105 Reviews liked by coffeentacos

Niko smol bean etc etc -- yes, for sure, granted. It was a bummer for me, though, that he and especially some of the other characters lacked the agency and dynamism I was hoping for. As someone who is often character-motivated, I found it hard not to make comparisons to...well, no spoilers, but other games that occupy a similar narrative space.
What I do love about it, though: the look, mood & tone, as well as some of the wonderfully inventive puzzles around the halfway mark.

You wouldn't believe the amount of things you can do with boxes!

Blue Reflection: Second Light is a beautiful, cozy game that gently grabs you by the hand and asks you to stay awhile. It’s a game that encourages you to not only discover new parts of yourself, but embrace the parts of you that have always been there. It’s a game that reassures you that sometimes we have to let go, move on, and let us as people grow apart, but to remember that we are always growing, and growing does not have to mean forgetting.
All you need to be is you, and you will always, always be enough.

Reminded me of Don Hertzfeldt's short film World of Tomorrow, in that both it and Quadrilateral Cowboy present an impressive spread of concepts through understated-yet-endearing aesthetics within a brief timeframe. It invites you to imagine entire works building off its component ideas, or an extension to the length of a "full" film/game. Where World of Tomorrow would spawn sequel episodes drilling into its initial ideas rather than replicating the inventiveness of the first, Quadrilateral Cowboy yielded no offspring. Nothing overstays its welcome, it reuses no jokes, and it ends with genuine grace. Maybe it's a shame to not have more, but maybe it's better this way.

A fantastic remake of the two original Langrisser games, with bland new artwork but the option to restore the original glorious Urushihara designs.
The difficulty was slightly adjusted to allow even newcomers to the genre to enjoy themselves, and the amount of alternative storylines is simply stunning, ranging from small details to complete overhauls.
A wonderful entry point into the legendary series.

Not many games where a crocodile tells you "I want to eat 0melette rice" and you can actually deliver.

Alina of the Arena is a quite fun and challenging roguelike.
It dual-wields the deck building of Slay the Spire with the absolute information of Into the Breach.
There are thematic mechanics, such as the weapons/items being thrown by the audience and the weapon dual-wielding.
The random paths are interchangeable, and that allows more adaptability than the single choice per stage of StS.
Having only one character also makes it very fast-paced when compared with ItB, and less puzzle-like.
Sincerely, it's a hard game, but you should be able to see your own mistakes and weaknesses and deal with them.
I don't like the slight meta progression on the accessory/inventory slots, but you should get to max power in 2~4 runs, while still having classes to unlock.
Some classes work better than others, but they're still reasonably varied, and honestly surprised me on how differently each one deals with certain challenges.
Loved the game, already went through the two true endings, and the only thing I wish for is more content.
If you're struggling, my strategy suggestion is to become very mobile and use a spear.

Since Touhou Luna Nights was such a pleasant surprise, I figured Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth would be too. I recently watched the Record of Lodoss War anime from 1990 and quite enjoyed it for its beautiful animation and cozy fantasy storytelling that went on to influence loads of other Japanese works, so I was ready to roll with whatever Team Ladybug was offering. Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth is the exact opposite experience of its source material - instead of being an impressive trendsetter, it follows in the footsteps of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night so precisely that it ends up feeling too derivative and lacking in ambition for its own good. It's a good game, but there's really nothing exceptional about it, and that's a shame considering how inspired and inventive Touhou Luna Nights was.
Using a similar premise to Luna Nights, Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth follows the story of Deedlit, everybody's favorite elven spellcaster, as she finds herself trapped inside a mysterious labyrinth. The game doesn't specifically call it a wonder labyrinth, but I certainly won't stop you from calling it that! Deedlit comes across her deceased lover Parn (this game takes place years after where the anime ends and high elves outlive humans) who is suddenly alive but unresponsive to her presence, which naturally has her questioning her current location and state of mind. Chasing down Parn and figuring out what's going on is her main goal, but along the way, she'll meet up with friends and foes from her past adventures.
While this game does absolutely nothing to bring people up to speed if they're unfamiliar with the source material, having that knowledge doesn't feel particularly valuable either. Most instances of dialogue in this game consist of Deedlit encountering characters who posit increasingly abstract and philosophical positions on life, death, regret, ambition, and other vague themes meant to make Deedlit doubt herself and her place in the world. That sounds compelling in theory, especially since Deedlit is likely the best choice to do a deeper character study on out of the anime's cast, but the writing just fails to make it interesting at all. Because of how often the game likes to repeat its core themes, every character eschews their personality from the anime in exchange for for being identical mouthpieces. There's no banter, no wit, no charm, and no surprises, just people going on and on about things that sometimes don't even feel coherent. The one exception to this is Woodchuck, who isn't involved in the story but gets his own gambling game in which he'll call you out and ban you temporarily if you try to reload when you lose! Knowing that the game takes place in an alternate realm where nobody is technically real gives something of an excuse for this, but it also makes the stakes feel low and it's hard to care even when villains who didn't survive the events of the anime get another chance to make an impression. Touhou Luna Nights didn't have particularly impressive dialogue by any means, but it had at least a bit of personality to it, something that I can't say the same about here, aside from Woodchuck, anyway.
Stop me if this sounds familiar: in this game, you'll be following a map as you explore areas, kill enemies, and find new weapons and abilities that help you traverse areas that you couldn't access previously. There are thankfully some wrinkles in the formula that we'll get to, but most of the game is extremely familiar if you've played Castlevania or any Metroidvania from the past decade. Not inherently a bad thing, but to belabor the point yet again, nothing here surprises or impresses. Weapons are mostly linear upgrades and generally handle the same (the greatswords being the only real exception with their overhead slash attack that's taken straight out of Castlevania: Aria/Dawn of Sorrow) and traversal upgrades consist of the usual double and super jumps. I understand a lot of people love this genre and the cozy familiarity that comes with it, but I've hit a point where I've played enough of them and it feels so oversaturated that I really need something compelling to hook me beyond good "game feel" or pretty graphics. Deedlit does have a couple of unusual ideas to help it stand out, but I wasn't a fan of either of them, generally finding that they detracted from the gameplay more than they added to it.
Alongside your melee weapons and special magic attacks that you can acquire by exploring (these work identically to the ones in Luna Nights, only not nearly as powerful), you also get a bow that obviously serves as an effective projectile attack. Different bows have different elements or projectiles spreads which is cool, but you'll typically use the strongest one regardless. Your Bow is also used to solve a variety of puzzles, which typically consist of reflecting arrows off of walls or shooting a gear enough times for it to turn and activate a contraption. It's a nice gesture to have something to do beyond fighting and platforming, but I found these sequences to be absolutely miserable roadblocks whenever they appeared. The problem is that the act of using your bow is made convoluted to a ridiculous degree. You can shoot straight, angle shots, stay fixed in place to aim more carefully, move while aiming, aim while floating, change directions while aiming, and you can even jump while aiming. Each action requires a different button or multiple buttons held down simultaneously while moving and doing other things, so to aim effectively at all, you need to fumble around the controller like you're playing a game of Twister with your fingers; it's wild how unintuitive it feels! Combine that with strange physics that make judging reflections difficult and make it so you can undo progress by shooting a gear in the ever so slightly wrong place and you have yourself a total nightmare. Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth is mostly a cakewalk, but any section where I had to use the bow really tested my patience in a way that nothing else in the game (or Luna Nights) could compare to.
The other big mechanic of the game lies with the wind (Sylph) and fire (Salamander) familiars that Deedlit acquires early on. These familiars allow Deedlit to swap between these elements at will, granting her immunity to the selected element as well as some minor perks like being able to float. It's very much in the vein of something like Ikaruga, though nowhere near as intense. You're expected to make use of this mechanic constantly; getting kills and collecting cubes levels up each element, making them stronger and also allowing for constant health regeneration, but getting hit levels them down. It's an interesting idea that encourages proper defense like grazing in Luna Nights did and when you're on the ball, there is a thrill to deftly swapping elements to nullify even the scariest of projectiles. But that's really all there is to it for the entire game - damage negation and the occasional boost to your damage if you're hitting a weakness, and neither makes enough of a difference to demand mastery of the mechanics. Having more elements to play with that had more specific or interesting uses, say for better designed puzzles or other forms of exploration, would have done a lot to make the game more engaging. Beyond Oasis, for example, is a game that does a wonderful job of making its elemental summoning mechanic remain interesting throughout by challenging you in all sorts of ways beyond just combat, so the idea is clearly sound. The game has a whole system for exploiting elemental weaknesses too that's almost impossible to use - how am I supposed to exploit a dark weakness if I don't have a dark familiar? The answer Team Ladybug came to was "using one of like three weapons in the game or a sole magic spell", making the system feel like an incredibly obvious missed opportunity.
After loving Touhou Luna Nights, it's a bummer to be so down on this game by comparison, but I can't help but feel that Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth is a regression in nearly every way. If you put them side by side and asked me to tell you which one came first, I would have picked this game because it really feels like a first draft! It looks great and animates beautifully, the action feels competent enough, and some quality of life ideas like better warp and save point placement were implemented, but it otherwise does very little to try and raise the bar of the genre. Luna Nights combined the metroidvania essentials with a lot of innovative and fun ideas that encouraged player expression and overcoming intense foes, whereas Wonder labyrinth feels liked going through the motions as if you rented Castlevania Symphony of the Night for the 20th time. It's easy and short enough too that it feels like it's all too eager to be out of sight and out of mind, which lacks confidence in a surprising way. If metroidvanias are your comfort food, this will absolutely serve that purpose, but if you're looking for something that'll make a lasting impression, this ain't it - much like the labyrinth it takes place in, this game is ultimately one that faded from my memory as quickly as it came into my life.