8 Reviews liked by thebirdnerd

Sort of the reverse of Fates to me, While Fates is carried by Gameplay while it's story is bad when taken seriously (despite me mostly liking Fate's cast). Three Houses has a truly amazing story with a wonderful cast of characters (for the most part) despite some missed opportunities and it being rushed, it's gameplay, while good, is nowhere near as good as Fates. Still, Five Stars because I truly love this game, it may not be my most favourite (Barely missed top 10), But I still Adore it.

“Is this what other video games are like?” was my girlfriend’s only response after we finished this. It’s the first game she’s beaten that wasn’t on the Nintendo Switch.

Like many people around the world, coronavirus made her into a gamer - a combination of lockdown boredom and watching me play video games every single day of the week convinced her to find out what all the fuss was about. She’d played plenty of Mega Drive and PlayStation as a child, but, like most normal people, fell away from the hobby when school, sex and other pressing responsibilities began to take hold.

The Nintendo Switch is, of course, the ideal console for re-introducing someone to the world of video games - capital-G Gamers may rankle against Nintendo’s minimalist UI for dummies, baby-friendly options and softly-softly in-game tutorials, but watching a newly-minted member of our organisation come to grips with gaming via Nintendo’s safe, friendly little ecosystem makes it undeniably clear what The Big N are up to when they remind you that “A” means “Jump” 10 hours into Super Mario Galaxy. A twenty-second irritation for you is a life-saving clarification for someone who still has to hold the controller up to their face to read the buttons.

Within 18 months, Nintendo has gradually guided my girlfriend through the worlds of Animal Crossing, Super Mario Odyssey Captain Toad, Bowser’s Fury and many other great wee games, eventually climaxing in her getting a near-100% completion stat on Breath of the Wild last week. Unfortunately, as the daily blood-thirst for Yet Another Nintendo Direct proves, Nintendo only make so many games - even for more laid-back fans - and my girlfriend has near enough run the Switch’s first-party well dry.

Which is where the Xbox Series S comes in - while peering through pop-ups and paywalls at countless click-baiting “Best 2021 Games” lists to find new things to enjoy, we found that a lot of interesting stuff that appealed to us - Sable, Forgotten City, Psychonauts 2, Twelve Minutes - were heading straight past the Nintendo Switch and only coming to Xbox and PC. While I have a pretty good PC that could reasonably play all these games, I would never willingly subject a human being I care about to PC Gaming. So we bought an Xbox Series S instead.

In many ways, the Series X|S is the Switch’s antithesis, for worse and for better - a confusing smorgasbord of hardware options that are laser-focused on performance and deeply-integrated online components, with a homescreen that relentlessly bombards you with options, adverts and other worthless media tiles - it’s genuinely amusing that a games console hides its video games in a sub-menu that sits alongside Disney+ suggestions (when you haven’t even downloaded or enrolled Disney+ on the console!) and adverts for games you already own within said sub-menu. Needless to say, starting an Xbox game can be a daunting task for anyone who’s used to just pressing the power button and clicking on a big picture of the game they want to play. Between my “””smart””” TV and the Xbox, I now have to run a gamut of broken advertising just to play a little bit of Blast Corps in glorious 4K. The next generation of gaming is here, folks!

The Series S would be an outright contemptible little device if Microsoft hadn’t essentially mastered their ability to give console players a comfortable PC-like experience of near-infinite diversity in near-infinite combinations, all from the comfort of a controller. This thing has the best multi-generational compatibility of any console I’ve ever owned - surpassing even the mighty Nintendo DS and O.G. PS3. It’s confounding/astounding that I could, technically, if I really wanted, sign in to a workplace Teams call on a device that simultaneously allows me to swap between Halo 2, Daytona USA, Symphony of the Night and Halo Infinite. I could give my daily team brief using a Turtle Beach headset plugged into an Xbox controller while playing Conker’s Bad Fur Day, if I really wanted to! Does anyone want that? I don’t think so, but Microsoft have made it possible, for some reason! The next generation of gaming is here, folks! (If you can play Microsoft Teams on an Xbox console, does that technically qualify it for inclusion in the Backloggd archives? I’d love to read those Top Reviews.)

On a console that neatly demonstrates many of the things that make playing modern video games a surreal Kafkaesque nightmare, Twelve Minutes is more or less a perfect package of everything that’s shit about those video games themselves: repetition of mindless tasks; the banal trial-and-error dragging-and-dropping of [USE] [ITEM] [OBJECT] that has plagued adventure gaming for three decades; trying to click on things that are too small; clicking on wrong things and having to slowly watch wrong things unfold; watching polygonal automatons walk slowly to their destination; watching polygonal automatons bump and jerk against and around each other; watching clunky plot unfold at sub-iceberg paces; watching accomplished actors of stage and screen recite from torn-out pages of school play dialogue; hearing that same dialogue again, and again, and again on your way back to the destination of your next clunky plot point; cognitively-dissonant clashes between gameplay and narrative; and, of course, one of video gaming’s most reliable staples - unnecessary, senseless and gratuitous violence against defenceless women.

A game about a police officer exploitatively wielding his authority to prey on a woman in myriad horrific ways is never gonna come out at the “right” time, but playing Twelve Minutes in the ongoing moment of the Sarah Everard case feels so sickeningly sour. It’s morbidly impressive how quickly the game lets you watch a woman get handcuffed and choked out. It’s even more impressive how quickly the game gives you unprovoked player-driven options for violence against your own wife! The next generation of gaming is here, folks!

Early on in Twelve Minutes, “a prestige mystery-thriller timeloop game” (Annapurna Interactive press release, 2021), we realised you can grab a knife and stab your wife while she sits on the couch reading a book. Don’t worry gamers! We had to do it to gain more precious intel about a pocket watch that helps move the mystery along! It’s wholly justifiable woman-murder! There’s a mystery to solve! When we worked this part out, there was no “aha!” moment that usually comes with solving a puzzle in a video game. Just an instinctive revulsion of “do we have to do this?” - and not in an introspective, meaningful way, like, say, that fateful R2 press at the end of Snake Eater. Just a pained, mindless “ugh” while dragging the knife to the wife. A far cry from turning into a funny little jumping cabbage to collect power moons in Super Mario Odyssey. Video games provide infinite diversity in infinite combinations.

Nonetheless, we persisted on the assumption that the game would address its own inhumanity in pursuit of a greater goal or message. It’s a “prestige” game, after all! This is the kind of high-calibre gaming that only the next generation of video games hardware can provide! Of course, it never did - Twelve Minutes is never interested in examining itself, even though it has all the endlessly looping time in the world to do it. Another example within the prior example - American Husband (Scotland’s James McAvoy) resists the player’s first suggestion to carry out the act of wife-stabbing with a weak-willed “No…” refusal before capitulating on the second attempt. What does that mean, really? I hoped the game was taking a page from Deltarune’s playbook by suggesting that the player and the player-controlled husband were distinct entities in the Twelve Minutes world, but alas - we already established that this game is a portrait of every blemish and pimple on the face of video games. There’s no space for interesting thoughts here! Ignore that cheap gesture in the general direction of drama and get back to stabbing your wife! You need to stab her to get The Facts! You’ll be absolved of your crimes on the next loop anyway.

Fortunately, the game’s incoherent and incompetent tone often comes to your rescue whenever it forces you to do something rotten. Immediately after shanking his wife (for the third time) for having the temerity to read a book on the couch, we commanded our witless hero to sit down and eat his chocolate mousse. He remarked on how tasty it was, then read a book on the couch with his dead wife, behaving more like an auto-piloting Sim than a Serious Protagonist. It was a very good bit of morbidly dissonant ludo-narrative giggling, and a rare moment of joy in a game that is trying so very hard to be mature. Remember the Groundhog Day montage where Bill Murray trial-and-errors his way around diners and offices? All those bits in Edge of Tomorrow where Tom Cruise bit the dust in increasingly sadistic and silly ways? Weren’t they fun! No room for that here. We’ve got women to kick in the ribs!

I’m not opposed to video games and other artworks depicting our ugliest inhumanities, but I feel like it has to be to some meaningful end. Twelve Minutes is so obsessed with presenting itself as maturely as possible that it ultimately comes off as immaturely meaningless as it possibly could - no amount of prestigious acting credits or allusions to brutal murder and rape can save it from coming across like a Christopher Moltisanti spec script. Like a corny mafia movie, Twelve Minutes lets you watch a woman get punched, kicked, choked and stabbed - again, and again, and again, and again, and again (Achievement Unlocked, by the way!) until you’re bored. Then it’ll introduce something about incest, for some reason. The perfect introduction to the world of video games beyond Nintendo’s borders. The next generation of gaming is here, folks!

Bold, bigger, breathtakingly beautiful and a blast to play, Metroid dread is a fantastic game and one I cannot wait to revisit again in the near future. I am not typically a fan of this genre, despite trying to get into it multiple times with Hollow Knight, SteamWorld and most recently Super Metroid. None of these games I hate, in fact I like Super Metroid but Dread was the first title of its type to make me go "I love this".

The game is simply brilliant to play with some of the best controls and movement in any game Ive played, second only to Mario Odyssey. Like that game what makes this game in part so fun to play is how you can connect moves together smoothly, go into a slide, jump out into a wall jump, then dash and parry an enemy in a quick succession. Everything just flows perfectly with the controls and movement its simply a joy to play. Along with a layer of polish and refinement to the physics and a constantly rewarding gameplay loop makes the gameplay very fluid and addictive.

The games addictiveness is also thanks in part to the excellent pacing, the game feeds out items at a steady pace, not too fast and not too slow. Giving you time to use every item, learn and master it before giving you the next one. This made me never get bored while playing, and when I wasn't playing made me eagerly await the next moment I could.

The atmosphere in this game is pretty varied but all of it is very well done. The gorgeous backgrounds that left me jaw dropped about how they could work on the Switch with everything else going on without performance issues and a great soundtrack done by the Super Metroid composer that adds to the atmospheric experience so much more, especially when playing with headphones on. It was an immensely immersive experience and I can see why Nintendo pushed so hard for people to wear headphones. Every new area you discover it feels like you are unearthing a piece of the mystery that eludes this game and its story. It makes your brain theorize about it and what its all leading up to, especially with the later areas.

Now to address the Emmi in the room, they're great and one of the best parts of the game. The rooms they're in give off a feeling of dread and mystery like I was touching on earlier. Sneaking around these rooms, listening to the ambient soundtrack and the beeping going on is an experience that will leave anyone on the edge of their seat. Then bam you get too cocky, the EMMI notice you and now you're definitely on your seat. This is the best part about the EMMI encounters as it tests your ability with the controls and moveset you are offered. The game is extremely fair with the EMMI, giving you places to run and hide and you can always get away after being seen. If you try caught however the game leaves one last aid for the player, a chance to parry the EMMI and get out of instant death. The favor should always be in the players favor when designing a game and Dread excels at that greatly. From a gameplay aspect the EMMI are great but the "horror" aspect of them is also greatly executed as well with the sound design.

Everything else is pretty well done too, enemies are varied, bosses are so much fun, the area layout feels memorable with the right amount of vagueness to give proper exploration. I only really have 2 minor complaints (moreso nitpicks). I think enemies give too many missiles, when defeating an enemy with a missile it feels like they'll always give you the amount you used and then some, so it just makes sense to always use missiles most of the time. Second nitpick is it doesn't seem like you can disable powerups like in older game which could impact replayability slightly (If I find a way to Ill update the review). Like I said though, nitpicks that really don't diminish from the experience at all.

Metroid Dread is a game that you can tell had a lot of care going into it. I think you could only make something this good if you really knew the genre going in, as this game is the genre near perfected. Even if Metroidvanias aren't your thing or you've never played one, pick up dread, you owe it to yourself and to Mercury System who clearly worked so hard on this.

This review contains spoilers

Damn haha that Raven Beak guy is so cool and strong. Smart too, and very attractive. I’ve heard he pulls the ladies too, like REALLY pulls. He would make a great leader haha, you should probably give up trying to fight him he’ll just run circles around you (did I mention he’s super fast too? From what I’ve heard haha) - ADAM

Note: Been playing Smash competitively since 2007, won't be covering the casual aspect of this game.

Since the very first day this game was announced, I felt sceptical about it. All the talk about the game was exclusively the implementation of rollback netcode, and movement options like air dashes and wavedash (and of course "funny spongebob does Melee techniques meme"), both of which were great for the marketing of the game, and the timing was perfect.

Smash players have been disillusioned with Ultimate for a while because of the incredibly poor online experience + the Covid-19 pandemic + Nintendo shutting down events, and NASB promised a fresh "Smash-like" ("Melee-like"?) experience that had good online, incredible potential for internet humor and the famous mechanic that Super Smash Bros has neglected for the past 3 games.

And I think NASB, as a product, really delivered. The game is exactly what they made it out to be. But mechanically it has no soul, the philosophy behind the design is flawed, and it ends up feeling like every other "smash clone" that has ever existed like Digimon Rumble Arena or Cartoon Network Punch Time Explosion. The big difference being that now, most smash players know about the competitive scene.

The game is too technical for its own good. Mastering movement in NASB is very very important, and ergonomically awful, high level matches are just 2 characters flying around and doing a lot of "sick movement" while throwing out random hitboxes, until one of them gets hit and dies (or not) and then repeat until the match is over.

And why would you want that many movement options in the first place? All aerials have no endlag, short hopping and spamming aerials is a super strong strategy with very low risk, and some characters have moves so big that you can approach and anti air at the same time.
It's a super unnappealing gameplan for me, and the lack of defensive options make it even worse.

I criticize Rivals Of Aether for some of that as well, but every character has a specific mechanic/gameplan that makes them unique, they have to work towards a specific objective in the match, and taking all the matchups into consideration makes RoA a very rich game that stands out, where characters have their own way to deal with each other, and where movement really matters, even though it not being my cup of tea.

In NASB every characters has crazy ground and air movement by design, similar recoveries, very similar or identical kill confirms and combos, they all look for the same things in neutral, so the line between characters is blurred.

Balance is really silly too, but that's expected in a game like this. And I really couldn't care less about patches, they won't fix what really is wrong about the game (most people are complaining about the game not being polished, lack of voice acting, and even about the price, and I think they are completely missing the important stuff).

And I'm sure Nickelodeon pressured the devs a lot to release the game asap, so that sucks too.

In the end NASB is another game that tries to be Smash (with a twist) but doesn't get it. I don't want every platform fighter to be the same, and this is a nice little experiment, but there's so much more to the genre than wavedashing and getting 0 to deaths.

Kusoge material for sure. Feels like Smash 64 with UMVC3 movement and that just doesn't make any sense.

I played this game / demo for an hour and I’m not convinced to play any further, let alone to buy the full version.

The controls are way too slow and basic and the jumps slow down your movement. It’s not fun. You can find different costumes to obtain different abilities, but you can’t interact with the world. There are many objects, but they’re only decorative. You can’t throw them, you can’t destroy them and you cant whirl them all over the place. The world is static.

I don’t expect a brilliant narrative in a game like this, but even for a collect-a-thon, it lacks some oomph.

The CGI cutscenes are very beautiful, the soundtrack is neat and I think this game has a strong sense of decoration, but that’s not enough to truly impress me.

I recommend playing the demo before you buy this game with your hard earned money.

Edit: I need to lower the score a smidge (from 1.5 to 1.0), because Balan Wonderworld producer Noriyoshi Fujimoto “addressed” the demo feedback and instead of delaying the game to fix all or at least most of the problems, he plans on giving us a day one patch. That’s not how feedback demos work. The only way to address this game is with a flamethrower and I hope Balan Wonderworld is his last game.

matthis is my favorite character because when you recruit him he says:
"If I am to die, I should do it honorably, and with style."
and then he died to an archer the next turn

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