Aside from maybe the Touhou fandom, furries are perhaps the single most dedicated group of people on the Internet. It’s become so widespread at this point that trying to go through every single piece of art, music, animation, etc. ever produced within it would be an absurd feat. This isn’t even mentioning how high-quality a lot of it is; chances are, if you go to a furry artist, cough up the cash and ask for a big buff wolf [REDACTED] while [REDACTED] and [REDACTED], you’ll get exactly what you wanted and it’ll be even better than what you imagined. Naturally, with the fandom being as massive and devoted as it is, original video games would naturally emerge from it. Most of these are of the visual novel variety, all of varying tones and subject matter, and very rarely try to punch outside of their strike zone in terms of who they’re appealing to. However, that now appears to change with Tribal Hunter, Melonsoda Soft’s debut game which has just fattened up and ballooned its way out of early access.
With that expertly set up theme established in that last sentence, it’s time for me to answer the million-dollar question: is Tribal Hunter a fetish game? Yesn’t. There are definitely lots of aspects about the design that are specifically geared towards those interested in vore, weight gain, and inflation, and they’re all about as you’d expect from just that description. However, while a lot of content in the game is suggestive of those things, nothing is ever explicit, and outside of those suggestive elements, the game is about as tame as a Saturday morning cartoon. This is a game that refers to a butt as a “caboose” because “butt” is just far too crass, which makes the moments where the game will have a boss shake said caboose at the screen after eating the main character all the more humorous. All this being said, the game’s tone overall is light and playful, and outside of a couple moments where things get a little indulgent, someone could walk in on you playing this and not question a thing. So while the game does appeal to the developers’ fetishes a fair bit, it’s nothing that ever becomes the focus outside of the core gameplay mechanics of things becoming bigger or smaller.
That’s the gist of it: the game’s a Metroidvania with a heavy emphasis on platforming and brawler combat, with the main mechanic being that you can gradually change the size of the main character, Munch, at any given point. You start off as an extremely thin little gremlin, which will likely be your ideal way for traversing platforming challenges as your movement is fast and fluid. As you get larger, whether that be by consuming enemies, food pick-ups or any of the many varieties of slime, your movement is inhibited, but your punches hit harder and have much more range. That being said, you can’t eat too much or lose too much of your health, otherwise Munch is going to pop like a balloon and you’ll have to restart from your last checkpoint. Luckily, as this is a Metroidvania, you can increase your stats by way of many upgrades you’ll find along your journey. Strength, health and magic can all be upgraded by spending XP you get from felled enemies, and you can increase your stomach capacity by finding popper mushrooms, which are consumable items hidden across each of the stages. You’ll need to increase said stomach capacity because unlike other Metroidvanias, you don’t get any new weapons along the journey or anything like that; no, your main weapon is the sheer strength of your big meaty claws. Increasing your stomach capacity, and by extension increasing your damage output from punches and how much resistance you have to enemies force-feeding you, is vital in order to prepare yourself against the rising threats ahead of you.
Enemies are often placed in very large quantities within each section of an area, with unique ways of attacking you and different methods for taking them down. Some will attack in specific patterns you have to memorize, others will have weapons or armor they can use to get a temporary upper hand, some can just straight up consume you while proceeding to force-feed you with God knows what, and so on and so forth. This is coupled with the fact that enemies will often swarm you in groups and use their attacks all at the same time again and again, forcing you to deal with them as quick as you can manage. At first, this made me a bit worried, as I feared that the game would quickly devolve into button-mashing, but luckily there are a few things that keep the variety up. For one, your constantly-changing size and the fact that you have magic spells at your disposal means that your strategy from encounter to encounter can vary wildly depending on the situation. And for two, the level sections are large enough and designed in such a way that allows you to properly take a breather to heal up and/or do some more platforming. Said platforming is really good to boot; each area has its own unique stage gimmicks and distinct method of traversing through them, with plenty of little secrets to find, mini-games to play, shops to buy items and NPCs to talk to. It reminded me a lot of Cave Story in how it felt to traverse, and that coupled with the presentation even made me mentally draw comparisons to Drawn to Life. Once that particular neuron fired, I was on board to see the rest of the adventure through.
Said presentation is super charming and endearing. If I had to explain what it’s like, I’d say it’s in a middle-ground between gay kemono art, Nintendo DS pixel art, and old fan games of days gone by. Pretty much every single character design is super adorable in its own way, all with really cute and expressive details to even simple things like idle animations. You could show me art of almost any character from this game, and I would be able to pinpoint it exactly back to this game because of how memorable the designs are. The game overall is super bright and colorful, with lots of different themes for areas while still keeping the general aesthetic consistent, and each area containing lots of tiny details that add to the personality of the game as a whole. The music, likewise, lies on an almost perfect upward trajectory, where each song is better than the last. It starts out already pretty good, with playful sample usage and restrained use of leitmotif, and then with each succeeding song, the compositions just get better and better until hitting a crescendo of awesome themes, especially for the last few bosses. This is all coupled with a story that matches that same playfulness, with that Saturday morning cartoon feel I mentioned earlier. The stakes are never too high, all the friendly characters are incredibly cheerful, the villains are super over-the-top and goofy, and the game will occasionally have cutscenes to just let the characters do something charming or quirky, which more often than not managed to get a chuckle out of me.
There are a couple of issues worth noting, the biggest of which being the difficulty. It’s got that usual problem of indie games where the game will be a relatively cozy ride for the most part, but near the end suddenly spike up and aspire to a Soulsian Touhou level of challenge that feels really out of place. My personal experience with this was the penultimate boss, where I reached it and realized I was far too underleveled to even survive for longer than a few seconds. That caused me to have to grind to get more XP, and grinding in any context is always quite the pace killer for me personally. I eventually got enough to take them down proper, only to see that that was just the first phase, and there was still more to deal with. Once that phase killed me, usually quickly because I would get caught in the insta-kill attack it adds, I would have to do the entire first phase again, cutscenes and all. The game overall, while being very polished for the most part, sometimes lacks it in very bizarre ways. Boss cutscenes are unskippable as mentioned before, sound effects can sometimes be way too loud or way too quiet, and I clipped through level geometry more than once, one time skipping past an entire boss because of it.
That being said, those issues still shouldn’t deter you away from playing Tribal Hunter if you’re at all interested in it. It’s just a really solid indie Metroidvania with a ton of charm and a main mechanic that stands out as legitimately unique in the genre, which could have only come about thanks to a complete lack of shame on the behalf of the developers. If you’re one of those people that’s hesitant to play it because it’s perceived as “the fatfur game”, don’t be; everything about the design ensures that this is a fun game first, and furry bait second, though that doesn’t make the furry bait part a bad thing in the slightest. Really, so what if the game includes a bunch of characters’ bellies getting extremely large? You can just enjoy the game, and probably not get some new fetishes out of it… emphasis on probably.

I’ve dropped off of Nintendo games for a while at this point. I have Yuzu and Ryujinx, but mainly only really use them to play weird indie stuff that shows up on the eShop, and don’t even give the first-party stuff a cursory glance. Barring any scummy behavior on the business side of things, there aren’t a lot of games from Nintendo being made as of late that catch my interest or look particularly interesting at all. Despite this, recently my boyfriend suggested that I play Super Mario Sunshine on a whim, and I naturally agreed, while also realizing that out of all the mainline Mario games, Super Mario Sunshine was the only one I hadn’t played yet. Seeing that I’ve got more college classes starting soon, and the game’s twentieth anniversary is fast approaching, it just seemed right to see it through. After playing through it with no nostalgia for it whatsoever, it made me remember what I used to love about Nintendo not too long ago, even though the experience maybe wasn’t the most ideal at points.
The funny thing is, right from the get-go it feels distinctly different from the standard Mario fare in many ways. On their way to take a vacation to Isle Delfino, Mario, Peach and Toadsworth land on the island to find that the airstrip appears to have been vandalized with some sort of paint-like goop, and being the good-natured Nintendo protagonist guy that he is, Mario equips a device called FLUDD and promptly cleans the mess up. Afterwards, Mario is suddenly arrested by the Piantas, the main residents of Isle Delfino, and found guilty of vandalizing the entire island with the goop, along with stealing the Shine Sprites that keep the island bright and sunny. Mario spends the game charged with both cleaning up the island and getting the Shine Sprites back, all while dealing with an impersonator of Mario called Shadow Mario that’s truly responsible for the crimes and is the one making sure that Peach fills her being kidnapped quota for the time being. It’s one of many aspects of this game that make it feel odd in contrast to the usual Mario setup, and that’s apparent even through just the way it’s presented. Every level has many Piantas and Nokis that can be talked to and usually have some funny and/or weird thing to say, the game has FMV cutscenes connecting one bit of the story to the next, and it has actual voice acting (which is terrible, but also doesn’t even show up in the game that much, so it balances out, I think?). As stated, it feels incredibly different, but it’s a welcome change, especially with how it contributes to what the game sets out to do setting-wise.
More than any other Mario game, and really most Nintendo series, the mission with this game appears to be to make the world feel like an actual lived-in place. Of course, this game was leading off from Super Mario 64, and that game felt very purely platformer-ish, if that makes sense. The basic SGI workstation textures, the fact that most levels are just floating above an endless void; it all feels very abstract and minimalist, which works in its context of being an introductory game to free 3D movement. Super Mario Sunshine kicks that abstraction out the window in favor of focusing on making Isle Delfino almost feel like it could be an actual resort destination, with the old-fashioned Nintendo whimsicality spicing things up. Every location is based on somewhere you would find on such a vacation, such as small towns, harbors, theme parks and hotels, along with more natural locations like beachsides and waterfalls also showing up from time to time. No matter where you look, there’s palm trees, scenic vistas and some of the most lovingly-crafted ocean water in a video game, which looks tantalizingly drinkable. This is coupled with some of the more outlandish NPC and enemy designs in the series, with the enemies specifically putting some wacky spins on classic baddies in an art style that doesn’t look too dissimilar to what’s been found of Shigeru Miyamoto’s hand-drawn doodles. It feels both familiar and entirely new, a foray away from “level themes” and into an entire world to explore, in a way that invokes the difference between Super Mario World and its NES predecessors, especially in the music. A lot of it is variations on a single motif played in different contexts depending on the area, just like how it was in World complete with the added flavor of stuff like steel drums and calypso rhythms. The entire game tries to be to 64 what World was to the NES games, and I’d say presentation-wise, it gets there and then some.
But then about the gameplay… what about the gameplay? It’s a 3D Mario game. Jump around with no less than ten variations of a single jump, complete objectives within a jungle gym-like space, collect shiny object, and repeat. I don’t know what I could say that doesn’t sound like a repeat of every single description of a Mario game ever, it just is. I will admit, I was playing this right after playing Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy, and going right from a small-moveset 3D platformer to a large-moveset 3D platformer made me have a bit of a moment trying to adjust to all the subtly different ways you can make a character jump, though I eventually managed. Obviously the most unique addition to Sunshine is FLUDD, a hose-jetpack hybrid thing that Mario almost always has on him during the game. It starts off with two modes: the default one, where you simply spray water in front of you, and the hover nozzle, which as the name suggests, lets you hover for a brief period of time. Spraying water in front of you doesn’t really have that much practical application outside of when you’re required to use it, be it cleaning up the goop on the ground, stunning specific enemies or aiming water at specific targets. You can move around quickly by spraying water and diving in quick succession, but there’s not a lot of areas where you can actually do so and not bump into a wall. There are two unlockable modes, the rocket nozzle and turbo nozzle, but both are even more situational and really only serve as a means to either find small alternate paths within levels or have specially-built challenges for them. The one you’ll likely get the most use out of is the hover nozzle, acting as this game’s replacement for the long jump. At any time, using the hover nozzle will allow Mario to… well, hover for a short amount of time, and unlike the long jump, will allow you to land exactly where you want easier. This can be awesome when paired with the spin jump, making its return from Super Mario World but functioning rather differently. The spin jump itself goes much higher than a standard jump, but normally is much harder to steer than a standard jump. However, using the hover nozzle allows you to reposition yourself to roughly where you want after a spin jump, thus canceling out the slow steering of the spin jump. It became quite the spectacle to make an otherwise huge section of platforming easy with a well-timed spin jump and a hover blast sending Mario flying across stages and only one hit point worse for wear… almost too easy. I know 3D Mario games are known for having their levels be navigable in a variety of ways that can skip entire sections, but sometimes, I almost felt like I was skipping too much.
That’s when Super Mario Sunshine started to pull out some of the rather dastardly tricks up its sleeve. I’ll say right now that by the end of the game, I had sixty-four out of the one-hundred and twenty Shine Sprites in the game, going and collecting all the mandatory ones while also going for extra ones if I happened to stumble across them in my travels. When they work, the missions to get the Shine Sprites are very fun; they’re full of inventive platforming and neat objectives that can sometimes be very creative within the context of the stage you’re in. When they don’t work… hoo boy. To start with, some of the missions can be surprisingly cryptic with what exactly you have to do, with the objective either being unclear or misleading. There’s one mission in Noki Bay where you’re pointed to some ruins and told to explore them to find the boss fight of that mission. After spending an obscene amount of time running around and collecting more blue coins than I ever needed, it turned out I needed to go to a completely different part of the level and make my way up the cliffside to get to where the boss actually was. Another level in Sirena Beach had me wandering aimlessly wondering what I was supposed to do, but it turned out I had to look for an inconspicuous leak in the hotel bathroom and clip through the ceiling to get to the rest of the freaking level. Never with any other Mario game was I forced to look up a guide this much. And the jank… holy crap, the jank. Super Mario Sunshine had a notably rushed development compared to other mainline Mario games, and when it shows, it really shows. Bosses will sometimes get stuck in loops where you can’t attack for way longer than usual, gimmicks such as rideable Bloopers or boats have strange control and collision properties that more often than not result in your death, Mario himself can sometimes be flung out of control by unwieldy stage hazards, and this is all on top of lots of copy-pasted objectives and some freakish obsession the game has with red coins.
This all comes to a head in the game’s “secret stages”. At points, Mario will have FLUDD stolen away from him by Shadow Mario, and is teleported to some cosmic plane of non-existence where linear platforming challenges aimlessly float within a psychedelic sphere of train doodles and 8-bit Mario sprites, almost like prototype concepts for Super Mario Galaxy stages. I found these stages fine for the most part, they were harmless enough additions even though they kind of broke away from the established theming of the game. When they got frustrating, though, that frustration was of the infuriating kind. No, I’m not talking about the chucksters, or the pachinko stage, or the poison river; those were annoying, yes, but I must have gotten incredibly lucky, because I didn’t struggle for too long with those. The infuriating part I’m talking about was the eternal battle between Mario and the ever-dreaded rotating platforms. In this game, there appears to be some sort of binary state between platform and slope, which for most of the stages, is very easy to distinguish between and not really worth thinking about. In these secret stages, though, where certain platforms will rotate at a set speed, this binary completely falls apart, and Mario becomes a regular Schrödinger’s cat as he either makes it through completely safe or goes plummeting to his doom with no way to control the outcome. The people I was playing this game with on Discord looked on with a mix of amusement and horror as I got stuck on “The Hotel Lobby’s Secret” for a good three hours because of one single rotating platform near the end really favoring the “Mario plummeting to his doom” side of the platform-slope binary.
There’s been a lot of complaining in the back half of this review, which probably slants this review more negative, but I want to clarify that none of these issues were ever enough to make me want to stop playing or abandon the game entirely. If I were going for one-hundred percent, I might be singing a different tune (and incidentally, I think the developers intentionally made the one-hundred percent completion reward underwhelming to discourage people from going after it), but I rarely go for one-hundred percent completion in most games anyway. Like I said, playing through this game reminded me of why I liked Nintendo in the first place; they were laid-back, they were weird, they weren’t afraid to try new ideas even if they made little sense to anyone but themselves. Not all this game’s experiments pan out, but ultimately, the point of experimenting is to take a risk and see if it produces something worthwhile, and for the most part it does. At the end of the day, Super Mario Sunshine is just simply a fun game, complete with a distinct setting that makes it feel uniquely its own compared to other entries in the series. It’s definitely a bit smelly compared to other mainline Mario games, but at least it smells like coconuts and ocean waves.

I have quite the… intense obsession with Crash Bandicoot, let’s just say. Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back was the first video game I ever played and still remains as one of my all-time favorites, I’ve completed many of the games multiple times over, and I even have an old promotional Crash poster signed by Andy Gavin himself. Needless to say, I have a lot of love for all those games, the original ones developed by Naughty Dog specifically, so it’s very weird that I haven’t given Jak and Daxter that much time. I had always heard it was very similar to Crash, and in middle school I had the HD collection of all three games, but aside from giving all those games the equivalent of a taste test, completing Jak and Daxter just wasn’t high on my priority list for whatever reason. Maybe Jak 2 and 3 just left a bad taste in my mouth back then, which I’ll get to later, but the recent OpenGOAL project inspired me to finally go back and play the original game to see what I was missing. Wouldn’t you know it, it managed to hook me almost instantly, and for what many people would probably consider a stupid reason. Simply put, it is Crash Bandicoot. Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy is one of the Naughty Dog-developed Crash games, in its scrunkly-spinning, wood-breaking, linear 3D platforming glory, with enough key differences to separate it from its PS1 predecessors (or I guess precursors, in this case).
The plot and characters are obviously the main separating factor at play here. You play as the combination of Jak, a mute elf boy with the usual platformer prerequisite high athletic ability, and Daxter, a loudmouthed ottsel (otter and weasel) that serves to offer occasional quips and commentary as he tags along with Jak. At the beginning of the game, it’s shown that Daxter and Jak were traveling around a place they shouldn’t have, with Daxter accidentally falling into a vat of dark eco and transforming into said ottsel. Obviously distraught at this, he and Jak are sent on a quest by the old sage Samos to find someone that can change him back to normal, while also facing the ever-looming threat of Gol and Maia, two younger sages that want to harness the power of dark eco for their own gain. It’s a very thin plot, with it mainly serving as an excuse to have a grand platforming adventure to collect a bunch of things, but it’s not like platformers and especially collectathons really need much more than that. The setting is really interesting, what with it being a fantasy world with an implied high-tech past that has long been gone, and when the plot does show up, it’s usually to have some pretty funny exchanges in dialogue between villagers of the places you’re visiting, all of which are insanely well-animated and varied given how early on this game came out in the PS2’s life.
Which brings us to the subject that the game looks freaking gorgeous almost all the way through. I mentioned I was playing the new PC port, but having seen the original PS2 version and the PS3 HD collection, I can safely say they all look pretty much the same save for the higher resolution. Every area is so bright and vibrant, with tons of colorful details popping out of every corner as you explore all these vast landscapes. Expansive sixth-gen-y beachsides, little explorable villages, mysterious jungles and caves and even lost underwater cities are among just some of the areas you’ll find on your journey, each with its own distinct color palette and unique landmarks while still feeling cohesive with one another. Every area is given this distinct sense of mystique to them by way of this tribal-ish aesthetic, with everything from the characters to the buildings to even collectibles looking as though they could have been designs in some cult classic comic book. Granted, I vibe with jungle and tribal aesthetics in general, but the way the game presents that is definitely one of the most immersive. Walking around any of the areas is a treat just to soak in the atmosphere that they all bring, getting lost in all these different locales as the combination of detailed lighting, texture and animation work washes over you. The music is a help in this too, with lots of ambient soundscapes, soft-timbre melodies and rhythmic but not intrusive drum patterns humming away, making that feeling of otherworldliness even more potent. If I did have to nitpick, it’s that while the animation work is spectacular, the actual character models themselves don’t always look that great, with some of the expressions and faces especially looking extremely odd and distorted. It’s an early PS2 game, so I can excuse it for the most part, and it’s not like you’re going to be seeing the character models particularly close up a lot of the time anyway considering the open world aspect.
The game’s USP, and by extension what most people will bring up when you mention Jak and Daxter, is that the game has no loading times between levels. Every single area is interconnected, so you could theoretically walk from the very starting area all the way to the final boss arena if you really wanted to. The funny thing is, it’s not really an open world per se, but if anything, it’s far better for it. What I mean by that is that a lot of open world games will have about five percent of the game actually designed with the remaining ninety-five percent being huge expanses of absolutely nothing. This game is far smarter than that, as it simply recontextualizes the very linear platforming challenges from Crash in a different way so that it feels more open and cohesive. The central village hubs are essentially the warp rooms of this game, but unlike those, it isn’t separated geologically, and you do a fair bit of platforming within them to reach the levels. Once you do, the levels do have a fair bit more branching paths and open areas than a Crash game ever did, but are still designed in such a way so that you can go in, be able to find most of the collectibles through a string of very logically laid out pathways, and be lead naturally back around to the start of the area. Not to mention, ideas that would have required a whole separate gimmick or stage in a Crash game, such as riding vehicles or power-ups, are now able to be rolled in as part of these larger levels, such as with the zoomer and the different temporary eco buffs. These different alterations are incredibly clever ways of taking pre-established ideas and re-appropriating them in a way that makes them feel new.
I don’t want to give off the impression that Jak and Daxter is completely devoid of new ideas, though, because it really isn’t. Jak does play extremely similar to Crash, spin move and everything, but there have been lots of small alterations to make traversing the more open areas that much more fun. For example, when spinning after a jump, Jak will gain just a tiny bit more height on top of the jump height, thus making it so any platforms that might have otherwise been just out-of-reach a non-issue. There’s also now a roll move, separate from the slide-like punch in that it acts as both a way to quickly traverse long pathways and also find creative ways to cross large gaps, while also being just stiff enough so that it can’t be abused to skip whole entire areas, at least not consistently. Vehicle segments have also have seen upgrades; the aforementioned zoomer controls almost exactly like the jet ski in Crash 3, but now has a dedicated hop button, which both makes it feel nicer and also allows the areas with it to be more varied. These changes in movement, combined with a fair bit of design choices that more modern platformers have stuck to such as infinite lives, make Jak a very comfortable and breezy experience the whole way through; it never gets as punishingly hard as any of the Crash games could get. Even when I had some certified platformer moments™ like going through a whole vertical challenge and falling at the last moment back to the ground below, it was never too much of an ask to give it another try due to the forgiving checkpoint and life systems, as well as Jak just being fun to control. That’s not to say that the Crash games were wrong for not having these aspects, as those have a lot of design elements there that work within those games’ set boundaries, I’m just trying to articulate how elements from those games were edited and updated for the context of this game.
To think, those elements could have been worked on further, were it not for Naughty Dog misstepping so hard after this game that they broke both their ankles permanently. Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy has an already great basis that built off the Crash games and could have been further expanded upon into something truly astounding, but Naughty Dog themselves have seemed to treat it like their old shame ever since. First the sequels went the way of the grimdark and turned into mediocre GTA clones with extremely repetitive driving and gun-focused mission-based gameplay, and they gave up on stylized games entirely when they went to work on Uncharted and later The Last of Us, which is like the world’s best steak chef willingly deciding to make McDonald’s burgers the rest of his life. The thing is, I don’t even see why it even had to be this way. They could have just grit their teeth, held on throughout the years and continued iterating on the colorful platforming they were best at, with Jak sequels that actually make sense and possibly new platformer series after that. By now they could have made something that not only rivals modern 3D platforming efforts, but possibly be something even better than Crash 2, to date still my favorite Naughty Dog game. Perhaps one could say that even the Crash games were sticking to trends of their era, but I think those games and this game are proof that they are able to twist those trends in unique and technically impressive ways, instead of just following them as if getting dragged along by their broken ankles.

glasses dominant_female tight_clothing pole_dancing long_legs lollipop high_heels bdsm
From only one playthrough of Bayonetta, I’ve been able to guess all of Hideki Kamiya’s preferred tags, and I’m not sure whether I’m more scared of him or myself after the fact.
After Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance convinced me that spectacle fighter games are one of the coolest things in the known universe, I immediately wanted to experience more of what PlatinumGames had on hand to offer. Considering that Metal Gear Rising is probably their most popular game, I figured the next logical step would be to take a crack at their next-most popular game, Bayonetta. Wouldn’t you know it, I ended up getting hooked almost immediately, powering through every single chapter on and off over the course of a couple days. I’ll be upfront and say that even with my usual way-too-long rambling that obfuscates the point, I do absolutely recommend Bayonetta for anyone else continuing along their PlatinumGames journey, even if I didn’t like it quite as much as Metal Gear Rising. Its sheer hyperactive spectacle, irreverent personality and intense dedication to being as over-the-top as it possibly can makes it worth a look just for how audacious everything is, and it’s at least worth a try if even just that alone interests you, though do be prepared for it to be extremely hard in more ways than one.
In fact, let me just get this out of the way first: absolutely do not play Bayonetta if you are or while you’re around anyone that gets particularly squeamish about sexual themes or topics. As I alluded to with that tag list earlier, the game is very brazenly and unashamedly fetishistic, really only rivaled by those horny furry visual novels you find floating around on Most of it comes from Bayonetta herself, a very dominatrix-type character who’s always dancing or posing in some seductive way, saying any kind of bluntly forward remark or double entendre (when she isn’t referencing Sega games), and her finishing moves are called “climaxes” in which all her clothes fly off and her hair turns into a gigantic creature of some kind. Naturally, it’s the kind of thing that can be misconstrued as objectification of the female body, and while it is probably playing to a lot of very specific fantasies Hideki Kamiya has on lonely nights, I would say the sexual nature of the character is more celebratory. That dominating attitude results in Bayonetta being effortlessly cool in any given situation, pulling off ridiculous stunts with a pure bravado that’s empowering in its own way. Her confidence is something I can imagine being inspiring to people of either gender… in cutscenes, anyway. Because while she is a masterful abomination slayer in said cutscenes, in my dumb paws, she became a sword-flailing, bumbling maniac that died over and over in gameplay.
If you are coming to Bayonetta from Metal Gear Rising, the combat should not take that long to get used to. It follows the same structure where each level contains a host of arenas where you fight against many groups of enemies and have to do so in the fastest, most efficient way possible. You have two attack buttons, this time being an arms button and legs button with a wide array of combos assigned to each, and a move that both evades enemy attacks and lets you do extra damage. That latter move for this game is “witch time”, which when timed properly, makes time slow down around you and lets you get some extra hits into the enemies. Put simply, the combat is satisfying; it’s fast and frantic without ever getting too hard to tell what’s going on, and the animations and sound effects have that all-important kick to them. However, I ended up finding that I do still prefer MGR’s combat over Bayonetta’s, and it’s mainly in the progression. In the early stages of this game, I was pulling off as many of the combos as I possibly could, trying in earnest to pull off stylish moves even with my clear lack of skill. By the end of the game, though, the more erratic enemy patterns and exponential increase in the damage they dealt meant that my method devolved into mashing the Y button over and over and frantically dodging at any sign of an enemy attack. It’s pretty much the reverse of what happened in MGR, where I started off very poorly, slowly learned the mechanics and got better as I went along. I think the difference lies in that while MGR’s combat is very movement-heavy and rewards precise fighting with things like health refills, Bayonetta outright discourages you from using any items and often requires being locked in long combos to bring down the enemies’ health bars. As such, the combat ended up pretty quickly becoming difficult, especially when it starts throwing many a strange gimmick your way to spice things up.
This game has the attention span equivalent to somewhere between a TikTok-obsessed, energy drink chugging high schooler and a goldfish with dementia; not that this is necessarily a bad thing, tone-wise. It absolutely loves breaking up the combat with large-scale action set pieces, platforming bits, different vehicle segments like a motorcycle or a makeshift surfboard, and even one bit where the game turns into a level of Space Harrier for no discernable reason other than that it can. Overall I dig this, as I could never anticipate what exactly the game would throw at me, though it is a double-edged sword. The closest comparison that comes to mind for me is Crash Bandicoot: Warped, in how some of the ways it adds variety are fun, and some are annoying. The fun ones make the already nutty spectacle come even more alive, like with the creative methods for taking down each boss or the gradual addition of new abilities for Bayonetta, like wall-running or turning into a panther that may or may not reuse animations from Okami. It gets annoying when you’re placed in a room with tons of enemies that can all kill you instantly when they all attack at the same time (looking at you, Kinship), or in the game’s many, many quick-time events. I’m not one of those guys that hate the mere premise of quick-time events in and of themselves, but I am of the opinion that the actions of the quick-time events should at least correlate to similar actions you’ve already been doing. Bayonetta has no such rules; “press the A button in a split second to not instantly die! Now press the Y and B buttons together to evade a giant missile you didn’t even see coming! Now press X to evade similar attacks except now even the prompt is hard to see because there’s explosions everywhere!” It made the cutscenes a very twitchy experience, because I had zero idea when the game would just go “think fast” before splatting Bayonetta into a pancake with a double-decker bus.
I guess on the subject of those cutscenes, quick-time events notwithstanding, they are very entertaining even when I had no idea what was going on. The story itself isn’t explained particularly well, what with it mostly being lots of rather tangled lore about a clan of witches and demons fighting a rival clan of sages and angels, combined with some plan to resurrect an ancient creator while time travel shenanigans ensue. That’s not really the source of the entertainment, however, as it mainly comes from the characters, their personalities and the things they do. I already brought up Bayonetta and how extra she constantly is, but all the other characters are super fun in their own way. Ronin the shopkeep is on an equal level of cool to Bayonetta while always having something funny to say when you enter his shop, Luka/Cheshire is an utter dolt that still remains intriguing due to his complicated relationship with Bayonetta and the fact that he actually gets some heroic moments of his own, and Enzo, while he doesn’t appear much, is quite a quotable character that I wish got a little bit more screen time. Not all the characters are quite as over-the-top; Jeanne is Bayonetta’s rival and mainly acts as the lore reveal dispenser, and Cereza is really only interesting because she ends up forcing Bayonetta into having to act like a mother for her which, granted, leads to some interesting conflict. While the multiple intertwining plot threads could be read more into, all of it is mainly background fluff that the game seems not to care for as their interactions are mainly meant to tie together the gigantic over-the-top scenes, of which the game has no short supply. The pacing is always on in a way that rivals even the most explosion-happy tokusatsu show, and some of the stuff you’ll bear witness to is so incredibly bonkers that I don’t even want to spoil it.
And being honest, there isn’t that much to talk about without going deep into spoilers. There are a couple things I haven’t brought up, like the general presentation and aesthetic, which are absolutely fantastic and I even prefer over MGR, being totally honest. The character animation is great, the environment design has this beautiful gothic detail in every single crevasse, and the sheer amount of style and the sense of scale that’s brought out of it is nothing short of remarkable. There’s also the soundtrack, which is… fine, I guess? Don’t get me wrong, it’s good music, it’s just that there isn’t a whole lot of it during gameplay. Most of the game’s soundtrack is backing music for cutscenes, and the battle themes cycle through a select list of only a few songs, so get ready to hear “Fly Me to the Moon” a fair bit. In all fairness, though, I’m really just trying to get around to the point that you absolutely should play Bayonetta if you’re like me and are now dedicated to riding the PlatinumGames train all the way through. It’s quite a fair bit longer than MGR, so if you left that game wanting a similar but meatier experience, then Bayonetta should suffice. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to ask Hideki Kamiya which shady research lab he went to to get someone with legs long enough to do the motion capture for this game.

Hey, remember Japan Studio? They were one of Sony’s in-house development studios that made some of the most beloved and creative games for the first few PlayStation consoles, ranging from making their own charming romps like Ape Escape, LocoRoco and Gravity Rush, to assisting other studios in helping make their own out-there experiences like Team Ico’s games and the PaRappa series. As you may know, a couple years ago this studio was closed as Sony moved most of their development to America and the Japanese studios were either dissolved or just left hung to dry. I still resent Sony for shifting focus towards Western appeal with tons of bloated photorealistic Game Awards bait like those Naughty Dog/Dad of War sadfests or terminally boring snores like Horizon, but at the same time I can very clearly see the chain of events that led to Japan Studio’s closure. For the PS3 specifically, their output didn’t really slow, per se, but it did seem to get a lot thinner, with most of their releases being either smaller titles released to PSN with little fanfare (thus making them pretty much dead on impact because the PS3 PSN store is awful to use), or titles where they were even more in a shadow company-esque helper role like with the Everybody’s Golf games, White Knight Chronicles, and weirdly enough, lots of licensed Bleach games. This is one from the first category, a snacky little puzzle game by the name of Numblast (or Qruton in Japan).
Keep in mind, I suck at puzzle games. I specifically chose this to play because after Demon’s Souls, I wanted to play something that I could be absolutely sure I was bad at because it was my fault, and Numblast certainly helps in the “making me feel baby-brained” department. It’s a tile-matching game where every square is numbered one, two, three and four. You have a two by two cursor, and within that two by two cursor, you can press circle to turn the blocks clockwise and X to turn them counter-clockwise. Putting four squares of the same number in a two by two area causes them to disappear, but leave a number sitting for too long, it’ll become unusable when in a square that contains other unusable squares; so far, basic puzzle game stuff. The one twist comes with how those numbers act, because before said numbers disappear in an area, they roll up to the next number resetting back to one from four, and in that timeframe, you can arrange other squares near the disappearing squares. If those numbers match up with the numbers they roll up to and are also in a two by two square of their own, the combo continues and they roll up further. You can end up chaining a pretty high amount of squares together, each with its own call starting with alpha and going up to beta, gamma, delta, etc. From the trailers, apparently this can lead to a full screen clear called a “Numblast” if you chain everything together perfectly, though naturally I wasn’t able to go higher than theta when I tried it.
Not that I really minded, because even though I’m awful at these kinds of games, it was fun while I played it. I was quickly swerving all the tiles around and getting as much to line up as I could, with a pretty fair increase in challenge over time as more and more unusable tiles stack up. You eventually feel that rush that puzzle games provide when you think you’ve gotten stuck in a definite lose situation, but then find some crazy solution to keep you going just that little bit longer. The endless mode is definitely where you’ll get the most worth out of Numblast, because the other modes are pretty insubstantial. There’s a three-minute time limit mode with the goal to get as high a score as possible, but each time I tried it, the character’s reactions suggested that I did miserably (again, probably me being awful at puzzle games, but still). Similarly, there is a puzzle mode where you have to get a specific arrangement of tiles to vanish within a set amount of rotations, and it is a trap. It’ll lead in with some pretty easy puzzles, but then pretty quickly throw some utterly insane design at you that you can only solve by a combination of pure accident and trial-and-error.
Writing about this kind of game is hard because there’s not really much you can say about it besides some basic gameplay summaries and whatnot. There is a story, but it’s so razor-thin that it hardly bears any mention; Choco, the blonde boy on the left side of the screen, has tampered with some Numblast cubes and their sheer energy transformed his senpai into the monkey on the right side of the screen, and by tampering with Numblast cubes some more, the senpai could be turned back, but obviously won’t because of what kind of game this is. There’s not much to say other than that, other than that it has a surprisingly good if small soundtrack from a sadly uncredited composer, and the aesthetics are surprisingly steampunk-ish with the character designs and menus. There is one thing of note: if you happen to get a high score or any achievement of some kind, the senpai monkey will start to throw up, and a cutscene will reveal that he’s laying an egg through his mouth, which then cracks open to reveal he’s given birth to some kind of creature that represents your achievement… huh, there you are, Japan Studio.
I don’t know if my review comes off as dismissive, but I want to clarify that this game is pretty decent, just that there isn’t a whole lot to it. It feels like it could have worked as an iPhone game with how simple it is, and had it been one, I could see it being a small hit, at least among puzzle game fans. However, seeing as it was made by a Sony studio and released digitally on the PS3 with very little advertising that I could find, it was pretty much bound to die in obscurity along with many other little-known puzzle games similar to it. That being said, if you do have a PS3 or a computer that can run RPCS3 and puzzle games are your kind of jam, then it’s harmless enough to download. Just don’t go into it expecting anything particularly groundbreaking save for the whole “Birdo monkey senpai” thing, which is a shame, as experimentation was usually Japan Studio’s bread and butter. In that case, maybe this is just bread. I have no idea how to end reviews.

Give FromSoftware credit, they know how to stick to a theme like tongues to metal surfaces during the winter. Even as they’ve gone down the triple-A route, they still make roughly the same type of game they’ve been making since the original King’s Field, that is to say, real-time RPGs with a notoriety for having a high standard of difficulty and obtuse hard-to-parse stories. I tried the original King’s Field (and by that I technically mean King’s Field II) and got about thirty minutes into the first dungeon before a giant snail poked me and sent me back to the beginning of the game, which led me to dropping it right then and there. Another time, I had tried Evergrace, and actually liked it quite a bit, but for whatever reason I just didn’t pick it up again, though I really should give it another shot. But I figured that eventually I would have to face what’s become FromSoftware’s modus operandi in the modern day, that being the Souls and Soulslike games, which started with the original awkwardly-named Demon’s Souls on the PS3. Full disclosure, I have not finished this game. I only got about five hours in before putting it down, for reasons I’ll elaborate on, so I’m taking a cue from one of my early reviewer inspirations, the Wiiviewr, and calling this a snap judgment review.
An opening cutscene tells that you’re a human warrior who has gone out to the land of Boletaria to stop a deep fog that is consuming the land, and must use the souls of those they encounter (the demon’s souls, as it were) to grow strong enough to defeat this fog. The next thing that pops up is a character creation screen, and even though the camera is always facing the character’s back, you’re able to modify your character’s face to a rather hilarious degree, thus making my character a pale long-faced creature akin to something straight out of The Mandela Catalogue. I’m then sent into a tutorial area, and notice that the controls, while sensible, do seem a fair bit sluggish and janky, which I initially don’t think much of. This soon proves to be my downfall as at the end of the tutorial area, a large demon breaks in from the ceiling and kills my character in about two hits, and when my character reawakens, they’ve turned into a phantom and had their health permanently cut in half. Luckily, this was a supposed-to-lose fight, and I was swiftly told to go regain my lost health by defeating the first boss.
Right as I’m sent to this first area, though, is where the game ends up losing me. Those laggy animations that I brought up earlier end up being a right pain in my butt when it turns out large sections of levels are just throwing you into hallways with enemies that you pretty much have to kill right away unless you want to lose half your health near-immediately. On top of that, it’s a challenge to even heal yourself considering enemies very rarely drop items, and when they do, it’s usually only one little bit of grass that restores only a quarter of your health. So far, this would be difficult yet manageable, but then I reach some knight guy with glowing blue eyes that kills me in one hit, and death, as it turns out, sends you all the way back to the start of the level with all your EXP lost and all the enemies respawned. I already came dang close to ragequitting there, but I wanted to at least give the game a fair chance and pressed on, hoping to see what others see in this game. My goal, then, was to at least see my way to one of the boss fights Soulslike games are famous for.
So I did that entire section over and over again, killing the same enemies repeatedly until I had a sufficient amount of healing items, and eventually took down that glowy-eyed knight guy with a new sword that had taken over an hour to spawn from one of said enemies. As such, I marched forth, traversing the new area with new sword in tow, only to get insta-killed by a dragon on a bridge. Usually this is the point where someone would make a comparison to NES games, and how those usually had pretty high difficulty that made you have to master a section before moving on. The thing is, though, is that a lot of NES games are more forgiving than people let on. Most of them were very fast-paced platformers with short level lengths, so that dying and getting sent back to the beginning of a stage or even world wasn’t too big of a loss, and they usually had snappy and easy-to-grasp controls to boot. By contrast, a lot of the difficulty in Demon’s Souls feels like it comes from things that aren’t your fault, like the cheap one-shot enemies or the arbitrary restrictions on weapons or the slow movement that sometimes doesn’t respond to your inputs at all. Plus, the fact that the game is an hours-long RPG means that the sparse checkpoints are far more demoralizing, making you lose a huge chunk of progress when you inevitably fall into a death trap that you could never have seen coming. It’s less Ninja Gaiden or Castlevania as it is more Ghosts ‘n Goblins, is my point.
I eventually ended up learning how to cheese the dragon’s AI by running out onto the bridge, killing an enemy crossbow wielder, running back into a little alcove as the dragon spewed fire and waiting until it went back to its default resting position, repeat until the end-of-level lever is found and I can finally go see one of the boss monsters. Walking into the wet PS3 bloom-y room, I see a giant dark goop monster laying before me, and when I go to fight it, it turns out this is the easiest part of the game so far. I ended up pretty quickly figuring out that you can just run behind the goop monster and give it the ol’ stabby-stab until it turns around, at which point you can sprint around it again and stabby-stab some more until death. After which, I was finally given the luxury of a checkpoint, and after walking up and down the entire gigantic hub area, I’m finally able to add the rather small amount of EXP I managed to hold onto and get my full health bar back. With newfound confidence, I set out to see what new enemies the game might have in store for me, only for my good insta-kill dragon friend to show up and burn my newly-reformed body to a crisp. Not only that, but now dealing with the dragon was mandatory as there were no paths or hiding spots to skip it, so my deformed character’s last moments of life were spent dead in front of a door to another gray castle as a combination of dragon flames, crossbow fire and rabid pit bulls tore him to shreds.
I’m tentatively giving this game two stars, because I’m almost certain that I don’t get it, and maybe if I were being guided along by someone that understands Soulslikes better, I would maybe start to have a good time with the game. There are definitely positive aspects to it, like the moody lighting, the funny ragdoll physics, and the rather hauntingly good soundtrack that sells the brooding atmosphere (even if it’s a tad comedic when the trumpets blarp away). But in terms of the actual gameplay, it feels like it’s being way too hard just for the sake of it. The kinds of obstacles this game threw at me were the kind of thing I’d expect to see in a ROM hack, with every single aspect of the design made specifically just to mess with you. Needless to say, this has turned me away from the Soulslikes for the time being; maybe sometime down the line I’ll give a different one a go, but in terms of what I’d actually like to try in terms of FromSoftware’s stuff, I’d rather give something like Enchanted Arms or 3D Dot Game Heroes a go, or just anything that doesn’t throw me of a cliff for the crime of wanting to play it.

I’ve never played a single Metal Gear game, I will admit. The only time I ever saw anything relating to it for the longest time was seeing Solid Snake show up in Super Smash Bros. Brawl as a kid, and later on hearing whispers of “la-li-lu-le-lo” and tales of codec calls that go on for longer than the expected lifespan of a Greenland shark. Likewise, I’ve only known of PlatinumGames for an even shorter amount of time, mainly hearing about their work by reputation by essentially being modern gaming’s equivalent to Treasure. Being fully honest, what really drew my attention to Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance was seeing multiple Discord servers I was in suddenly go meme-crazy with out-of-context GIFs from the game, and my Metal Gear-loving friend swiftly then begging me to play it. As such, I set off and got the game, not entirely sure what to expect other than a cyborg with suspiciously well-greased hair slicing some dudes for about five hours. While I certainly got that, what I didn’t expect was one of the most over-the-top, utterly ridiculous and just purely insanely fun games I’ve ever played.
The set-up is that you’re Raiden, a cyborg ninja with very questionable fashion sense, working with a private military corporation to protect the prime minister of some undefined African country. They are suddenly attacked by members of a rogue PMC called Desperado, who grace the viewer with some of the single most smug expressions 3D face rigs can muster. After Raiden suplexes a robot called Metal Gear RAY and slices it in half (as you do), Raiden witnesses the prime minister being killed and swiftly gets his butt handed to him by one of the Desperado members, a buff Brazilian cyborg of a similar skill level to Raiden. From here, Raiden gets an improved cybernetic body, and is sent on an epic quest to find out what Desperado’s whole deal is while musing on Raiden’s past and the true nature of memes. That last part wasn’t a joke, by the way; the entire story seems to set out to make itself the most bonkers, stupid and ultimately entertaining thing you’ve ever seen, and for the most part, it succeeds. Lots of fun bits of visual humor are all over the place, the villains are cartoonishly evil, and it has more quotable lines than all three of the original Star Wars movies combined. I think what makes it work, though, is that it never tries to make itself “ironic” or like some sort of lame parody. When, say, Raiden has to borrow a motorcycle and ride out into the desert for a full one-on-one ninja battle, it’s never not shown as being anything other than exactly as what it is; he never turns to camera and goes “whoa, I’m a cyborg ninja riding a motorcycle, isn’t that wacky?” Everything is refreshingly clear-cut, and even though there are probably deeper things you could read into what with Raiden’s past or any of the villains’ motives, these are questions which the game doesn’t seem all too concerned with dwelling on as you proceed to slice and dice through dudes like it’s nothing.
Appropriate for the genre, the fighting in this spectacle fighter truly is a spectacle. Pretty much every single aspect of the combat has been designed in such a way that makes you feel freaking awesome while never sacrificing challenge. You’ve got your standard two-button combo attacks, which has a great variety of moves mapped to just those two buttons so you can pretty easily pull off a variety of moves with it, along with a jump and ninja run to clear obstacles and many supplementary moves that you can buy between each stage. On top of these, you’ve also got what the game calls “zandatsu”; basically, when you stagger an enemy, you then have the option to slow down the game and slash them into an unrecognizable fleshy pulp, finishing it off with a specific cut that lets you reach into their bodies, rip their spine out, and squish it in your hands to let you regain all your health. All of this feels incredible while you play, but what helps at keeping you from feeling overpowered even with all this is the parry system. Raiden doesn’t have a standard dodge move, but in place of this, you have the ability to parry almost any enemy attack by using the light attack button. The thing is with this is that you can parry as many attacks as you want, but there is a rather strict timing window in order to make the parry land, and with how relentless some of the later boss fights get, you’ll have to skillfully parry all sorts of attacks from every direction to avoid being cheese grated. It’s the kind of technique that demands skill while not being too overly complex, and combined with all the different combos and zandatsu, it truly feels empowering to slice through wave after wave of soldiers, robots and robot soldiers, dancing your way through the levels as you turn each area into a butcher’s shop.
This is helped by level design and pacing that is always on full blast, never taking a moment to breathe as you go from one insane set piece to the next. Every level manages to throw all sorts of new enemy types at you and some sort of high-action sequence, making it so things never get boring as things explode around you and things just grow more and more chaotic. There are stealth options and more sneaky bits if you want to play that way, but you’re actively encouraged to face every challenge head-on so you earn more points for your upgrades and get a higher rank. This all culminates in the game’s boss fights, which are all climactic and bombastic in the best way possible, testing you on your skills in a challenging but fair manner (for the most part) and with some of the most flamboyantly epic music playing in the background. On that note, the game’s music is awesome; you’ve got the occasional standard orchestral backing during the rare downtime or during cutscenes, but for the most part it’s this driving lyrical metal-dubstep combo that manages to remain maddeningly catchy, culminating in such memorable boss fight themes as “Rules of Nature”, “The Stains of Time”, “Red Sun”, “The Only Thing I Know for Real” and “It Has to Be This Way”, just to name a few.
That being said, the game is absolutely not perfect. The content near the second half does seem a bit stretched thin, with some assets and even one entire level being repeated, the most notable part of which being a section where you have to fight two of the previous bosses again. It’s not horrible or anything, since you are going through these repeated areas with new enemies and attack patterns and stuff, but still. Easily the one glaring flaw in the game, the unwelcome cherry on top of the perfectly good chocolate milkshake as it were, is the final boss. Without spoiling it, the actual character you fight against stands out as easily the most memorable villain from the game and one of the most memorable video game villains of all time. His actual boss fight is one of the most ludicrous difficulty spikes I’ve ever experienced, right up there with the Sacred Grounds in Cave Story. Most of his moves can kill you in only three or four hits, and even when you memorize most of his patterns, when you get him down to a specific amount of health he does this one move I like to call “screw you, I win”. He’ll jump to the outside of the arena, pick up a collection of random robot parts and throw them at you, and where in most situations you could use a standard zandatsu, the attack requires you to use the very finicky free blade mode, and if you don’t aim your blade at precisely the angle the game wants, you explode and die instantly. It’s a rather sour note to end the otherwise fantastic melody that is Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance.
Considering how this is the first Metal Gear game I’ve ever played, I don’t exactly know how much of a lurch it’ll be when I play them considering I now know this is how everything culminates. That same Metal Gear-loving fan from earlier has told me that this is definitely more of a PlatinumGames game than a Metal Gear Solid game, but you know what, no bad thing say I. This game is absolutely incredible, no doubt one of the best games I’ve ever played and a great introduction for myself to the spectacle fighter genre. Honestly, above anything, this makes me want to try PlatinumGames’ other stuff and see how it fares in comparison, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget my first time experiencing this game in all its brilliant, gory and stupid glory. The memes may have ended here, but it passed one on to me.

I don’t think it’s any secret to say that photorealistic shooters were the bread and butter of the seventh-gen, it being what pretty quickly comes to mind when one thinks back to this period of gaming’s history, most often in a negative way. Really, why wouldn’t most people be upset thinking about it? It was a vomit-inducing push towards video games getting broad mainstream appeal, marketing itself towards the hate-filled whims of people who want nothing more than to shoot-bang inbetween chugging Mountain Dew and spouting homophobic slurs over their microphone. Perhaps that’s an overgeneralization, but you can’t deny the rather ugly nature of this trend and how it managed to pierce through almost every facet of what was popular then and still is rather abhorrently popular now, even in the sixty-dollar annual release’s obsolescence. I figure IO Interactive must have seen this, and took it as a challenge to turn the ugliness of the trend back at itself, subverting the aesthetic conventions of the genre in a way that highlights its underlying horror. As such, Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days boldly set out to make as disgusting of an artistic statement as it could about the shooter genre and the prevalence of violence in video games as a whole.
You wouldn’t know it from the actual game part of the game, though, because being honest, it kind of sucks to play. It’s very much an of its time third-person cover shooter, with the usual gameplay loop of walking into a room, killing some guys, and sitting behind a chest-high wall when you’re not killing some guys. It doesn’t try to deal with adding any more complexity over top of it, like melee combat or upgrade systems or anything like that, it’s very much a “what you see is what you get” kind of deal. Truth be told, I can understand the mixed-to-negative review scores the game got at the time, because this game doesn’t pull off even the generic cover shooting particularly well. When enemies aren’t popping in and out of cover, they’re either totally brain-dead and running right into your line of fire, or are so incredibly skilled that they will outright blindside you by running somewhere where you can’t see them and killing you in one shot. Not to mention, it has that problem rather unique to shooters of this gen in that when you pop out of cover, you’re often aiming at absolutely nothing, making you have to slowly turn towards whatever’s currently chipping away at your health. It’s not really any fun; even with the game’s rather short runtime, it ended up being really draining to slog through. Then again, maybe it was the point to make the gameplay as by-the-books as it gets, as a deliberate contrast to the bonkers directorial style everything else has.
The most immediate thing most people will point out about the game is pretty much every single part of the game, especially the visuals, was made to appear as if it were filmed on a consumer-grade digital camcorder of the era, and it commits to the bit as hard as it possibly can. There’s the rather simple stuff, like the ever-present shaky cam and the UI being modeled after an old camera interface; flashing timecodes indicate the game being saved and the loading screens will say “buffering” as if being livestreamed. Beyond that, though, a lot of work has clearly gone into making sure the in-game camera actually feels like a camera, and the sheer amount of detail gone into accurately replicating old digital recording flaws is unbelievable. Everything is always overexposed, light sources will create heavy amounts of starburst and sometimes be so intense as to obscure columns of the screen, areas that are too dark for the camera will have subtle blue pixelation, and so on and so forth. It even helps in communicating aspects of the gameplay, as sprinting will cause the lens to destabilize and damage is indicated by a mixture of artifacting and blood splatters. It turns what would otherwise be boring copy-pasted fight arenas into visceral explosions of digital noise, all these effects layering on top of one another to create this disorientating supernova of bright flashes and visual glitches.
The audio is absolutely a help in this too, as pretty much every single sound made is never not peaking when the action picks up, and will outright distort and clip when especially loud noises such as explosions are heard. The fact that pretty much every character is almost always screaming and running for their lives fits this like a glove, and the voice acting itself is very strong to boot, all the voices being exactly what you’d expect to hear out of these cruel, sickening people you’re witnessing. That’s not to say there’s never any quiet moments, as the game has a strong sense of atmosphere, the ambient noise of every location bringing a tangible sense of unease. It’s helped along by a rather odd soundtrack, being split into two distinct halves. One is the actual level music, being a vast array of harsh industrial drones and odd sound collages that the original Quake wouldn’t have turned its nose up at, and the other is a purposefully out-of-place collection of fake Chinese pop songs that play in the background as another layer of noise when inside certain buildings. It did a superb job in making me feel genuinely uncomfortable while playing it, and the same can be said about the story.
The plot is set up rather quickly as the titular Kane and Lynch meet up in Shanghai, looking for a quick and easy way to earn some money, before things go awry after Lynch ends up unknowingly killing the daughter of Shangsi, one of the most powerful men in China. After this, things swiftly turn worse and worse as the two “protagonists” have to escape an ever-increasing amount of hired gang members, followed by police and eventually the army. You’d think with how much the game escalates the stakes that it might try to add some levity, but it absolutely does not. I’m being dead serious when I say that Kane & Lynch 2 has one of the most, if not the most brutal video game story I’ve ever witnessed, the sheer nihilistic agony of every event that transpires seeping out of its every pore. If the game didn’t censor the heavy gore, I’m sure this would have gotten an AO from the ESRB. The game outright starts with the two main characters being tied up in a bathroom by some unknown third party, cut up everywhere across their bodies, and the game only descends further from there. Often during combat, you’ll end up killing innocent bystanders not because you want to, but just because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Almost no one in the game has any moral compass to speak of, and anything that seems like a small glimmer of light only shows up briefly before being curb-stomped amidst the animalistic display of violence from everyone involved.
I think an important thing to note is that even with this insane amount of brutality the game forces you into, often it’s the small details that are the most effective. Being that it is filmed with a camcorder, there are lots of sudden jumps between scenes and often will cut to black seemingly out of nowhere. It heightens how haphazard everything feels, often feeling as though the game doesn’t want you to look at how vile it is. Often the most disturbing parts are when it backs down from the high intensity of the shooting, and the force of how depressing everything truly is hits like a truck. The best example of this is when at one point, it has you make your way through a sweatshop, not having much in the way of enemy encounters along the way. Every inch of the interior is coated with grime and dust, bins full of jeans are left in random spots, and the workers inside either stare silently in fear or try to keep at their work even as their lives are clearly in danger. Later on, you find what’s presumed to be the spot where all those workers sleep, and all that’s in there is a wooden floor soaking wet with water, some mattresses thrown on top of the puddles, and the odd bit of trash scattered about. All you’re ultimately accomplishing in this story is making already miserable people even more miserable.
I think ultimately, the point the game’s trying to make is that photorealistic shooters are not fun, and all the artistic choices the game makes are a direct cry against it. Any sense of bombast or Hollywood-esque camaraderie is non-existent, and the prominent undercurrent of nationalism in the genre’s most popular franchises is stripped away in favor of presenting the real consequences of a constant thirst for violence, portrayed literally by two insane men that don’t even know why they’re killing so many people by the end. And what’s ultimately tying all this together? The most generic, standard cover shooter gameplay possible; a style of gameplay that is just not fun, and the game knows it.

As I’ve been more and more busy with college work and the sort, I find myself gravitating towards shorter experiences so that I can feasibly beat them in a manageable time. A couple years ago I finally got around to playing Gitaroo Man, which is now one of my favorite games of all time despite being just under two hours long. And in this search for short bursts of entertainment, I find something that claims to give short peace, though it is a short burst instead of a short peace as so advertised, but I was looking for short bursts anyhow so it’s okay. That joke went nowhere, but point is, I just finished Short Peace: Ranko Tsukigime’s Longest Day, a weird little PlayStation Network ditty from Yohei Kataoka and Suda51.
The game was created as a tie-in to a multimedia project known simply as Short Peace, which from what I can tell is a compilation of short films with some kind of theme tying it together akin to something like, say, Robot Carnival. I have not seen the short films yet, though I do intend to at some point as I do enjoy those kinds of one-off anthology projects that basically just tell the creators to go nuts. Suda51, as such, is exactly the kind of person that would be befitting of a project like this; while I haven’t gotten around to playing the games he’s worked on, I know games like Killer7, No More Heroes and The Silver Case by reputation, and I do want to eventually give all his works a try for their unique style alone. Naturally, with him being involved, he decided to submit this rather off-the-wall game to the project as his… film, I suppose? I’m not sure that I quite follow the through-line in the logic, though thinking of this as a sort of playable film does make sense when you come to see both the rather extensive cutscenes and by contrast its brevity, only taking under forty-five minutes to complete on a first go-around.
The plot was initially a bit hard to follow, seeing as I could only get a hold of the original Japanese version of the game, but I did watch the English translation for the cutscenes on YouTube to make sure I got some details right. Ranko Tsukigime is an average high-school girl by day, the daughter of the owner of the largest parking garage company in all of Japan; odd detail, but it does explain why almost every level takes place in a giant parking garage. However, by night, she’s a ruthless assassin on a mission to kill her father as a means to avenge her mother’s death, carrying her trusty violin gun thing every step of the way. After that, things just sort of… happen. That initial premise seems to be there mainly as a backdrop to carry the player through many an insane set piece and change in style, which for such a small game, there are quite a lot of those packed into it. They include, but aren’t limited to more traditional anime cutscenes, visual novel parodies, live-action footage, a Fooly Cooly-style moving manga segment, and one bit near the end that I’m pretty sure is an homage to Galo Sengen, of all things. While the story is rather thin, the amount of work that went into making each individual piece of said story stand out cannot be denied.
That anything goes approach applies to the gameplay as well. It starts off with you, as Ranko, constantly having to run to the right as a big wall of imminent death constantly chases you. You have a rather standard jump and hover, a slice to cut through the enemies (that likewise is accompanied by a barrage of graffiti and clip art spraying out every which way), and a shot from your violin gun that you can charge to keep the death wall at bay. It’s almost autorunner-like, what with the sheer speed of the gameplay and the responsiveness of the controls, to the point where you could probably put it on mobile devices with very little tweaking and it would still work. Having said that, while the game keeps that as the foundation, it very quickly gets bored of it after the first few levels, as it’ll then pivot to all sorts of different ideas, from motorcycle riding to shmup segments and even a bit at the end where the main character sprites go all Famicom-like and your controls are suddenly much slower. It’s very strange, because that main style of gameplay it sets up feels like it’s worthy of being expanded upon into something more substantial, but just when you think that it’ll start to do that, the game’s suddenly over. Honestly, that about sums up the general attitude I have towards the game, just this general feeling of “oh, was that it?”
If I seem to have been having trouble writing this, it’s because for such an experimental game with so many crazy ideas, it’s also just really short. I suppose it fits in with the anthology concept, and maybe if I were to watch the short films, it would provide more context to this game. That being said, I almost feel like too much work went into this game, somehow. The core gameplay loop, however short a time I spent with it, is polished enough to the point where I would gladly play more of it, but as is, it’s just a curious little art project left on the PlayStation 3’s digital store. Honestly, my biggest problem may be that it is exclusive to there; given a PC port and proper mod support, the game could turn into something extremely fun to play over and over again. As is, though, I still recommend Ranko Tsukigime’s Longest Day because in that short amount of time, you will see a lot of things that you’re not likely to forget anytime soon.

If you were to ask me what the worst gaming platform was, I would first say the PC-8801; thing barely works and ninety percent of its library are highly questionable Enix releases. If you were to then reword that question into what the worst gaming console was, I would point to the PS3 and Xbox 360. For the time that they were active, the majority of games that came out for them were gritty, photorealistic first-and-third-person cover shooters meant to appease a crowd of loud, obnoxious extroverts with varying degrees of frail masculinity. Even when they weren’t doing that, they were trying their hardest to funnel existing styles and series into something more boring, with some genres of games vanishing almost completely for a couple years. That being said, even in this hostile environment, a few creative titles managed to break surface and gain deserved cult followings, namely El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron, which got a PC re-release just last year.
The game was directed by Sawaki Takeyasu, who had previously worked for Capcom mainly as a character designer for games like Devil May Cry and Okami. I’m not sure how exactly a character designer managed to worm his way into a director position, but I am so, so happy that he did. Let’s get one thing straight away, this game has some of the most incredible art direction I think I’ve ever seen in any video game to date. Every single level is like its own piece of flowing abstract art, constantly shifting in theme and always presenting its visuals with expertly-framed camera work and highly detailed animation to make every single area pop. Not a second goes by where some new idea for an environment isn’t thrown at you, and watching all these naturally flow into one another is a visual spectacle unlike anything else, and need I remind you, this was on the PS3 and Xbox 360 and still looks incredible to this day.
But what are these visuals in service of? Well, compared to most games that take inspiration from ancient mythology, that is to say, the games that look like a toga party gone horribly wrong, this game draws from the story presented in the apocryphal book of Enoch. You play as Enoch, here reimagined as a blonde pretty boy in tight denim jeans, who has to go down to Earth and purify the seven fallen angels who have seen fit to build a tower to which they are wrongfully worshiped. You’re sent on this journey by Lucifel pre-trying to fight God and failing, also reimagined as a pretty boy dressed in all black, and who you’ll more often than not find literally talking on the phone with God.
After this, the story is something of a light presence meant to service the visuals, with you occasionally overhearing Lucifel and other Archangels talking amongst each other about things you’ll never be able to quite comprehend, which the abstraction works in favor of. That’s not to say there’s no standout story moments, because like I said, the environments constantly change to reflect who you’re fighting, and eventually that leads into scenes like an FFVII-style motorcycle chase in a futuristic city and a stage show where you fight against a fallen angel who presents himself as a disco dancer. Yeah, needless to say, this game goes places you’ll never see coming.
So how does Enoch get to fighting these fallen angels? Well, each chapter usually contains some different combinations of sections involving 2D platforming, 3D platforming, and hack-and-slash combat arenas. The platforming weirdly reminded me of Epic Mickey, of all things, what with the rather linear levels that feature a couple branching paths and random objects to break to power up your character, and will occasionally require some light puzzle solving in order to advance. Combat at first seems a bit barebones, as you only have one attack button, a block button, and a super attack button, but this is where the game reveals that the combat isn’t so much about memorizing a smorgasbord of combos as it is properly timing your attacks and managing your distance between enemies to make sure you land every hit properly, and the thing tying all this together is the rather weird weapon system.
See, Enoch can switch between three different weapons: an arch that functions like a sword, a gale that lets you throw ranged projectiles, and a dual shield that doubles as some kind of angelic boxing gloves. Thing is, you can’t just switch between these willy-nilly, as you have to fight an enemy holding one of these weapons and steal it off their back to use it. Each enemy has a certain weakness to one of the weapons, and you have to carefully decide which enemy to fight in which order in order to most efficiently take them all down. Not only this, but each weapon also aids in assisting the platforming in some way, so you’re going to want to make sure you have the weapon you want to run across the upcoming painting easier. This system keeps what would otherwise be rather repetitive combat engaging throughout the entire adventure, and allows enough room for error so no level ever gets frustrating.
That’s not to say the game is perfect, because there are a couple little nitpicks I could point out. The second-to-last chapter kind of overstays its welcome as the environment seems quite lifeless compared to everything else before it, and it was the only level where the 3D platforming became something of a problem as the multiple obstacles overlapping each other made it hard to gauge Enoch’s distance. Also, while it isn’t really a fault of the game itself, the PC port feels rather rushed. The game requires that you use an Xbox controller and nothing else for some baffling reason, and at one point I had a nice little softlock on a loading screen. It wasn’t a dealbreaker, since it was close to a save point, but I can imagine if it happened to someone who hadn’t saved in a bit, I might see a monitor fly out my neighbor’s window.
Overall, though, El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is an absolutely wonderful experience. It’s a game that takes its already solid mechanics and builds on it by flaunting any established story or aesthetic convention to create an experience that’s truly breathtaking to behold. Some people might see its abstraction as the kind of thing that only pretentious artsy-fartsy dorks will gravitate to, but I am a pretentious artsy-fartsy dork, and I say that the game is brilliant. It’s going right on my personal shelf of games that I consider the best of all time, or to be more specific, the shelf of games that I and myself alone consider the best of all time.