Really beautiful structure to uncovering the depths of the island. Finding new entry points, realizing that it's one huge, interlocking network. A shame we don't see much more of this dungeon-crawling-influenced, platformer-esque type of design for 3D games.
Amazing contrast between friendly surface areas and the droney ambience of the underground - feels reminiscent of Dark Souls's approach to ambience 14 years later. The way Roll's radio-filtered voice comes in at the right times to describe stuff works really well to punch up the anime emotions or atmosphere.
Once you got used to it the controls were actually pretty cool. There's a bunch of things that could have been ironed out without losing the combat's identity (in particular, the ability to aim without auto-lock on would have helped a lot. Likewise, a faster camera speed and bigger FOV in boss arenas).
Uncovering dungeon maps slowly and finding treasure is fun, even if it's pretty easy most of the time and you don't need most of the treasure.
It was also fun to hop around the towns and occasionally run into random quests. Really fun atmosphere there.
Overall a really interesting world structure, interesting that within a year or two, Ocarina of Time would come out.
- The pirate fights were.. acceptable story-wise (I think it got old after a while though), but from an execution standpoint they were sometimes unwelcome and sloppy. In particular parts of the air fight and the sea fight - neither were mechanically interesting, and took forever. (Taking down their airship was a little cool, though - that's the kind of setpiece fight I think Works, since it's not really hard but it feels really cool).
- Special weapons ended up being underutilized. I didn't make a handful of them and pretty much dropped everything for the buster around midgame.
- The buster's range is overpowered - it ends up flattening many of the enemy designs
- The regular enemy designs aren't that interesting - the camera system struggles to reasonably handle 2-3 quick enemies. Encounters can be fun (circling and stopping to shoot at the right time), but some enemies involve just waiting around for them to drop their shield.
- Game was obviously rushed at points - the final dungeon in particular was a lot less interesting than the 2nd and 3rd sub-gates. The sub-cities definitely felt like they were going to have more narrative significance, and the drill ability didn't amount to much (there wasn't much reason to use all those shortcuts between the subgates by the end of the game.) Perhaps, too much budget spent on pirate fights...
Not finished yet but I don't see my rating going up or down over the rest of the game. An improvement over Crash 1 (can't speak to 2/3). The little moveset tweaks with the...hookshot woman..? Are pleasantly fun, subtly changing the way you view the levels enough to remove some of the fatigue that playing entirely as Crash has.
Still, the checkpoint structure in some ways feels less like a way to pace out the levels, than a hack for how much trial-and-error is required to learn the obtuseness of some obstacles. That obtuseness is created by too-shallow camera angle making it hard to judge depth, a problem which I thought we could have solved by the end of the 1990s! Yet it still plagues this game all over the place, from the chase sequences to the occasional enemy placement. That being said, the platforming and attack hitboxes are fairly generous so it's nothing a few retries can't fix, but it is still annoying because of how Crash level design tends to work (very precise sequence of inputs and timings to get through obstacles - thus if you fail at the end of a level design segment, you have to go all the way through the same boring inputs to try the end again.) This is especially annoying in the crate challenge levels (The flashbacks), which have interesting, difficult ideas, but often sandwich 3 or 4 ideas together in a segment before hitting a checkpoint.
When the levels feel good, there's a nice rhythm to levels and it's fun to see what the developers have done with visual theming (although it can be hard to read the environment at times.) Overall a mixed bag so far (with more good than bad) but the more tedious stuff (The time challenges, 100% crates) are optional which is fine (although it'd be nice if timed challenges were segmented rather than resetting when dying at the end of a stage.) Stages maybe feel a bit long, too...
Fine for what it is - an early 3D precision platformer, but overall not that interesting. Maybe back in its day...
Feels like an auto-runner in some ways, the obstacle layouts demand very precise and rigid responses to them. Complexity scales by repetition and mixing without any spatial variation - instead of Pit-Turtle, we get Pit-Pit-Pit-Turtle - perfect 6 jumps for the first checkpoint, then 12 jumps for the 2nd checkpoint, etc.
Final Judgment: A sloppy "Ys Oath"-like with poor level design and a so-so JRPG story with uninteresting characters and padded out dialogue. Has a few interesting ideas here and there but doesn't add up to much.
So far, I like the bosses - you can bring food in and heal your way through the fight, but they're more fun if you try to not heal at all. It feels kind of like Ys Oath/6/0, but slightly sloppier? Hitboxes are iffier, the camera is tilted too low. Being able to magic-bullet spam with the girl while dodging reminds me of the fighting style in later Gunvolt games.
Dungeon design is repetitive/mini-map-watching focused. It's hard to get a sense of where you are in the scene, and there haven't been any interesting puzzles. The enemies can sometimes have interesting designs but the game gives you a lot of tools to make most combat encounters trivial.
The dungeons have a grading system around not taking damage, breaking all the pots, and finishing in a certain time. It's... not a very interesting grading system - I don't think the game has enough precision for a 'no damage' achievement to be 'fair'. But I guess it adds a tiny bit of replayability. (The grading system gives you points towards your Hunter Rank - similar to Bracer Rank if you've ever played Trails in the Sky). I would be interested in a low-hit run, but taking zero hits in sometimes 5-10 minute levels is too much!
Setting/story is fun - that mid-2000s tsundere girl/happy go lucky guy pair protagonists vibe. Nothing particularly deep, very light. Very 2000s Falcom, too. Has a bit of Gurumin! to it as well.
I like how the world is compact (well, certainly there will be a 'there's more!' jrpg world reveal, but atm it is compact!). Each time you clear a dungeon the dialogue of all NPCs gets refreshed, which is very Falcom-y.
The UI Widget items were cool, though. Kind of a funny idea... put a pedometer on the UI, or a widget to let you solve math problems, or something that reveals the tricky timing behind critical hits!
There's a weird system to leveling. Enemies drop food, and you can eat food for healing AND EXP in a dungeon. OR, you can try to obtain 10 of a food, and trade it in for a higher-grade food that gives 50% more EXP.
It seems to incentivize grinding or like, staying underleveled near the end of a dungeon. It feels like they wanted to keep leveling limited to after clearing levels, rather than within levels - by making food also heal, you're less likely to waste it all in the middle of a level (as you might need it later to heal.)
I wonder if it was some weird attempt at fixing how in Ys games you just end up overpowering everything by the end. It's hard for me to tell if the food 'works'... because the levels themselves aren't very hard to begin with. So far, I've just ended up saving all my food and trading it in for better food so I can be at a decent level for the boss.
I don't really play procedural run-based games, but I heard this is one of the best so I played a few hours. I did the 'first steps' of beating Mom, and then completing another run and beating the Utero level. It seems there is at least another 10,000 hours of gameplay. I might play other characters or try challenges.
I think it feels strong in how you're always betting whether the risk of uncovering a new room will bring enough rewards, but I also think the core of it (this intentionally imprecise teardrop firing mechanic) ends up feeling a bit repetitive.
I appreciate that the core motion and attack mechanics can be tweaked in tons of ways to be slightly better or worse, and hence, the appeal as a procgen game.
That being said, even though I know I'll have a different experience each time I play, there's still something very samey to it no matter what.
I guess that's where I differ from other fans of the genre. I do think it's neat how there are obscure secrets and branching runs (reminds me of the arcade shmup genre), I suppose in some ways the modern indie roguelite is a continuation of arcade action. But I think in BoI (although it feels like one of the better ones) still does feel like this experience of starting very weak then hoping to become a very powerful build by the end, the chances of trying your luck. Going through rooms feels like going through the filler rooms in a Zelda game.
Overall, it feels like the experience of having the same sandwich spiced a randomly different way. A nice sandwich, but still a pretty plain one...
The most powerful idea of roguelites to me is the idea of hiding secrets amongst a texture of randomness. I think it's cool how deep the secrets in BoI go.
Although as a designer I feel kind of iffy about inherently making my game sorta repetitive and meant to be played over and over for 1,000 hours. But I like the idea of getting to become familiar with a 'space' by seeing it in randomized parts. Maybe there's a way to distill the randomness/replayability procgen strength of stuff like BoI into a shorter experience, who knows... it'd be cool to leverage that into a somehow more straightforward narrative game.
As an action RPG, it felt a little sloppy - right off the bat the analog stick movement doesn't work properly (movement seems to tend to lock into 8 directions). Enemy hitboxes and tells are a bit hard to see, the colors of everything tend to blend together and in the first dungeon I wasn't able to have much of a satisfying combat experience. It seems like this roughness is meant to be balanced out by the grinding and gear upgrades, which is a little disappointing... that's kind of the design space a lot of ARPGs end up in, gear upgrades that end up making up for a gameplay loop that doesn't work too well.
The item selling side was fun for a while but setting prices - and even just the act of setting out items - felt perfunctory, repetitive - another step in the way of me upgrading my gear (which was frustrating to keep track of between all of the inventory management, wishlists). Sounded fun on paper, though.
That being said, I did like the roguelite idea of having four separate dungeons to go into and make your way through, which felt like a more accessible structure to a roguelite beyond the common 30-60 minute runs. At the same time, I guess this more accessible approach feels less mysterious? Not a fault of Moonlighter, just ... roguelite thoughts. Playing Moonlighter does make me think that ARPG mechanics do ultimately hurt the roguelite appeal/structure, making it a more flat experience.
Fun visual novel, I thought it was cool how the little berry clicker game is used to pace out the routes, while also reinforcing Cyrus reflecting on what he did. The story itself is a nice subversion of typical high fantasy settings and gendered tropes.
The sense of the 'monster's world beyond the hero's garden' was enticing, the game felt like the sort of fantasy that the Atelier games sometimes promise, but without having to grind and do JRPG stuff for 30+ hours. I like how the game lets you have little peeks into that world through the explanations of the berries, and the characters who come back to your garden. In some ways the progression also reminded me of upgrading homes in Harvest Moon.
Overall I thought it was a neat way to structure a visual novel, and experimentally has neat ideas on how to use light idle/clicker mechanics to pace out story beats and worldbuilding.
The close intimacy of domestic life, contrasted against the eerie ways in which what you thought was reality falling apart. Meeting past versions of yourself, past Relationships that your past self had. The way the ground falls out from under each of the characters as they realize what's actually going on is upsetting. I, the player even want to return to the little light, anime visual novel setting where worrying about what to eat or being late for school is the most important thing.
This is a pretty strong 4. I think the only thing keeping it from being a 5 is the writing ultimately isn't strong or interesting enough - it's still stuck in the common genre conventions and limits on subject and tone. Very much what kept me going was that it was fun to see characters interact, to find out what would happen net, to fill out that timeline a little more. Still, it does a great job for what it is, I loved the characters. And it was really trying for something new as far as the interplay of storytelling and action went.
The tactical action sections are genuinely thrilling, Basiscape's music is incredible as usual - if they're not doing a great job with incredible melodies, there are some always-fitting sci-fi-esque textures.
The hover, walljump and airdash movesets are interesting. I actually think it's a cool moveset - especially in the 3D sections, although of course it's a bit of a bumpy experience. The auto-lock-on that Axl has is great - the implementation here has a bit of strange nuance in how it targets, but the idea of focusing on dodging via hover/dash, and defocusing aiming, is neat. It reminds me of Gunvolt iX and tagging enemies.
It's a Mega Man X game that's filled with a lot of interesting little ideas, even though they're a bit sloppy and you eventually gain too much health by the end and overpower things.
Bosses are a mixed bag. I think they all have cool ideas but whoever was making the calls in terms of implementation/revision kinda messed up. The biggest problems coming to mind are bosses with boring cycles, like Red or the Splash Warfly who have lots of arbitrary times they can't be hit.
Also, one fault in the aiming system for Axl - if we're in a 3D game and we often aim in 3D, then we should expect to be able to shoot the enemy even when they're further into the scene (like Stonekong's fight while on the pillar).
Some kind of lock-on priority system would have been good, too.
I liked Ride Boarski's fight, or the weird spatial conceits of Anteator's fight (even though it quickly becomes ridiculous at the end and you have to cheese to win).
Onion fight's idea of having directional armor that you remove was cool, although it was unclear if I was actually removing that armor or not, and sloppy implementation meant I could ignore this aspect of the fight and still win.
I thought Zero got shortchanged here, he has a lot of delay with attacks and the sword range is really tiny meaning you probably get hit with how the movement works. Still, it was sort of fun to learn how to precisely air dash in front of an enemy without getting hit. There's a lot of weird decisions in this game that are close to being pretty cool, the implementation is just kinda sloppy...
It makes me a little sad that this style of design got dropped after X7 and now we seem to be stuck in an age of endless dodge roll 2D games or sloppy/grindable 2D metroidvanias, or weirdly balanced random 2D roguelikes, but here we are.
I knew it... I had the suspicion watching a review... and within ten minutes of playing... I realized... this is a god-forsaken canned gacha game that got turned into a standalone console release! Streamlined and free of microtransaction elements, but it has a repetitive gameplay loop with lots of flashy elements, but ultimately no game design ideas. The levels consist of 2-3 "floors", the first two being easy, and the last having enemies with ridiculous amounts of HP that can't be killed without the proper gear, in the same way every gacha game does things. Even if you "skill" your way out of not having the strong enough gear, there's a 5 minute timer. You just need to keep grinding levels until your gear gets strong enough. Everything drops like 10,000,000 materials and items. You have a super-smash-bros-esque moveset that hardly matters.
The game's floors have "encounters" which spawn 20-30 enemies in a cramped space in which it's impossible to dodge. The game theoretically has a combo meter, but it's guaranteed to be broken unless you can maintain a high enough DPS to kill monsters before they get an attack off. Dodging is impossible because every enemy explodes in gigantic, casino gem-shaped particle effects.
This is like casinos for zoomers, pachinko for the tik tok generation, a dense force of self-annihilation, the negation of everything good on our shared planet earth... wow... I'm going to go play a classic stage-based 2D action game instead.
Part of me was secretly hoping this game would be kind of simplistic like early Maple Story, but I was wrong! oops! The UI transitions in this game are also weirdly fast. I like a snappy transition but like picking a place name from a menu and then within 1/60th of a second appearing there is a little too fast somehow. It kind of makes the game feel flappy and paper-like, hollow, empty.
This game fucking sucks. I could have spent the $10 on bread...
I had been curious about this for a while and finally took the plunge. The premise is fun, but I feel like the game, about 7-8 hours in, isn't really sticking the landing. The few characters are likeable enough, but story beats are padded out by long dungeons filled with backtracking, repetitive and easy fights and a lot of waiting around for the auto-walk to get to a destination.
I've always found something interesting about the grid-based dungeon crawler genre and its narrative tendencies to plunge characters into some weird spiritually complicated worlds, and it seems like that's the case in Undernauts.
While I'm still interested to see where Undernauts goes (I just got to the Cemetery area), I'm not very into the loot/upgrade loop. I can't really tell how useful my stat upgrades are - I'm still steamrolling every encounter, but occasionally enemies one-shot my characters with a magic spell and I have to warp back to revive them. The party size of 6 feels too big, I don't like having to go through menus fairly often to re-optimize.
Now, here's the thing - I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt that later on in the game, encounters get more complicated and interesting. But there are literally JRPGs out there that give you interesting battles within 10 minutes - it feels silly to sit through what would probably be 10+ hours before getting to more interesting fights!
Also, the game has narrative plot beats that are paced so slowly! It took me 7 whole hours to get the first 3 Thingies and get to the first non-boring-cave dungeon. I like the weird idea of Sinners and appreciate some of the historical connections to Japan (although I feel like the writing is a little perfunctory/going through the motions?)
I think the design vocabulary of the grid dungeon crawler is really neat and has a lot of cool potential. And Undernauts has a lot of ideas, but they also feel like weird conflicting compromises at times... the texture of the dungeon crawling feels kind of flat. I think the constant treasure/loot loop emphasizes that - to me, it feels like enough flexibility to let you allocate skills, but adding a layer of all these items and upgrading the items...? Feels excessive and slows down the pacing. I think there's a lot of room for a designer of this genre to cut down on, what I assume, are decades-old conventions that are around because they've always been around.
That is to say, well, I do wish I could finish Undernauts but I don't have the time to slog through everything it's asking of me, sadly!
Gave up at the final boss, but I really liked the arcade-esque difficulty of this game before dodge rolls came along and poisoned every single action game ever.
Most bosses feel unique and require you to pay attention to the moves, usually there's something really subtle about how you need to move to avoid the attacks. Things like bullet movement or boss limb movement actually matter since you need to not touch them! (Vs. just roll through it)
I like that harder difficulties add in new moves, too. The dungeons are simple and some have a few platforming ideas to them, they generally had a good pacing even if the structural ideas weren't that profound. I guess if I have a complaint it's that due to the leveling system (which mainly serves as a kind of dynamic difficulty for bosses - if you're too weak, grind a bit to have an easier time). The regular enemy designs are all neat too, but I feel they rarely get to shine because you're either too low-level to engage them safely (there are like, no checkpoints in this game so you almost never want to take risks in the long dungeons). OR, you easily outlevel and just spam your way through fights.
In that sense, this feels like an arcade game that's kind of ruined by RPG mechanics - even if you try to engage the enemies in a fun way, you naturally level up and everything dies too easily. I think every Ys game has this same problem. Sure, you can feel more powerful as you level up, but I think they could have limited that to just the bosses (some kind of thing you can grind for to power up slightly if you really want a slight edge against the bosses).
All the bosses were cool, but bosses have a few issues - like ones who don't have openings until you get a certain sequence of random moves (final boss!) - these are kind of tedious to fight because there's a lot of waiting.
This game has a ton of additive-blend particle effects, which makes reading the arena particularly confusing, especially when the attacks use huge particle effects - the hitboxes are vague and imprecise and you have to just intuit where you're moving (the fire serpent felt particularly bad here.) I also don't like the 'really fast rat human' type bosses like Chester 2 where you either boringly skirt around ridiculously fast attacks until you get a tiny opening, OR you just grind to get more DEF/HP and spam attacks when you know you won't take as much damage.
There's an unpleasant imprecision to flashy boss attacks - part of why this game is so fun is that enemy attacks and the top-down 3D perspective feel really readable - and those flashy attacks feel like they go against what makes other parts of the game good.
Anyways, I like this Ys the most out of the top-down 3D ones (Oath, Ark, Origin). I wish there were more made like this! (Rather than going down the dark, RPG-heavy dodge roll path, like Celceta, 7 8 and 9 did... not really interested in playing those (I played a bit of 8))
Explore RPG-like maps, play minigames and solve NPC quests to fill your stamp card and explore a theme park. It's a cute aesthetic but clearly very kid focused, even though some of the minigames are really hard!
Overall... well of the little I played, there wasn't too much coherence to minigames and some of them required weirdly high scores to win. I read that if you lose enough, you get the piece for beating it, which is an interesting compromise. When you get a piece, you also unlock 4-panel mangas! That was cute...even though the manga wasn't that funny...
Interesting concept for a game (minigame-focused battle-less JRPG), but I'd have to come back to it in a mindset more receptive to the kid-targeted story.
A quiet and disarming point-and-click-style adventure game. I like how it combines different kinds of playstyles - reading books of poetry, looking for birds, solving a cat mystery, painting pictures, playing computer games and learning 'facts' on the internet. There's a nice sense of humor underlying everything and it's a calming adventure to play. I got to the main ending but haven't done the stuff after (my score was at around 60%).
I feel a lot of Bitsy engine energy in this game too - the layout of the flea's areas and the dialogue triggers, the splitting of the game into small square screens.
Being able to switch between Tux and Fanny on the fly is really nice as a solution to the backtracking these types of games tend to have. I felt the walking speed could have been a tad bit faster, you hold down walk a lot and my thumb got tired after a while.
I think the best moments are finding a surprise set of rooms you didn't think to find, the art style changing, then reading some short, poignant text somewhere, little bits of a weird history behind the backyard and forest the two protagonists inhabit.
It's a calm game about appreciating little moments. Liked it a lot! (And there's a whole web series to watch as well)
I actually liked this less than the previous iteration (goats) - felt like this one was a bit slower, too many characters in the city? Idk. I get the want to be 'meditative' but a lot of the stuff in this was fairly slow, perfunctory - frustrating to try and establish a routine. I think fewer characters would have made the sense of stakes between the rural and city more coherent/interesting