562 Reviews liked by LordTentacle69
Fascinating to me how so much screen-space is devoted to the sky in this game, perhaps because the game's ultimate theme is just "chasing that new horizon" - the blindingly fast parallax scrolling produces almost a strobe-type effect in some sections that, alongside the lovely chip tunes and soft, blissful colors, produces an almost psychedelic hang-out kind of experience. This feeling is of course restrained by the very strict time limit imposed on the player; you can take a moment to smell the roses but you've still got the bag to catch. Good stuff.
A really interesting alternate take on the deckbuilding roguelike genre, though one that I think has too many moving pieces for me to stick with it in a meaningful way. I guess I can't "unlearn" Slay the Spire to say for sure but I certainly don't remember feeling overwhelmed by it in terms of the language and concepts it presented, and there's something a little too... much about Griftlands that is discouraging for repeat plays.
The length doesn't help, though it thankfully allows for mid-run saves, as otherwise that would be just as prohibitive as Returnal in that department if weirdly not moreso. It's a very slow-paced, narrative-focused roguelike with great worldbuilding and aesthetic, taking cues from the likes of TellTale's adventure series and Mass Effect to add interesting complexity to a card game, and it feels amazing when those elements come together. When I ended up killing too many people through the fights I was picking and gained notoriety for being a murderer, I actually felt it in the mechanics.
The conversation "fights" are also a refreshing spin on the formula; I don't know that it's a perfect metaphorical representation of conversations, but the simple act of differentiation from normal combat encounters makes the length and pace of this go over a lot better. Managing two separate decks is also interesting, but again maybe a little overwhelming.
It might be the kind of game where I'll just have to play more runs in order to get comfortable enough with the mechanics and options; and like Slay the Spire, numerous cards unlock for future playthroughs after a run is over, so maybe I would eventually find that perfect groove. I just don't know how often I'll be doing that due to the length of an individual run. Super cool though, and Klei has proven they can work with a multitude of genres and be quite successful at any of them.
At first I was annoyed by the clutter - here is a game where just shooting well and typing WA and WD in a rhythm is more effective than the /actual/ avoidance mechanic provided (esp. once you get the bullet-slowing perk), but I've come to accept that in Bayonetta-like fashion, the true and best path forward is simply killing better while maintaining just enough lucidity to recognize shapes and motions. If you wanna add something to that, feel free - otherwise, get your aim right.
Regardless of the game quality itself, there's a genuine stroke of genius in putting an "unofficial" playlist on Spotify to tie into an achievement you can only get if you listen while playing. Not since Space Funeral have I seen such a harum-scarum approach to licensing.
Classic example of the inverse spend-playtime rule - I got this for £1 in the Steam sale and have already spent more time with it than some of my full-price games.
"It's like being on drugs!!" uhhh sure man, whatever. I'd say this is a lot closer to a playable 90s MTV ident than a chemically-induced experience. "Trippy" is the word de jouer in the Steam reviews, but LSD makes you wanna stroke blades of grass and watch them grow in hyper-real time and play 3D Tetris with your bath tiles and shit, not this. I don't think anyone has ever dropped acid and been like "oh shit I wanna play a first-person roguelike shooter with a surfer butt-rock soundtrack"
Post Void is addictive, though, so I guess it's like a drug in that sense. The hyper quick-click-die-repeat loop is a great way to cover for the game's paucity of procedurally-generated building blocks, and unfair deaths are never likely to be dwelled upon for longer than a single second before you're thrown back in at the deep end. I respect roguelike/procgen games that respect the player's time and don't commit them to 20 minutes that end in ThreadLocalRandom.current(); bullshit.
The between-levels upgrade system introduces some welcome shake-ups to an otherwise fairly rote (though reliable) formula, but I almost wish the entire experience was balanced and designed around the starting pistol - nothing else in the game feels quite as good as just landing a basic-ass headshot on a goon. That's good, because I spent a lot of time having to replay those opening levels over and over and over again.
With his head in hand, he who bore the pain, would try to reach The Void again; The place where nothing moves, where darkness is lord and silence its preacher - a place of peace.
as someone whose number one dream in life has been to clamber into a sensory deprivation tank for years now, i relate to post void's take on the arcade format. oblivion is inviolable and sacrosanct here, not transcendence - everything between here and that inverse nirvana is stream-of-consciousness anarchy and troublesome white noise, each new threat a tax and handicap on your senses as you try to reach that sweet, sweet cessation of being. so committed to 'noise' post void is that even your upgrades will occasionally contribute to the visual clutter on screen (one explodes enemies on death; another ricochets bullets), and it's up to you to translate that mess to wasd and mouse as you line up headshot after headshot in the world's most deadly funhouse, its sprawling and uneven geometry working against you the whole way through. kind of barebones in design in a way that makes me wish it was designed far more around its purity - pistols just feel right, whereas the shotgun, once kitted out, is way too lenient - but i prefer this minimalistic roguelike compared to the likes of downwell, at least personally. introduces a slide just for the hell of it, cause it feels good but damn if it didnt get me killed more often than not
I wouldn’t go into A Hand With Many Fingers expecting a singularly fascinating mystery to uncover. It has strengths! But I would say they are in two, disappointingly parallel traits. On one hand, it is a subtly burdensome emulation of a mystery blooming. The archives are designed with a clever inefficiency that draws out paranoia and itchy obsessiveness, giving you just enough space and ambiguity to stretch out the red twine. In the connecting lobby of the archive is a large, exposed window overlooking the opposite side of the street. Just once in my full 1.25 hour long playthrough, a light was on in an apartment as I ascended the stairs, and before I could make any shapes out, it flicked off. Things like this happen every-so-often, and put just enough static in your mind to never feel fully comfortable. It doesn’t help that Reagan is gnashing away on some poor CRT in your periphery the entire time.
On the other hand, this is explicitly based on a true story of a conspiracy centering the CIA, drug trafficking, and arms dealers, so there’s an inherent edge and, dare I say, glamour to it all. Frankly, I don’t know how you’d possibly convince someone that this game’s subject matter wasn’t baseline fascinating considering there’s an actual aftermath that, regardless of its success, the game would be guiding you towards.
That’s kinda the problem, though. While the game trots around a more and more complicated set of names, locations, and events, the contents of said texts reveal themselves to be actually quite bare with stimulating information. As convenient as it is that the game highlights all mechanically important information, it does lead to a bit of tunnel-vision, especially near the end of the game when the details and combinations are disparate enough that brute force is not only possible, but tempting. I can’t speak fully to this, but I reckon that there’s a lot of interesting bits to this story that simply don’t show up in this game because the primary goal of this game was to be a clear, coherent set of puzzles more than a violent document-cyclone that answers questions just for more to be raised. There’s a version of this game that’s the latter in some parallel universe. It might not be nearly as digestible - hell, it could be unplayable garbage. But the thought that it could exist eats away at me every time I think about it.
More fun than Ys 8, but you can slowly feel the series losing its identity here. The weapon type system is bizarre and annoying, constantly breaking the flow of fighting. The shallowness caused by removing jumping is 'balanced' by a guard and dash move (which you always have to spam to move quickly around the gigantic maps), there's no fast travel for at least the first few hours? The feeling of being 'stuck to the ground' and my eyes glued to the minimap reminds me of the worst bits of games like Zwei 2.
There's so much loot and the gains you get by upgrading weapons with them feel minimal to the point it's easy to just overlook it entirely. It feels so routine to have to clear the enemies, stand at a item pile for 5 seconds, etc... cross-check if you can upgrade...
Still, the combat is fast paced and fun in the times it's working. It's a bit simple as far as the regular enemies go but fast paced enough that you have to do a little dodging.
I actually still like the boss design at this point in the series, even though the presence of healing items kind of balances it out in a weird way - I only died a few times to the first 5 bosses or so, so there wasn't much of the fun you get from Ys 6/Oath where you are constantly dying to get a sense for how to move in response to the bosses. It also feels far less dramatic because you don't have that sense of verticality that bosses in earlier Ys games utilized via your jump ability.
Overall, a fairly flat experience (so far - I quit at the fire temple). Also way, way too long! Quests are bizarrely hidden, you have to talk to 50 NPCs spewing nothingness before finding someone who tells you to run back and forth for 10 minutes to give you 4000 gold.
I still don't know how the later Ys Celceta will be, but if it's a bridge in between 7 and 8 (with the completionism of the forest) then that's not a great sign. 7 already has some of the later completionism, through the NPCs who ask you to find 10 of each type of wood, or find special gems.
I think over the past 15 years the Ys series seems to have lost some sort of leadership that really pressed the game to have a unique action identity.
It seems that, via osmosis, the bland ARPG design of the Japanese game industry slowly seeped into Falcom over those years. (But if Ys 9 is anything to go by, at least Falcom's action still tries to maintain an interesting simplicity, even if it's come to rely on bland parries and dodge rolling and has been poisoned by the "40+ hours of playtime!" completionism that's rampant across the industry).
Umurangi Generation is a game so close to home it hurts. “Umurangi” is Te Reo for “Red Sky” a reference to the devasting 2019/2020 Australian bushfires. The game is born out of the ineptitude and mismanagement of the crisis and the flat-out refusal by the Australian Government and the media to accept and act on the true cause, climate change.
For anyone born after 1985, we are the Umurangi Generation, the first generation of people to be the primary victims of climate change and the devasting ecological impacts it will have on our lives.
The game is a biting criticism of conservative neoliberalism and its ability to handwave away the causes of disasters and instead stoop to platitudes and reactionary policy to distract the population away from actual climate action.
It references this criticism through the lens of fictional Kaiju attack in Aotearoa/New Zealand and a United Nations intervention in the city. Stylised by works like Neon Genesis Evangelion, Yoji Shinkawa’s Zone of the Enders and Jet Set Radio. The game is heady mix of early 2000s Dreamcast aesthetics and Japanese cyberpunk.
I’m not going to spoil much of story but if you’d like more, Errant Signal’s video essay Vibing to the End in Umurangi Generation is an excellent exploration of the game’s themes.
The gameplay essentially has you traversing a number of locations ticking off a list of subjects within a time limit completing all the challenges nets you a bonus bit of kit, expanding on your creative ability to capture the city and it’s inhabitants.
The story is revealed through your photos and you’ll soon begin to piece together how it’s all just vibe for the Umurangi generation as the world collapses around them.
The soundtrack is one of the stand outs for me, produced by ThorHighHeels under the moniker “Adolf Nomura” it’s an incredible lo-fi electronic mix of drum n bass, hip hop and even some trap.
There are some minor issues with the console version and I’d probably recommend playing this on PC instead, especially since you’re unable to get fine adjustments to the camera with a large dead zone on the analog stick. Traversal of the world is also kind of annoying with the triple jump sorta sticking you to the wall.
Overall, a fairly special game for me.
51 Lists liked by LordTentacle69