When I first saw First Strike: Final Hour in the Steam store, I was intrigued. I've been a fan of the nearest relatives to it, Introversion's Defcon and Team Jolly Roger's Interplanetary, for a while now, and the idea of cleansing the Earth in pixelated fire has never not sounded like a fun time. It's the ultimate expression of kicking over a block castle when you're done with it, only the block castle is the entire planet. There's a cathartic thrill to just knocking something over, and especially when that thing is the entirety of the planet Earth. In theory, anyway. In reality, the game is a little more...complex.Read More
Filtering by Category: Sam's Reviews
Bounty Train is a curious game. It's a sandbox trading sim/adventure game/railway enthusiast entertainment piece that, while the positions are static and the routes are fixed, still manages to give the player a great deal of movement. It's a genre bending game with multiple story routes and an excellent way to generate micronarratives as you go. And it's also one of the few games where you can lose during the tutorial levels, thus causing the game to shrug and go "Well, the game's over, but here, keep playing after the game over screen." But unlike other genre-bending sandbox sims, Bounty Train keeps a focus on fixed points instead of free exploration of the map, allowing the player to focus on things like the complex economy, resource management, and the interplay between various factions and characters, opening up in a way few games of its type do, and creating an entirely unique experience.Read More
With the resurgence of many of those franchises (as well as Tim Schaefer trying to relive the days when he did something other than design failed business plans and games that sound better on paper,) Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick reunited again to bring us a perfectly encapsulated blast of old-school gaming, a pixelated wedge of surreality that brings back the days when puzzles were kind of obtuse and games were dialogue-heavy, and none of that was in any way a bad thing.Read More
Monster Monpiece, the latest game from Compile Heart, is something of a departure for them. There's no obvious grind, no weirdly implemented combo system, and it feels significantly different from most of their other games. All in all, it's new territory, and at first, it felt like they'd learned something from the process. Maybe, I thought to myself, maybe I've just suffered burnout from too many samey anime-style JRPGs. Maybe this time I'm wrong.Read More
There can be such a thing as too much of a good thing with games. Trillion: God of Destruction is a good example of that.
The game is packed with systems, subsystems, and various synergies, all of which Compile Heart does fairly well when they can. It's also packed with grinding, obtuse onscreen tutorials, and wonky controls. It's like someone took all the best parts of Compile Heart games and mashed them all together, and then also somehow the worst parts got in there, too. It's a phenomenal mess, and unpacking just how much of one will probably take the rest of this review.Read More
All my life, I've wanted nothing more than a proper successor to System Shock 2. Bioshock was always way too easy, even on the hardest setting. Dead Space relied on jump scares and didn't create the necessary level of existential dread. Hell, even Amnesia was just Myst on a very bad drug trip. There hasn't been a game that blends claustrophobia, outright horror, desperate combat, and the feeling that something is terribly, terribly wrong in the same way as Looking Glass Games' classic first person horror/RPG/Adventure. When I saw Syndrome, though, I had hope. The claustrophobic corridors, non-working lights, and twisted imagery made me think of my old standby for any list of horror games. I had a lot of hope.Read More
Imagine someone took the simplicity and design philosophy of SUPERHOT and applied it to a platformer, and you'd get Clustertruck, the latest by Landfall Games. A platformer that finds you playing "the floor is lava" on the back of featureless trucks, where one bad bounce leads to a hilarious demise and making your way through the level is about as much luck as it is skill, Clustertruck is one of those few games like the aforementioned SUPERHOT or Nidhogg where adding anything more to it would be stupid. It only has to be what it is. And it's fun like that.Read More
A few months ago, I reviewed an ambitious early-access game known as Zombasite. I was quite impressed with it back then, a title with staggering depth and a very low learning curve, where you could participate however you liked. It had an interesting mechanic with warring clans and an impending zombie apocalypse, and it was a lot of fun. It also had a lot of problems, some serious UI issues, and a definite problem with being overwhelmingly huge. It also couldn't quite make up its mind as to what kind of game it wanted to be, instead deciding to be all of them at once.Read More
MegaTagmension: Blanc + Neptune vs. Zombies is another entry in Compile Heart's massive moneymaking monstrosity, the Neptune universe. As with previous versions, the characters are all anthropomorphized versions of consoles, game companies, game journalism magazines, and other game-related stuff. Depending on the game, they go to school, conquer the world, have adventures in old, broken game consoles, and a ton of other wacky adventures. Seriously, the franchise has covered almost everything now. I'm just waiting for a Mario Party game to seal the deal.Read More
Megadimension Neptunia VII (pronounced V-2) is one of the better entries in the series. IF seems to have fine-tuned their formula to an exact science, the graphics are top-notch, and the characters have enough style and humor added to them that it makes playing the game less of a slog than it might have been normally.Read More
The new Mega Man-themed roguelike platformer from Batterystaple games combines two genres known mainly for their difficulty: old-school platform games, and roguelikes. The issue with this combination is that old-school platformers trade on repetition, muscle memory, and pattern recognition to move their players through the game, and roguelikes usually throw most of this out the window, meaning the players have to learn more to rely on skills and powerups than figuring out level layout.
In theory, it's an excellent idea, marrying the difficulty and skill-honing of roguelikes with the quick-reaction ethos that drives older platformer games. In practice, however, it's a nightmare.Read More
Unfortunately, City of the Damned isn't anywhere near as fun as the original product, and that's important to recognize. It tries so hard to get there, and maybe it even does in places-- the atmosphere, setting, and presentation are all fantastic-- but in the end, the mechanics are so byzantine and the gameplay choices are so confusing that it really doesn't make the end product particularly appetizing. Add to this an unfair learning curve that kind of shrugs and says "This is a difficult game and you're supposed to learn from your mistakes," and what you have is less a fun game, and more a byzantine slog for people who find Darkest Dungeon charming and too easy.Read More
Roger Ebert once said "Of each thing, ask, who is it for?" He was of course talking about the medium of film, but it's a useful metric for criticism in general. For instance, critiquing a racy visual novel on the quantity of fanservice is kind of useless, since that's exactly why people are playing it. Similarly, critiquing a fighting game for average fighting game things isn't really intuitive to the people who want to know if a fighting game's any good, regardless of whether or not the reviewer is actually any good at fighting games.
So with this in mind, I decided to figure out whether or not Koihime Enbu, the 2D fighting game based on the Koihime Musou visual novel series, is a good fighting game, regardless of whether or not I like fighting games all that much.Read More
It's difficult to tell, sometimes, whether a game's difficulty and controls are truly to blame, or whether it's just that I've got really stupid fingers. Brigador is one of these times.Read More
Having been an afficionado of adventure games over the years, I understand that they aren't without their difficulties. For every Monkey Island or Space Quest, there are four that take the route of Phantasmagoria* and about six different games featuring puzzles with solutions that read like poorly translated stereo instructions. While it's the easiest genre to design for (no combat algorithms or anything like that, clean narrative with a few branches) it's also one of the easiest to screw up. All it takes is one puzzle where processor speed determines difficulty, or pouring whiskey into the gas tank of a car to fuel up a spaceship, or an infuriating pixel hunt and instantly people will throw up their hands and uninstall in annoyance.Read More
Okay, so for the past few years, there's been a franchise known as Hyperdimension Neptunia. The general conceit is that the games industry is anthropomorphized as a land called Gamindustri, ruled over by warring goddesses who have "console wars" to determine supremacy and games companies are depicted as anthropomorphized anime characters.
Inexplicably, this has grown into a massive franchise of games, one of which is Hyperdevotion Noire, an alternate universe game where the anime goddess representing the Sony systems has taken over everything.
It's also not very good.Read More
Marble Mountain, the new game from LightningRock Studios, is relaxing. With its bouncy synth soundtrack, bright color palette, and levels with just the right amount of challenge, it isn't the frustrating grind of most other arcade style games, but offers more challenge and depth than the average casual game. It's the perfect chillout game, the kind of thing you can do when you just need a break from everything. While not without its flaws, it's just a low-key, fun game, and that's really all it needs to be.Read More
So first, a disclaimer. Because of the episodic nature of the game, and because this is The Last Door: Season 2, I strongly suggest you go to either the website or Kongregate and play The Last Door: Season 1. It's not the most necessary thing in the world, but it'll fill in the blanks as to Devitt, the weird eye motif, the Four Witnesses, and the secret society known as The Playwright. While the prologue chapter can answer one or two of the questions, a lot of them will be answered by just playing season 1.
But with that out of the way, if you're looking for a surreal horror game with a ton of atmosphere and a lo-fi aesthetic that manages to play perfectly with the player's imagination and delivers old-school adventure without all the pointless death, you need look no furtherRead More
Zombasite, currently in beta from Soldak Entertainment, is the most fun you will have not knowing what it is you're doing.
And before that sounds too much like faint praise, allow me to explain, it is a lot of fun.Read More
There's not much to say about The Culling, really. It's the kind of game that, if you like arena-based deathmatch shooters, you will probably like. If you don't like multiplayer arena-based deathmatch shooters, you will not like it. That's pretty much the delineation.
Granted, as far as arena-based deathmatch shooters go, I like it a lot more than most, but it's going to be pretty clear when I describe the mechanics whether or not this is your kind of thing.Read More