Re:Fresh is a short and simple 3D platformer in the vein of A Short Hike, and wow does it really just want to take the ideas from that game without understanding what made them work. I'll say at the top that despite my complaints I still had an okay time with this, it's not truly bad and it's only around an hour to do everything in the game so it's not a big waste of time, but I wanted to talk about why it's disappointing.
You play as a robot after a storm hits a small island town and you're tasked with finding materials to help the NPCs rebuild. The movement is pretty basic with a jump and later a dash, and solar cells that act like A Short Hike's feathers in giving you extra charges for either of these as you collect them. It doesn't feel particularly great though, just passable for the basic unchallenging platforming here. The exploration is also pretty limited, and I feel like the structure of the world really hurts the game. The areas aren't that big, and even then they're split up in a very distinct way, with bridges between small islands that you unlock at different points connecting to the main hub area. There's only 3 of these, even being generous and counting the small starting area. I think even if they were combined together it would be kind of disappointing in size and density, but split up and made so that you have to approach them in a pretty linear order removes a lot of the feeling of exploring a detailed world. The worlds in games like A Short Hike and Lil Gator Game aren't huge by any means, but they're dense and feel made with care in a way that exploring them is a joy, but I can't say anything of the sort here.
Rather than the approach of slowly encountering NPCs as you explore, most of them are dumped on you all at once near the beginning of the game when you walk into the main town. This certainly doesn't help with any of them being memorable, but the simple dialogue also didn't really work for me and I didn't find any of it charming like the other games I've seen or played in this style. The overall story isn't really noteworthy either. It's definitely trying to be charming and cute, but I don't feel like it really hits those goals.
The game also just feels unpolished overall. The menus were weirdly buggy for me while using a controller. The dialogue interface is odd and I didn't even realize there were dialogue choices when I made the first ones because of how it's presented. There's a system for customizing your character but it's extremely limited, and I'm fairly sure there's not enough of the collectible currency in the game to even unlock all of the options available which seems odd. The game also runs shockingly bad for how simple it looks. I was planning to play it on my steam deck, but quickly realized that wasn't going to be a good time after booting it up, but even on my pretty beefy desktop it didn't run great. There were a lot of other small things that were offputting but I've already spent too long complaining about this.
Overall, despite the complaints it was okay, it's a very short game and if you really want more of these and feel like you're out of other options you might get some enjoyment out of it. I mainly wanted to review it to talk about how it completely misses what makes A Short Hike great while being a very similar game.

The Makaimura series is probably best known for being extremely difficult, and while I wouldn't say that Ghouls 'n Ghosts isn't a difficult game, it remains an extremely approachable and fun one. You'll die a lot, but the tightness and simplicity of the controls typically let you see what you could have done better, and the infinite continues and fair checkpointing make it less of a slog than many action platformers of this era without resorting to save states.
You can easily get some enjoyment out of this game just doing a quick playthrough (it only takes a couple of hours even at a slower pace), appreciate the art and fantastic soundtrack, and see what the game has to offer. That's exactly what I did when I originally played the game a couple years back. Recently, however, I got a song from the game stuck in my head out of nowhere and had the urge to play it again. So I went back, got the true ending this time in its NG+ equivalent, and have beaten it several more times since. This is the first game of this type that I've really wanted to get good at and attempt to 1CC, and in that process I've seen a lot more of what makes this game great.
I praised the controls a bit above, but they really are a huge part of what makes the game fun. In your first minutes playing it, especially if you're coming from a background of mostly playing newer games, things like the slow walk speed and your jump being high commitment might feel dated or clunky, but the combat of Ghouls is all about careful positioning and reading the scenario you're in. The options available to you are simple enough that it's easy to keep in mind at any time, but the combat always feels dynamic and interesting, and the responsiveness of your moveset allows you to manage the chaos the enemies create through thoughtful play. A mix of fixed and random enemy spawns makes the levels feel a bit different to play through each time, and many of the enemies are faster than you or have attacks that will punish careless movement or overextending your position. Learning all of their patterns and how to play against them is very fun, and as you learn you'll see how Arthur's moveset is designed to complement that style of play.
My main complaint about the game is definitely with the weapon balancing. Weapon spawns are mostly random, you can learn when they'll spawn after some time with the game, but even that will seem random to inexperienced players and you never have control over what you'll get. This wouldn't be a big problem if all of the weapons felt viable, but there are some real stinkers. The sword is at least interesting, though it struggles a lot more in some levels than the good weapons. The axe and holy water are next to useless, while the starting weapon of the lance as well as the discus are serviceable, and the dagger outclasses everything with the only exception being the special NG+ weapon in certain situations. What makes this lack of balance worse is that you can get stuck with weapons very easily. Weapon pickups never despawn, so avoiding picking up an unwanted one can be challenging or even impossible without taking an intentional death. Your weapon also persists through deaths and continues, so failing to avoid a weapon or having one spawn on top of you unexpectedly can put you in a bad situation and make the game much more difficult until you manage to get back to a better one. I don't think this is a fatal flaw, but it seems like such an easy and obvious thing to improve, which makes it confusing from what I've heard that none of the future titles in the series managed to do that. Strange.
I'm not sure how many people are in the same boat as me with enjoying action platformers but being turned off by a lot of the classics for one reason or another, but if that describes you, or if you've just ever been curious about this game or series, this is an excellent game to try. I've been having a blast with it, and it's become an easy game to just pick up and play for a few minutes when I'm not sure what to do. I don't know if I'll stick with it to the point of 1CCing it, but I'm working towards that, enjoying the process of improving, and loving the game.

Revisiting this after 10+ years was a pretty weird experience, but a fun one overall. For a lot of the runtime I was thinking it was just okay, movement was nothing to write home about and the combat is pretty basic aside from the 2.5D aiming mechanics, but it really gets fun towards the end with all of the powerups you get. Your superpowered state in the end game is one of the best in the genre, up there with Super Metroid. Then the game just kind of ends abruptly, with a lackluster boss fight (as most of the bosses in the game are). That kind of killed my motivation to get 100%, which I was on board for with how fun it had gotten over the last hour or so. I think the pacing of powerups here could have been a lot better if it was more gradual and they gave you some of these upgrades earlier, and the game could have been a bit longer than it is. It's a shame they never made a second one of these because it's a really solid foundation.


Iji is one of the most ambitious games of this size that I've seen, especially for coming out back in 2008. Made almost entirely by one person, this is basically an action platformer/immersive sim, which is a combination I don't know that I've seen before. There are different approaches to combat and exploration depending on how you spec out your character's stats, from handling different types of weaponry, to strength based melee builds, hacking (which is actually a pretty cool stealth-ish playstyle where you can hack enemy weapons), or just becoming a tank so you can run through everything. I did a mostly strength focused build (though I got enough levels to try out a bit of everything by the end) and went full lethal, although pacifist runs seem to have been considered as at least a mostly viable option, and there are parts in the story that seem to reflect that choice.
All of that stuff is cool and very ambitious, and it more or less works, but it does come with some downsides. The controls are very stiff, particularly only being able to attack while standing. You often want to crouch behind cover or jump over attacks and are helpless while doing that. The enemy attack patterns, although not that interesting overall, are at least decent about this though so once you get used to it it's not so bad. It just all feels very weird and like a modern game or a remake of this would do things differently. It's also not a great looking game. You're going to be looking at some low res programmer art characters against very basic and repetitive backgrounds for nearly the entire game, and some people aren't going to be into it because of that.
The balancing is also strange. Playing on the normal difficulty early on I was expecting it to get kind of tedious (though it hadn't yet) with the awkward controls and sprawling levels, but it never really did. I think part of this is because you get really, really overpowered by the end if you're collecting the maximum amount of XP per level. You're limited to leveling up 5 times in each zone, and while I get the reason for the cap with you already being able to become overpowered even with that, it feels like it should have just been balanced better without an artificial cap in place. That being said, being overpowered was pretty fun and the awkwardness of the game might have gotten more in the way if it was more difficult. I haven't tried the other difficulties so I can't really speak to those, but they seem like pretty straightforward numerical changes.
The writing is equally ambitious as the gameplay design, but less successful at achieving its goals. There's an absolute ton of lore and background info in text logs you find throughout the game, but there's also some pretty important info in these, which led to me skimming a whole lot. It could definitely use some editing down. The dialogue and narrative feel amateur at a lot of points but at least they're trying for something interesting and make an effort to tie into your choices throughout the game.
It's a weird game with a lot of drawbacks, and I wouldn't blame someone for not being able to get into it, but it's also just so ambitious and cool for what it is, and I haven't seen anything else quite like it.

This is a perfectly fine game. The first person platforming is simple but fun enough, it introduces all of the mechanics fairly quickly and I guess they're used decently, though it never gets very challenging. The story is just... there. It didn't evoke much emotion or interest, but wasn't actively bad. It's held back some by the voice acting and character animations feeling very stiff. I can admire going for what they did on a lower budget, many games just wouldn't show you the characters directly or communicate only through text as a way around this. I dunno, this is okay but also isn't very well done here. The highlight of the game is definitely the environmental design and art. The areas were really nice looking, pretty diverse for a short game, and fun to move through. It's hard to think of who I'd recommend this to, because it doesn't really excel at much, but if it seems interesting to you it's not bad and it's fairly short to play through.

It's interesting going back to this to see what does and doesn't hold up well about it. I'm playing it coming off the back of replaying Celeste, which is all around just a much better game, and certainly didn't help the case for Meat Boy. I think the most core problem is that the movement here feels good to go fast when it's working out, but the slipperiness and inconsistency of it becomes very frustrating in harder levels. That combined with the type of difficulty used in the later level design makes for a pretty bad time. I breezed through the first couple of worlds and felt like it was holding up pretty well to my memory, even if it does have a few too many filler levels. The later levels don't feel like they're demanding mastery over the controls and moveset though so much as making you fight against it, and introducing gimmicky mechanics that don't feel fun or consistent. Having to hold jump for just the right amount of frames coming out of a wall slide at a certain speed so you have just the right amount of momentum so that you can make it through a tiny gap between sawblades isn't fun. Now make a dozen jumps that precise on some of the later levels.
It's not just that it's difficult, as I mentioned replaying Celeste recently, that game gets more fun as it gets more difficult, because your moveset in it feels reliable and like you can replicate any movement consistently, and the levels feel designed around it and not against it. That's the part of this game that makes it feel really dated to me. There are older platformers out there that still feel good but it's a certain type of difficulty in design from around this time, mostly popularized by this game, that I just don't have much patience for these days.
For some side notes, the instant respawn and the end of level replay system are really good, and more games should have both of those. I didn't go for many of the collectibles or side content this playthrough, as I did already do all of them back in the day but they also felt like leaning even more into that style of difficulty I dislike. What little story and humor there is also feels very dated.
Overall, I dunno, this seems a little harsh. I did enjoy this when I originally played it and it did help bring pure platformers back into popularity, but now there's so many others you can and should go play before this.

Pretty fun megawad, with a really unique visual style for the 2nd and 3rd episodes. Makes very smart use of low monster counts most of the time, which leads to a different type of difficulty than most modern wads. Also enjoyed the unorthodox use of weapons, like allowing the basic shotgun some time to shine in the first episode, and heavy use of the rocket launcher. My main complaint is some of the later maps are easy to get lost, particularly the guest maps which I felt didn't do as good of a job with signposting keys/doors. The ending was also a bit anticlimactic. Favorite map was 16, Cidadela I.

I suppose this being a step down from Yakuza 0 is technically true, and it's true in pretty much every aspect of the game, but I feel like I was way oversold on that idea. Kiwami was a great time, and doesn't feel like the skippable entry in the series that I had heard it was. The story is quite entertaining even if it's not on the same level as 0, and I felt it was enhanced quite a bit knowing some of the characters' backstories from 0 as well, though that's a double edged sword with things like Majima's character changing drastically between games, or some characters that were important in 0 being killed off without much attention given to them. The combat was a lot of fun to me. It's nearly identical to 0's, and I'm not sure exactly what the differences even are, but I found myself enjoying it a lot more here than I enjoyed Kiryu's combat in 0 at least. Maybe it's just sticking with him the whole game gave me time to actually learn his combos and moves better rather than perspective swapping a lot. Kamurocho, despite being the same map, feels a little smaller here. There just aren't as many side events and minigames, and the substories feel substantially weaker for the most part. The Majima Everywhere system did add some fun to exploring, and I enjoyed the fights themselves, but I wish there was more unique dialogue to it, or more of the situations that felt hand crafted like the party one, or the zombie movie. It's possible I missed some more like that as I didn't go for 100%. Anyways, fun game overall, it kept my attention enough to play through it pretty quickly even if I mostly focused on just the main story.

I love the concept of a picross / murder mystery game, and that more or less pays off with Murder by Numbers. It's a very solid picross game, notably with good controller support so I could play it on my Steam Deck. The puzzles are a little slow to ramp up in difficulty but they do get tougher towards the end. The only real gameplay mechanics aside from normal picross are having to scan the environment for clues, which unlocks new puzzles to complete and progress through the game, and a timed hacking minigame that comes up a few times where you have to rapidly solve multiple tiny picross puzzles on a timer, which is quite fun.
The murder mystery side of the game is more just a visual novel, you're not making any substantial choices or doing much real detective work here. The few times it does ask you to come to a conclusion there's no punishment for guessing wrong and you just get to pick again until you find the correct path for the story. That said, I found these parts of the game surprisingly charming. I'm not normally one for visual novels, but something about this clicked with me, perhaps just ingesting it in small bits between the puzzle sections. The story doesn't really go anywhere surprising but it's fun enough to be along for the ride, and the characters are pretty well done.
I do have two big complaints that kept me from enjoying this more. The first is the music situation. The soundtrack for the game is actually quite good, but it's also rather short, and only a smaller selection of music can be played during puzzles. This is also a minor problem because puzzles that come up in more tense situations still use the lighter, more upbeat music from earlier in the game. The bigger problem here is that there's only one volume setting for music, you can't turn off the music during puzzles without also turning it off during the story. I wanted it on during the story and thought it added a lot to those parts, but got really annoyed with it during the puzzles and ended up toggling it off and on throughout the second half or so of the game. You also notably can't open the pause menu once you're in a cutscene/dialogue, so even manually turning it on for story moments is out of the question unless you remember to do it before the end of every single puzzle. This was a pretty big annoyance over a roughly 40 hour game, and could be solved very easily I think, hopefully a setting gets patched in at some point.
The second complaint is about how the side content in the game is handled. There are four main cases you solve in the game, and for each one you get a rating that goes up as you solve the main puzzles without making mistakes or using hints. The higher your rating, the more side puzzles you unlock, and if you get an S rank and complete all the side puzzles for a case you get a bonus cutscene. These are actually quite important to the story and fill in some important info, which in theory I wouldn't mind because I'm playing this game for the puzzles and didn't mind doing the extra ones. This became an issue when I finished one of the cases, assuming there was just another puzzle at the end that would bump me up to S rank, but it turns out I somehow missed one. After you complete a case you cannot go back to the areas from it to search for more clues, the cases are almost treated like separate playthroughs and unless you manually make safety saves, you'll have to replay the entire case (a quarter of the main game) from the start to revisit any part of it. I ended up just looking up the cutscene I missed on youtube, and I only missed out on something like 2 side puzzles because of this, but it was very frustrating and easily avoidable.
Those rants aside, I had a really good time with this overall. It's easy enough to pick up if you're new to picross, but does provide some more challenging puzzles by the end even if the ramp up is a bit slow. The story is also fun and I think most people would enjoy it, so I'd still give this a solid recommendation if it looks interesting to you.

Deep Rock has transformed from a "just okay" game a couple of years ago into one of my favorite co-op games. The continued support by the developers here has added a lot of depth to the gameplay without making it overly convoluted, as well as some fun progression and cosmetics through their excellent free battlepass system (notably without the FOMO, all items you miss out on are added into a pool of loot you can get later).
The classes here are very well designed, each with a very distinct identity, and you're always missing some tool from another class when you switch. They also encourage natural teamwork through how their unique abilities combine, for example the Scout can use their grappling hook to get to hard to reach minerals higher up and the Engineer can use their platform gun to create a place for the Scout to stand. This combined with the reward structure of your entire team getting the same benefits for completing missions encourages everyone to work together, and even playing this in random public lobbies most people are very nice and cooperative.
The real star of the game, however, is the procedural generation. I've played a ton of games with procedural levels, and I like many of them, but almost all start to feel same-y over time and you start noticing the patterns in them. DRG's levels are so detailed and natural that I haven't yet felt like I've been in the same room twice. There are definitely distinct biomes, and you'll become familiar with those and some of their recurring traits, but each mission feels like a new and unique level within that biome. It's so natural that you don't even notice it as a positive while you're playing most of the time, but thinking about it afterwards you realize that you haven't been playing handcrafted levels. Combining the generation with how distinct all of the different mission types and side objectives feel, it's easy to see how you could dump hundreds of hours into this game without it getting old.
There's still a lot of the later game stuff I haven't explored yet. At the time of writing I've only promoted one class and am close to doing so for a second one, but haven't explored most of the options with the other two and have yet to scratch the surface of Deep Dives and Overclocks. I just wanted to write a review and update my score here because I think the updates to this game have really transformed it from an interesting but slightly shallow game to something I see being in my regular rotation for a long time to come.

Pikmin if it were good. Tinykin's a fun collectathon platformer, and I love the tiny characters in a full sized house theme. Unlocking abilities primarily through finding new types of Tinykin is fun and there were a decent amount of unique ideas there. The level design is really the highlight I think, the environments feel really different and how ordinary rooms of a house are transformed into something else in the eyes of the bug inhabitants here is really cool. I do have a couple of minor complaints. The collectathon aspect is fun (as someone who generally likes these) up until the last few things to find in each level. There really aren't any good tools to help hunt down what you're missing, and I spent a significant chunk of my playtime scouring mostly completed levels, before eventually giving up and just getting 95% completion or something like that. This is also unfortunately the only real challenge in the game, I was hoping for a bit more of (optional?) platforming challenges in the late game or some kind of postgame content. It was a nice length overall but just lacking something near the end in that way. Also wasn't a fan of the writing and the dialogue was a bit too much for my taste. You kind of need to talk to everyone in case they offer a side quest, but I ended up mashing through a lot of it because there's a lot of dry flavor text. It also reuses objectives a bit much for my taste, like the mail you can collect in every level, or one of the side quests always being to find a ring in some side area and bring it back to someone. Even just reskinning those between levels would have been better I think. Still really enjoyed it overall, and it doesn't overstay its welcome or the minor issues I had may have become more grating. I'd be really interested in seeing what they could do with a sequel to this down the road, though Splashteam is 2/2 for me with very different games so far so I'm not complaining if they do something unique again instead.

This is some truly irredeemable garbage that is offensive to everything I believe about game design. On paper it sounded kind of neat, I'm down to play it as basically a textless game with it being in Portugese, the idea of wands with random abilities each run is cool, but the execution is dreadful in every possible way. First off, this game objectively runs too bad to be playable. Even if I care a lot about performance, I normally wouldn't say that, but this incredibly simple looking game runs at about 1 frame per second and the core gameplay of dragging wands to use them hardly even works because it's so unresponsive. As for the actual gameplay, the core concept doesn't work at all. You're heavily relying on the wands to get through levels, as the basic roguelike combat outside of that is heavily weighted against you and damage is unavoidable in many situations outside of wand use, with health being hard to recover and not resetting between levels. The wands having random properties is a neat idea on paper, but you can't see anything they do before using them, and you can only use each one once per level. The effects are too inconsistent to use with any kind of strategy or knowledge that you'll be safe, which leaves this feeling like a mess of RNG. Sometimes enemies can move/attack after you use a wand, sometimes they can't. Sometimes wands will do damage, sometimes none at all. Despite having their effects "revealed" after first use, wands still change behaviors between levels or mechanics don't act consistently. I really don't think there's any kind of skillful gameplay here, it's just a complete mess. One of the worst games I've ever played.

The more I play 3rd Strike, the more I realize how central parries are to its design, and how fundamental of a misstep it was for every fighting game after this not to copy that mechanic. Every main series Street Fighter entry has its universal gimmick mechanic, but SFIII is the one that went beyond being a gimmick and really changes the core gameplay.
The concept is simple enough to understand, holding back to block is the safest option in most every fighting game, but if you guess the timing of your opponent's attack and press forward at just the right time instead, you're rewarded with one of the most satisfying sound effects known to man, and turn the tables on your opponent putting you into an advantage state. This is carefully balanced however to not be an automatic win state, and introduces a whole new set of mixup opportunities. The difficulty of getting a parry is very carefully balanced as well, anyone picking up the game can get some their first time playing and you'll immediately realized how cool it is, but it's still difficult enough to do consistently that you can't just parry everything all the time. One of the beautiful things this mechanic does is level the playing field. In a lot of ways, 3rd Strike has incredibly imbalanced characters, and at a top level that is actually true, but for most the difference between Chun-Li and Sean or Twelve can be overcome with a good read on your opponent's habits. Parries also help to encourage aggression and varied playstyles, things that almost everyone likes but knows deep down aren't the winning answer in most fighters. I'm not joking at all when I say I think every fighting game should have shamelessly copied this.
People have already discussed the other great aspects of this game, from the top notch animations, to the personality and variety of the characters and their toolkits, to the amazing soundtrack and sound design in general, but I wanted to draw some attention to why I think parries are what truly sets this game apart and has given it staying power where it might otherwise have faded into relative obscurity.

Holy shit, what an absolute joy of a game. This is perfectly up my alley, instantly snappy movement, simple controls but a lot of skill involved, single screen and arcade-like. The levels here are so creative throughout, it could have gotten away with so much less, or with reusing concepts more, but there are amazing level concepts that are used once in a level you can beat in 10 seconds and I love that. The pace of this was enthralling and kept me going through the whole thing in one sitting. The last world in particular was a blast, it does get tougher but it's not just a challenge of existing ideas, it breaks all of the rules and pushes the game to its limits. Damn, what an awesome surprise this was. Go play this right now.

Really cool execution of a simple concept, fully explores the ideas of all its mechanics, just the right level of difficulty and length. You can play it free in your browser, go check it out