Unfamiliar 2


Ace Combat 4

A bit of a First Game but a good one for that. If you can get ahold of a copy I’d definitely recommend starting the franchise with this one.
Type Of Review: Unfamiliar Run
Total Story Score: +6
Total Gameplay Score: +13
Golden Number: 45.71
Cheats: Yes (savestates a couple of times)
Total Play Time: 1 days / 6.09 Hours
Time Reviewed: 9-27-2023

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. World Building: It’s quiet and in the background but it’s there
  2. Cutscenes: Stills
  3. Cutscenes: Briefings & ACMRs
  4. Banter: Mid-mission military banter
  5. Plot: Military campaign
  6. Level: The power plant mission and the first showcasing of Stonehenge is properly tense and terrifying
  7. Spritework: Love those fighter models

Story Negatives:

  1. Voice Acting: It’s… not good

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Controls: Flies pretty tightly
  2. Enemy AI: Pretty damned good, and varied too
  3. HUD: While there’s some visibility issues, there’s a lot of great info on display
  4. Interface: ACMR (twice, even)
  5. Intro: Actually some really good stuff overall
  6. Kit: Planes. Good variety, they fly differently, and they have different weapon kit…
  7. Kit: …for two positives
  8. Kit: Weapons. Again, good variety and usage and mission specific uses
  9. Level: Anti jammer breather mission
  10. Level: First bundle of missions
  11. Level: First no-radar level with optional objectives to clear it
  12. Level: General mission design
  13. Level: Power plant… and our first encounter with Stonehenge
  14. Minimap: Surprisingly good, honestly
  15. Music: Yeah there’s some bangers in this…
  16. Music: …earning two positives
  17. NG+: Actual New Game +
  18. NG+: Chapter Select
  19. Outro: Okay yeah that last trench run was honestly really legit (minus the mid mission checkpoint situation)
  20. Sound Design: Audio call-outs of mission relevance
  21. Difficulty Curve: Generally smooth curve

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Tutorialization: Doesn’t cover everything, is badly coded (can literally die via autopilot), lots of repetition, is slow and boring, and commits the two cardinal tutorial sins; It locks you out of inputs except the ones it wants you to do when it wants you to do them, and it gives you big obvious text to explain things rather than naturally tutorializing through mission and level design…
  2. Tutorialization: …for a full…
  3. Tutorialization: …three negatives
  4. Mid-Mission Checkpoints: Or a total lack thereof
  5. Sound Design: Audio balance, or the lack thereof
  6. HUD / Visual Distinction: Issues periodically with seeing stuff in the blurry grey and brown soup
  7. Level: The repeat ‘score’ missions aren’t that interesting to begin with
  8. Padding: But the real problem is how many of them (especially back to back)

Ace Combat 5

Better and worse at the same time, trying more and succeeding and failing at the same time. Worth playing… with savestates to emulate the mid-mission checkpoints the game so needs.
Type Of Review: Unfamiliar Run
Total Story Score: +4
Total Gameplay Score: +18
Golden Number: 45.91
Cheats: Yes (savestates for mid mission checkpointing)
Total Play Time: 2 days / 13.63 Hours
Time Reviewed: 9-29-2023

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Cutscenes: Briefings
  2. Cutscenes: General
  3. Foreshadowing: While it’s a bit obvious when the reveal hits, the foreshadowing up to it was quite legit
  4. Intro: Actually really strong, probably the best part of the narrative…
  5. Intro: …for two positives
  6. Level: For all it does wrong, Chopper’s death in mission 17 is actually pretty interesting
  7. Level: Mission 3 and the frantic scramble to evacuate the port
  8. Level: Opening to and dialogue during Mission 3 and the airbase defense
  9. Level: The Yuke fleet turning on itself while the Osean fleet engaging is honestly a pretty decent moment
  10. Moment: Ground bombardment in Mission 5 from the Scinfaxi
  11. Moment: The beginning of 27 is legit. The individual soldiers, pilots, and crew joining together to assist our squad because they were emotionally touched by the message from the leaders
  12. Music Direction: Several good examples thereof
  13. Voice Acting: When it’s good, it’s good
  14. Spritework: Continuing those sharp fighter designs

Story Negatives:

  1. Characters: Nagase and Chopper
  2. Dialogue: Oh my gawd some of this dialogue just… isn’t. It sounds off and on the nose…
  3. Dialogue: …and it is a consistent problem throughout
  4. Level: Mission 9’s dialogue is… honestly just really bad. To the point where I was cringing a few times
  5. Localization: Yeah there’s… issues
  6. Outro: The actual ending is… not good. Wraps up way too neatly and hits that damned message again
  7. Theme: Please stop hitting me in the face with the message
  8. Voice Direction: Some voice acting is very good, and some is… not
  9. Writing: On the nose
  10. Writing: Several instances of basic maneuvering being treated as significant, leading to the deaths of the rookies, people insisting we’re super awesome, licking Pops’ boots, etc.

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Boss: The Arkbird is actually a pretty cool boss fight; good variety of attacks and nice avoidance zones and phases
  2. Boss: The Hrimfaxi fight is actually not too shabby, honestly
  3. Controls: Controls much better than before…
  4. Controls: …for two positives
  5. Core Mechanic: Choose loadout for squads
  6. Enemy AI: As per usual
  7. Interface: ACMR
  8. Intro: Decent introduction and tutorialization
  9. Kit: Planes, while a bit more limited than in 4, are still good…
  10. Kit: …for two positives
  11. Level: 11b and the uniqueness of the gas attacks and the helicopters without missiles
  12. Level: 17 is a relatively simple but fun dogfight with some good variance as the mission progresses
  13. Level: 18, the fortress assault, is honestly quite fun; Some good placement, layout, enemy design, etc.
  14. Level: 19, the training plane escape is actually pretty cool, and a nice unique bit of variety
  15. Level: 21 is a nice gimmick breather mission; some low altitude flying, couple of pictures, and a quick getaway
  16. Level: 23 is actually pretty good. It’s another ‘stay in the canyon’ but without binary difficulty, and with some neat routing
  17. Level: 26, and a good spread of ships, fliers, and then our own forces
  18. Level: 27 is probably one of the better trench runs in the game, only hampered by that damned checkpoint issue
  19. Level: Mission 12a, irritation aside, is actually pretty neat; Specific, ground targets only attackable from a given angle, with nice usage of terrain and enemy layout (and destructible bridges)
  20. Level: Mission 3 and taking out ships, planes, and pseudo escorts
  21. Level: Mission 6 is a good escort really; Not too many, not too much, good health on the target, and not too long
  22. Level: Mission 9 was actually decent. Varied enemy support and timing attacks
  23. Minigame: Arcade mode
  24. Minimap: Same as before
  25. Music: As before, some banger songs…
  26. Music: …for an easy two positives
  27. Song: Individual positive for The Unsung War
  28. NG+: Chapter Select
  29. NG+: Yep
  30. Outro: The final duel and final boss fight are great stuff
  31. Party AI: Actually worth a damn
  32. Sound Design: Generally decent
  33. HUD: Yeah I’m with it, even better than in 4

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Controls: Targeting. It’s the same issue old MMOs had with ‘tab targeting’ and sometimes it selects the wrong thing entirely, sometimes it refuses to select a target at all, and sometimes it re-selects the same target
  2. Interface: Everything about the plane selection / buy / sell screens
  3. Interface: Readability
  4. Level: 12a… the random spawning missiles out of absolutely nowhere is all kinds of bullcrap, and in a mission where you have to go slow and low to the ground too
  5. Level: 12b. The first half of the mission is actually neat… if not for lack of checkpoints. The latter half of the mission however is dull as dishwater
  6. Level: 15… is a bad escort mission. Aside from the usual problems it also spawns enemies RIGHT in the path of the escorted thing, to the point where you have literal seconds to get on it or fail
  7. Level: Mission 20 continues the bad escort quest vibes, with nearly instantly respawning enemies that swarm a slow moving, low health target, while enemies swarm the skies
  8. Level: Mission 8 starts as a very slow, irritating slog through AA which is already frustrating…
  9. Level: …but then it devolves into a typical escort mission which is worse (especially with no checkpoints)
  10. Level: So… this is sort of a bonus negative, because a lot of missions would otherwise be really good but are completely ruined by the combination of length, occasional issues, ease of accidents, and of course… no mid mission checkpoints
  11. Mid Mission Checkpoints: This is one of the worst examples of mid mission checkpointing and the lack thereof ruining a game I’ve seen in a long time…
  12. Mid Mission Checkpoints: …between long missions and ease of death…
  13. Mid Mission Checkpoints: …earning a triple negative
  14. Padding: General, but there’s several missions where you just… sit there waiting for several minutes
  15. Walkthroughitis: So you can pick if you have heard a song to completely change missions… sure

Ace Combat 0

While I had very serious issues with the Outro, the rest of the game is top notch and very worth playing. And even replaying.
Type Of Review: Unfamiliar Run
Total Story Score: +11
Total Gameplay Score: +24
Golden Number: 90.3
Cheats: Yes (savestates on the final mission)
Total Play Time: 2 days / 5.94 Hours
Time Reviewed: 9-30-2023

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Atmosphere: Branching dialogues and scenes changing the tone based on your path
  2. Banter: Professionals under stress mid mission banter
  3. Cutscenes: Briefings
  4. Cutscenes: Live action cutscenes
  5. Intro: Does a good job of setting the scene
  6. Moment: Mission 8 and the deployment of the ion cannon
  7. Moment: The nukes going off is something we all knew was coming and is still very well executed, from the lack of music to the distorted HUD
  8. MSQ: Mission 15, the surprise raid, the behemoth
  9. Plot: Military campaign
  10. Voice Acting: Good, if sparse
  11. External Continuity: Does a pretty good job of using the pieces and world from the previous games
  12. World Building: Does a lot to flesh out some details of the world around the Belkan conflict
  13. Spritework: Continuing the excellent fighter showcasing

Story Negatives:

  1. Character: Pixy. First, his betrayal doesn’t have the character necessary to really back it up, but then he keeps following this stupid samurai bullcrap thing while actively trying to murder millions of people… he doesn’t work as an ally, hero, NPC, villain, or anti villain
  2. Outro: Ignoring my personal biases, the ending is just… weird. It’s trying for this kind of nostalgic, pseudo positive approach while wrapping up, and then it goes for this friendly rivalry thing with a mass-genocidal madman and… what?

Gameplay Positives:

  1. All Roads Lead To Rome: The ‘branching’ with the
  2. Boss: The XBO fight is a fairly standard but good Ace Combat style boss fight
  3. Controls: Still the standard great controls from 5…
  4. Controls: …for two positives
  5. Enemy AI: Usual quality of enemy AI
  6. HUD: Usual good HUD design
  7. Interface: ACMR
  8. Intro: Simple, to the point, gets across HUD elements, dogfighting, targets, fleeing ‘neutralized’ elements, and changes in actions which change reactions
  9. Kit: Planes are, as per usual, good kit…
  10. Kit: …for two positives
  11. Kit: Weapons as per usual
  12. Level: 10Knight is a hell of an aerial dogfight, with a nice ace boss at the end
  13. Level: 11 and the bombers, fighters, and betrayal
  14. Level: 13 is another simple but good points mission which does all the right things mission 7 did
  15. Level: 14b and another simple but fun
  16. Level: 2 and the morality meter tutorial
  17. Level: 3, good variety of targets and placement in the city, and again a varying boss fight
  18. Level: 3 and the free for all and varying boss fight
  19. Level: 7 is, for once, a good points mission; Resupply, lots of good variety in targets, mission ends with points not timer, and good spread and layout
  20. Level: 8b. Starts as a semi simple base attack, and turns into dodging friggin’ lasers
  21. Level: 9. The ‘boss’ of the laser is great, and the layout and design of the approach works well too
  22. Level: General
  23. Minimap: Same useful minimap as the previous games
  24. Music: Same general quality…
  25. Music: …same two positives
  26. NG+: New game plus and… limited chapter select
  27. Replayability: First Ace Combat game I would qualify as replayable, both with the three ‘paths’, three variant missions, and the short but high quality missions
  28. Sound Design: Generally good, and usual in combat barks

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Controls: Targeting issues as per the previous game
  2. Mid Mission Checkpoints: Yep, it’s still an issue. Less of one, but it’s there
  3. Outro: So the final trench run is easily the worst trench run I’ve seen in the series thusfar
  4. Outro: And the final boss fight is just a bit cheap, with him having entirely too much HP

Batman Arkham Origins

First and foremost, don’t play this on PC. There’s some good stuff here, but it’s surrounded in an unfinished and buggy game with an even worse port. Still worth a playthrough or watchthrough.
Type Of Review: Unfamiliar Run
Total Story Score: +22
Total Gameplay Score: -15
Golden Number: 13.1
Cheats: Yes
Total Play Time: 2 days / 15.88 Hours
Time Reviewed: 10-3-2023

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Banter: Neat little banters with the thugs
  2. Brickwork: Cityscape
  3. Brickwork: Interiors
  4. Character: Bane
  5. Character: Bruce, raw and unseasoned
  6. Character: Joker. Everything about him is essentially perfect here, right down to his complete lack of self regard…
  7. Character: …and his love affair with Batman
  8. Character: Support staff
  9. Characters: Penguin
  10. Doodads: Batcave
  11. Doodads: GCPD
  12. Intro: Some good setup for the premise, tone, and timeline of the game
  13. Moment: Bruce and Alfred’s confrontation
  14. MSQ: The entire Copperhead boss fight and subsequent curb stomp once we’re cured
  15. Plot: The core essence of the plot (the Joker and Batman and how they motivate each other) is quite good
  16. Prime Opt: Mad Hatter’s side quest
  17. Storytelling Mechanic: The detective mode cutscenes
  18. Visual Storytelling: Batcave
  19. Visual Storytelling: GCPD
  20. Voice Acting: Despite the actor swaps the new team does some great stuff…
  21. Voice Acting: …for two positives
  22. Character: Freeze. Color me shocked, he’s good stuff
  23. Atmosphere: Gloomy and down to earth and generally well done
  24. Plot: The entire DLC really
  25. Music Direction: Oh yeah, lotta good usage in scenes
  26. Voice Direction: Lot of scenes are carried by this
  27. Spritework: Some issues, but still good

Story Negatives:

  1. Animations: Just… weird animation issues and glitches which kill several scenes
  2. Integration: So Bats just gets… stopped by several very mild, very minor obstacles (or occasionally just stands there and lets the villains do whatever)
  3. Moment: Bruce and Alfred’s confrontation… and the total lack of build up or payoff
  4. Pacing: The game’s story beats just sort of come and go with no real rhyme or reason to them
  5. Story Sequencing: A lot of the beats of the story just… happen

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Boss: Bane 2 is a fun little Freeze-lite fight and the music really adds to the scene
  2. Boss: Copperhead and the nice take on the trash fight boss
  3. Boss: Firefly is irritating due to issues, but still a fun fight under it
  4. Boss: The Bane fights
  5. Core Combat: While there are issues with it, there is still the core good combat underneath it
  6. Enemy Design: Decent enemy design
  7. Enemy Variety: Decent enemy variety
  8. Kit: Generally good kit
  9. Mid Mission Checkpoints: With one exception the mid mission checkpointing is actually on point…
  10. Mid Mission Checkpoints: …for two positives
  11. Music: Dynamic music makes it even better
  12. Music: Some really great slappers in this one…
  13. Music: …for an easy two positives
  14. Traversal: Still fun to glide and zoom around
  15. Viscerality: Generally decent
  16. Level: General platforming
  17. Level: The DLC finally brings some decent predator sequences

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Boss: Slade. Inconsistent interaction indicators, entirely too long, and entirely too punishing, especially for a first boss fight
  2. Boss: Also you can’t skip the Slade fight unlike, say, Margit over in Elden Ring so you’re funneled into this
  3. Bug: Animation issues, hit detection issues
  4. Bug: Controls
  5. Bug: Crash issues
  6. Bug: Enemy AI
  7. Bug: Quest interactables
  8. Bug: The gamebreaker bug involving Copperhead and permanently being unable to progress the game…
  9. Bug: …for two negatives
  10. Camera: Good lord this camera. It does a lot wrong; it likes to try to jerk control away from the player while simultaneously not removing control, which leads to jerking, it has no way of dealing with walls at all, and it considers every little doodad as collision which leads to a lot of ‘bouncing’ and other issues…
  11. Camera: …for two negatives
  12. Core Combat: Hit detection and timing issues
  13. Difficulty Options: Lazy difficulty
  14. Guidance/Flow:
  15. Integration: So Bats just gets… stopped by several very mild, very minor obstacles (or occasionally just stands there and lets the villains do whatever)
  16. Interface: General lack of feedback issues
  17. Intro: Buggy and unpolished
  18. Launch: Very, very buggy at launch and then an open letter saying they refuse to patch it and instead are focusing on DLC…
  19. Launch: …earning two negatives
  20. Mid-Mission Checkpoints: Bosses
  21. Overworld: Lack of density and design
  22. Secondary: Collectathon
  23. Sound Design: Lack of feedback
  24. Traversal: Overworld and the lack of proper grapple points and speed
  25. Padding: Goon health in the DLC
  26. Encounter Design: Hope you like nothing but gun guys
  27. Audio Spam: Here and there, but it’s there
  28. Boss: The final Mr. Freeze fight is just God damned awful on every level. The adds hurt the stealth aspect, the adds respawn, there’s less takedowns, the layout of the room isn’t good, the stalactites don’t respawn, he has too much health, the goons have too much health, he will NOT shut up during the fight…
  29. Boss: …for a full…
  30. Boss: …three negatives
  31. Difficulty Curve: Absolutely all over the place
  32. Map: The in game map is actively unhelpful in places and irritating at its worst

Super Mario Bros Lost Levels

If you’re interested in the Kaizo scene, probably worth playing. If you are not, this is probably not for you. Fascinating historically, but ultimately avoidable. Don’t be ashamed to use savestates or a map.
Type Of Review: Unfamiliar Run
Total Story Score: +1
Total Gameplay Score: -9
Golden Number: -15.74
Cheats: Yes (from World 5 onwards)
Total Play Time: 1 days / 4.43 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-13-2023

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Brickwork: The new added backdrops for the All Stars version add some nice flavor to the levels

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Mid Mission Checkpoints: For most of the earlier stages, they exist and are reasonably well laid out
  2. Level: Worlds 1 through 3
  3. Level: It’s intermittent but several levels are honestly quite clever with their jumps and challenges
  4. Song: Yeah it’s still the one
  5. Itemization: Strangely enough there’s a pretty good spread of power ups throughout
  6. Level: World A actually starts doing some legitimately creative and fun things with the difficulty
  7. Level: World B remixes a whole lot of fun concepts
  8. Level: World C goes hard, but in a way that’s honestly pretty fun
  9. Level: World D starts to get very mean and brutal with its jumps in ways that don’t look as hard as they are

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Level: 7-3 is absolute bullcrap
  2. Level: World 8 in its entirety is unforgivably cruel. Not just mean, but straight up cruel
  3. Gotcha: There are worse examples of this concept but…
  4. Gotcha: …it’s pretty bad
  5. Level: B-4 deserves its own negative for next level bullcrap. In a game filled to the brim with mazes and having to pick the right path, the level just copy pastes the same area to make you think you’re in a maze but, no, the solution is just to get to the end
  6. Mid Mission Checkpoints: The total lack of them in castle levels is absolutely terrible, as it is entirely too difficult right at the finishing line
  7. Level: World 4 is when the game starts to get bad
  8. Level: World 5 is when the game begins pulling back on creativity and pulling up the total bullcrap
  9. Level: World 6, unlike the original, just spits on the player the entire time
  10. Level: World 8 is honestly kind of trash top to bottom
  11. Penalty For Failure: This might be one of the most arduous games I’ve ever played without savestates or rewinds. Having to redo an entire stage or world over and over and over and over all the while suffering from extremely easy to screw up jumps while having death in all directions and the possibility of making no errors but still dying is not fun…
  12. Penalty For Failure: …and it deserves a full…
  13. Penalty For Failure: …three negatives
  14. Itemization: After a certain point the itemization just stops. No power ups, no lives, no coins, screw you…
  15. Itemization: …for a double negative
  16. Guidance And Flow: Worse than before because not only is there little, but it actively leads you into ‘traps’ or other troll room style areas…
  17. Guidance And Flow: …for two negatives
  18. Core Mechanic: Jumping, physics… and squiggity

New Super Mario Bros

A bit of a mid game, but nothing overtly wrong with it really. A safe, nostalgic playthrough
Type Of Review: Unfamiliar Run
Total Story Score: +2
Total Gameplay Score: +18
Golden Number: 45.81
Cheats: Yes (savestates)
Total Play Time: 2 days / 9.35 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-18-2023

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Brickwork: General. It’s… not bad but it’s weirdly flat and oddly forgettable. It’s still there and it still helps though
  2. Outro: The slides relative to the stages you did throughout the game during the credits

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Camera: They actually do some cool stuff to zoom in and out based on what’s happening at the time
  2. Controls: Floaty, but still well constructed
  3. Fast Travel: Can warp between worlds at will with the stylus side
  4. Intro: World 1 doesn’t do much, but it is still a good indicator of what the player is in for as well as using several fun gimmicks
  5. Itemization: Lots of good spread of items, 1-ups, and coins…
  6. Itemization: …for two positives
  7. Kit: Mostly the usual, but…
  8. Kit: …the minishroom, megashroom, and blueshell are great
  9. Level: 5-1 has some neat snow related interactions with the background and foreground
  10. Level: 7-2 is a very fun wrapping camera level with the rising platform
  11. Level: 7-4 is another interesting, vertical level with a whole bouncing, flying gimmick
  12. Level: 7-7 is one of the better ‘standard’ levels, with lots of platforming and donuts
  13. Level: 7-A is a short but very dense, fun maze level
  14. Level: 7-Castle is brutally mean in the right ways with the snake block
  15. Level: 8-6 is another fun, neat wraparound level
  16. Level: Even in a game this vanilla, the Ghost Houses continue to be good fun
  17. Level: World 5 in general starts to do some neat, creative stuff
  18. Level: World 6 has a few fun, if frustrating, gimmicks
  19. Level: Worlds 1-4 are… honestly very, very mid. Not good, not bad, but there is enough unique and fun stuff throughout to be noteworthy
  20. Mid Mission Checkpoints: Invisible, but present
  21. Minigames: Neat minigames, same as Mario 64 DS
  22. Music: A couple of really good songs here and there
  23. Outro: Decent enough final dungeon
  24. Overworld: Honestly a good overworld overall, right alongside Mario 3 in design
  25. Core Mechanic: Safety mechanisms in the form of stored power ups, red blocks, lives, coins, and power ups
  26. Visual Distinction: Usual good Mario vibe
  27. Guidance And Flow: Usual coin usage
  28. Minimap: Surprisingly useful for tracking progress and 100%

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Audio Spam: Plenty
  2. Level: 2-5 should be a neat gimmick level. It is not. The total lack of control combined with the randomness of the Blockhoppers makes the whole thing just an exercise in frustration
  3. Level: A second general frustration negative
  4. Level: General level frustration
  5. Minigames: Crap minigames, same as the Mario 64 DS
  6. Overworld: Locking entire worlds (4 and 7) behind secret exits or secret boss endings is more than a little irritating
  7. Padding: Requirements to gain and keep power ups
  8. Seconds In Minutes: A couple, but as with World, overworld movement is the biggest offender
  9. Walkthroughitis: Some of the coins are just kind of ridiculous to find and, most irritatingly, require a specific power up to access
  10. Gotcha: Several examples throughout

New Super Mario Bros 2

So this is a weird one. It’s not a particularly good game in its own right, since most of what makes it good is copy pasted from previous games. Nonetheless the level pack, for that is what this game is, is still enjoyable and honestly above average. If you somehow have the availability to get ahold of the full game, I can easily recommend it.
Type Of Review: Unfamiliar Run
Total Story Score: +3
Total Gameplay Score: +30
Golden Number: 85.44
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 2 days / 6.22 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-20-2023

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Brickwork: General
  2. Visual Continuity: Stages and worlds
  3. Spritework: General

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Boss: Not quite as good as back in Wii, but still fun stuff…
  2. Boss: …for two positives
  3. Camera: Good dynamic camera (again)
  4. Controls: Much better controlled than the previous ones
  5. Core Mechanic: Safety Mechanism in stored power-ups
  6. Difficulty Curve: Honestly very smooth throughout
  7. Enemy Variety: Generally good
  8. Fast Travel: Usual world warping
  9. Guidance and Flow: Same general high quality of coin and flow indication…
  10. Guidance and Flow: …for two positives
  11. HUD: Good usage of the lower screen, and indicative but clean
  12. Itemization: Honestly really good spread throughout the stages…
  13. Itemization: …for two positives
  14. Kit: Usual positives (while it has Mini and Mega, they barely have any presence and so the game gets no real credit)
  15. Level: 2-Castle and the controllable ‘boat’ which only advances while you’re on it
  16. Level: 2-Ghost is the first stage I’d say actually caught my eye, with the gigantic Boo who always advanced on you but only at your control, giving the player control of the scrolling
  17. Level: 3-3 With the spiderwebs and fun, temporary platform gimmick
  18. Level: 4-Ghost and the moving walls mechanic
  19. Level: 5-1 and the fun ropes
  20. Level: 5-Castle and the fences again
  21. Level: 6-1 and the slowly spawning / destructible terrain
  22. Level: 6-2 and the lava platform of doom
  23. Level: 6-Ghost and the double sided, changing switches and stages
  24. Level: The game has… general level design quality throughout
  25. Mid Mission Checkpointing: Usual approach here
  26. Minimap: Same general one from New DS, for tracking progress and 100%ing
  27. Visual Distinction: Sharp as per the series’ usual
  28. Level: Nerve-Wrack-1 is a clever P Switch run stage
  29. Level: All the Gold Rush stages in general are just general fun romps
  30. Level: The Platform Panic trio is exactly as fun as such stages should be
  31. Level: Mystery Adventures Pack trio and random hidden explorative fun
  32. Difficulty: Mutators in the coin achievements
  33. Intro: Worlds 1 through 3
  34. Replayability: For all its… issues, the game is reasonably fun to pick up and go with

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Seconds In Minutes: A common problem
  2. Walkthroughitis: Coins, that is to say star coins, as is common
  3. Outro: Final Bowser is long, boring, and repetitive… and worst, pulls bullcrap with stuff you can’t see on the top of the screen after a long, slow, can’t-skip-cutscenes fight
  4. Mid-Mission Checkpoints: Total lack of checkpoints in the challenge pack stages (in between stages)

Super Mario Wonder

I cannot put into words how good this game is. Fun visuals, great and light hearted adventure, enjoyable bosses, good kit, good controls, lots of quality of life features, fun online interactions, and of course on top of all of that is the best level design we’ve ever seen in a 2D Platformer. Massively recommended.
Type Of Review: Unfamiliar Run
Total Story Score: +36
Total Gameplay Score: +211
Golden Number: 883.07
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 4 days / 19.45 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-24-2023

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Brickwork: Bowser’s area
  2. Brickwork: Castle
  3. Brickwork: Forest
  4. Brickwork: Fungus
  5. Brickwork: Grass
  6. Brickwork: Lava
  7. Brickwork: Mountain
  8. Brickwork: Ocean
  9. Brickwork: Sand
  10. Brickwork: Sky
  11. Brickwork: Snow
  12. Brickwork: Space
  13. Brickwork: Swamp
  14. Brickwork: World 1 (grass)
  15. Brickwork: World 2 (clouds)
  16. Brickwork: World 3 (waterfall)
  17. Brickwork: World 4 (desert)
  18. Brickwork: World 5 (mines)
  19. Brickwork: World 6 (lava)
  20. Brickwork: World 7 (Bowser)
  21. Cutscenes: Post Palace cutscenes
  22. Doodads: General, but mostly in the overworld map
  23. Intro: Visual storytelling, explanation for how Bowser is warping the local terrain into ‘stages’
  24. Localization: Holy crap, some actually really good localization for the Flowers…
  25. Localization: …for two positives
  26. Visual Continuity: General across the worlds
  27. Visual Storytelling: Opening, Wonder power in Bowser stages, etc.
  28. Voice Acting: Surprisingly good (the Flowers especially)
  29. World Building: General, the idea of the Flower Kingdom and Wonder seeds
  30. Spritework: The main characters, of course. Amazingly designed and varied and animated…
  31. Spritework: …for a full…
  32. Spritework: …three positives
  33. Spritework: Enemies. Quite a few, quite well designed, quite varied…
  34. Spritework: …for a full…
  35. Spritework: …three positives
  36. Spritework: Bonus for the Wonder effect enemies

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Boss: World 1 Bowser Jr, the big/small dynamic between you and him and flipping it throughout the fight // 2, with the molten / ice terrain
  2. Boss: World 6 Bowser gets his own positive
  3. Camera: Usual New camera, with the auto zoom in and out
  4. Camera: …for two positives
  5. Controls: The easiest way I can explain it is the game controls like Metroid Dread. It is smooth, precise, and responsive…
  6. Controls: …for a full…
  7. Controls: …three positives
  8. Co-Op: Existing, local only though
  9. Core Mechanic: Online stuff in general. Hard to quantify but people can help indicate things or heal or recover and it’s honestly pretty legit…
  10. Core Mechanic: …for two positives
  11. Core Mechanic: Safety net mechanisms. Mid mission heals, stored power ups, rezzing on standees, rezzing from other players
  12. Difficulty Options: Nabbit and Yoshi serving as an easy mode
  13. Encounter Design: Surprisingly good encounter design in most levels, especially later ones
  14. Enemy Design: Really, really good enemy design across the board…
  15. Enemy Design: …for two positives
  16. Enemy Variety: Some of the best enemy variety in the franchise…
  17. Enemy Variety: …for a full…
  18. Enemy Variety: …three positives
  19. Fast Travel: The ability to pause and warp to individual stages, on the fly, from anywhere on the overworld map…
  20. Fast Travel: …for a full…
  21. Fast Travel: …three positives
  22. Guidance and Flow: Extremely good, possibly the best the series has seen to date (except Odyssey), with lots and lots and lots of level design indicating what is where and when
  23. Guidance and Flow: …for a full…
  24. Guidance and Flow: …three positives
  25. HUD: Very nice HUD, top notch…
  26. HUD: …for two positives
  27. Info In Game: Quite a bit, from how much you’ve collected, to who is what and where, to what things do…
  28. Info In Game: …for two positives
  29. Intro: Welcome to the Flower Kingdom is a great Intro. The initial talking flower, the first interactable bulb, the first Elephant power up directly next to a visible object that’s different from everything else right next to breakable blocks, making it very difficult to avoid the very first Wonder Flower, and just generally a great layout…
  30. Intro: …for two positives
  31. Itemization: Good item placement, coin placement, 1-up placement… really hard to explain in brief but some very serious thought was put into where is what…
  32. Itemization: …for a full…
  33. Itemization: …three positives
  34. Kit: Badges are a wonderful mutator and equipment to make the game easier, harder, or in between…
  35. Kit: …for two positives
  36. Kit: Elephant, Drill, and Balloon are fun, inventive, and varied
  37. Kit: Usual useful and interesting kit
  38. Level: 1: Piranha Plants on Parade. Good platforming, good hidden areas, and of course… the singing plants…
  39. Level: 1: …for two positives
  40. Level: 1: Scram, Skedaddlers. Some lateral puzzle thinking with using the enemies to progress, and a great Wonder sequence…
  41. Level: 1: …for two positives
  42. Level: 1-Angry Spikes and Sinkin Pipes is a short but sweet, fun pipe level
  43. Level: 1-Bulrush Coming Through. Great multiple paths and routes, wonderful Wonder sequence…
  44. Level: …for two positives
  45. Level: 1-Bulrush Express is a fantastic, difficult stage with precise timing, multiple paths, and great jumps…
  46. Level: …for two positives
  47. Level: 1-Cosmic Hoppos is a neat, fun bouncy romp
  48. Level: 1-Here Come The Hoppos is another inventive ‘use the enemies to progress’ style stage…
  49. Level: …for two positives
  50. Level: 1-Pipe Rock Plateau Palace is a dense, mean enemy level that introduces the anti Wonder powers from Bowser
  51. Level: 1-Rolla Koopa Derby is already a fun pseudo-runner but the Wonder sequence helps even more…
  52. Level: …for two positives
  53. Level: 1-Sproings in the Twilight Forest is the first truly amazing level. The black and white backdrop is already great, but with the usage of lighting and creative stage layout already inclining what is where makes it even better, and THEN you add the Wonder effect which allows you to literally shrink the stage…
  54. Level: …for a full…
  55. Level: …three positives
  56. Level: 1-Swamp Pipe Crawl. Pushing blocks, lots of cool background stuff, and of course the Wonder fun…
  57. Level: …for two positives
  58. Level: 2-Condarts Away is a decent area denial enemy fest… until the Wonder which literally changes the perspective and really plays with the level design…
  59. Level: …for two positives
  60. Level: 2-Countdown to Drop Down doesn’t do much with its Wonder but it already is a very well designed level with platforms that lose their number as you hop on them and enemies that take advantage of that…
  61. Level: …for two positives
  62. Level: 2-Cruising With Linking Lifts is a great gimmick. Hitting blocks to add to your platform while dodging lightning, and great color usage…
  63. Level: …for two positives
  64. Level: 2-Flying Battleship is fun, metal, and uses the Bowser Wonder well
  65. Level: 2-Jump Jump Jump. The base rhythm gimmick, the slow escalation, the perfect pacing up and down of the difficulty of the jumps…
  66. Level: …for two positives
  67. Level: 2-Outmaway Valley is a nice twist on the ‘enemies to progress’ as they are obstacles as much as aid… but also the wonderful avalanche Wonder…
  68. Level: …for two positives
  69. Level: 2-Palace. Usual Palace enemy and encounter design with Bowser Wonder to mix things up…
  70. Level: …for two positives
  71. Level: 2-Pokipede Pass with snow tiles, breaking enemies, and blizzard Wonder…
  72. Level: …for two positives
  73. Level: 2-Pole Block Passage. Poles, koopas, and climbing puzzles…
  74. Level: …for two positives
  75. Level: 2-Up ‘n Down With Puffy Lifts. The goombas, the cleverly hidden areas, the cakes… and the wonderful cake-mode Wonder…
  76. Level: …for a full…
  77. Level: …three positives
  78. Level: 3-Across The Night Sky is a simple but fun romp, run stage where the Wonder is all about just crushing everything
  79. Level: 3-Hoppycat Trial Hop Hop And Awaaay is already neat with ‘enemies you control’ but add the super jumping Wonder…
  80. Level: …for two positives
  81. Level: 3-Hop To It is another simple but solid vertical level with the mega hop Wonder
  82. Level: 3-Launch To Victory is another ‘control enemies to progress’ level which does some creative stuff with the enemies…
  83. Level: …for two positives
  84. Level: 3-Ready, Aim, Fly doesn’t do much (comparatively to the rest of the game) but it’s still a solid level with solid platforming
  85. Level: 3-Zip Track Dash is another fun run (zipline, really) stage
  86. Level: 4-Armads On The Roll is a fun little avoidance level, especially leaning on the Wonder speed gimmick
  87. Level: 4-Bloomps of the Desert Skies is a fun, bouncey themed level with great usage of the goombas along with the Bloomps…
  88. Level: …for two positives
  89. Level: 4-Color Switch Dungeon is a fun, multi tiered pseudo dungeon maze thing…
  90. Level: …for two positives
  91. Level: 4-Desert Mystery is a great introduction to the area, plays with the sands, really mixes things up with the Wonder, and the pull gimmick…
  92. Level: …for two positives
  93. Level: 4-Flight Of The Bloomps is a basic but solid bouncing aerial navigation stage
  94. Level: 4-Ninji Jump Part is just… so good. The rhythm, the visuals, the jumping puzzles, it’s fun…
  95. Level: …for two positives
  96. Level: 4-Rolling Ball Hall is already fun, but the Wonder of tilting and turning really pushes it up…
  97. Level: …for two positives
  98. Level: 4-Secrets of Shova Mansion is all about the pushing, but they do some creative stuff with it in the layering…
  99. Level: …for two positives
  100. Level: 4-Valley Fulla Snootles is mostly notable for its slow mo Wonder of awesome
  101. Level: 5-Beware of the Rifts is another inventive level, but also really uses its layout and placement well…
  102. Level: …for two positives
  103. Level: 5-Light Switch Mansion is the usual clever lights gimmick of a Boo level…
  104. Level: …for two positives
  105. Level: 5-Poison Ruins is yet another fantastic slime-based level, especially with the Wonder and playing with the wall climbing…
  106. Level: …for two positives
  107. Level: 5-Swaying Ruins is wonderfully creative and really plays with the slime, swinging, and platforms…
  108. Level: …for two positives
  109. Level: 5-Taily’s Toxic Pond is already neat, with platforms that temporarily go away under the enemy and need to be removed to access secrets, a ceiling built for drilling, and enemies that help and hinder you, but the Wonder is a friggin’ quiz show thing…
  110. Level: …for a full…
  111. Level: …three positives
  112. Level: 5-Upshroom Downshroom and the moving mushrooms and musical Wonder…
  113. Level: …for two positives
  114. Level: 5-Wubba Ruins is already neat with the slime mechanic, but really runs with it with the slime Wonder…
  115. Level: …for two positives
  116. Level: 6-Dragon Boneyard is an excellent example of the theming they do (in this case with the circular platforming, live or fossil) and a fun usage of the inside/outside lava avoidance…
  117. Level: …for two positives
  118. Level: 6-Hot Hot Hot is already fun, with the periodically heated blocks, but add the water and watering mechanic and it becomes even better…
  119. Level: …for two positives
  120. Level: 6-Palace. Wonderful lava circles and theming followed by creative usage of the Wonder (being a slime that adheres to walls)…
  121. Level: …for two positives
  122. Level: 6-Pull, Turn, Burn uses the dragging mechanic quite well, but its Wonder is something else, with the ancient Goomba ruins under the lava…
  123. Level: …for two positives
  124. Level: 6-Raarghs in the Ruins is a fascinating gimmick, with platforms that only appear while you look at them, and another wonderful top-down Wonder…
  125. Level: …for two positives
  126. Level: 6-Wavy Ride through the Magma Tube is a competent, fun little lava platformer with some interesting jumping segments
  127. Level: Arena stages in general are fun, challenging, well designed puzzle levels…
  128. Level: …for a full…
  129. Level: …three positives
  130. Level: Badge challenges are fun, bite sized, and challenging…
  131. Level: …for a full…
  132. Level: …three positives
  133. Level: B-Evade the Seeker Bullet Bills is another fantastic, multi layered level with good spread of enemies and obstacles…
  134. Level: …for two positives
  135. Level: B-High Voltage Gauntlet Is already a fantastic Elecman remix style stage with creative usage of enemies and lights, but the Wonder just nails it, with us becoming Metal and all that that implies…
  136. Level: …for two positives
  137. Level: B-KnuckleFest Bowser’s Blazing Beats is another wonderful, difficult jumping piece with a great Wonder musical section that manages to stay difficult despite the gimmick…
  138. Level: …for two positives
  139. Level: B-Missile Meg Mayhem is seemingly a simple platformer, but having to use the enemies (which get worse as you use them) to progress plus a fun Wonder equals a great level…
  140. Level: …for two positives
  141. Level: Break stages are bizarrely well designed for being literally ‘break’ stages, just designed to chill for a bit. They also serve the benefit of getting more seeds if you’re having issues…
  142. Level: …for a full…
  143. Level: …three positives
  144. Level: P-Blewbird Roost is yet another fun ‘use the enemies to progress’ level…
  145. Level: …for two positives
  146. Level: P-Downpour Uproar is already a fun ‘suspended water’ level, but add into that the aerial lightning dodging Wonder…
  147. Level: …for two positives
  148. Level: P-Flying Battleship is another solid, mean airship stage with good usage of the flame jets
  149. Level: P-Gnawsher Lair is an absolutely bizarre, fun usage of a new and fun enemy plus an absolutely insane Wonder (the oncoming wave of Gnawshers)…
  150. Level: …for two positives
  151. Level: P-Jewel Block Cave has the creative crystal mechanic and of course the introduction of the drill, plus the giant crusher Wonder…
  152. Level: …for two positives
  153. Level: P-Leaping Smackerel is a neat underwater romp with some neat interactions…
  154. Level: …for two positives
  155. Level: P-Maw Maw Mouthful has another inventive, fun new enemy which it does some great stuff with…
  156. Level: …for two positives
  157. Level: P-Muncher Fields has the return of the Munchers, more good usage of the silhouette effect, and of course star power…
  158. Level: …for two positives
  159. Level: P-Robbird Cove is a basic water level with the twist of the birds, but also one of the better Wonders so far with the half dry half water stage…
  160. Level: …for two positives
  161. Level: S-Bounce Bounce Bounce is a bit much on the RNG of the latter bounce hippos… but it’s still a very legit, multi-path, brutal level
  162. Level: S-Climb To The Beat is probably the most brutal and awesome stage I’ve encountered so far. The same jump timing gimmick from before but much tighter…
  163. Level: …for two positives
  164. Level: S-Dangerous Donut Ride is an appropriately challenging plummeting level with lots of shrinking terrain and enemies
  165. Level: Search levels are neat, fun little romps
  166. Level: …for two positives
  167. Level: S-Pole Block Allure is yet another brutal, fun, creative combination of bouncing limited enemies and limited poles…
  168. Level: …for two positives
  169. Level: S-Seminfinal Test, Piranha Plant Reprise is another wonderfully brutal, creative, fun level where the stage itself is in time to the song (dynamically) and a lovely run sequence capping it all off…
  170. Level: …for a full…
  171. Level: …three positives
  172. Level: S-Solar Roller is a brutal, tightly timed, yet filled with recovery potential rush stage…
  173. Level: …for two positives
  174. Level: S-The Final Test Wonder Gauntlet is hard to even properly explain. Wonders colliding with each other in some extremely tight level design, it’s insane…
  175. Level: …for a full…
  176. Level: …three positives
  177. Level: S-Triple Threat Deluge continues to be inventive and terrifying, with a top-down Wonder, enemies that fling giant balls that are required to progress, and lots of fire…
  178. Level: …for two positives
  179. Level: S-Way Of The Goomba is just… so good. The Goomba mechanic, the creative usage of level design around an inability to jump, and absolutely running with it…
  180. Level: …for a full…
  181. Level: …three positives
  182. Level: Wiggler challenges are fun, neat romps…
  183. Level: …for two positives
  184. Music: Very fun music, especially in the musical levels…
  185. Music: …for two positives
  186. Overworld: Very good Overworld design. Variance between ‘stages’ and ‘open world’ sections, which serves to provide the optional ‘do whatever you want to progress’ mechanic…
  187. Overworld: …for two positives
  188. Pacing: Great pacing across stages throughout, never getting tiring…
  189. Pacing: …for a full three…
  190. Pacing: …positives
  191. QoL: Way too many to list here, but they are great…
  192. QoL: …for two positives
  193. Saves: Saves anywhere
  194. Sound Design: Very, very good. Almost everything is properly indicated throughout…
  195. Sound Design: …for a full…
  196. Sound Design: …three positives
  197. Terrain: The usage of terrain in this game is honestly bonkers, especially in how it encourages multiple strategies for proceeding through stages…
  198. Terrain: …for a full…
  199. Terrain: …three positives
  200. Tutorialization: This is, functionally, the same level of tutorialization that Mario World did, but even more so. Every stage is tutorialized, and every new mechanic or gimmick or power up or enemy or Wonder is always showcased properly before being escalated…
  201. Tutorialization: …for a full…
  202. Tutorialization: …three positives
  203. Visual Distinction: Good, as per usual…
  204. Visual Distinction: …for two positives
  205. Yoshi Drums: Or in this case, Elephant Drums…
  206. Yoshi Drums: …for two positives
  207. Difficulty Curve: Very smooth throughout…
  208. Difficulty Curve: …for a full…
  209. Difficulty Curve: …three positives
  210. Penalty For Failure: Finally removing the lives system (like on Odyssey)
  211. Mid Mission Checkpointing: Good and good placement…
  212. Mid Mission Checkpointing: …for two positives
  213. Outro: That last boss slaps. Just straight up slaps
  214. Replayability: General plus routing…
  215. Replayability: …for two positives
  216. Level: The Final Final Test Badge Marathon does have some very creative, fun platforming

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Core Mechanic: Party blocks. They can only be seen by a single character, but can be interacted with by everyone
  2. Audio Spam: Or rather text spam. “Would you like to change badges?!” No, game!
  3. Outro: The final stage is… problematic. Certainly very neat, but it’s also pidgeon-holed into being memorization and trial and error
  4. Level: The Final Final Test Badge Marathon is absolute bullcrap. It at least has checkpoints (which mitigates further negatives) but putting the final three levels like that right before the invisibility badge WITH the last coin is just spitting in my face…
  5. Level: …for two negatives

Breath of Fire 3

Definitely the best Breath of Fire game to date. Very problematic in several key gameplay areas, most of which boil down to ‘sure hope you’re using a walkthrough because screw you otherwise’, but there’s some solid stuff in here with customization via Masters and Genes as well as some great visuals and audio. The story absolutely nails it in the first half, falls off on the second half, but is still an enjoyable tale throughout. Big recommend… with a walkthrough.
Type Of Review: Unfamiliar Run
Total Story Score: +39
Total Gameplay Score: -24
Golden Number: 27.96
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 5 days / 37.77 Hours
Time Reviewed: 1-11-2024

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Babylon 5 Effect: There’s actually quite a bit of this throughout the game. The pieces are clearly shown early on and take on a different twist the second time through
  2. Background Lore: Lots of inferences early on about how messed up things are under the hood
  3. Consequence Storytelling: …and the Intro leads nicely into our first real arc, dealing with the criminal syndicate
  4. Humor: The Dolphin, and his built in translation
  5. Intro: Everything to do with the Intro arc and how it lines up after you rob from the local mayor. Even not knowing about the criminal connection, this whole arc makes perfect sense…
  6. Intro: The very down to earth tone and approach of the Intro is great (the entire goal is literally just to have food to eat for the trio), and culminates in a nice and effective thematic gut punch with the Nue
  7. Intro: Whelpling sequence
  8. Localization: The first half of the game is pretty solid on localization
  9. Moment: The revelation of Rei
  10. MSQ: Dragnier, the revelations of the connections to BoF1, and the general tone of being at the end of the world
  11. MSQ: The DeathEvn arc. Whether Mikba is a converted human or the last surviving demon, either way he’s the last gasp of Deathevn from 2 and is directly responsible for a huge amount of what’s messed up with the world, and it lines up so neatly and so satisfyingly that it’s easily my favorite story beat in the entire game…
  12. MSQ: …for a full…
  13. MSQ: …three positives
  14. MSQ: The McNiel Mansion in visuals, audio, and atmosphere
  15. MSQ: The ‘zombie-like’ town and the implications thereof
  16. Pacing: The Balio and Sunder arc is exceptionally well paced
  17. Pacing: The entire Child sequence, really
  18. Plot: Balio and Sunder’s arc in its entirety
  19. Story Sequencing: The Balio and Sunder arc…
  20. Story Sequencing: …and the entire child arc really
  21. Storytelling Mechanic: Campfire chats
  22. Visual Storytelling: Varying animations on Ryu as plot and character progresses
  23. World Building: The entire salvage industry
  24. World Building: Everything to do with the food industry and regular famines
  25. Spritework: General. There’s no traditional ‘brickwork’ (as the backgrounds look, uh, bad) but the sprites are very, very well done…
  26. Spritework: …earning three…
  27. Spritework: …positives
  28. Spritework: Characters. That is to say, the main cast, has a huge slew of great sprites that really help sell their scenes…
  29. Spritework: …for another…
  30. Spritework: …three positives
  31. Spritework: Enemies are brilliantly stylized and animated
  32. Animation: The animation is top notch in general. From movement to little motions and gestures to combat…
  33. Animation: …the game gets a full…
  34. Animation: …three positives
  35. Doodads: This one surprised me, but the doodad usage and placement in towns is exceptional, really helping to sell the vibe and tone of each distinctly…
  36. Doodads: …for two positives
  37. Character: Rei. The man who clung to his childhood out of fear, and proved more adult than most of the other characters in the game
  38. Character: Supporting cast in general
  39. Character: Balio and Sunder are, weirdly, the most evil characters in the entire game but never cross into Get Off My Screen territory
  40. Character: Garr, arguably the main character of the game, and his quest for the truth
  41. Character: Momo doesn’t have much ‘deep’ character, but she’s a delight nonetheless
  42. Character: Myria. Malevolent, lying, misguided, or just plain wrong, but whatever she is, she’s a great foil to the cast and to the game as a whole
  43. Atmosphere: A quiet, beautiful horror undercurrent for the child time sections
  44. External Continuity: Connects quite neatly to 1 and 2
  45. Internal Continuity: While not as tight as 2, there’s still some good internal continuity tracking events
  46. Visual Continuity: Quite a bit, here and there

Story Negatives:

  1. Gameplay/Story Segregation: Garr. This dude has been made up to be this total super death badass aaaand then he joins us and he sucks
  2. MSQ: The arbitrary and odd way Nina forces her way back into the party
  3. Padding: The entire Lighthouse arc
  4. MSQ: There’s a fairly lengthy swath of just straight up padding after you rescue Deis before you can actually start… doing anything again
  5. Brickwork: In a word; Dungeons. The levels look bland and samey across the whole game
  6. Outro: The ending is a colossal nothingburger. It’s just… hey, we beat her, here’s a desert, the end
  7. Story Sequencing: Honestly most of the adult arc is just things happening with no real rhyme or reason

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Alternate Leveling: Master System is a fun way to customize abilities and stats
  2. Boss: Similarly the Elder fight is honestly quite legit, especially with the ‘Bad Back’ ability helping out
  3. Boss: The Mikba fight, irritation aside, is the best designed boss up to this point in the game. It’s brutal in all the right ways, fair, and properly difficult
  4. Minigame: Fairy Village. Intuitive, fun, rewarding, simple, yet with surprising depth to it…
  5. Minigame: …for two positives
  6. HUD: Combat and mouseover
  7. Info In Game: Items, equipment, etc.
  8. Kit: General. Good spell variety and good moveset
  9. Kit: Genes themselves deserve a positive, especially for the sheer number of possible combinations and how modular the system is
  10. Minigame: Fishing. I say without hyperbole that this is one of the better fishing minigames I’ve seen in gaming. Good HUD, QoL features, variety in fish and what they care about, control over the rod, equipment, techniques… it’s awesome…
  11. Minigame: …for a full…
  12. Minigame: …three positives
  13. Minigame: For all my issues with it, training Beyd is actually kind of interesting
  14. Music: I was hesitant about this at first but no, the soundtrack’s a banger. Great songs and great variety of songs throughout, with very few (if any) songs I hate…
  15. Music: …for a full…
  16. Music: …three positives
  17. QoL: Camps and access to healing, swapping, etc. freely on the map
  18. QoL: Purchasing from vendors, memory cursor
  19. Viscerality: The usual Breath of Fire quality of attacks, spells, and effects…
  20. Viscerality: …for two positives
  21. Outro: The final boss fight against Myria is a rare but good boss fight
  22. Itemization: Generally good spread of items and gear across the game

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Backtracking: There’s several examples of this but backtracking to Bunyan (a VERY useful master) is a great example of it
  2. Boss: The friggin’ brothers are a brutal boss fight from hell after a time waster trash fight and you’re forced to use an under-powered and worthless Garr
  3. Camera: Constantly twisting and turning just to see stuff and you have to do it EVERYwhere
  4. Controls: The controls control differently depending on if you’re in the overworld/dungeons, in combat, or in menus, and it’s disorienting and imprecise
  5. Difficulty Cliffs: McNeil Mansion is one of the earliest and worst difficulty cliffs in the game
  6. Difficulty Curve: …a generally bad difficulty curve means at any point in the game, having done nothing wrong, you can just… die
  7. Early Game Hell: The early part of the game is the worst by far. Very few options for gear, kit, or items, easy to get locked into areas, and enemies far over-tuned for an Intro
  8. Encounter Rate: Not as bad as BoF2 but…
  9. Encounter Rate: …still pretty bad
  10. Encounters: Several examples, notably the friggin’ Dump, and the friggin’ Dump
  11. Gameplay/Story Segregation: Garr. Garr is a bit of a jack of all trades and suffers severely for it, being objectively worse than every other character (especially since he starts so high level that he can’t be made up with the Master system)
  12. Grind: Via fishing or farming, the friggin’ mansion
  13. Info In Game: Master System, and how the game revolves around it
  14. Intro: So the Intro suffers all the same general problems BoFII’s did, though less exaggerated. Lengthy dungeons with too many encounters which aren’t particularly worthwhile, with very little options and kit to bypass, all leading to an aggravating slog that takes about 2 hours to even reach the first boss…
  15. Intro: …for two negatives
  16. Level: The friggin’ Dump
  17. Level: The friggin’ mansion
  18. Level: The Lighthouse. Irritating not-maze with indistinct visuals, annoying enemies, and zippo recovery or shortcutting combined with an annoying boss
  19. Minigame: The problem with the Beyd minigame is it’s arduous as hell (a lot of Seconds In Minutes problems) and it’s mandatory, and it just drags the entire section of the game down…
  20. Minigame: …earning it two negatives
  21. MSQ: Aaaand have fun slogging through MANDATORY fishing, an irritating non-feedback minigame, and just farming an area over and over
  22. MSQ: Also good luck with the actual making of the sushi section. Any screw up means failure or a reload, and there’s hardly any feedback AND it’s easy to accidentally over-press
  23. MSQ: Everything to do with getting the parts. Where they are, how many you need, which parts you need? Sucks to be you
  24. MSQ: So… good luck finding the ingredients for sushi
  25. MSQ: The arena sequence is an awful Sten Section
  26. Padding: There’s several elements to this but it boils down to a lot of padding, spinning-your-wheels moments that drag the game down substantially
  27. Power Progression Curve: Generally bad power progression versus…
  28. QoL: Changing your PARTY members without telling you (or warning you or giving you a chance to fix it)
  29. QoL: Master System. No indicators when you can go learn abilities, and you have to physically return to them to interact with them…
  30. QoL: …for two negatives
  31. QoL: Regularly resetting your Formations without even telling you
  32. Saves: Save placement combined with game overs
  33. Seconds In Minutes: A whole lot of little things here and there
  34. Tutorialization: Or lack thereof, regarding a huge swath of gameplay mechanics
  35. Unskippable Cutscenes: The usual, but especially bad…
  36. Unskippable Cutscenes: …because of how often they are nice, long cutscenes before bosses
  37. Walkthroughitis: Master System, and actually finding them
  38. Walkthroughitis: The friggin’ McNiel mansion
  39. Walkthroughitis: The Mikba fight deserves its own mention. It comes out of absolutely nowhere and is an intense, brutal fight with no preparation time beforehand and is basically guaranteed to straight up murder you on a blind playthrough
  40. Walkthroughitis: There’s a lot of ‘bosses out of nowhere’ at the end of aggravating dungeons with no warning or save points, meaning redoing the whole dungeon and usually puzzle if you fail
  41. MSQ: The desert. First, let’s get the obvious out of the way, the info in game is literally wrong and leads you the wrong direction
  42. MSQ: The desert. Second, it’s a long featureless expanse that takes forever to cross with virtually nothing to do
  43. MSQ: The desert. Third and finally, let’s make this clear, the desert is boring. There’s virtually nothing to do for an arduous swath of time
  44. Mid-Mission Checkpoints: The Laboratory and Eden can go right to hell. One save point in a massive, two-pronged dungeon filled with brutal enemies and a boss from hell
  45. Outro: So first we have a mean dungeon with few save points, then we are forced into a solo dungeon, followed by a solo boss, followed by a very mean boss with no break. If you die at any point during all of this, have fun doing the entire sequence again
  46. Outro: And the actual final dungeon… is just a repeat boss rush, because Capcom

Wargroove

So this game is a very strange one. The campaign… sucks, at best. The story… sucks, at best. But the map editor and campaign editor are really, really good, with tons of options and an intuitive interface to let you design all kinds of interesting, cool stuff. I honestly recommend the game just for the editor if you’re interested in that, but skip the actual campaigns.
Type Of Review: Unfamiliar Run
Total Story Score: 0
Total Gameplay Score: -6
Golden Number: -9.23
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 5 days / 26.48 Hours
Time Reviewed: 1-31-2024

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Brickwork: There’s only really the one tileset, but it is a nice one
  2. Spritework: Probably the best story feature of the game, the spritework on display is legit…
  3. Spritework: …for two positives
  4. Animation: Similarly everything is very well animated in their particular, bouncey fashion
  5. Cutscene Style: I’ll give it this, the theatre-play style of cutscenes is actually quite good
  6. Storytelling Mechanic: Codex and the related background lore
  7. Humor: Okay, I’ll give you the dog side quest with the bandits
  8. Intro: Honestly, for all the issues the story has, the Intro was pretty legit. Good hook, good insight into the setting and plot, arguably one of the better sequences in the entire campaign
  9. Princess Peach Segments: Several camera swaps with the optional missions
  10. Prime Opt: The Arcade ‘story modes’ are actually pretty neat and weirdly better written than the main campaign

Story Negatives:

  1. Dialogue: The dialogue is… not good, at best
  2. Gameplay/Story Segregation: They could have leaned into this, but the fact that the entire multi-unit army battles seemingly occur in some kind of pocket dimension just hurts things. If it leaned into it more it might’ve worked but instead it just ignores it completely
  3. Writing: Idiot Ball (excuse fights) which are so… so overt. I’ve seen fighting games that have better excuses for this crap. At one point we spend no less than three maps in a row fighting our allies, whom we are there seeking help from, before someone says a couple of words that aren’t antagonistic and then shazam, all is instantly forgotten and forgiven…
  4. Writing: …so yeah, a full…
  5. Writing: …three negatives
  6. Character: Ragna (and in general). Annoying rival characters have never been my favorite, but the joke that doesn’t land just makes it worse
  7. Voice Acting: Inconsistent thereof, as per usual for this type of thing
  8. Outro: So the actual final mission is locked behind completion, which is fine really, but what isn’t fine is that if you don’t do that the story doesn’t have an alternate path or bad ending, instead the story literally just… stops dead in its tracks
  9. Writing: So the DLC just sort of… bullies Ragna. In a weirdly awkward and unpleasant way
  10. Writing: More Idiot Ball in the DLC! Sure let’s just rob ALL FOUR NATIONS of the continent to pay off an unashamed and admittedly horrifically evil person who will then betray us oh my gosh so shocking much wow

Gameplay Positives:

  1. HUD: Decent, and with decent mouseover options
  2. Difficulty Options: Optional hard mode objectives per map for stars
  3. Difficulty Options: Actual scalable options with templates
  4. Unit Design: Some of the units are pretty well designed. Notably the Pikeman (solid, good crit mechanic, good HP, great for holding the line) and the mage (expensive but solid with good range, can capture, heal at cost, and anti-air)
  5. Core Mechanic: Critical Hits (which are, of course, not crits) is a great way to encourage the player to try up different setups, movements, and strategies
  6. Core Mechanics: Income, recruitment, town refills, and reinforcements
  7. Co Op: Local and semi functional online
  8. Co Op: Campaign co-op
  9. Minigame: Arcade Mode. It’s kind of like the typical ‘campaign’ in a Fighter game, with its own little micro maps and pseudo story
  10. Minigame: Puzzle Mode. There’s a lot and they’re very well designed and thought out, all rotating around the same concept; complete this map in this way…
  11. Minigame: …leading to three…
  12. Minigame: …positives
  13. Mod: Toolkit. The amount of tools in the editor mode are insane and brilliantly designed…
  14. Mod: …for a full…
  15. Mod: …three positives
  16. Mod: Ease of use. There’s some control issues (especially on PC) but it’s still pretty intuitive
  17. Mod: Depth. There is so much you can do to customize maps and campaigns…
  18. Mod: …for two positives
  19. Minigame: A bit of a bonus positive for just how fun it is to make your own custom maps and campaigns and the crazy creative stuff you can come up with
  20. Minigame: Multiplayer and bonus maps
  21. Mod: Ease of sharing and downloading custom maps and campaigns
  22. Level: Floran 2 in the DLC is, weirdly, the best level in the entire game. Solid start, solid initial waves, not overwhelming garbage or slog, proper enemy reinforcements, and actual tactics and terrain usage

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Controls: The game just controls kind of wrong. Selecting is an issue, selecting commands is an issue, the ‘smart commands’ exist but often is screwy
  2. Core Combat: This is functionally an aggregate negative, but between the enemy AI, the ease of loss, the length of missions, and the slog, the game sort of kind of sucks to play at its fundamental core
  3. Core Mechanic: Whack-a-Mole. A lot of strategy games boil down to this, and while it can be used to progress (by baiting the enemy, see: Enemy AI Negative) the fact is it’s just not that engaging or interesting to play whack-a-mole with the enemy, and so instead you’re sort of encouraged to just focus on the finishing line on any given map, removing what for me is a lot of the fun of these types of games; slowly repainting the map
  4. Enemy AI: The enemy is… really dumb. Like, really dumb
  5. Gameplay/Story Segregation: They could have leaned into this, but the fact that the entire multi-unit army battles seemingly occur in some kind of pocket dimension just hurts things. If it leaned into it more it might’ve worked but instead it just ignores it completely
  6. Interface: There’s some at-a-glance issues since each unit is identical to its ‘role’ but isn’t always distinct or well named
  7. Music: Repetition problem is, by itself, a problem (every SINGLE turn the music restarts)
  8. Music: …but then there’s the one song. See the music you hear is based on your commander, aaand you play the same commander for an extraordinarily large portion of the game
  9. Tutorialization: Very forced and restrictive
  10. Unit Design: Many bad unit design decisions. Some units are actively bad, some are situational to the point of aggravating. Lots of cheap crap units that have no real benefit to use and can’t be churned out in necessary numbers without padding the whole experience out, all while your enemy is slowly but surely swarming you, is just one example
  11. Unit Variety: Or lack thereof. Each faction being completely the same minus commanders is already problematic, but the truth is there just is not that good of a spread of units to begin with
  12. Unskippable Cutscenes: Periodic and irritating
  13. Outro: Everything about the Outro sucks. All Commanders (so no ability to strategize or out-maneuver or out-think or… have strategy), absolutely terrible terrain, enemy encounter design that’s designed to completely screw you over, if you lose ANY unit you instantly fail the entire mission (long mission too), and the one thing we get on our side is the frickin’ Grooves which are barely useful for this mission…
  14. Outro: …for a full…
  15. Outro: …three negatives
  16. Seconds In Minutes: Animations, primarily, but even with that turned off the whole game just drags
  17. Level: General. Most levels are just… not designed. They’re not actively bad at first glance, but when you start to think about how they’re laid out and the slog inherent, and how the games encourage you to slowmode your way through tiny maps for hours…
  18. Level: …then they’re worth two negatives
  19. Padding: General, but almost every mission has a very clear ‘we’ve won’ point at which the mission is functionally over. The enemy has lost and just not realized it yet. This is a common problem in a lot of puzzle and strategy games and rears its ugly head really, really badly here, often times leading to anywhere from 10 to 40 extra minutes of just spinning your wheels claiming the victory you already have…
  20. Padding: …for a full…
  21. Padding: …three negatives
  22. Level: Cherrystone 2, Many a Mage. This one map is especially bad for just being an absolute slogfest through enemies designed to take longer to die
  23. Level: Floran 1, Fog and Forest, another inch-by-inch crawl to an objective that’s like… five feet thataway
  24. Level: DLC general. More awful map design, in fact it’s worse than the base game, only earning so few negatives by virtue of having less missions overall…
  25. Level: …for a second negative
  26. Outro: So then there’s the second outro… it’s not actually as bad as the previous one, but it is still quite bad and for essentially the same reasons. Just hero units (same issues as before), terrible terrain, entrenched forces, and if anyone dies it’s game over…
  27. Outro: …for two negatives
  28. Difficulty Curve: Very, very wonky. Missions go from being arduous to properly difficult to way too easy and back again

Maneater

The base game is honestly awesome (and scores a much higher 93ish Golden Number), and I absolutely 100% recommend it. It’s a surprisingly deep and fun shark combat game with some collectathoning, an amusing background story, good visuals, and great soundscape with fantastic viscerality. The DLC… was a massive net negative and dragged the score down substantially and I honestly recommend skipping the DLC.
Type Of Review: Unfamiliar Run
Total Story Score: +14
Total Gameplay Score: +18
Golden Number: 71.51
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 3 days / 15.17 Hours
Time Reviewed: 2-6-2024

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Animation: The swimming, the people freaking out, the mocap during cutscenes, but best of all… the flopping on the ground
  2. Atmosphere: The entire vibe of the History Channel documentary and conspiracy nutter
  3. Brickwork: Dead Horse Lake, which somehow looks like it smells even worse, between nuclear and corpse-related pollution
  4. Brickwork: Fawtick Bayou, and the absolutely brackish swamp
  5. Brickwork: Golden Shores and the hilariously polluted golf course
  6. Brickwork: Plover Island, and the nightmare mako reactor combined with radiation hellscape
  7. Brickwork: Prosperity Sands and Caviar Key, aka ‘the city’
  8. Brickwork: Sapphire Bay and the first really open, lake-looking zone
  9. Brickwork: The Gulf, and the open ocean
  10. Doodads: Generally excellent, absolutely everywhere, far too many instances to count…
  11. Doodads: …for a full…
  12. Doodads: …three positives
  13. Humor: Yeah no, this one got a laugh more than a few times
  14. Sound Design: Wonderful soundscape, between the people screaming and the other creatures…
  15. Sound Design: …for two positives
  16. Visual Storytelling: As ridiculous as it is, there’s a lot of details in the area design indicating just how messed up this world really is
  17. Voice Actor: Narrator. Humorous, ridiculous, and well acted
  18. World Building: Similarly, the world is well portrayed… as being a total cess pit

Story Negatives:

  1. Banter: The repeat dialogues on pickups really did get old after a while
  2. Outro: …what? That’s the usual nothingburger combined with jokes that don’t land
  3. Humor: The Narrator really got old after a while, and the joke stopped being funny
  4. Theme: The ‘themes’, if you can count that, are way, way too on the nose and actively get grating very quickly

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Boss: General, but the Apex fights in particular deserve mention
  2. Build: Believe it or not, there’s some honest Build gameplay here with the combos of equipment you can set up
  3. Controls: Controls astonishingly well, both underwater and in the air…
  4. Controls: …for two positives
  5. Core Combat: Deceptively engaging. There’s vuln periods, types of attacks doing different types of damage, reaction hits, grappling… it’s fun stuff…
  6. Core Combat: …for two positives
  7. Core Mechanic: Eat to heal, heal to eat, it creates a great loop
  8. Difficulty Curve: Again, quite smooth (with only one hiccup at the end)
  9. Enemy Design: Fun and interesting stuff to fight
  10. Enemy Variety: And good variety of types of enemies with differing sizes and attack patterns
  11. Fast Travel: One warp spot per zone
  12. Guidance And Flow: Lots. Color design, lighting, flow of zones and tunnels…
  13. Guidance And Flow: …for two positives
  14. HUD: Quick and informative information on what resources fish give, where interactables are, etc.
  15. Intro: Taste of power plus good, natural tutorialization and lead in to events, culminating in a solid sequence
  16. Kit: Surprisingly varied kit in your attacks, between charges, bites, flings, and munches, and that’s before you get into set bonuses
  17. Level: A bonus positive for the two ‘city’ stages
  18. Level: Caviar Key is the other great level I really enjoyed, honestly for all the same reasons
  19. Level: Crawfish Bay, which served as the tutorial and the postgame area and did well at both
  20. Level: Fawtick Bayou. A good tutorial area with good spread of rewards, enemy blockers in the form of Alligators, and routing to encourage exploration
  21. Level: Golden Shores. This is when the level design really starts to kick up, with good usage of the golf course and great spread of enemies and items
  22. Level: Prosperity Sands is legit, honestly one of my favorite zones in the game. Lots of tight, dense level design, tons to do, and very fun
  23. Power Progression: A nice smooth curve rewarding you for doing and giving you lots of neat toys
  24. Sound Design: Generally helpful and informative
  25. Viscerality: Visual, audio, and impact. Game oozes viscerality, it’s probably it’s selling feature, getting a truly rare triple positive…
  26. Viscerality: …for a big…
  27. Viscerality: …three positives
  28. Visual Distinction: Lighting usage, outlines, and general design
  29. Yoshi Drums: Depending on what’s going on at the time, of course
  30. Replayability: Yeah I’ll give it this, ending aside

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Bug: The camera flip issue
  2. Overly Skippable Cutscenes: Infrequent, but it’s there
  3. Raspberry Jam: It’s not as bad as a lot of other games, but it’s still there
  4. Saves: There’s multiple save slots, but it’s forced autosave and forced pseudo ironman mode
  5. Outro: The Pete fight is… barely good enough to qualify for a negative
  6. Core Combat: The entire bomb throwing mechanic is irritating and over-required in the DLC
  7. Bug: The DLC has weird loading, stutter, and map issues
  8. Padding: The DLC continues the trend of most DLCs by having boring padding that just drags the experience out
  9. MSQ: And a bonus negative for some of that padding being mandatory to progress
  10. Outro: Everything about that Outro is garbage. Padding, a long run back to the boss, an unskippable cutscene, the fact that the enemies have a second or two to attack you freely at the transition after said cutscenes, that absolutely ridiculous grapple attack, the whole thing is nonsense…
  11. Outro: …earning it…
  12. Outro: …a full three negatives. What a disappointing end to a great game

Star Wars Squadrons

An absolutely terrible story in an astonishingly good game. The game is a bit more arcadey then I would have preferred at first, but this is a good and fun sequel to the Rogue Squadron series, with fun level design, great and very video-gamey ships and toolkit, and fun core combat. Just… skip the story, good lord.
Type Of Review: Unfamiliar Run
Total Story Score: -13
Total Gameplay Score: +20
Golden Number: 13.14
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 2 days / 11.53 Hours
Time Reviewed: 2-7-2024

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Voice Acting: The voice acting is honestly pretty good
  2. Sound Design: The classic Star Wars soundscape is there in full effect
  3. Brickwork: Skyboxes in general. Some legitimately, brilliantly beautiful vistas…
  4. Brickwork: …for a full…
  5. Brickwork: …three positives
  6. Brickwork: Cockpits, in general, have good design and variety
  7. Brickwork: The general effects given to the missions deserve their own notice
  8. Doodads: I have to give credit, there’s a lot of well designed doodads in the missions…
  9. Doodads: …for two positives

Story Negatives:

  1. Dialogue: So almost every conversation is written… weirdly, like it’s designed for another person to be responding, but no one is
  2. MSQ: Issues with the ISD capture. I mean, not even a word about the (massive) crew on the ship, and ultimately and instantly forgotten about the moment they’re not relevant
  3. Plot: So the entire story is about the Republic superweapon that needs to be stopped no matter the cost and… it just… what?
  4. Dialogue: In general the dialogue is NOT well written, it very much has first pass problems
  5. Internal Continuity: The game cannot seem to even keep track of its own events
  6. Writing: Did you know he used to be an imperial? Cuz he used to be an imperial
  7. Empty Text: Lots
  8. Pacing: Or lack thereof. The game apparently occurs over a much longer period of time than it looks or feels
  9. MSQ: Special mention to the nonsense in the ‘raid the depot’ mission 8 where the Rebels just beeline the objective for absolutely no reason at all
  10. Writing: There is so, so much Because Plot I can’t enumerate it all
  11. MSQ: Okay so Mission 9 is bonkers stupid, and not in a good-writing way. So we have to attack the largest shipyard in the galaxy, which is weirdly undefended, in order to lure away a defensive screen from a top secret superweapon project in order to then totes be able to kill said superweapon despite it beating the brakes off of us the last time we fought, which was at full strength because by the way we’re damaged and barely functioning…
  12. MSQ: …for two negatives
  13. MSQ: Okay so… then there’s the later mission, where we have a large quantity of general absurdity slathered on everything like too much mayo, but then the villain gets in a one liner… NOT on comms mind you just on her bridge, and then Lindon warps in and RESPONDS to her, ON comms, having somehow not only heard her but warping in to physically block the shot… somehow, I just… I don’t even know what to add to that…
  14. MSQ: …for two negatives
  15. Animation: Frostbyte engine continues to hamper the game’s ability to actually animate people properly
  16. Writing: The all important suspension of disbelief… isn’t. The game just does not earn this invaluable point of fiction
  17. External Continuity: It’s hard to put into simple words just how much this does not fit within Star Wars. In the AU or in general. It absolutely drags the work down…
  18. External Continuity: …for a full…
  19. External Continuity: …three negatives
  20. Internal Continuity: The relative fleet strength is always strongest on the side you are not, even if it’s immediately after a mission where you had no reinforcements
  21. MSQ: Fake out death, and the worst possible kind
  22. Outro: And then there’s just… honestly everything about the finale. From Hera talking the battle up to everyone insisting they’re gonna die, to the waste of the (somehow still flying) Fake Deathstar, to just… ugh

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Core Mechanic: Power transfer. Being able to have more speed, shots, shields, or any gradient thereof is (as usual) a great mechanic
  2. Difficulty Options: Optional hard mode objectives
  3. HUD: I’ve seen better, but this is still good
  4. Intro: Pretty solid intro mission; Gets across the mission structure, controls, and variety of objectives and targets
  5. Kit: Loadout and the give/take variety thereof
  6. Kit: X/W & TIE/F. Decent spread, decent kit, very fun
  7. Kit: TIE/R & U/W. The support class, with utility, heals, and kit
  8. Kit: Y/W & TIE/B. Color me astonished that they took what are usually the most disinteresting and boring ships to play and gave them a lot of kit to make them fun and powerful feeling…
  9. Kit: …for two positives
  10. Kit: TIE/I & A/W are, of course, the usual fun interceptor fun
  11. Level: Mission 1, jammer ships, fighter screens, and a nice big light cruiser
  12. Level: Mission 2, and capturing the ISD Victorum
  13. Level: Mission 5, the escorts, the missiles, the first real take on the support ship
  14. Level: Mission 6, and taking out the parts of the listening post was actually pretty fun
  15. Level: Mission 7, a tight dogfight or two, an escalating wall of doom, and asteroids
  16. Level: Mission 9 starts off with a chicken shoot, followed immediately by a weakened position dog fight, followed by some hit and runs with good optional objectives and a final boss fight with a capital ship
  17. Level: Mission 12 and turret mines, pseudo escorts, and playing around with the U Wings
  18. Mid Mission Checkpoints: Well placed and plentiful
  19. Music: Yeah, no, there’s some good tracks here
  20. Options: Actually some pretty decent options, go figure
  21. Sound Design: Indicative and helpful for the most part
  22. Level: 13 and the never-ending ISD wave defense
  23. Level: Bonus points for the trench run in level 13 which was actually pretty legit
  24. Viscerality: The game is brilliantly visceral, both audibly and visibly…
  25. Viscerality: …for two positives
  26. Outro: Mission 14 is honestly quite legit. A big, honkin’ cruiser fight, followed by several smaller ships, followed by a nice escape sequence

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Options: Lack of resolution options outside of manual dragging
  2. Bugs: Does not save resolution settings upon restart
  3. Difficulty Options: Lazy difficulty
  4. Level: Mission 3. Slow wave escort plus bad drift tutorial
  5. Level: General polishing issues, or lack thereof. There’s just so many little niggling details, like enemies shooting after they’re already destroyed, or fighters freely ignoring things like danger zones and barriers
  6. Level: Mission 13 and the absolutely stupid final boss against a super X/W with way, way too much health

Cthulhu Saves The World

While the game only really has one joke, it’s short enough that it doesn’t really get old. And while the dungeon design is lacking, there’s some surprisingly cool and interesting gameplay concepts here, like the combo system, choosing your abilities and upgrades as you level, instant teleport anywhere out of combat, and a ‘limit’ to random encounters per zone. Big recommend.
Type Of Review: Unfamiliar Run
Total Story Score: +7
Total Gameplay Score: +7
Golden Number: 32.24
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 2 days / 6.2 Hours
Time Reviewed: 2-9-2024

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Humor: I mean I should hope this game gets a humor positive. I will say it’s functionally one joke stretched to the game’s length, but it’s a good joke…
  2. Humor: …so two positives
  3. Background Lore: Mostly jokes, but in the little descriptions on enemies
  4. Brickwork: Basic, but there, and sells the scenes
  5. Character: Mostly for Cthulhu himself, who is just so blase as to be amusing, but the others qualify too
  6. Intro: Sets the tone, amusing, and well paced
  7. Outro: Surprisingly tight for what it is, and probably one of the best gags in the whole game

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Core Combat: Insanity mechanic (boosts enemies, boosts your stats, gives more rewards)
  2. Music: Music’s a bop overall…
  3. Music: …deserving two positives
  4. Kit: Choose your stat ups on level up, as well as what new abilities, and upgrades to existing abilities
  5. Minigame: Developer commentary mode
  6. Core Mechanic: MP gain based on how fast you do battles, and enemies get stronger the longer fights go on
  7. Saves: Save basically everywhere out of combat
  8. Fast Travel: From the menu to anywhere you’ve been…
  9. Fast Travel: …even in dungeons
  10. QoL: Party swap on fly, backrow gets exp, the encounter rate limiter mechanic
  11. Kit: Surprisingly in depth kit across characters
  12. Lives: The 1-Up System and resetting a battle with a maximally finite number of retries

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Music: Restarting music problem
  2. Grind: A bit, especially early on, but it’s there
  3. Difficulty Curve: There are several noticeable cliffs in difficulty throughout, even if you’re Korean Methoding
  4. Encounter Rate: A wee bit too high for my tastes
  5. Level: General dungeon design. There’s a lack of flow, maps, and a lot of looping

Shadows Over Loathing

A very good, very well written, moderately fun branching / choices RPG which is way, way too long for its own good. But there are so many different ways things can go, depending on both randomness and your own choices.
Type Of Review: Unfamiliar Run
Total Story Score: +10
Total Gameplay Score: +6
Golden Number: 31.44
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 3 days / 19.23 Hours
Time Reviewed: 2-11-2024

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Humor: Dying in the tutorial deserves its own mention but let’s be honest, I can’t possibly enumerate the jokes in this one. While the game leans more on atmospheric quirky tone than true humor, it still had enough straight jokes and gags that got enough laughs out of me…
  2. Humor: …to qualify for the full…
  3. Humor: …three positives
  4. Character: General supporting cast
  5. Dialogue: The dialogue is varied and sharply written, to a shockingly good degree…
  6. Dialogue: …earning two positives
  7. Brickwork: The style continues to work for it, with everything and every area being a nice neat vibe apart from the others
  8. Animation: The animation really sells the art style
  9. Atmosphere: The Earthbound vibe, as I often call it. The whole game isn’t heavily focused on jokes or humor per say, but rather on the generally quirky and zany vibe and theme…
  10. Atmosphere: …and it does so constantly and consistently…
  11. Atmosphere: …for three positives
  12. Branching: Not the most, but there’s still quite a bit of branching narrative possible
  13. Foreshadowing: Lots, but especially in the prologue
  14. Prime Opt: The entire stable time loop arc and its multiple paths
  15. Internal Continuity: Game keeps really tight track of itself
  16. Intro: Love that Intro. Sets the tone and gets everything rolling smoothly

Story Negatives:

  1. Humor: The cavalcade of jokes problem. When there’s this nonstop humor, it just… stops being funny at a certain point
  2. Padding: Lots. Lots and lots
  3. Prime Opt: Chapter 5 in its entirety is just boring side fetch quests with no interesting backstory or engaging characters or even jokes
  4. Outro: The entire final chapter is just an empty nothingburger minus one lackluster confrontation with your nemesis
  5. MSQ: Chapter 5 similarly sucks on the MSQ axis, with the narrative cohesion just falling apart as the density of story in general plummets
  6. Pacing: The MSQ is all over the place, barely emphasized, and honestly gets less attention and time than most of the side quests

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Info In Game: General, but also special mention for telling you what enemies are going to do on their next turn
  2. Alternate Leveling: Books, events, quests, trash fires… there’s a lot of ways to get perks
  3. Difficulty Options: Effects puzzles and world design in addition to combat
  4. Leveling: Spending xp directly to gain perks and stat ups
  5. Music: Only a few songs but they’re legit
  6. Lives/Penalty For Failure: Temporary buffs for failing
  7. Prime Opt: Ocean City (interlocking side quests)
  8. Prime Opt: Crystaldream Lake (ditto), also bonus points for the time shenanigans
  9. Prime Opt: And the horrible, horrible swamp
  10. Itemization: Really good design of items, retaining their usefulness throughout the game
  11. Kit: Good variety of abilities and spread across your setup
  12. Enemy Design: Pretty well designed enemies for the most part
  13. Encounter Rate: Well designed and mostly avoidable but special mention for the stat-based routes to bypass encounters if preferred
  14. All Roads Lead To Rome: This is probably the game’s strongest selling point, gameplay wise. The number of ways you can progress quests is not insignificant, and present in Chapters 1…
  15. All Roads Lead To Rome: …two…
  16. All Roads Lead To Rome: …three…
  17. All Roads Lead To Rome: …and four
  18. Choices: As expected, some good choices gameplay
  19. Replayability: I have to give the second Replay positive, there’s just too many alternate ways to play the game
  20. MSQ: The ‘go it alone or do sidequests to progress’ Chapter 5 is honestly pretty well done and interesting
  21. Core Combat: AP, items, and turn enders
  22. Fast Travel: More like map travel but since regardless of distance you just get one random event, it still qualifies

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Saves: Forced ironman mode
  2. Inventory: There’s a filter but good lord
  3. MSQ: So the entire mandatory school stuff is… not great. It’s fun, neat, and interesting… once, maybe thrice, but then you do it SEVEN times (or more), and this is just two specific examples of the mandatory progression blockers…
  4. MSQ: …earning a full…
  5. MSQ: …three negatives
  6. Walkthroughitis: A weird variety. It’s not particularly bad but can be bad depending on your build, which is ‘fine’ but then just sort of mandates abandoning quests, replaying, or looking it up for the alternative method which has a bit of moon logic to it
  7. Walkthroughitis: Also some quests are a whole lot of ‘just go look it up’. Like, an increasing amount of said quests the further you get into the game…
  8. Walkthroughitis: …for two negatives
  9. Difficulty Curve: The game’s weird. First you run into a difficulty cliff, then you turn into a difficulty avalanche and just run over enemies, and not a lot in between
  10. Tutorialization: There are entire mechanics the game never tells you even exist
  11. Guidance And Flow: Or lack thereof. There’s… just so much you can do and the moment I picked up a walkthrough was when I started enjoying the game more, because there’s so much the game doesn’t indicate or guide you towards…
  12. Guidance And Flow: …for two negatives
  13. Prime Opt: Chapter 5. Just… Chapter 5, good lord, boring meaningless backtracky fetch quests
  14. Padding: DA2 Syndrome. The game’s fun, until it goes on for far too long
  15. Outro: Empty terrain with irritating fights and a nothingburger final boss
  16. Controls: The game controls… weirdly. It feels made for controller, but then the controls themselves are a bit off and don’t really work in some situations, so it’s better to use mouse but the mouse doesn’t always work as described either, and that’s on top of the interface having some feedback issues in combat

Starfield

Do not buy this game.
Type Of Review: Unfamiliar Run
Total Story Score: -35
Total Gameplay Score: -79
Golden Number: -353.18
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 11 days / 71.17 Hours
Time Reviewed: 2-24-2024

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Brickwork: Akila City
  2. Brickwork: Constellation base
  3. Brickwork: NASAPunk style in general
  4. Brickwork: Neon
  5. Brickwork: Ship interior
  6. Character: The Adoring Fan. Yes, really. He’s legitimately endearing and has enough variety to have not gotten old the whole playthrough
  7. Characters: Our parents. It’s so rare to see such wholesome and supporting parents in general, but they’re well voiced to boot
  8. Doodads: Akila City
  9. Doodads: Akila City
  10. Doodads: Constellation base
  11. Doodads: Constellation base
  12. Doodads: Constellation base
  13. Doodads: Neon
  14. Doodads: Neon
  15. Doodads: Random ‘ruins’ and general Fallout areas
  16. Doodads: Random ‘ruins’ and general Fallout areas
  17. Doodads: Random ‘ruins’ and general Fallout areas
  18. Doodads: Ship interior
  19. Doodads: Ship interior
  20. Doodads: Ship interior
  21. Moment: The UC Vanguard mural hall is some interesting and enjoyable exposition
  22. MSQ: Entangled. While it honestly stumbles, it’s still interesting and one of the better quests in the game
  23. MSQ: Okay so for all the issues I have with the world building, the build up and revelation of the fate of Earth is well done and horrifying
  24. NPC Set Dressing: Infrequent, but occasionally pretty good (noticeably on Neon)
  25. Prime Opt: For all the trash in the central ‘plot’ of the Crimson Fleet chain, the side details and logs (very Vault style) worked really well to add to the atmosphere and tone
  26. Prime Opt: Some decent stuff in the Freestar arc but let’s be honest, Wes Johnson just kind of nails it as Ron Hope and earns this positive all by himself
  27. Prime Opt: The first UC Vanguard quest is honestly solid. Milkrun routine entry-level mission… and you show up to a dead colony and one survivor, blood and claw marks everywhere. They show us a monster… and then we see that monster killed by the actual monster, the Terrormorph. The whole mission is atmospheric, horrifying, and honestly great
  28. Secondary: Mining equipment chain
  29. Secondary: Putting up the posters of Space Frog
  30. Spritework: Guns. Seriously, I’ve seen better, but there’s a weirdly large amount of effort put into this
  31. Spritework: Items in general

Story Negatives:

  1. Animation: Body. These weird marionettes are the most bizarre animatronics…
  2. Animation: …for a full…
  3. Animation: …three negatives
  4. Animation: Facial. Some of the worst mouth flaps I’ve ever seen…
  5. Animation: …for a full…
  6. Animation: …three negatives
  7. Atmosphere: Constantly insulting the player. Seriously they do this in almost every single quest chain…
  8. Atmosphere: …for a full…
  9. Atmosphere: …three negatives
  10. Banter: If you can call it that. You can tell it’s trying to be banter, but it sure isn’t succeeding…
  11. Banter: …for a full…
  12. Banter: …three negatives
  13. Brickwork: New Atlantis is just… empty, to a distractingly bad level…
  14. Brickwork: …to the point that every time I went there it was jarring…
  15. Brickwork: …which isn’t helpful for one of the main hubs of the game
  16. Characters: All
  17. Consequence Storytelling: Mass murder spree? No issues. Butcher your own comrades? Don’t even acknowledge it…
  18. Consequence Storytelling: …for a full…
  19. Consequence Storytelling: …three negatives
  20. Dialogue: Cadence and tone are just all wrong, in literally every single bit of dialogue in the entire game…
  21. Dialogue: …for a full…
  22. Dialogue: …three negatives
  23. Dialogue: Characters do not talk like this. People do not talk like this. Worst, everyone just speaks with the same voice, making it all blur into a big gray mass…
  24. Dialogue: …for a full…
  25. Dialogue: …three negatives
  26. Dialogue: Exposition. There’s a lot of it, almost always unnecessary, and extremely badly written…
  27. Dialogue: …for a full…
  28. Dialogue: …three negatives
  29. Dialogue: Repetition. There’s a lot of repetition in the repetition of how repetitive the repetition is. To be very clear here, there are literally examples of characters repeating themselves four times in a single conversation. This easily earns…
  30. Dialogue: …the full…
  31. Dialogue: ..three negatives
  32. Empty Text: So, so, so much dialogue that says and means absolutely nothing…
  33. Empty Text: …for a full…
  34. Empty Text: …three negatives
  35. Internal Continuity: Too many instances to list. The entire game lives in a bubble…
  36. Internal Continuity: …so much so that it actually bypasses what I would normally consider a ‘bad game’ and into insanity…
  37. Internal Continuity: …for three negatives
  38. Intro: So you’re a miner, bad exposition bad exposition, oh here take my ship since you’re the chosen one byyyeee
  39. Moment: The game builds up to and pays off the Vae Victis reveal absolutely terribly. It’s also very obvious and the game forces us to endure it as if it’s a gigantic reveal, without giving you the option to have a moment of feeling satisfied for having figured it out
  40. MSQ: The absolute nonsense logic chain required to progress through the mystery
  41. MSQ: Total lack of impact from the big death scene
  42. NPC Set Dressing: Inconsistent, but the roombas that are random nameless NPCs don’t really work all that well for several areas
  43. Prime Opt: Everything to deal with the ‘big reveals’ about ‘vae victis’ as well as the… raw simplicity and lack of follow through and consequence of the wrap up with the Vanguard chain
  44. Prime Opt: Everything to do with the Crimson Fleet’s arc. The digital currency, the ‘heist’… the constant need to be a part of the criminals while infiltrating them and how both arcs don’t work together at all
  45. Prime Opt: So… why do we care about gathering evidence that the Crimson Raider PIRATES are criminals…? (Crimson Fleet Infiltration chain)
  46. Prime Opt: The giant vault of money that can be held in a suitcase, the escape sequence of stupid, the total nonsense of the unexplained ‘we need this ship’s shields btw they have super cannons that can destroy those shields’
  47. Prime Opt: The total lack of any real narrative to the Ryuujin chain well over halfway through it
  48. Secondary: There are so many meaningless, dull side quests…
  49. Secondary: …for a full…
  50. Secondary: …three negatives
  51. Secondary: So there’s a quest in New Atlantis where you have to get data on a dead branch from another planet to help a local plant reproduce or else it will vibrate so strongly it will destroy the city. The level of nonsense in this one quest alone is indicative of the general quality of Secondary quests in this game
  52. Visual Continuity: Or lack thereof
  53. Visual Storytelling: Akila City (wooden walls, tiny port, capital city of an interstellar power)
  54. Visual Storytelling: New Atlantis (empty, vast swaths of nothing)
  55. Voice Acting: There’s maybe a single digit range of voice actors that aren’t honestly just awful in this one…
  56. Voice Acting: …for two negatives
  57. Voice Direction: So based on analysis and the total lack of tonal consistency, pronunciation, timing, and general presentation, I feel like most of the dialogue in this game actually had no voice direction at all. It’s some of the worst voice direction I’ve ever seen…
  58. Voice Direction: …for a full…
  59. Voice Direction: …three negatives
  60. World Building: Or rather world destruction. Banks, interstellar powers with microscopic towns as capitals, money magically solves everything
  61. World Building: So Terrormorphs are heatleeches. First, this is treated as a big reveal, but second, how did nobody know this the entire time? This is a decades old threat
  62. World Building: So the destruction of Earth barely matters to anything, which is by itself bizarre
  63. World Building: Then there’s the timeline and cohesion issues related to the destruction of Earth, in a setting where people had already begun colonizing space, also the slow death of Earth apparently took a solid 50 years and yet for all that time they did nothing to deal with the issue on Earth itself… despite having already had decades of livable conditions on Mars?
  64. Writing: This is technically an aggregate, but there’s so many general writing issues everywhere…
  65. Writing: …thus earning…
  66. Writing: …three negatives
  67. Outro: Where do I even begin? So you have the total lack of followthrough on the central villains (regardless), this then leads to a dull conversation from someone who probably thinks they sound super deep and insightful, followed by an absolutely miniscule acknowledgement of our choices in the game (not what happens next, per usual for the series, just… ‘you did this quest’ style stuff), followed by a really, really loud song playing over a screen saver. This Outro is absolutely awful…
  68. Outro: …and earns…
  69. Outro: …three negatives
  70. Padding: God, yes. So much of the narrative is just padded upon padding upon padded padding…
  71. Padding: …for a full…
  72. Padding: …three negatives
  73. Plot: As predicted, the plot is drivel. There’s ancient alien artifacts that give people superpowers who then use them to multiverse hop. Sure…
  74. Plot: …for two negatives
  75. Theme: Exploration! Sure…
  76. Visual Storytelling: Earth, also known as a completely empty desert with one stark, out-of-place building in the middle of nowhere

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Alternate Leveling: Weapon modding
  2. Cheats: Console commands. As with the post-Skyrim norm, this is the golden standard for console commands, with good memory, search, and fill functionality, in addition to the general benefit of having an in game console…
  3. Cheats: …for a full…
  4. Cheats: …three positives
  5. Controls: In the ship specifically. It controls pretty nicely, both in flying and in energy management
  6. Core Mechanic: Energy management on ship is also interesting and fun in its own right
  7. Fast Travel: One of the worst fast travels in BRPG history… but it is still there
  8. Kit: Shouts. They’re not the best, but there is some decent stuff and they can vary up your playstyle, especially if you spend the time to invest in them
  9. Level: Skyrim dungeon design, with looping and shortcutting
  10. Map: The space map (system and planetary) is actually decent, with good info and good navigation
  11. Minigame: House decoration and setup
  12. Minigame: Outpost mechanics. They’re vacuous and unnecessary and irritating and not very worthwhile, but the interface is fine and you have a decent kit for building outposts
  13. Minigame: Ship building. It could be better, but it’s still probably the best feature in the game, with lots of possible combos and setups and tons of options…
  14. Minigame: …easily earning…
  15. Minigame: …three positives
  16. MSQ: Entangled. Actual level design, cool interweaving of the two sides, and enemy variety with multiple ways to deal with them
  17. Music: I mean try to be shocked, but the music is pretty legit. It’s good in general and good for mood…
  18. Music: …for two positives
  19. Prime Opt: Ryuujin’s final mission (if it worked properly) is actually a good stealth mission, with multiple vectors, options, and points of recovery throughout
  20. Prime Opt: The first UC Vanguard mission (Grunt Work) is actually pretty legit. It seems normal, but on approach you have to fight a Terrormorph… something well above your pay grade. Thing is, you’re given a tracker for it, and access to massive turrets you can lure it into to bring it down, and (this is critical) those turrets are optional, if you feel like you could take it solo
  21. Prime Opt: The remainder of UC Vanguard in general (especially the final setup and payoff)
  22. Prime Opt: UC Vanguard missions 2 and 3 (spaceport attack with optional allies, and actual multiple paths with the diplomats quest)
  23. QoL: Inventory interactions (deposit all resources, location of bank, etc.)
  24. Saves: Between quicksaves, manual saves, and autosaves…
  25. Saves: …two positives

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Backtracking: Lots. Plenty of situations where you have to run back across long swaths of nothing, which is especially prevalent considering how many ‘go to X, return to Y, go to Z, return to Y’ format of quests there are…
  2. Backtracking: …for a full…
  3. Backtracking: …three negatives
  4. Bug: Ryuujin’s final quest is fundamentally broken thanks to the stealth bug
  5. Bug: So the game doesn’t cull correctly. Which… I don’t even know where to start. This means that the longer the game goes on and the more you explore… the sloggier and worse the game performs
  6. Bug: Stealth quite literally does not work correctly
  7. Bug: This is honestly more an optimization problem than anything but it takes forever to wait and that causes issues with all related systems (vendors, healing, etc.)
  8. Bugs: Quest tracking, visual, debuffs… just miscellaneous bugs really
  9. Controls: Ship building controls so, so badly. It’s completely unintuitive and in many cases literally doesn’t work right…
  10. Controls: …for a double negative
  11. Core Combat: Aiming is just… wrong. I’m not 100% sure what’s wrong with it, but it is definitely wrong
  12. Core Mechanic: Over-use of the Essential flag. Far, far too many NPCs are unkillable…
  13. Core Mechanic: …for a double negative
  14. Crash: Multiple crashes, including some hardware scares…
  15. Crash: …for two negatives
  16. Difficulty: Usual lazy difficulty
  17. Difficulty: Usual lazy difficulty, which also changes loot drops, but doesn’t even work quite right (loot is generated at cell generation but difficulty can be adjusted after)
  18. Fast Travel: Inconsistent operation. This would take a while to describe but it boils down to the fact that instead of just being a simple, smooth fast travel, the specifics of how it works varies based on seemingly random dice rolls
  19. Graphics: Headache-inducing inconsistent framerate
  20. HUD: Quest marker issues…
  21. HUD: …for two negatives
  22. Info In Game: Buffs and debuffs. What they do, how they work, easy visibility? Screw you
  23. Interface: Feedback, or lack thereof
  24. Interface: Tunneling and drilling. The buttons for ‘up’ and ‘down’ (aka tunneling and drilling)
  25. Interface: Honestly everything but navigating is the usual mess… feels worse than usual actually…
  26. Interface: …for two negatives
  27. Intro: What in the WORLD is going on with this intro? Lot of walking, very railroaded, seemingly well designed enemy encounter that isn’t, and then boop here’s yer ship
  28. Itemization: Ammo (and way too much armor)
  29. Itemization: Food and lack of healing items
  30. Itemization: In a game with huge swaths of modding, crafting, and building mechanics, there is no scrapping or disenchanting
  31. Itemization: Limited merchant money. So they all have very small money pools which massively limits being able to turn items into money which wouldn’t be a huge deal if not for…
  32. Itemization: …the colossal money sink that ships are…
  33. Itemization: …for triple negative
  34. Itemization: Loot is scaled, sure sure, but it’s also terribly designed and doesn’t vertically or linearly upgrade in quality, rather changing TYPES of drops, which screws up builds
  35. Itemization: So, ship selling isn’t profitable at all due to the registration requirements (in addition to the hassle related therewith)…
  36. Core Mechanic: …and this invalidates the entire mechanic of capturing ships to begin with, something that could have been cool and interesting and instead… isn’t
  37. Itemization: Storage capacity problem (built storages are very finite and expensive to build, or inaccessible)
  38. Itemization: Storage capacity problem mk. 2, the ship. The ship’s storage space is miniscule without massive investment and upgrades in both levels and money
  39. Itemization: Weapon spread. Six energy weapons (total) and general lack of gun variety
  40. Leveling: Padded with the requirements to progress
  41. Level Scaling: So, scaling is actually fine on ground… but in space, enemies start to outpace you pretty hard if you’re not spending money regularly on upgrades (which are locked behind leveling)
  42. Lighting: Good lord is it hard to see in this game. Lights are too bright, too dark, or too foggy…
  43. Lighting: …for a full…
  44. Lighting: …three negatives
  45. Map: Ground. This is, without exaggeration, the worst map I’ve seen in gaming. It’s not even an actual mesh map of the terrain which MIGHT have been useful, it’s just some dots in a vague shape that sort of resembles reality. This is true for planets and cities equally, rendering it useless to the point of nonsense. It actively gets in the way of navigation, especially given how poorly labeled things are and how frustrating it is to navigate…
  46. Map: …earning it…
  47. Map: …three negatives
  48. Map: Local. There is none! There is NO local map, I can’t even believe it as I’m typing it. Morrowind had a local map! Morrowind! Christ! This earns a full…
  49. Map: …three…
  50. Map: …negatives
  51. Map: No search, no filter, on any map of any level, even the good one
  52. Minigame: Lockpicking. It’s not terrible, not really, but you lose picks no matter what, forming a bit of an inventory tax, and the whole thing takes forever even if you figure it out instantly
  53. Minigame: Persuasion. I’m not sure how to even describe this but it’s the vaguest thing in the world. No percentages (like FO3), no indicators of facial expression or tone (like Oblivion), just… pick something, hope for the best
  54. Minigame: The ship building is purely menu based surface level interactions. You cannot ‘pool’ items (so no salvaging ships) and there’s no saving of templates or otherwise
  55. MSQ: I’m sorry but this pisses me off. There is a point at which you have to get a map and while there’s multiple ways to get it, you PHYSICALLY CANNOT ACCESS THE DOOR until you’ve started talking to the guy to distract him. To be clear, this one incident isn’t quite worth a negative by itself, but you know what is? The other many times they pull this trick
  56. MSQ: Many instances of choices don’t matter (while giving you those choices) but an additional mention for the plug and play big death
  57. Padding: Animations. Standing up, sitting down, opening a door…
  58. Padding: …for two negatives
  59. Padding: Enemy health is entirely too padded, with multiple health bars becoming the norm very quickly and scaling directly with level…
  60. Padding: …for a full…
  61. Padding: …three negatives
  62. Padding: NPC walk speed for escorts. Hope you like walk and talks
  63. Padding: Stamina bars. This is part of an extensive chain of problems but it is entirely too short and entirely too punishing when out of air, to the point of doing literal damage to the player on top of the visual and audio issues…
  64. Padding: …for two negatives
  65. Padding: Unlocking the Shouts is straight up padding every single time. This is in addition to the padding of the entire venture (go to the Eye, unskippable cutscene, talk to dude, warp to spot, unskippable cutscene, find spot, walk to spot, and THEN you get to fly around pointlessly for several minutes)…
  66. Padding: …for a full…
  67. Padding: …three negatives
  68. Padding: Walk walk walk… across huge swaths of terrain…
  69. Padding: …for more walk walk walk
  70. Padding: ‘Fuel’
  71. Prime Opt: So, the Ryuujin chain is some of the most linear railroaded quests in the entire game
  72. Prime Opt: So the Freestar Collective’s final mission is to fight about 40 mobs in a giant firefight from hell. Have fun!
  73. Prime Opt: The escape sequence softlocking with unavoidable damage and bullcrap environmental effects alongside enemies and a total lack of healing or recovery, in an area where you cannot backtrack to try to come in more prepared
  74. Prime Opt: The ‘heist’ mission on board the starliner and the eternal railroaded backtracking
  75. Raspberry Jam: Oxygen meter
  76. Respec: In a system like this, a proper respec would actually really help out, to the point where its absence actively hurts the build potential
  77. Secondary: Nothing fancy, nothing special
  78. Secondary: Procedural missions, of which there are quite a few
  79. Secondary: The entire colony ship quest with a bizarre lack of chaining or options despite screaming out for some
  80. Seconds In Minutes: Loading screens. There are so many, and they get worse as time goes on… even little things, like opening and closing the menu…
  81. Seconds In Minutes: …for a full…
  82. Seconds In Minutes: …three negatives
  83. Seconds In Minutes: Manual cross referencing in menus…
  84. Seconds In Minutes: …for two negatives
  85. Seconds In Minutes: Contraband checks
  86. Seconds In Minutes: Everything to do with connecting and building Outposts, especially across outposts
  87. Traversal: Stamina bars. Yes, really
  88. Traversal: Walk walk walk…
  89. Traversal: …walk walk walk…
  90. Traversal: …walk walk walk!!
  91. Tutorialization: Ship building tutorial, or lack thereof
  92. Unskippable Cutscenes: Mostly docking and landing
  93. Viscerality: The all important viscerality is completely absent in this game. Guns sound bad, look bad, and feel bad…
  94. Viscerality: …for a full…
  95. Viscerality: …three negatives
  96. Outro: I’ve seen worse, but a long gauntlet against boring enemies isn’t great…
  97. Outro: …and the constant teleporting in the actual final fight is worse
  98. NG+: Lack of carry forwards
  99. NG+: So, the game actively encourages not only doing multiple NG+s (10 to be precise) but also encourages you to do so FIRST despite all logic and reason. As mentioned on stream this would be a negative even if this was in a good game, and this… is not a good game, so this is a full..
  100. NG+: …three…
  101. NG+: …negatives
  102. Padding: Repeating temples each NG+. That’s 240 temples all told…
  103. Padding: …for two negatives
  104. Audio Spam: Mostly with the companions, but it’s nonstop…
  105. Audio Spam: …for two negatives
  106. Choices: Or the near total lack thereof…
  107. Choices: …for two negatives
  108. Enemy AI: Usual BRPG issues
  109. Guidance And Flow: Quite a few areas with very non-obvious, non-indicated paths forward (often a single entrance to a colossal base, for instance)
  110. Hubs: Each town is way too spread out, even with internal fast travel, with vendors all over the place
  111. Kit: Powers. Too little variety, too little use, too expensive to use (unless you do the 240 of course)
  112. Unintentional Skipping: Quite a few instances of it. Either talking to people or walking too far, usual suspects
  113. Walkthroughitis: Several instances of ‘what the hell am I supposed to do next’, which is weird considering the over-reliance on the quest markers…
  114. Walkthroughitis: …for two negatives

Total War Troy

A fun, if simple, gaiden game to the Total War series. Anyone familiar with the Total War Warhammer series will instantly be familiar with the style and concept, but the additional quests and mythic monster systems are a welcome addition, and the relatively smaller campaign works well for it. Still has most of the general issues of the Total War series, it’s worth noting, as well as the fact that at a certain point in the game you’re probably good to just put it down rather than play to completion.
Type Of Review: Unfamiliar Run
Total Story Score: +7
Total Gameplay Score: +8
Golden Number: 31.95
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 2 days / 10.93 Hours
Time Reviewed: 2-26-2024

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Brickwork: Maps. There’s only a few, but they are good tone setters
  2. Brickwork: Overworld Map. Surprisingly well crafted and visually stunning
  3. Atmosphere: Units. There’s only really the one group of units but they’re still worth a point
  4. Sound: Soundscape. Usual for the Total War series
  5. Voice Acting: Surprisingly decent in this one, especially from the advisor
  6. Cutscenes: Opening cinematic campaign setup thingers
  7. Prime Opt: The narrative as you wind through the mythic monsters quests is surprisingly engaging

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Alternate Advancement: Decree ‘tech tree’
  2. Core Mechanic: Deity system. Picking a deity, boosting their rating, spending it for points, good for complimenting or changing playstyle
  3. Difficulty Options: Good difficulty options for both layers
  4. HUD: Decent at-a-glance. Could be a bit more clear, but it’s still there
  5. Kit: Hero skills and leveling choices
  6. Kit: The mythic units themselves, with their own unique mechanics to vary up playstyle
  7. Minigame: Skirmish mode, general
  8. Music: Decent stuff, mostly in battle
  9. Prime Opt: Quests and subsequent rewards
  10. Prime Opt: The ‘go after a mythic monster’ quests, with their own paths, perils, and battles
  11. Replayability: Plenty of people and playstyles to go around
  12. Save System: Not the best, but there is a decent save system (including an option to save prior to certain events and battles right there in the menu)
  13. Starting Options: Historical or mythical… or, uh, in between, also the various factions (obviously)
  14. Strategic Layer: Agamemnon, promote commanders to gain benefits (and motivation), as well as the tributary mechanic (‘vassalize’ enemies to gain a steady supply of resources)
  15. Strategic Layer: Diomedes, Argos’ finest (spend several turns training specific special units to then be available, but cannot double up) // Menelaus and his settlement grabber (can spend resources to just claim a ruined settlement anywhere… but it’s expensive, and it starts off totally defenseless)
  16. Strategic Layer: Hector: The league benefit (more allies equals more benefits, helpful in a game where conquest sucks so much) and the fight over Troy (missions to raise rep, once-only benefits at certain points, can cost enemy their rep if certain conditions are met)
  17. Strategic Layer: Memnon, similar horde faction to Penthesilea with a more varied unit spread and more interesting strategic mechanics of reinforcements and recruits from Egypt
  18. Strategic Layer: Paris, Helen (the load on your neck who provides bonuses if placated), and having a gigantic target on your back (functionally hard mode)
  19. Strategic Layer: Penthesilea, bonus units from battle (on top of max cap, go away after 2 turns), War Spoils (sack specific cities for specific benefits), Horde faction
  20. Strategic Layer: Rhesus, Countless Hosts, rituals ehh, // Sarpedon and his unique resource per region (functionally a different quest tree), while also being able to straight up steal resources from other trade deals (however, relying on said trade deals to exist at all) // Aeneas, able to spend resources to gain timed missions to gain favor, and cost favor to then gain bonuses from the dead
  21. Unit Design: Generally good stuff. Defensive infantry, offensive infantry, ranged, and (weak) cavalry
  22. Tutorialization: An entire tutorial battle (two, actually) to teach you the game’s mechanics
  23. Viscerality: Not the best, but still enjoyable

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Camera: Usual Total War camera wonkiness
  2. Controls: Inability to have multiple control groups
  3. Controls: Lack of hotkeying and basic RTS functions
  4. Controls: Periodic jank and wonkiness (typical for a Total War game)
  5. Core Combat: Dragon Age 2 Syndrome
  6. Core Combat: Lack of toggle for friendly fire
  7. Core Mechanic: Diplomacy is, as per usual, pretty awful… even worse than, say, in Warhammer 3…
  8. Core Mechanic: …and can get honestly aggravating, especially with no option to avoid it or ignore ‘calls’
  9. Interface: UI scaling and font size issues
  10. Late Game: Usual issue most long strategy games have
  11. Mid Game: By the time you’ve reached mid game you’ve seen all the game really has going for it, but the enemy units start having full stack armies (plural) and with so few options to bypass, almost every battle turns into a slog rather than an engagement
  12. Strategic Layer: Unfulfilling at best
  13. Strategic Layer: Whackamole problem. This is by design, but it’s still aggravating to run around playing whack a mole knocking over armies that just burst out of the ground thanks to cheated in resources and the AI not playing by the same rules
  14. Terrain: Or lack thereof. Tons of maps where terrain barely matters, or does not matter past a few trees (if that)
  15. Unit Design: Ajax: Spend a LOT of resources on costly bonus fights in order to gain Renown in order to be able to host feasts (to lose equipment) and gain more diplomacy… that just feels bizarrely designed

Age of Sigmar Realms of Ruin

This is a terrible RTS. Bad controls mired in awful level design with a lack of unit design, no real terrain to work with, whack-a-mole enemy AI, bad difficulty settings, and a story that is so generic and misplaced it might as well not even be set in the setting in question. I absolutely do not recommend playing this game.
Type Of Review: Unfamiliar Run
Total Story Score: -15
Total Gameplay Score: -51
Golden Number: -171.56
Cheats: Yes (resources, it barely helped)
Total Play Time: 2 days / 13.23 Hours
Time Reviewed: 2-27-2023

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Spritework: General brick and spritework positive

Story Negatives:

  1. Character: The Sigmarines in general
  2. Cutscenes: General nonsense, weird pacing, and dialogue
  3. Cutscenes: Pretty but vacuous
  4. Dialogue: A bit too wordy and entirely too poorly chosen
  5. Fake Drama: Everything to do with ‘holding the line’
  6. Foreshadowing: Of COURSE the artifact is a chaos artifact, we learn that almost first thing
  7. Intro: So the entire Intro does the opposite of what it’s supposed to; set up anything. Characters, setting, plot, scope… nothing
  8. Pacing: The story slogs in slow lurches for how little happens
  9. Storyboarding: Multiple cutscenes just make absolutely no sense. Especially the lengthy conversations occurring literally 10 feet from the enemy
  10. Voice Acting: It’s… not great in general, but Sigrun (one of the most common actors) gets special mention for being terrible
  11. World Building: Or lack thereof
  12. Writing: Exposition, or lack thereof
  13. Outro: An awful, dragged out, boring ending which was somehow too fast and slow at the same time
  14. Atmosphere: Totally fails at even having an atmosphere, other than ‘swamp’
  15. External Continuity: Whatever you think of Age of Sigmar, this did not do a good job of utilizing or connecting with it
  16. Plot: So the whole game is about saving a town, and then the people saving it burn it to the ground cuz Chaos corruption…. cool

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Difficulty Options: Optional challenge objectives
  2. Options: General options positives

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Options: No proper resolution settings
  2. Core Combat: Committal combat, and the removal of micro
  3. Intro: Mission 1 is not a good Intro and horribly sets up how the game works. Or, depending on your perspective, perfectly sets up how the game works
  4. Controls: The units control… badly
  5. Audio Spam: People just will NOT shut up about the mission objectives. It’s the same voice line each time too
  6. Pathfinding: Bad in general
  7. Pathfinding: Also makes it so units have trouble even reaching targets
  8. Core Combat: Dull and disinteresting, with barely any actual gameplay
  9. Party AI: Stare and do nothing until given orders issues
  10. Difficulty Options: Lazy difficulty, as per usual (health and damage)
  11. Level: Mission 3. Audio spam, super fast respawning enemies, mass swarms, tiny pop cap, tons of audio spam, multiple capture points, multiple attack vectors, and loads of outranging enemies without the speed or abilities to deal with either…
  12. Level: …for a full…
  13. Level: …three negatives
  14. Level: Mission 4. So you have entirely too little time to build up towers, no resources to back you, very little unit variety to work with, the boss instantly kills your units if he gets in range, and he’s only vulnerable to one type of damage (which nothing indicates other than just trial and error)…
  15. Level: …for a full…
  16. Level: …three negatives
  17. Difficulty Cliff: Mission 4
  18. Difficulty: Overtuning on timer for Mission 4
  19. Level: Mission 4 also has only one solution
  20. Level: Mission 4 Trial and error level design
  21. Enemy Design: Mission 4’s boss fake armor and insta kills
  22. Level: Mission 5 is just a friggin’ multiplayer map, and with the usual whack-a-mole problems
  23. Level: Mission 6 is…… another multiplayer map
  24. Level: Mission 7 is a very, very boring No Build which isn’t even properly triggered to allow you to grab adds as you go
  25. Level: Mission 8, another slogfest made worse by unrepairable buildings that fail the mission if you lose and an endless wave of enemies chip damaging it down
  26. Level: Mission 9 and I sure hope you like multiple infinite spawning monster closets in all directions
  27. Level: Mission 10 is on the same damned map as 9 with even more infinitely spawning trash everywhere
  28. Level: Mission 13 is yet another upward hill push but goes out of its way to make the first objective knocking over a building… and gives us a tool designed to knock over buildings, but it doesn’t work. Then the second objective… is to use that ability to knock over buildings
  29. Level: Mission 14 is yet another kill slog which would be ‘okay’ if not for constantly resetting your army and progress each map hop
  30. Level: Mission 15 continues the trend of having to cover a huge swath of ground with few units simultaneously while monster closets spawn enemies to retake spots the moment you grab them
  31. Level: Mission 16. Resetting of the engineers, multiple single points of failure, no recovery possible at all
  32. Unskippable Cutscenes: Quite a few, in every single mission, and to make it worse, the game is still playing in the background so you lose control of an active battle during cutscenes…
  33. Unskippable Cutscenes: ..for two negatives
  34. Padding: Health. Even on Easy mode, enemies just have far, far too much health…
  35. Padding: …for two negatives
  36. Difficulty: Binary difficulty. You’re either winning, or lose instantly, no turnaround and no in between
  37. Core Combat: Whack-a-Mole, as the AI likes to send juuust enough to irritate to wherever you’re not, just enough that it forces you to split your forces (because towers are completely useless), which then runs into the problem that your main force is just not strong enough to endure on its own, slowing everything down as you either replace or heal them
  38. Unit Design: Towers are completely useless
  39. Core Mechanic: Food cap being miniscule
  40. Core Mechanic: Combined with tiny health and ease of death of units
  41. Padding: Combined with slow move speed
  42. Encounter Rate: Combined with enemies spawning often and numerous
  43. Padding: Factory Worker Syndrome. Each mission, in general, requires you to pay careful attention to very, very boring gameplay or else suffer the consequences, as it is entirely too easy to lose (see; binary difficulty)
  44. Padding: Capturing nodes which takes aaabsolutely forever
  45. Unit Design: Or lack thereof. Single digit units per side, which by itself wouldn’t be bad but then there’s the fact that each unit barely has any design to it at all
  46. Encounter Rate: Infinitely spawning swarms of enemies on Mission 17
  47. Difficulty Curve: Mission 17 is, somehow, yet another difficulty cliff
  48. Boss: The boss of Mission 17 is insane
  49. Terrain: So Mission 17 has this wonderful setup of terrain where you can only reach the critical spots by going right by the boss. Also some of those spots are in attack range OF the boss, who will be attacking you NONSTOP while you capture those points that you HAVE to capture to damage said boss
  50. Level: The eternal slog of Mission 17
  51. Outro: Probably supposed to be a victory lap, but ended up being boring
  52. Unit Design: One last screw you to not even having the undead as playable (and their units sucking… mass swarmers in a game with slow build time, limited build throughput, and low resources)
  53. Traversal: Units are just so… so so slow

Iron Harvest

A very difficult RTS to recommend. On the one hand, the aesthetics, unit design, and level design are legit. On the other hand, the pathfinding, controls, terrain design, and formations are all pretty terrible, making for an unusual mishmash of great and bad ideas. I’d still recommend it if you’re interested in interesting RTS’s and can overcome the ‘mid 90s’ feel of it.
Type Of Review: Unfamiliar Run
Total Story Score: +19
Total Gameplay Score: +24
Golden Number: 47.35
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 3 days / 24.82 Hours
Time Reviewed: 3-1-2024

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Brickwork: Generally good, especially the countryside and snowy landscape
  2. Atmosphere: Polania. I love the rough tone and the thrown-together look
  3. Atmosphere: Usonia and Saxony
  4. Atmosphere: Rusviet. Brutalist and concrete
  5. Sound: Soundscape
  6. Doodads: A lot of effort is put into the map design’s doodads, most especially on the town and city maps, really making it feel like you’re fighting in the rural countryside…
  7. Doodads: …for a full…
  8. Doodads: …three positives
  9. MSQ: Rusviet 3, lots of little bits of world building and flavor lore
  10. Cutscene: The opening cutscene of the Saxony campaign is actually legitimately well done, and quickly and appropriately gets across just how traumatized Gunter is
  11. MSQ: Saxony 1. All vim and fire, a quick charge which dissolves almost immediately into a slog which then devolves even further into a fighting retreat
  12. Character: Gunter. Just enough cantankerous old man combined with being a decent person, with a slather of badass on top
  13. Plot: The Saxony campaign’s central plot is far more interesting than the other two. The politics, the descent of the prince alongside Gunter, the intrigue. Perhaps coincidentally it is also the plot where Fenris has the least relevance
  14. MSQ: Saxony 7. The intensity of the final boss fight, alongside the ‘avengers assemble’ moment, is probably the best sequence in the game

Story Negatives:

  1. Characters: Virtually every character is just not interesting
  2. Plot: The Polania and Rusviet campaigns are lacking at best, with no interesting events or hooks
  3. Plot: The entire Fenris backdrop certainly could work, but unfortunately doesn’t. SPECTRE over in Bond films had more development, motivation, and methods than these people do
  4. Cutscenes: General issues with cutscene construction
  5. Storyboarding: Very weird storyboarding and animation
  6. Localization: Voice acting is a mixed bag at best
  7. Pacing: Narratively the story lurches all over the place in all three central campaigns
  8. MSQ: The final Rusviet Revolution mission was already kinda ehh but the actual ending is actually awful. Yet another two line nothingburger
  9. Themes: As with a few other games I could name, the game is entirely too on the nose in its theme and writing

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Co-Op: Same missions but split control, think Archon Mode from Starcraft 2
  2. Core Mechanic: Breaking cover with mechs
  3. Core Mechanic: Infantry weapon swapping
  4. Difficulty Options: Optional hard mode achievements
  5. HUD: Good, especially in the overlay on the units themselves
  6. Info in Game: Armor types, weapon damage type, when weapons reload, current experience… there’s a bunch
  7. Intro: Passable Intro. Introduces cover, weapon swapping, healing, and mechs
  8. Level: Polania Mission 2 is quite legit, especially for such an early mission. Swappable weapons give access to quite a few tactics, optional objectives that give additional tools for the rest of the mission, a solid hold the line segment
  9. Level: Polania Mission 3. Resource grabbing, optional secondary bases, lots of choke points and defenses… which you can then turn around in the second half to hold off the vastly superior enemy forces
  10. Level: Polania Mission 5. Start off with no resource generation but an advanced base and a defensible position, with the ability to create more defenses as you explore the map gathering resources to feed said defenses. Second phase of the map is take whatever you’ve earned and smash three objective points
  11. Level: …for two positives
  12. Level: Polania Mission 7. Two pressure points, lots of optional objectives, and finally getting to play with the big guns
  13. Level: Revolution 1. A very solid hold the line mission with plenty of tools and escalating attack waves
  14. Level: Revolution 3. Three possible routes for the train, lots of resources, good chokepoints for defending and good initial setup, and train design
  15. Level: Saxony 1. The first half is a charge with respawning reinforcements on your side… then a hold the line… then a fighting retreat, followed by another hold the line
  16. Level: Saxony 5. A very defensible position against a vastly superior force, with few resources to work with… but not too few
  17. Level: Saxony 6. Probably one of the better usages of enemy spawns, and having an ally to cover and cover you on the side
  18. Level: Saxony 7. While heavily scripted, the final boss fight is appropriately intense, rewarding, and fun
  19. Minigame: Challenge maps
  20. Minigame: Risk mode
  21. Music: Varies based on faction but generally good
  22. QoL: Skip mission option, and a few other little tidbits
  23. Saves: Auto, quick, manual…
  24. Saves: …for two positives, only not managing the third due to issues with autosaves and some bugs with quick loading
  25. Starting Options: For both Risk mode and skirmishes
  26. Unit Design: Brunhilde. A mobile bunker with artillery and self healing. Stands out amongst the hero units in design
  27. Unit Design: Hero units in general across the major factions
  28. Unit Design: Kaiser. Big, heavy, can entrench, one big gun, and surprising mobility
  29. Unit Design: Polania, Smialy. Fast, great range, good shot, and melee, very micro-able and works well with the game’s limitations
  30. Unit Design: Polania, Straznik; can fire while moving, great suppression fire
  31. Unit Design: Polania, Tur. It’s slow and big but it’s exactly what it should be and has the range to back it up
  32. Unit Design: Rusviet, Gulyay-Gorod fortress mech. Slow as balls but lots of health and armor, and a good array of weapons to deal with a lot of different possible unit types
  33. Unit Design: Rusviet, Serp. A bit faster than the usual heavy mechs, but lower on armor and health, but with an absolutely devastating melee attack if it can get in range
  34. Unit Design: Saxony, Erlkonig. A great mobile artillery with the ability to self spot
  35. Unit Design: Saxony, Grimbart. Relatively cheap, decent speed, average stats, but absolutely murder on infantry in a very focused fire kind of way
  36. Unit Design: Saxony, Isegrim. Probably the best workhorse unit in the game; it’s kind of average across the board, but it’s average at EVERYthing. Mobility, speed, range, damage, armor, and health. A great frontliner
  37. Unit Design: Saxony, Woden. Solid cost with solid armor, surprisingly good speed, and great range, plus a fun ability (the rockets)
  38. Viscerality: Good visuals, good audio…
  39. Viscerality: …and honestly it gets even better in the DLC…
  40. Viscerality: …for a full three positives
  41. Level: Usonia 1. Starts off small no-build, but gathers more and a good spread of units, plus the objectives can be hit in whatever order and can be used to bypass enemy formations
  42. Unit Design: Usonia, Knox. It’s a big honkin’ pile of guns but is balanced by forced alpha strike, long cooldown, good mobility and speed, and acceptable price
  43. Level: Usonia, general
  44. Outro: The final Usonia mission is an appropriately structured city siege of doom, followed by defending the exact same city against assaults from all directions

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Bug: Crash and checkpoint issues
  2. Controls: Delay issues. Weird pauses in between orders given and followed, this is true for the menu too
  3. Controls: Formation issues. In summary, there… are no formations. Multi-unit formations just split up based on individual unit movement speed, and even same-unit groups have trouble maintaining any cohesion as they move. This actively gets in the way of controlling the game and microing…
  4. Controls: …for a full…
  5. Controls: …three negatives
  6. Controls: Inability to have multiple control groups
  7. Core Mechanic: Cover-based mechanic. The game leans onto it way too heavily for not doing anything to support it (abilities or terrain)
  8. Difficulty Options: While it affects something other than health and damage (yay) it does affect the infinitely respawning enemies (boo)
  9. Enemy AI: Enemy AI targeting issue. The AI just… picks someone to target and beelines
  10. Level: Rusviet 3, binary stealth fail state
  11. Level: Rusviet mission 7, Tesla City. Enemy defenses that can instantly kill your units, except for one relatively weak unit that has to solo them, while the enemy spawns a metric ton of swarmers to both attack you and retake these spots constantly just makes the whole thing a chore
  12. Overly Skippable Cutscenes: Entirely too easy to skip dialogue completely on accident
  13. Padding: I get the aesthetic but practically speaking units are just entirely too slow. Lots of just waiting around in maps, dragging the missions out
  14. Pathfinding: Related, but the units collision varies a bit but in many cases is niiice and big for the niiiice big mechs. Which means a whole lot of traffic jamming and getting stuck, even in relatively open areas. This ties into another issue, terrain design
  15. Pathfinding: The pathfinding is very 90s RTS, and all that implies…
  16. Pathfinding: …for two negatives
  17. Strategic Layer: Base building woes. You want to build a base here, there, or in between? Tough, build in this one spot. Nothing shows the buildable terrain either, other than just trying to
  18. Terrain: Then there’s the issue with terrain cover ‘painting’, where (in a game where cover based mechanics are given high priority) there just is not a lot of painted cover spots
  19. Terrain: Too much of the terrain is problematic on two major levels. First, entirely too much of the terrain is too small for the size of armies that will be moving through them… not just mechs, but infantry too…
  20. Terrain: …for two negatives
  21. Unit Design: Infantry, in general, are just under-designed (notably grenadiers and heavies)
  22. Unit Design: Rusviet flamer mech. Slow, bad armor, low health, short range, low damage, only useful against one enemy type, and nothing to counteract its weakness (like a morale mechanic, or the ability to knock units out of cover or buildings)
  23. Unit Design: Saxony exosuits. They’re hilariously slow, have to manually target enemies for melee, have no closing ability, their mortar ability does no suppression and is very inaccurate and does too little damage and, to top it off, you have imprecise control over said mortar
  24. Level: Usonia mission 6. Very, very sparse resources in a heavily defended map encouraging you to lean into carriers or infantry
  25. Controls: Retreat being uncancellable, not boosting speed of mechs, and not necessarily targeting the nearest base is not great

Pokemon Legends Arceus

This is probably the best main Pokemon game I’ve played as of the writing of this review (have not played Violet yet). It’s flawed as hell (glitchy and poorly optimized graphics, frustrating irritations in navigation and controls, and the bloom is absolutely terrible) but then there’s everything it does RIGHT… which is a lot. I’ve rarely seen an RPG play this smoothly, with this many quality of life features, and tons upon tons of great design decisions. And that’s on top of actual good core meat too, with a great combat system, great synergestic systems of catching and raising, fun boss fights, and actually well designed enemy encounters. Hugely recommend this flawed masterpiece.
Type Of Review: Unfamiliar Run
Total Story Score: +12
Total Gameplay Score: +84
Golden Number: 206.78
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 8 days / 56.13 Hours
Time Reviewed: 3-16-2024

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Animation: Surprisingly good (when they bother to)
  2. Atmosphere: The ‘units’ of the Pokemon themselves, ranging from adorable to cool to cute to… whatever Bidoof is…
  3. Atmosphere: …for two positives
  4. Atmosphere: While mostly absent the usual Pokemon atmosphere, there’s still a general vibe of the unexplored and untamed wilds
  5. Brickwork: Grassy plains, which admittedly covers most of the game, but it’s still nice
  6. Brickwork: Snowy fields. This time it’s just one zone, but they do a good job of selling the cold
  7. Camerawork: Again, weirdly good cutscene camerawork
  8. Character: Cyllene, Irida, Adaman. They’re all not quite a full character, but they’re all interesting enough to deserve mention and properly supportive
  9. Characters: Several memorable and interesting ones
  10. Doodads: Infrequent, but present, mostly in towns
  11. Humor: Weirdly, the game actually made me laugh more than a few times
  12. Intro: Weirdly solid Intro. You’re dumped into the past, people aren’t sure what to make of you but (being from the present) you already have skill with Pokemon so you naturally ingratiate yourself
  13. MSQ: The number of people being reasonable and decent despite
  14. Plot: The core plot is surprisingly down to earth and works well for it. We don’t know pokemon, go figure ‘em out
  15. Secondary: And the world building inherent therein. There’s far too much to list here but there’s a crazy amount of lore to the Secondary quests and it’s honestly pretty awesome…
  16. Secondary: …for a full…
  17. Secondary: …three positives
  18. Sound: Soundscape in general
  19. Spritework: Could be better, but the pokemon in general looks decent… and, y’know, there are 242 of them…
  20. Spritework: …so we’ll give it…
  21. Spritework: …three positives
  22. Storyboarding: Once again, just bizarrely good cutscene design
  23. Theme: The new people in a foreign land trying to learn how it works and its ways
  24. World Building: Small tidbits here and there, but fun ones

Story Negatives:

  1. Character: Melli. He’s irritating, sure, but like… a lot of characters start off that way and quickly get better. Melli just stays irritating
  2. Character: Volo was barely a character, despite being one with a ton of screen time and from the very beginning, and then surprise! And they don’t really establish him properly, and he’s just sort of a generic muwa ha ha villain… again… out of absolutely nowhere
  3. Cutscenes: Far too much leaning on the ‘fade to black’ style of cutscene, especially aggravating in a game that actually has legitimately good cutscenes
  4. Empty Text: Continued repetition woes
  5. Empty Text: The bane of JRPGs
  6. Fake Drama: The banishing, in its entirety
  7. MSQ: The banishing, in its entirety
  8. MSQ: The conflict ball of Kamado is already irritating but the fact that it just flips almost instantly and is then promptly forgotten is really aggravating
  9. Music Direction: Massive tonal dissonance. Otherwise rather serious scenes weirded out by bopping music
  10. Outro: And the actual final ending sequence is such a nothingburger it hurts
  11. Outro: The outro is… not great. The initial climb up and threat is decent, but it’s then immediately hampered by a bad padding scene followed by bad padding sidequests
  12. Pacing: The plot starts strong, meanders hard, then speeds up right at the banishment

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Alternate Leveling: Learning new moves directly to the pool for each pokemon
  2. Alternate Leveling: Grit and the direct control over EVs, which finally puts this mechanic solidly and fully in the player’s hands, AND it’s retroactive so no detriment for doing so whenever instead of punishing you for leveling ‘wrong’…
  3. Alternate Leveling: …for two positives
  4. Alternate Leveling: Merit points and recovering packages
  5. Animation: Bosses and their dodgeable attacks
  6. Boss: Avalugg. Some camera issues aside, some solid fun attacks and avoidance
  7. Boss: Kleavor. Weirdly, the first boss is probably one of the better ones thusfar
  8. Boss: Arceus. Probably the best overall of the new ‘fling’ boss fights
  9. Boss: The final boss fight (all three of them) is actually really, really hype. Six very solid, well spread, well designed, well kitted pokemon in a row, followed by Giratina, followed by Giratina 2. And each fight is actually properly hard, with actual Pokemon difficulty design…
  10. Boss: …and I should mention that this is quite possibly the best boss fight in the entire franchise for me…
  11. Boss: …for three positives
  12. Build: Moves. Many, many to choose from leading to an insane amount of Build customization…
  13. Build: …for a full…
  14. Build: …three positives
  15. Build: STAB itself is functionally a part of Build consideration, considering how important it is…
  16. Build: …for a full…
  17. Build: …three positives
  18. Build: Then there’s the actual TYPES of Pokemon and their weaknesses, strengths, and immunities, and a ludicrous amount thereof…
  19. Build: …for a full…
  20. Build: …three positives
  21. Build: Pokemon themselves. There’s lots, they vary, again tons of Build potential…
  22. Build: …for a full…
  23. Build: …three positives
  24. Build: Then there’s trained moves, the Arceus equivalent of TMs and HMs…
  25. Build: …for two positives
  26. Core Combat: 6 party, 4 moves per. The forced limitation in combat is what really helps sell these games and has never not been good…
  27. Core Combat: …for a full…
  28. Core Combat: …three positives
  29. Core Combat: Action order. Using a proper initiative added a great deal of depth to an already interesting combat system
  30. Core Combat: Being able to actually move around in combat is a weirdly large game changer, among other things letting us control the camera in combat
  31. Core Combat: Heavy / Fast attacks. Extra mana cost to modify a move is already interesting…
  32. Core Combat: …but the way it interacts with the initiative long term makes it even better
  33. Core Mechanic: Lots of synergized systems in this one. Almost every activity you do benefits at least two other activities, helping you to essentially always be progressing…
  34. Core Mechanic: …for a full…
  35. Core Mechanic: …three positives
  36. Core Mechanic: Weirdly enough, stealth is pretty well designed and solid, which is nice considering how beneficial it is when capturing AND battling
  37. Core Mechanic: Capturing. Between the new systems (back capturing, varying ‘alert levels’ on pokemon, stealth, different ball flinging), capturing is the most solid it’s ever been. You can toss, sneak, distract, fight… and the catch rates are much improved with all these combined systems…
  38. Core Mechanic: …for a full…
  39. Core Mechanic: …three positives
  40. Crafting: Crafting is whatever, but you can craft on the fly (with what you have on you) or craft at an easily accessible bench (with what’s in your bank), and it shows how much you have of what where
  41. Difficulty: Optional tasks to fill out Pokedex. The variety of it, the design that went into it, the fun of doing so, the route of doing so…
  42. Difficulty: …for a full…
  43. Difficulty: …three positives
  44. Difficulty: Generally well designed difficulty throughout
  45. Difficulty Curve: Generally solid difficulty curve
  46. Encounter Rate: This is pretty much the ideal encounter design. All enemies are visible on the overworld, distinguishable at a distance, and avoidable or approachable per player choice…
  47. Encounter Rate: …for a full…
  48. Encounter Rate: …three positives
  49. Encounter Design: Lots of the trainers have some good, real thought put into them, reminding me of some of the older ones like Black and White
  50. Enemy AI: Reasonably decent, similar to older Pokemon games
  51. Fast Travel: Usable almost anywhere, at any time, and instantly…
  52. Fast Travel: …for two positives
  53. Flow: The game flows wonderfully with the removal of so many extra steps of padding
  54. Grind/Leveling: Exp share
  55. Grind/Leveling: Gain experience for gathering, catching, and fighting, which gives us alternative and fun ways to progress…
  56. Grind/Leveling: …for two positives
  57. HUD: Icons over wild pokemons head indicating difficulty or requirements for catching
  58. HUD: In general, but especially in combat
  59. HUD: Pop-ups indicating progress on pokedex completion
  60. Info In Game: Lots of info on moves, abilities, stats, pokemon
  61. Interface: Icon design, for pokemon and items both
  62. Interface: Search and filters for pokeboxes
  63. Interface: Surprisingly solid journal and quest marker design
  64. Intro: Again, pretty solid. Here’s the setting, here’s the premise, get to catching and cataloging
  65. Itemization: The various exp candies. The straight level candies are less interesting, but the multitude of gradient exp candies that you get for engaging in the game’s mechanics are much better…
  66. Itemization: …for two positives
  67. Itemization: Items in general. Berries, varying types of balls, etc.
  68. Map: Icons, filters, good info
  69. Mid Mission Checkpoints: Especially during the boss fights
  70. MSQ: Generally well designed to the point where it’s always pushing you to engage with the many synergistic systems
  71. Music: With one notable exception, the songs are pretty solid
  72. Overworld: Rewarding exploration. There’s items, crafting materials, pokemon to catch, enemies to defeat, quests to do, and events to do…
  73. Overworld: …for two positives
  74. Penalty For Failure: Blacking out, dropping a few items which can be recovered (and helping others with it too)
  75. Postgame: As per usual for the series, a decent and solid post game, with several quests and new objectives, bosses, and a new final boss… twice…
  76. Postgame: …for two positives
  77. Power Progression Curve: Solid and smooth
  78. QoL: Evolution changes (‘banked’ evolutions, no trade requirements, evolve the moment a requirement is fulfilled and not upon next level up)
  79. QoL: Moves and learning thereof
  80. QoL: Swapping frontline pokemon with L and R at will
  81. QoL: Swapping in battle with no detriment
  82. QoL: Swapping moves straight from the menu with no cost or detriment is great. This is such a great game changer and is, functionally, a respec option…
  83. QoL: …for two positives
  84. Replayability: General replayability…
  85. Replayability: …and lots of options for said replay
  86. Secondary: Reasonably fun, and designed to encourage the core loop of exploring and capturing…
  87. Secondary: …to the point that I never really got tired of them…
  88. Secondary: …for three positives
  89. Sound Design: Pokemon cries mostly. Helps to find and navigate
  90. Traversal: Aaand you can mount in mid air to stop falling damage, and gliding is legit, and it’s generally awesome
  91. Traversal: Also you can swap mounts on the fly AND they auto swap in appropriate situations
  92. Traversal: Wyrdeer. Can mount and dismount while moving, it’s fast, it has a jump, and it’s convenient
  93. Unit Design: A general aggregate for several well designed lines (Snorlax, Alakazam, Raichu, Heracross, Mime, Gastrodon)
  94. Unit Design: Aggregates galore (Ninetales, Tentacruel, Magmortar, Magnezone, Electivire)
  95. Unit Design: Another solid aggregate spread (Blissey, Roserade, Toxicroack, Gardevoir)
  96. Unit Design: As with all Starters, Infernape is a solid fighter/fire (as tired as that combo is)
  97. Unit Design: Crobat line. Mean weaknesses, relatively low defenses, but great speed and great moveset. Also a good ‘worth it in the end’ line
  98. Unit Design: Decidueye line. One of the rare Grass Starters which is well designed
  99. Unit Design: Empoleon… lotta Starters in this one
  100. Unit Design: General Legendary and Mythic design
  101. Unit Design: Lilligant line. Uniquely suited towards using moves otherwise hostile to itself, making it a solid glass cannon type
  102. Unit Design: Lowbies. Cute, not very competitive, but solid usefulness. (Bidoof, Starly, Shinx, Wurmple)
  103. Unit Design: More aggregate pokemon designs (Ursaring, Goodra, Rhyperior, Togekiss)
  104. Unit Design: More aggregates! (Gengar, Spiritomb, Machamp, Dusknoir)
  105. Unit Design: Samurott line. More offensively aligned than usual Water Starters, but still good
  106. Unit Design: Starter town returns with Torterra
  107. Unit Design: The Eevees. While there’s some variety in design quality here, there’s still a solid spread
  108. Unit Design: Typhlosion line. As with all Starters, solid types, stats, and moveset
  109. Viscerality: I’ve seen better, but plenty of moves still look and sound cool
  110. Visual Distinction: Especially noteworthy given the fact that you can fly and still tell what you’re looking at. It’d be more except for the awful bloom

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Audio Spam: While it doesn’t bother me, some people have expressed issues with audio spam as you roam around gathering stuff
  2. Controls: Lack of rebinding and some… weird choices in what buttons do what in what screens
  3. Gotcha: Several, several cases of a battle happening with no warning or prep time. The only reason this is only one negative is the ease of swapping
  4. Graphics: Framerate and performance issues. Stutters, pop in, glitchy terrain…
  5. Graphics: …for two positives
  6. Grind/Leveling: Mandatory exp share
  7. Info In Game: How to evolve, what they evolve into, related info
  8. Interface: Lack of proper search functionality for the pokedex
  9. Interface: While not the worst, inventory could be a lot better and it gets to be a hassle at later levels sorting and finding stuff
  10. Itemization: Regardless of the padding issues with inventory space, the cost accrued therewith is entirely too high for what it offers…
  11. Itemization: …for two negatives
  12. Lighting: Too much bloom. Way, way too much bloom
  13. Minigame: The balloon races. The concept is fine, but the controls are far too jank for the time limits set
  14. Music: No Music
  15. Outro: So the final boss was actually fine, but y’know what wasn’t? The random padding sidequest in the MIDDLE of the Outro that mandated another padding fight with the bandit idiots
  16. Padding: Having to talk to the professor and update the dex everytime you want to zone
  17. Padding: Inventory space related issues. I know that’s normally interface or itemization, but here it’s ultimately a padding issue; having to traipse back to town to dump off loot (that you want to loot) and spending entirely too much time expanding your inventory
  18. Postgame: The legendary djinn catches. Enough said
  19. Save: One save file nonsense, as per usual
  20. Secondary: There’s a single quest, very early on, which uniquely sucks. You have to catch a large buizel… which does not have a static spawn for an Alpha (which would make this tolerable) and is rare as hell (we caught over 30 and never got one)
  21. Secondary: The wisps quest. Walkthroughitis and boring besides, and honestly contrary to the overall gameplay loop
  22. Song: The town theme. As demonstrated on screen, it hits these same beats with both central instruments, making it sound more repetitive than it is, and making it actually grating
  23. Tutorialization: A bit too railroaded and a bit too padded
  24. Unit Design: Unown. Yes I get it, they’re a gimmick, but they’re also pretty damned terrible and (frankly) shouldn’t actually be a usable pokemon at all
  25. Unskippable Cutscenes: Yep
  26. Walkthroughitis: Evolutions (mostly the weird ones)

The Messenger

This is a weird one to talk about, and essentially impossible to discuss without spoilers. All I’ll say is that, for a First Game, this is solid. Generally fun platforming, with the addition of the ‘hit to regain jump’ mechanic being a brilliant idea, and the game in general was quite brave. It tried a lot of new things, didn’t succeed at a lot of them, but nonetheless is still an overall enjoyable experience. If you are into 2D Platformers I can definitely recommend.
Type Of Review: Unfamiliar Run
Total Story Score: +11
Total Gameplay Score: +18
Golden Number: 62.85
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 3 days / 16.1 Hours
Time Reviewed: 4-28-2024

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Brickwork: The first swath of the game in general. The Autumn Hills with lovely red trees and forestry, along with the Catacombs. This one’s tricky, because it looks plain, but paying attention to detail will notice the bits of skulls and bones and coffins and other lovely details fleshing out the catacombs. Then there’s Bamboo Creek. The lovely usage of layers and ‘fog’ to indicate the depth of the trees, the detailing of the sun and the leaves on the bamboo, the rushing water. Alongside this, Glacial Peak and the frozen wastes, and the developing mountains in the distance, and finally The Tower of Time is brilliantly done. The shrines, the ruins, the stars, the stylings
  2. Brickwork: So, the Cloud Ruins and the Underworld. The new stylings are a bit much for me, but they’re still visually interesting and worthy of a positive. Then there’s the Sunken Shrine. The constant motif of the sun and moon, the sea in the background, and the water slowly pouring in
  3. Brickwork: Quillshroom Marsh is nice in general, but what really earns this is the 16 bit version. The level of detail is damned good, the fog, the foreground… great stuff
  4. Brickwork: River Turquoise gets this one twice for being two excellent tilesets. First we have the lovely present, with spring pinks and greens, and great blue then there’s the bleak and despairing past, covered in greyscale but managing to stay distinct, with dead and rotting foliage everywhere
  5. Brickwork: The bad future. Good lord is this horrifying
  6. Humor: I have to give credit to the jokes. They’re all fairly fourth wall breaking, but they’re at least worth a laugh
  7. Moment: The cabinet. Just… in general
  8. Moment: The big spoiler reveal. The build up, the shift, and the payoff
  9. Cutscene: So, everything to do with the actual big reveal; the loop. Falling to our ‘death’, being rescued by the dragon, and riding in… just like the intro
  10. Cutscene: Further points to the followup cutscene where we reveal our role as the next Shopkeep, the Soldier and the time skipping, aaaand the reveal of the next chapter of gameplay
  11. Brickwork: The Music Box is great. The steampunkyness, the background being the same stylings as the front but palette shifted so as not to distract, the repeated piano motif, and of course the portraits of the Muse
  12. World Building: I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it. It’s mostly in the background but it’s there and it’s solid
  13. Brickwork: The Voodkin Shore. These are some properly done tropics, with lots of attention to detail in the huts, foreground, and foliage
  14. Dialogue: This is a strange one. The dialogue in general is good, but what really makes this pop is the ‘tell me a story’ sequences. Some interesting, well written, and engaging tidbits about psychology, analysis, and storytelling

Story Negatives:

  1. Outro: Of the ‘nothingburger’ variety. After all that, you fight the final boss, free him… then whoops it was all an enemy ploy and literal seconds later you just… win, the end
  2. Atmosphere: So… the game does this weird thing where it likes to either make you feel bad for something you have no choice in doing, or mocks you for failing, and it just grates after a while
  3. Pacing: The story lurches all over the place after the halfway point. It’s pretty solid until then, but then you go across a colossal stretch of gameplay with essentially no narrative until it suddenly just comes all boiling up for a rushed Outro

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Controls: With one absolutely glaring exception noted later, the game controls exceptionally well (especially for a Unity game). Tight, responsive, and intuitive, and all while being rebindable…
  2. Controls: …for two positives
  3. Core Mechanic: Jump recharging upon hitting an enemy or object (or later, a projectile) is a great mechanic. It’s a natural evolution of the double jump and rewards skill while also providing a defensive tool
  4. Kit: Not a lot actually, but the climb and the grapple make for some neat kit
  5. Enemy Variety: This is a weird one. There isn’t a lot of enemies, but each one is pretty distinct from the others and has to be approached completely differently
  6. Guidance: A pretty common one for the genre; coins (or in this case, time shards) helping to indicate what and where to go
  7. Mid Mission Checkpoints: Surprisingly good ones overall. There’s a few case specific situations where they aren’t, but by and large the game does a really good job of not forcing you to redo sections for no good reason…
  8. Mid Mission Checkpoints: …for two positives
  9. Music: Occasionally the music does slap (Quillshroom and the Music Box come to mind immediately)
  10. Penalty For Failure: Go back to the last checkpoint and lose several of your upcoming currency, but also there’s ways around that depending (taking too long, entering a boss fight, entering a cutscene)
  11. Level: Catacombs. Finally starting to showcase some actual level design, but still clearly in the tutorial phase of things. While the stage is pretty long, they do like to introduce a few gimmicks and a few interesting platforming challenges
  12. Level: Bamboo Creek: Leaning into the platforming side a lot more now, with extended vertical sequences and a greater usage of escalation in level theme (most notably the interactables that move gates or platforms)
  13. Level: Howling Grotto. Finally doing some proper escalation in terrain design, utilizing spikes and enemy types with greater care to present some proper obstacles
  14. Level: Quillshroom Marsh leans pretty heavily on the enemy side of things, but still does quite a bit right. Most of them are counterable and placed reasonably well throughout
  15. Boss: The Queen of Quills is mean, but fair boss who rewards clever platforming and counter-attacking
  16. Level: Searing Crag is when the game has officially stopped playing around, as they’ve now given you a decent amount of time (for upgrades) and kit (glide and grappling hook) to allow for a lot of control of your character, and the stage absolutely takes advantage of that…
  17. Level: …for two positives
  18. Level: Glacial Peak is probably the best level at this point in the game. Very precise platforming, creative usage of spikes and enemy shots, introduction of the bounce mechanic, and surprisingly good recovery possibility for skilled players…
  19. Level: …leading to two positives
  20. Level: The Tower of Time is the best platforming level in the game. Lots of excellent, tight but not too tight sections, great recovery, great faking out. I love the escalation then de-escalation with the lasers, and the creative usage of the primary level gimmicks (lasers, warping, and timed switches)…
  21. Level: …for a full…
  22. Level: …three positives
  23. Level: Autumn Hills, part 2. When the time variances are unlocked things get interesting, and progressing through is properly harder
  24. Level: Searing Crag, part 2. Same general idea as Autumn Hills 2, with new ‘loops’ in level progression
  25. Level: Glacial Peak, part 2, is just plain mean, but in all the right ways. Only a few minute changes to the level and wham
  26. Level: Sunken Shrine. This place is great in itself, several very fun and creative sections, and a nice infinity symbol loop through the stage…
  27. Level: …earning two positives
  28. Level: River Turquoise is an interesting breather level, but still very fun for it. The Donkey Kong Country barrels, the constantly flipping backgrounds, great stuff…
  29. Level: …for two positives
  30. Boss: Butterfly Matriarch. I was unsure about this one at first, but the fact that the invisible platforms are always there whether revealed or not tips it over to positive territory. It rewards you for paying attention and cuts down on padding for repeat attempts
  31. Level: Elemental Islands. These are mostly micro levels, but combined they form some very fun challenges
  32. Boss: The Demon King, weirdly enough, is a pretty solid fight. The first phase is mostly pay attention avoidance until you get the rocket, but once you do the amount of control you have over it and hitting him is pretty solid, and the second phase is a ‘stay alive until win’ section which works better than it should
  33. Outro: The Music Box is probably not the objectively best stage in the game, but it’s easily my personal favorite. The tempo and timing, the great platforming, the switching gimmick as per the norm, good checkpoint placement, good usage of enemies and encounter design, whole thing is great…
  34. Outro: …for a full…
  35. Outro: …three positives
  36. Outro: The final boss. Hard, but fair, well designed and well varied, love the tempo of the attacks and the control the player has over the fight
  37. NG+: Fromsoft style, but it’s still there
  38. Difficulty Curve: Surprisingly smooth curve upwards throughout
  39. Itemization: Some solid, Megaman style itemization. Almost entirely in enemy drops, but still well utilized
  40. Outro: The Picnic bonus content’s finale is interesting and innovative. First the race instead of a traditional fight, which is actually a really neat idea I wish they did more with. And second, the punch out style final boss fight

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Music: This is a weird one. There are sections of the 8 bit soundfont that are unpleasantly piercing, I had to absolutely crank the volume down to avoid hurting viewers’ ears
  2. Gotcha: Ninja Gaiden respawns. They’re not the worst but they’re definitely there
  3. Level: The first segment of the Tower of Time is weirdly awful and irritating compared to the far better and more difficult sections later
  4. Boss: Barma’thazel. Yeah he’s entirely too overtuned, and there’s some situations where you basically can’t do anything to avoid getting hit thanks to positioning or RNG
  5. Controls: The glide. Instead of having a dedicated button for glide, which would solve every issue I have with it, it involves having to jump then release then hold to glide… but the thing is it’s semi inconsistent in its application. But that’s not the main issue, the main issue is very simple; you glide when you don’t want to by accident, which in a game with this tight of platforming completely screws with you…
  6. Controls: …which gets much worse in the later stages which are far more precise and tight…
  7. Controls: …but I need to really explain this. The further into the game you go, the more difficult platforming gets (properly difficult, mind) which is awesome, but it reaches a point where I’m no longer just fighting the stage, but the controls to accomplish this, and all the while slowly hurting my hands doing so. And the sheer ease with which all of this would be solved makes it all the more egregious
  8. Guidance: Or lack thereof. Yes there’s the hints (good luck with those by the way) and you can go grind to get a dot on the map (which is misleading), but the map barely has any indicators of where to go and the actual game itself is not particularly good about indicators…
  9. Guidance: …leading to two negatives
  10. Level: Cloud Ruins 2. General bullcrap and instant death across long swaths of no checkpoints
  11. MSQ: So, this is an aggregate, but there are several large swaths of the game where there’s arduous stretches of replayed game. Just finding where to go next, or getting lost in a section, or being unsure of how to get where you’re going, or being unsure of where TO go, and it just drags
  12. Backtracking: Lots. Lots and lots… and lots and lots. It’s probably the worst part of the game, and dovetails into the next three issues I’m about to type up…
  13. Backtracking: …earning itself…
  14. Backtracking: …three negatives
  15. Walkthroughitis: So this is a weird one. There IS some guidance in the game but it’s vague and/or luck based and/or changes based on where you’re at, and almost always involves a nice long walk (covered in Backtracking up above). Thing is, most of this is solved with a walkthrough. The moment I was told ‘go here’ the issues I was having mostly faded away. This reached its zenith at one point where I actually had the currency to buy the ‘go here’ marker on the map and it… mislead me into about 30 minutes of needless backtracking. And the whole game is like this the moment it ‘opens up’…
  16. Walkthroughitis: …leading to a full…
  17. Walkthroughitis: …triple negative
  18. Padding: So this one’s hard to explain but stick with me. There’s obviously no fast travel and no traversal tech to speak of, but the real problem here is there are only a tiny amount of portals from the hub to go out into the world. This means, guaranteed, a nice long trek across stages to get where you’re going. Sometimes this is new content (yay!) and then sometimes it is super not, and if you’re wrong there’s no ‘recall’, you have to go back to the nearest shop point to get back to the hub to start the whole process over again. It takes the tight, smooth flow of this type of game and slams a railway spike into its gut…
  19. Padding: …earning a full…
  20. Padding: …three negatives
  21. Level: Fire Mountain. There’s some good stuff here, but there’s also hand-hurtingly tight jumps with entirely too little recovery room across multiple instant death sequences with no checkpoints in between
  22. Padding: This is technically a ‘level’ negative but the thing is it’s for almost every level in the game. I’ve analyzed a lot of games in the last 7 years, and a lot of 2D Platformers in specific, and you really start to notice some early, amateurish mistakes. Now most of these are fine, there’s still solid level design on display and the game is still fun (until the metroidvania part anyways), but the real problem is they don’t have proper theme escalation and conclusion in level design. An element is introduced, and then often introduced… again, and then reiterated far too many times, and then sometimes another time, and almost never concluded. What this means is almost every stage in the game FEELS longer than they are, because of the odd tempo to the repetition of themes. I commented on it early on and it never stopped being an issue