My backlog extends beyond Steam... devonrv’s profile

In other words, you’ll occasionally see me post about…maybe not obscure, but perhaps unexpected games. I’ve already brought up such titles as Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean as well as Fluidity, and you can expect more in the future.

As for my BLAEO wheel: whenever I buy a game on Steam, I always play it a little bit right then so that nobody can say that I bought a bunch of Steam games I’ve never played. That said, I’m going to keep a game labeled as “never played” until I reach it in my backlog and plan on playing it actively.

Also, since there are some games I never plan on 100%ing, I’ll probably just use “beaten” for all the games that I’ve beaten, even if I’ve technically “completed” them as well. I’ll use “unfinished” for when I plan on going back to play all of a game’s content, even if I’ve technically beaten it already.

Lastly, here’s my review of my favorite game, as well as an explanation of differences between all of puzzle’s sub-genres (something not many people seem to know): https://www.backlog-assassins.net/posts/db8kgjb Now edited to include a link to my review of its GB version and its postgame!


My last post included all my high-priority games except for these first two, but I still had a list of games that I might enjoy. I also tried out a couple games simply because they were about to be removed; it’s not like I was gonna run out of time to play the other games, what with the three-month offer.

CLICK HERE FOR PART 1

Disc Room


Reveal the text by clicking the banner

This is an avoid 'em up. You can only move and use whichever ability you have equipped (dodge-roll, time-slow, etc.) by pushing the A button. The level-select is a +-shaped grid; to unlock adjacent levels, you have to complete its task, usually some variation of "survive X seconds" or "die from X types of discs." There's no level design (the saws are even launched in random directions and often from random locations each time), but the enemy variety and goal variety helps make up for it somewhat.

Each section of the map has its own gimmick. The starting area has saws moving along the edges of the arena, the center area has a circle in the middle (you have to be in the circle for your timer to progress), and the top section has the ground separated into tiles, and you have to walk on each tile to increase your timer (with all the tiles toggling back once you've walked on all of them). Those are fine, but the left section has a worm come from the ground to eat you every few seconds (and there isn't much warning, just an outline forming in the sand), and the right section is dark, with only a light, pulsing on and off, to show what's around you (and whatever pittance of light-producing discs the level decides to give you, which could be none). It's always frustrating when the light goes off before you see a disc coming towards you, and that's the disc that kills you before your light comes back on. There's even one level where you don't even get that light; you have to use the disc-absorbing power to get a light disc and bring it into the level to see (and if you die before achieving the goal, you gotta go back and get another one).

Still, it's a solid foundation with mostly-decent execution, but there is one major issue: arbitrary riddles. Notably, two levels require you to survive a minimum of 5-10 seconds in every room you've unlocked, but on top of the fact that many rooms are unlocked by surviving 5-10 seconds in their adjacent rooms, there's one level called "Timeless" where the timer stays at 0. How do you get the timer moving so you can unlock the other two levels? I had to look it up and found a walkthrough specifically for doing exactly that (just goes to show how unintuitive it is), and it involves going to a different level and interpreting the directions the saws are launched as inputs during the level select! You don't need to unlock the "survive 10 seconds in every unlocked room" to best the game, but it helps since the objective to unlock the final boss's room is "survive X seconds total in this area."

And that's to say nothing of the goals that are things like "???? the ????"

When you beat the game, you unlock "hard mode" which is the same level grid, but now all the objectives are "survive 10-15 seconds" and levels can be unlocked from ANY adjacent room instead of specific ones (so if you're having trouble surviving 15 seconds in the room that spawns 8 boss discs, you can try a different level to unlock the one you're after). Instead of ending with another boss, you just have to survive 25 seconds in the last room. I liked it more than some of the more arbitrary goals of normal mode, though it can still feel rather luck-based sometimes since the discs spawn from and are launched in random directions.

Overall, it's okay. Solid gameplay foundation, but some of the levels can be a bit cheap and the goals can be obtuse. Wait for a sale.


Infernax


Click to unearth

Platformer. The overworld is structured like a metroidvania, but the dungeons are all fairly linear, at best having keys in dead ends that force you to double-back. Standard left/right movement and jump (as well as a basic melee attack with the X button), but you also unlock traversal abilities, such as an uppercut (double-jump) and a forward-charge (get across large gaps).

One of the first thing's you'll notice is that the difficulty selection actually tells you what the differences are! Fewer checkpoints and XP loss on death. That sounds pretty bad, but I played on the harder difficulty and thought checkpoints weren't too far apart. Plus, when the game says you lose experience points on "death," it actually means on game-over; you can use in-game currency to buy extra lives so dying just respawns you at the beginning of the room you died (without any XP loss). Plus, every time you reach a save point, you get those lives back, so you're not having to go back to the stores each time.

As for level design, there are moments where enemies can work off of the terrain (like in the third dungeon where the hopping enemies keep hopping up the platforms), but it can be very flat and basic a lot of the time. The overworld is particularly egregious (though you could excuse that due to the whole metroidvania aspect), but even dungeons can be quite repetitive at times:
alt text
Many enemies also make you wait before you can attack them safely, whether it's the spear-throwers who shamble back and forth before abruptly tossing their spear at you (you need your shield up to block it) or the shielded enemies that only give you a moment to attack before they attack and bring their shield back up. They can also take a while to kill at first; luckily, all attacks in the game can be avoided, so you don't have to worry if you decide to sink all your XP into upgrading your attack until it gets maxed out.

Still, level design isn't too bad, but this game also has riddles, one of which is mandatory! See, not long after you beat the second dungeon, you'll reach a dam and a dead end. There's another path, but you can't reach it since you need the double-jump. I went back and forth across the map, doing side-quests just in case they gave me the item I needed, but nothing. After a while, I finally realized which of the NPC's was actually giving a hint on how to unlock the third dungeon.

Despite being able to avoid everything, some attacks can still be pretty cheap. For example, the third dungeon's boss can shoot a large laser you need to duck under, but its weak point is high enough that you can only hit it if you're jumping--AND the game won't let you do short hops; tapping the jump button makes you do a full jump, and the boss's foreshadow animation for the laser lasts much shorter than it takes for you to fall back down from a jump. There's an optional werewolf boss whose melee attacks reach much further than yours, but doesn't really give you time to get out of the way. There's another optional boss (a spider-like thing) that'll crawl on the ceiling to drop eggs that hatch into little spiders before falling back to the ground, but it always climbs up the right wall and drops on the left side, meaning it'll walk right into you when it goes to climb the wall a second time since you'll likely be attacking from the right side of the boss after it climbs/falls the first time. The fifth dungeon has little red enemies that look exactly like background objects at first until they jump at you (and they move faster than you can move); even after you know what to look for, there's a room where they're above the top of the screen, so you have even less time to react to them (and you have to avoid spears in this room as well, with the red guys always landing right between where the spears spawn, right where you'd be standing to take cover).

There's a postgame dungeon, but it can be pretty unintuitive to unlock. When you beat the game normally, you unlock a "book" that mentions the item you need to access postgame, then immediately mentions the dam. This made me think the item was hidden in the dam area, and although I did find a secret dungeon in that area, all I got for completing it was better armor. So, I looked up a walkthrough and found out the way to unlock the postgame dungeon is by making the correct choices in sidequests! It can be rather ambiguous what the correct choice can be ahead of time, but lucky for me, I just so happened to make all the right choices for the ones I did; my hang-up was that there were some I hadn't done yet. In my defense, though, like I said, one of them is really unintuitive: you're told that an NPC became unwell after visiting the upper-left part of the map, so you can reasonably assume that the item you need is there. This is technically true, but it isn't a key item; it's a projectile weapon! You know, the thing you shoot at enemies to make them die, except shooting the sick guy cures him. Maybe--maybe--you could argue this makes more sense in context, but I can say with confidence that I never would've figured it out on my own. It wasn't until after I had beaten the postgame boss that I realized there even is an NPC that hints toward how to solve this quest…in a different town on the other side of the map, and I only figured that out because I already knew what the solution was and I thought "hey, did that random line refer to this?"

If you made the wrong choices, though, it isn't worth going back and replaying the game because the postgame dungeon is the flattest, most blandly-designed dungeon in the game. The enemies are nearly mini-boss tier, but you can just charge up your dash to get past them without fighting. You also have to re-fight the previous bosses, except two at once and they have maybe one or two new attacks (the first boss's refight spawns more of those red guys, and I'm not sure you can kill them faster than they spawn). The postgame boss is okay, but the game wants you to stay on the center platform even though the left platform (which you use to reach the boss) never goes away, so when the boss jumps from the right side to the left side, you'll get crushed before you can react (unless you deliberately jump on the platform where all the hazards are/were).

Overall, this game is okay. There's some good level design, but it also has its fair share of cheap hits and flat, repetitive areas. Wait for a sale.


UNSIGHTED


Click to sight

Hack 'n' slash. Move with left stick, attack with the shoulder button, dodge with A, block with B, hold X to run. You have a ranged weapon along with your standard melee weapon, and although the game says you can aim the gun with the right stick, that only happens when you're at a standstill; as soon as you push the left stick in any direction, that becomes the direction you're aiming, regardless of whatever you're doing to the right stick. You also have a stamina meter that runs out slightly before it looks like it should, at which point you walk slower and can't attack or block (you can still jump, though, so you're not completely defenseless).

The difficulty selection pretends to tell us what's different, but the descriptions are pretty vague. "Explore at your own pace," "the intended experience," but what does that mean? Hard mode's description is a bit more clear, but I still can't intuit if the enemies being "smarter" will result in a fun challenge or a frustrating challenge. I just played on normal mode.

There is one difference that's made relatively clear: hard mode claims that it has "crushing time limits." Thing is, the time limits in this game are…perhaps I've overused/misused the word "gimmick" in the past, but this mechanic really does feel entirely superfluous, like it's just there to add an extra bullet point to the store page (at least on normal mode). See, these aren't ordinary time limits; when you reach the first town, you're told that your character and every NPC have so many "hours" (minutes in real-life time) before they turn evil and have to be put down. At first, you'll be all like "oh no, I have to beat the game before everyone dies," but even if you set aside the fact that you can easily beat the game in around half the time your character is given, it won't take long before basic exploration nets you a decent collection of time-extension items that you can give to low-time NPCs to keep them alive until the end of the game (well, the important NPCs, anyway; the game won't let you waste time-extension items on second-class citizens, even though they also blatantly have timers). Really, the only way a character will die is if you let them, and even then, you'll find store owners later in the game who sell the same stuff and have much longer timers.

Even the escape sequence at the end (where you move slower due to story reasons) gives you around twice the time you need to escape, including when you go the wrong way and have to turn around. All the time limits in the game are just there to feel tense without actually adding anything (at least on normal mode).

I would like to give the game praise for having actual level design, something most hack 'n' slash games don't do. It's no Hyper Light Drifter, but some arenas are surrounded by pits you can knock grounded enemies into, and there's a few parts in the third dungeon where you have to jump across ice platforms before they crumble (then, after two seconds, jump to a side-alcove and wait for your stamina to recharge again). Falling into pits/water/lava doesn't damage you, though; you just get teleported back on the last solid platform you were on. There are also some towers in the second dungeon that shoot at you, but they're very short-lived (there's only maybe three of them, and only in that one dungeon; I don't even think regular enemies show up by them). The fifth dudgeon has flamethrowers, but they're never combined with combat areas, so they just result in you sitting there, waiting for them to deactivate. The fourth dungeon's wind segments were almost promising, but the wind can die down, meaning you have to wait for it to pick back up again; there's even one room where the wind blows in the opposite direction when it finally picks back up, making you wait extra long if you just barely didn't make the last jump.

Not so stellar are the hex-platform segments you have to go through after beating each boss; the next platform only reveals itself if you're right next to the edge, and walking on it has the previous platform turn invisible, making it nothing but trial and error until you finally reach the end and get to see the next cutscene.

At the end of the game, you kinda have to refight the bosses; it's a single entity that transforms into a different boss after it attacks a couple times. It's an interesting take on trying to make refighting bosses not completely repetitive, but when you beat it, you have to fight two of them at once! At least their patterns are synced, but there can still be too much stuff onscreen to keep track of (I'd burn my defense/attack/stamina cogs on this part every time). Honestly, the third phase of the final boss (which is actually unique this time) ends up being easier; the only thing you need to watch out for is that the boss's melee attack has it teleport right next to you before it attacks, so you won't be able to get any hits in (nor will you be able to use your healing item, which takes a second to activate) if you want to avoid getting hit. Also, dying here means you have to redo both previous battles against the doppelgangers, so if they weren't blatantly repetitive before, they are now.

Overall, this game is okay. It's definitely well above most other hack 'n' slash games due to it having actual level design, but I'm still yet to play a game where the stamina meter actually adds anything instead of just forcing you to retreat preemptively and wait, well before any foreshadow animations happen. Wait for a sale.


Mighty Goose


Click it before I run out of creative alternatives

This is a run 'n' gun. You have standard left/right movement and a jump button, but there's very little platforming; one extremely brief vertical section in 2-1 followed by some basic pitfalls, then a similar series of pitfalls in 4-3, and that's basically it. Instead, most of the game will be the screen stopping and waves of enemies coming at you from both sides of the screen (and maybe some from above), and once you shoot them all down, you can continue forward. You might think the game would try to have different level design at least for the arenas, or maybe introduce different enemies regularly, but…not really? IIRC there's the bugs which aren't that different from the soldiers, there are the motorcycle soldiers that move faster, and there's an airborne enemy exclusive to 4-1, but that's it. As for level design, there's one arena that has some bumps on the edges so you can't just stand in the center and shoot at the enemies as they come on screen, but again, that's about it for level design.

Even if that still sounds like something you'd enjoy, keep in mind the explosions and debris from destroyed enemies regularly gets in the way of alive enemies and their projectiles, meaning you can get hit without knowing what hit you.

The difficulty curve is also out-of-whack because the second boss is one of the hardest in the game. You're on a car that's constantly driving forward, every now and then going up/down hills (which changes the trajectory of your shots); the first phase has the weak point in the upper-left, which charges and shoots a giant laser, but since the arena slopes down from the top-left to the lower-right, it can easily cover the entire arena and give you no safe space; you have to walk towards the weak point (turns out it doesn't have contact damage) to bait the laser straight down, then you can safely shoot the boss. The second phase has you shooting down at the tires, but projectiles are constantly coming at you from the right side of the screen (and some from the top of the screen); even though they move slow and can be shot down, the car randomly going on slopes causes your shots to be shifted at angles, making it unnecessarily difficult to destroy the tightly-woven projectiles (you can only aim in the four cardinal directions, making the offset very frustrating to deal with).

The other bosses aren't too bad. There's a giant worm in 3-1 that'll try to fall down on you, but you can dodge-roll out of the way in time. 4-1 has a cloaked figure that spawns little cubes; I forgot what the cubes do, but you can shoot them and the boss just fine. There's also a robot at the end of 4-3 that's constantly scrolling the screen while moving away from you and tossing arced projectiles at you.

The final boss has a shield, and the only way to break it is to keep shooting at it until you fill up your mighty meter, then activate it and shoot it a bit more, at which point you can actually start harming the boss. It's okay, just shooting some regular shots at you and summoning flame pillars you need to avoid/dodge through. The second phase has guided missiles, and it can shoot a sustained-giant-laser downward while moving across the arena; at first, you'll think you'll have to dodge through it, but after a bit, you'll realize it never actually goes to the edge of the arena, so you can just stand there safely. Annoyingly, when the laser appears to be dissipating and is only one pixel wide, it can still hurt you.

When you beat the game, you unlock a postgame level that's quite a bit longer than any of the other levels. It almost has a bit more verticality, but there aren't any enemies during those sections. The most unique thing it does is it has water; you can't dive, but enemies can be underwater, so you have to jump and shoot downward. It also has a unique boss, but it's really difficult since it'll flood the arena and send mines up at you, and you don't have enough time to destroy them if you only have your default weapon (special weapons all have ammo that runs out). Also, if you dodge-roll in midair, you can't stop yourself; pushing the opposite direction on the left stick has you move in the other direction at the same speed, making it hard to be precise with your dodging.

Also when you beat the game, you unlock "mirror mode" which is basically just the same levels again (without the postgame level). They aren't even mirrored. I think there are more enemies (evidenced by some cutscenes where motorcycle enemies ended up in them when there were no enemies during the cutscenes in the regular levels), but it isn't that noticeable. They may actually be easier since you can use your late-game-unlocked ally and power. In fact, I S-ranked every "mirror" level except two: 2-1 (A-rank) and the final level (C-rank), where the final boss was notably much harder (a lot more guided missiles you need to shoot down). I even S-ranked 4-3's mirror level despite dying twice, so I don't know what determines rank. You even get the exact same cliffhanger ending as when you beat normal mode, even though the level-select heavily implies that mirror mode is what would bring closure to said cliffhanger.

Not recommended. Even if this were a $10 game instead of a $20 game, it'd have to be on a pretty big discount before I could recommend it, even to fans of Metal Slug or Midnight Wanderers.


Death's Door


I bet you're *dying* to know what's behind this banner. Heh heh, I'm so funny.

Hack 'n' slash. Left stick moves, A dodges, X does a melee attack, hold LB to aim and push B to shoot, hold RT to charge a more-powerful melee attack. Regular melee attacks can be chained together relatively quickly for a hack 'n' slash (even compared to UNSIGHTED), but it seems like many enemies' attacks are also quicker to compensate. Plus, not only are you still unable to move while attacking, you can't even dodge out of an attack animation, and given how little time the foreshadow animations give you, that could very well mean the difference between life and death.

There's also barely any level design; sometimes there are pits you can lure/knock enemies into, and falling off actually damages you (unlike UNSIGHTED or Bug Fables), but even that much is rare, with most of the game just being generic combat arenas and empty halls. There's a brief part where you can shoot an arrow through a flame to light torches, but that gimmick is over just as suddenly as it's introduced; no time to build on it and have actual puzzles or anything. There are some jars you can break, but most don't have anything in them; green jars spawn glowing white orbs when you break them, but those are actually projectiles that'll hurt you (would've been better introduced by having the enemy green jars first instead of the regular green jars). There's also this one part near the end of the jar level where a grenadier is placed out-of-range and is shooting at you while you have to fight other enemies; killing the other enemies opens the way for you to reach the grenadier. The closest the game gets to having meaningful level design is in the ice level, where platforms start to fall after you stand on them, and you have to hit switches while avoiding the pits and the spinning lasers. Those parts were fun, but again, pretty short-lived.

Also, you can't use healing items directly; you have to find a pot to plant the seed, then you can use it, and you have to find another pot if you want to use another healing item (the plant does grow back and let you heal again from the same pot, but it takes a while and may or may not be based on progression).

The boss of the ice area is especially frustrating. The front half is immune to damage, but its attack reaches quite a bit further than its front, and you can't really get behind it since it always tries to face you. Plus, it has a rolling attack which can only barely be dodged because it'll continue facing you until the moment it starts moving, and it moves pretty quickly. You only barely have enough time to attack once before you need to become evasive again, and since only its back half can actually take damage, that one chance could very easily be in vain. After this, I decided to upgrade my attack speed (something I didn't think I'd have to do since, as mentioned earlier, attacks are relatively quick compared to other hack 'n' slash games).

The final boss also has the rolling attack, but between its other attacks and its better hitbox, it's much easier than the ice boss. There's even a bit more level design with the segments where you have to avoid charging bulls or grapple a grapple point before the platform you're on collapses.

There's a postgame here, but it's extremely aimless, especially after you ring the bell and switch to nighttime. I skimmed a walkthough, and it was basically all just wandering around until you stumble across something new, then wandering around some more until you stumble across what to do with the new thing. I even tried out doing the first one, but there's absolutely no in-game hint what you're supposed to do with the ghosts (heck, since it's nighttime, the Lord of Doors statues are harder to see!). Needless to say, I did not try to finish the postgame.

Not recommended.


Unpacking:
I was hoping against hope that this game would have some puzzle elements, but no, it’s a straight point-and-click. Click a box to open it, click it again to be given a random item (who puts a keyboard in the same box as toiletries??), and then you just…place the item wherever so you can click the box again and be given another random item. It isn’t until after you’ve gotten absolutely everything out of every box when the game decides to put a glowing red outline around the items that are in the “wrong” locations, and at this point, it’s just a matter of trial-and-erroring your way to victory. Why can some stuffed animals go on the ground but others can’t? How come these books can go on this one bookshelf but not this other bookshelf? Why am I even allowed to put a washcloth on the washcloth hook if it’s not supposed to go there? The game also doesn’t get harder; just more bloated. I stopped playing on level 3, when there were about six different rooms I’d have to deal with. Not recommended.

The Riftbreaker:
This is, first and foremost, a management game; the tower defense and twinstick shooter elements are afterthoughts at best. There are dozens of different buildings you can build, three completely separate upgrade trees with dozens of their own upgrades, and a grand total of two different enemy types: run-straight-at-you and shoot-at-you (three if you consider arc-projectile-shooters to be different than straight-projectile-shooters). There was a miniboss at one point that had a low-spread shot that dissipated after a bit, but that was it. Level design isn’t even developed enough to have rooms and halls; it’s just isolated rocks you walk around (sometimes, if you’re lucky, the rocks will be together in the shape of a wall or a circle). Outside of the bland combat, the game is just waiting on buildings to be built, waiting on resources to be gathered, just a lot of waiting. I made it far enough to unlock other areas, the game promising to show me enemies “unlike anything we’ve seen before,” and then it just turned out to be reskins of the enemies I’d already fought (the same generic, bland enemies that have plagued shovelware for decades). I quit not long after that. Not recommended.

Nobody Saves the World

♫Now you're just nobody that I used to know♫

Click to know the body of text

Top-down action-adventure. It's not quite a hack 'n' slash since you don't really have combos, and some forms even let you move and attack at the same time. Dungeons are procedurally generated (the overworld is fixed, though), so I guess it's part roguelite? There are also RPG-mechanics, but instead of the usual "kill enemies to get XP," you have to do sidequest-tier actions to level up different forms, like "kill X enemies at once Y times with this specific attack." You unlock later forms by reaching certain levels with earlier forms. Some of the tasks are quite frustrating to try to do and are best ignored (especially since at a certain point, you'll get plenty of other form-specific tasks, more than enough to unlock all the other forms). Plus, it's not like the forms are in order of worst to best; since melee enemies give you no time to avoid their attacks (and your own melee attacks are short-reaching), you don't have much incentive to use any form except the ranged ones (especially since the mandatory dungeons lock your form-progression sidequests). The game tries to mitigate this by giving some enemies shields that can only be broken by certain types of attacks, but then you can just switch back after breaking the shield.

Speaking of sidequests, completing them gives you stars, and you have to spend stars to unlock the mandatory dungeons. Thing is, the dungeons require quite a lot of stars, and since you're spending stars to unlock the dungeons, having just enough for one usually means you wont have enough for the next one, so you'll have to grind, doing a bunch of different sidequests, before you can finally unlock all the dungeons.

The game actually has some level design; one dungeon has fire-wheels spinning along rails, and other dungeons have projectiles being shot from walls, so you have to time your movement through them. There are even a few regular sidequests that have fixed design instead of being procedurally generated. Unfortunately, since all the dungeons are procedurally generated, mandatory or not, that means the enemies can't be built around the levels, but instead need to have the more generic "run towards the player" AI. There's still some variety despite this, like the torso enemies that stay still for a bit, then wind up and spin towards you before stopping; or the buried enemies that you can't attack until they pop out of the ground (next to you, to attack you); but the end result is still just mobs of enemies heading straight towards you while you run away shooting at them. (like I said, you could use melee attacks, but they make it near impossible to avoid damage, especially the ones where you can't even move and attack at the same time). The ranged enemies fare a bit better, like the cat-cloaks who stand still and summon a hazard circle around you, or this one enemy type whose projectile shoots other projectiles in a spiral pattern, but most of the others are just your standard "run to you and shoot when in range" enemies. The blobs are especially frustrating because their projectiles leave a puddle on the ground, and staying in the puddle for too long poisons you, but the halls are often too thin to walk around the puddles, so once you've killed the enemies, you're just standing there for several seconds, waiting for the puddles to disappear (which is extra frustrating in the upper-right mandatory dungeon where poison lasts much longer than normal).

To keep that from becoming too repetitive, dungeons have rooms that go into lockdown and make you fight waves of enemies. That way, instead of them all coming at you from the same direction, they're coming at you from around the arena! The arenas have fixed level design (even inside dungeons), but even when it isn't just…a room…it doesn't make much difference given how the enemies act. The main difference is when the wave doesn't spawn all at once, but one at a time; you'll think you're safe to shoot at the first enemies, but then suddenly more enemies spawn where you are, and it's made extra frustrating when combined with actual level design like a giant flame wheel you just have to run away from.

The bosses are extra disappointing because they're just larger versions of regular enemies with minor adjustments to their attacks (the only unique boss is the final boss). The first boss is a larger torso that spins longer and bounces off the walls; the second boss is a larger cat-cloak that summons more hazard circles and splits in two as you damage it; etc.

The final boss isn't in a dungeon, and thus you don't need to spend stars to unlock it, so there's one good thing. As for the boss itself, it's another wait-for-the-weak-point boss, with swarms of enemies going after the center point that you need to defend. Sometimes, the boss will shoot a projectile at the center point, but since you can't attack projectiles, you have to switch to the form that can summon familiars and have them take the hit for the center point. Also among this chaos, a small circle can appear on the ground below you, then have an arm reach out to deal damage if you're still close to it; between all the enemy swarms, it can be hard to notice this one after a while.

Overall, this game is hard to recommend. It has a decent bit of variety with the elemental hazards, and it even does a commendable job at trying to add variety to the "run towards you" enemies, but the massive number of stars you need to unlock dungeons can make the game grindy and repetitive at times (only five dungeons are mandatory, but you'll still have to do most of the others anyway just to get enough stars). Wait for a really good sale.


The Pedestrian

Heeey, I'm walkin' here!

Waiting for a sign before clicking? Well, here you go!

Puzzle-platformer. The platforming is always really easy, but the puzzles…are honestly also pretty easy. You switch between platformer mode and room-moving mode, moving the rooms around until you can connect doors/ladders with each other, then you go back to platformer mode to progress. If you break a connection, everything gets reset, which means puzzles need to be simple enough that they can be solved without breaking a connection, so it's really just a matter of figuring out which room goes where.

The game acts like it's gonna get more complicated by introducing things like holes (sends you to whichever room you placed behind the one you're in) and even LEDs that prevent a room from being reset when a connection is broken, but the puzzles never get that tricky until near the end of the game. The only times you'll get tripped up are mechanics that aren't introduced too well, like how keys can block lasers or how the elevator-activation button always moves the elevator to its topmost position instead of whichever floor you're on. The gimmick at the end of the game was especially sinister since the game threatens to reset the position of the key your 3D-self is holding when you go to break a connection, even though there's no other way to solve the puzzle, so you break the connection and the object in question doesn't get reset after all.

The game also introduces things like saws and lasers, and you might think the game is gonna give up trying to have puzzles and go straight action-platformer, but no, those also don't see much use.

Not recommended. It's mostly just kinda boring; even the final puzzles are only a little tricky.


Record of Lodoss War-Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth-

Another Igavania spinoff of a franchise I haven't played yet. What's next, Langrisser? Dragon Slayer? Xak?

Click to view the record

Just like Luna Nights before it, this is an Igavania: similar maze-like structure to the game world as Metroidvanias, but much flatter and more bland level design (even in vertical shafts). The most this game has as far as level design is a few rooms after you get the double jump, there's one hall with a low ceiling and spike patches; I couldn't figure out how to get through without getting hit, but at least it tried. You get progression-based powers just like in Metroidvanias (such as the aforementioned double-jump), but more often than not, you'll just get weapons with higher attack power or a key to open certain-color doors.

What sets this game apart is its element system: you switch between wind and fire elements with the shoulder button, and you're immune to attacks from the element you have equipped. Killing enemies increases the level of the element you don't have equipped (and getting hit lowers the level of the one you do have equipped), and when an element is at max level (3), equipping the element slowly heals your health bar. Oh, there are also a bunch of other elements besides those two, but they have to fight for scraps like magic attacks or the rare elemental weapon.

One of the first things you'll notice is the game feels like it's lagging constantly. Not just because of the somewhat-sluggish movement and slightly-choppier-than-average animation, but also because every now and then, the game speeds up briefly. It's not my computer because I can run The Pedestrian just fine; it has to be whatever engine the game is using. Another irritant is if you unpause the game with the B button, the game also does whatever action you assigned to B (in my case, it was magic attacks).

Almost every boss has some cheap hits that you can only avoid if you memorize and preempt them. The very first boss shoots a laser towards the sky, then sweeps it down (faster than you can move) so the only safe spot is right next to the boss; later, the boss jumps over the arena (so you get hit if you're mid-jump) then immediately slides across the floor (so you get hit if you're not mid-jump). The second boss will run towards you, but you won't know if it'll just attack directly (avoid by jumping) or if it'll jump over you (avoid by not jumping) ahead of time, so you just have to remember when each attack happens in the pattern.

Bosses aren't the only thing that's cheap, though; some enemies are also blatantly unfair. For example, there's an enemy that's just transparent, invulnerable black fog while you're facing it, and since level design is just "hall," you'll almost never not be facing them (especially when they're first introduced). Plus, the backgrounds are detailed enough that the wisps of black fog barely even stand out despite still having contact damage:

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As if that weren't bad enough, there's another enemy that is drawn behind the background, and the only way you can tell it's there is by looking for purple smoke behind the windows:

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And if that's all too unique for you, the game also has generic "blends into the background by being the same color" enemies as well, made extra frustrating by being obscured by the HUD on your way up:

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And just when you think the game can't possibly get any more unfair, there's this enemy that can straight-up turn completely invisible (the GIF compression makes it easier to see its eyes):
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As if all the cheap hits weren't bad enough, the game goes even lower by straight-up recycling bosses. The first phase of the sixth boss is nearly identical to the first phase of the fifth boss, the eighth boss is a duplicate of the second boss, and the ninth and tenth bosses are very similar to each other as well; the only differences are a couple new attacks. Then, before the final boss, the game has the gall to make you re-fight all previous bosses, without any extra attacks! It doesn't even have the excuse of being an endurance test like in Mega Man because you're given full HP/MP/element-level restoration items between each fight! It's just padding. Also before the final boss is a bunch of long, empty shafts and corridors, all of which easily could have been summed up in a single cutscene in a single room.

Not recommended.


RESEARCH and DESTROY


At least click this one! The game deserves more exposure

Turn-based third-person shooter. Each character has a time meter, and actions like walking and shooting drain said meter; when it's out, that character can't move until the next turn. If a character dies, that character can be revived by moving another character nearby and spending some more time holding the examine button. What separates it from Valkyria Chronicles and Codename S.T.E.A.M. (post forthcoming) is that, although you can use the right stick to move the camera without consequence, your time starts draining as soon as you start holding the aim button (LT), meaning you need to be quick as well as precise with your shots. One issue I had is that, even in aiming mode, the game doesn't always make it clear if your explosive shot will get hit by anything, especially a chest-high-wall you're taking cover behind, meaning it isn't uncommon for you to blow yourself up on accident.

Another difference is, instead of enemies having fixed positions or spawn locations, they always spawn around whichever character is closest to the goal, and always at the end of each turn. This means, if you're clever enough, you can usually wipe out all of the spawned enemies in a single turn before they can act and continue forward without taking damage; whether or not you succeed, more enemies will spawn next turn anyway (unless the objective is to kill all remaining enemies on the map). Sometimes they even spawn behind walls, which can be annoying since ghosts can move through walls, but you can always push the X button to toggle top-down view, which uses icons to better show where enemies are in relation to you.

Due to the nature of how enemies spawn, the game could get repetitive even with its fixed level design; however, this is mitigated by the enemy variety. Along with the aforementioned ghosts, there are runners that explode if they reach you, mummies that toss a long-range projectile at you, and even mini-boss-tier enemies like a vampire that spawns duplicates of itself (you can't tell which is which, even if you keep an eye on its movements during the enemies' turn) and a yeti that will revive if you don't destroy all the crystals that grow from its corpse.

There are some issues with the enemies, though. For example, one enemy will only go after a marked character and it can only be seen if you have the marked character selected (can't be seen as other characters or in free-camera-view or even in top-down view), but it can only be attacked by other characters. Fine in theory, but levels can be pretty big, not to mention all the walls they have, so if your goal is to kill all the enemies and this is the only enemy left, you're basically just standing around, ending your turns until you finally see it pop up somewhere.

More frustrating are the assassins. Normally, the game has a cutscene that more-or-less tells you how the enemies work, but this is definitely on the less side because you won't know they can turn invisible (to all characters/camera views) until after it happens. The game does give you the option to "research" enemies so you can learn more about them, but to do that, you have to kill a certain number of said enemy beforehand. This means you won't know how to reveal invisible assassins until after you've had to deal with the frustration of not knowing how to reveal invisible assassins (at least with Vampires, you're given the hint that you need to examine them to finish them off). Worse, it turns out they're only revealed when a character is facing them. Not the camera, the character. Beyond that, your only clue for where they are is a very unhelpful audio cue.

As for level design, while it's fine for the most part, the game doesn't introduce bounce pads. They're just there, and you won't know they'll launch you up/forward until after you try to climb on one. They can also require pretty precise alignment, as if you're just a bit off, your character's feet will hit the bottom of the upper platform, causing you to fall back down and take damage. Also, some levels have elevators, but for whatever reason, the button to activate the elevator would sometimes deactivate randomly and come back on just as suddenly; I have no idea what causes it.

It's not just combat, though; there's also an overworld, showing available levels and beaten levels. This part also has a time meter; you spend time researching enemies/weapon upgrades/etc. or scouting enemy territory to make it an available level. Here, when your time is up, there's a chance that one of the areas you've beaten gets invaded by enemies again, at which point you can defend it. If you have a university (what lets you research stuff) on the territory being invaded, you get a unique map with the unique objective of turning on all three defense pillars in six turns; it's pretty tough, especially since this will likely be your first encounter with the reskinned bounce-pads that always toss you in a specific direction. If the invaded territory doesn't have a university on it…it's literally just a duplicate of the mission you did to liberate the territory in the first place, and thus quite a bit easier than the unique university-defend mission. This part of the game doesn't feel that well fleshed out, not just because there aren't that many territories, and not because defend-missions aren't unique, but also because the game doesn't keep total track of how many enemies you've killed; this means that if you haven't done basic research for an enemy, your kill count for the enemy's advanced research will always start at zero, even if you've already killed enough for both.

The final boss isn't too bad, but it can be kinda slow since you can only hit each eye (its weak points) once per turn before they close and become invulnerable, even if you have enough time to hit them more than once.

Overall, this game is okay. It's got a solid foundation and some interesting mechanics, but a couple of the enemies are more frustrating than fun, and the repeated missions can be a little annoying (even though it doesn't happen much before you beat the game). Wait for a sale.


One Step From Eden


This one has a GIF

Well, I gave this a chance, but it isn't for me. You have a 4x4 grid and the enemy has a 4x4 grid, and you shoot at each other until one side dies. Your special weapons are all cards that are drawn in random order, but you can always just shoot with RT (it doesn't do much damage, though). Having movement be instant from one tile to another is one thing, but almost every attack requires fast reflexes to avoid, even from the beginning. For example, there's a scorpion enemy that shoots a bunch of projectiles at your side, and the flashing ! icons show up so quickly one after the other that you basically just have to get lucky that the spot you seek refuge happens to be where they stop falling:
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They should've all appeared at once so you could be like "okay, that's where I need to go to avoid damage" instead of having them appear one after the other in random locations before abruptly stopping. I admit I haven't played any of the Battle Network games, but I did play Mega Man Starforce Dragon a while back, and I'm pretty sure none of the battles or bosses in that game were nearly this quick or cheap (except maybe the final boss, that being the first time you have to use the counter/parry mechanic to avoid damage).

What's extra frustrating is, when I went to pause the game to record that footage, I realized too late that you can't pause! The start button does nothing, and I hastily had to switch back to the game to stop myself from taking even more damage. Why do single-player games do this?

Bosses are somehow even more fast and cheap than the regular enemies; it's hard to describe because it all happens so fast. I would've gotten game over on the first boss if the game didn't feel sorry for me and let me go ahead. Then, I would've gotten game over on the second boss, but the game once again felt sorry for how badly I was doing and healed me so I could keep fighting. Finally, when I made it to the third boss, the game decided to flip the mechanics on their head by having the flashing tile be where I have to stand instead of what I need to avoid; by the time I figured that out, I had lost quite a bit of health, and the rest of the boss's attacks finished me off, finally giving me an actual game over.

Also, this game is a permadeath roguelike, so getting game over means you have to start all the way over from the beginning (no permanent upgrades or anything). Not recommended.


At this point, on June 1st 2022, an internet technician came to my house and installed fiber optic cables. Finally, I don’t have to wait an hour for a single gigabyte to download! Apparently, the company’s reason for finally doing so is that the main cable or whatever for the entire area got damaged, so they figured they might as well upgrade the infrastructure while they’re at it. Now, I’m not advocating for you to damage your own area’s internet infrastructure if you still have crappy internet, but I think it’s safe to say that I’d still have 450kbps download speeds if it weren’t for that damage.

The Gunk

Clogging up your backlog

Click...or don't. I'm fine either way. Really.

This game is mostly just switch hunts. You just kinda wander forward until you stumble across a seed to plant or a bomb to blow up rubble or some gunk to vaccum like an even-easier version of Super Mario Sunshine. Level design is basically just "hall" and split paths that lead to crafting items, though it can still be annoying to figure out where to go due to the lack of landmarks or other clear direction; I'd be thinking I was going the right way, only to hit another dead end with crafting materials and having to turn around.

It takes a solid half-hour to reach the game's first hazard: acid dripping from the ceiling. The game does a good job of highlighting the location and range of the drips, but it's still just a matter of basic-timing/basic-platforming to get past them. A few minutes later, you encounter the first enemy type, and it's just your standard "run towards you and attack" enemy; all you have to do is vaccum them to grab them and then toss them wherever to kill them. The most notable thing the game does is the enemies spawn from nearby gunk, so you have to vacuum it all up before more spawn, but the game doesn't do anything with its unique ideas.

The game does have a second enemy type, but it takes TWO HOURS before finally deciding to show up. It's a ranged enemy that stays still and shoots at you, and you just have to vacuum/pull it from its roots to kill it. It's actually pretty tough to avoid getting hit since not only are its projectiles pretty fast, but it'll adjust its trajectory based on where you're walking towards. If you're just standing still on a moving platform, however, you'll never get hit. Despite their issues, they result in some of the best parts of the game since they involve the few parts with actual level design, being able to shoot you from ledges you can only reach from certain points.

There is no third enemy type, unless you count the first boss. It's a large enemy that'll charge at you, and you just have to bait it into hitting a wall or something so you can vacuum its back. The second boss isn't really a boss; you're just getting lasers shot at you from the center point (you have to take cover behind some chest-high walls), and you have to run around until you find the thing you need to vacuum.

After the second boss, you reach a wasteland that pretends to be more open, but this is actually a trick since the game will just straight-up kill you for going the wrong way (this was the only time I got game over).

The final boss is just the second boss again, except now it spawns the cannon fodder enemies as well as a couple first bosses. You're still just running around the arena, pulling levers.

To top it all off, despite how thinly-stretched the game feels, despite all the padding, switch hunts, and empty halls, the game is only about four hours long. But hey, at least it looks pretty.

Not recommended.


Cris Tales


It's time for you to click this banner

The game advertises itself as a classic-style JRPG, which is mostly true, but it should be noted that the game also does the "push the button at the right time to increase attack/defense" thing (I probably would've been more interested in the game had I known that). It even does the Bug Fables/Ikenfell thing where being extra precise with your timing lets you deal/block extra damage. That said, the game never actually tells you that, and since the timing for it is slightly later than you'd expect, it can be a while before you'd figure it out on your own.

The game's "see through time" gimmick isn't very well thought out. When it shows up, the left side of the screen shows the past and the right side shows the future, but the simple act of walking left/right has you clip behind the corresponding display, and NPCs can suddenly appear next to you even though there's no corresponding NPC in the past/future. Plus, if you actually want to time-travel (whether to overhear a conversation or simply get an item that isn't in the present), it isn't actually your character doing the time traveling, but the little frog following you; this means not only will you be further away from your target, but you'll have to slowly crawl across the distance. The time-manipulation gimmick is similarly disappointing in combat: enemies have three different states, and the time crystals can send them into their past state (if they're on the left side) or their future state (if they're on the right side)…unless, of course, they're already at their temporal limit for that side (future and past enemies can always appear instead), in which case the state-change just deals damage. As for what good this does, not much; some enemies are stronger in the past and weaker in the future, some vice versa, and others (like most bosses) have minimal-to-no differences, so you're often better off spending your turn attacking.

You can also scan enemies, but just like Bug Fables before it, the descriptions won't be too helpful. However, you also get told the enemies' elemental weaknesses along with revealing their health bar, so it's still worth it sometimes. The game also works this move in with its time-manipulation mechanic since just doing a normal scan will only get you info about its current state; if you want to get info about all of the enemies' states, you have to plant the scanner, then wait for the time mage's turn so you can send it into the future…if the enemy in question is on the right side of the screen. If they're on the left side, you have to activate the past crystal, then wait for the scanner's turn to plant it, then wait some more for the time mage's turn so you can deactivate the past crystal. After a while, you'll realize there isn't much difference between enemies' states, and I stopped bothering with this not long after one enemy's past form wouldn't let me deactivate the past crystal.

As for combat, the game is pretty easy. At first, I thought the game might get pretty tricky since it only takes a few regular battles for enemies to whittle your party's health down, but your MP is so massive (even from the beginning) that you can just use healing and attack spells to get through many battles (and even a boss or two) before you need to worry about refilling it. You also never have to worry about using time-manipulation since, as mentioned previously, it rarely does much of anything, and the game will let you know when it's required for a battle.

One of the only noteworthy bosses is the first one, mainly because of how slow it is. At first, you can only attack its left arm or its right arm; its actual weak point is safe in the background, free to grip any of your party members to prevent them from having a turn as well as heal itself for the damage done to you. Then, when you finally kill an arm and bait the weak point out to heal it, it only takes one turn for the weak point to heal the arm back to full HP and retreat back to the safety of the background. And thus, the cycle continues.

Oh, and the boss is immune to poison, because of course it is. Classic JRPG!

The only times battles will trip you up are when the game changes the rules. Notably, the first boss of the lava zone has a fire-wave attack that goes back and forth across your entire party, but try as I might, I could never block it no matter when I pushed the button. The boss also has a "syncro" attack, and if you try to block it, it deals more damage than if you just let it hit! I sent the dev team an email asking about this, but I never got a response (part of the reason I'm only now making this post is because I kept waiting on an email that never came; not like anyone's reading this anyway. If you are reading this, leave a comment saying Kari Hudo did nothing wrong). Even a simple "no, that was on purpose" would've been enough, but I never got anything! Still, if those were the only issues, it wouldn't be that major, but there are some deliberate choices that exacerbate these seemingly-accidental problems:

  • One of your party members is removed for story reasons, and any equipped items are removed along with him.
  • The character replacing him (who can't be swapped out during this part) has special attacks that use a roulette to determine who is attacked (allies are also on the roulette!), but it spins so quickly that you can't really time it properly. Even the normal attack has a small chance to deal a status effect instead of damage, which is useless when the boss is immune to status effects.
  • The boss actually splits into two bosses, but it's random when it happens. It could be on the first turn, or it could be after 5-6 turns, but it's definitely not based on how much damage you dealt to the boss.
  • When I finally got lucky enough to whittle the boss's HP below 400, it started healing itself.
  • You can still swap out your 3rd party member, but for this part only, you can't do so in the pause menu; you have to take a six-minute round trip back to town. I did finally win when I swapped out my scanner/healer for the robot; turns out the robot is significantly more powerful than the scanner/healer and it has moves that doesn't cause it to overheat. Also, it even learns scan after a while, so that cemented the change for the rest of the game (it just can only scan one form, no ability to scan all forms like the other character, but as mentioned previously, it doesn't matter much).

MINOR LORE CRITICISM: I don't know why the game made such a big deal about Kari Hudo killing Azufra. It was clearly the right thing to do given what happened (and especially what was about to happen).

Outside of combat, the game is pretty bland. Dungeons are just your standard mazes with random encounters, sometimes with a switch-hunt to break up the monotony. The museum dungeon in the third area introduces pillars that you can toggle, but only their extremes are useful (creating a path in front of you or on the floor above you); despite this, if you want to toggle to the other extreme, you have to "revert" it to its middle state first, resulting in lots of unnecessary extra button pushes. The museum is also the only time the game's dungeons go beyond basic switch hunts, instead also making you look around for hints for the password (passphrase?) needed to access the boss room. Even the optional dungeon you unlock shortly before reaching the final boss is pretty bland, only now the switch hunts are significantly more time-consuming since you have to examine a switch to cycle which type of statue appears for which of the three available states, one by one, then spawn the statue and push it to where it needs to go (and only one state is pushable, so that's even more extra button pushes to change its state there and back again).

There are also sidequests, but in classic JRPG fashion, they're just fetch quests. You also get told that you wont be able to complete an area's sidequests if you fight the area's last boss; this is because you're given a choice after each battle, and if you don't do all the sidequests, you only have one choice (and thus won't get the best ending). Thing is, even from a story perspective, the game easily could have made one of the choices be something like "let me ask around town first" so you could finish any sidequests you haven't done without having to refight the area boss. Ironically, the one time the choice actually has a good story reason not to do this (incoming lava tsunami) is the one time the game actually does let you save and go back for sidequests after beating the area boss!

By the way, sidequests don't give you any rewards individually (at least, none of the ones I completed did so); they're just for getting the best ending, so if you miss one, there's not much point to do any others. Oh, but if you're an achievement hunter, you'll be disappointed to learn that you'll get achievements for both choices, meaning you'll have to refight those bosses--if not start a whole new game--to get all the achievements.

If you're not an achievement hunter, don't worry; the game will make sure you also have to refight bosses, too. The game tries really hard to make it seem like it's almost over, but then suddenly you have to go back to earlier dungeons, which now have new areas. Despite the new areas, the bosses are identical to the ones from before, just with more health (and even if you scanned the bosses before, too bad, you have to scan them again if you want to see their HP/resistances). You even have to refight that slow first boss again (healing grip and everything), now scaled up to match your current level! It's so mind-numbingly tedious. At least Bravely Default let you skip the duplicate battles if you knew what to do (you'd maybe just miss unlocking the final job, which isn't that impressive anyway).

After this, the game tries once again to make you think its gonna be over, but nope; more going back to previous areas and more duplicate battles. After two of the four, I thought I figured out the pattern and was sure the next two would be original bosses. Nope, only one is original. The other is a rehash of the slow first boss yet again! At least it doesn't have the grip move this time (it also has less HP than the previous first-boss-duplicate battle).

Not recommended.


Children of Morta:
Yup, that’s an action-roguelike, all right. No permadeath, but you still get sent back quite a bit on death. The game has different characters with different weapons, but I tried the archer and the dagger-kid, and the game felt like it just wasn’t designed around either of them. I was better off with the swordsman since his attacks actually have recoil/knockback (which is kinda necessary since, as ever, level design is just hall/room with enemies moving towards you). Despite how little I played before giving up (I didn’t make it much further than the first boss, the spider), I did notice environmental hazards: spikes that come up from the floor shortly after you step on them (they don’t add much, though).

Atomicrops:
I’m not a fan of farming simulators, so I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the farming aspect is quick and simple: you dig a hole, plant the seed, and it gets watered/pollinated automatically; then, you just push the button to harvest it. That meant I could focus more on the twinstick elements of the game: level design isn’t much better than The Riftbreaker (just being isolated rocks), but the enemy shot patterns are more SHMUP-based, so it’s still pretty enjoyable. There are two major issues though: 1) as you fix bridges to unlock new areas, enemies quickly get more and more damage-spongy, to the point where you won’t be able to fight off the massive number of enemies that invade your farm at night (you just have to wait the clock out). I only barely beat the second boss before the night ended and I was automatically teleported back to town. There do exist better guns, but they can cost 800-1200 in-game currency, whereas even if you have enough seeds to spend all day farming, you won’t get much more than 100 in-game currency at the end of the day. 2) The game has permadeath. I never made it to day 9 and thus never saw the third boss, and the only way to try again was to start a new game, so I didn’t bother.

Dreamscaper:
Another permadeath roguelike? Ugh, this is why I can’t bring myself to buy games anymore; there’s always something major I’m missing. You can teleport to any room you’ve cleared so you don’t have to backtrack across empty rooms, which is nice. Combat is okay (maybe a bit sluggish), but the first boss is unnecessarily slow: it usually keeps its distance and shoots at you, and to finally deal damage, you have to wait until it swims around the arena when mines pop up; you have to attack a mine, then wait a few seconds for it to explode and hope the boss’s variable speed puts it in-range of the blast. Also, being a permadeath roguelike, this is the boss you have to refight each time you die, so when I finally beat it and died on the second boss, I didn’t bother doing another run.

The Artful Escape:
I put off my free trial of Apple Arcade specifically because I was waiting for this game to come out, and then it ends up being a walking simulator instead of a platformer! Whenever a pit does come up, it’s just jump, double jump, dash forward, and you’ll make it. The only time this wasn’t the case was when you had to hold the X button to make a bridge appear. For crying out loud, Bug Fables has more challenging platforming! The narrative keeps implying there will be challenge, but there never is. There’s also some minor rhythm game elements, but it’s just about pushing the buttons displayed instead of timing (the game even says as much); the trickiest I saw this get was when you have to push two buttons at once, and only one of them is a shoulder button. I quit around when the protagonist decides not to have his music broadcast around the world and he gets sent back to the hub.

Unsouled:
Hack ‘n’ slash. No level design, just combat; room after hall after room of combat. The challenge is all in reacting to the quick enemy attacks (whether by blocking, dodging, or parrying) and subsequently pushing the attack buttons at the right time to chain combos. The most this has for level design is that, sometimes, the borders of the room/hall are pits instead of walls, meaning you can fall off and take damage (one enemy type can be tricked into dashing off the cliff as well). Half the text prompts in the game don’t actually pause the game; they just appear, and then you get attacked while trying to read them. I actually missed a crucial detail in the first level because enemies swarm you right when the text appears, telling you that you have to knock an enemy into the water to progress (I wondered why the enemies kept spawning until I died). Bosses are unique, but still just reaction-based hack ‘n’ slash fare (the first boss can even punch the ground to damage you wherever you are). The second level tries to add some variety by having a part where you get chased up a hall by a rock, but the cutscene ends with the rock on the top of the screen, moving upward, with you above it; unless you’re holding up and tapping the dodge button, you’re gonna get killed by the rock before the camera puts you back into view. I finally quit when I made it to the forest maze in level 3: not only is it just room after room of more combat, but there are dead ends that force you to go back, and dying sends you back to the entrance of the maze. Not recommended.

Skul: The Hero Slayer:
Roguelite. Still sends you back to the beginning when you die (even making you refight all previous bosses you’ve beaten again), but there are permanent upgrades, and levels are chosen form pre-set rooms instead of being procedurally-generated. The gameplay is one of those hybrid platformer/hack ‘n’ slash games like Flynn: Son of Crimson; barely noticeable during combat segments, but there are some tricky jumps every now and then (although I thought maybe hitboxes were a bit too big). Could’ve been an okay game if it weren’t for the whole “having to start over from the first level each time you die” aspect.

Nongunz: Doppelganger Edition:
Level design is still fairly bland (as to be expected for procedurally-generated games), but it’s not flat like other games; there’s regular verticality. Bosses are absolutely massive damage-sponges, especially considering how little there is to their patterns. I died on the second boss (the face that moves back and forth, alternating between a downward laser and horizontal lasers) solely because I got impatient, and since this is a roguelike, you get sent back to the beginning when you die, having to fight the bosses over again as well. Not recommended.

Weird West:
I thought this might be more of a shooter, but it’s actually predominantly a stealth game. I’ve never been much of a fan of stealth games due to all the waiting, so I gave up shortly after making it to the first base (with lots of guards roaming around); I was behind a wall standing still with a guard facing the other side of the wall, but as soon as I quick-saved (and did nothing else), the guard apparently heard something and came running over to see me.

TUNIC


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Hack 'n' slash. I don't know why the game is trying to ape Zelda's style with the outfit when the closest similarity they have gameplay-wise is "sword cuts bushes" (well, I guess it's similar to the more modern 3D Zelda games in that combat is separated from the rest of the game, without any environmental hazards; the only level design here is hidden shortcuts, and that one dark area with floor spikes). One notable major difference between this and the Zelda games is that this game has a stamina meter that drains as you dodge-roll and block attacks (and not while you're running, which was the only thing that used stamina in Skyward Sword). That said, there's no movement penalty for running out of stamina: you can still walk and attack just fine (attacking doesn't even use stamina when you still have some), and you can even push the dodge button to jump forward a bit. In fact, the only thing the game tells you about it at first is that having 0 SP causes you to take more damage. Likewise, my initial reaction was "wow, this game has the best innovation for the stamina mechanic: making it not matter!"…but then you make it further in the game (much further than a gameplay demo would reasonably allow you to go), and you find out that being out of stamina also means your dodge move doesn't have any i-frames (you can't block, either). Okay, maybe the game is built around avoiding attacks entirely? Nope. In fact, the boss guarding the second belltower has a sword so massive, the only way to avoid damage is blocking or dodging. Worse, the boss gets very aggressive when it's low on health, to the point where you have absolutely no time to recover stamina, and thus no way to avoid getting hit.

Although that's enough for me not to recommend the game, the reason I gave up is because of how aimless it is. I rung the first two belltowers and got the grapple whip from the frog dungeon, but then couldn't find where to go next. There were some pillars on the overworld near the dungeon, but I couldn't seem to interact with them. I wandered around and found a forest temple I hadn't been to, but shortly into that area was another of those pillars blocking my progress. I even went back to previous areas to see if there was something I missed, but I never found anything. Maybe this is my fault (I did get turned around at the beginning because I didn't notice a grassy path around the bushes leading to the sword), but like I said, how the game handles combat and stamina is enough for me not to recommend it.


Fae Tactics


Do I need to *spell* it out? Abraclickdabanner! ~~*

This is a first-person shooter…nah, I'm kidding; it's a turn-based tactics game. Movement order is determined by characters' speed stat, but you can delay your current character's current turn by 2 speed instead of being forced to waste the turn (it goes back to normal next turn). Even if a character isn't in-range to attack an enemy or assist an ally, the "wait" move always has an effect of its own, from increasing HP/shield/attack/evasion or even applying a buff to the character (which can sometimes be detrimental since each character can only have one buff at a time, thus waiting would overwrite the pervious buff). Once you get enough XP to reach level 10, you get an ultra meter that fills as you attack and get attacked; once it's full, attacking triggers your more powerful ultra attack; even if you don't need it to kill the enemy and you want to save it for a later turn, you can't without simply not attacking at all. Between battles, you can also equip three spells to bring into battles, but they all have a cooldown before they can be used (resetting the cooldown once used), with more powerful spells having longer cooldowns; it's an interesting concept, but some of the cooldowns last so long that most battles will be over (or almost over) by the time you could use them.

The game actually has a lot going for it at first. On top of the aforementioned mechanics, there's elemental weaknesses/resistances, and even level design: only flying and aquatic units can go on water tiles, and there's elevation that both gives you an attack bonus for hitting lower enemies as well as makes you find a staircase for non-flying units. There are even "hazard" tiles, like mushrooms that poison units on or adjacent to them, though they can be annoying since they're the same shade as the surrounding tiles, thus hard to see (and putting the cursor on them doesn't help any). The battles themselves can also be quite challenging, especially if you're trying to get the "no units lost" bonus or the "subdued [instead of killed] enemy leaders" bonus.

However, as you progress, you'll notice an extra line get added to your attack-preview window, saying things like "Evasion: 8%" or "Evasion: 12%." Some enemies even have a chance to evade if you're attacking them from behind! Then, you'll start having some of your attacks miss, sometimes even crucial attacks like one that would kill an enemy right before it can move again. There isn't nothing you can do about this; there's a buff that gives the character in question 100% accuracy, but to get that buff, you'd need to sacrifice a spell slot (and wait for the cooldown) or use one of your limited party member slots to have a character that gives the buff as an assist (and even then, it can only be given to one character per turn). Not only would this drag out battles longer than they reasonably should go, but often, enemies start off already close enough to your party that you can't afford not to attack them.

The whole percent-chance thing becomes even more unwieldy when you realize just how challenging the game gets. Each zone has its own story arc, with battles in different areas of the zone that progress the zone's story. The semi-final battle for each zone is always a boss that has a long attack range and more than 1000 HP (normally, bosses only have around 200-400 HP). Not only are bosses pretty powerful, not only do they almost always have at least a small chance to evade your attacks, but they also have much larger chances to counterattack, and these counterattacks have a chance to apply a status effect. You can cure a status effect by applying a buff (because characters can only either have a buff or a status effect, which is neat), but there's still the simple fact that you won't be able to beat the boss without attacking it, so there's no way to plan around it since it happens at random. I gave up after reaching the last(?) boss of the second zone (Mirrar of the Marsh), because for the first time ever, the boss evaded my spells. You know, the things you already have to wait for a cooldown to use? Who in their right mind decided it's a good idea to have both cooldown and a chance to miss?? The whole point of cooldowns is to provide a reliable drawback instead of the unreliability of evasion chances! Nothing in the game was more frustrating than when I went to use my "reduce ultra meter" spell on the boss only for it to miss (twice in a row, I might add), thus allowing the boss to hit me with the ultra attack. Again, I want my games to be challenging, but I also want my failures to be my own fault; nothing is more demoralizing than having already lost the battle several times, only to lose again distinctly because the game decided the boss evaded that one crucial attack.

Not recommended. Stuff like this is why I stopped playing RPGs for a while.


OVERWHELM:
A metroidvania with very empty areas; some of my (one-hit) deaths were simply because I fell down what looked like an empty shaft and happened to land on top of the one enemy in the room. Difficulty selection is unique because it’s literally just toggling reaction speed (the hardest difficulty, 250ms, is the default). Boss fights have potential, but they also have cheap elements like the squid/octopus moving faster than you (and you move slower underwater), or the flying boss in the upper-left being able to go invulnerable every few seconds. The main gimmick is that beating each boss unlocks different enemies to appear throughout the map, but you only have three lives to beat the game; get game over and you have to start over from the beginning. Nothing is procedurally generated or anything; it’s just permadeath for the sake of permadeath. What’s extra annoying is that your three lives get refreshed when you bring a red crystal (which you get from beating bosses) back to the central hub, but if you game over after that point, you still have to redo everything. I was originally planning on at least beating all the bosses before giving up, but the area directly below the hub is dark, and your light is positioned in front of you, so if a flying enemy (especially the faster ones that unlock after beating the aforementioned flying boss) happens to be chasing you just outside your spotlight when you reach a dead end and have to turn around, you won’t have enough time to react, even on the easiest difficulty (500ms). Not recommended.

Garden Story


Just dew it! Click to expand

You know how sidequests in subpar action-RPGs are things like "gather X resources" or "kill X enemies"? That's it; that's this whole game (besides the four different bosses). There's a bulletin board that lists objectives that the game claims are optional, but it isn't uncommon for your main objective to be "level up the town's stats" which is done by completing optional objectives. Enemy variety is almost nonexistent, with the vast majority being blobs that shamble in random directions and don't even have contact damage. What's more irritating is this game has a stamina meter, and the very first enemies you encounter take more hits to kill than you have stamina for: three hits to rid their larger form, then one more to finish off the smaller form, so even when your stamina is upgraded from 2 to 3, it's still not quite enough.

As you might expect, level design is also nearly nonexistent, even in dungeons. There are never any environmental hazards or anything to spice up the combat, but the first dungeon has some tiles you walk on to activate the door…and that's it. The first dungeons boss is a worm that mostly just drops blobs from the ceiling before making itself vulnerable. The second dungeon has levers in the water, so you have to use your slow ranged weapon to grab them, then push whatever direction shows up on screen; it's only slightly more complicated since the levers move, meaning you have to time your shot somewhat. The second dungeon's boss raises tentacles to shoot bubbles, but I don't think the bubbles actually hurt you? At least not until they explode into purple smoke, which can take a moment. The third dungeon has actual puzzles, because it's Sokoban.

It's the best part of the game, which is immediately followed by the worst part of the game when gardening is introduced: you dig the hole by holding the shovel in the right position, then wait for the border around your stamina meter to turn white to release the button. Then, you plant the seed and wait three in-game days with nothing else to do except the town's sidequests (then wait an additional day so the town architect can use the materials you grew to complete your main objective). Even more irritating, some sidequests require you to go back into the third dungeon, some even going so far as to make you re-fight the third boss again! (the whole dungeon resets when you leave, including the puzzles) By the way, that boss is basically the same as the first boss, except it has an area-of-effect attack instead of shooting regular projectiles (and it has a higher defense stat).

In contrast, the fourth dungeon makes you re-traverse it as your main objective instead of an optional objective. This is also one of those Lost-Woods-type levels where you have to go the right way (and you don't get the item that tells you which way to go until after you've had to go in a few times). Thing is, even if you go the right way, the room you're sent to is random (it can even be the room you were just in!). When you finally make it to the end, you have to go back to the first three dungeons so you can unlock a unique room in them, which is immediately followed by that dungeons' respective boss again (no changes). Then, you can finally face the final boss: areas of the ground will glow red to indicate an attack about to hit there, and you have to use your ranged weapon to pull up allies who can make the boss vulnerable. It's okay, but when you get its health down to zero, it takes so long to die (sending out waves of hazardous vines all the while), I though I was missing something and had to do something else at first.

Not recommended.


Well, that was pretty much all the games on my list, and I still have around a month and a half of Game Pass left, so…any suggestions? Feel free to recommend something you like instead of trying to think of something I’d like. Who knows? I might end up enjoying it, too.

They say that if something is free, you’re the product, but I’m gonna be honest: being the product is pretty great so far. I’ve been getting Microsoft Rewards points by using Bing (and not getting points in any other way) and I’ve already ammased more than enough points for Game Pass a few times over–not counting Game Pass’s regular discounts to one dollar, not counting the recent offer of two months free (which I got because I was already planning on getting Game Pass this month anyway), not even counting the recent(?) addition of a $1.25 Microsoft Store gift card as one of the Microsoft Rewards rewards (meaning I don’t even have to “waste” points on the $5 gift card like I did a couple years ago). Sure, they have my personal data, but if that’s something you care about, you’re probably already using something like Duck Duck Go instead; if you’re still using Google and you’re interested in Game Pass, I definitely recommend switching over so that in a few months you can be like “whoa, I have enough points for Game Pass now!” Worst thing that happened was the internet in my area went out on the 15th (came back on the 16th, but I already had most of this post drafted, so I figured I’d go ahead and finish it).

Anyway, games:

Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion

I played the demo, but since Microsoft Store games store saves differently, I had to replay the first dungeon

Click to expand

This is an action-adventure. Move with left-stick, use item (including your sword) with X, swap equipped item with the shoulder buttons (can also be done in the item menu), and the A button is kinda a dodge/boost forward move except you're stunned for a split second at the end. Even though your attack animation is just a basic stab like in the original Legend of Zelda for NES, you still can't move until the attack is over.

Still, the game is really easy. If you've played the demo, the game doesn't get much more difficult than that. Enemies are sparse with basic patterns, while level design is little more than "room" and "hall." Before you know it, you'll be in a dungeon, and before you know it, you'll be at the dungeon's boss. The second dungeon makes you think things are starting to pick up when it introduces an enemy that can shoot at you (in the same room as melee enemies coming towards you, meaning you'll be locked in an attack animation before you notice the bullet coming towards you), but that enemy never shows up again except for the optional endless mode in postgame (which also has a couple exclusive enemies that really could've benefitted from being used in the main campaign). Also, a lot of the gameplay is fetch quests (which you'll need to do to unlock the final boss's second form), and while the game world isn't exacly large, the sparseness of areas combined with lack of fast-travel still makes them pretty tedious to do. It's like the grass area in Anodyne, except that's the whole game instead of just the central hub area.

There are some bosses, but they don't liven things up much. The first boss charges at you, so you avoid it and stab it when it's stunned (or you can try to launch the bombs in the arena at it to do more damage at once). The second boss abruptly transitions from standstill to rolling, bouncing off the walls; I still ended up taking more damage blowing myself up with the bombs, though (they explode when touching a hole). The third boss (and the two minibosses before it) also charge at you like the first boss; only difference with the third boss is that the arena border is hazardous to you, so you can only really attack by launching bombs at the boss. Finally, level design! The fourth dungeon has objects that look similar to bobms, but will actually set fire to anything near them when activated, including you, but you still need to catch yourself on fire to burn the barricate blocking the item that lets you catch yourself on fire without taking damage. The fourth dungeon's boss has an instantaneous melee stab like you do, being both a cheap hit as well as the first time in the game where the dodge/boost is useful. The fifth (final) boss has a similar attack, but the boss's pattern as a whole is easier to figure out. Phase two (which, again, you only unlock if you do most of the sidequests) has the boss floating at the top of the screen while you're going across rooms on the bottom to find where you can counterattack; the rooms themselves don't have any enemies/hazards, and the boss gives you a good bit of time between attacks, but when those attacks start back up, you gotta stop what you're doing to dodge them since they don't give you much room for error (and can be kinda cheap, like how the laser won't show you where it's aiming until after it fires). After beating the game (whether or not you unlocked the final bos's second phase), you unlock the afoermentioned endless mode, which gives you exclusive powerups that last until your run ends, as well as an exclusive boss if you make it far enough (which isn't hard to do, but the boss itself has some cheap hits that you most likely won't be able to avoid unless you know they're coming). There's a second room that unlocks after you beat the game, but it just has a heart container as far as I can tell.

Overall, I don't think I'd recommend this game. When it isn't basic and boring, it's because of cheap hits. Maybe if you already have the game or can get it free (like on Game Pass), but I wouldn't recommend buying it.


Raji: An Ancient Epic


Expand by clicking

Hack ‘n’ slash. A button dodges, X and Y do nebulously-different attacks, and B is case sensitive (does a finishing move if the enemy’s health is low enough, does a spin-around-the-pole attack if you’re next to a pole, etc.). This genre can already have slow combat, but this game in particular seems like each individual attack in your combos take longer than other hack ‘n’ slashes; even after you get the sword, only your first hit is fast and responsive, with the rest of the combo slowing back down. The bow has a faster rate of continuous fire, but it still takes a solid half-second between hitting the button and actually shooting your first arrow.

I admit I’ve never been a big fan of the hack ‘n’ slash genre, but I gave this game a chance because I saw projectile enemies in the trailer and thought the game might have more SHMUP influence, if not actual level design. Turns out, no, the spread shot is as complicated as it gets, and you just dodge through it like all the other attacks. Most of the game is still just fighting off waves of melee enemies and some ranged enemies that toss single-shots at you (the most complicated this ever gets is when the ranged enemies offset their shots to the spot you’re running towards instead of shooting where you are). The water palace level introduces a couple more enemy types, like eyeballs that shoot sustained lasers for a second, but even those new enemies start to get repetitive after the tenth time you fight four of them at once without any other enemies or hazards or level design in the arena.

The jumping is also automatic like in Assassin’s Creed. Not only does this eliminate any potential platforming challenge, it also results in game-breaking bugs: there’s a part where you have to climb up wood paneling around a giant statue, and shortly after you take the elevator up to the first part of the climb, there’s a wood wall that you obviously need to do a wall-run up it to reach the ledge above you. Thing is, the wall-run button is the same as the dodge button, so the first few times I tried doing what I was supposed to, my character just kept dodge-rolling into the wall. I even started to think that wasn’t what the game wanted me to do and tried other things futilely, until the wall-run randomly decided to work and I could progress.

But it’s not just combat and parkour; the game also has arbitrary switch hunts! Shortly after making it to level 3, you’ll reach a spot where the gap between platforms is too far to jump across. Turns out, you have to go into the background and examine a random flower, and that gives you the ability to toss a platform between the two ledges so you can reach the other side. The game makes you do this a bunch, and there are a few times where it’ll look like you can make it with just one spawned platform, but the automatic platforming decides that you can’t make that second jump and you die, so you have to spawn a second platform on your next attempt.

There’s also a stealth segment, but the game’s idea of increasing difficulty is simply having the guard looking at where you’re hiding longer each time you make it to a new hiding spot. You can literally go get your phone and start looking at memes online while waiting for the guard to turn its back on you.

In the last level, you get a homing attack that’s also much more powerful than your other weapons, so you just start using that against the repetitive enemy mobs. The cutscene before the final boss says something like “you’ll need to use everything you learned,” but what I learned is that I can just keep using that homing attack while focusing on dodging, making the fight pretty easy (though it still takes a while due to the boss’s HP).

And to top it off, the game has a bad ending. There wasn’t any implication of a good ending, but if there is one, it probably involves collecting all the glowing orbs, but they’re not exactly hidden; they’re just at the dead ends of obvious split paths, so if you go the wrong way, you progress the level and miss them. There also isn’t a level select or anything so you can just go back to get the ones you missed; you’re sent back to the beginning after you beat the game.

Not recommended.


Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling

Sure, I'll play an RPG; I've gotta wait on Psychonauts 2 and The Ascent to finish installing all 30GB+17GB anyway

Apply pressure to the left-mouse-button to reveal hidden text

Turn-based RPG with timing/button prompts to temporarily increase your attack/defense on that turn. If you liked the first two Paper Mario games and you want more of the same, this game is for you because I can't think of a single combat microgame that wasn't lifted straight from The Thousand-Year Door. Damage output is also similar with everything being relatively low numbers; increasing your attack by 1 is rather significant when your base damage is 2 and miniboss HP is 50. You'll even find medals (the game's equivalent to badges) that you can equip to gain bonuses like giving a party member status-effect immunity or an extra turn at the start of each battle. Levelling up also gives you the same three choices each time: increase HP by one, increase TP (the game's equivalent to MP) by 3, or increase medal capacity by 3. Leveling up never increases your attack, but enemies have power-creep, so you'll eventually have to start adding points to HP. To top it off, the overworld even has some light platforming, though your drop shadow won't display on certain terrain (like ice and spikes), and it can be tough to see forward with the rest of your party behind you, blocking your view:

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That said, there's no combat penalty for falling off (you don't lose HP or anything; you just get teleported back to an earlier platform like in Guacamelee

The main difference between this game and Paper Mario is that you have three party members in-battle instead of two, and you only ever have those three party members for the whole game (except a couple brief parts where you have a fourth, AI-controlled partner). There aren't even inter-chapter segments where you control other characters, which I bring up because the most memorable part of the first Paper Mario to me was sneaking around the castle as Peach (something that was even in the sequel, albeit poorly rehashed). Because it's just those three characters for the whole game, combat can get repetitive, as it's the same three microgames for basic attacks over and over (even if you use TP-consuming moves, which usually have different combat microgames from Paper Mario, it's still just those same moves each time). You also have Turn Relay, so you can give one character's move to another so said character can move twice or three times in one turn; the catch is that each successive move-per-turn decreases your attack by one point.

Oh, there's also a bulletin board to list all available sidequests (or at least most of them; only a few sidequests are started by talking to the NPC instead of checking the bulletin board). From what I can tell, you can't permanently-miss a sidequest, and there aren't any points-of-no-return, so you don't have to worry about missing anything (although there are a couple dungeons that get blocked off once you beat them, which is irritating since there's a certain item you can only buy from a place that gets barricaded, so if you run out of that item afterward, you can't go back and get any more). You can even find key items for sidequests before starting them (though you have to take the job from the bulletin board before you can complete the sidequest).

In the overworld, you switch between characters with X and use their attack/field power with B, which is backwards but can't be changed (you can only rebind keyboard controls). At first, it seemed like you couldn't gain the initiative in battle (even though enemies could), but then I noticed that there is a bonus for getting battle initiative: one character has one extra move on that first turn, complete with the attack penalty associated with Turn Relay. It's not nothing, but the attack penatly can make it tricky to utilize that extra move, especially if you're already full on HP and TP and the enemy has high defense.

One of the first medals you get is the Hard Mode medal, which doesn't tell you the difference between normal and hard mode. I don't remember if The Thousand Year Door had a hard mode badge (I think it did), but either way, this game's hard mode is quite a bit harder than Paper Mario. Unfortunately, part of that difficulty is from cheap hits, where you won't know the timing until after it happens. Sure, sometimes the attack is a projectile heading towards you at a fixed speed, but other times, the enemy runs right up next to you and holds a pose before cutting to the "you've been hit" frame (and different poses are held for different lengths of time). Similarly, some enemies, such as the rock spiders in the sand castle, will stay on their side and glow for a bit, when suddenly BAM: you're hit with a lightning bolt. Heck, even the fixed-speed projectiles can be cheap since their speed changes based on who is being targeted. The first boss has an attack where you have to tap the button to fill up a bar to block the attack, but since this is the first time you encounter an attack like this, it'll catch you off guard and you won't be able to fill up the meter in time on your first go (and the second time a "tap A to fill the bar" attack happens, is partway through chapter 3, where its long absence and sudden return will catch you off guard again). Still, the worst is the boss at the end of chapter 3: it shoots a laser straight down and spins it clockwise towards your party, so you hit the button when the laser reaches you, right? NOPE; the laser doesn't damage you and disappears when it points straight horizontally, at which point there are ground eruptions that head towards your party, and THAT'S when you're supposed to hit the button. What makes it especially frustrating is that whenever I instinctively tried to block the laser, the game wouldn't let be block the eruptions afterward.

Also, while the party members that aren't targeted by an attack become transparent for the attack's duration, they don't go transparent enough to tell at a glance, and some attacks zoom in on the enemy so you can't tell who's being targeted regardless until a split second before the attack hits you.

Adding to the volatility of difficulty is how status effects work. The good news is if an enemy can cause a status effect and you block the attack, you don't get the status effect, wheras getting hit without blocking always gives you the status effect. The bad news is that your own status-effecting attacks don't have such a guarantee. Instead of said attacks being cooldown-based or something like a reasonable strategy game, it's always a chance to freeze, a chance to poison; you can never be sure if a boss is immune or if you've just been getting really unlucky until the effect finally takes hold after several successful implementations of the attack. Wasn't the whole point of the combat microgames to remove chance and make it the player's fault if an attack does more/less damage? It seems like this goes against the core of what the Paper Mario games were trying to accomplish with their gameplay (I always did prefer Superstar Saga).

Minor issue, but the store that sells medals only displays three at a time; in order to see more, you have to talk to the store owner for a few text boxes, then select the third option when presented with your dialogue choice (so you can't just tap the A button), and even then, it just randomizes the badges displayed, so it can take a couple tries before you see anything new, let alone something you'd want to buy. New medals are added regularly throughout story progression, but you're not told so you have to check manually.

Another mechanic taken from Paper Mario is what the game calls "spy": it starts with a microgame like your attack moves, but succeeding gives you some text talking about the targeted enemy, usually having a bit of worldbuilding as well as telling you or hinting towards what the enemy can do. It also display's that enemy's HP, even in future battles. There is one major difference between this game's spying and its equivalent; in Paper Mario, only one character could do the move, and you'd get several text boxes that let you know exactly what the enemy can do. Meanwhile, in this game, all three characters can spy, but the game won't always tell you everything, or even properly describe what it is trying to tell you. The worst example is against the bandit leader; minor spoilers, but if you spy on him with the blue character, you get this:

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"Break our items"…I don't know about you, but to me, that implies the boss--on its own turn--can use an attack that will destroy an item if you don't block said attack properly (blocking prevents other status effects like sleep/poison/frozen/paralysis, so why would this be any different?). Besides, I had a medal equipped that said something to the effect of "prevents enemies from stealing your items," so I thought I was safe either way.

However, that's not what it means. What actually happens is that if you try to use an item, the boss will counter with an unblockable attack, destroying your item and costing you that character's move, as well as damaging you further. Okay, fine, I can just freeze the boss and then use an item when the boss can't do anything, right? NOPE! This boss is the only enemy in the entire game that can break the rules of status effects to get out of being frozen prematurely, and it only happens if you try to use an item while the boss is frozen; do anything else, and the boss stays frozen just fine. Tell me, how was I supposed to glean the boss's magical ice-breaking powers from the above text?

Ah, but wait! The other characters have different text, even when spying on the same enemy. Maybe they also give you different information, like the navigators in Mega Man X8? That could add an extra layer of strategy to spying, as well as give further characterization to your party members based on who notices what. So, I went to the game's boss re-fighter (which presumably exists so you can't permanently-miss these infodumps like you could in Metroid Prime), spied on the boss with the other two characters, and got this:

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"Crushes our items." "Ruining my items." Yeah, they all still have the same misleading implication. On one hand, you don't have to worry about spying with the "wrong" character since they all basically say the same stuff, but on the other hand, the vague text means that spying is effectively useless outside of revealing enemys' HP.

Speaking of the bandit camp, that area is where you get the dig ability (similar to Paper Mario, you get different overworld abilities to reach different parts of the game as you progress), and once you've beaten the bandit leader, you're done with that area and you don't have to use that ability again for the rest of the chapter and a decent chunk of the next chapter, but when you do, it's a spot where the ground texture is different and also covers the entire platform, giving almost no clues that you have to use your dig power again or that you can even dig on this terrain. In that same area, you get trapped on a small platform, and you're clearly supposed to get a new power to destroy the rocks, but unlike the other times you get a new power in this game, the cutscene doesn't happen automatically; you have to examine the rocks with the jump button, which is indicated by a ? bubble (as opposed to the ! bubbles, which indicate you can attack the object, which is done with the field-power button).

Despite playing the entire game on hard mode, I felt the difficulty curve was a bit wonky. It's solid for the first three or four chapters, but then it gets easier around chapters five and six, with the chapter 6 boss and a couple more-or-less hidden optional bosses picking things up. Chapter 7 isn't really hard per se, but you do have to go back and heal since using TP-consuming moves is the only way to get through encounters without losing much health (enemies stay dead as long as you stay in the dungeon). The final boss is quite a difficulty spike, and not just because I used the last of the item-from-the-blocked-off-area I had on the chapter 6 boss: the first phase isn't too bad (though I did reach max level shortly beforehand), but you'll want to save your items for the second phase, where it can summon allies (including a shield that straight-up doesn't have a health bar; you have to do trial-and-error to figure out that ANY attack only ever deals 1 damage, and it takes 3 hits to destroy) and it heals itself the first two times it gets low on HP. I did manage to beat the boss on hard mode without any of the item-from-the-blocked-off-area, but it wasn't so much strategy/medal-reequipping so much as I took advantage of an exploit in its pattern that--of course--isn't told to you by spying (specifically, the final boss is significantly less likely to summon allies if you end your turn with the boss knocked on the ground; what makes this extra tricky is that the final boss is the only enemy in the entire game where some of your attacks can knock the boss back into the air from the ground).

Overall, this game is okay. If you liked the Paper Mario games--or really any RPG that had timing/button prompts in combat--you'll probably like this game, too. Wait for a sale.


Psychonauts 2

I beat the first game years ago and I remember it being okay, so I thought I'd try the sequel.

Put the mouse on the banner, the finger on the mouse, and the text in your mind

This is a hybrid platformer/beat ‘em up. I’m yet to play one of these where combat is decently combined with level design; instead, they all have the enemies and enemy waves separate from the jumping parts. The only exception in this game is the casino level near the beginning that has ranged enemies on pedestals floating beside the main path.

Throughout the game, you’ll get different powers that can be equipped to any of the four shoulder buttons (including your basic melee and ranged attacks). It works fine enough, but it can be annoying having to reopen the menu so you can equip whatever power lets you get past the current switch hunt. Despite levels being very linear, almost all of them have split paths that require later powers to reach. One such power is even obtained after the game’s first implied point of no return, so there’s no incentive to try to look for secrets until you’ve beaten the game cuz you won’t know what you can’t get due to abilities you don’t have.

On the platforming side, the drop-shadow can be surprisingly hard to see sometimes. I had to turn shadows off in the first level so I could better see the drop shadow.

On the beat ‘em up side, things can be inconsistent. It starts off with you being able to go up to enemies and tap the attack button, but later on, even basic enemies get the ability to automatically dodge your first couple attacks. More frustratingly, you can see an enemy’s foreshadow animation and dodge away, but then the enemy can counter by boosting forward while attacking to hit you anyway. I honestly don’t know if it’s even possible to avoid certain attacks. It’s possible to buy badges that increase your attack power, but you gotta be careful because they also have rank requirements; you can buy a badge but be unable to equip it if your rank is too low.

Besides both of those are switch hunts and hidden-object segments. Often, you’ll have no idea what to look for, and the game doesn’t always tell you what to do if you take too long. For example, there are literal switches in the mail level, but they blend into the cluttered surroundings and can be missed easily. In the PSI-King’s level, the game introduces walls that you can get rid of by tossing a ball at them, but whenver I encountered these walls afterward, I never found another ball and had to jump around said walls (which is doable, but I don’t think was intended).

I don’t know why, but the game crashed on me regularly, always when loading something (whether a new area or an alternate version of an object, like a painting being set on fire). This would inevitably set me back a few minutes, as the game doesn’t always autosave when you complete an area.

The bosses were mostly okay, but I took issue with the plant boss since the game starts the battle with you on a raft and tells you that you can switch between two lanes, but it doesn’t make it clear where those lanes are, so it looks like the spikey islands are on the other lane instead of between them. I also had a problem with the final boss’s tornado/whirlpool/cyclone form since it’s path is hard to predict and it moves faster than you can, even if you’re on the levitation ball.

Overall, this game was okay. It doesn’t do much noteworthy from a gameplay perspective, but if you liked the first Psychonauts, you’ll probably like this game. Get it on sale, though.

P.S. There’s a trigger warning at the beginning, but I’m not sure how much it’s needed. For example, one of the potential triggers listed is panic attacks, but “Panic Attack” is just the name of an enemy in the game. Sure, you’ll hear voice clips of an NPC panicking during your first couple battles against said enemy, but other games have also had voice clips of characters panicking while enemies are attacking, and those games didn’t have trigger warnings, so I dunno.


The Ascent


Did you know there's some text hidden here? You just gotta click the banner to see it!

This is one of those twinstick shooters where the bullets move realistically fast and melee enemies just form mobs and run towards you. The first level ONLY has those melee mobs, with level design being little more than “hall” and “room.” The major innovation here is that the mobs can sometimes sidestep your shots before resuming their shamble towards you. The first boss adds a bit of variety, since it can leap forward (you have to dodge out of the way, even though this is a twinstick shooter and dodging is mapped to the A button) and toss grenades, but then you beat the boss and it’s back to braindead, lazily-programmed enemies. The second level introduces ranged enemies, who also form mobs but don’t always rush to the ledge you’re ducking behind; they can surround you, and as soon as they decide to open fire, you get hit with no warning or way to dodge. I made it all the way to the part where you have to “hold the fort”, but even when I got past the initial blitz of ranged enemies, it sent two larger enemies at me who joined forces with the ranged mob, and I couldn’t figure out how to get past it after several failed attempts, so I gave up.

Not recommended.


Recompile


01000011 01101100 01101001 01100011 01101011 00100000 01110100 01101111 00100000 01100101 01111000 01110000 01100001 01101110 01100100

The game advertises itself as a hybrid metroidvania/third-person shooter, but a huge chunk of the game is Walking Simulator. Rooms are massive with only basic platforming and maybe one enemy every 5-10 minutes on average. Speaking of enemies, combat sucks: you hold LT to aim and push RT to shoot, and you can't shoot if you're not aiming, but aiming slows you down so you can't dodge, and flying enemies attack too quickly for you to switch between them, so you just gotta take the hits to take them down. The graphics/lighting are also pretty bad, as it can sometimes be hard to know if there's a platform or an abyss below you. There's also an attempt at puzzles with switches activating and deactivating different pipes, but the game doesn't explain how it works and the level design doesn't do a great job of conveying how it works, either. The devs must know this, too, because it introduces a "hacking" mechanic where you can spend shards you get from slain enemies in order to toggle cubes/pipes without having to hit their corresponding switches, effectively letting you bypass whatever the puzzle was supposed to be.

The game is also aimless. Good metroidvanias railroad you at least a little bit so you don't miss necessary abilities. In this game, after I got to the central hub area, I chose to go to the green section first, and when I finally reached the boss room after two massive, near-empty rooms, I was met with a gap I couldn't double-jump across, so I had to backtrack to the central hub (which wasn't as fast as you might think since the game has fall damage) and tried the red area, which managed to have one enemy every 30-60 seconds on average. Also, in this section, pipes can also toggle enemy spawners instead of just progression, so now you have to stop solving the puzzle in order to shoot down some flying enemies, then try to remember where you were before more spawn.

The bosses also suck: the boss of the red area has far-reaching flamethrowers and moves faster than you can move; I only won because running back to the entrance gate as soon as the boss is triggered caused it to stay in the boss arena where I could shoot it safely from afar. The green boss was a bit better since it moves slow enough you can run away, but it gets faster as the fight goes on, giving you less and less time to counterattack (also, I'm pretty sure it has some fast attacks that you have to get lucky to dodge).

After finishing the red and green areas, I went to the purple area, which has more focus on platforming, but it's still just small platforms over an abyss…without a drop shadow. Plus, if you miss a jump (which will happen quite a bit due to the lack of a drop shadow), you have to fall aaaaaaall the way down to the "ground" before you die and respawn. Also, the purple area is split into two rooms: the first room gave me the triple jump, and I was able to complete it just fine, but the second area had the second platform too far away for me to triple jump and boost towards, so I tried the blue area and encountered the same issue. There's only one explanation: I missed the second boost powerup somewhere, and I am not going to wander around this empty game looking for it, so I gave up.

Not recommended.


Flynn: Son of Crimson


Don't forget to smash that mouse button! to expand

This is a hybrid platformer/hack 'n' slash. Other hack 'n' slash games force you to a standstill while attacking, but this game takes it a step further and even locks you in midair if you attack while jumping (even if you use a ranged attack). Besides that, controls are almost good, but doing a rolling jump and letting go of forward doesn't stop you; you have to push backwards first. You also can't interrupt your attack animation to dodge, which is always something I hate about hack 'n' slashes. The game starts with a difficulty selection, but it doesn't tell you what the differences are, so its safe to assume it's something dumb like more enemy HP; I just played on normal mode.

When the game focuses on platforming, the level design is pretty decent. There are even environmental hazards that see regular use to help spice up the platforming (my favorite level is the acid rain one where you have to juggle jumping around thorns with reaching shelter before you start taking damage from the rain). However, as soon as any enemies show up, the level design flattens out to make room for the hack 'n' slash mechanics. Most enemies have ranged attacks, some that are unique to said enemy, but all enemies have the same melee attack, making combat repetitive outside boss fights (attack, dodge-roll, repeat). Whenever I didn't have to fight the enemies, I'd just run past them, never having to worry about taking damage because they take so long to attack. Some levels have a second exit, but even if you find the key (which is always in a different level) and replay the level to reach the locked door leading to said secret exit, you only unlock a "challenge" level that's just waves of enemies. After I beat the first challenge level, I stopped playing them and just focused on the regular levels.

As you progress, you'll get different elemental projectiles so you can freeze water or zap electrified enemies to nullify their elemental power. Problem is, you have to charge your shot before it gets imbued with your equipped element, and even if you buy the "speed up projectile charging" ability, it still takes a solid second of holding the button down before it's fully charged and can actually be used to freeze the water block in front of you (but not the one afterward; you'll need to charge another shot for that one).

On the subject of ice powers, there's a bunch of times where you push blocks to progress, and a bunch of times where you freeze water to progress, but there's one room in one level where a block is frozen, and pushing it causes it to slide forward continually. This didn't register as a tutorial until after I had tanked damage by pushing regular blocks through spikes, but when the thought finally did occur to me in a later level, I tried shooting a fully-charged ice projectile at a push-able block and nothing happened; it was just a gimmick for that one room in that one level.

In fact, the whole game is pretty gimmicky: only one level has the acid rain; only one level has the frozen pushable blocks; only one level has the hold-jump-to-float mechanic; one level in the last world looks like a dead end, but pushing the button in front of that hook that looks like a background object will bring you up to the next part of the level (and those hooks don't show up in another level). The only consistent part is the repetitive hack 'n' slash combat.

The graphics can also be iffy at times. The platforms in the final world are triangle shaped, pointing downward, but that pointed bottom also counts as a spike and hurts you if you jump into it from below. The ice boss's arena has some spikes in it as well, but they're the same color as the background and walls, so you won't notice them at first and will almost certainly get hurt by them:

One of the game's gimmicks is that "scourge" will take over a level and all other levels go into lockdown, so you have to replay the scourged level to progress. The scourged levels have some minor changes, mostly enemy placement or replacing swimmable-water with hazardous acid, but sometimes there's a floating axe chasing you, and you only have to replay a few rooms instead of the entire level. It's more like a light-world/dark-world type thing than recycled content. It also only happens maybe once per world, so it doesn't overstay its welcome, either.

Overall, the game is hard to recommend. Like I wrote earlier: it's decent when it focuses on platforming, but it becomes repetitive when combat is involved, and combat is involved A LOT.


Archvale


♫Click iiiiiit! Cliiick iiiiiit! Noooo text wants to beeeee unreeead...ed♫

Twinstick SHMUP. Pushing LT while moving does a dodge move, and holding RT shoots in the direction you're pointing the right stick. On top of a health bar, you have a fixed number of health potions, both of which get fully restored at each save point. So, why have health potions at all, then? Why not just combine them into a larger health bar? Because it takes a solid two seconds of holding the use-potion-button while at a standstill in order to successfully use them and recover health (it's possible to unsuccessfully use them and recover no health while also losing the potion…if you let go too quickly so you can dodge incoming attacks). This game also has a difficulty selection, but just like Flynn before it, there's no explanation for what's different, so I just played on normal mode.

The entire game, including the overworld, is broken up into rooms, and the vast majority of these rooms have enemies in them. Whenever you enter a room with enemies, the room goes into lockdown until all the enemies are killed, and they stay dead only until you save the game. The overworld also has level design so repetitive, it feels like a roguelite, with many rooms being exactly the same as others with the possible exception of the exit points being in different cardinal directions. Each zone has their own enemy types, but having to fight the same ones over and over gets very repetitive and tedious after some time (and the tree-root attack can be hard to see coming since it's a row of same-color-as-the-ground thorns popping out in a row instead of moving towards you).

The game doesn't have an experience system, but it still has RPG mechanics that throw off the balance and difficulty curve. Every time you reach a new save point, you get +1 defense, and I'm certain that many enemy encounters are not possible to get past without taking at least some damage due to the sheer amount of asynchronous bullet patterns being sprayed at you. Heck, the entrance to the lava zone straight up disables your dodge and forces you to tank a bunch of hits before you can progress. There's also a crafting system, and of course, you'll be able to craft better weapons with material from later zones. However, you won't always be able to craft an equivalent to your weapon of choice each time, so it's sometimes better just to stick with what you've got currently (as the short-range of certain weapons puts you in more danger than using a longer-range-but-weaker weapon). What makes this extra irritating is that your projectiles go away when they hit material deposits, but enemy projectiles go straight through them. To top it off, the only progression obstacle is at the end of the first zone; after that, you can go wherever, and you'll only know you went the wrong way when the enemies start kicking your butt. Even then, some areas were really difficult on my first go at them (like the desert and the forest); meanwhile, the semi-final boss and the final boss's three phases all went down pretty quickly.

It's not all bad, though: the dungeons have some actual level design in them, not only having pits/hazards in enemy rooms, but also having some rooms without any enemies that just focus on you dashing between platforms quickly. That said, the main difference between dungeon rooms and overworld rooms is that dungeon rooms have multiple waves of enemies, while overworld rooms only have one wave per room. The bosses are unique, but they can also have some cheap hits; notably, the ice dungeon boss dashes towards you almost as soon as the battle starts, and the only way to avoid it is to preemptively dash away as soon as the cutscene ends (and then keep dashing away cuz the boss will keep dashing towards you for a bit). Also, despite the crowd of bullets that are regularly sent your way, you can only dodge three times before you need to wait a few seconds for your dodge ability to recharge.

The game also has badges you can equip, which have different effects like giving you an extra dash or reducing an enemy's defense. The badges themselves work fine, but I really like how most of them are earned through little avoid-em-up minigames, where you have to dodge different shot patterns while chasing a crystal that moves to a random part of the arena each time you reach it. Unfortunately, to find said avoid-em-up minigames, you have to explore the overworld, which means even more repetitive lockdown segments (even more annoying when it's the enemies that can heal themselves).

Overall, this game is hard to recommend. On one hand, the combat can be kinda fun sometimes, but it can also get repetitive after a while (and kinda cheap at times, too). Wait for a sale.


It Takes Two

No it doesn't, lol

Go ahead, click the banner; reveal the text within. I know you want to...okay, I admit: I don't actually know if you want to, but please...

First thing's first: yes, I beat this game single-player. Yes, I'm insane, but that's beside the point.

Anyway, you should know that you won't be able to play the game with just a keyboard or two; one character HAS to use a controller (the other character can use KB&M, though).

As for genre, this is another multi-genre game. There's some platforming parts, some beat 'em up parts, some walking sim parts, even some third-person-shooter parts, but the thing you'll be doing most often are switch hunts. There will be a door that only one character can open, so that character goes up to the door and holds the "open door" button, waits for the other character to pass, then goes through and lets the door close behind them. Whenever there is some timing required in the levels, you can almost always just go as one character, then switch to the other character once the first is safe on the other side. Even when the timing requires both characters, it's almost never simultaneously; for example, in the first level, there's a switch you need to hit to send a spark across a wire, but there are gaps you need to fill with the characters themselves in order to get the spark across. Thing is, when the spark hits the character in the first gap, that character can't move until the spark hits the second character in the second gap, effectively eliminating any pretense of simultaneous timing (you can just switch controllers once you get the character in the necessary gap). Shortly afterward, you encounter the first instance of simultaneous timing, and it's just hitting a single button while rail-grinding (which automatically moves your character forward); all you have to do is get both characters on the rails (not even at the same time because the rails are different lengths), then have one hand on one character's button and your other hand on the other character's button.

By far the hardest part of the game to do alone is, ironically, the first boss. All of a sudden, your characters have health bars, and dying results in a meter slowly filling before said character can respawn (you can tap the button to make the character come back faster, but it isn't necessary). The boss is wait-to-attack, so you have to jump over shockwaves and move to avoid stuff being thrown at you. During the latter part of the fight, the boss will even send out both shockwaves and projectiles at the same time! Eventually, the vaccum pops up from the ground, and you need one character to suck up the projectiles while the other character aims at the boss. This is tricky enough, but if even one character dies when the vaccum is close to popping up, the vaccuum actually goes away much faster than it otherwise would, making you wait through another volley of shockwaves and projectiles (I think at one point I triggered a glitch where the boss just did nothing except constantly send out shockwaves). No other boss in the game is this unforgiving. Also, If both characters die at the same time, the entire boss fight resets to the beginning. It's the closest the game ever comes to actually taking two, but I was able to beat the boss on my own after several attempts.

After this, the game goes back to being really easy. One character gets the ability to toss nails at slots to reveal platforms, and at first I was like "oh cool, puzzle mechanics," but then I realized that the nails aren't always recalled in the same order, and you're supposed to aim at the nail to choose which specific one you want to recall so you can shoot it and reveal the next platform. The second boss is also a wait-to-attack, but it's way easier since its vulnerable state always lasts the same amount of time, no matter when you die. Also, when the platforming gets mildly complicated during phase transitions, you can always just focus on keeping one character alive while letting the other die and respawn. Heck, some of the boss's attacks only target one character at a time instead of both simultaneously (notably, the shovel slam). There is still a bit of co-op here: the first phase has you toss the nails as one character while the other uses them to reach the boss's weak points, then the second phase (which has a permanent checkpoint at the start) requires you to have one character stand on the shovel while the other uses the hammer to launch the first character, who can then toss nails at the boss's new weak point. The timing can be pretty tight, but it's doable.

When you reach level 3, you lose the nails and hammer, leading you to realize each level is gonna have its own gimmick (the vacuums never show up again after the first level). After a fairly lengthy walking-sim segment that doesn't even pretend to take two, you get your abilities for level 3: one character gets a sap gun (which can weigh stuff down), and the other gets a harpoon (which causes the sap to explode when shot). Again, much of the gameplay is very basic, like when you have to shoot a bit of sap on the side of the plus-shaped platforms so they rotate and let the other character pass. However, you have to fight some enemies, and this is where the level gets…a little bit better, because the harpoons won't damage the enemies directly; they have to be sapped first so the harpoon explodes them. There's a miniboss with a shield, and this is where the game really slows down and gets repetitive because not only is it a single enemy targeting a single character at a time, but the shield effectively makes it a wait-to-attack boss since you have to keep dodging until it stops turning around and lets you shoot it…with one character, then it targets the other character, where you repeat the process and can finally deal damage to it, and that process keeps repeating (at least four times for both characters) until the miniboss is finally dead. The worst part is this isn't even a situation where having another player would make the fight faster; you HAVE to wait. The level has another miniboss afterward, but this one's way better since it doesn't have a shield and you can shoot it whenever. IIRC It even has some projectile attacks instead of just charging at a random character, adding some much-needed variety to the combat (even if it's still easy to dodge on an individual basis). There's a raft segment where one character steers the boat while the other shoots at hazards floating down the river, and while it seems tricky at first, you'll soon realize you can just hug the left wall and avoid almost all the hazards (the exit is on the left side, anyway). Then the game introduces cyclones, but they won't damage your raft; they just toss your characters up, and you have to fall back on the raft (or not, 'cuz even if you miss with both, they'll just respawn on the raft, wherever it is). The beetle miniboss isn't quite a wait-to attack, but you have to fill one of the slots around the arena with sap, then lure the miniboss over and shoot the sap when it gets near to damage it. After this is an autorunning segment, but your jumps are a bit lower and quicker than you'd expect given the length of the obstacles you need to jump over; turns out you have to push the jump button later than you'd think, even seeing your ride clip through the obstacles without taking damage. The boss of level 3 isn't too bad on paper, but it can take a long time to kill, especially since--once again--you have to sap it before harpooning, but now walls of enemies can get in your way, so you gotta sap and harpoon all of them first, and the latter part of the fight takes place on a constant rail-grind, making it that much harder to aim.

Even after you beat the boss, this little section of the game isn't quite over because next is a flying segment: one character steers the plane (WASD) while the other character aims and shoots the gun at enemies and obstacles (right stick and RT). What makes it extra tricky is that enemies can appear behind you, but the tunnels twist around just enough that you still have to pay attention to where you're steering, often forcing you to blind-fire (I wonder if this is how it feels to play Star Fox Zero?). Other times, it's just a room of catapults on the floor, so you can point the gun forward and down and hold the shoot button and be fine. At the end of this flying segment is a fighting game boss, and I've never liked fighting games so I was already predisposed to hating this part, but on top of keeping track of punching, kicking, and jumping, you still have to steer the plane so you don't crash into the walls. I'm sure the fighting game mechanics are quite basic anyway (especially since this is the only fighting game segment in the whole game), but I suspect it also has dynamic difficulty because when I won, all the boss's attacks could be avoided by simply jumping, and its health seemed to go down a lot quicker than in previous attempts. No more plane segments after this, by the way.

The next level is the outer space level, and its gimmick is that one character can change size and the other character can walk on anti-gravity platforms. This level ends up being mostly switch hunts and some basic timing, the worst being when you have to turn the wheel to lower the springboard, but you can't turn it back all the way or you'll launch the other character into the hazard ceiling, so you gotta do trial and error to figure out where/when to stop turning. I also encountered a bug where the size-changing character clipped through a wall and ceiling and got stuck, so I had to redo that entire segment (including the trial-and-error wheel turning):

On my next attempt, I encountered another glitch: there's a grapple point that takes both characters across a gap once they've both latched on, and at the end, it slows down and shows one character on the left (away from the platform) and the other on the right (towards the platform). If you try to jump as the character closest to the platform as soon as you regain control, you'll actually be pulled backwards because you don't get control until after the momentum starts pushing you away from the platform. No problem, you can just re-grapple the grapple point and try jumping off again, right? Nope; if you re-grapple this specific grapple point, you get soft-locked onto the grapple point and can only pause the game. So yeah, I had to redo this section again.

The boss of this level finally brings back some action elements: one character gets constantly chased by a laser while the other character has to find and stand on a switch that reveals the weak point, then the first character lures the laser to the weak point to damage the boss. Since the arena is circular, you can just hold left or right while tapping dodge (this moves the targeted character in a circle), then focus on finding the switch as the other character. The boss's second phase has it shoot missiles at you, but this part is way easier since you just have to run/dodge away until the missile hits the ground, then you can hop on and ride it into the boss to damage it. The third phase doesn't even have the pretense of co-op since it's just one character doing a platforming segment while the other one waits around, maybe avoiding some lasers but it isn't necessary. I always find it hard to justify a game when the experience can be accurately replicated by watching someone else play, cuz that's basically what you'd be doing if you're the character not in the platforming segment. The fourth phase has one character moving a flying saucer around while the other character aims the gun; the radar on the gun character's screen is how you find where the boss is, and the left character's screen isn't necessary at all since the boss also shows up on the radar when in view.

Next is the toy level, and this might be the worst level in the game. Near the beginning, there's a math segment where an equation shows up on the board, and you have to figure out that the numbers you stand on control the numbers on the question side, not the answer side. Still, not too bad, but it's followed by a memory/card matching segment. The switch hunts are bad enough, but this…this is downright offensive (possibly even the worst part of any game I've ever played, and I beat Sonic and the Secret Rings). Not only is it trial-and-error distilled into its purest, laziest form, but it's also exclusively a single-player experience! Wasn't the game's whole foundational concept co-op? The most charitable read is that the publisher mandated the game's length be 16 hours 52 minutes but the game was only 16 hours 51 minutes and the game was due to release in an hour. For real, what's the other player supposed to do? Hitting the cards along with the first player will just have them flip over quicker, making it harder to remember which card is where. I guess the other player is just supposed to stand there and wait…maybe help the first player remember which cards are where? I don't know about you, but I don't need help remembering simple things like that. Anyway, after the math segment is a memory/card matching segment, and let me tell you, this part is downright offensive--

Okay, for real, the next segment is a connect-the-dots segment, and the devs' totally-not-stupid idea for turning this into a co-op activity is that one character controls horizontal movement and the other controls vertical movement. That's it. The hardest part is figuring out which spotty text is #20. Next is a tilt-table where you roll a ball around some holes by moving the characters to shift the board's weight. It works okay, but is once again pretty basic. Afterward is a platforming segment, and this is probably the second-hardest part if you're playing by yourself. It starts with just the entrance platform and a block with the number 1 on it, but as soon as you jump on the 1 block, it starts sinking and the 2 block shows up. Plus, the entrance platform also retracts, so both characters need to be jumping across at the same time, each block sinking and producing the next platform upon your characters landing. I tried dozens of times, trying to alternate between them and trying to control both at once. The furthest I made it alternating is getting one character on block 6, but I'd miss the jump as the other character and have to start over. Eventually, I thought to check the options, and sure enough, you can turn off automatic camera rotation. Doing this makes the section so much easier; now, you can have both characters' cameras facing the end wall, then move both of them at once, just focus on pointing them in the direction of the next platform without having to worry about the camera reorienting itself differently (in fact, this probably would've made the first boss quite a bit easier as well). Still really tough alone (took me about another dozen tries), but entirely doable and fair. This is more what I was expecting from a game built around co-op, not those garbage switch hunts or that fucking brainless memory/matching segment.

The game must've known the numbered-blocks segment would be too much intensity for its target audience of people-who-don't-like-playing-games, so the difficulty goes down even from the co-op version of it, as the next section just has one character ground-pound a switch while the other stands on the spring that the switch activates; once in the air, you just grapple the grapple point and wait for it to take you across, then repeat with the ground pound switches on the other side to get the other character across. Then, you finally get this level's gimmick: spinners that lift you high into the air and let you float down (one for each character; no asynchronous multiplayer here!). You use them to find and turn gears.

…okay, there's also a brief obstacle course, which is designed okay, but it's short-lived; you lose the spinners once you make it to the kaleidoscope segment, which ends up having more trial and error due to its poor introduction of its mechanic: standing on floor tiles changes the color of the floor tile, and you have to stand in the gaps between an existing line of alt-colored floor tiles so they make a fully-connected line. Once you figure that out, every subsequent use of the mechanic is just a regurgitation with a different line; nothing else you have to figure out.

After the kaleidoscope segment, you gotta wander around the room to find wooden statues, then do some more trial and error to figure out which slots they go on. After this, you unlock the handcar, which is just you tapping the buttons (you don't even have to alternate button pushes like in Mario Party, nor do you have to worry about avoiding the lava spouts; the handcar segments are just glorified cutscenes). There's a part where one character is on a large toy dino and can move platforms so the character on the small dino can progress, and the hardest part (which still isn't that hard) is realizing that you're not stuck when approaching the turn before the elevated spikes; you just have to keep walking forward and a cutscene will happen that changes things so you can progress.

When you reach the boat, one character controls the paddle wheel on one side while the other character controls the paddle wheel on the other side. It's effectively the same control setup as Steambot Chronicles: hold both forward to move forward, hold one forward and one backwards to turn left/right, shoot at enemies with LT/left-mouse-button. The main difference, of course, is that Steambot Chronicles is a single-player game. Again, wasn't this game's whole theme that working together is better than going alone? Why are there ANY segments where it's obviously better to do it single-player, let alone so many? You don't even need to worry about firing both cannons at once except for large doors; enemies die just fine with you using only one cannon. There's even a boss at the end of this segment, but again, it's super easy with barely anything you need to watch out for.

After the Steamboat Chronicles segment, you reach a castle level where you get your next gimmick: one character can dash over pits and the other character can temporarily freeze lava spouts into platforms to progress (and teleport through cage walls). A lot of this segment is just fighting waves of enemies, but there is level design here (putting it well above other hack 'n' slash games I've played) with ranged enemies being placed in spots only one character can reach, as well as there being a couple different types of ranged attacks enemies can have. There's even a chase sequence near the end, which is quite tricky to do alone since you'll have to run past enemies to have enough time to break down the barricades past them, as well as use your characters' special meter attacks at the right time. The segment ends with a fight against some chess pieces; it's okay, but I felt it had too much HP, just like the level 3 boss.

Next is the clock tower level; its gimmick is one character can set a teleport spot and teleport back to it (the game calls it "cloning," which is misleading), and the other character can "rewind" objects (for example, fixing a crumbled statue). This level goes HARD on the switch hunts, even having a full-on riddle (albeit a simple & easy one) with the animals over the analog clocks. This is also the only level where there's no icon indicating an interactable object for the opposing character; you have to go there as said other character for the icon to show up on said other character's screen. It doesn't have a timing segment until you reach the second mini tower guarding the main tower at the end; the "clock" face is divided into three sections, and whichever section the minute-hand points towards is the one platform-type of the three that you can stand on (you fall through the other two). There are still some switches, like the two at the end that replace one color platform with a different color platform, but since the "clock" is always ticking, you have to time your jumps and button presses to get past. At the end, one character controls the minute-hand while the other character makes the final jumps; it's okay, but not quite as tricky as the previous timing (though now you don't have to wait for the hand to cycle back around). The bull boss is a bit unintuitive that you need to set a teleport spot down before you stand on the switch to lure the bull to hit the statue; once you realize that, it isn't too bad. After another unnecessarily long hall that's basically empty (and probably a bunch more switch hunts; it all kinda blurs together), you have to jump over clock hands that'll kill you while also keeping an eye on when they change direction; it's okay, but again, not really a co-op-specific action segment. There's also a little chase scene afterward, and for what may be the only time in the entire game, you can't just focus on getting one character to the end before starting with the other character since they both need to be at the end to avoid the explosion; what you have to do is move both forward, then when you reach the first jump, you can focus on getting one to the rail, then switch over while the other is rail-grinding.

Next is the snow level, which also has a bunch of switch hunts. The gimmick is magnets/polarity; one character has blue and the other has red. After a while, you'll reach the first timing segment: one character mans a gun that shoots polarity discs at a wall, but they slowly slide down, so the other character has to use the magnet to get up/across in time.

After another while, you reach the candy factory, and one of the three pipes you need to turn on is guarded by a giant anglerfish. To turn the pipe on, all you have to do is use your magnets to drag the wrench to the screws, then continue using your magnets to turn the wrench to turn the screws. To be frank, the stealth element adds nothing to the switch hunt; all that happens is the camera points to the fish, who charges at you, and then you dodge and continue with the switch hunt. If you get killed, you have to swim an entire ten seconds to get back to where you were. Even if you're okay with gimmicky games, you have to admit that this isn't how to do stealth segments; it should've at least been more like the Deku Palace from Majora's Mask, being a simple maze with multiple guards showing exactly where their view reaches, and maybe the maze could be different for both characters to encourage multiplayer. The game could even keep having to drag the wrench using polarity, making the player balance dragging the wrench with avoiding the guards. But no, they must've spent all their budget on that stupid, detrimental memory/card matching segment.

The snow level really goes all in with the switch hunts (it has very few timing segments). It doesn't even have a boss, instead ending with a windy mountain; you have to use your magnet to latch onto the magnetized signposts while the other character latches onto the first one until the wind dies down, then you gotta run to the next signpost with the appropriate character and repeat the process. It's more annoying than anything, having to keep both magnet buttons held down for so long, all in service of not-that-interesting level design.

After that, you reach the garden level. One character can shoot water, while the other character can use Vine Whip (it's super effective). While the previous couple levels chose switch hunts, this level goes all in with beat 'em up/hack 'n' slash gameplay; though not as good as the castle level, there's still some co-op required since water character can only attack ground enemies and vine character can only kill airborne enemies. There are also a couple enemies and a miniboss that you need to stun as vine character then attack as water character. That said, there's no level design to make fights more dynamic like in the castle level; you fight them once, you've fought them a hundred times. There are a few times where you might think the mobs are endless and that you have to do something else besides attack them, but no, they can just be a lot to deal with, and they always run out if you keep attacking. There's also one part where you have to use water character to shoot plants so they lift their leaves to create platforms for the other character, and it was here where I really started to notice that the game was just recycling the same gameplay in the form of shiny new gimmicks. The level boss swaps the vine gimmick for a ball-rolling gimmick. Its weak points are towers that spew poison; you have to rinse the poison out of existence with the water character, then dash into the towers with the ball character; do this enough and you'll be able to get the ball character to bring one of the boss's weak points in range so you can attack it with water character.

The final level is the music level. One character can sing to toggle platforms and switches, while the other has a cymbal that can be tossed like a boomerang. The beginning has a tricky part since you need the singing character to lift platforms, but your singing meter can run out, so you have to alternate until getting around halfway to 2/3rds, then booking it as the other character; if you make it, you can let the first character die and respawn, then take your time getting across. Not long into the level, you'll find a platform with four-way arrows on it and some mics connected to a +. The mics are labeled with letters, and the wires are color-coded; plus, each letter and wire color corresponds to a spot on the four-way arrow on the platform. Seems easy to figure out what to do, right? Hit the mic as the singing character and the other character can ride the platform…except…
Sorry about the quality; my internet can only handle uploading small GIFs
…it's backwards. The mic is labeled A, and connected to the left side of the plus with a red wire. the left side of the platform is a red arrow with the letter A on it, but hitting the corresponding mic sends the platform to the right.

Later on, there's a part where one character moves platforms around in a circle, and the other character jumps across them. It's very easy considering what's come before, and it's basically just each character doing a little thing and then waiting on the other.

After a bit, you'll encounter snakes made out of cables and a mic. For the first few times, you sing with one character to reveal their weak point, then attack with the other character; very basic stuff. Then, suddenly, the game changes up the mechanics so singing just puts them to sleep and you have to run past before your meter runs out. At the end, the last snake's weak point is on backwards; at first, I thought I had to time my attack while in mid-bounce, but all I really had to do was wait for the bounce to finish sending me to the other side of the snake and then attack. Getting eaten by a cable snake punishes you with an extra-long death animation you gotta sit through before you can try again.

There's a segment where one character controls lights and the other character has to move forward while staying inside the lights to avoid damage. Again, it really feels like the co-op wasn't thought through when segments like this exist that seem clearly designed to be easier in single player. Next you get jetpacks, and there's a couple segments where you shot at flying enemies, and when you shoot the one with the key, you have to bring it to the locked cage at the bottom. Enemies can steal the key back from you, so I assume the other character is supposed to help guard the character who has the key. Either way, it's eventually possible to kill all the enemies in the room, at which point you can take your time bringing the key to the lock. Afterwards is a segment that alternates between rhythm game and a few microgames; you have to run to the appropriate spots to do the microgames (any character can go to any spot), and while I never did clear all four microgames in one go (best I got was three), I also didn't have to, because you're just trying to fill up a meter (it goes up with each success and down with each failure). The rhythm segment was almost the third hardest part of the game, but then I realized that both characters have the same sequence, so then it was just a matter of hitting Q with X, E with Y, and spacebar with B.

And then…that's it. That's the end of the game.

Overall, this one's hard to recommend. The action parts were pretty good for the most part, but there's also a lot of boring switch hunts. The game seems more like it was made to be played with someone unfamiliar with games, to introduce them to the concept. If you're looking for truly meaningful co-op, something that actually takes two…this isn't it.


TO BE CONTINUED….

  • Detonation

    32 minutes playtime

    9 of 16 achievements

Top-down grid movement, but enemies move in real time (not turn-based). All you can do is move, so you have to watch the enemies to learn their pattern in order to avoid them. Besides that, you activate computer monitors to shut off a barrier somewhere, so there’s a bit of backtracking. You have one-hit deaths, and dying sends you back to the first screen, but there are only 9 or 10 screens in the game (and the barriers you disabled stay disabled), so it’s not too annoying. There are also some optional stars you can collect (they don’t do anything except slightly change the “ending” and give you an achievement), but they can be a bit annoying since some are hidden past fake walls.

It’s like Pitcher and the Whale: not bad, there just isn’t much to it.


Since that game didn’t have much content, I decided to wait until I beat the next game in my backlog to make a post, and oh boy, did this game have more content:

  • Cyadonia

    47 hours playtime

    no achievements

Ice-sliding Puzzle game. Once again, all you can do is move in the four cardinal directions, except in this game, you keep moving until you collide with another object (and there’s no controller support). The game is divided into nine “packs” which each contain 50 levels, and each level has a turn limit; beat the level in the turn limit, and you get three stars; get 50 stars in the pack to unlock its 49th level and 125 stars to unlock its 50th level (all other levels in each pack are unlocked from the start). The first two packs are “How to Play” packs, which include tutorials and explanations for the game’s various mechanics. For the most part, the game does a pretty good job of making everything clear, but the switches always involve trial-and-error since you’ll never know what they do until after you hit them (Jade 23 is the worst level since it’s nothing but switches toggling other switches into and out of existence).

Each pack more-or-less has its own difficulty curve. On one hand, this means you’ll start encountering tricky puzzles as early as the How to Play packs (assuming you’re trying to get three stars on every level); on the other hand, this means you’ll have to deal with a bunch of super-easy levels at the beginning of the next few packs, even though they’re not teaching you anything new. The packs themselves are supposed to be in order of difficulty, but I found the Ruby Pack to be easier than the pack before it. The sheer number of easy levels makes it seem like the dev was just trying to pad out the game, and cutting out most of them would benefit the end product.

Unfortunately, even when the puzzles themselves are challenging and fair, the game manages to have problems. Notably, the controls can be unresponsive: if you’re holding one arrow key and you push a different arrow key, you won’t move, even if you’re at a standstill. This makes it very easy to move in the wrong direction by accident, often costing you a move and preventing you from getting three stars. The game does have an undo mechanic, but it costs moves to use, so if you’re trying to get three stars and you mess up, you have to reset the entire puzzle.

Exacerbating this issue is the fact that levels can be absolutely bloated, having a turn limit over 100 or even 200 (Gold 48’s turn limit is 402!!!). The game is super blatant about this, too; there are several levels that are clearly divided into sections, where it’s obvious that once you enter one area, you won’t be able to go back, nor is it possible to bring objects from one segment to another. In other words, they’re just a bunch of tiny levels stitched together into one massive level, so when you reach the end and realize you missed the turn limit by one move, you’ll have to reexamine each section to try to find where you’re messing up. It’s more tedious than fun. I normally consider myself pro-turn-limits, but this game helped me understand why others don’t like them. Seriously, there are only one or two of those sectioned levels where part of the solution involves bringing an object from one quadrant to another; the only other reason to have sections combined like that is more padding.

Oh, but it gets even more frustrating when you finally start encountering levels that are challenging on their own merits instead of solely because of the turn limit. You’d think this is where the undo mechanic would be useful, but no: you can only undo your previous two moves, and that’s it. Again, that’s 2 out of 100 or 200 or even 300+, and if you need more than that, you have to reset the entire puzzle. You’re honestly better off just taking a screenshot and moving the sprites around in Paint.net than you are trying to solve the puzzles in the game itself. Sutte Hakkun also has some lengthy puzzles, and you could even argue that some of them are divided into two or three sections (not four, not nine, not twelve), but the crucial difference is that Sutte Hakkun has mid-level quick-saves: at any point, you could effectively save-state so if you messed up on the later parts, you didn’t have to redo the earlier parts. Yes, quick-saving costs points, but points were never the focal point of solutions like the turn limits are in this game.

(speaking of Sutte Hakkun, apparently the Satellaview versions have exclusive levels, so I’ll have to remember to play them at some point, too).

And then, on top of all that (or perhaps because of it), it can be quite ambiguous how to get the turn limit in certain levels. I lost count of how many times I’d beat a level one or two moves shy of the limit, then do what I swear is the exact same solution and somehow get all three stars. Emerald 44 and Sapphire 30 are especially irksome because they’re two of those levels that are split into distinct sections, but even if you figure out how to get all the gems with the lowest moves possible per section, you still won’t beat the level’s turn limit because–SOMEHOW–changing the order of which section you complete first results in using fewer moves. I didn’t really solve those levels so much as I stumbled upon the solution with–you guessed it–trial and error.

Because of ALL that, I admit, I broke down and used the in-game solution for eight levels. Seven of those times ended up being entirely my fault, a path I was overlooking somewhere. The eighth, Gold 39, I maintain is another ambiguous one; I’m still not sure how hitting the grey blocks on my way down while pushing the green blocks saves three moves compared to what I was doing. Besides that, I got three stars on every level on my own…except Gold 48. Not only is the turn limit over 400, but it’s another one of those levels that’s blatantly split into four distinct quadrants. I don’t even have the patience to watch and regurgitate the solution, let alone try to figure out where I messed up on my own; I’ll just settle for the two stars I got from my own solution to that level.

Overall, this game is surprisingly hard to recommend. Yes, it’s free, and yes, there are a lot of genuinely challenging puzzles here that don’t deserve to be ignored…but even if you overlook all the padding, there’s still the unresponsive controls, butchered undo mechanic, and bloated level sizes that make the game much more frustrating than it otherwise would be. I can’t even say “just ignore the turn limits” since that’s where most of the challenge is (and a lot of it is genuine, fair challenge). I guess…just know what you’re getting yourself into.

P.S. You may be wondering: what’s your reward for getting all three stars in every level in one pack? The answer: your character changes color…in that pack only. Gotta hand it to the dev; he took an already cheap reward and managed to make it even cheaper.

I consider myself to be a pretty big fan of the Mega Man and Mega Man X series, so when I found out this game was a permadeath roguelike, I was pretty disappointed. Still, it went free on Epic, so I figured I’d give it a chance.

Procedurally-generated platformer. Left/right move, A jumps, X shoots, and RB dashes. The game plays just like the Mega Man X games, so when you let go of forward, you stop moving forward, even if you’re mid-dash-jump. Heck, if you hold the dash button and jump without holding forward, you stop moving forward as soon as you stop touching the ground. It’s perfect…except for one issue I had: one of the power-ups lets you dash in mid-air, and sometimes when I’d try to air-dash, it would cut off almost immediately after I pushed the button. This only ever happened when I tried air-dashing (never when I tried regular-dashing), so I’m pretty sure it isn’t my controller messing up.

The tutorial level is designed pretty well, having the button icons show you what does what, as well as using level design to teach things more subtly, like how you can continually wall-jump up walls. The tileset it uses sucks, though: two different colored blocks for solid tiles, and then slightly darker versions of those same two blocks are background tiles. I thought there was a secret behind me, but it was just a differently-colored background tile and I nearly fell into lava. This tileset is even reused for one of the main levels, where it still sucks.

And then, of course, the main game has no consistent level design, being procedurally generated and all. This means new enemies won’t always be introduced safely (something the Mega Man series is known for), which can lead to some cheap hits. The walk-on-ceiling tiles are the worst example: they barely stand out from ordinary ceiling tiles (being a same-color oval right below them), and they’re always introduced over hazard pits, so you’re gonna come across what looks like a dead end and have no idea what to do (discovering how to progress by pure accident, if at all). Plus, they’re only used in three of the game’s ten levels, so you’re gonna forget about them by the time they show up again.

When you beat a level, you can choose either the boss’s power or a stat upgrade. All the powers use the same weapon-energy bar, making it difficult to test which boss is weak to which power. I wasn’t even sure they had weaknesses until I saw a loading screen tip saying as much…after I beat the game (I played on normal mode).

After you’ve made that choice, you’re given a choice of which of three levels to play next until you’ve beaten the first eight, at which point you go to the ninth level, then the tenth level. Thing is, no matter which order you play the first eight stages in, the game still makes sure to get harder by giving enemies more health, speed, and even attacks in some cases. Fine in theory, but this leads to more cheap hits in practice, like how the red flying enemies suddenly gain a dodge and dash attack of their own, or when the purple ones suddenly generate a massive shockwave upon crash-landing. Plus, the HP increase just makes things more tedious; I always got as many attack upgrades as I could, but still found even basic enemies taking longer and longer to kill.

Bosses also get the speed/HP boost, and I’m pretty sure certain bosses become impossible to dodge if left too long (made all the more frustrating by being limited to 3 stage choices each time). For example, one of the dragon’s attacks is to send walls of projectiles from one side of the screen to the other, and there isn’t enough space to get through the gaps if you’re wall-jumping. Turns out, what you have to do is stand on the platforms near the center of the arena, but this was the seventh boss on my first run, and the projectiles came too quickly for me to get back to the center. Meanwhile, the level 9 boss has a similar attack, but with larger gaps in the projectile walls, letting you easily jump through them. On my second run, the wall-bird (EDIT: I meant the wall-mask, “Vile Visage”) was the eighth boss, and it kept spawning crowds of enemies (including self-detonating ones), making it hard to see anything through all the explosions.

Oh yeah, enemy explosions obscure everything, including other enemy shots, so there’s some more cheap hits for you.

The ninth level has a lot of jumping across moving platforms, and with all the enemies and hazards, you’d really want to know where those platforms stop and turn around. It is indicated by a black background object, but the level’s background is also very black, making it hard to see them. The last level has lots of vertical shafts where you have to move quickly to avoid being hit by icicle shooters, but then if you move too quickly, you’ll run into the enemies at the top of the shaft/lava at the bottom. Then, at the end of the level, it flattens out and just has enemies…or at least that’s how my final level was generated. Still, kinda weak finisher. The final boss is actually mostly more level segments: you jump through a bit of platforming with a few enemies, then you climb up some more platforms (avoiding more icicle shooters) and shoot the boss, who just stands there. After a bit, all the platforms explode (which I don’t think damages you) and the boss runs away, generating some more platforming segments. It’s not bad, but it can take a while, and you’ll start to see the same segments show up multiple times (even on the same run).

Overall, this game is okay. It does a lot of things right, but the procedurally-generated levels and workaround-difficulty-curve result in some subpar levels and unfair bosses. If you like platformer-roguelikes, you’ll like this game, but if you’re like me and you’re just a Mega Man X fan with a history of not liking roguelikes, wait for a good sale.

When I first downloaded my DRM-free copy of Overgrowth from Humble, I tested it for a bit and it worked just fine. However, when I went back to play it recently, it was somehow missing a dll file, and after I downloaded that, I got another error. All I can think to do to fix it would be to redownload all 20GB of the game, and I’m not up for that now, so I just deleted it and went back to my Steam backlog:

  • Pitcher and the Whale

    11 minutes playtime

    no achievements

Yes, this platformer is only 11 minutes long. It’s not a demo. Besides standard left/right movement and jump, you carry a bucket that can carry water or be thrown at enemies to stun them. Well, I say “enemies,” but they can only stun you, too. The goal is to go around to different puddles of water, wait for your bucket to refill, then head back to the whale at the start and throw the bucket at the whale so it doesn’t dehydrate. At first, I thought I had to get the whale’s water meter to a certain level, but then I realized it was constantly decreasing. Instead, you just have to keep it from dying until the timer runs out, and that timer is why the game takes so long to beat. There’s only the one level (which is maybe 3x3 screens large), and while it’s designed okay, it only takes about 30 seconds or so to get from one end to the other. Once the timer runs out, the game is over and you see the ending. The biggest challenge is walking slow enough that your bucket doesn’t tilt backward and spill the water before you get back to the whale.


Anyway, since that game was surprisingly short, I decided to play another one before making another post.

This is an expanded version of the SECOND game; the actual third game is called something else.

First, more shoddy port job issues. As soon as you try to run the game, it flips through some images and closes. To run the game properly, you have to right click -> properties -> set compatibility mode to Windows 95 (that said, this is the first time compatibility mode actually solved the problems I was having with an old game, so maybe they did do some maintenance this time). Even with that, there’s still one screen that gets blown by quickly; luckily, it’s of no importance. Once you’re in the game, you’ll see it has an option to view an “online” manual, and as crucial as the manual was for the first game, you’d think they’d maintain this one, right? Nope; trying to access it gives you an error saying either you don’t have enough memory (unlikely) or that you don’t have the CD inserted. Again, this is the digitally-distributed version of the game from Humble Trove (and probably GOG as well); there’s no CD for me to insert, or even an ISO to mount. Oh, and you can’t increase the size of the playfield’s window; it’s stuck at 568x378, which is awfully tiny on a 1440p monitor.

As for the game itself, there are some improvements over the first game. For example, your inventory is a separate window, so you can see all the parts available at once instead of having to flip through several pages. There’s a magnifying glass icon that you can click to read a blurb about different objects and what they do/how they interact with other objects. Objects like seesaws no longer have box collision for random objects, so anything can be placed on top of the transparent pixels. They expanded the level editor so you can add actual win-states instead of having to rely on the honor system. Heck, there’s even a multiplayer mode with exclusive levels where you take (timed) turns with someone else placing an object in the playfield (you can’t take out a second object until your next turn, even if you put your first object back), and whoever’s turn it is when the level is solved wins. Lastly, the score system is gone.

That said, there are some drawbacks. Notably, the magnifying glass icon only shows up on inventory items; if an object is pre-placed in the level, you have to go to the level editor and find the object there in order to read up on it. Pipe tiles also stretch one pixel past unit boundaries, so you won’t be able to put things directly on top/below/beside them unless the object has pixel-placement instead of unit-placement (this issue was also in the first game, but wasn’t as prevalent). The difficulty curve is a bit better, but still pretty wonky despite levels being grouped into “easy,” “medium,” etc.; the first level says to “knock the eight ball off the screen” and there are eight balls grouped together to the left of the eight ball, so it’s easy to misread it and get the wrong idea. There are even moments of trial and error: Easy 24 seems like it wouldn’t be that hard (light the rocket and connect the slopes so it’s pushed up), but it kept exploding mid-slope. I even activated hints, but they only told me what I already knew: use the inclines to adjust the missile’s trajectory. Eventually, I figured it out: instead of connecting the slopes directly, I had to use slopes of gradually-increasing steepness. A potentially-bigger issue is despite the apparent improvement with seesaws, Medium 28 still requires the same unintuitive tactic as level 71 from the first game, and despite the blurbs, this mechanic was once again neglected to be mentioned (it’s arguably worse since you have to place the Tin Snips in the field on your own, unlike how the first game had the bellows pre-set). Meanwhile, Hard 1 can be easily and quickly sequence-broken by–you guessed it–putting an unlit rocket above a flashlight. Heck, there were even a couple times where moving an object screwed up the physics in an unrelated area: the first time wasn’t too bad (failed attempt at Medium 30), but the second time was after I had a fan blow the soccer ball (center-right) in Very Hard 16: when I moved the flint-rocks up a bit so the flame would reach the kettle (bottom-right), suddenly the soccer ball wouldn’t budge, even though it blew just fine last time.

Despite all of that, the worst offender is Very Hard 24. All the directions say is to get the guy off the right side of the screen. That’s it. So I create a path for the guy to walk across, but even though the guy gets 3-4 units past the right side, the solution doesn’t take; I hear the sound for the guy falling down, and the scene keeps running. Okay, maybe I didn’t get him far enough; maybe I need to get him to ride a blimp past the right side, so that’s what I do: I readjust my setup so the guy falls on a blimp and rides it across the right side of the screen…
falling with style
…AND IT STILL. DIDN’T. TAKE. I even looked up a walkthrough (the only time I did so for this game), and while the walkthrough’s solution was quite a bit different than mine, it still ended with the guy riding a blimp! After a bit more trial-and-error, I figured it out: he had to ride the blimp straight right, not angled. Would’ve been nice to know that ahead of time, game.

Not recommended. Again, there are a few genuinely tricky puzzles here (Very Hard 1, 2, 13, 21, and maybe Hard 31), but it’s not worth putting up with the trial and error.

I could’ve sworn I got this game from the Humble Trove, but now I’m not so sure.

This game is bad. Its main gimmick is also its greatest flaw: you can’t control your character. Once you launch yourself, the only thing you can do is hold left-click to orbit any nearby nodes (and right-click to pause), but even that isn’t consistent since your orbit path could be different from last time you had this same trajectory in this same location, or you could end up locking onto a node off-screen, much further away from yourself and your mouse cursor than other nodes. Because of this, any time the game tries to have some sort of challenge instead of being mind-numbingly boring, it ends up going too far in the other direction and being unfair. You have much, much less time to react to hazards than it looks like due to your limited movement options, to the point where many levels quickly devolve into trial and error as it’s already too late to do anything by the time the hazard shows up on screen. Maybe you launch yourself to the next node only to come across some mines in the way (mines and normal enemies don’t show up on your map), or maybe you see the spike wall in time but the only node you can lock onto still has you curve into the spikes anyway. Maybe you didn’t even see the necessary node due to visual clutter and speed-up pipes.

I will say: on the last level, I discovered that pausing and unpausing the game slows the game down for a bit, and that helped me beat the game, but I still wouldn’t recommend it.

I’ve known about this game for a while, but I only just now got around to playing it.

Aww, my version only has 160 levels! I feel cheated.

Physics-puzzle game. Time is stopped while you take objects in reserve and place them in the level, and you click the icon in the upper-right to start time and see if your setup accomplishes the stated goal. Left clicking at any point during the sequence returns every object to their starting positions and goes back to object-placing mode. You can only see five object-types in reserve at a time and have to click the arrows above them to switch between sets of 5, but they automatically shift together as you take them out so you won’t have to keep flipping through if there are 5 or fewer types of objects in reserve. As is well known about physics-puzzles by now, much of the challenge isn’t so much figuring out what to do as it is getting the physics to work properly, just constantly going back to tweak things slightly until it does what it’s supposed to do. Crazy to think how this issue is older than I am, yet physics-puzzles are still dealing with it to this day. There’s also a score system, but your bonus points only tick down while you’re in object-placing mode, i.e. while you’re solving the puzzle, which is dumb not just because timing how long it takes to solve a puzzle is antithetical to the foundational idea of puzzles, but also because it’s easy to cheese (run the puzzle early and then start thinking about what to do, or solve the puzzle ahead of time before reentering your password and regurgitating the solution). The score should’ve been based on how long the puzzle solution takes, or how few parts you use.

First thing you’ll notice is that the game is blatantly running on DOSBox 0.74. You’d think with it being a custom build modified into a launcher for one specific game, the game would at least run without issue, but there are so many instances of severe slowdown in this game (and I’m convinced the slowdown is specifically DOSBox’s fault because the latest stable build STILL lags while running Impulse Tracker). For real, how hard would it be to increase the emulator’s emulated CPU or RAM or whatever the artificial bottleneck is? There’s even a glitch that sometimes happens when entering fullscreen during a puzzle’s preview screen: when you try to click on the play-area’s window to play the level, the game keeps automatically going back to preview mode (to fix the bug, just exit fullscreen). Also, as you may have noticed, there’s a version with CD-quality audio, but the version from Humble Trove (which looks to be the same version on GOG) only has the Genesis/Mega Drive-esque music (is it too much to ask to be able to switch between them?). Just to drive home how slap-dash this…“port” is, according to this article, there’s another version of the game on 3DO that has all the same levels as this, plus extra exclusive levels. They could’ve used the then-open-source FreeDO emulator, added mouse support for the cursor, upped the resolution (so puzzles would all fit on screen), and fixed the slow-down. Then, they’d actually have a reason to sell their emulator frontend because it’d be the definitive version of the game. Hell, they could’ve just recreated those extra levels and injected them into the DOS version! The game literally already has a built-in editor for making custom levels, for crying out loud! Instead, the only change they made was defeating the copy-protection so you don’t have to check the manual each time you run the game, and I admit, that’s a positive change.

Oh, but you’re still gonna need that manual. Despite the massive number of “tutorial” levels, the level design doesn’t show you how most things work ahead of time, nor do the levels’ descriptions tell you much of how things work, either. As early as the very first level, there are bowling balls on unmoving conveyor belts, and you have to figure out how mouse cages will get those conveyor belts to move (fun fact: in the 3DO version, this particular level is the second one; they added a level beforehand that better introduces what you have to do). A few levels later, you’re told that gears can pop balloons, but there are several levels where you need to pop balloons without any gears available; the only way to know what else pops them besides trial-and-error is to check the manual. Luckily, the manual is included as a PDF, but it shows up crowded among the rest of the game’s files after installation, so I didn’t notice it until it was too late.

Even with the manual, there are a bunch of idiosyncrasies that never get explained to you. For example, you’re told that attaching rope to a gun, then attaching the other end of the rope to something that moves (like a seesaw) will fire the gun when the moving object pulls on the rope. Same for light bulbs: attach and pull the rope to turn the light on. This happens…sometimes. Other times, connecting the seesaw to the gun or bulb via rope turns the seesaw into an immovable object, causing other objects to bounce off of it. Once again, it’s back to trail-and-error to figure out what’s wrong. It’s not weight, because light objects have made the seesaws pull ropes before, and the heavy bowling ball is what’s bouncing off right now. It’s not rope length; longer ropes have been pulled just fine before. It’s not falling speed, as shorter drops have also pulled ropes before. What actually causes the problem–which, again, is never mentioned either in-game or the manual–is the angle of the rope: the gun’s trigger has to be pulled backwards, and the bulb’s string has to be pulled down. To add insult to injury, this mechanic is never made use of in the entire game; in fact, it’s worked around by having pulleys, an object with no collision or purpose besides redirecting a rope’s path (and blocking placement of other objects on top of it).

Stuff like that comes up throughout the whole game, but the worst offender is level 71. See, one of the things you have to do is activate a bellows, and the only object either in-play or in reserve that can reach it is a balloon. Problem is, the bellows is just barely sticking out from behind a ceiling, and if the balloon hits that part, it just bounces off without activating the bellows. I was stuck here for a while before finally breaking down and looking up a walkthrough for this game for the first time. Turns out, you need to hit the bellows with a seesaw to activate it. There’s still a problem, though: despite the seesaw being little more than a thin diagonal line, it still has box-based collision, and you can’t have the seesaw “overlap” the bellows, even if it’s just the transparent part. So, how are you supposed to get the seesaw to hit the bellows if you can’t put the bellows in the seesaw’s path? Get this: you have to place the seesaw directly below the bellows, so when it tilts up and doesn’t hit the bellows, it hits the bellows. I’m not even joking; you can clearly see the gaps in their sprites before the bellows activates:
My bellow countrymen, this injustice cannot stand!
In-freaking-credible. There isn’t even so much as a brief extra frame to show the seesaw going further up to visualize the existence of this mechanic; that’s as far up as the seesaw goes.

Oh, and the physics are bad even by physics-puzzle standards. Level 149 seems really simple at first glance: put the trampolines at the edges and use the seesaws to cover the rest of the gaps so the two guys can get to the top. Problem is, there’s a glitch where instead of the ceiling slope knocking the guy to the right, it knocks the guy down and right, trapping him in an endless loop, eventually getting him stuck in a gap that definitely did not need to be there:

As you can see, it’s completely arbitrary as well. One guy made it through just fine, but the other guy got stuck, even though nothing about the setup alludes to any potential differences. There isn’t even anywhere else the trampoline could go; up, and it conflicts with the steep slope or is too high; right, and it conflicts with the gentle slope; down, and it conflicts with the guy’s starting position; all of which place a giant red X on the trampoline indicating it can’t go there. After much trial-and-error with repositioning the first seesaw (the only one that actually moves), I managed to get both guys stuck in that gap. What finally got both of them through was repositioning the second seesaw so they don’t fall directly on the slope. How did that work? No idea.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, many levels can easily and obviously be sequence-broken and completed much faster than intended. At least, I assume so; the manual does mention “decoy parts,” but there are levels (even in late-game) that have a ton of pre-set objects where all you have to do is place a rocket above a trampoline or a flashlight, and the level is over in three seconds. It’s as if the game-engine developer and level designer had no communication with each other; it’s the only explanation I can think of for such a spastic difficulty curve.

Despite all these problems, I can’t help but think the game still has potential for really good puzzles. There were a few that managed to be tricky without requiring anything new: 30, 55, and 156 (and maybe 109, but I did look up a walkthrough for that one to discover that certain objects CAN be placed overlapping the seesaw, but only if the seesaw is facing a certain way. UGH). It’s just that none of the other 160 levels ever came close to realizing that potential.

Overall, I wouldn’t recommend this game. The vast majority of the levels are either really easy or require some ambiguous mechanic that’s never shown or explained (and in some cases, never used again). Even if you’re still interested, just emulate it; that’s what they did. You can even pick a different DOS emulator if you want, one that’s actually had a major update in the last 12 years (though FYI, I can’t seem to get Impulse Tracker running on them except the DOSBox forks, and those ones STILL LAG).

I figured the Humble Trove games I got wouldn’t all be winners, but I had four games in a row I gave up on. First, I found out that Knight Club is only competitive-multiplayer (there’s not even a single player campaign like Street Fighter or Tekken or…most fighting games, honestly). Then, I gave Starseed Pilgrim a chance, only to get stuck very early on because the seeds you get are randomized (on top of the green one’s path being randomized), and there doesn’t appear to be a way to save certain seeds for later. Even when I found the first key, I still could never quite reach it before running out of seeds and having to start over. Starward Rogue could have been a good game (first couple floors seem to have decent enemy variety without being unfair), but it sends you back to the first floor each time you die.

Next, I tried Spoolside, and to its credit, the gimmick of rotating the cube to align platforms in 2D space could work for a platformer. Problem is, this isn’t a platformer; it’s a trading-quest Adventure game. You’ve got the same four locations on each of the cube’s four sides (no top or bottom, as far as I could tell), and going around the cube sends you into the future (going right) or the past (going left); no matter how the future turns out, it’s the exact same platforming (same-size platforms in the same locations) each time, which gets tedious very quickly. More irritating, you can’t get certain trades “out of the way” because if you go even a single screen to the left, your actions in the screens to the right get undone. In other words, the core gameplay (which itself you have to discover via trial and error) is going back and forth through time to figure out which actions result in the best outcomes, then loop back once you have all the necessary items to make it happen–and remember, each loop is the exact same not-that-hard-but-not-that-simple tedious platforming. I don’t even know if this game can be “beaten” or if you’re just expected to experiment with the different timelines until you get bored (two different characters ask for a coin, but you can’t have two coins!).


So, after giving up on so many games, I decided to play one that I was sure would at least be tolerable enough for me to beat:

First, a correction on my post about the first game: you can send minions back into reserve (in both games) by locking-onto the appropriate hive and holding the charge-forward button (RT on Xbox controllers). Neither game mentions this, by the way. Besides that, controls and gameplay in this game are identical to what I wrote about the previous game.

As you might expect of a sequel, many issues from the first game have been addressed, but unfortunately, they each have drawbacks. For example, there’s a minimap (just the map, no enemy radar)…but there’s no way to see the full map. Also, any terrain-changes don’t get reflected on said minimap (notably, the earthquake right before you reach the red hive), which is especially irritating since this game isn’t as good as the first game at making walkable paths obvious (and the first game wasn’t perfect in that regard, either). There’s a line of dialogue letting you know to “destroy the igloos or you’ll be overrun,” which is more than what the first game told you about enemy spawners…but this is after you’ve already had to go past several non-igloo enemy spawners. Plus, since igloos can be destroyed from any angle (as opposed to all the other spawners only being destructible from inside), this could lead newcomers to believe that igloos are the only enemy spawner that can be destroyed. Forgeable items have differences right out of the gate instead of having to sacrifice massive numbers of minions for marginal gain…but the descriptions won’t tell you what most of those differences are. Are they more powerful? Are they faster? The most you’ll be told are any bonus effects they come with, like mana-drain or health-drain.

Enemies can’t be swarmed by your standard brown minions anymore…because there’s an arbitrary limit on how many melee minions can attack a single enemy, so you just swarm with red (ranged) minions instead. Some enemy mobs no longer just mindlessly rush you (others still do, though); there are defensive formations you either need to encircle, tediously break through, or attack the nearby commander to break them…but now there’s even less emphasis on different enemy types! There are the exterminators (who can suck up any minion type, so you have to attack from behind) and sentinels (who just sweep spotlights around that you need to avoid until you kill them)…but that’s basically it, and they don’t show up any more often than the differing enemy types in the first game (maybe even less).

You have free camera control by pushing the right stick horizontally instead of having to rely on LT to face the camera in the direction you’re facing…but now, camera controls and minion sweeping are botched. For one thing, to sweep, you have to push the right stick up first, which sends your minions forward, which you won’t always want to do immediately. For another thing, LT no longer locks onto the closest enemy in the direction you’re facing; I never quite figured out what it prioritized, as sometimes I’d lock onto a far away enemy that my character was facing (when there were plenty of enemies much closer), and sometimes, I’d re-lock-on to something the camera was already facing (something I turned my character away from in order to avoid locking onto it).

All that said, the worst drawback has to be the fact that there’s even less feedback for when you get attacked. The first game had a distinct, loud clank sound that stood out from the rest of the combat sound effects (which already isn’t much), but in this game, whatever sound used instead (if any) gets drowned out by the clanks of your minions attacking the enemies. The first two times I died, I didn’t even know I had taken damage, much less that I was low on health! It wasn’t until my third or fourth death where I happened to look up and see my health draining without any other visual or audio indication.

The gimmicks in this game are slightly more utilized than the gimmicks in the first game. The boat segments are mainly just holding RT to trudge forward, tapping the A button to spend stamina to go faster, stopping the three or four times your ship gets boarded (total, throughout the whole game), and finally trying to parallel-park next to docks so the button-prompt to park your ship appears. The trebuchet segments have you aim at roadblocks and slowly-approaching enemies, then holding RT to slowly pull back, releasing the button to throw the rock. It’s not intuitive exactly how far the rock will be thrown (only that it’s relative to how long you hold the button), so there’s some trial-and-error with the aiming. Also, these already-short-lived trebuchet segments only show up five times (with three of them bunched together at the end), so it’s not something you’ll have time to get used to. Lastly, there are three minion-possessing segments, two of which are just short treks to a switch, but the other one is an entire stealth segment where you have to avoid exterminators and sentinels. It gave me hope that the game would be more strategic than the first, but the rest of the game squandered that potential.

The final boss is handled better, though: you have to use a blue minion to clear away the blue goop, then use red and green to attack the boss’s weak spots. Meanwhile, the boss moves around and occasionally creates more goo or spawns enemies. It’s an improvement over the first game where the boss just sits there and lets the spawned enemies attack you.

Overall, despite the changes, this game isn’t much better than the first game (it’s even a bit worse in some regards). Not recommended.

Not to be confused with the Space Raiders on itch.io

This is a SHMUP. Similar to the original Space Invaders, you can move side-to-side and shoot forward (and even do both at the same time!), but you can also toss a screen-clearing grenade with Y and spawn two shot-reflecting orbs with X (shooting them ricochets your shots directly to a seemingly-random enemy). EDIT: apparently, each character’s X-button move is different (I only played the game as one character, and the game doesn’t tell you their differences on the character select screen). You shoot faster if you tap the shoot button than if you hold it, but your rate of fire is still limited; you can tap the button faster than your character will shoot, which lets certain fast-moving enemies slip between your shots. EDIT: To clarify, these enemies normally just slowly shamble towards you, and it isn’t until you shoot at them when they abruptly bolt to the side before immediately going back to shambling; it’s not like the original Space Invaders where you can time your shots despite their speed. Also unlike the original Space Invaders, you don’t lose if an enemy reaches your side of the arena; instead, you can still attack them by dodge-rolling into them with L or R. As a dodge-roll, though, it kinda sucks; you don’t get much distance and it’s tough to figure out when the i-frames are (or if certain attacks just hit you regardless). Plus, you can’t move for a bit when it ends, making it extra difficult to avoid even regular attacks (especially since there are some attacks that can only be avoided by dodging, but they can happen among other, asynchronous attacks).

Side note: Wikipedia says that there’s “limited movement both into and away from the screen,” but I tried pushing up, down, the D-pad, Z, B, and the C-stick, but none of them seemed to do anything; I still could only move side-to-side. I even tried looking up scans of the instruction manual so I could find out what I was missing, but couldn’t even find that.

There isn’t much level design aside from the walls on each side of you and the destructible barriers that block both your and enemies’ attacks, but the game makes up for it with enemy variety. On top of having different shot patterns, there are even different bullet types: yellow ones can be shot and destroyed, blue ones split into two yellow ones when shot…and I think all the others just go through your shots. There are still issues, as it can be difficult to discern hitboxes, especially with the purple lasers and the wavy ground electricity (and maybe partly because of the camera’s forward perspective). Plus, the boss of level four has purple shots that are somewhat transparent and hard to track.

There are also a bunch of times where the enemies’ projectiles move faster than you can react, so you have to rely on foreshadow animations. Problem is, those animations can happen off-screen since most levels scroll far enough to the side for it to happen. What especially irritated me is that the second boss has the foreshadow+fast shots at you, but then right afterward it moves to the side and immediately fires the fast moving projectiles again! No second foreshadow; it just happens. The only way to dodge the second volley is to know that’s coming ahead of time. Other fast attacks, like the cars in level 2, rely on audio cues, which can be tough to notice among the explosions and other sounds.

There were many times where it really felt like attacks couldn’t be dodged, but I still wasn’t sure if it was the game or if I was just missing something…but then I made it to level 6. See, before this level, there’s an enemy that has its shield up, and if you shoot it enough, it drops its shield and charges at you. Normally, you can kill it before it can hit you, but in level 6, all the enemies are giant and have more HP, so you won’t be able to kill the enemy before it reaches your side. So yeah, I’m convinced the game has unavoidable attacks now, but the game’s continue system also respawns you right where you died, even stunning/hurting all enemies (merely resetting your score), so you’ll never have to worry about losing progress.

At the end of level 6 (the final level), you have to fight the bosses of level 1, 2, and 4 again, in a row, which is especially annoying since bosses have a bit too much health (and the level 4 boss has two phases). They do have slightly different attacks than before, though, so it’s not all bad. The final boss changes things up by the arena being circular, with the boss in the center and you always walking around, always facing the boss. Now, you won’t get trapped between projectiles and the wall again since there is no wall, but there are still a few fast shot patterns that’ll get you. The boss of level 3 also shows up here, but you don’t have to re-fight that boss; you can just keep running away from it since the arena is circular. The final boss’s final phase took me a moment to figure out because I thought I just had to shoot the shield like I did with the enemies from before, but you actually have to shoot and destroy one of the little orbs at the vertices, as they’re what’s powering the shield.

Overall, this game is hard to recommend. There are some neat ideas, and it’s easily better than a lot of other games I’ve played, but I can also see why it didn’t review so well. Don’t pay more than a couple dollars for it.

Another short post, but as I’ve mentioned before, I haven’t played many free itch.io games that really deserve to be spotlighted.

Not to be confused with the other Space Raiders on Gamecube

This is an avoid-em-up. There are four bosses, and they each shoot waves of bullets at you. To avoid the bullets, you can move in any of the 8 cardinal directions, and you can also dash through bullets by pushing space bar. There’s no way to counterattack; you just have to survive until they give up.

There isn’t much to say about this one; controls are responsive, graphics are intuitive, and the bullet patterns are fair without being repetitive (unless you die and have to replay them). My only major issue is that the third boss spawns the cars a bit too quickly to react; near the end of the fight, I happened to be close to where one was about to spawn, and by the time I noticed it happening, it was too late and I got hit. The dash move also isn’t necessary until the second half of the second boss, so I kinda forgot about it and thought I was just stuck in the corner for a couple deaths. The boss fights can also be quite long, and if you die, you have to start the boss fight over, which can be rather tedious if it happens. Extra HP can sometimes spawn, though it always spawns away from where you are, making it tough to reach in time without getting hit, thus making the trip moot.

Still, I recommend it. You can play it here: https://spicy-chicken.itch.io/space-raiders

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