Dating simulators are a genre of conflicting sensibilities. On the one hand, we’re encouraged to immerse ourselves in the absurdist high school fantasies, ludicrous fan-service, and never-ending conflicts over waifus and husbandos. In other words, there’s a general lack of self-seriousness to the proceedings. However, this immersion is all but lost when you realize that – in many titles in the genre – everyone loves you by default. Even if you “lose”, you’ll still end up with someone, even if they weren’t your first choice. Before you know it, making decisions becomes an automatic process, requiring only a cursory glance at the options to determine which has the best chance of leading to intimacy.
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”.
“This feels a lot like Super Mario Galaxy,” was one of my first thoughts upon starting Gears for Breakfast’s Kickstarter success story A Hat in Time. The resemblance only grew stronger as the game progressed, with everything from the art style and game mechanics to the music cues and animations harkening back to Mario’s outer space excursions. Not content to be a simple retread of familiar territory, though, A Hat in Time manages to bring in new ideas while doing an admirable job of measuring up to its acclaimed influences.
I suck at RTSs. Over the years, I’ve tried repeatedly to get into the genre, yet never managed to make any headway. From mainstream successes like Halo Wars and Total War: Shogun 2 to smaller, more “accessible” titles like Boid, I’ve always hit brick walls almost immediately. Going up against the AI sees me getting stomped as soon as the tutorial ends (or sometimes even earlier than that), and multiplayer is completely out of the question.
With my stellar track record, I was more than a bit apprehensive when approaching Mushroom Wars 2. However, its adorable art style won me over, aided by promises that it was approachable for players of all skill levels. I must say, I’m extremely glad that it did.
Video games have become increasingly dour over the last few years.
With a push towards more realistic environments, faces that are slowly crawling out of the uncanny valley, and the ever-popular greys and browns of most shooters, it’s easy to forget that video games were once primarily cartoony and colourful.
Thankfully, amidst the (admittedly gorgeous) vistas on display in games like Anthem and Forza Motorsport 7, several games slipped into E3 2017 that demonstrated the power of modern technology when it comes to creating imaginative, vibrant worlds. However, environment design can only get me so interested in a game; it’s what populates these locales that tends to truly make them shine. These are the games that had me clutching the sides of my face, ranting in all-caps to my friends, and trying not to squeal loud enough for my neighbours to hear, because OH MY GOSH DID YOU SEE THAT IT’S SO ADORABLE AND I NEED IT NOW!!!!!
Pulling off good horror with pixel art is difficult. Titles like Lone Survivor come to mind as somewhat recent examples of pixelated horror done right, but such games are far from the household names that Outlast, Amnesia, and even Slender have become. Part of the reason for that may be that it’s difficult to properly set up jump scares when playing from what is generally a pulled-out, third-person view; giving the player so much vision can undercut the effectiveness of such surprises. To combat this, many “bit horror” games choose the same tactic chosen by The Count Lucanor: the horror comes from the imagery and circumstances rather than their sudden presentation.
Video games have explored countless horror film tropes over the years: abandoned hospitals, possessed toys, and ghoulish monsters, just to name a few. Such games have, for the most part, taken themselves completely seriously, sometimes to their detriment. There’s been a drought of games that capture the spirit of schlocky, B-movie slasher films like The Evil Dead and Grindhouse. Slayaway Camp aims to fill this void with an interesting combination: the typically fast-paced thrills of the genre mixed with the methodical pacing of a puzzle game.
Full disclosure: it is entirely possible that playing ABZÛ was very much a case of “right place, right time”, where this particular point in my life was the perfect moment for me to experience it. Certainly, having a pleasant, zen-like gaming experience is not something that I’m opposed to at the moment. With that out of the way, ABZÛ is one of the most wonderful video game experiences that I have ever had the pleasure of being immersed (heh…heh heh) in.
Appearances can be deceiving, and this is certainly the case with So Many Me. Despite its cartoonish appearance and cast of cute and cuddly characters, what lies beneath the surface is a truly difficult, occasionally maddening puzzle-platformer. As an adorable green jelly blob named Filo, you suddenly find yourself in a world requiring saving; you know how these things go. Luckily, he quickly comes across a small green egg that hatches into a duplicate of him. Discovering that the clone mimics his every move, Filo sets out on his journey, discovering new clones (the “Me”), interesting powers, and an assortment of enemies along the way.