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


I know I don’t like roguelikes given my past experience with them, but I figured I’d give Enter the Gungeon a shot since I tend to like SHMUPs (and because it was free on Epic). It starts off fine for the first couple levels (maybe a bit too easy), but when you get to level 3 and the challenge picks up, that’s when the problems start getting more apparent. While it won’t have enemies spawn right by you that jump into you quickly like Binding of Isaac does, it has rooms take up more than just one screen, and when you aim with the right stick, the camera pans to put you on the opposite end of the screen. On top of this, rooms usually have multiple waves of enemies, with the next wave spawning before the first wave is completely dealt with; between this and the camera, it’s very easy for an enemy (or multiple enemies) to end up behind you and hit you before you can react. The level 4 boss (or one of the possibilities for level 4’s boss) is a wall that slowly moves towards you and shoots 4 walls of bullets that you can only just barely dodge past, but it also shoots bullets in a shockwave pattern desynced from the wall, so sometimes the bullet wave comes right before the wall of bullets, making it just far enough that you can’t dodge past without getting hit. Then level 5 manages to get worse by having a dark tileset and also dark enemies that charge at you so you won’t even see them at first. This level was where I first died, and when I chose another character and realized I was sent back to the beginning, I realized I wouldn’t like this game either, so I gave up and decided to beat all the A Hat In Time user levels that were featured except Onsted Parc Island (requires multiplayer), and Snow City (no objective).

A Hat in Time (featured user levels)

28.7 hours total, 17.1 hours just on custom levels, 17 of 46 achievements

Click to expand


This one's already at a disadvantage because Delphino Airstrip was the least substantial part of Super Mario Sunshine, acting as little more than a tutorial. There are two goals: the first is to collect 100 pons, except it turns out there are only 99 in the level, and one of them can't be collected (it's in midair next to others that you'd get launched through, but it's misplaced so you launch past it). Luckily, if you activate the 8-red-pons objective, you can collect two of them and the goal will appear as normal (but the red pon timer will still count down). As for the red pon mission itself, it's not *too* bad, but the game puts dotted lines connecting one to the next one (not one to all the others), and if you try to get them all "in order," you'll end up wasting time and going in a circle; after I ran out of time and died, I realized I had to break off the path after the third one, collect the eighth and seventh ones, then jump back to the fourth one to get them all in time.

VERDICT: Not if you already have Sunshine (and even if you don't, eh).



This one has a bunch of different tasks you need to complete before the goal appears. Most of them are just fetch-quests (find missing owl, hit button on windmill, bring 5 pumpkins to the pumpkin patch), but there are a couple noteworthy parts. One task has you get a ball from a yard while avoiding the view-cones (and if you don't approach the yard from the right side, you'd miss the NPC who tells you that those owls have view-cones when all the other owls are harmless). However, this has one major difference from the stealth segments in the base game: the mud puddles from 1-3 are reused (falling in one stalls you, giving the enemies more time to spot you)! This is a great example of how clever re-use of gimmicks can create new challenges, and it's something the base game could've used more of, even though that whole segment only lasts a few seconds. Unfortunately, the custom boss is a negative point. I appreciate that it is an actual custom boss instead of just a rehash of one of the base game's bosses, but the meteors fall WAAY to fast for you to dodge them, and the shockwaves come out of the boss seemingly without warning, so if you're standing next to the boss to attack it, you'll likely get hit before you can see it coming. I had to equip the laser badge and stand back, but I still got hit by a meteor before finally killing it.

VERDICT: eh



This one's split between two missions. The first is mostly a stealth mission, but it stops around halfway through to make you throw apples at ice. I don't think that segment is supposed to be that difficult, but the Dweller bell begins retracting well before the timer starts to run out, meaning you barely have enough time to make it there and back. The cut-scene at the end of the first mission also takes too long IMO; it could easily be cut in half and still convey the same info. The second mission begins with you needing to shoot a laser at a chain, and it's the only time in the whole mod you need to use the laser badge. The next room has a viewcone pointed at the switch you need to hit, and after wandering around a bit trying to figure out what to do, I equipped and used the main hat, which pointed at a platform I didn't even see before due to the low lighting. Afterward is a larger room with more switches on the walls and viewcone enemies below, and it's not too bad except when the camera suddenly zooms forward and you can't see anything and get caught because of it (though that's a base game issue). The level gets better after this, having you jump past lasers (though it's way trickier if you don't know you can kill your momentum during a dash by pushing back on the control stick), and even forcing a 2D perspective later on so you can see the jumps better (though sometimes it needs to rotate the camera and it's possible to jump past the trigger, which I did the first time I made it there). However, there are a couple parts where you need to jump through vents, and the first one forces a 2D perspective, making it look like you just need to go up and right even though you need to up and *forward*, then right (and I swear I tried going forward a couple times before it finally went). I even got stuck for a bit in my wall-sliding animation since I couldn't land on the upper floor nor fall back down:


After all that, you need to talk to the NPC by the door three times in a row to get through, and not long after is a chase segment. Just like the level in the base game, the enemies follow your exact movements, only touching them results in an instant death instead of simply taking damage. Honestly, the segment isn't too hard except for one part around 2/3rds through where you have to jump on top of an air duct because the camera almost always messes up right there. Every time I died on that segment (or almost every time), it was right there, and when I finally got past that one part, I made it past the rest of it just fine. Given the atmosphere change, you'd think the level is almost over, but there's actually another 15 minutes or so of platforming before the end, even including some more apple-to-ice segments; it's not too bad except the level reuses the platforms on metal frames, resulting in more sudden camera zooms when you're just trying to reorient yourself.

VERDICT: sure



It's funny how The Cunductor's Village tried to maintain the scarcity of Rift Coins by making them cost 1000 pons, then this level goes and puts four of them right at the beginning of at least two of its missions. At one point, I used the default hat, and it pointed to a door that was always locked in every mission, so I guess it falls to the modder to make sure that works. Honestly, despite containing six missions, most of it isn't that memorable; there's some basic platforming for the first mission, a timed objective followed by a switch hunt for the second, then the third has dark lighting which can make it hard to see grapple points. The fourth is a lava level and has some tricky jumps, but at one point it summons chasing hazards suddenly; you're supposed to avoid them for 20 seconds, but if you fall off you get sent back to an earlier part (where the previous checkpoint was) and can run the timer out there where it's easier to avoid running into them. The fifth mission is a stealth one, but it starts with some platforms over a normal looking floor, except falling on the floor triggers a fail-state and sends you back to the last checkpoint. Mission 6 also has stealth segments with some floors that are safe and other floors that are actually the same floor just on the other side of the gate be fail-state floor. However, the standout part of this level is the boss. It starts off like the final boss in the main game where you have to attack it to start the battle, but when I did a homing attack on my first try, it triggered around 5 different hits, so the message box appeared 5 times in a row. To make things worse, a vertical attack beam summons as soon as the message box goes away, and you have little time to react even when your movement isn't interrupted by more text boxes. The actual battle then begins: it's a large arena filled with a bunch of cubes you need to jump on to make your way to where the boss teleported (it teleports to a new location after each hit). Thing is, you're constantly being shot at by homing missiles, and you won't always have the camera pointed at them since the boss or next-higher platform is in a different direction, so it isn't uncommon to get hit by a missile that snuck up behind you. To make matters worse, sometimes the boss will have one platform you need to stand on to attack it, but as soon as you land on this platform, another vertical laser gets summoned that covers the entire platform, so you have to jump away quickly to avoid it, giving you no time to attack the boss unless you come from above and use the homing attack. Also, just like the base game's bosses, this one takes way too many hits to die.

Oh, and when I finally did beat the boss, I got stuck in the ground after getting the goal, so I didn't get to see the epilogue (at least it still counted as me beating the level).

VERDICT: no



After the last mod, I decided to stop trying to be picky and just play all the mods in the order they were listed. As advertised, this one copies the first part of the Super Mario Galaxy galaxy of the same name, though it has a unique Dweller apple segment, which has its own goal. The path to the boss is more reminiscent of something that'd be in Super Mario Galaxy, and as such, can be sequence broken with the double-jump-dash combo that the base game makes you do in 1-1. The boss itself is a bit finicky since you need to use the base game's finicky homing attack; sometimes it'd work, sometimes I'd hit the boss and bounce off. There's a third goal for collecting five vault tickets, and if you get some while doing the other two objectives, they stay collected, which is nice. The final mission is to collect 100 blue pons; while it is timed, there's quite a bit more than 100, so if you miss a couple, you don't need to worry about going back and getting them (though I did and still beat the mission without running out of time).

VERDICT: sure



Either this mod malfunctioned or it doesn't have any music. The rest of the mod worked fine. It has some unique ideas to separate it from its inspiration, but this also results in some trial and error, like when one NPC's throw arc actually goes *over* the wall instead of towards it, so you need to jump to the island manually, hit the button to raise the wall (which only lasts a few seconds), *then* trigger the NPC's throw. EDIT: Also, this level can take a while to load for some reason.

VERDICT: not really



This level is a meme. The first goal is literally just to walk in the restaurant, talk to the cashier, and order some food (which doesn't even cost pons). The second goal (the one you're actually told about) is to collect 100 pons, but unlike in the Delfino Airstrip mod, there's actually enough this time (maybe even one or two extra). No enemies, though; not even risk of fall damage. When I got the collectible for the second mission, the game crashed, and every time I started the game, it told me that a crash happened "recently." I had to go into the source files and delete the crash dump to stop the message from appearing.

VERDICT: why do so many of these mods lack any kind of challenge?



The description warns that the level takes a while to load, but it neglects to mention that most of that time has the loading bar stuck at, like, 20% (though that's probably not the mod's fault). Most of the microgames are really easy (easier than the original WarioWare, on par with WarioWare Touched), but the ones that co-opt Time Rift segments force a 2D perspective when one isn't warranted, making it unnecessarily difficult to judge depth or see a small gap between two platforms near the edge of the screen. Plus, the description for the "appreciate fine art" microgame goes by too fast to read it (for me, at least), and when I inevitably took damage, the camera ended up zoomed in too far during the transition segment, then it displayed the same objective, but moved on to the next microgame anyway. I'm a little disappointed that the "boss" segment was just a heavily dumbed-down, turn-based retelling of the world 3 boss; it isn't even timed like Dungeon Dilemma.

VERDICT: eh



This one has a neat concept, and the tutorial does a great job of teaching you how to perform the exploit. However, the level never really does anything with it beyond what you see in said tutorial. There's, like, one slope that has some buzz-saws you need to weave around, but that's it.

VERDICT: disappointed



This is a tower defense with six waves and no way to see the HP of the tower you're defending. The first wave is just you and the enemies, then you unlock destructible barricades; you can only put one up between each wave. After the second wave, you unlock cannons you can activate for a set period of time, and then the level just continues with each wave spawning more higher-HP-enemies. If any do reach what you're supposed to be defending, you can attack them, at which point they'll turn around and try attacking you, so the level really isn't that hard; just kinda repetitive. After all six waves, you see the ending, but the goal doesn't show up. The only thing you can interact with is one of the cannons (which is pointless since there are no more enemy waves), so I had to pause and exit the level manually.

VERDICT: nah



This is one where you have to collect enough yellow pons to open the gate to the next segment of the level. The later segments take place in outer space, where you jump higher and slower (but forward movement is unaffected). This one can actually get a little tricky, especially near the end where it can be hard to see where you can jump up to when you're on the lower platform, though it doesn't matter all that much since falling off just takes one point off your health and puts you back at the start of the segment.

VERDICT: sure



This one has a pretty ambitious opening, featuring an en medias res cut-scene and a theme song to go along with the opening credits, but then you start playing and it's just a basic stealth level. The path splits, and you need to go down both paths to get two keys. The right path has very narrow halls, so you need to wait in small nooks for the guards to go by. The left path doesn't make you wait; it just has you find an examinable object to cause a distraction so the guard isn't looking at the key anymore. Once you get both keys, you have to answer some trivia (the answers of which you can find scattered in the previous rooms), but even if you get one wrong, you can just try again and brute-force it since you only have two-to-three choices per question and aren't penalized for getting one wrong. After this, the level has another split path, one of which is another switch-hunt distraction except easier because there are less guards. The other path is a small maze where the guards don't move, so you just need to work your way around them (it also has a bit of verticality, which naturally means the camera buckles under the sheer complexity of basic 3D). Once you hit each switch at the end of both paths, you open the gate to the next segment: a platforming segment with the same stylization as the opening. Unfortunately, the stilyzation results in both the top and sides of platforms having the exact same white texture, and with most platforms being as close as they are, it can literally be impossible to tell where one platform ends and another begins unless you're either *very* close to the edge or you move the camera around. Worse, the spinning platforms rotate much faster than normal, making it difficult to time your jumps onto them (especially when you *also* have to time your jump from a hookshot swing). After another cut-scene and a slow-mo segment that lasts too long, you reach the boss, except it's literally just a reskin of one of the base-game's bosses. If there's any difference at all, the boss *might* be faster since I found its homing-ground-pound attacks impossible to avoid (though the game spawns enough heart pons that you'll still win on your first try).

VERDICT: not really



This is another "collect yellow pons to open the gate" level, but this one has present boxes for platforms. It also tries to use the exact same model for decorative purposes, but puts them too close to the real platforms.

Let me know if this gif does not load
Beyond that intro segment, each segment of the level is based on a world from the base game: the first one after the intro is based on world 1: there's a mafia that'll throw stuff at you and you use umbrellas to bounce up to higher platforms. The next is based on world 2, but the lighting makes it next to impossible to see the viewcones (which is doubly annoying since the game combines guard owls with regular NPC owls). Another segment has the aesthetics of world 3 and requires using the Dweller Mask, though with all the branching paths, it can be hard to know which leads to a yellow pon and which leads to the gate. There's also a segment based on the city parts of world 2, though I don't remember that part too well.

VERDICT: eh



This one impressed me because unlike all the other mods that reused bosses from the base game wholesale, this one added a gimmick to keep things interesting: you can't hurt the boss normally. Instead, you have to throw an apple to create a Dweller force-field, and you can hurt the boss as long as it is in the force field. The apples also produce a harmful shockwave when thrown, so there's another little thing to watch out for. Unfortunately, the boss is a bit buggy as sometimes it'll be invulnerable while still being inside a force field, and just like its base game counterpart, it takes too many hits to die.

VERDICT: eh



Another yellow pon level. The first two segments just have you avoiding viewcones like normal, but on the third one, you have to deal with the world 2 boss again. At first, I thought I just had to avoid its attacks and collect the pons like normal (which was a neat idea), but on top of its homing-ground-pound attack being nearly impossible to avoid if you don't have the camera facing towards the boss, there aren't even enough pons in the level to open the gate; you *have* to fight the boss to get enough pons, and that made the idea considerably less neat (at least the boss goes away after only a few hits). The next segment is the same deal: fight off the boss, *then* explore the area for the rest of the yellow pons. The fifth segment actually changes things up a bit by combining the world 2 boss with an invulnerable world 3 boss, and it's done in a way that actually works and is fun. Unfortunately, the next segment is ONLY the world 2 boss; the only difference is that the arena is on a train roof, so the platforms are thin. The pattern doesn't get to its more complex stuff, so it's still just kinda repetitive. The final segment recycles the final boss's pattern, only now you have to use balloons to get enough height to use the homing attack. Like the other bosses in this level, its health is far reduced from normal, though its still mostly just a recycled boss.

VERDICT: eh



This one automatically reduces the resolution, and there's an optional "hard" mode togglable at the beginning that causes the game to phase into a massively lower resolution for a second or two before going back to the default lower resolution. I did not play with that mode enabled. That aside, I wanted to like this level because it tries to have challenge while most other mods don't, but of course it has some issues. Notably, some platforms wouldn't display the player's drop shadow, and it seemed random which ones would and which wouldn't. Also, near the beginning, there are some spinning platforms, and the next place you need to jump is much higher than a double-jump from the wall would get you. Turns out, there's a specific maneuver (possibly another exploit) you need to do here: jump on the cylinder like normal, run up the wall like normal, then double jump to get as much height as you can, then dash. Normally, a dash would have you bonk against the other wall, fall, and die, but if you push the jump button, you'll flip out of your dash without killing your momentum while also triggering another run-up-the-wall move. You're never told how to do this move (I had to look up a video) and you only have to do it twice in the whole level (the second is a jump from a hookshot swing, making it much harder to be precise). The level *does* tell you how to do the painting-double-jump and how to jump further on platforms connected to a rotating gear, so it easily could've had one for the earlier maneuver. It's also possible to clip into said rotating gears and get stuck. The final segment is just some basic platforming, but the closer you get to the end, the lower the resolution becomes; I had to rotate the camera so I could see where one platform ended and the next began.

VERDICT: eh



Unlike the Mario-Galaxy-based mod, this one has exactly 50 blue pons, and you have to collect them all. There's no time limit, though, and not much in the way of tricky platforming, even though the trains will mess with your momentum. If you make it to the end and find out you missed some, you can look back and jump down without worrying about redoing your steps since there's a manhole at the beginning that teleports you to the end.

VERDICT: eh



Unlike the previous level, this one puts harmful signposts in front of the train, so you need to jump around them while riding to your destination. Thing is, they're so close to each other that there's no way to jump between them without taking damage. After quite a few deaths, it finally occured to me that I had to use the Time Stop hat, even though neither the description nor the level itself told me it'd be required (and I only had enough to stitch the hat because previous mod levels had yarn as collectibles). Thing is, even with the Time Stop hat (which just slows time down for a couple seconds, not stop time), some sings are too tall or wide to jump past, and I only discovered by accident that you have to go *under* some signs, even though--once again--the game doesn't render their drop shadows. Something the modder definitely had control over were the harmful flower beds; they don't look harmful, and you'd only know beforehand if you spoke to an NPC off to the right side of the area (I had the camera facing left because that's how you approach that part of the level).

VERDICT: no



This level is way better about keeping the harmful signposts flush with the train and also using different colors to indicate height better (or maybe I just did better because, in the last level, I eventually realized I had to zoom the camera in so I could better see the height differences). It's still tough to see if it's a sign you need to duck under, though. After the signs, rocks will fall from the ceiling indicated by red cylinders, but the roof of the train is also red, so it can be hard to see where exactly they'll land. Then the falling rocks will be indicated by yellow columns, and this is your only warning that these rocks will create a harmful shockwave upon landing. The level has a boss, but it has to have been copied wholesale from the DLC because if it wasn't, the modder would've fixed the fact that you can avoid the boss's homing missiles just by standing still. You can also avoid the waves of regular missiles by standing between them. After that is a room with springs that bounce you to the next platform, a weirdly empty room with conveyor belts that don't push you, and finally ending with a room containing only two regular enemies; beat them and hit the switch in the next room, and the goal will spawn.

VERDICT: eh



Maybe it's just because the last two levels weren't designed that great, but this level blew me away with how well implemented the trains and harmful signposts were. Not only are they all flush with the train (so you never have to duck under one except the very first one which is above regular ground and *not* a train), but it mixes it up by having lava-falls, regular enemies, and even a Dweller apple segment at the end. I've said it before and I'll say it again: this is the kind of level design the base game was sorely lacking, only unlike The Conductor's Village, this has the benefit of maintaining that level of quality throughout the level. Only two things I can complain about are 1) the enemies falling on the train can be a bit hard to tell where exactly they'll land, and 2) that same train segment ends in a hookshot grapple point that I didn't see because I had the camera zoomed in to look for any elevation discrepancies like the previous two levels had.

VERDICT: Yes; this is the best one.



After the opening, the level forces you on the scooter and disables hat-switching. The objective is to outpace a train so your NPC companion can kill all the mafia on top of it (who are throwing cans at you). It's a little unintuitive since the train outpaces you by default (yes, even on the scooter), so you need to hit certain springboards to launch you forward, but one springboard launches you into a nook beside a building, killing your momentum. Late into the level, it has a thin road with three NPCs shooting rockets, but it also has harmful flowers falling between the rockets (where the only safe spaces are), and when they fall isn't synced to when you get there, so it can be hard to react to them.

VERDICT: eh



This level claims to be inspired by Celeste, but in execution, it's closer to The King's Bird. One of the first thing's you'll notice is that your drop shadow won't appear over the jellyfish (springboard model-swaps), but after a checkpoint or two, the level starts making you do maneuvers to keep your momentum while doing jumps. Plus, *because* you need to maintain momentum, you can't stop yourself to make more accurate jumps; you just have to go forward and hope the game's lack of accurate depth perception doesn't fail you. For example, you'll reach the top of a slope with a jellyfish at the bottom, and you have to dash and fall on the slope to gain speed so when you hit the jellyfish, you have enough momentum to make it across the large gap to the next platform. Thing is, right before the checkpoint, you have to do a momentum jump that's *so* precise, I ended up hitting the platform with the lower-half of my player model nearly every time, but the platform has ledge-grabbing disabled, so I'd always fall down and die. After several attempts, I was willing to give up; I just needed proof that the jump was impossible, so I started recording...


...and I made it. Awesome, I can play the rest of the level, now!

And no, I don't know what I did differently.

Not long after that, you reach the 1/3rd point in the level which has a little house you can enter. In fact, you *have* to enter it so you can read how to do the exploit the rest of the level is built around: sprint-double-jumps. Its such a frame-perfect exploit, the game goes out of its way to tell you to go to the options and decrease the frame-rate to its lowest point (30 fps) just so you can do the exploit semi-reliably. Just make sure you examine the computer on the wall and not the TV in the corner, or else the level will waste your time with an unskippable, irrelevant poop non-joke. Honestly, I could look past the exploit being a little unreliable if the level were better designed, but even the second-third of the level has you make sprint-double-jumps towards a wall, then run-up and jump to a platform higher than what the camera would let you jump to accurately. The worst part is the last checkpoint in the final third: not only do you have to do a sprint-double-jump followed by a momentum-maintaining jump from a jellyfish (all while dealing with the game's bad depth perception), but you have to make the jump from a rotating gear on its side (which, again, you can clip into and get stuck), and the platform at the end will fall down after a second. It doesn't help that just holding the dash button triggers a second dash when you land, one that the platform isn't large enough to keep you on. Luckily, this level has an exploit it doesn't tell you about: after the first third, you stop taking damage. This was likely done so falling wouldn't stall you, but if you have to make a jump over a floor covered in urchins, you can just jump on the urchins without taking damage and use that time to catch your breath and reorient the camera. At least the jump right before the goal is a normal one (I still did a sprint-double-jump just to be safe, luckily pulling it off, though when I dashed, I ended up on top of the platform). I swear I spent at least an hour on this level alone.

Making a level that's supposed to be hard is one thing, but when half the difficulty comes from flaws with the game itself, even people who like challenge won't find it fun.

VERDICT: No



As much as I dislike the previous level, this one might be worse. The gimmick isn't hard to wrap your head around, but absolutely *nothing* you can stand on will display your drop shadow. Plus, they're very thin, their hit-box doesn't match the model (you could be standing on air slightly above it or standing inside it), and when you combine all of this with the fact that some of them *rotate,* you can see why a 30-second segment will take several minutes to make it past. I almost gave up before the first checkpoint. The second segment turns the level's own gimmick on its head by having Dweller platforms' effects reversed with each other, whereas hazards only have their effects swapped with ordinary platforms. The third segment manages to be even worse than the first one: not only do you have to ride across a gap and jump through safe spots quickly lest you be left behind and fall, but if you *do* fall, you have to stand there and wait for your ride to come back (a ride which not only won't display your drop shadow, but also instantly reverses movement without stopping and does so quite a distance from the checkpoint, so you need to jump across a gap towards it, a jump you'll have trouble making due to the game's bad depth perception). The final segment manages to be better by comparison: while some of what you can stand on have razor-thin hit-boxes, you can see your drop-shadow on the harmful block below it.

VERDICT: no



This level starts by forcing a 2D perspective *and* forces movement to be 2D as well. Plus, since the camera moves with you (rather than being locked into place like in ConductorWare), you can still make jumps just fine. Not long into the level, you get some unique powers: a badge that lets you climb a wall by holding X (no stamina, unlike Celeste) and a hat that gives you an extra, aim-able dash. There are also 20 optional collectibles you can find by going down subtle split paths, though I wish the level were better about communicating which paths lead to the optional collectibles because I ended up climbing over the level thinking there'd be one there for sure, but that ended up being the way I was supposed to go and I couldn't go back. Plus, the game went back to a 3D camera without indicating it, so when I tried jumping forward, I ended up going in front of the diamond (balloon model swap that restores your aimable dash) and falling. Beyond that, there aren't too many problems. There's even a positive detail since the level has a custom death animation where hazards ignores your HP and send you back to the checkpoint faster than the default one.

VERDICT: sure



This one has you go through four segments that are hand-crafted, but are in a random order and pulled from a set of way more than just four segments. The ones I played were okay, but 1-2 deserves special mention since it managed to have walls that *don't* cause the camera to zoom in when bumped into! They still obscure your vision, but the base game sorely needed some of these (especially since the camera will zoom in if it gets behind one of the horns on the houses in world 4). Unfortunately, 7-1 has a cheap shot: you have to use a spring to bounce to a distant platform, but it doesn't send you far enough to land on it, so you have to jump at the side so you automatically run up and grab the ledge. That's fine, but the level has one of those invisible cat enemies on the platform, and it happened to be placed right were I was running up, so I immediately got knocked down and sent back to the checkpoint. There's a "hard" mode where you have to play through all of the segments in a time limit, but after experiencing that one cheap hit, I decided not to do that.

VERDICT: eh



This just has you running around world 1 collecting candy-corn (blue pon model swaps). There are a few new areas, like a nightclub and a crow hideout with some basic stealth segments, but I didn't see much that was that interesting.

VERDICT: nah



This one's based around using the laser badge and brewing hat. It starts simple enough, but slowly gets more complex. There's one part where guards are walking back and forth, and you have to time your laser to hit a switch, except hitting the switch seemingly did nothing; I had to go to the other side of the platform and shoot the Dweller bell. There's one part where you have to shoot a laser at a switch I didn't see the first time to get a platform to stop spinning way too fast, but what the game doesn't tell you is that the switch toggles *two* spinning platforms, so when you jump forward, you need to turn around and use the brewing hat to hit the switch again. There's also a part with platforms that disappear quickly, and at the end is a switch on a small platform, but it triggers a platform to come down, so if you do a regular attack, you'll get knocked into the abyss (though the switch will stay triggered). Still, it mostly has good ideas.

VERDICT: sure



This level automatically saves your progress after each room, but sometimes it'll hang on a black screen between rooms. If this happens, you can pause and unpause the game and it'll load the next room just fine. The first room is a tutorial of sorts; there'll be ice spikes blocking you, so you hit a switch that drops a red cube down; throw the cube at the ice and they'll both disappear. Then you'll encounter some flames; hit the switch to drop a blue cube, throw it at a flame and they'll both disappear.

The second room picks things up a bit by having you throw a blue cube onto moving platforms with flames on them. You don't need to hit the last one since you can just jump to the ground at the end from the third platform, then hit the switch that opens the path forward, but since the third platform won't display your drop shadow, it can be hard to jump back on it accurately (though if you fall, you'll be sent back to the beginning with one less health and the path forward still open, so it's not that big a deal).

The third room practically drops the fire/ice gimmick entirely and just becomes a switch riddle; wander around the room until you see markings on the wall that indicate which switches you have to hold down with the black cubes since that's all they're good for. At one point, the switches will open a door, but it's a door inside the bottomless pit! Needless to say, finding out that's what happened took me a while, though the whole room is very subtle about where things show up.

The fourth room introduces robo-mafia; they act the same as regular mafia except sometimes instead of their main punch attack, they'll do a second attack where they glow and summon three vertical lasers. Whenever I attacked them, I took damage, so I assumed they were invincible and moved on. I reached a switch in their room by doing the Shiny Slushie Falls maneuver, but that opened the way forward. Did I sequence-break the room? Is there really a way to kill those enemies? Eh, I don't care to find out.

The fifth room is just a long drop into water, but you have to do trial and error to find out where its safe to fall without falling onto lava cubes (center of the wall opposite to the start point). Once you make it to the bottom, the lighting becomes so bad you can barely see anything, but you still need to find where the exit path is before you drown.

The sixth room has platforms that won't move unless you hold their switch down with a cube. The way forward is blocked by ice, so you need to hookshot to where the red-cube-switch is, then bring the cube up a staircase where more robo-mafia are. Okay, there has to be a way to kill them. After a bit of experimenting, I found that if you get just out of their range and use the brewing hat to throw bombs at them, they'll take damage without you also taking damage. Then you can bring the red cube up the staircase safely and not be able to see down unless you go into the options and disable Top-Down Camera. Then you can jump on the platform and still take fall damage, so there's effectively no difference between landing on the platform and falling into the pit since you keep your cube and take damage regardless. Then, you can finally switch the red cube out for the blue one and open the path forward. Also, I think the moving platforms are slightly desynced, so I don't know if the jump between them while carrying a cube can be done reliably.

The seventh room starts with a hall that has stalactites falling down, so you need to watch the ground to see their shadows. Then, it proceeds to make you fight a group of robo-mafia, except now, using the brewing hat sometimes still causes you to take counter-damage. It was here I finally figured out what's up with them: when they glow, they can't be attacked without you also taking counter-damage, but you need to be close to attack them, and when you get close, they'll trigger their attack animation, and one of those animations causes them to glow, thus causing you counter-damage. The only way I got past that part was by immediately running back into the stalactite hall when they spawned so that most would get stuck on the wall and I could pick them off one by one. After that, you can bring a red cube to the ice wall blocking your path and reach the exit.

The eighth room is nothing except the entrance and the goal, so if you want to replay the level, you won't be able to. The description says there are only six rooms, so I guess this one and the tutorial don't count.

VERDICT: no



This one has that gimmick where certain blocks toggle between transparent and solid to the beat of the music. It also combines this with the viewcones, resulting in some tough but fair challenges (though I did find myself doing the Shiny Slushie Falls maneuver to avoid falling into a couple pits). I did think it was unintuitive that the pink shockwave acts as a springboard, but the level is designed so that you'll almost certainly hit it and figure it out yourself. Not so well-designed is when the level puts viewcones above where pink shockwaves spawn (above where the camera will see them), so you bounce up and suddenly get caught. Some of the rooms are also a bit cramped, which results in more camera zoom issues. There are also some switches you need to hit to disable certain viewcones, and they can be easily missed given the action-oriented nature of the rest of the level.

VERDICT: sure



I initially skipped this one because it went out of its way to say it requires the DLC, but as I was writing this post, I realized there were a bunch of levels that were tagged as requiring the DLC, but I played them just fine, so I decided to go for it. This one probably would have been better for introducing the train/signpost hazard since it starts off pretty easy, just having regular blocks you need to jump around while keeping up with the trains (and if you're too slow, you can just wait on the platforms for a few seconds and the next pair of trains will show up). It even has parts where the signposts clip into the trains so you know you can't go under them. You also never have to duck under a sign (though you do need to jump around one or two). That said, it does use the same color for a sign you have to go under as a sign you need to jump over, though I was able to react since I already knew to keep the camera zoomed in. The trains also weave around, so part of the challenge is just keeping the camera centered. Weirdly, the level uses the same enemies as in Operation: Re-rail, but you can't damage them here; they just make the squeaky bounce like you attacked a harmless NPC, but they can still hurt you. I guess you just need to avoid their attacks while waiting on the next train (which, again, doesn't take long at all). The last stretch is similar to the beginning, except now you have to use the Dweller mask to get through Dweller platforms while also keeping up with the trains (though again, if you miss them, you can just wait), followed by one more straightforward stretch of dodging signpost hazards. By the way, even though you *can* wait, it's still entirely possible to keep up with the trains for each segment.

VERDICT: sure


Overall, my opinion on the base game hasn’t changed (wait for a sale way better than 50% off). While there are a few good levels here, most of them focus more on writing/atmosphere than game-play, and many of the ones that do try to have some challenge tend to fall victim to the base game’s issues (bad camera, no-or-nearly-invisible drop shadow/bad depth perception, clipping into gears, etc.).

P.S. if you own https://kubikill.github.io/blaeogenerators and you’re reading this, mouse-over text for images in spoilers isn’t working.

  • Kao the Kangaroo: Round 2

    5 hours playtime

    4 of 9 achievements

This is a platformer. Left stick moves, A double-jumps, X does a three-hit combo. On the ground, B does a roll move which I rarely found useful, but pushing it in the air does a ground-pound which is necessary to push certain switches. The Y button will use your limited ranged attack on levels that give you ammo (its reduced to zero after each level).

One of the first things you’ll notice is that the controls are unresponsive. When you land, you can’t jump again until after your landing animation is finished. If you attack on the ground, you can’t move until after your attack animation is finished. Even moving sucks; I lost count of how many times I’d be holding forward, and suddenly see my character’s speed and walking animation slow to a crawl. Turns out, the left stick’s deadzone is too large, and there’s no option to change it (can’t even remap movement to the D-pad on an Xbox 360 controller); this means that if you aren’t holding the stick all the way forward (and sometimes even when you are), you won’t move at top speed, which not only makes basic enemy encounters a chore, but is especially frustrating during timed segments where lava is rising or a bomb is about to destroy the platform you’re on. If you want to turn around, don’t snap the stick straight backward because that’ll take half-a-second to register and another half-second to happen; instead, rotate the stick 180-degrees to get the desired responsiveness. The game has stars you can collect, and every 50 is supposed to give you a new ability (50=float down after double jump, 100=”more efficient” jump attack); when I got 200, it said I could “run as much as you want” and at first I thought “the movement bug was intentional?” but no, it kept happening! I knew games could be unpolished, but this is some next-level neglect.

However, not all of the game’s challenge comes from bad controls; there are some enemy and level design issues as well. One of the earliest levels is a chase scene, but the camera is facing away from where you’re going; combine that with how fast you’re moving, how close you are to the bottom of the screen, and the game’s own graphics having the greenery continue down the wall a bit, and there’s hardly any time to react to incoming jumps. There are spiders which hang from the ceiling and shoot homing shots at you, shots that’d be difficult to dodge even without control issues (and if you’re in a barrel-riding segment with thin halls, there’s literally no room to dodge at all). The only way you have a real chance at avoiding damage is if you lock on and shoot them as soon as they drop down. Yeah, turns out the game had a lock-on button the whole time (R1) except it’s not really a lock-on button; it’s a strafe button, and if your character isn’t facing the enemy in question (or is too far away), you won’t lock-on and will just go into strafe mode. World 2 introduces ice physics: you’re constantly moving forward and can only turn, but the camera doesn’t turn with you to help show where you’re going. You can also only single-jump instead of double-jump, and when you land, you spin out for a second (still moving forward) and can’t do anything until your character gets back up. Late in the first ice level, the ground starts cracking and falling into water (instant death), but the cracks spawn instantly and some are big enough that you can fall into the water even before the platforms start sinking, and if you happen to be walking right where a gap opens up, you just fall and die and can’t do anything about it. You can also get stuck between two sinking platforms, unable to move or jump and just have to wait for them to kill you. There’s also a snowboarding level; the camera faces forward this time, but you have to hit grind-rails to get over some gaps. They widen near the ground, making you think the game is being a bit more generous, but no; you still need to be centered or you’ll just clip through. The game has stalactites that will fall on you, but their shadows can barely be seen in the lava level (if at all), and the shadows won’t spawn in the first place if they’re too close to the edge of a platform. There’s a racing level where you’re in a motorboat; you hold forward to move (none of the face-buttons do anything here), but this isn’t fast enough to get you first place (which you need to beat the level), so you just have to hit every button until you figure out that R1 does a boost move that gives the AI opponents no chance of catching up with you. The underwater levels have controls similar to Super Mario 64’s underwater controls (left stick aims, A moves you forward), but there aren’t any enemies until the manta ray at the end which shoots at you so much that you don’t have much time to reorient yourself to see where the shots are coming from to begin dodging them in time. There’s a level where you’re on a torpedo; if you run into the walls or through poisonous gas, you take damage, but there’s no feedback animation on your character; you’d only notice if you look at the upper-left corner of the screen (where your health is) instead of where you’re going. There’s a level where you ride a bird and are told you can “flap its wings” five times before you have to land. You’d think that means 5 jumps, but after the second, your speed drops dramatically (this is standard and has nothing to do with the aforementioned deadzone); the only way to keep your speed is if you make all five jumps at the beginning, in a row. When you make it in the pirate ship, you’ll encounter boarded-up doors, and punching them does nothing. Turns out, the only way past them is if you use that rolling move which isn’t used anywhere else in the game.

Bosses also have their issues. The first one has certain platforms glow, and you’re supposed to ground pound them, but ground-pounding is used so rarely that I had forgotten about it at this point. The second boss is just a series of enemies that you use your ranged weapon to defeat. The third boss, despite being underwater, has yet another control scheme where you’re auto-moving forward and just aim up/down, and once you shoot all your targets, a turtle comes up from behind you and suddenly jump-cuts you to controlling a torpedo in a winding tunnel. The final boss is the worst since it has a move where it throws a bomb onto the arena that breaks a hole into lava and creates a flame that you need to jump over as it moves across the arena, except the location of the hole doesn’t correlate to the location the bomb lands and the final boss flies low enough that you can hit it and take damage while trying to jump over the flame. Plus, some flames get left behind and they have a larger hit-box than they should. The second phase of the boss has you running past platforms before bombs blow them up, and this is the most difficult due to the aforementioned unresponsive controls suddenly slowing you down for no reason. The third phase has the boss running away from you and taking cover behind destructible objects; not as bad as what the game has done up to now, but the boss will escape if you aren’t fast enough and the game never tells you this (and you start back at phase one if this happens).

Not recommended. Even if it were polished, it focuses too much on stage gimmicks and ends up being kinda bland most of the time, getting most of its challenge from the unresponsive controls. Ironically, I think it could’ve been okay if instead of adding all the gimmicks, they just focused on perfecting the platforming aspect.

  • Zenohell

    74 minutes playtime

    13 of 23 achievements

This is a bullet hell SHMUP. You can move in any cardinal direction at a fixed speed, but can only shoot upward. You also have a limited number of bombs that clear the screen of bullets and damage (if not outright kill) all enemies on screen. Meanwhile, enemies will shoot swarms of bullets at you, and you’ll need to use your 2x2-pixels-large hitbox to try avoiding them.

When you start the game, you’re given a choice between three different modes, but aren’t given any explanation for what’s different between them (and the names don’t give much clue, either: sure, “ARC” probably means “arcade,” but what does that mean about the gameplay? Or what about KAI and ZOR?). I also couldn’t find any description online, so I just tried out all of them and here’s what I found:

ARC is normal mode. You have three lives and come back right where you died on death, even if you get game over.

KAI makes enemy bullets faster, but it’s not quite hard mode because bosses seem to have less HP (I was using the green ship, which has a lower “power” rating than the blue ship, but bosses still died quicker, only getting off a couple attacks at times).

ZOR is the same as ARC with one crucial difference: if you get game over, you start at the beginning of the level. Also, there’s a bug that causes the music to cut out each time you continue after a game over.

After selecting a mode, you get a choice between three ships: red (normal), blue (strongest, but narrow bullet spread), and green (widest bullet spread, but slower). I chose blue for my ARC run, but that turned out to be a mistake since its easy for a wall of guided shots to trap you between them and the edge of the screen, where you can’t hit enemies due to your narrow attack. The game also regularly has rows of cannon-fodder rain from above, and once again the narrow fire won’t let you kill all of them before they reach the bottom of the screen, let alone fire a shot or three at you. Plus, between the background, your shots, enemies exploding, and swarms of medals that expand into transparency upon being collected (and only add to your score), it can be difficult to make out enemy projectiles, especially when they’re so fast, they can go from the top of the screen to the bottom in a single second and also be fired with several other bullets of equal speed going in different directions (or worse, when several rows of bullets overlap each other so you can’t see where the safe spaces will be when they reach the bottom). Needless to say, KAI mode makes these bullets even more difficult to react to; I can’t see some of these patterns being something that one with enough skill could react to in the first place, instead requiring either luck or memorization to avoid. Of course, with the way continues work, none of that will impede your progress and you’ll beat the game in around 30 minutes (but you only get the goOOOod ending if you beat the game without using continues!!).

In theory, ZOR mode is what I’d want from a SHMUP: checkpoints that reset the enemies on death instead of the game just letting you move on. Thing is, since it still works off a lives system and puts you back at the stage’s beginning on game over, it runs into a similar problem as Gundemonium where you have to redo long stretches if you have trouble with a late-stage enemy wave, and each level is longer than the last (I wish there’s just one well-made SHMUP out there that has a single life, infinite continues, and more frequent checkpoints, resulting in more bite-sized segments like Super Meat Boy). Plus, on top of having the same aforementioned clutter issues, I dared make the mistake of using the red ship, meaning the enemies’ thin red shots were even more difficult to spot among my own. I made it to the railway near the end of stage 3 a few times, but between all the clutter and the music bug (and length needed to retry), I figured I should go ahead and just stop there.

So yeah, I don’t think I’d recommend this one, but if you got that racial justice bundle from itch, I guess you could try it to get some idea of what the bullet hell genre is like (though I prefer regular SHMUPs).

Welp, Crashbots won’t work for me, so I guess I’m skipping that one.

  • Divide by Sheep

    11 hours playtime

    19 of 19 achievements

This is a puzzle game. Each level consists of multiple islands and groups of animals, and you can throw a group of animals to a different island by clicking the island they’re on, dragging towards another island in-range, then letting go of the mouse button. Islands are made up of units that determine how many animals they can hold at once, and animals react differently to each other when thrown onto the same island (example: wolves eat other animals, at which point they can’t be thrown anymore). The goal is to get the exact designated amount of the right type of animals to the raft in the upper-left corner; do this for all three rafts in a row and you beat the level.

There are five worlds, each with 30 levels (the menu represents them as dots, so at first you think there’ll be a sixth world but it’s just a splash screen asking you to rate the app). While that is quite a bit of content, many of those levels are pretty bland and easy. In the first two worlds (60 levels), I counted maybe four genuinely challenging levels. Even in the later worlds, where the puzzles get more consistently tricky, it isn’t uncommon for you to encounter five or so levels in a row that you solve in less than a minute (two tops).

Plus, each world introduces at least two new gimmicks, so of course the game has to have another five levels that regress the difficulty so you can get used to them. Each time a new gimmick is introduced, the game shows you a comic that illustrates how the gimmick is supposed to work, but this doesn’t always make everything clear. For example, the comic for the fire tiles shows the fire activating after an animal is thrown on the switch, but in reality, pushing a switch turns off the flame, and you have to evacuate the switch island to turn the flames back on.

However, the worst is when the game introduces pigs. All the comic illustrates is that pigs target other animals (normally, animals target empty spaces before jumping on other animals). Thing is, this is the first time two different types of throwable animals can occupy the same island, so you have to go through some trial and error to figure out which animal others will target if thrown on an island that’s full but has multiple kinds of animals, which species is thrown when you click-and-drag on an island with multiple species (you can’t tell before activating the throw because all of their “about to be thrown” animations play, yet only the pigs get thrown), etc., and then you can begin actually solving the puzzle. It’s needlessly frustrating, and I’m sure it’d only take just one lower-difficulty level to show the player all of this instead of forcing the player to ignore the main objective and experiment with the new animal. Or better yet, just stick with a few mechanics and make gradually trickier puzzles with them instead of continually jangling keys in front of the player’s face, but I guess that’s asking too much.

Overall, despite the spastic difficulty curve and unclear introduction of gimmicks, the genuinely challenging puzzles (I even looked up a hint for 3-19) combined with the game’s low base price of just five dollars (even lower on mobile) make this a game I can recommend paying for (and if you got it when it was free, that’s all the more reason to give it a shot).

  • Underhero

    13 hours playtime

    35 of 44 achievements

This is a hybrid platformer/ATB-RPG. Normally, you can only move left/right and jump (and hold the jump button in midair to float down), but when you touch an enemy, you enter the ATB mode, where you can choose one of three attacks (each has a delay before landing and costs points on your ATB gague), or you can jump, duck, or pull out your shield. You only have one party member, so half the game is just waiting for your ATB gague to fill back up so you can attack again. Jumping and ducking will evade certain enemy attacks, but you can only do them if you have 3 or more points on your ATB gague filled in. You can pull out your shield regardless of your ATB gague, but it also has a health meter and will break if it reaches zero, meaning you can’t use it until you get it repaired. It is possible to parry an attack if you pull out your shield right when an enemy is about to attack, but the game takes the worst cues from hack ‘n’ slash games by making the enemy tells arbitrary animations (that often loop and last over 1.5 seconds, defeating the purpose of a tell animation in the first place) and making the attacks themselves very sudden, so the only way you’d know how to dodge or when to parry is if you’ve gotten attacked by that move before and memorized where/when it hits. Maybe I’m misremembering, but I’m pretty sure with Paper Mario, Superstar Saga, and TTYD, the enemies are far away enough that by the time they reach you, you’ll have a pretty good idea of when they’ll hit and when you should push the button; with this game, however, you and the enemy are always right next to each other, so you’ll see the same two frames repeat over and over, then suddenly take damage when the game finally decides to switch to the third frame. Almost every battle is like this, and it’s really frustrating (not to mention that you can’t do any defensive/evasive moves if you’re in the middle of an attack animation). Oh, and some attacks can’t be parried, but you’re not told this until after you try to parry them.

One good thing I can say is that the platforming isn’t just a gimmick; there’s actually some challenge added to the non-battle parts of the game. This is marred somewhat by having wonky physics: letting go of forward won’t stop you from moving forward, but you won’t slow down, either, so you gotta keep tapping right and left until your character decides to fall straight down. There’s also a very noticeable delay between when you push forward and when your character starts moving at full speed (it isn’t like Mega Man III where the delay only lasts a frame or two to help players position themselves to make jumps easier); it’s even more noticeable when you try to turn around and see yourself still moving in the other direction for half a second.

Level design isn’t very stellar, either. The first level’s platforming consists solely of moving platforms that don’t even sync up with each other (meaning more waiting).

The second level barely has any platforming at all, instead leaning more into the adventure game fetch quest/trial and error side of RPGs: one NPC asks you to bring it its favorite drink, but the only hint you’re given as to what this is is in your character’s journal, something that–until this point–is only for refreshing yourself on what you’ve been told rather than a place to look for more hints. Plus, you don’t even get hinted that the hint is there so you’d have no reason to think to look there unless you look it up. This level also introduces a miniboss that can’t be hurt unless you parry its attacks (something else you have to figure out through trial and error), so the fight has more waiting than usual. Also, after one parry, the miniboss knocks you away and enters an “angered” state where it can attack you, but if you try to enter ATB mode to attack it, it’ll just attack you and knock you back into platforming mode before you can do anything. Once again, you just have to wait for it to go away before you can attack again.

Level 3 introduces pufferfish that bounce off the walls in random directions and explode if they get near you, but since water slows your movement, it’s luck whether you’re in a position that lets you escape them or not. Later on, there’s a decline where you’re running down with falling rocks, but later on, you need to escape the level, and if you’re running up that incline, you won’t be able to see the rocks falling in time to react to them (they don’t fall in fixed positions; rather, they bounce down the slope). This level also has certain enemies you have to kill to progress since they’re shooting lava walls, but you can’t damage them until they do a specific animation, and when you first attack them, they won’t do anything until after their lava wall finishes slowly descending.

Level 4 is even worse since its required enemies are robots that hold you still (meaning you can’t do anything at all) for several seconds. Plus, the non-required enemies can drop a ball that shoots lasers after 8 seconds, and the only way to point them away from you is to attack them. Thing is, attacking them only spins them around a little bit (and only in one direction) so you may not have enough time for your gauge to fill up enough for you to hit them enough to avoid the lasers, and while all that’s happening the enemy can still use its other attacks on you. Oh, and the level itself barely has platforming and is mostly just switch hunts.

Level 5 tries to have a bit from each of the first three levels’ platforming segments, but that really isn’t a whole lot. There’s even a switch riddle where the switches you hit have to correspond to an obscure background detail in the room (and once again, your only in-game hint for what to do is in the journal). This level also only has one enemy type, which not only has all the worst qualities from other enemies (waiting, sudden attacks), but can also parry your attacks and also trigger a faster attack as soon as you hit the button to do your fastest attack, damaging you and cancelling your attack. I still can’t say how to defeat these guys reliably, let alone defeat them unscathed.

Bosses in the game try to mix the platforming side with the combat side, but these are two things that don’t mix well. The first boss is in the air and attacks slowly even though it only attacks outside of ATB mode, so once again, most of it is just you waiting for the boss to be vulnerable, then you attack, wait for your gauge to fill up, then try to attack some more before you get booted out and the cycle starts over again. The second boss is always on the ground, but since you have to touch an enemy to go into combat mode, there’s still quite a bit of trial and error before you know what’s an opening and what is something you just need to run away from. I died on my first attempt because there were several times where I was just like “he’s standing there doing nothing! That’s an opening!” only to run forward and suddenly get hit, not even entering ATB mode. Boss 3 has a wide arena and is clearly placed in the background, so it isn’t too hard to avoid attacks just by running in one direction and jumping. Once again, you just have to bide your time until the boss does a specific move that lets you damage it. Boss 4 is the best one since it doesn’t use ATB mode at all nor does it have any animation attacks; everything that can hurt you is a projectile, and to damage the boss, you have to bait it to charge into the blatant harmful spots. My one issue is that it’s hard to see the thin lasers behind the water’s semi-transparent texture.

The final boss is the only boss besides the miniboss to attack you during ATB mode, and as such, it has the same “sudden attacks you can’t react to” problems as the vast majority of the other enemies. The worst is a charge attack where once you’re hit, you have to wait for the boss to run all the way to the other side of the arena before you can move again. The boss’s second phase is a spotlight that moves along in the background while you have to go around hitting switches, but its position in the background has no bearing on where it’ll suddenly appear in the foreground (and if you’re caught, of course you take damage). The third phase changes up some of its attacks, so what was once just “standing frame -> leg raised frame -> kick attack frame -> leg raised frame -> standing frame” now adds a second kick attack frame where it would have gone back to the standing frame, and due to the limited animation, you once again won’t know about the change until after you get attacked. When you’re not in ATB mode, the boss shoots projectiles, and this wouldn’t be so bad if they couldn’t still hit you after you go into ATB mode and can’t dodge them anymore due to their vertical movement (and weren’t spawned so quickly that there’s no way you can enter ATB mode without another one lined up to hit you). Before the final phase, you have to go through this long, empty hall, then you have to avoid attacks for a bit too long before getting one of those “‘oh no we can’t win’ but suddenly everyone believes in us and now we can win” cut-scenes; then, the game introduces a new mechanic where you have to pick up and put down platforms so you can reach the boss and attack it. The boss can also drop bombs that have a large explosion radius, and if you think you can attack them to stop their explosion, you can’t because they have contact damage.

So yeah, I wouldn’t recommend this one. The platforming is kinda bland and the combat manages to combine the worst aspects of “wait for stuff to happen” and “stuff happens too quickly.”

  • Cubicity: Slide puzzle

    3 hours playtime

    35 of 39 achievements

This game’s boring. There are a couple semi-tricky levels near the beginning, but it doesn’t take long before you end up beating levels below the “perfect” number of turns on your first try, and when you unlock the ability to place five of your own teleporters in each level, there’s no incentive for you to do anything else and you’ll three-star all the rest of the levels in less than two minutes (most in less than 30 seconds, but there are a few levels that have more than five targets). I even got the “beat all levels with 2+ stars” achievement even though I basically cheesed most of them. Heck, there are achievements for using items enough times! You’re practically encouraged not to play the game without using them.

Oh, and there’s no ending; the end of the level select promises more levels even though the game isn’t labeled as an early access title on the store page.

Not recommended.

P.S. The “Replay any level and improve the result” achievement is broken, so it isn’t even really good for achievement spam.

  • Dandara: Trials of Fear Edition

    9 hours playtime

    14 of 23 achievements

This game is tagged as a platformer, but it doesn’t really play like one. Rather than have your standard horizontal movement and gravity-affected jump, you instead aim with the left stick (visualized with a grey line) and push the A button to launch yourself straight to another solid tile, and this is the only way you can move. You’re also only allowed to jump to the parts of solid tiles that are white; any other color block serves only to block your attacks (but airborne enemies and enemy projectiles can move through platforms just fine). Plus, your movement has a limited range; if you aim toward a platform that isn’t in range, you’ll lock on to the nearest in-range platform (indicated with a green line) and jump there instead if you hit the A button. As for attacks, you start off with a spread shot that only goes a few units before petering out, and you also have to hold the X button for a second to charge it (otherwise, you won’t attack at all). You could argue that the movement was an attempt to be unique, but this is a deliberate case of making the controls less responsive. Not long into the game, you get missiles, which you fire by pushing RB while holding X, and while this does result in a more responsive (and actually long-ranged) attack, you have limited ammo and can only refill it at camps (a variant of the game’s checkpoints) or by using one of the also-limited ammo refill items (I never used any and still beat the game with a single-digit amount of them).

The start of the game puts you in an empty hallway that leads to an empty room with a switch that opens the way to the third room; understandable since the devs would want players to get used to the game’s unique controls. But then in that third room, there will be parts of the wall that glow green, and when you get close, brick spheres will start quickly spawning one by one, blocking what was formerly an empty path. Not only is this very sudden and not conveyed very well, but these yellow-brown stationary brick circles also have CONTACT DAMAGE, starting as soon as they begin to appear (when only a couple rows of the vertical wipe transition’s white pixels are displayed). Literally the first hazard and the game has already done something that would be a cheap shot even in a game with normal controls. It isn’t even like the game is trying to teach you how they work so it can build on them later; they never show up again outside of this one room, which can only mean the devs somehow thought this was a good first impression. To add insult to injury, once you make it past that room and the shorter, empty room after it to hit the switch at the end, you’ll have to backtrack through the rooms to get to the path the switch opened, except it doesn’t take long to see that the game pulled a Pixeljunk Shooter Ultimate and spawned new hazards in the previous rooms where there weren’t any before, without any clear indication that it had done so (and said hazards are small spikes, barely one unit tall).

While most of the rest of the game never gets quite that bad, there always seems to be this constant disconnect between the controls and the enemy AI. In a regular platformer, having a hall with an enemy floating overhead aiming shots at you isn’t so bad, but when the only directions you can move are within a cone going upwards, toward said enemy and projectiles (the walls are out of range and you can’t jump to the ground since you’re already on the ground), suddenly this seemingly innocent pattern results in unavoidable damage. There are platforms that only move if you’re charging/shooting in the opposite direction, but you also need to watch out for hazards and just charging moves you too slow to get by them in time, but if you shoot at the wrong point you’ll overshoot and hit the next hazard before it goes away. The game’s filled with subtle irritants like that, where if the controls were responsive and conventional, the enemies and hazards would be fairly designed, but rather than redesign them around the game’s more restrictive controls, they’re left as-is and clash with the core mechanics as a result.

But the game isn’t done having conventionally cheap shots, either. There’s a yellow floating plague doctor with a scythe that keeps its distance from you (only sometimes barely getting in range of your shots), and it’s telegraph for its dash attack as well as the dash attack itself take less than half a second combined; I honestly don’t know how to reliably avoid damage from it without using the shield power-up (which drains your ammo while in use and drains it faster while you’re being attacked). When you reach the masquerade palace, you’ll encounter enemies that will spawn in random locations and stab in your direction less than a second after appearing, only to disappear again after a couple seconds and spawn in a different place, not only making them hard to avoid but also hard to kill without spending ammo. Also in this palace, there are parts where you need to touch a glowy panel and make it to some sticky hands without getting hit in order to open the path forward (and if you get hit, you have to go back to the glowy panel again), but there’s one part where in your glowy-panel state, an empty hall will just have harmful lasers suddenly appear with no warning. You’re expected to keep within the lasers as they move forward, but the more likely outcome is that you’ll already be moving forward and get hit by the one in front when it appears.

The game is even a bit obtuse at times. Conventional Metroidvania wisdom tells you to look for places you haven’t been yet and go there, but after wandering around the light world and dark world for a while, I reached a “boss” that has some of the game’s worst examples of mechanic/enemy dissonance: you have to jump around this huge room going to different split paths to kill the eyes that act as the boss’s health bar, all while the regular enemies spread throughout the room are doing their patterns (patterns that don’t always sync up with each other) and the boss itself shoots a laser at you every so often. When I finally got past that, I hit a dead end when I freed the bird person and was simply told “you know what to do.” Um, no, I don’t. So I combed through the map until I found a room I hadn’t gone in yet, so I went down there and nope, it just had a chest with some currency (you can get currency simply by killing enemies), so I combed through the map again. Aha! There’s another room I haven’t been to yet, so I head there and–wait, no, it’s just another dead end with some currency. Maybe I just needed to go back to the entrance of the gold fortress and the bird person would open the door for me? Nope. Maybe I can break the door in now? Also nope. Turns out, the only way to get inside is to go through the game’s Lost Woods equivalent and wander around until you get the item that lets you fast-travel between camps, then go down the list until you select the one that happens to lead to a camp you couldn’t actually reach otherwise. That bird person was just to access the post-game boss. By the way, when you reach the golden fortress, you’ll see minotaurs on hamster wheels, and at first they seem like just a background detail, but later on you’ll reach a room where the path is blocked by lasers. Turns out, not only can you attack the minotaurs, you have to in order to disable parts of the fortress’s defenses and progress, but this isn’t communicated to you (I only discovered they could take damage by accident while I was trying to kill an enemy).

The final boss actually tones the difficulty down a bit: the first phase is just a giant TV (that doesn’t even have contact damage) slowly chasing you and shooting four perpendicular projectiles. It does still have a cheap attack where it’ll suddenly charge at you and crush you, instantly killing you regardless of how much health you have, and the way it foreshadows this attack is by staying still for a couple seconds (at least the yellow plague doctor would lean back). The second phase picks things up a bit with it being a circle (still no contact damage) with a regenerating shield (only hurts if you’re standing on the boss when it regenerates; you can stand on the shield itself just fine) and it drops projectiles that rotate in opposite directions (as well as shoots at you directly occasionally, which can lead to some more times where you just get trapped and can’t dodge). However, the post-game boss gets back up to par. The fight opens with a cinematic of your character shooting up into the arena with the boss in the background and a beam of yellow light falling on your character. Then, when you land, you immediately get punched by a red fist and take damage. Turns out that beam of light was the telegraph for the fist, evidenced by the final third of the boss fight when they show up again and aim at you from different angles. Most of the battle is just waves of enemies, but when you kill one, an eye will appear and you have to jump into the eye to kill it and that’s what actually damage the boss. After a few waves, a launcher shows up that takes you to another arena; there’s a few variants and their order is somewhat random (you may not even see all of them in one go), but one is a square that has an enemy in the center (where you can’t hit it) that’ll shoot a laser without warning and rotate, moving the laser around the arena. At least it starts shooting in the same direction each time, so after a few attempts you’ll know where to be to avoid it. The semi-final phase is a circular arena with an enemy in the center that’ll occasionally shoot at you, but as far as I could tell, it neither lowers the boss’s health nor dies on its own if you shoot it, so you just have to focus on the other enemies. The final phase actually has a single entity that functions as a boss; shoot it enough times and it’ll be stunned for a few hits, at which point you jump into it to damage it just like all the other eyes, only this time you’re dealing way less damage to the boss’s health. Also, the lower its health goes, the more it’ll spawn other enemies and those red fists, resulting in more clutter and potential unavoidable damage. This boss was the only time I used healing items outside of when I’d accidentally trigger a text box and instinctively hit the B button to try to close it. After several attempts, the game stopped me around halfway through the fight to make fun of me for losing so much, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that also secretly made the fight easier because I won not long after.

Still, I don’t think I’d recommend this game. The concept could work in theory, but a lot of things still need to be overhauled, like “don’t have enemies that go through walls if we can’t attack through walls.”

Wow, The Witness blindsided me with how awful it is. It starts off fine, having the “no dialogue” approach to tutorials by indicating the basic rules of the mazes and how the grids connect to each other via wires so you aren’t just wandering around. However, the boards that are supposed to teach you to outline white squares without outlining black squares was too vague. How many sides need to be filled to for it to count? What’s the exact cutoff point? When I solved the last one in the first set, it felt more random than anything. But okay, maybe I’d figure it out if I kept going. Next, the game introduces dots you have to cross to win, and not long after, two lines you control at once, before finally combining the two and having both lines be different colors and having you intersect each line with its same color dot as well as reach the end. Okay, fine, but then you start to notice cross stitching appear on the second line. At first, I just thought the texture was corrupted, but no, the game soon has the second line disappear and you just have to remember how the duplicate line’s movement would be mirrored from the initial line. Not good, but not the worst I’ve seen. Then, the game has three pretty easy boards, and on the other side of the platform, three duplicate boards, except the dots you need to intersect are invisible; you have to memorize their positions on the three initial boards and cross-check with how the duplicate boards are mirrored. Okay, now it’s getting on my nerves, but what made me give up were the boards right after: no dots, no second line, no mirrored or duplicate boards, but there’s multiple exits. However, I tried going to a couple different exits only to get an incorrect solution. Turns out, you have to look at the nearby tree, see where the apple is, go back to the board, and replicate the path from the base of the tree to the apple on it. Once I figured that out, I realized the game had finally cut the pretense of having real puzzles and gone full Adventure-Game-arbitrary-riddles (in less than an hour!), so I uninstalled it and moved on to my next game.

  • Planet Diver

    4 hours playtime

    26 of 52 achievements

This is a runner. You’re constantly moving down, but can move left and right at any time. Thing is, your side-to-side movement is in units, like a Game and Watch game. Unfortunately, you can’t just hold left/right to keep moving in that direction; you have to tap the button several times in a row if you want to keep up when the path shifts to the side. You can also push up to do a dodge, which stops your downward movement, lasts around one second, and lets you phase through any hazards (but you become vulnerable as soon as it ends). Lastly, you can push down to do a dash, which temporarily lets you kill enemies you run into and permanently makes your movement faster (unless you dodge or crash).

The concept is just fine, but it seems like the levels weren’t designed around the controls. This may partly be because the levels are randomized, and often the randomness doesn’t have basic quality-of-life checks in place: it isn’t uncommon for rows of coins to lead directly into walls (which would cause you to crash and take damage), or for your target enemy to be placed below a ceiling, where you can’t kill it. Plus, even though your character has multiple speeds, most enemies are programmed to match your speed when they aren’t outright standing still, which kinda defeats the purpose.

Then there are the enemies that go beyond even this. The first boss has an attack where it suddenly charges down at you after a >1 second “telegraph,” so you might think “oh, I have to dodge at the right time” except no, that just causes the boss to stop in its tracks until your dodge finishes its animation, then it hits you anyway. Turns out, the giant legs beside the spider don’t have collision, so you can go over them when it dashes without taking damage. There are green/blue shrimp in world 2 that shoot an electric bolt horizontally quickly, but the distance it travels before it splits into two slowly-traveling vertical bolts is inconsistent. Levels regularly have half-walls, making you think you can go one unit further due to all the space between you and the wall, but when you hit the button, you just crash into it (or worse, if you’re already next to the wall, you can barely see the half-wall coming up and will crash into it that way). World 3 has spike pillars that blend into the wall and jut out an inconsistent distance (once, one of them went all the way to the other wall meaning I couldn’t progress and just died there). Worse, world 3 will frequently shift the camera to put you in the center of the screen, meaning you have less time to react to incoming hazards.

So yeah, I wouldn’t recommend it. The concept is fine, but the execution has numerous flaws. It even gets little things wrong, like how several biomes have background layers scrolling faster than foreground layers.

Normally, I save my portable games for when I’m away from my computer, but I heard that this game was gonna have its servers shut down on September 9, so I figured I’d play through it real quick. Also, every loading screen said “connecting” instead, so maybe this game isn’t as portable as I thought.

Note: that isn't my ID; it's the ID of whoever uploaded the screenshot to the Castlevania wiki.

This is a platformer. Swipe on the left side of the screen to move left or right, “flick” on the left side to dodge-roll (guess how often one happens instead of the other by accident), swipe down on the left side to duck, tap the feather bubble to jump/double-jump, tap the acute-angle-bubble to slide, or tap anywhere else on the right side of the screen to attack. There’s also a special attack bubble, but I rarely used this since you can use more powerful weapon skills by swiping left, down, or right on the right side of the screen (swiping up uses your equipped subweapon). The weapon skills you have depend on what weapons you’ve equipped. As you progress, you’ll unlock more characters to play as, and eventually, assist summons which can damage all enemies on-screen or heal yourself. Assist summons are limited-use-per-stage, so I’d sometimes forget I had them. In contrast, the game also unlocks quest supporters when you make it to the first boss: the game gives you a list of other players before a stage (presumably other players who are online right then because the list changes and I only saw a 100k player once). During the stage, each time you land an attack on an enemy, the quest supporter meter fills up (thank goodness it’s based on attacks and not damage), and when your player icons are glowing, you can tap it to switch to the other player’s character and, more importantly, stats (but be careful not to tap the chat button right next to it, because that’ll obscure the screen without pausing). After switching, a percentage of their health will be taken away every second, effectively acting as a timer before forcing you back to your character (which is reduced further if you take damage, obviously). Speaking of stats, the game treats them a bit different than other games: you can still see individual attack/defense/HP of characters, but the game has more emphasis on an aggregate stat that basically adds everything together into one huge number. Stages have “recommended stats” that are specifically meant to be compared to said aggregate, and the quest supporter list has the players’ aggregate stats front and left-center. It’s a quick way to see who’s stronger in a general sense (obviously 55k>23k), but if you see two players who have similar aggregate stats, you may wanna check their weapon levels (placed to the right of their aggregate stats in a much smaller font) since that 54k Alucard might actually be stronger than that 55k Alucard.

The game starts off with an intro stage that teaches you the basic controls, but it also starts you off with auto-attack enabled and enemies that die in one hit and also just stand there and let you hit them. At first I was like “oh no, this game is gonna be boring,” but the game tells you how to disable it in the next stage, which has more formidable enemies. It’s also called “semi” auto attack, so I was worried it sometimes wouldn’t work when I wanted it to; yet another reason to disable it.

The stages are separated into books: each book has 15 stages and an end boss, with the stages further separated into groups of 5. To play a stage, it costs 5 “ether” (10 for hard mode stages); to refill ether, you have to increase your rank or I think wait a day, but recently it felt like waiting didn’t get me more ether; maybe it only counts if you log in the very next day instead of skipping a day? Then again, I had a glitch early on that got me more than the max ether, so each “refill” just increased it by that much more and I ended up with 999 by the end of book 5. Each stage has a 10 minute time limit with one or two rooms (which are maybe 3-4 screens wide and 2-3 tall) before the final room, where you fight 1-3 waves of enemies. Beat the first stage in a set, and you unlock both the next stage in the set and the first of the next set (or the end boss if it’s first of the third set), though any subsequent stages just unlock the next stage in said set. Beat the last stage in a set and you’ll get to read a visual-novel style cut-scene; there are some serious moments, but the writers also regularly just have fun with the concept. Even if you’re not interested in story, you’re still encouraged to play the stages linearly since the enemies’ stats regularly increase, indicated by the “recommended stats” number before each stage.

Speaking of levels, while you do gain experience, it only happens when you beat a stage, and leveling up a character only increases said character’s HP and MP; if you want to increase your attack, you’ll need to use “enhancement runes” on your weapons to increase their experience points. Thing is, on top of weapons having a max level, you also can’t increase them above your current rank (like leveling up, but it isn’t restricted to one character (except the AP it gives you)). If you want more enhancement runes than what the levels give you, you can trade gold to get up to five in the shop; after that, you have to wait one real-life day before you can get five more. If you have plenty of rank but reach the default level cap, your only hope of squeezing more strength out of that weapon is if you get 100 “parchments” of that weapon. While it is possible to get parchments in levels, I never got more than 20 for any individual weapon, and the only other way to get parchments is to get a duplicate of the weapon, and the only way to get more weapons is to use the Summon option in the hub, which summons one random weapon. Not the one you wanted, or even one for the character you’re using? Too bad. Also, you only get one free summon per real-life day; any subsequent summon you want to do will cost you “gems” (to give you an idea how rare a resource this is, it used to be the game’s paid currency before its micro-transactions were disabled).

Another annoyance is that the game locks certain equipment slots until you reach a certain rank. You can tap on the slot to see “unlocks at rank 20” or whatever, and that’s one thing, but once you reach the required rank, you have to go to your gift box and claim the upgrade, which I felt was an unnecessary extra step. In fact, a bunch of stuff gets sent to your gift box instead of directly into your inventory; luckily, there’s a “claim all” button you can tap to save time.

Back to the enemies’ stats: it doesn’t take long into the first book’s second set of stages for enemies to start getting a bit grindy…that is, if you haven’t leveled up your weapons at all. After I leveled up my main weapon, it did fine until the around first book’s end boss, where I did so little damage to said boss, it felt like my only hope of winning was to use a quest supporter. Then, a few stages into the second book, I realized that leveling up my secondary weapon also increased my overall attack, so that one was on me. Something that may not be as obvious is that leveling up your subweapon also adds to your overall attack instead of your subweapon having its own attack. By the end of book 3, I had unlocked all weapon equip slots and upgraded my weapons to their max level, but the recommended stats for book 4 stage one were double that of book 3’s end boss, so I decided to play Hard Mode for book 1, since book 1 stage one’s hard mode had similar recommended stats to book 3’s end boss. However, as I neared the end of book 1’s hard mode, it started to get pretty grindy once again; the only reason I was able to alleviate that grind was because I got enough “bounty coins” to buy a high-max-level weapon from the shop, and I only had that many bounty coins because of the game’s daily login bonus, and I’m pretty sure the game’s daily login bonuses were only that generous because the servers are about to be shut down.

And then, not long after I made it to book 5, it started to become grindy again, except at that point, there really wasn’t anything I could do to strengthen my own character (it didn’t have as drastic an increase in recommended stats as from book 3 to book 4, though). The game becomes less about learning enemy tells and counterattacking and more about managing your weapon skills and quest supporter (and assist summons; almost forgot about them again).

To make matters worse, the controls have issues. On top of the aforementioned move/dodge problem and quest supporter/chat problem, there’s the fact that your thumbs will be covering part of the screen, so if there’s something behind you, you might not see it even if it’s on-screen. I also lost count of the number of times I accidentally tapped close enough to the phone’s “back” or “recently used apps” buttons which caused the game to auto-pause, at which point I wouldn’t be able to move because I’d have to unpause, then swipe on the screen, meaning I’d usually take damage after unpausing. There were also several times where I’d try to move and jump, but the angle I swiped was too far down and it counted as a duck, causing me to jump down the thin platform I was on into spikes. After all this time, Glory of Valkyrie still has the best buttons-to-touch-screen conversion I’ve seen, yet I haven’t seen another game try to duplicate it. I definitely recommend using a physical controller for this game. There’s also the fact that some enemies have tells that go by so quick, you likely won’t have time to react even after you learn what attack the tell foreshadows, like when the minotaur charges forward, or if the stone golem shoots a laser at you while its off-screen. Mechanics also have their issues, namely that most characters can’t move and attack at the same time (you can dodge-roll out of an attack, but that isn’t always safe). Simon has it the worst: not only does his ground combo have a longer delay between attacks than other characters, he also steps forward for the second and third attack, doing a long jump forward for the finisher (luckily, his movement stops at the edge of a platform). You’re probably wondering “why use this character at all if he has so many disadvantages?” Simple: he starts with a weapon who’s weapon skill is a massive increase in your attack for 30 seconds (from 23 damage to 140 damage), and for a game where “grindy” means “it takes 30 seconds constantly attacking a stunlocked enemy to kill it, then you get to the next enemy,” that attack increase is kinda necessary for the game to have any semblance of normal game-play. It also helps that he has longer and wider range than most other characters (and mid-air combos keep him stationary and speed up his attacks, even if it’s limited to a 3-hit combo instead of 4).

However, I think the most frustrating aspect of the game is that the level design…isn’t half bad. Sure, half of the stages are pretty bland and just serve as flat planes for the enemies to do their thing, but there are some clever moments, like an optional segment in book 2 stage 15 where you fight a harpy on a conveyor belt that leads to a spike wall, or when you have to time jumps over platforms that go in and out of flames coming out of the floor. Even hard mode stages have some new spike pits or flamethrowers instead of just different enemy placement. Some stages have segments that constantly spawn medusa heads, which is a mark against the level design, but still: this game could’ve been okay, but instead the stats were skewed to the point where it’s almost as bad as Cross Code, all in the hopes that people would buy microtransactions. It’s tragic.

Lastly, I should talk about the books’ end bosses. The first is a giant bat whose pattern isn’t too hard to learn: it can do a convex parabola attack, as well as spin into a drill and charge at wherever you are, and as it takes damage, it can fly offscreen and throw three bats your way before charging at you itself, or turn into a bunch of shadow bats and slowly chase you. Also, this is the only boss where the entire arena fits on screen, so the rest will have stuff happening off-screen, where you can’t see.

The second boss is a suit of armor with a floating head; once you realize the floating head is its weak point (attacking the armor does single-digit damage), you can keep your distance from the armor’s attacks and just focus on the head.

The third books boss is a dragon, and as soon as you get control of your character, it begins carpet-bombing the arena, each shot exploding into smaller projectiles. How are you supposed to dodge this? Turns out, the dragon lacks collision, so once you double-jump on to an upper platform, you can double-jump over its head and through the rest of it safely. After the boss carpet bombs the arena a few times, it’ll flap its wings to try pushing you away, then ground-pound and start shooting fireballs across the floor, though you’ll need to be close by so you can see its head (that’s how it conveys the elevation of said fireballs). After you get its health down enough, it’ll ground pound in the center of the arena and shoot fire around in a circle, so you need to use the upper platforms to jump around its head.

Boss 4 is a ball of people: attacking the edges gets rid of that chunk at the edge, but the center is its weak point (Simon’s range can reach the center by default). After you attack the center enough, all the people go away (except the ones that fell on the floor), revealing its true form: a purple ball with six tentacles. However, these tentacles don’t stay still: it’ll spin around, either shooting flame that sticks to platforms or lasers that pierce them. Unfortunately, there are no platforms above the boss, so if you’re running away from the lasers and make it to the top, you have nowhere to go and are forced to take damage (keep in mind at this point, you die in 2-3 hits due to enemy stats). Once you get its health low enough, it’ll move diagonally, bouncing off the walls and ceiling, being very hard to predict or react to. At this point, quest supporters become a necessity to avoid grinding. Oh, and when you finally beat this boss, you get a surprise boss afterward. It’s pattern is much easier, but there’s no way to tell beforehand if he’ll swing the ax or shoot fireballs forward; you have to anticipate rather than react. Also, if you die here, you have to fight the people ball again (unless you spend 100 gems to continue, which I never did but I swear it better be an instant-revive rather than sending you back to a checkpoint). At least there’s no time limit, but there’s also no visible health bar for the surprise boss, either.

Honorable mention: the miniboss at the end of book 5 level 15 is a giant suit of armor with giant attack ranges. The only way to get behind it is to jump up some platforms by the edges and touch a mirror that’ll teleport you to the other side, but once the boss notices you’re behind it, it’ll wind up a large spin attack that you need to be far away from to avoid (can’t duck under it), and if you attack its front, you’ll just damage its guard by 1 point instead of its health.

Next up is the boss of book 5, which somehow manages to top all of that. It’s a giant armored centaur with two crossbows slapped on its side. The crossbows track you, but stop moving a couple seconds before they glow, which is about a half second before they fire. It’s possible to attack the arrow to kill it, but it can easily slip between your combo and hit you (at least it can with Simon’s midair combo). It’s possible to attack the crossbows to disable them, but their hit-box is kinda wonky compared to every other enemy, seemingly only being damaged if you attack the spot beside the glowy part (whichever side is closer to the center). On top of this, the boss regularly walks back and forth, stomping the ground and hurting you if you’re caught there. It’ll only stop moving to stab the ground or kick up its legs (its hind legs have enough range on their own, so its front legs generate a stationary flame column for a couple seconds to compensate). You can kill its kneecaps to make it kick up more often, at which point you can move between its legs, but this is the most dangerous spot because not only is there barely enough room to dodge the stomps, you’re also in range of both crossbows. Plus, you can’t attack its other kneecaps at this point despite technically being in range (unless you have Alucard’s “attack from behind” weapon skill); you instead just have to wait for it to kick the other legs back before you can move out. Once you’ve killed all of its knees, it’ll collapse and you can finally jump on its back and attack it’s real weak point and deal actual damage to its main health bar. Thing is, you’re probably not going to kill it while it’s stunned, and when it gets up, its kneecaps recover half their health and so long as you remain on its back, you have to deal with three new attacks with three new tells (including avoiding its tail, which becomes a contact hazard during the wind-up animation), all while also being in range of both crossbows. Honestly, I found it easier to jump off manually and go for the kneecaps again. Once you kill it, the boss enters its second phase! It loses its spear, which you can now jump on to get to the boss’s weak point better, but now you can’t damage its knees anymore, and when it kicks up its front legs, another flame column generates in front of the first, and so on until they go off screen. It’s relatively fast and there isn’t much room to stand between them, either. Also, it still walks back and forth at irregular intervals, so it may not always be close enough to the spear for you to get many hits in, even after jumping forward. On my last attempt, I figured out that attacking the red ball on its head was actually how to stun the boss instead of its weak point, but I took advantage of that and hit it a bunch of times, so when it recovered, I had filled my quest supporter meter and was able to use the increased stats to kill it. Only took me 75+ tries. One positive I’ll say about the boss is, despite all the moving parts, they always sync up with each other, so theoretically, you could learn how to dodge each potential setup.

So, what is my reward for defeating this difficult boss?
Top 10 banned books.
Yup, this was an Early Access title THE WHOLE TIME. The last cut-scene implies that SNES Dracula X would be a different grimoire than Rondo of Blood, which makes sense since they’re different games, but who would the new assist summon be? Not Trevor, that’s for sure. On one hand, it isn’t much of a loss considering the rest of the game, but on the other hand, it’s disappointing for the game to end on a cliffhanger.

So yeah, this one’s really hard to recommend. The level design has some good moments and the game’s free, but the balance is heavily slanted against the player (becoming very noticeable by book 4 and 5), and if you don’t live in one of the few places where the game soft-launched, you’ll have to jump through quite a few sketchy hoops just to play the game in the first place. But hey, if you start right now, you should have enough time to beat it (I started after I beat A Hat in Time and missed a few days but still beat it in less than a month).

P.S. For a game that’s supposed to be a “greatest hits” of sorts of the previous Castlevania games in both scenery and soundtrack, why’d they pick Abandoned Pit for Symphony of the Night? That’s probably the most annoying track in that game.

This is a picross/nonograms game. Each level is a grid where standard picross rules apply: the numbers in the rows and columns indicate how many squares are filled in in a row (or column), and the amount of numbers indicate how many clusters of filled-in blocks there are (with the order indicating where they’ll be in relation to each other). The trick is that you don’t always know how many blank spaces are between the filled-in clusters, so you need to use process of elimination as well as comparisons with other rows and columns to uncover all the filled-in squares. You can also put an X on a square to help you keep track of squares you know can’t be filled in.

What separates this game from other picross games is the battle system. Some levels will have you encounter a chest, which effectively plays out like a normal picross game in that you can take your time, but each time you fill in a square that isn’t supposed to be filled in, you’ll lose a coin and an X will be locked into the square (each mistake increases the penalty by an extra coin). Considering items cost upwards of 30 coins (and the fact that you’ll often get more coins after beating a level), the penalty is laughably minor.

However, other levels have you encounter an enemy or three, and they work off a modified Active Time Battle system: when an enemy’s meter gets full (or if you fill in a square that wasn’t supposed to be filled, resulting in another locked-in X), it’ll attack you, dealing either 1 damage, 2 damage (critical), or 0 damage (miss). The only way you can “fight” back is by filling in all the squares on a row or column, at which point the enemy takes damage and also gets its ATB gauge lowered, delaying its attack. If there are multiple enemies, they’ll each have their own ATB gauge, and you’ll have to switch between them regularly so your “attacks” keep any one enemy from attacking. It’s an interesting concept, but there’s a few problems, namely the fact that picross is a puzzle game. Adding a time limit runs counter to the initial concept of puzzle solving since now you don’t have time to solve said puzzle. If you know picross, you’ll know that most grids only give you enough info to fill in partial rows and columns at first (with the completion of said rows and columns not happening until after you’ve worked out half the board), so it isn’t uncommon for it to be better to make an educated guess and risk a single attack for a wrong square than to try working it out and taking multiple hits before you can finish a single row or column.

And let’s not forget the most blatant oversight: even if you do lose and have to start over with a blank grid, you can just take a screenshot beforehand (or even outright remember what you had for the smaller boards) and fill in what you had much quicker, pausing the game each time you look back at the screenshot. It’s hilariously ironic how the developers of this puzzle game didn’t think things through.

There are also boss fights, but they only differ from normal battles in that, when their ATB gague is full, they either deal 2 damage or send out a ghost to remove some of your Xs. Often, bosses are easier than group battles since you don’t have to worry about switching between enemies and can just focus on filling in the grid. Even the final boss wasn’t all that noteworthy or different from previous bosses.

So yeah, I wouldn’t recommend this one. Sure, the actual picross elements are fine, but when you consider the fact that there are plenty of free picross/nonogram apps that don’t awkwardly stitch antithetical mechanics to unrelated genres, it becomes obvious that the glorified time limits are the game’s only real selling point. To be clear, I’m not saying that people shouldn’t change up a formula; in fact, Twilight Princess Picross showed how to do this right: it had Mega Numbers, which indicate clusters that stretch across two rows or columns. That’s how you do a twist on the formula: it adds a new mechanic while still staying true to what people like about picross (only problem was that all the boards that had Mega Numbers were duplicates of earlier ordinary boards). In fact, everything this game tries to do, Twilight Princess Picross does better (and Twilight Princess Picross is basically free, only requiring silver My Nintendo coins to get), so I say just get that game instead.

Statistics
214 games (+1 not categorized yet)
38% never played
0% unfinished
53% beaten
0% completed
8% won't play