Category: Platformers

Christmas Steam Games 2018: QuickRecs

Our sacred holiday tradition continues! I got so many this year that we get to divide this into recs and pans. Most of these are puzzle games; I suppose those are the ones that go for cheap.

Inside: Hollow Knight, Recursed, Ittle Dew 2, The Dweller, Zasa: An AI Story, NO THING, Quell, Qbik, Reveal the Deep.

I also got Hue, which Act already reviewed. It is wonderful and I second her recommendation.

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Christmas Steam Games (2019)

Another year, another crop. I put this off for a while because I was hoping to be able to rejigger a few games that had trouble playing on my computer, but no such luck. You’ll have to wait for reviews of FezMages of Mystralia, and The Talos Principle when (if) I upgrade my hardware.

Inside: Hexcells, Her Story, Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight, Gravitas, Disoriented, OVIVO.

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Games For Racial Justice and Equality (Part 1)

So, itch.io ran a bundle to fundraise for Black Lives Matter, offering over a thousand games for only $5. As a fundraiser, I found the ethos… questionable (“Give us money so we can do actual activism while you play video games”), but it was a good deal, so I got it.

A good chunk of the items included aren’t actual games; they are either assets or tabletop RPGs. There are still a ton, though. Here are my thoughts on the games I’ve gotten through in the first half of the year:

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Games for Racial Justice and Equality (Part 2)

Continuing where we left off. A much weaker showing this time, with a lot of games I couldn’t even finish.

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Super Mario Odyssey

Another big Nintendo game I’m getting to fashionably late. I’m very much of two minds about this one.

Aesthetically, the game is an absolute delight. The premise of making the different worlds feel genuinely alien in a way that even the planets of Galaxy didn’t by giving them all radically different aesthetics and art styles was wonderful, and a fantastic way to make even this old franchise feel fresh. I loved all the kingdoms and all the inhabitants, especially the steam gardeners — despite being robots they actually seemed like the most emotional of all the characters, and the duality of their earnest joy at their work and snarky pettiness was so adorable. (I particularly love the one that is very obviously the robot equivalent of drunk hollering that the Steam Gardens are objectively the best kingdom.) I loved the possession mechanic. I loved the 8-bit segments and the callbacks to earlier games, especially the New Donk City festival, which felt like a reflection on how far the franchise has come. I loved that we got to explore Bowser’s kingdom and that it was a completely different flavor of medieval palace than the Mushroom Kingdom. I loved getting to fight a giant frickin’ dragon that looks like it wandered in from Dark Souls. I loved that we got to revisit Peach’s castle as it was in Super Mario 64. I loved that the designers put in the detail that Bowser didn’t just dress up for the occasion, he also delicately coiffed his hair. I loved following up the final boss fight with getting to possess Bowser for a super awesome Metroid-esque escape sequence. I loved all the outfits, and I took a particular delight in dancing around Bowser’s kingdom in a clown suit.

But I feel they really dropped the ball on actually putting a compelling game on top of this phenomenal backdrop. It was clearly trying to experiment with the same open-world approach as Breath of the Wild, but that doesn’t work nearly as well for a platformer than it does for an action adventure. The actual platforming challenges feel tiny, empty, and unsatisfying, and the game as a whole feels like it’s pulling in too many directions.

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Yahtzee Croshaw’s Dev Diary

In 2019, Yahtzee Croshaw (the game reviewer who does Zero Punctuation) challenged himself to make 12 games in 12 months and document his progress every fortnight. As someone interested in game design myself, I checked them out and I recommend you do too. They’re all short, free, and incredibly varied.

In this post I’ll give my own ranking, and short thoughts on each one.

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Wandersong

jegus why are there so many innocuous-looking fantasy titles that are actually incredibly depressing

Wandersong is an adventure game where, instead of an action hero, you play as a bard whose only ability is singing. You’re told that the world is ending and the only way to save it is to sing the Earthsong, which can only be taught by the spiritual overseers of the spirit world, so you have to go on a quest, solving all your problems along the way with singing.

The story takes a big swerve about halfway in and is actually incredibly dark and bleak, with later segments even borrowing elements from horror. This isn’t one of those fantasy stories where the apocalypse is an all-or-nothing abstract threat; the world and the overseers are slowly dying and you see them deteriorate in real time, all while the protagonists and NPCs contemplate the end of existence. It got to the point where I was genuinely expecting the ending to be “LOL j/k, world ends everyone dies.”

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Super Paper Mario

Super Paper Mario is the third entry in the Paper Mario series, and markedly different from its predecessors. It’s now a platformer with RPG elements rather than a turn-based RPG, and the playable characters are entirely comprised of established Mario characters rather than new ones. Overall, I liked these changes, and I think the game is a much better experience than The Thousand-Year Door overall. The plot was also much more complex and compelling this time around, though it does unfortunately suffer from the kiddie-game problem of needing to signpost all its twists with sledgehammer levels of subtlety.

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FEZ

FEZ is a game I got years ago, but was unable to play until now because it used a really specific graphics renderer that wasn’t supported by my crappy hardware. Now that I finally have a proper graphics card, I decided to try it out.

The premise of FEZ is that it’s a puzzle platformer where you move in 2D but can rotate the environment in 3D. This allows you to use perspective tricks like bridging platforms that are far apart at one angle but close together at another.

Unfortunately, this is not the actual gameplay of FEZ.

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La-Mulana

La-Mulana is a Metroidvania both famous and infamous for its difficulty. After seeing a review that praised its puzzles and claimed it uniquely required you to think on how to proceed, I picked it up the Steam version while it was on sale to try it myself. I beat Hollow Knight, after all, surely I can handle the difficulty, I thought.

This is a troll game. I quit about 10 hours in after I beat a difficult boss at the end of a long area with no save points, only to investigate a suspicious alcove in the next area, which turned out to be a trap that instantly killed me, undoing all my progress. I’d genuinely like to get a refund.

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