Challenging games are a pain to review, and not just for the obvious reasons. Sure, it can be difficult (and often frustrating) to throw yourself against the same obstacle repeatedly, solely because you want to see as much of a game as possible before reviewing it. What I find to be far more stressful, however, is when that challenge becomes insurmountable. With the recent controversies surrounding games like Cuphead, the notion of saying that a game is “unfairly difficult” is frequently regarded as taboo. It’s not that the game is hard; it’s just that you need to “git gud”.
Masters of Anima is a game that takes heavy influence from cult classic titles like Pikmin, Overlord, and Little King’s Story. I know this, despite – unfortunately – having never played any of those. It puts me in something of an odd position when reviewing Masters of Anima, as mechanics that may feel derivative to fans of similar titles instead come across as fresh and interesting. Subtle changes to the formula go unnoticed by me, as Masters of Anima – from my perspective – is the progenitor of that formula. With that in mind, it should be clear that I have no thoughts on how Masters of Anima compares to its contemporaries. That being said, taken as a standalone product, I found it to be an absolutely wonderful experience!
I’ve been hinting and casually mentioning it for a while, so it’s time to come clean: I got a full-time job. For those of you who are curious, it’s a software engineering position at Getty Images! Like, the stock photo company?
Yeah, I’m, like, kind of a big deal now.
Imagine if Nintendo released a compilation of the best user-created levels from Super Mario Maker as a standalone package; that’s basically Crazy Dreamz: Best Of, except it replaces all the Mario assets with magical cats and other fantasy-themed critters. What’s most interesting is the monetization model: 50% of the profits go to the creators whose levels made it into the game. Not only that, but each level spotlights its creator at the start and end, giving players the option to send monetary tips to their favourite builders. It’s a rather heartwarming collaboration between developers and players, and one which I’d love to see more games explore. However, can the creativity of an entire fanbase produce an inspired, diverse set of game levels to experience?
On paper, Assault Gunners HD seems like the perfect game for me. Featuring a deep customisation system, fast-paced mech combat, and the Dynasty Warriors-esque satisfaction of mowing through hordes of opponents at the drop of a hat, it’s pretty much my personal power fantasy come to life.
Here comes the “but”.
“Walking simulators” have become a notoriously divisive genre over the years, garnering both love for their way of telling an interactive story, and criticism for the general lack of purpose said interaction tends to involve. Branching off this, I like to consider Debris a “swimming simulator”; sure, you have the added ability to move vertically, but the gameplay still very much consists of, “Keep moving forward while being fed assorted storytelling bits”. This is by no means a bad thing, as ABZÛ – one of my favourite games in recent memory – arguably also falls into this category. Unfortunately, whereas ABZÛ was a consistently wondrous experience that left me practically begging for more, Debris is…well, we’ll get into that.
Louis de Richet and Sarah – his mother – are members of the mysterious Golden Order. What exactly this entails is currently shrouded in mystery, though hints of backdoor art deals, occultism, and sleuthing abound. After Sarah pays a visit to the island of a Lord Mortimer, Louis receives a letter, claiming that his mother has disappeared. Eager to find out what’s going on, Louis makes his way to the island, where he finds that his mother was far from the only person summoned. In the absence of Lord Mortimer (whom everyone claims is “occupied”), Louis must interact with Mortimer’s enigmatic guests, in the hopes of discovering what fate befell his mother, who exactly their host is, and why personalities such as George Washington and Napoleon Bonaparte have been gathered on the curious island.
“I’m sorry, what?”
That was my first reaction upon receiving a press email about de Blob 2’s release on current-gen consoles. The inaugural title was a Wii exclusive which – while attention-grabbing to my 13-year-old mind at the time – ended up becoming little more than another bargain basement platformer in the Wii’s sea of them. Hell, I was pleasantly surprised when it got a multiplatform sequel in 2011. Yet when not a peep was heard about the franchise afterwards (following publisher THQ’s closure in 2013), I had pretty much accepted that it was all over for Blob and friends.
Myths and legends are frequently the basis for elements of games, be it their plotline, characters, setting, or some mix. However, these are usually components cherry-picked from a larger narrative, serving less as a means of introducing the audience to the original piece, and more as scaffolding to support the world created by the developers. In contrast, nearly every element of Mulaka feels like it was designed to honour and bring attention to the traditions and culture of the Tarahumara people. Yet rather than being little more than an elaborate Wikipedia page, Mulaka sucks you in with its vibrant world, and does everything it can to keep your attention until after the credits have finished rolling.
“Now I am become Viking, the destroyer of board games.” I made this remark while discussing Wartile in a bored, semi-inebriated stupor with a friend of mine. In hindsight, I find it to be utterly nonsensical – I certainly meant it to be at the time. Yet I still find it to be less bewildering than some of the design decisions that went into Wartile.
Exploration. Discovery. These are terms which frequently find themselves thrown around when a game stimulates any sense of curiosity. And yet, they tend to be ancillary features in whichever game they appear in. Exploring the open worlds of Assassin’s Creed or Breath of the Wild is certainly a way to pass the time in each game, but they’re not the focus; there are quests to complete, baddies to hunt down, and so forth.
To say that Black Mirror is the video game equivalent of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room feels like it may be a slightly overexaggerated claim. And yet, I’m hard-pressed to think of another recent title that created such utter hilarity out of situations that were meant to be dramatic and horrifying. Scenes that tried to focus on familial interactions and supernatural occurrences had me snickering at technical missteps. An intense scene of someone getting stabbed in the neck did little more than make me laugh hysterically. Thankfully, this meant that it wasn’t an experience devoid of enjoyment, and yet it’s still far and away from being a good game in any capacity.