81 reviews liked by Xantha_Page

the way this leverages hyakkimaru hunting down 48 demons to recover his 48 body parts to slowly dole out more and more features is so system shock coded. it's soo good. killing a boss in the prologue and seeing the game transition from black&white to full colour cos you reclaimed your eye is absolute tip top stuff. being forced to amble as slowly as possible before you get your leg... yes... yes... I love this. this was made for me. I am the one person on earth who likes that you can't recover from knockdowns without an ear

I'm so on board with everything here that I don't care that the hitboxes largely range from active to lingering to humungous to vertically infinite. don't care that the maps are gigantic and full of nothing but enemies and swords like it's drakengard. you bet your ass I hunted down every last yokai to get my chakra and lymph nodes back even tho I still don't understand what half the stats do. I'm vibing man, who cares

it's cool that the common moral thruline across every story beat is that those who desire disproportionate wealth and power should probably be killed. also cool that one of the major metroidvania upgrades you get half way thru the game is controller vibration. sega was on some astral shit with this one; if someone told me modern camera controls were hidden behind an optional boss I'd nod like it was the most obvious thing I ever heard

as a reimagining of the manga it oscillates between playing stuff 1:1 and riffing on the source material in a way only a 2004 hack-n-slash called BLOOD WILL TELL ever could. the new twist reminds me of the scene in adaptation where the goofy nicolas cage twin describes his screenplay for a film called "The Three" about a killer, victim, and cop who all turn out to be the same person with multiple personality disorder. it's such a dumb ass Whoa Dude way of answering questions that don't matter, and it rules

sick ass game

What possesses developers that they make all these bizarrely toothless PVP 3D shooter games- movement speed is tuned to be middling, Time To Kill is tuned to be middling, weapon handling mechanics are tuned to be middling, all of the fundamental verbs of these games seem deliberately designed to be roughly average, it makes no fucking sense, who wants to play a game like that.
Call of Duty may not be amazing but it has movement and weapon mechanics that can induce ADHD in a fully grown adult with no prior symptoms, Counter-Strike has those wild ass recoil systems and grenade trajectories, Halo was deliberately made to be absurdly sluggish- Tribes absurdly fast, Gears of War had cover platforming, Quake- Bunnyhopping, etc, etc. These games, whether trying to cater to a mass audience or freaks all had real tangible decision making in the move-shoot-kill fundamentals that set them all apart from each other and it feels like every PVP shooter I try now deliberately avoids any kind of distinction in core mechanics, preferring them to be roughly universal and relying on the various hero gimmicks or structural gimmicks layered on top to distinguish themselves. It's no way to make a fun shooter for any kind of audience.



It might be easiest to think of the original Knytt as the Yume Nikki of 2D platformers. You play as a weird little creature that got abducted by a friendly alien, only to crash land upon a foreign planet and be tasked with collecting the fallen parts of the spaceship to return home. All you’ve got at your disposal is the classic single jump and wall cling/climb, as well as a searchlight that will point you towards the closest spaceship part. The collected parts won’t upgrade your toolkit in any fashion (and as such I find it misleading to mark this as a traditional Metroidvania) and there isn’t a single word of dialogue spoken or written in the landscape; as a result, this is a platformer dedicated to exploration as its own reward.

There’s no map in Knytt, so you’d think that it would be quite easy to get lost and stumble about with little direction. However, Knytt provides enough environmental context if you pay close attention and the searchlight will keep you moving through the sprawl with ease. While the game is less focused on mechanical difficulty, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s trivial: any liquid as well as particular invincible enemies (marked for danger when your character glows red upon approaching) can still end your life and send you back to the nearest checkpoint (though fortunately the quick respawn never feels frustrating). Having said that, the act of jumping and climbing about this unfamiliar yet vibrantly colored landscape, aided greatly by the tight controls, is more than enough to keep the player occupied while sporadic ambient tunes chirp in the background accompanied by the satisfying plodding of your footsteps.

As a result, the difficulty stems not from execution tests, but rather from spatial recognition and keeping the big picture in mind when figuring out exactly how sections of the overworld link to one another to maintain progression. A lot of players get frustrated when they keep running into dead ends, impassable expanses of fluid, or taunting one-way passages, but personally, I see it as fantastic motivation to figure this all out and fit each individual piece into the underlying puzzle; if it’s not a straight shot, then somewhere and somehow, there must be another path to get to the other side regardless. Perhaps it's quite simple and is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, but Knytt isn’t trying to be. It’s one of the most focused and emblematic pure adventure platformers of all time, with tons of replayability due to its open-ended nature and extraordinary warm ambience, and a few tucked away secrets and shortcuts for the more discerning eye. Considering that a full playthrough takes less than an hour and that it’s free, I’d easily recommend it nevertheless; as one of the first indie greats, Knytt feels like a snug encapsulation of its era that doesn’t deserve to be forgotten.

Is speed and 'style' the only thing we really care about? I guess I get the appeal, but Ultrakill it's just a gallery shooter boiled down to 'kill things as fast as possible, go to the end of the level as fast as possible'. There's almost no thought put into the enemy placement to make encounters somewhat interesting. While you can argue that you have to prioritize some enemies over others, this is nullified because you can just gain health quickly by getting close to them, thus essentially making almost any target priority -or thought into approaching the enemies- worthless. The massive movement options at your disposal doesn't help either, especially the whiplash, which may have been the dumbest inclusion in the game, as if it wasn't brainless enough...

And what about the scoring system? It's basically DMC, meaning that yes, it's fun, but devoid of any depth or interesting decision making beyond switching your weapons constantly and doing cool shit with them. Just like Dante!

On another topic, I really hate this trend of classifying any somewhat-retro-looking or mechanic intensive fps as a 'boomer shooter'. How the fuck does this game bear any resemblance to 90s shooters such as doom, quake or blood? Give me blood's corner peeking and prefiring any day of the year over this shit.

Ultrakill may be one of the most (if not the most) overrated shooters of the past years.

The revolver is cool at least.

On PC, with an unlocked framerate, high resolutions, and the mod to play as CJ from San Andreas, this is the easiest 5 of all time.

Unfortunately, it is meant to be played on the dumbass switch, looking like crap and running like crap. It's still an inherently fun game, but when you see some of these vistas at high resolutions going back to the Switch feels like swapping out a mercedes benz for a horse.

Look, all I'll say is that the Switch sucks ass and CEMU rules.

The secret behind Pikmin’s success was not that it somehow outclassed classic real-time strategy franchises, but rather that it was never competing with them to begin with. According to Shigeru Miyamoto, he came up with the idea for Pikmin one day when he observed a group of ants carrying leaves together into their nest. Miyamoto then imagined a game focused on cooperation rather than competition; he asked, “Why can’t everyone just move together in the same direction, carrying things as a team?” Nintendo EAD’s design philosophy went along with this line of reasoning, melding design mechanics from different genres to create an entirely new yet familiar experience. As a result, instead of competing against other players in Pikmin akin to classic RTS games, Pikmin forces players to explore and compete with the very environment itself by introducing puzzle-exploration and survival mechanics. It made sense in the end; after all, real-time strategy is concerned with minimizing time spent to get a competitive edge over opponents, and what better way to translate this than to force players to master their understanding over the terrain itself, managing and optimizing the one resource which governs them all?

Perhaps Nintendo’s greatest challenge was figuring out how to translate a genre considered by many to be niche and technical to an intuitive yet layered game, and even more so, translating classic actions from a mouse and keyboard allowing for such complexity to a suite of simplified controls using a gamepad. Coming from the other side as someone who played Starcraft as a kid and didn’t get into Pikmin until recently however, I’m surprised at how well EAD’s tackled this endeavor. Classic RTS games focus upon base-building and resource gathering through the micromanagement of units. Pikmin’s take upon this is to introduce a dichotomy between the player character Captain Olimar, who is incapable of doing anything by himself but can issue commands to the units only he can create by plucking out of the soil, and the Pikmin, who are essentially brainless but represent the units that must do everything. The player as Olimar must be present to figure out exactly how to best traverse and exploit the environment around him (replacing the base-building with management/prioritization puzzles) while the Pikmin provide bodies to construct, move, and attack the world around them. However, the Pikmin’s AI is fairly limited and as a result, Pikmin will sit around helplessly once they finish their actions and often get distracted by nearby objects while moving around, which is where the micromanagement kicks in. Therefore, the player has to decide how to best build up their supply of Pikmin to allocate tasks to surmount bottlenecks while exploring and opening the world, all while working against the limited thirty-day timer throughout the game’s five areas.

A part of me expected to really struggle with the gamepad while playing Pikmin, but the available actions on offer allow for a surprising degree of control despite the simplification. For instance, consider Olimar’s whistle; as a substitute for dragging and clicking to select units on PC, the whistle on the GameCube lets Olimar quickly rally groups of clustered units. Holding down B for longer allows the player to increase the size of the whistle’s AOE, which allows the player to better control and target how many Pikmin to rally in any cluster (hence, the analog of clicking and dragging to select boxes of units on mouse and keyboard). The Swarm command is another interesting translation. The obvious use is to allow Olimar to quickly move nearby Pikmin by directing them with the C-stick versus needing to aim and throw them by positioning and rotating Olimar himself. However, because it can be used to shift the position of Pikmin with respect to Olimar, it can also be used to swap the Pikmin on-deck for throwing (since Olimar will always throw the Pikmin closest to him) without needing to dismiss and re-rally separated Pikmin colors, and most importantly, it allows you to directly control the group of Pikmin following Olimar while moving Olimar himself. This second application allows the player to kite the Pikmin around telegraphed enemy attacks, and properly funnel them so the Pikmin aren’t getting as easily stuck behind walls or falling off ledges/bridges into hazards. That said, noticeable control limitations do exist. Olimar cannot pivot to move the reticle without changing his position with respect to the Pikmin around him, which can make aiming in place annoying if the Pikmin types you need to throw aren’t close enough to be moved next to Olimar with Swarm. Additionally, there is no way for Olimar to simultaneously and directly control multiple separated groups of Pikmin, which does make allocating tasks a bit slower. However, given that the tasks themselves usually don’t necessitate more than one Pikmin type at a time, this limitation is understandable, especially since the sequels would tackle this challenge with more expansive controls and multiple playable characters on the field.

Pikmin’s base model as a result is a fantastic translation of an abstract design philosophy, but I can’t help but wonder if the original could have been pushed further. Don’t misunderstand me: I absolutely take pride in mastering a game by learning all about its inner workings and pushing its mechanics to the limits simply by following a few intuitive genre principles. As such, I wish that the game was a bit harder in order to really force me to squeeze every bit of time from the game’s solid premise. For example, combat is often optional in Pikmin given how many full-grown Bulborbs are found sleeping, but given that most enemies don’t respawn within the next day after killing them and I can bring their carcasses back to base to more than replenish my Pikmin supply, combat is almost always in my favor, especially since certain enemies will spawn more mobs if they aren’t defeated. If circumstances existed where it would be unfavorable to engage (such as losing a significant number of Pikmin every time, or having so little time left that engaging would waste time), then I feel that this would add an additional layer of decision-making of deciding when to sneak past sleeping Bulborbs rather than just wiping out as many foes as I could as soon as possible. In a similar sense, I felt that certain design elements such as the Candypop Buds for switching Pikmin colors were a bit underutilized; outside of one environmental puzzle, I never had to use the Candypop Buds, mainly because I had so many remaining Pikmin and time to never justify their usage. I’ll concede here that Pikmin’s one-day Challenge Mode does at least provide a score attack sandbox where I’m forced to take my Pikmin stock and remaining time into higher consideration, but it’s missing the connectivity of the main story mode where my earlier actions would greatly affect how I planned later days in a run, particularly in making judgement calls on which days to spend at each site and which days I dedicate towards building up my Pikmin numbers versus hauling in ship parts. Regardless, I found myself completing the main game with all parts in just twenty days on my first run with minimal resets, and I’d love to try a harder difficulty mode with a stricter time limit and tougher Pikmin margins to really force me to better conserve my working force and dedicate more time to restocking my supply.

Gripes aside, I’m glad that my friends finally convinced me to try out Pikmin, not just to better appreciate RTS games as a whole but to also gain an appreciation of how different genre mechanics can work in tandem to intuitively convey concepts without spelling everything out to the player. It’s classic Nintendo at their core, and while I had my reservations coming in as a fan of older RTS franchises, they’ve managed to convince me once again that the best hook is not simply offering something that’s visibly better, but rather offering something that’s visibly different. I still think that there’s improvement to be had, but given how much I’ve enjoyed the first game, I can’t wait to see what they have to offer from iterating upon their memorable beginnings.

This review contains spoilers

Can't really tell if all these people talking of a strong emotional attachment to it are just another part of the joke. The obviously fake picture that sets things running in the Doomworld thread is so obviously fake - and arguably so deliberately obviously fake - that I found it extremely easy to not only see through the ruse right away (something later confirmed by many other hints both in the map itself and outside of it), but to also immediately dismiss all the weepy story elements as mere vehicles for the admittedly impressive map trickery on display. On a technical level, this is a very accomplished wad, repeatedly twisting upon itself in unpredictable ways without ever falling apart; but I find it hard to connect on a deeper level with something so light on gameplay that I also found to be ultimately empty of meaning. Let's just say I'm not really in a hurry to read House of Leaves right now.

At the end of the day, its best (meta-)narrative riff is still releasing something this wild as a "MyHouse.wad" to the Doomworld forums in 2023 and just trusting it would find its audience... but even that crazy gambit is maybe not as ballsy as it looks, with a few super high profile forum members suspiciously showing up in the thread to nudge people into checking it out after a couple days of inactivity, before it had gained any traction, when it might have been otherwise doomed to obscurity if it didn't outright show its hand. Who is - or should I say, who are this "Veddge" person, anyway?

(May 26 edit: this is the worst thing to happen to Doom since Brutal Doom)

(November 03 edit: lmao wait a minute this guy actually doxxed himself what a moron)

they 'fixed' the MP5 and shotgun so instead of needing to rely on a whole arsenal of explosives, traps and weirdo guns you can just handle every single fight with two guns
they 'fixed' the HECU marines so instead of erratic freaks they just kinda stand around and impose a health tax if you look around a corner
they 'fixed' xen by making it look like it was trending on art station and replacing all the weird cool levels with Half-Life 2 puzzles for some godforsaken reason

There is a tendency when dunking on Bethesda games, to criticize them from the lens of their failure to be like other RPGs- The Witcher 3 is more cinematic and refined, Baldur's Gate 3 more densely written, Fallout 1 more actually good, so on and so forth. The truth is that Bethesda games suck much more tragically and pathetically on their own terms than in comparison to other games, Todd Howard who began his career with monumental works of termite art in the end forsook the dream of the Bethesda game. The dream of the bethesda game was always to create a holodeck, a simulation for you to inhabit totally- 'Why the hell would I pick up a spoon?' someone asks, perfectly reasonably expecting game mechanics to exist for gameplay reasons, but it's just that you can pick up spoons because it's something a person is able to do. Personally I think this dream is perhaps misguided, but nevertheless they pursued it, which is admirable in its own right.

"With this character's death, the thread of prophecy is severed. Restore a saved game to restore the weave of fate, or persist in the doomed world you have created."
The message you receive upon killing a crucial NPC points towards the commitment towards the holodeck dream, it will continue on even if you totally fuck up, and indeed there are generally ways around the death of those crucial NPCs provided you understand the simulation.

And fear of people misunderstanding the simulation is what drove bethesda to make many crucial NPCs invulnerable in Oblivion, you never know when you're actually in a simulation or not anymore, even as the NPC AI had become much more sophisticated with schedules, likes, dislikes and habits, the places you could engage shrunk, and then even the ambitious NPC AI in subsequent games was stripped back for ever more presentable and simpler systems, to the point of Starfield doing deliberately what Morrowind had done out of technical limitations 20 years prior: 24/7 vendor NPCs with no schedules, likes or dislikes, who exist only in service of the player.
But maybe most telling of all, was that in Fallout 4 they decided that the player need a good reason to pick up a spoon.

In all honesty, this game is a 4 star title, because some of the level design, especially near the end, skews too closely to some arcadey BS and the game often punishes you for going too fast. Additionally, any game that sticks spikes at the bottom of an inescapable pit you’ll likely hit after grabbing the invincibility power-up cannot be perfect.

However, this was not only the first video game I saw in my life, it’s probably the game I’ve played the most in terms of playing it all the way through. I’ve played this game to completion while very drunk. I’ve played this game while very stoned - less successfully. It’s not the best action game on the Genesis, and the sequel is a significant improvement, but I cannot deny the genuine love I have for this game. The music, the graphics, Sonic’s jump, everything about this game is just correct.