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”.
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?
“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.
“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.
I arrived in town bright and early, and was quickly greeted by a company representative. Almost immediately, they began rattling through their “best practices” list that every new hire has to hear. To be honest, I didn’t really mind; this wasn’t my first run as mayor, but, seeing as I’d been out of the game for a while, it was good to get a refresher course. Something seemed off, though. The rep’s ear-to-ear grin and exuberant shaking of my hand seemed to mask the fact that they were more than a little scatter-brained. Within minutes, they jumped from the acquisition of Lings (citizens of the town) to resource gathering and management, and then into combat and trading.
“But wait, how do I—”
“Aaaaand that’s it! Good luck!” cried the rep as they dived past a Mushface (a race of lumbering mushroom-folk) into the town’s dimensional portal. I looked at the Mushface, confusion and worry plastered all over my face, but he just shrugged and walked through the portal. An auspicious start.
Randomness in games is an excellent method of promoting custom story generation. The fact that nearly everyone will have an experience that is at least marginally unique means that there’s always something new and interesting to talk about that many players may have never seen or heard of. That’s the goal with The Long Journey Home, a rogue-lite space game that channels FTL: Faster Than Light and No Man’s Sky into a challenging, galaxy-trotting, survival experience.
Come and sit down; I’ve a tale to tell,
Of a game whose mechanics were boring as hell.
It was quite the looker; the work put in showed,
Yet no joy was present while travelling Plague Road.
The menus seemed like those for mobile devices,
As though the game had an identity crisis.
It seemed to be built to be played on the go,
Where perhaps the repetitiveness wouldn’t show.
Instead, it was ported, so haphazardly,
To Vita, PlayStation 4, and also PC.
I found all too quick did monotony creep,
And before long, the game had me falling asleep.
Snake has existed in one form or another for around 40 years, now, so it would be unsurprising if the classic “eat things to grow longer” formula had worn out its welcome by now. Evidently not, as Sssnakes seeks to add more to the game than just a few extra consonants in the title. Featuring a wealth of stages, new game mechanics, and colourful, updated visuals, the question remains: is it better to leave the classics untouched?
NEO AQUARIUM: The King of Crustaceans is a game about cock-fighting with sea creatures. Did I mention they’re armed with lasers? Well, they are.
Now, chances are those sentences elicited one of two responses: an open-mouthed, “Um, WHAT?!?!”, or a smirk, followed by, “Now this, I’ve got to see”. As you may have guessed, I fell into the latter camp. However, I quickly discovered that NEO AQUARIUM’s scattershot, nonsensical ideas extend far beyond its basic premise. Its gameplay, controls, and even performance are all over the place, making for an often chaotic, unpredictable experience. For this reason, I find it all the more surprising that the whole thing is so painfully mundane.
Where does one start with a game like The Architect? In all honesty, sitting down to write this review is just giving me traumatic flashbacks to the displeasure that was this game. I wish I had something witty or insightful to say about it, but nothing’s really coming to mind. The music’s okay…I guess? At least, it would be, if there was more than a handful of compositions available. What I’m trying to say is that this could get messy. The unfortunate thing is that this is my first time doing an “official” review, where I was actually provided a key by someone promoting the game. If this is a sign of things to come…oh boy.