118 Reviews liked by Van
What I normally don't enjoy about tactical games is how they make you take a defensive approach. I don't have the patience for cover-based shooters in general, whether they're turn-based or not. But this plays like the tactical equivalent of DOOM. Aggression is key, holding still will get you killed. It's a blast to utilize everyone's different abilities to find the best way to destroy your opponent fast, before they have a chance to get to you.
The Fantastic Game
Fantasticaneer, I kneel before your offerings to the Egglike genre.
This is the game that started a cult genre called Egglikes, which are basically really weird walking sims where you collect stuff, do some platforming challenges of questionable quality, and encounter strange memes.
One of the major components of a Egglike is making sure the graphics look archaic enough without going overboard in making it look bad. The graphics of an Egglike aim to capture the feel of playing someone's first Unity project, mainly because that's what these probably are.
Fantasticaneer pioneered the Egglike genre with this game, The Fantastic Game. In this game, you explore an aimless world hunting for dollar bills. You'll explore weird areas, meet eggs that sing Smash Mouth's All Star, and more in this very short romp.
If you like janky first-person exploration-based platformers, The Fantastic Game is for you!
i've been giving pikmin 2 a third chance by going into it with the mindset of it being its own thing and i find myself liking it a lot more this time around. i still prefer the original and still think 2 is not very good as a continuation of it, but it definitely stands up on its own merits when you can play it under the context of wanting to play pikmin 2 rather than a sequel to pikmin 1
By the time the guys at Id were working on Quake, CD collections of WADs for Doom had become a cottage industry. Id wasn't too happy seeing WADs sold in stores because - despite saying the creation of WADs was ok in the Doom license agreement and giving the first chapter of the original Doom out for free - they didn't make no damn money off them. The aforementioned license issue would likely complicate any litigation taken against people selling WADs, so Id came up with a more creative solution: beat them at their own game.
Id contracted several designers to work on the Master Levels, a 21 mission WAD compilation released alongside Maximum Doom, which itself contained over a thousand pre-existing WADs of highly variable quality. Among these designers were Tim Willits, who would go on to enjoy a long career at Id and contribute work to the Quake series and Doom 3, Christen Klie, who would later work for LucasArts on games like Rogue Squadron, and the late John Anderson, better known as "Dr. Sleep," who after playing Master Levels has become my nemesis. The amount that each of Master Levels' six designers contributed is uneven, though Klie, Dr. Sleep, and Sverre André Kvernmo (known as Cranium) designed the most missions overall. All this to say that the level of quality is pretty god damn inconsistent, and some of my least favorite designers contributed the most to the project.
There is no proper level progression in Master Levels. Instead, you select which mission you want to play from an ordered list and are bounced back to the level select screen once the mission is complete. Because there is no standard level-to-level progression, you begin each mission with only the handgun, and certain designers apparently like to take advantage of this by placing spongy enemies directly in front of you so you're eating fireballs the second a mission begins. Others, the angels that they are, will drop you directly in front of a shotgun. The first mission, Attack by Tim Willits, is an easy enough entry point to the Master Levels, with a fairly low difficulty ceiling and an easily navigable environment to run through. The first five missions in general are deceptively fun, well-designed maps that makes it seem like the team Id assembled knew their way around Doom maybe not quite as much as Romero or Petersen but close enough as to be capable of creating something enjoyable.
It all craps the bed shortly after that, though. Any problem you might have had with Doom II is likely exacerbated here to an almost ridiculous extreme. Hey, do you like invisible walls and switches that open up panels to other switches that open panels to switches that open panels to switches? Well then play Master Levels, freak! You want BIG levels? Take a stroll in Manor.WAD, a map so huge it crashes some versions of the game! Is Doom your favorite puzzle game? You're gonna love spending a whole-ass hour in Dr. Sleep's missions trying to figure out what the hell you're even supposed to do, you dumb bastard! See: footage of me beating a Dr. Sleep level not realizing he designed the next one.
I don't want to be too vitriolic towards any particular designer, particularly because Master Levels appears to be where many of them got their start, but there's a number of missions that just feel like someone had their head up their own ass. [NAME EXPUNGED] starting a level where you have to shoot a locked door to open it, smelling he own farts. There are some ideas here about what you can do with Doom's limited toolset and how you can force the players to reconsider what they know about the game's core loop, but a lot of the execution is sloppy and almost necessitates playing with a guide open. There also seems to be a fundamental lack of understanding about enemy placement shared between the designers, and it is not uncommon to walk into rooms absolutely filled with damn near every enemy type in the game, all shooting you at once from every angle. Whether this was done in a misguided attempt to add challenge or to provide some variety while running through the steps of a convoluted puzzle, I don't know, and I mostly found it to all be so haphazard. There's one level where you have to enter and exit a central structure a few times, and each time you progress to the next "phase" of the mission more revenants spawn outside, but nothing about the terrain makes fighting them fun, and it just becomes a chore you have to get done before you can get back to the mission.
Like I said, a lot of Master Levels' best missions are front loaded. Things get shaky between missions 6-10, and 11-20 are a total shitshow. I'll cop to the fact that I did not, strictly speaking, finish two of the missions. Both times I was too low on ammo and health to endure the onslaught of arch-viles and mancubus' spammed around the exit, and since I had all the keys collected and saw everything else the level had to offer, I just decided I was done. Considering there is no level-to-level progression, there's little incentive to see a mission through if it's really just not jiving with you. It is an unfortunate positive that Master Levels allows you to play less of it.
I wanted to treat Master Levels as its own review, because while it may be packaged with Doom II, it does not progress that game's narrative nor does it serve as a follow-up episode in the same way Thy Flesh Consumed or Sigil do for the original game. Likewise, the unique conditions under which Master Levels was made further contribute towards the sense that it's really it's own thing. For those reasons, I don't think you should play this right after finishing Doom II. I had some problems with that game, but Master Levels suffers from some truly heinous design issues, and by treating it as a continuation you're only going to risk ruining your perception of Doom II.
Pizza Tower is a game that I’ve been eagerly anticipating for almost five years. As a major fan of Wario Land 4, Pizza Tower looked like the spiritual successor that I’ve been searching for since I originally played the game at a very young age on the Game Boy Advance. After having finished the final product, in all honesty, it doesn’t quite feel like the Wario Land 4 sequel that I’ve been wanting. That’s not at all a bad thing, though.
While it definitely takes inspiration from various gameplay elements as well as the zany nature of Wario Land, Pizza Tower is its own beautiful, hilarious and extremely chaotic platforming experience like nothing I’ve ever really played before. I love pretty much everything about this game; from its tight and focused controls, to it’s fun and varied level design, to its bombastic soundtrack, to its phenomenally designed characters, to the utterly insane and incomprehensible level of detail that went into every single aspect of this game’s art, animations, and overall visual design.
With that being said though, that amount of detail can sometimes be a little TOO great. To the point where everything on the screen can be a bit overwhelming on the eyes. Plus, you can sometimes miss gameplay elements of a level that you’re supposed to interact with, or not even realize that you are interacting with something in a level, simply because the game doesn’t convey it well and it just blends in with the extremely detailed background. This is my main criticism of the game, and in all honesty, it’s a minor one. It just gives me an excuse to go back and replay it some more to catch the things that I missed during my initial playthrough.
This game was well worth the five year wait. Very rarely was I not grinning and giggling to myself like an idiot while I played it. The fast paced, occasional anxiety inducing gameplay sends a huge rush of adrenaline through my system. I love it, I can’t get enough of it, and I can’t wait to play it some more. This is absolutely one of the best indie titles I’ve ever played, as well as one of my new favorite games
My favorite tidbit about this game is that one of the stage description claims the T-virus "first began" in the pueblo village of Resident Evil 4. Yep, according to the dumpers that wrote this game's descriptions, the virus that's the centerpiece of the franchise started in the 4th main entry. The 4th main entry that, mind you, famously had 0 enemies infected with the T-Virus.
This review contains spoilers
ok so first up: it's gay, so that puts its rating straight to the top. for real for real gay. the player insert mc is also a disabled girl in a wheelchair which is a nice change from the usual Generic Slightly Shy Harem Anime Protagonist Guy That All The Game Characters Flirt With that a lot of other games like this would have the self insert be. the characters are all super lovable too
the gameplay works WAY better than in NOISZ, and is far more suited to touchscreen than keyboard. that being said, it's geared towards fingers players, and i'm a devoted thumbs player, so it's...a little harder for me to play?? i asked the game staff about it at their booth at magfest and they backed that up - it's thumbs supported UP TO A POINT, and i. don't remember their exact words, but right off the bat you can see certain patterns that are geared to fingers players. higher levels will make you do bullet hell and rhythm AT THE SAME TIME, and when my thumbs are in the way it's a bit hard to see the bullets - also doesn't help that my thumbs cover the character so micrododging is a bit harder (is it also bc i have long nails?? that can't help either)
this game blends rhythm and bullet hell...very well imo?? that being said, my one complaint is that hold notes are very harshly judged - the game only counts the subnotes within a hold note as complete if your finger is at the note corresponding to it, rather than if your finger is within the hold note's area like other rhythm games do. during faster patterns you're obviously gonna start rushing and go "eh close enough" on these things or take your finger off early as you don't have the opportunity to "secure" each subnote position, which can lead to a lot of misses
though, the game also understands you're doing rhythm and bullet hell at the same time, and so doesn't place overemphasis on either full combo or no damage - they'll increase your score, but doesn't wall things behind them or require them for S-ranks, so you can play without worry!
i obvs haven't finished the story but i have SERIOUS doubts as to whether i can get good enough at the gameplay element to progress all the way sobs, but given games like these are ongoing i've got enough of a feel for everything
(also before i forget: i played this with fingers on a tablet at magfest. i sucked at it bc i'm not a fingers player, but i felt if i were one, i would have been pretty good at it, so in its "natural environment" the game absolutely works)
also worth mentioning that despite this looking like a cute rhythm game with a generic story about friendship, nope!! it goes all-out and tackles various issues marginalised people tend to face, such as trauma and...well mentioning other subjects would be spoilers but you get the point. project sekai kinda did that too. is this just how modern mobile rhythm game stories are nowadays? bc i am HERE for it
(Score: 10/10) A trascendental experience. A meditative reflection on our own mortality, the wonders and horrors of discovery, and what it truly means to belong in this universe. One of the few games to ever actually make me full on sob, and it happened in a seemingly random moment where the reality of what I was playing finally hit me and fully set in. This is a game I wish everyone would play, even non-gamers, and it should be one of the first examples people bring up in the "are video-games art?" debate instead of TLoU (not a diss on that game even though I find it really overrated, but there's simply something about the way Outer Wilds reveals its story to you that can only be achieved through an interactive medium like video-games, whereas TLoU's story could be told through many other different mediums). This game is the first massive leap in storytelling in videogames since Dark Souls and Undertale, and the story it tells is profoundly contemplative and life-changing. An unforgettable experience that I wish everyone could live the same way as I did. The only flaw this game has is that you can only play it for the first time once, but in a way that's also its biggest strength.
Sleeping Dogs is a really good game, it just needs a bit more to make it a classic. The story is by far the best part about this game. Wei is an interesting protagonist and his story keeps you hooked until the end. The combat is very rough around the edges (there is one combo that completely folds 90% of the enemies, and gunplay is rather lacking) but it's fun enough. I think the game could have used more depth overall. Improved combat, more developed minigames, and a longer campaign (to add more depth to the characters) would improve this game in my opinion. It struggles to break out of the "GTA/Yakuza Clone" mold, and that's a shame. Sleeping Dogs does so much right, and it's unfortunate that it will likely never get a sequel. The developers made something with tons of potential.
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