“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.
Sine Mora EX is a veritable melting pot of ideas. It’s a bullet-hell shmup that replaces lives and health bars with a timer. It weaves a grim narrative of war, rebellion, and genocide, all seen through the eyes of anthropomorphic animals. To top it all off, its creators include the Hungarian studio Digital Reality, Grasshopper Manufacture (known to many as Goichi “Suda51” Suda’s development house), and Akira Yamaoka (known for his Silent Hill soundtracks). Somehow, though, all these disparate elements combine to create a shooter that is challenging, beautiful, and consistently entertaining.
Life is a series of choices. What to do, where to go, how to act, and so on. Some choose to live in the moment, focusing on their pursuits with reckless abandon. Others live for those around them, eager to help in whatever way they can. Regardless, everyone is their own person. It’s easy to look back on a series of events and think, “What if?” For instance, what if you had turned down that job offer? Then again, suppose you were dead broke and days away from ending up on the street. Suddenly, that job offer doesn’t seem like a choice. You may know of some potential repercussions; you may not. The decision remains the same, because, regardless of what hindsight may later tell you, it seems like the only option at the time. Such is the case with Last Day of June, a story-driven title that feels like a puzzle game version of Groundhog Day meets The Butterfly Effect.
How do I describe Redout?
Then again, perhaps a more accurate question is, “How do I describe Redout without drowning this review in more buzzwords than the average E3 press conference?” The thing is: doing so would require me to pour hours and hours of time and energy into a single paragraph instead of just playing more Redout. Not exactly ideal. With that in mind, allow me to indulge.
Redout is one of the most delightfully high-octane, edge-of-my-seat racing games in recent memory. It’s a thrilling adrenaline rush of an experience that caused more emotional outbursts from me than a House of Cards season finale. It’s a finely-tuned joyride that’s been polished and balanced until it shines in a cornucopia of flashy colours.
What I’m saying is that Redout is really freaking good.
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.
The titular Guardians aren’t the only thing under pressure in the second episode of the ongoing point-and-click adventure series. Following a painfully average first outing, Under Pressure is tasked not only with continuing the established story, but also with giving players a reason to care. Featuring new characters and locales alongside some far more dramatic emotional beats, is there enough here to help the series claw its way out from mediocrity?
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.
Telltale Games cut their point-and-click teeth on comedy, with Sam & Max and Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People becoming early breakout hits. As time went on, though, they headed in a more drama-focused direction, with the most publicized catalyst being the first season of The Walking Dead. Its focus on life-changing decisions made under tight time constraints created an emotional rollercoaster of an experience, with a plethora of scenarios whose outcomes were a far cry from black and white.
With this pedigree behind it, Guardians of the Galaxy: Tangled Up in Blue feels like a huge step back. That’s not to say that it’s a wholly worthless experience, but it feels like a game that largely ignores the developments made by its predecessors.
From its opening moments, OVIVO gave me a sense of déjà vu.
After getting briefly stuck, I learned that pressing the space bar caused my character to flip to the other side of the floor, turning what was once empty space into a new plane to slide along. Immediately, a slew of “yin-yang platformer” flash games came to mind, and I was worried that OVIVO would end up feeling like a generic clone of a tired (though still enjoyable) concept. Thankfully, it revealed itself to be a pleasant, bite-sized game that uses clever mechanics and clean visuals to create a thoroughly compelling experience.
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.
City-building strategy games have a storied history of complexity, offering a plethora of options for players to take over the world or run their burgeoning empire into the ground.
It’s odd then, that Age of Rivals takes away so much control, favouring a scaled back and largely randomised approach to empire-building. Of course, there’s a good reason for this: being a two-player card game with limited scope, simplified gameplay is necessary to keep matches down to a manageable time of around ten minutes.