laughs out of me
  3. World building. The game weirdly does a decent amount to establish its kingdoms, politics, and rules
  4. The portraits did a good job of helping with the tone and characters
  5. RPG battle in the ogre kingdom
  6. Characters in general
  7. Princess Apoidea has her own layers to her, and is generally one of the more pleasant princesses
  8. Farrah Day is delightful, tragic, and adorable
  9. The game show sequence
  10. Visual storytelling (city, insect, fire, ice, etc.)
  11. Crow is pretty engaging for a Bowser-style villain
  12. Becky is similarly awesome for an actually-running-things secretary
  13. Generally good dialogue
  14. Great chemistry between characters
  15. Intro is okay, but it really sets the stage properly once we end the first stage and enter the ‘now what’ phase
  16. Plot is legitimately interesting

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Music may be a bit misplaced but is quite good
  2. The dwarf princess section was legit
  3. Princesses as power ups
  4. We’re the boss design
  5. Hyperbeam segment with Farrah Day
  6. Train heist stage
  7. Mid-mission checkpoint placement is pretty good
  8. Pretty good Outro over all

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. A combination of no audio options in menu, no ability to return to menu once in game, and the game is super loud (also the menu ignores volume options)… also the game is just periodically physically painfully loud, despite turning the volume down
  2. The flying ‘hover around you’ type enemies are irritating and frustrating, angle ‘onto’ you and are custom built to dodge your attacks
  3. Controls are honestly just… bad in so many ways it’s hard for me to know how to summarize it
  4. Inconsistent hit / hurt boxes
  5. Jank issues with platforming
  6. Core combat is honestly pretty bad
  7. Generally bad sound design across the board

The Magic Circle

A very good game with a very creative gameplay concept that it supports in an intriguing plot. I definitely recommend it.
Total Story Score: +13
Total Gameplay Score: +17
Golden Number: 108.91
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 1 Days // 3.25 Hours
Time Reviewed: 2-5-2022

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The atmosphere, the unique tone of being about game development from multiple perspectives
  2. Ish is an astonishingly well fleshed out, interesting individual
  3. Coda is fascinating in the perspective she adds and how she moves forwards
  4. Pro and Maze are good supporting cast in general
  5. The ‘cinematic’ of the big demo reveal and Ish’s deconstruction
  6. Generally well written dialogue
  7. Gameplay/story integration is sort of the bread and butter here
  8. The Intro immediately establishes your role, Ish and Maze’s conflict, and the nature of what’s going on
  9. The entire demo scene was legit on several levels
  10. The Outro does a great deal to wrap things up, and makes several points but doesn’t linger too much on preachifying any of them
  11. The storytelling mechanics of the audio and test logs
  12. Voice Acting is quite well done throughout…
  13. …sufficient in quality and quantity to deserve a second positive

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. All roads lead to Rome design in the ‘open’ segment, both in general and in how you can progress past specific puzzles
  2. Build gameplay in how you customize what with what
  3. Game controls quite well for its mechanics
  4. The core mechanic of draining, refilling, and editing is just awesome
  5. Reasonably good early game, and great late game
  6. Enemy variety is quite varied, as it should be given the core conceit
  7. Good fast travel system
  8. Not just good graphics, but varied across the two ‘eras’
  9. The hyperbeam moment is more stretched than usual (once you’ve snowballed, you snowball hard)
  10. Gameplay/story integration
  11. The Intro does a lot to help get you into the mode, your two major mechanics, and how to process them
  12. The ‘kit’ in the squads is great (and allows you to ‘build tall’ or ‘build wide’)
  13. Level design has a natural flow and gradiance to it, guiding you in certain directions at certain times to unlock more stuff
  14. The Outro is quite well designed, with all abilities unlocked and infinite use to just screw with the demo however you please
  15. The game has several small but critical Quality of Life features (escape working properly, summoning all minions with both buttons, giving tiered orders, and most importantly… being able to summon any dead enemy from across the entire game to you at will)
  16. Good visual continuity, can basically always tell where you are
  17. Good visual distinction, pretty easy to discern what is where and when
  18. A surprisingly well designed map, showcasing not just terrain, but where you haven’t gone, things you haven’t gotten, dead enemies, and warp points

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Move speed is too slow, no run button

GRIS

While the game leans on its narrative axis, hard, it’s worth a playthrough. Big recommend.
Total Story Score: +15
Total Gameplay Score: +6
Golden Number: 67.87
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 1 Days // 3.42 Hours
Time Reviewed: 2-8-2022

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Graphics deserve special mention for how they are utilized to tell the story
  2. Art direction obviously deserves its own special mention
  3. Music direction. The game uses its music for the narrative more than anything else
  4. …leading to a second music direction positive
  5. Storyboarding for cutscenes is surprisingly well done
  6. Visual Storytelling is pretty much the bread and butter of the game
  7. Animation in the woman, the creatures, the statue… and the ichor
  8. The reveal of the bats as the screeching bird
  9. The return of the black beast of depression in the eel sequence
  10. The Intro which makes it very clear where and how this is going (the curling against the hand as it breaks)
  11. The Outro in its entirety
  12. The very usage and audio-visual realization of the black ichor that is depression
  13. The overall tone of the recovery from grief…
  14. …and a plus for ‘feels’. Because there’s definitely feels
  15. The sound design is pretty spot on to help accentuate the beast, the girl, and the terrain

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Tutorialization is weirdly consistent throughout, always giving some kind of visual as to what you can do where
  2. Level design in ‘you choose your own failure’ platforming
  3. Special mention to the gravity swap level (the ‘last’ level, effectively)
  4. The first bird ‘boss’ sequence, with good showcasing of the bells and fun pseudo bosses
  5. Controls are quite well designed throughout
  6. Yoshi drums are excellent, especially when you regain the sing button
  7. The music in general is fantastic

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. The game has a periodic problem of giving you tools and forcing you to solve puzzles in a very specific way, which can cause issues here and there

Cyber Shadow

This is a really really good game. It’s hard as balls, but it’s a well-designed hard, and if you love this type of platformer there’s a good chance you’ll like this one. Big recommend.
Total Story Score: +7
Total Gameplay Score: +31
Golden Number: 109.68
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 8.05 Hours
Time Reviewed: 2-9-2022

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Visual storytelling (world is falling apart, some enemies literally don’t work), ruins, etc.
  2. The world building of the afterlife and essence
  3. The horror of the research facility
  4. The overall plot (Dr. Progen and his nightmare plans for his daughter)
  5. Lot of good doodad usage to really flesh out each area and make them distinct
  6. Outro is actually quite touching and honestly pretty somber given everything; the final reward is death, but not in a bad way
  7. The logs do a great job of being side storytelling mechanics (and optional too)

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Music is an absolute banger
  2. …no, really, the music is absolutely amazing
  3. Tutorialization in level design is some pretty good stuff
  4. Visual distinction is excellent, with visual tips and tricks to distinguish different interactables
  5. Controls are very tight and responsive…
  6. …along with shortcuts for other abilities, easily earning a second positive
  7. Currency to upgrade respawn points
  8. The Intro is great, gets you immediately into what the game is about (the pits, spikes, enemies, respawn mechanic, items, etc.)
  9. Chapter 1 is a good stage overall
  10. Chapter 2, with button and trash gimmicks and otherwise tight platforming
  11. Chapter 3 has some truly great stuff throughout, especially enemy placement
  12. The swag blade is honestly just really, really awesome by itself
  13. Chapter 4, the reactor…
  14. …and a bonus for the horrifying research level
  15. The train boss! Lots of attacks, multiple strategies, generally fun
  16. Difficulty curve is really quite smooth
  17. Encounter design is spot on, good placements of enemies
  18. Itemization is excellent, especially in drops
  19. Good overall enemy variety
  20. The Exo hyperbeam section
  21. The Outro is pretty fun in general, minus the Appirator thing, but that last last phase is a really cool concept for a fight
  22. Animations always inform, especially on bosses
  23. Bosses are generally quite good, with a couple of exceptions
  24. Core combat is excellent of course
  25. The difficulty curve starts high, but inclines pretty smoothly with a few bumps
  26. Very good, well designed spritework across the board…
  27. …earning a second positive
  28. Generally good guidance and flow of exploration
  29. Very fun power progression curve, you really feel it when you go back to earlier areas with more kit
  30. The kit (subweapons, abilities, etc.) is varied, fun, and has a huge skill ceiling…
  31. …easily earning a second positive
  32. Generally fun replayability
  33. Generally good terrain design
  34. Good visual distinction

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Spikes. Little too much reliance upon spikes
  2. The final boss is actively boring in how it does its phase transitions. The first fight is just a dull, unnecessarily long, boring fight before the real final boss actually starts, and it absolutely destroys the pacing (and enjoyment) of the actual final boss fight
  3. Aggregate: Later checkpoint placement is problematic // The music restarts upon death, which for the later sections… // There are some specific moves and ways bonus attacks work that is simply not explained in game

Timespinner

A great story in a good metroidvania, easily recommended for anyone who’s a fan of either.
Total Story Score: +23
Total Gameplay Score: +25
Golden Number: 157.01
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 8.74 Hours
Time Reviewed: 2-10-2022

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Brickwork is really fantastic…
  2. …easily earning a second positive
  3. There’s visual storytelling everywhere…
  4. …once again earning a second positive
  5. Worldbuilding is very much on display
  6. Journals as a storytelling mechanism which help flesh out background lore
  7. Plot is surprisingly engaging, seemingly micro focused but actually being a macro plot with a micro focus
  8. Dialogue is tightly written throughout, feeling like actual conversation
  9. Amadeus’ lab
  10. Haristel; the blind soldier through never having to question it
  11. Rameda, the lost medic who seeks to simplify
  12. Neliste, the woman who refused to take part in the violence of her nation but had no real solution
  13. Eschem, the lost soldier who is a great personal look into the caste system of Vilete and its foibles
  14. Seykis and his squeeing over Eschem is adorable, but it once again puts a face on Vilete and its people
  15. The conclusion of character quests is honestly just a nice, heartwarming moment
  16. The ascension Outro is quite well done, suitably somber, and neatly fits with the rest of the game’s arc
  17. The game does a good job of keeping consistent in consequences of its narrative
  18. Doodads are very, very well done…
  19. …earning a second positive
  20. Reasonably good internal continuity
  21. The Intro absolutely gets you into things immediately, and while a bit obvious its clear where it’s going
  22. Story is well sequenced, especially given how it has to take into account the metroidvanianess
  23. Good visual continuity throughout, past or present it’s always pretty readily apparent where you are

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Brickwork is really fantastic…
  2. …easily some of the best I’ve seen in recent memory
  3. Mini-map and its reflection of…
  4. …the map, which has markers, color coding, and clear indicators of where you’ve been, what % you’ve uncovered, and where you can go
  5. Great visual distinction at all times
  6. Music is excellent
  7. The ‘freeze time’ gimmick is a fun way to manipulate and outmaneuver enemies
  8. Encounter design is spot on
  9. Enemy variety is excellent
  10. Very good guidance and flow of exploration…
  11. …to the point of being two positive worthy
  12. The Orbs are excellent kit, fun and varied…
  13. …further amplified by the other equipment which can very up…
  14. …the type of Build gameplay we have on display
  15. Very smooth and good power progression curve
  16. Good distribution of the upgrade items throughout, not only rewarding exploration but ensuring new equipment can be crafted semi frequently
  17. The Outro is generally fun and well done, between the optional grind dungeon and the final boss being quite well done
  18. The Ravenlord is easily the best boss fight in the game, good arena and attack vector usage
  19. Good animations, informing attacks and avoidances
  20. Reasonably good in-game bestiary
  21. Enjoyable core combat, especially with all the options available to you
  22. Very smooth difficulty curve
  23. The waypoint system is fast, well spaced, and smooths out backtracking a lot
  24. Generally good flow of level design to always have new areas to access and explore
  25. Not the best, but it’s still good New Game +
  26. At several points, clear thought is put into the terrain design to make traversal less irritating, and make encounters more interesting
  27. Enjoyable enough to be worthy of a replayability point

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Info in game (no indicator of some quest items, orbs leveling, how some mechanics work)
  2. Boss health is just too bloated

Mummy Demastered

This… is a weak, weird, awkward story in a truly terrible metroidvania. Multiple convening systems make the overall game much worse than it otherwise should have been. Do not recommend.
Total Story Score: -2
Total Gameplay Score: -22
Golden Number: -15.86
Cheats: No (INCOMPLETE)
Total Play Time: 1 Days // 3.70 Hours
Time Reviewed: 2-10-2022

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Visual storytelling is good as usual

Story Negatives:

  1. While the film isn’t… good, the external continuity of how it doesn’t use it is honestly awful
  2. The Outro is disjointed, awkward, and weird
  3. The events of the story are all over the place, no logic or coherence to them at all

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Intro is pretty well designed; gets across ideas of items, enemies, maneuvering, dying, and boss design
  2. Music is really quite good
  3. Generally good brickwork

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. No rebinding controller or sound options
  2. Aiming/combat (limited to 8 directions, which is an issue because…)
  3. Encounter design…
  4. …particularly in later levels, where enemies are designed to kill you (making the snowball problem that much worse)
  5. Gotcha enemy placement
  6. Itemization is actively bad (prioritizing ‘smaller’ health ups over useful pick ups)
  7. The alligator boss (long, boring, no variation really across phases)
  8. Unskippable cutscenes
  9. Snowball problem…
  10. …which actively gets worse later on due to enemy damage and health…
  11. …making a full three negatives for penalty for failure
  12. Enemy design is actually bad, with enemies that are hard to hit and have too much health and move too fast for weapons that can’t track or hit them
  13. Enforced ironman save mode
  14. The subway level is just problematic and badly funneled
  15. The underground base area is… not great
  16. Enemy respawn issues (most notably with bats and zombies)
  17. Actively bad guidance and flow of exploration, both in the map and in the level layout and item placement…
  18. …earning a second negative
  19. The map itself is honestly bad
  20. The sand level is atrocious
  21. And the tower level can go to hell
  22. Generically bad boss design (not much to them, too much health, just… boring)
  23. The bad kind of backtracking
  24. The difficulty curve actively makes the overall death problem even worse
  25. The terrain is just thrown together with no thought put into it

Elden Ring

Probably the best Dark Souls game I’ve played. If you like Dark Souls, you’ll like this. If you want to get into the series, this is probably one of the best entries to try out and see how you feel about it.
Total Story Score: +15
Total Gameplay Score: +15
Golden Number: 80.75
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 9 Days // 84.45 Hours
Time Reviewed: 4-27-2022

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The destructible terrain really adds to the atmosphere and fun of the boss fights, trees being knocked all over and things burning
  2. Audio atmosphere
  3. Doodads
  4. Brickwork
  5. G/S Integration in multiple facets of the game
  6. Generally good voice acting (special props for Godrick)
  7. Gross horror atmosphere
  8. Use of items as world building
  9. Castle Morne visual storytelling
  10. Raya Lucaria visual storytelling
  11. Manor place and the adventures of the spider hands
  12. Siofra River underground
  13. Aggregate: Iron Fist Alexander is pretty legit, as is… // ..Boc the Seamster… // and Rya and a small but amusing host of other people
  14. General creepiness of Rennala phase 1
  15. Blaidd was a good boy, alas (and further a great insight into the actual nature of how messed up the Erdtree Order was)
  16. Visual storytelling of the frozen wastes
  17. Community art style positive
  18. The visual storytelling of the Crumbling Farum Azula is honestly some of the better visual storytelling in the entire game…
  19. …earning it a second positive
  20. Jar Bairn is just adorable, and a nice bit of positivity
  21. And the entire jars quest chain is actually quite well done, if needlessly tragic
  22. The internal continuity of the game is very self consistent
  23. The lighting consistently adds to the narrative flavor and tone
  24. Generally enjoyable side quests (Rya’s, Nephali’s, Rodgier’s, etc.)
  25. Where it’s good, the localization does a good job of adding local flavor and tone…

Story Negatives:

  1. Presentation of storytelling and limitations thereof…
  2. …also known as the ‘go google it’ problem
  3. Another launch negative, this time for literally broken quests that had to be patched in to be completable
  4. The Outro is the usual Dark Souls problem
  5. The Outro has too much technicolor Mass Effect 3 problem (there’s really only 3 endings, the others are just palette swaps)
  6. The Outro is honestly very unsatisfying across the board
  7. The Intro isn’t bad in the strictest sense of the word, but it is very lacking
  8. …the localization is actively problematic at times
  9. The story is, perhaps by design, sequenced… very very badly…
  10. …earning a second negative

Gameplay Positives:

  1. General graphics fidelity
  2. Good information-in-game on the level up screen (showing exactly what stats affect what and how)
  3. QoL changes (no stam drain out of combat, indicator immediately on enemy death of loot, toggle sprint on mount, fast mount/dismount,
  4. Tutorial is actually really well designed, introducing then escalating mechanics and enemies, leading up to and concluding with the Tree Sentinel and the ‘go explore’ concept
  5. Stealth isn’t great, but its introduction is a well received multiplier to navigation and combat
  6. Mounted movement in general is quite fluid…
  7. …further helped by the snappy controls, double jump, and separate health bar
  8. Mounted combat is good in general for how it varies it up but also…
  9. …for how it changes based on setup and build, as well as adding a new dimension to combat
  10. The ‘keep playing to recoup’ mechanics aren’t as prolific as I’d like, but the ‘clear camp’ and ‘scarab’ mechanics are welcome additions
  11. Co-op gameplay exists
  12. The map is actually quite well designed, with good visuals and indicators of terrain and points of interest even without exploring, plus with the abilities to drop your own nav points and gather map fragments to fill it out…
  13. …earning a second positive
  14. Surprisingly good fast travel system…
  15. …further buoyed by the number and specific placement of travel points
  16. Limgrave has good general flow to its overworld design, with navigation pathways and indicators and enemy placement to help guide the player in exploration
  17. Limgrave further has good overworld density, lots to do and little wasted or empty space
  18. It’s taken a long time but the addition of Stakes of Marika as occasional checkpoints are a welcome feature
  19. The Dragon fights in general may be somewhat simple, but they are always enjoyable…
  20. …and special mention for the sheer viscerality of said fights
  21. The Margit boss fight
  22. The ‘grab corpse, get stuff back’ penalty for failure remains good as it usually is
  23. Catacombs/caves/etc. are a nice addition of micro-dungeons; Quick, reward exploration, and generally fun
  24. Rennala Phase 1 is actually really good, with a nice gimmick and good audio design and lots going on while being fully recoverable
  25. Rennala Phase 2 is actually a great mage fight, with multiple methods of dealing with it and a great arena to fight within
  26. Ancestor Spirit is a fun fight in general, but made all the better with the visuals and audio, and unique music
  27. Radahn’s fight is very unique, with a nice big open area where you can fight mounted and summon (and re summon) multiple allies to assist
  28. The crystal bosses are pretty legit in general
  29. Special mention to the triple scarlet rot crystal boss of hell
  30. The Putrifying tree spirit fights have some issues, but are actually quite enjoyable overall
  31. The Godskin Apostle boss (in the Divine Tower of Caelid) is honestly awesome. Great rhythm, lots of attacks for multiple ranges, and generally fun to play…
  32. …in addition to some great visuals and music to go with it
  33. Mimic Tear is creative and quite amusing
  34. Regal ancestral spirit boss
  35. Astel, Naturalborn of the Void boss
  36. Lichdragon Fortissax boss
  37. Mohg has some irritations but is nonetheless a very tight, reasonably balanced fight (ways to avoid dying to Nihil, agile but low HP, etc.)
  38. The game has extensive Builds gameplay, with many viable builds
  39. This is especially expressed in the number and variety of weapons…
  40. …earning a second weapon kit positive
  41. The Arts system in general gains two positives…
  42. …for sheer number and variety…
  43. But a bonus positive for how the modularity of the arts system makes it super quick and efficient to swap and try out new things
  44. Enemy variety is, let’s be honest, fantastic
  45. …easily earning…
  46. …three positives
  47. Generally good overworld density
  48. Generally good overworld flow
  49. Exploration is usually rewarding, though not always and not directly
  50. Gelmir Hero’s Grave dungeon (lava, lava for days)
  51. Occasional shortcut design in dungeons (mostly in the Legacy dungeons)
  52. Malenia is actually pretty well designed for the most part. Low poise and fast attacks encourage reaction and aggressiveness, her patterns are pretty obvious to see coming but hard to execute due to tight timing. And her second phase has nice long vuln periods that are risky but rewarding to go after…
  53. …leading to a second positive
  54. The Fire Giant is actually a good example of how to make an overwhelming foe have very precise weaknesses to exploit
  55. Placidusax is honestly a great fight. Most of its attacks are fair but punishing, it has good coverage and reach but varies properly, and it does some wonderful stuff with its vanishing teleport attacks…
  56. …earning it a second positive
  57. Maliketh has a very cool moveset, very rewarding swoops and actions and general fun
  58. Godfrey boss
  59. Radagon boss
  60. New Game Plus which has good features, but also weird limitations, and mandatory difficulty increase
  61. The ability to respec exists
  62. Summons add some nice kit to the game
  63. Spells are generally very well designed across the board…
  64. …adding further good kit to the game
  65. When it’s good, there’s good enemy AI design
  66. When it’s good, there’s good animation design (mostly in attack telegraphing)
  67. Game does a good job of supporting replayability
  68. Anywhere outside of a dungeon it’s very possible to navigate purely visually, thanks to good visual continuity
  69. Generally good viscerality (especially in the spells)

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Unacceptably bad launch (optimization, broken quests, fps issues)
  2. Forced pvp for co-op (as per usual)
  3. Co-op irritations in general
  4. Oh, and further co-op irritations (can’t re-summon in boss areas, huge delays in it working, network issues)
  5. As usual, forced ironman mode saves
  6. Camera issues with certain bosses and areas
  7. Lack of ability to rebind properly (can’t put multiple keys to one command, can’t bind multiple actions to multiple keys but are limited by context sensitive setups)
  8. Mouse capture problem (game cannot seem to capture the mouse correctly, leading to control issues)
  9. The game very clearly is designed around funneling you towards Margit, and is then quite mean of an encounter (counters for every range, hits like a truck, very fast, two phase, and reads your input)
  10. There is a fairly severe lack of info in game…
  11. …leading to a lot of either trial and error or ‘google it’ gameplay
  12. Speaking of which, items have some walkthroughitis
  13. And quests have even further walkthroughitis… to the point where it’s truly ridiculous, with not just lack of quest log or indicators, but excruciatingly vague directions (or in some case an actual lack of directions, instead vague hints)…
  14. …leading to a third negative
  15. Also you can permanently screw yourself out of quests without really knowing how or why
  16. The gross factor returns, as it always does in these ones
  17. The lack of proper pause feature has its own issues
  18. Actually inaccurate info on tooltips and tutorials (notably Great Runes)
  19. The music in the Limgrave area is bleh to the point of wanting to turn it off
  20. Let’s just give a second negative for tiresome music throughout the game
  21. The micro-dungeons are, honestly, a bit over-used and get repetitive after a while
  22. …leading to a second negative…
  23. Further complicated by repeat boss fights…
  24. …in some cases literally just being copy pasted bosses
  25. A final, pseudo-aggregate negative for repetition
  26. The Rennala fight has several irritations, most obvious being; one of the longer runbacks in the game (where it otherwise avoids the issue) and having to do Phase 1 again each attempt
  27. Occasional but massively game-breaking, game BRICKING bug which the very fact that it can happen via something as innocuous as loading a screen, is utterly unacceptable
  28. Unacceptably low drop rate, along with no bad luck protection
  29. The buffer input in this game is weirdly bad. It’s a bit longer or misplaced, I’m not sure which, but either way it results in a common scenario of doing an animation (usually getting hit) then doing the action you hit prior to being hit…
  30. …and its a constant irritation throughout
  31. There really is a bit of an overtuning problem in multiple bosses
  32. The fact that any dialogue pop up interrupts all possible actions is irritating, unnecessary, and can actually get you killed
  33. Overworld flow and density issues in Liurnia
  34. Irritation of navigation…
  35. …and of map design in the Plateau
  36. Boring emptiness of the consecrated snowfield
  37. Lots… and lots… of gotcha! Moments…
  38. …easily enough for two negatives
  39. The audio balance is the usual ‘too soft or too loud’ issue
  40. Inconsistent message distribution (the online messages are so spammy they de-incentivize you to read the ones you have to for quests)
  41. Ordina can go to hell
  42. The 1 HP thing
  43. There aren’t a super number of crashes… but there are crashes, plural
  44. Malenia forces you to fight phase 1 each re attempt
  45. The forced ‘reload state to progress quests and dialogue’… design choice… thing
  46. Speaking of which, the fact that you have to talk to NPCs multiple times, there’s no indication other than repetition when you’re done, and sometimes the repetition is slightly different
  47. There are several small but significant issues with the Maliketh fight, like re-doing phase 1, the ‘debuff lock’ he can place you in, and some other frustrations
  48. Final boss rush and phase 1 repeat issue, as usual
  49. The Outro in general has several issues, not the least of which feeling rather rushed compared to other parts of the game, but also everything about the final boss is honestly kind of lackluster (especially for a fight that feels so clearly designed for Torrent… and isn’t)
  50. When it’s bad, the enemy AI design is awful (looking at you, dragons)
  51. When it’s bad, the animations kinda suck
  52. The game is honestly a bit grindy, especially given how little you get out of it
  53. In many cases the lighting, while atmospheric, actively makes the game harder to understand or perceive
  54. Some general visual distinction problems (especially at night, or in some dungeons)

The Stanley Parable

If you have played the original Stanley Parable, I absolutely recommend this version, as it includes substantially more content. If you have never played Stanley Parable, I massively recommend playing this game.
Total Story Score: +30
Total Gameplay Score: +3
Golden Number: 97.80
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 1 Days // 5.32 Hours
Time Reviewed: 4-27-2022

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. VA…
  2. …VA…
  3. …VA! In all seriousness, Kevan Brighting is legitimately fantastic, in so, so many different ways
  4. Sound direction in general
  5. 5 clicks on door 530 ‘quest’
  6. Early death
  7. Go the wrong way consistently…
  8. …and the ‘real person & choices’ slide
  9. The Stanley Parable Adventure Line
  10. The first, uh, ‘dlc’ wasn’t great…
  11. …but the second one and the ‘additions’ actually got me pretty good
  12. Bucket%
  13. Dialogue quality…
  14. …is hard to explain how well crafted it is
  15. The Bucket Ending… what is it… who’s there?!?
  16. The… Bucket LOVE Ending…
  17. The Bucket broom closet!!
  18. Just… so much, I can’t even describe the quality of each ending ‘chain’ post Bucket (this one’s for Bucket Insane)
  19. This one’s for Bucket Games
  20. The entire collectibles line is legit in general…
  21. …but the (out of no where) payoff is even better
  22. The bucket escape pod was hysterical to begin with, but the re-acquisition… wow
  23. Bucket Destroyer!
  24. The branching story was already fantastic…
  25. …and deserving of a second positive…
  26. …but with the addition of the Bucket lines, this becomes one of the best, most branching games I’ve ever seen
  27. The Narrator deserves his own positives for his own character, varying though he be
  28. Doodad design is quite good throughout
  29. External Continuity with… the… original version of the game (it’s hard to explain)
  30. The Narrator as a storytelling mechanic

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Bizarrely excellent tutorialization…
  2. …which is combined with a very clear and well designed guidance and flow of direction such that you effectively always know what kinds of things you can do, and (almost) all the lines are things you can pretty intuitively figure out
  3. There are a great deal of branching ‘quest design’ in this game, so much that it easily stomps any other I can think of…
  4. …earning it…
  5. …three positives

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Aggregate: The settings menu has some legitimate issues // The Skip button gag section honestly took a bit long and… // …the 4 hour ending is just stupid and annoying on purpose
  2. A second negative for the 4 hour ending. Optional’ness aside, it’s actually worse than originally indicated, because it has periodic points where the narrator pops in to add to the ‘gag’ but only after literally dozens of minutes, or HOURS, of absolute aggravation AND making it worse as you go by adding a second button to hit

Hedon Bloodrite

An RPG in the vehicle of an FPS, this game is unique and interesting and kept me engaged narratively the entire time through. Definite recommend.
Total Story Score: +23
Total Gameplay Score: +6
Golden Number: 74.80
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 5 Days // 31.38 Hours
Time Reviewed: 5-03-2022

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Visual storytelling in level design
  2. Sound design in atmosphere
  3. Mechanics of letter logs
  4. Being right ‘behind’ the story as it unfolds in front of you
  5. Errant Signal is a little bit exposition dump-heavy but where it really shines is in how it shows you the narration as it goes
  6. The slowly growing confidence during the Nithriel fight literally expanding the arena and giving you access to more firepower and drops was a nice touch
  7. Pale Wind has an excellent first half, really showcasing the value in an ‘empty’ zone and how it can be used as a vector for storytelling
  8. Research & Decay finally elucidates on the traitor, is clever about its ‘cutscenes’, and is appropriately terrifying to peruse through
  9. The Crystal Heart is a good build up and follow through of us finally catching up to the plot, and the ending leaves just enough dangling threads to keep interest high
  10. The architecture of the game really does a lot to make the areas feel like actual places, the zones ‘lived in’ and adds to the overall vibe of every area
  11. The Mansion stage and its, ah, interesting insight into the rich snobs who joined the cult, and how they utterly ruined themselves before we ever showed up
  12. The entire ‘waking up at the hell beach’ segment
  13. Consequence storytelling is all over the place, with events being followed through on in ways that really help the narrative
  14. The hell cluster level does a fairly large amount to flesh out the demons, their way of life, and how they operate…
  15. …especially the Primarchs, who have their own varied motives and desires re: the Baron
  16. Generally good background lore, almost always in the NPCs of ‘hub’ sections
  17. The general visual storytelling of the final, alien area is great
  18. The ‘in the mind’ sequence and subsequent defiance in the mental landscape
  19. The ending covered a lot of ground quickly and efficiently and was very satisfying to boot
  20. Generally good supporting characters (persistent, too)
  21. Game has good internal continuity, keeping track of its own concepts and events and how they link up
  22. The world building throughout is fascinating, giving enough peaks into how the planet functions
  23. The Intro is a bit wonky but does some good things to establish events and tone

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The tutorial stage does a good job of being the tutorial, ironically more so than the stage prior
  2. The environment changing noticeably and moving as stages progress is a nice touch
  3. The save system is the usual multiple slots auto and quick save…
  4. …earning a second positive
  5. The map is useful and distinct and the automapping feature helps as well
  6. Grove; multiple paths through, drown the enemy encounter, good usage of terrain for encounter variety
  7. The stealth segment during Errant Signal was actually really excellent despite lacking several tools one would expect, in part due to the limitations of the enemy ‘detection’
  8. Parapet is when the level design starts to pick up, with good interconnectivity and visual distinction of layout
  9. Crystal Heart really starts actually having honest game design in its interweaving elemental areas and guiding the player in which to do when via enemy spawns…
  10. …as well as the entire friendly followers section
  11. The cultist castle in Besieged is a good all roads lead to rome section of quest design, with good itemization and the combat not ramping up until after you’ve rescued the multitude of allies
  12. Brazen Bull involves quite a bit of creative usage of triggers and scripts, and at no point felt walkthroughy but instead flowed as it should
  13. The Hellscape mission does a lot of good, creative things with the moving ships, cover approach to the flagship, and navigating the final few ships
  14. Enemy variety is decent
  15. Gun variety is actually quite good, offering decent kit throughout
  16. Viscerality is enjoyable, not just in the weapons themselves but in the gibbing
  17. The hell level cluster is probably one of the more creative sections of the game, trying out multiple approaches to puzzle design
  18. Similarly, there is a great deal of well thought out all roads lead to rome level design in the hell cluster
  19. The final boss fight was actually quite legit, with good pacing and phases and drops and fun
  20. Good overall difficulty design, affecting enemy placements and AI design…
  21. …bonus positive for the Bearzerk mode, including new and fun weapons just for the difficulty
  22. The Testing Hub is a nice built in select / test / cheats thing
  23. Replayability (especially with the difficulty options)
  24. Aggregate: The Deep Calls section has a few issues (enemy AI, enemy encounter design, terrain visibility) but nevertheless is well laid out with a good pseudo hub structure and no confusing layout // The turret is love, the turret is life // The allies mechanic, while infrequent, is great when it’s there

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Guidance and flow issues on the town level
  2. Guidance and flow issues on the lava level
  3. Platforming insistence and issues with the core engine are essentially a nonstop hassle…
  4. …unfortunately worth a second negative
  5. Lack of visibility with interactables in early missions
  6. Several minor but persistent issues with the engine being twisted to do something it wasn’t designed to do (inventory, crafting, interaction)
  7. The Errant Signal Nithriel fight, purely mechanically, had several issues (terrain that’s too easy to slip into, entirely too much health/armor on the boss, attack patterns that encourage rapid movement on uneven terrain, invuln phases)
  8. There’s some pretty serious walkthroughitis going on in several of the methods of progression
  9. Research & Decay has several design issues, but the biggest one by far is; Dark areas with dark backdrops and fast moving dark enemies that shred you
  10. Level design and enemy placement across the board is clearly more slanted towards story than gameplay, with long stretches of exploration and map size being, honestly, a bit too big
  11. The backtracking in the mansion level is real
  12. There’s a bit of an itemization problem that grows more obvious the further in you get, with ‘recovery’ sections a bit too dense and a bit too spread out, leading to palls of no recovery for lengthy swaths of levels
  13. The game is entirely too long for what it can do. There are competing issues here and there (enemy variety, encounter design, player kit) but really what it all boils down to is there’s only so much you can do for so long and this game is long, long, long…
  14. …easily the worst aspect of the game overall and dragging the entire experience down
  15. The HUD is… not good. It’s a bit too crayon stylized and as a consequence there’s legitimate issues discerning certain aspects of it, especially in combat or at-a-glance
  16. The continued reliance upon platforming in the hell cluster maps continues to drag the game down
  17. The Outro is good except when it’s not; the pacing of the final stage is a bit problematic (especially given the relative lack of guidance in said final stage)
  18. Aggregate: During the trip through the Minotaur town, there’s a few different methods to progress, but the excess of browns combined with a very (relatively) small area, with small and narrow alleyways, streets, and corridors, actively hampers navigation and visual continuity // Lack of quest journal… in the first chunk of the game

Pokemon Mystery Dungeon Explorers Of Sky

So let me get this out there right up front; If you don’t like procedurally generated random dungeon crawling, this is not the game for you. If however you do like that (or can cheat to bypass it), the rest of the game is very worth a playthrough for its themes, character moments, and engaging core systems.
Total Story Score: +11
Total Gameplay Score: 0
Golden Number: 28.00
Cheats: Yes (Post-game)
Total Play Time: 6 Days // 38.35 Hours
Time Reviewed: 5-08-2022

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The Intro does some good introductions to characters, concepts, and world and quickly establishes the plot hooks
  2. The rather heart-warming moment of the crew coming together and sharing food with us is actually pretty legit
  3. Generally good visual storytelling in the town area, between doodads and brickwork
  4. The spread and variety of NPCs out in town really add to the flavor of things
  5. The usage of the diaries as continuing journals to give additional insight into events going on
  6. The conclusion of the Fogbound Lake arc, the wonderful visuals of the lake itself, and the nice wholesome moments with Uxie
  7. Background world building is regular and interesting
  8. Bidoof is a weirdly good character all on his own
  9. The supporting cast is kind of awesome, with their own distinct quirks and presence in the story
  10. The core arc for the main character (no not us, our ‘partner’) is actually pretty legit; the idea of being someone who’s always done what they’re told to, and the slow shift into being their own character with their own decisions is great… if terribly told
  11. The scene between the main character and Grovyle on the cliffside was actually pretty good
  12. The Dark Future Arc is a good showcase of what we’re fighting against and why, literally visually showcasing how bad things would (did?) get, in addition to serving as a vehicle for the main character’s arc
  13. The music’s direction admittedly only occasionally accents the scenes, but when it does, man…
  14. The final scene of our character saying goodbye to the main character as we fade into nonexistence is actually really quite powerful and tear-jerking
  15. The Bidoof episode is weirdly higher quality storytelling in general (in small ways here and there) but really clinches it with the scene where the guild swoops in to save the day (and refusing to waste his money on the TM … and refusing to waste his wish with Jirachi)
  16. While the primary plot was somewhat lacking, the background worldbuilding of Wigglytuff’s story and how the pokemon interact with each other is nice
  17. Team Charm isn’t the best but it also does a lot right, and bypasses most of the issues of the main game while still doing some cool things with it
  18. The overall tone and atmosphere of general wholesomeness is really smile enducing
  19. Internal continuity; the game keeps track of itself surprisingly well and self references throughout
  20. The Manaphy arc is adorable (and pays off in the end)
  21. Not just the suicide parallels, but the way they use them; “The world would be a better place without me”, proven… completely wrong, with everyone re-affirming how much they’d be sad in their absence
  22. The overall theme of the Grovyle arc, of the impermanence of life and wanting to make what life you have worthwhile… of survival being insufficient… is a good theme
  23. Even though it’s completely destroyed right after, the lead up to the final battle and the group’s final sacrifice as they die with no regrets is tremendously powerful

Story Negatives:

  1. The entire way the game… lacks morality about the (let’s call it what it is) cult that the guild is, and how abusive and unpleasant they function while using methods to control their own (including withholding food!) is awful. The story ideas themselves aren’t really the problem, it’s entirely the way it’s portrayed; like it’s normal, acceptable, or worse–like it’s just a joke
  2. There’s actually more to this, but the specifics of how awful this entire sequence of events is and how it portrays the innocent cute pokemon as abusive corporate overlords is utterly unacceptable
  3. Repetition in storytelling and is… really, really bad…
  4. …to the point where it stopped being funny and started actively grating
  5. Okay for real, the unnecessary flashbacks is absolutely ridiculous…
  6. …to the point of being second negative worthy
  7. Lots of Empty Text issues
  8. Unfortunately, while the main character arc is great, it’s just… horribly presented, either buried in bad translation or due to someone somewhere ‘pulling back’ on the storytelling
  9. The fantastic, powerful, meaningful outro to the main story… is absolutely destroyed in the last 10 seconds by the resurrection of our character
  10. I really hate to ding what is probably the best part of the game, but the dialogue is just… bad. I’m not sure if it’s ‘dumbed down’ to be ‘kid friendly’ or if it’s just badly written, badly localized, or some combination thereof, but the core dialogue is honestly kind of awful
  11. The absolute emotional whiplash of undoing the sacrifice at the end of Grovyle’s story (…again…) completely destroys the ending
  12. The localization is, related thereto, noticeably lacking throughout and actively detracts from every moment

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Sprite Work is fantastic, both in color distinction and detail
  2. This is complimented by some excellent animation
  3. The flow of dungeon-crawling is well structured and streamlined
  4. Core combat and its positional nature is interesting and fun, especially given…
  5. …the usual spread and variety of kit for your team
  6. This is further enhanced by the Pokemon Plus (for builds) being even better than usual given the added benefit of having more than one pokemon out at a time, as well as ranges and angles being relevant…
  7. …earning a second pokemon plus for builds gameplay
  8. QoL features of quests (leaving option when done, indication per floor, notes on map)
  9. Music is boppin’
  10. The fact that mid mission checkpoints actually fully heal and restore you makes this game substantially more tolerable, and serves as good checkpointing besides
  11. The additional kit of the IQ abilities and how they vary up combat is neat…
  12. Enemy Variety is hampered by the dungeon design, but is still top notch (I mean, it’s Pokemon)
  13. Generally good info in game (explaining items, moves, IQ abilities, etc.)
  14. The sound throughout is generally distinct and informative
  15. The game is generally replayable, especially with the variety of builds and starters
  16. Aggregate: The overlay map is reasonably useful // The ability to customize what the top screen tracks is useful // The footprint minigame is a neat diversion // The in-game log is present and helpful in figuring out what happened in combat

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Unskippable cutscenes
  2. Single save slot and associated problems
  3. The Intro has some pretty bad early game hell, further hampered by the lack of proper explanation (or even pacing of tutorialization) in the first handful of dungeons
  4. The randomly generated dungeons seem to lean a bit too heavily on the one-width corridors which actively gets in the way of the interesting combat
  5. There is an unnecessary amount of RNG on top of RNG which can completely screw you over out of no where with no real ability to do anything about it
  6. The sheer quantity of not-designed dungeons really drags the game down even at an early time, especially given the aforementioned issue of actively getting in the way of the otherwise excellent combat
  7. The Sunflora side mission is… bad. Ignoring the fact that it takes away a critical element of the game (party members), but also offers no mid-mission checkpointing at all, requiring you to start all the way at the beginning anytime you fall
  8. A second negative for Sunflora’s missions being terribly designed in essentially every way
  9. The RNG and level design of Team Charm’s mission is rather lacking
  10. …the sheer grindiness, despite doing everything right and planning it out, of raising IQ abilities is a bit much
  11. The requirement of two blue gummies for the Manaphy arc is nonsense on many levels, especially given how easy it would be to bypass (and there’s no indication that it’s coming… and no reason to hold onto them…
  12. The Aegis dungeon can go to hell. There were several ways it could have worked, but instead it’s just RNG on top of RNG and dull to boot
  13. The fail condition of some specific dungeons sucks (such as losing Shaymin, or Cresselia, even when you have a full party)
  14. The Outro sucks almost across the board. In addition to the final dungeon being just another dungeon, you also are saddled with the load that is Cresselia (who is weak to several pokemon in there) and then the final battle is just a few random pokemon and Darkrai (where Cresselia continues to be the load)
  15. The ‘AI’ throughout (both allies and enemies) is… just nonsense
  16. Aggregate: The inability to just select your starter at the beginning, instead relying on essentially walkthroughs or the internet to get one, is not great // While it’s not as bad as it could be, there is a periodic run-back problem with bosses and their respective checkpoints

New Pokemon Snap

So let me get this out there right up front; If you don’t like procedurally generated random dungeon crawling, this is not the game for you. If however you do like that (or can cheat to bypass it), the rest of the game is very worth a playthrough for its themes, character moments, and engaging core systems.
Total Story Score: +3
Total Gameplay Score: +12
Golden Number: 40.97
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 1 Days // 9.43 Hours
Time Reviewed: 5-17-2022

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The visual design and layout of the areas is delightful, really adding to the safari feel
  2. This is further accented by the design of the pokemon themselves
  3. And even further by the generally chill atmosphere of the sound design, which compliments the visuals
  4. The little tidbits of world-building are actually quite enjoyable, in how the pokemon interact with one another
  5. Doodad design is pretty legit in every stage and area

Story Negatives:

  1. The game’s ending is… too much. I like heartwarming and I like positivity but the ending was actually sickening in how saccharine it was
  2. The inconsistent voice acting is a further issue to the audio spam issue down below

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The combination HUD and interface are reasonably well designed, with good information and navigation
  2. The main gameplay which is, at its core, a puzzle game, is surprisingly enjoyable…
  3. …probably because it has more depth than it looks like at first glance. The tools and kit you get to interact with pokemon changing how and when they interact, allowing you to snap different tiers and access different areas, is fun
  4. The Florio Nature Park (manual, crafted design)
  5. Founja Jungle (manual, crafted design)
  6. Elsewhere Forest (manual, crafted design)
  7. Sweltering Sands (manual, crafted design)
  8. Fireflow Volcano (I think you get the idea)
  9. Lentil Seafloor
  10. Maricopia Reef
  11. Blushing Beach
  12. Shiver Snowfields
  13. Outaway Cave
  14. Ruins
  15. Barren Badlands
  16. Mightywide River
  17. In general you have decent guidance and flow of exploration in what to find, where, and how
  18. The game is generally chill, which works as a good replayability factor

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Single save slot and the usual related issues
  2. Audio spam from Professor Mirror is… irritating at best
  3. Progression curve is a bit grindy and a bit slow at times
  4. Seconds in minutes problem is definitely present, especially when waiting to hit the next setpiece (in stage) or the post-stage wrap up
  5. Actually filling out everything is a bit of a chore (made even worse by virtue of the fact that you can only fill one star category per pokemon per trip)
  6. Some of the specific challenges and stars are pretty walkthroughy