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  • | Nintendo 3DS (Virtual Console) | January 4th |

    Shantae was a frustrating game to play, as someone who really doesn't vibe well with platformers. I thought the enemies were annoying to fight, the backtracking tedious and the zoomed-in view awful when it came to having an idea of your surroundings. It was a game that I only had less patience with over time, and in turn made the whole thing even more frustrating the more I played it. The convoluted ways in which the game progresses at a few points made me use a FAQ for the first time since... like, playing the original Resident Evil.

    I think those were good enough reasons for me to stop playing Shantae at literally any point, but there was always something that encouraged me to keep going. It could have been a cute squid enemy with beady little eyes, or learning how to transform into a tiny monkey, or the part where you end up in a town populated with adorably friendly zombies and you race a sporty zombie girl through a spooky track so she doesn't eat your brains.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that in spite of its many frustrations, I love Shantae. I love this game, and it's big ol' adorable heart.

    I love so many things about it. I think it has gorgeous graphics with really great animation for a Gameboy Color game. The writing and the game's whole tone are both super adorable; the kind of light-hearted Wayforward style where people call each other mopheads and go "hi ho!" and "ho ho ho!" all the time. The music and sound effects are all-around stellar with some songs straight up reminding me of Caveman Games (that's a compliment) and like... cool, weirdly wobbly Commodore 64 SIDs. I love the dancing, the little characters, the story-- gosh, I especially love the part where that one nameless pirate lady says that Shantae should cut her hair because she'd look super cute in a bob. It's... a weirdly small moment to single out, but it was so cute to me that it went a real long way.

    Though I just wish it was a better playing game, the highs in Shantae are so above and beyond that just thinking about this game makes me happy. It feels like a little platformer made by a tiny team with lots of charm and love at nearly every step. I could have stopped playing Shantae at any time, but it was that charm that I wish I saw more often that made me wanna keep going. I'm really glad that I did.

  • | PlayStation 4 | January 4th | 4:49:55 clear time |

    Oops. I woke up today and accidentally spent the whole day in bed playing Risky's Revenge.

    I think that kinda says it all, really. This game is what the original Shantae should have been: silly writing, nice characters, pretty graphics and-- here's the best part: being fun to play. All of my issues with the GBC game are fixed here; really fun combat, better perspective of your surroundings and better communication to the player of what's going on, both in terms of what to do next and what the dangers are in the level. Plus, the music rules and I like that the story actually goes somewhere. Time well spent.

    It was all seamless, too. While I didn't have to force myself through Shantae on the GBC, my conflict with how it played led me to thinking that I could have been playing something else. With Risky's Revenge, everything came together and I was totally invested. It's rewarding to see Wayforward improve on the original's flaws, too. It's exactly what a sequel should be: stronger focus, improving on flaws and keeping what made the previous game so great. Nice.

  • | PlayStation 4 | January 5th | 09:29:35 clear time |

    Shantae and the Pirate's Curse is the product of Wayforward settling in on the solid foundation they made with the first two Shantae games. It brushes the dust off some ideas from the GBC game; tougher gameplay, the mechanics of the how items / upgrades work and distinctly themed levels and refines them up to snuff with the gameplay from Risky's Revenge. In essence, Pirate's Curse feels like how I wanted the original Shantae to be. That's a very, very good thing.

    It might be understated in that last blurb so I'll just put it like this: I absolutely adore Shantae and the Pirate's Curse. It's just that everything I love about it has already been said when I talked about the other Shantae games. The platforming is great, the music is better than ever, it's gorgeous, the writing is silly (good silly) and to my own surprise, I really liked the story. I wish they had gave Risky less vague exposition, but it fits with her character. Now that Shantae has a well-established cast of characters, they're all finally given room to breathe and it's super fun to see them all stand-out past their tropes. In particular, I just, really like how this game ends. It wraps up nicely in a way that I wish more games did.

    My only issue is that I have no reason to play it more. I wish that it had a ton more post-game unlockables, modes and costumes or some sorta NG+ at least but the appeal post-game seems to be geared towards speedrunning which is... definitely not my thing. Please, I want to play your game more.

    I'm running out of Shantae games to play and it's starting to bum me out.

  • | PlayStation 4 | January 13th | 08:52:25 clear time w/ 100% complete |

    Shantae: 1/2 Genie Hero is so good. Ugh.

    I think the Shantae formula had been perfectly tuned for this game. The difficulty finally found its sweet spot, they ditched pixel art for gorgeous, crisp hand-drawn sprites and the collectables and secrets are just well-hidden enough to encourage tons of exploration without feeling impossible to find. Purely in terms of of how 1/2 Genie Hero plays, it's totally the best Shantae game yet.

    I felt like it kinda fell short in a few ways, namely the story which doesn't really go anywhere for the whole game and a buzzkill of a final stage with crappy boss battles and a lame sliding sequence that suffers from the whole deflated momentum thing that video game set pieces normally suffer from. It's a bummer because these two things in particular were nailed so well in Pirate's Curse. New characters come and go with no purpose, and though I do love Shantae's cast of characters, I think they leaned a little too heavily on familiarity this time.

    Though I think that Pirate's Curse is still my favorite Shantae game overall, 1/2 Genie Hero rules. The writing and (returning) characters are still great even if I don't think they were done proper justice, the soundtrack is better than ever (especially the new boss battle theme) and... y'know, it's a Shantae game. It has tons of heart.

    ...but what do I do with no more Shantae games to play?

    Pirate Queen's Quest

    | PlayStation 4 | | September 9th | 3h31m playtime w/ 100% completion |

    I will take anything I can get to play new Shantae content. This one was alright; it was nice to use the weapons from Pirate's Curse again but having to play through the same stages and bosses again was kinda lame. I did not like the boss fights very much the first time around and Risky without all the upgrades means those same boss fights are soooo much longer and repetitive.

    Still, though it was off to a rocky start, I did enjoy revisiting Half-Genie Hero's catchy music, colorful stages, pretty art and great writing. It was a lot tougher this time around, too but thankfully a fully upgraded Risky trivializes all the platforming when revisiting stages.

    I... could still play more Shantae. I am still excited for the new costumes and friends DLC, but I just hope it offers a little more than different takes on the same content.

  • | PlayStation 3 | January 20th | 48h 52m clear time |

    Yakuza 5 is... a lot.

    That's nothing new for the Yakuza games. They're all a lot, but that's their thing, right? Snail-paced exposition, tons of side stories and meticulously detailed mini-games. Plus, the stories are always super complex and overly convoluted with a billion characters, all of which have motivations that change on a dime.

    Yakuza 5 has all of this, but the Yakuza games tend to nail all of these things more often than not. The stories get messy, and confusing but by the time they wrap up, everything makes sense. All the loose ends are tied up and the stories conclude in ways that feel both complete and satisfying. As if we wouldn't need another Yakuza game.

    For the first time, Yakuza 5 feels too bloated. There's simply too much going on-- too many characters, too many plot points and character threads, too big of a story for what the game ends up being. The plot suffers from a bad pacing problem: the story gains momentum, then wastes it all by coming to a complete stop in favor of excruciatingly slow development for new characters. Normally, I adore Yakuza's deliberate pacing, but in this case it's erratic and comes at the cost of the excitement that the game tries to build up.

    Saejima is legitimately one of the best, most well-written characters in the entire series but his part of the story is a brick wall for all the intrigue and excitement built up at the end of Kiryu's chapter. Shinada, the only brand new protagonist's very slow introduction was super frustrating to deal with after the story started to get really, really exciting at the end of Haruka / Akiyama's story. Being that Shinada is, like the rest of the cast, really fascinating, it really wasn't cool that the placement of his part killed the momentum.

    And look, when Yakuza 5 does things right, they're fantastic. The cutscenes look amazing, the combat is completely over-the-top and substories are a whole of fun to see through to their ends. Most of the finale is really fun; seeing all the protagonists working together (excluding Haruka, disappointingly) is really just an excuse for giddy, non-stop fanservice. The characters are so good, and there are some moments where I was just straight-up screaming. Most of my time spent playing Yakuza 5 was really, really fun.

    It's just that for a game that spends so much of its sweet time paying close attention to its story and characters, I just don't think it does enough justice to all the time they spend creating all of it. At some points, it feels like the writers themselves had forgotten half the plot points-- or outright disregard the meaning that those plot points had. I mean, the ending is just... bad.

    Despite what it seems, I liked Yakuza 5 a lot. I never spend this kind of extensive time with a single-player game, but I just wish that the pay-off was better than what I got. It deserved better.

  • | PlayStation 4 | February 7th |

    I vividly remember downloading the Alien Shooter demo some time in 2005-ish and asking my brother if 20 mb (the size of the demo) was a lot. He told me that it wasn't a lot at all; around the size of 3-4 songs. Ever since then, Alien Shooter, in one way or another pops into my head when I think about MP3 file sizes. I remember Alien Shooter being kinda fun, too.

    If I didn't have that bit of history, I would have otherwise never purchased Alien Shooter on PS4 for 4$ because it looks like junk.

    With that said, Alien Shooter is, um... kinda junk on the PS4. With no aiming reticle and no damage feedback from enemies until they're dead, you really can't tell if you're hitting anything or doing any sorta damage. It's really only playable if you switch on the auto-aim function but at that point, what are you _really_ doing in a twin stick shooter if not even aiming your weapon?

    I kinda warmed up over time, though. At some point, there are like, a hundred enemies on screen and the levels are painted all over with alien blood. I, at least admire the way it commits to just making the levels messy with gun shells, explosions and alien guts.

    I... kinda want to play the expansion levels? Gosh, must be why I never video games that are actually good.

  • | Mac | February 7th | 100% completion |

    This cute, little bullet-hell game was lots of fun to play. The premise is really sweet; wandering around to heal people of their mental and/or physical sicknesses makes for lots of adorable, appreciative characters and a silly, endearing sense of humor. Though the gameplay is super simple, Princess Remedy is just short enough for the dodgy shooty stuff to not get old. Neat boss battles, too.

  • | PlayStation 4 | February 17th |

    Yakuza 0 is like the antithesis of Yakuza 5. It's approachable, clear, focused and crafted with the sort of care and precision that Yakuza 5 so badly missed. It's not only way better, but it's the best Yakuza game since Yakuza 2. I adored the story, the exposition of its characters, the acting, its many stellar moments, the relatively deep and engaging side businesses and... really, just everything this game had going on.

    It made me feel like how I did with every other Yakuza game sans 5; enjoying every single moment, dreading its eventual end. This will probably be one of the best, if not the best game I play this year.

  • | Mac | March 7th |

    Long story short: I bought this when it came out, but wanted to wait for the full game to come out. Full game came out, and it hit too close to home, so I avoided it.

    I wanted to play this tonight, because it felt about time and I liked it a lot. The drinking mixing stuff is okay, but I'm really just interested in listening to people, real or otherwise talk about what's on their mind. Along with a great atmosphere, a bit of cool world building and a snazzy soundtrack, this was a really soothing way to spend a bit of my time.

  • | Xbox 360 | March 8th | Ending A |

    I... I thought that I finished Nier, but apparently there's more? So, I guess I'll keep playing...

    | March 9th | Ending B |

    Nier is kind of tearing me apart.

    | March 10th | Ending C & D |

    Nier is one of the most conflicting games that I have ever played. I don't know how I feel about it. I have absolutely no idea what I'm supposed to write here.

  • | Xbox 360 | March 15th | D Rank |

    Resident Evil: Code Veronica X is a bad game.

    Like... I don't even have to think twice about it. The story is unbearably pointless. What on earth even happens in this game? There are some outbreaks, and some facilities explode. The end. The characters are unlikable in a way that baffles me beyond comprehension. They've miraculously made Claire totally unlikable, made Chris somehow even more vapid than he was in RE1 and Steve is...

    God, Steve.

    I'm just taken back by all the creative decisions in this game. The more I played it, the more I was convinced that Code Veronica wasn't actually written or designed by real human beings. The tone, more so than any other RE game has a stunning lack of self-awareness... like did anyone think that the stuff in this game was cool, or interesting, or even the slightest bit good?

    ...and look, I know Resident Evil is heavily into its b-movie junk. Bad voice acting and corniness is a staple of this series, but it was always balanced out. RE1 is a fantastic premise; seriously creepy with a fascinating story. RE2 and 3 were great stories of survival, coupled with the utter depression of a city actively falling apart around you. They were corny, sure but the stuff done right was genuinely stellar.

    Very little in Code Veronica done with that degree of craft and care. A file or two fleshing out the Ashfords comes close to the depraved, unsettling backstory of the last three games but everything else is just... boring, and shoddy and downright stupid.

    This all directly effects the gameplay, too. Though there were moments where I felt nice solving puzzles and surviving in typical RE fashion, it otherwise felt... pointless, like the idea of fitting three matching emblems to unlock a door or pressing buttons in the right order and all that was... played out. RE1-3 felt like you were in a mysterious, demented place. Here it felt forced.

    ...gosh, I could really go on and on about what I don't like about this game, like how archaic parts of its design feel, and how I think the boss battles are absolutely atrocious, but the idea is there. I had a thoroughly rotten time playing Code Veronica. I'm really glad that I finished it, only because it means that I don't any reason to play it ever again.

  • | PlayStation 4 | March 19th | Definitive Edition |

    I started Tomb Raider on the PS3 when it was free on PS Plus. I liked it a bunch, but I never finished it I think because my subscription ran out? So I got the Definitive Edition on sale and waited until I really wanted to play it.

    I still really, really like this game. The combat is fantastic; the handgun (especially when fully upgraded) is one of the most satisfying weapons that I've used in a shooter. The story is good setup for an origin story, with a really cool setting and premise that makes for tons of variety. The characters are... kind of hit or miss, but I think the woman who did Lara is stellar, even if her character has a bit of an identity crisis. Even if it's extremely derivative, it does everything real well. It reminded me a lot of Sleeping Dogs in that way.

    I will say that the game's tone feels at odds with how it plays. The set pieces are gorgeous and over-the-top, but they quickly lose any sort of weight or meaning (and excitement by extension) due to the fact that Lara takes some really gnarly hits, only to walk them off in the next cutscene. It also feel like the game is trying its hardest to make every single injury and hit seem like a huge deal, when they don't really commit to it. This is nothing new for action games-- it's the power fantasy thing coupled with the fact that limping for ten hours just isn't that much fun, but the story tries to depict Lara as green-- vulnerable, weak initially and naive. It just doesn't feel very much like that sometimes.

    What I found super fascinating about playing this game three years after its release is that it really is indicative of how games were made back then. Constant +XP popups, tons of upgrades and collectables, arguable hand-holding and lots, and lots of crummy quick time events; with the always-disappointing end boss that's settled with a barely interactive, boring quick time event that feels not one bit satisfying. Games barely nail the ending, but that doesn't help.

    Still, I really, really liked Tomb Raider. In spite of its wrinkles, this is the first Tomb Raider game I genuinely enjoyed since the first one. I think they finally did Lara Croft in the way that her character deserves. I'm really excited to check out Rise of the Tomb Raider.

    ...but first, Nier Automata...

  • | PlayStation 4 | March 22nd | Endings A K T U W |

    The true Nier: Automata remains to be seen, but still! I like this game a lot. It's kind of striking how this game, in terms of structure is a lot like the original Nier; just with better character design, visuals and combat. At least as far as this initial ending is concerned, I think the story is considerably weaker but it's still doing a lot of weird, unique, totally fascinating things. There's plenty of potential, so I hope it all comes through.

    | March 26th | Endings B G H |

    Oh my god this game.

    I don't have much else to say at the moment except that I really, really liked how they handled the "play through the game again" thing this time around and that I am unfathomably excited to see what happens next. I especially like how things are starting to tie in with the original Nier. That gives me high hopes for what the upcoming story stuff might be.

    | March 28th | Endings C Q Z |

    Seemingly against all odds, this game continues to get progressively weirder and by extension, more fascinating. I'm starting to get a little annoyed with just walking in one direction and instantly failing the game, but it's been a very tiny stain in what has, so far, been a thoroughly unique and exciting game.

    Not done yet, though...

    | March 28th | Endings D E |

    Okay, now there is little doubt that I am done with Nier: Automata.

    That's a really cool game. Definitely one of the more unique games that I've ever played. Mainly, I just really like that it's a lot like the original Nier, just with its potential realized. The combat is really fun and fluid and the emotional beats are, while not always on point, feel a whole lot less like they're trying to shove it in your face. The story progression, its serious moments, voice acting, characterization, context, everything that I was iffy on originally is vastly improved here. Combined with its heavy, fascinating themes of consciousness, war and purpose and its bag of tricks makes Nier: Automata relatively unpredictable and really, really exciting to play. It's one of the first games in a long while where I could just... enjoy everything it had to show me without feeling like it was predictable, or overly cliche.

    It was fun to finally play a Platinum game that didn't cap off at six hours, too. It took me a little while to get into the combat, but I really had fun once I started customizing chips to my playstyle and experimenting with all sorts of builds and pods. You could see a little bit of every big melee-focused Platinum game in how Automata plays so it made me feel right at home.

    Gosh, what else do I say? The music is absolutely gorgeous. The side quests aren't totally exciting, but the adorable writing more than makes up for it; especially the quests involving making kids and/or their families happy again. The ending system did get in the way here and there mostly thanks to the game's strange saving system, but it was, like I said earlier, one of the few wrinkles in what was a really solid game. It felt... throughly complete in a way that I don't feel games are anymore.

    Though it most assuredly should, I don't feel that this game makes the original Nier 100% obsolete. I think that I actually like the original Nier more than this game for largely emotional and sentimental reasons, but the two compliment each other real nicely.

  • | PlayStation 2 | March 25th | All endings |

    I took a little break from Nier: Automata to replay True Crime: Streets of LA for the first time in about 12 years. I remember really liking this game's ambition, with its mix of styles, its police-oriented take on an open world and its branching story paths. I loved its west coast themed soundtrack too, especially at a time where I was way into east coast hip hop.

    Today, its ambition is still there, though it's apparent that because it tries to do so much, it lacks in focus. All its different gameplay styles are clearly designed to be movie-like, but just feel mindless. The shooting is pretty fun, but it literally consists of just mashing the fire button considering the game aims for you. There's... no finesse, no thought to anything going on except just hitting the fire button. The fighting system feels broken, especially during the boss battles where it demands a sort of patient approach that the fighting mechanics cannot offer. It claims to have a stance system, but I've had a hard time making any sense of it. The driving is loose and a lot of fun, but the driving sections lack... I don't know, purpose? It just seems like padding in a game that's already super short.

    It's like they looked at action movies, and tried to emulate that in both its story and how it plays. It understands what made like, martial arts movies, cop movie and The Matrix "cool" (cliches and all) but they didn't go far enough to make those things as fun to play as they look. Same thing with the story; it's like they tried to make a generic cop movie but without, like... the movie part.

    I think the short of it is that Streets of LA has a lot of cool ideas, but cool ideas alone without the proper care into making them a ton of fun. I think that's why I liked Sleeping Dogs as much as I did-- there's a lot of this game in that, just modernized and fully realized.

    I'm glad I took the time to revisit this game, though. It made me realized how better storytelling has gotten over the years, plus it made me miss the "b-tier" open world game. That's about the only thing I miss from that era, thankfully.

  • | PlayStation 2 (via PS4 emulation) | April 7th |

    Red Faction is still pretty cool, man. I have a soft spot for fast-paced, relatively standard early 2000s FPS campaigns, though at least this game has its wicked destruction technology going for it. It goes a long way at making chaotic gunfights a lot more exciting when rockets blow up the wall you're taking cover behind, and rooms are left with craters everywhere by the end of a battle. It's a lot of fun, though it doesn't make as good of a use of that wicked technology as I remember.

    Oddly enough, playing this game again made me think of how it shares its universe with Saints Row and... how anything in Red Faction makes sense after the events of Saints Row IV. Thinking that deep about Volition's lore is... probably besides the point though.

  • | PlayStation 4 | April 18th |

    When Uncharted 3 came out, I played through half of it in one sitting on somebody else's PS3 while eating a bag of plain tostitos. I... never transferred my save though so even though I liked it lots, I never finished it.

    So! I got the remastered version and finally finished it. I really like this game. It has some of the most natural, well-done, well-acted, genuinely funny writing that I've ever seen in a video game. Low bar, certainly but even so, I had the most fun in this game listening to characters babble or watching cutscenes. The story is typical Uncharted flair, but I liked the bits of exposition between Nate and Sully and how personal this particular journey was for them.

    I still really, really don't like the shooting and combat in Uncharted, but literally everything else is fantastic. I love (most of) the puzzles, the climbing, the little exploration here and there and the set pieces in particular are absolutely spectacular. They're done with a certain kind of craft that makes it a ton more immersive compared to how set pieces in Call of Duty games are done, where it feels like a bit much and all very game-y. The boat and plane set pieces in particular were _so_ much fun. I wish the game was more of those exploration and climbing elements and a lot less of the boring, by-the-numbers, unsatisfying combat encounters.

    I've been thinking a lot about the abundance of killing and gun combat as filler in video games, and how because we're all desensitized to video game murder, it's all very typical. I killed 500 people over the course of this game and... I don't know. I think that there's a better way to pad a game out than just having you shoot people. Even though Uncharted is very much emulating the paces of an action movie, I just don't feel like endless murder fits the tone and style of this sorta game very well. Kinda like how Mirror's Edge didn't benefit from gunplay.

    Maybe I should play less games where you shoot and kill people.

  • | PlayStation 4 | April 30th |

    I really, really like Uncharted 4.

    I just finished it and it is 2 AM and I am very tired. Maybe I will fill this out later but if i don't: I like this game a lot

  • | Xbox 360 | April 30th |

    Kane & Lynch 2 is... an ugly game. It's dirty, crass, disorienting, blatant, at times, straight up stupid. I can see why I hated this game as much as I did when I first played it. It's very unlike the first game in that it's trying to be more down and dirty (I try to shy away from using "gritty") compared to all the heists and set pieces from Dead Men. In that same vein though, I think revisiting it makes me really appreciate how and why it changed its style, and what came of that.

    I think Dog Days lives and dies by its concept, for better or for worse. 48 hours of hell in the Shanghai criminal underworld is a great premise, and in some cases that works as a fascinating narrative hook. Its story moves fast. It's chaotic, anxious, often times unclear which I think half-works in its favor. It has no slow moments-- Kane and Lynch have no time to sit around for exposition, or dialogue or anything to make its story more than "we have to get the hell out of here" or "I'm going to kill that guy."

    Had it been for better writing, I think that idea would have gone over so much better than it did in reality. Four hours of "we gotta go here! Oh crap, we gotta take these guys out!" really isn't that compelling on its own. Kane and Lynch's relationship is never explored-- barely teased so it makes it hard for me to be invested in anything these two are actually trying to do.

    Perhaps that's the point, though. Kane and Lynch are inherently unsympathetic characters. They're bad men, who do bad things which brings bad things in turn to those they love. Even so, they continue to do it in spite of the consequences because their descent is neverending-- they don't know anything else. When I first played Dog Days, I was frustrated by the lack of payoff. These two fight through everything and nothing good ever happens; they don't learn, they don't change. What I learned through playing it this time is that through their continuously malicious actions, Kane and Lynch do not earn their payoff. It's bad thing, after bad thing and as long as they keep fucking up without reflecting on it, they will never face that redemption that they want-- that I wanted for them originally.

    I think that's a really cool thing to think about. While it doesn't do so with the most finesse, Dog Days deviates from that formula of rising and falling action, the lowest point, climax, payoff, etc. It's a tale of abject misery. It's monotonous, frustrating, nasty, and it lacks a satisfying conclusion in the traditional sense. Kane and Lynch start from square one by the end of the game.

    I'm not saying it's great by any means-- I find the dialogue is stale, and the gameplay is dreadfully generic in every sense, but I can appreciate the sort of thing Kane & Lynch 2 was trying to go for. As a conceptual game, I think it's a very fascinating thing. Its brief length works well in its favor-- it's a headache-inducing, eye-straining, occasionally gut-wrenching fight for survival in the span of roughly forty-eight hours. It reminds me a lot of a movie in that sense, in that it's a brief, self-contained story that you can get through in an afternoon.

    The implications of its stellar visual style aside, I always wanted to like Kane & Lynch 2 for that very reason-- it felt like it should have been a dirty little crime film. I don't think it quite has the depth or intensity in its action to be like that, but I'm still really glad that I played this game again. I found things to like about it; things that made me think about structure, storytelling and the purpose of violence in video games. It made me realize that a story doesn't have to be "satisfying" to have merit, or to be worth analyzing or even good. To me, that's invaluable.

  • | PlayStation Vita (via PS1 emulation) | May 22nd | X Ultimate Armor |

    Hey, I forgot that I finished this game a few days ago! This is still my favorite Mega Man X game. I love the premise, the way it develops its characters and all the cool stages. One day I'll beat this game as Zero.

  • | PlayStation 4 | May 30th |

    Hey, I finally finished this game! Hotline Miami is... cool, put simply. Its style and soundtrack have been spoken for countless times, and I really do like the puzzle-like approach to every encounter. Clearing a floor feels real good, whether it was because I pulled off a plan or just flailed a bat around until everybody was dead.

    I don't like the story very much. It's a cool set up but it doesn't go anywhere, or at least anywhere remotely interesting. By the end, I really wasn't sure what the point of anything was, especially the useless epilogue. Still... the story isn't really the selling point here. It provided a good context for the violence that followed.

    Speaking of which, I do like the way that this game portrays its violence. The whole "you're a killer... you like hurting people" thing is real hokey, but the way the extreme violence decorates the stages after you're done is... well, it reminds me how much I've become desensitized to violence because I was genuinely taken back by how gruesome everything was. It's not something that happens so often anymore considering how accustom I've grown to cutting heads off and stabbing people in video games.

    It did wear out a little towards the end (that's why I never finished it in the first place) and I don't think that the stuff Hotline Miami does outside of its core gameplay (boss fights namely) is any good, but I like this game a lot. It's flashy, exciting and it's another indie game that makes me wanna start making games again.

  • | PlayStation 4 | June 4th | 11h09m14s play time |


    Resident Evil 7's first half is really, really good. It nails the survival horror feel of the earlier RE games with its perpetual sense of dread, satisfying puzzle solving and survival by the skin of your teeth. The stalking Baker family is effectively terrifying (especially Jack) and their accompanying home is equally as harrowing. Though not quite as masterfully crafted as those first three Resident Evil games, it's just as scary as they were.

    Once the Baker family story is done though, Resident Evil 7 dddddddrrrrrraaaaaaaggggggggssssssss and boy does it lose its footing. It goes from that refined RE survival horror formula to... well, typical horror hallway crawls and a plethora of boring horror cliches.

    Resident Evil has always been rooted in its B-movie style, and it has never been exempt from those cliches but it at least had more going for it. The atmosphere was always consistently dreadful and there was always enough variety, risk and cool story stuff for things to stay fresh. RE7's slow narrative build is great and distressing but it all builds up to nothing. The ending disregards any of the perceived consequence that the last third of its story is built upon and it's... fuckin' lame, man. They literally could not have written a more cliched, safe, frustrating ending. Ugh.

    I can understand where they were going with how Resident Evil 7 was broken up. The first half feels like it exists to satisfy old school RE fans and the second half is like it's trying to go for something new... but I didn't think that it worked, especially since it just decided to go for something decisively predictable with its ending.

    There's really, really good stuff going on in Resident Evil 7. Its dedication to the nasty body horror is exhilarating, and the Baker story is a bummer in the best way- though I wish they were fleshed out in the main game instead of pricy DLC. The first half proves that with smart refinement, the survival horror feel can still be as effective as it was back on the original PlayStation. I adored the first half of Resident Evil 7, and again, I can appreciate what they tried to do but I wish it worked out better.

    I'm just... really, really salty over that ending. Christ.

  • | PlayStation 4 |

    will update!

  • | PC | July 10th | Definitive Edition |

    Congrats, Sleeping Dogs on being the first game I've ever finished on my new computer! I still like this game a whole lot nearly five years later. Its depiction of Hong Kong is the last open world city that I can remember legitimately enjoying in terms of just goofing around and exploring. Not only is it really, really pretty but it's a landscape that doesn't focus on being overly massive. It's small, dense and packed in with cool details and a real personality.

    The story stuff is okay, too. It doesn't do anything new-- in fact all of its mechanics just seem to be adapted from other games (like the classic Wheelman) but at the least, it does them real well and everything strings together nicely in a way that feels like.. y'know, a True Crime game.

    After revising True Crime: Streets of LA earlier this year, it has been nice to play Sleeping Dogs again and see those same ideas modernized and put together in a much more fluid structure... though more so, it just makes me wish the "middle tier" sorta game was still a thing. Lately, I've found myself more into games off the beaten path in its absence-- games that do cool things but don't nail everything or even most things.

    I don't know. I love slick, well-crafted, big budget games but I like the weirder stuff, too. Sleeping Dogs certainly isn't a busted game, but it kinda represents the cosy middle ground between a tiny indie title and Grand Theft Auto. This is probably one of the last games that I remember having that cosy feeling with and... I don't know. I guess that's why I like this game as much as I do.

  • | PlayStation 3 (via PSone Classics) | July 15th | Bad Ending |

    Out of all the old games I've played in the past few years, Silent Hill is one that has aged a lot worse. The combat, movement and controls are all pretty much a nightmare nearly 20 years later, but on the other hand its terrible frame rate and blocky, pixely, pologony visuals are unbelievably charming and cool. Plus, those harsh visuals compliment the game's grotesque, horrific, mind-bending aesthetics surprisingly well. I never played Silent Hill back when it was new, so I'm wondering if this is purely a result of its age.

    Regardless, I liked Silent Hill a whole bunch. Crummy voice acting side, there's a fantastic mystery to the city and its eerie events-- most of which isn't ever explored to its benefit. It's a nice contrast from the likes of Resident Evil where there's a ton of exposition and backstory through files and in-world storytelling. Here, you're constantly in the dark about everything that's happening (both literally and figuratively) and it's... it makes for one of the most genuinely unsettling video games that I've ever played. The stellar atmosphere, music and audio nail their spots and all, but it was the little moments like inexplicably being teleported to different floors when I was exiting a washroom, or having completely different rooms link together in its endgame that were the eeriest moments to me.

    I got the bad ending because I missed the weird antidote in the hospital somehow, and completely blew past Annie's Bar because I didn't think they'd let you inside. Still, the terrible, abrupt (and aptly named) bad ending aside, this is a very, very cool horror game and I adore the ways it builds fear, creates atmosphere and unapologetically screws with your head. Though, considering how tough it was to play... I think I'll just watch the other endings on YouTube and do some reading.

  • | PC | (very early) August 2nd |

    I liked Tacoma a whole bunch. Much like Gone Home, I appreciated this game's storytelling in that it's the sort-of experience you can only get out of interactive media rather than emulating a cinematic feel. While not entirely separated from Gone Home's structure, the AR stuff in this game is very, very cool and it's a welcome change to the usual "ship logs" style of exposition.

    The story was nice, relatively speaking. I liked the characters (especially Sareh) and the voice acting is stellar-- some of the best I've heard in a video game, I think. It doesn't ramp up to something as climatic as Gone Home's tear-jerker ending, but I was satisfied with how everything wrapped up... which isn't something I've said for most video game endings.

    Again, this is the sorta well-made narrative that makes me wanna create again. Minus whatever it is that continues to bog me down, I hope there will be more cool games like this to keep that feeling alive.

  • | PlayStation 2 | August 15th | "Leave" ending |

    I started playing Silent Hill 2 in the middle of kicking a nearly two-year abusive relationship. It... made me feel things that games rarely, if ever make me feel. The themes of depression, abuse, manipulation and isolation resonated with me in a deeply personal way.

    I'm not comfortable saying whether Silent Hill 2 is the first, or among the first games to convey these sorts of issues since I don't know that for sure, but I'm astonished at the way that this game treats them. There's a serious weight to these characters and how they all suffer. I feel this way especially about Angela, who feels like one of the first characters that I can relate to on an emotional level. It nearly brought me to tears.

    I finished it moments ago, so right now I'm taken back by Silent Hill 2. Needless to say, it's masterfully executed horror but in a way that affected me in a truly psychological way. I love it. I absolutely love it. I want to see what the other endings are like for myself.

  • | PC | (early) August 18th |

    Saints Row: The Third is cathartic, liberating and very, very fun.

    Surprisingly, I think this game has aged very well, especially considering how poorly Saints Row 2 aged even a few years later. This is still a well-written, genuinely funny game with exactly the sort of confidence and self-awareness that a game of this sort of absurdity needs. A few of the gags did not age very well; the entire Zimos character was side-splitting in 2011 but it was just kinda lame now. Otherwise, I think this game benefited in the long run from being sharply written.

    The early game structure is a serious drag though. The activities in this game aren't that great and the slow, lifeless pace at which the game introduces them to you via missions is ssssooooo boring. It was such a buzzkill after the killer intro. Once the game gets into the swing of things, it's so much fun and I ended up burning through most of it in one night because the loop of doing missions, changing your outfit, causing some chaos, repeat was endlessly satisfying.

    This game was a nice, silly cool down from the emotional weight that Silent Hill 2 left on me. It felt relieving to just dress up in ridiculous outfits and let loose in what is a pretty deviant video game. A few stray thoughts:

    - I wish Sasha Grey would do more VO because she has a cool voice

    - I love that the credits has pictures of the development team. I always sit through credits, but this time around it sunk in just how many people work on video games. It's nice when credits are more than just "list of names on a black background"

    I remember SRIV being fun, but more or less a fancy expansion pack for SR:TT. Let's see?

  • | PC | August 24th |

    To me, Max Payne feels like a masterclass in setting tone. I adore the way that this game creates, and in turn remains dedicated to its poetic, violent, crime noir story. That's not to say that it gets a little corny and a little much here and there, but I think that's part of it. Max Payne is a classic, thoroughly enjoyable revenge tale-- and a very fun shooter to boot as well.

    I had so much more fun this time around than I did the last time I played Max Payne, and I owe it up to the fact that I played it on the computer this time around. From its design, to its graphic content, to the basic fundamentals of its shooting mechanics, Max Payne from head to toe feels among best of early 2000s shooters. Right at home with a mouse and keyboard as well.

    I remember liking Max Payne 2's shooty stuff way more than I did the original, but I also played Max Payne 2 on the PC. I am very excited to not just play MP2 again, but also to see how this one compared now that I've played them both on a computer.

  • | PC | (early) August 26th |

    Max Payne 2 is everything I want in a sequel. It's bigger, more ambitious, more confident, smart enough to know what made the original so great and doubling down on those same things. It is even better than I remember it.

    The gun play is tremendously fun, thanks to the physics that make fire fights feel more dynamic. Props and enemies alike fly all over the place, and the stellar bullet time and shoot dodge mechanics make every encounter- more so than the first game, feel like living out a John Woo action sequence. The environments are much more varied and the added weapons (especially akimbo desert eagles) are just as fun to use as the old ones.

    Though part of me felt like the game should have been longer because it's so much fun, I think the story's length is in a sweet spot. For whatever reason, amidst the plethora of poetic metaphors and woozy dream sequences, I lost sight of the plot's few threads. I wasn't quite sure who the bad guys were, and/or why. Max was hell-bent on cracking the "case" but I'm quite sure what that case even was, and it didn't help that said case was knee-deep in the whole Alfred Woden / Inner Circle plot line. One that I didn't especially love the first time around, and even less so now.

    Still, though I found the game's central plot lacking, I found much to like in the complex romance between Max and Mona. Though I didn't find Mona to be the most compelling character, I found something relatable in Max's gradually illogical love-drunk rampage. That, and its accompanying descent into depression and destructive self-hatred. I have grown up a lot since I first played Max Payne 2, and at the least I feel that I can better appreciate Remedy's approach to romance and by extension, the steps they take to make Max a messier, flawed character.

    With that said, I can see how Max's downfall in 3 came to. I'm really excited to finally revisit that game and compare Rockstar's radically different take on the series, especially five years removed from its initial release.

    (I also just really want to hear that soundtrack again.)

  • | PC | August 31st |

    Max Payne 3 is, um... interesting.

    There's no doubt that it's the odd one out. This is a Rockstar game from top to bottom. It's stylish, ultra violent and immensely detailed in ways completely different from the print that Remedy left. The cutscenes and transitions are slick and seamless, plus the shooting has a great, cinematic feel thanks to some stellar physics, destructible environments and top-notch weapon feel. Not to mention, HEALTH's work on this game's soundtrack is among my absolute favorite in video games.

    However, there was always something off about Max Payne 3 from the day it came out. I remember it being a slog, monotonous in its early bits but the later chapters (plus the great gunplay) had enough good stuff to redeem it. By the end, I remember really liking Max Payne 3.

    I don't feel that same way anymore, and I think it's because I have finally pinpointed why exactly Max Payne 3 felt off. That's not to say that I didn't have complaints when MP3 came out, but I was also too insecure to criticize it off a feeling that had been so vague.

    Max Payne 3 is... a very disconnected game. At many points, it feels less like a fully formed game and more like an occasionally interactive story. Constantly, control is taken away from the player just to watch fuzzy, shaky shots of Max sneaking around, or walking down some stairs as the awful, awful, AWFUL self-reflective dialogue drones on time after time. While transitions from the end of an encounter to these cutscenes look real nice, they're all things that... y'know, you usually do in a video game. Instead of exploring an area, or moving from one scene to the other, all that control is robbed from you in favor of watching Max do it instead.

    It's... a really puzzling decision to me because it makes all the highly detailed, carefully crafted levels feel like shooting galleries. I am not traversing them, but rather going on a tour and occasionally shooting dudes. It's, frankly, a really annoying thing to have a quarter of the game made up of pointless cutscenes of Max just, you know, doing stuff that I'd rather be doing. It's disorienting in a way that does a serious disservice to the narrative.

    Speaking of which, the game's story also feels terribly deattached from the gameplay. Gunning through encounters of dudes can only be fun for so long, but the fact that the driving force behind every encounter is "I have to keep going" is unbearably boring. It might be a lot to ask from a third person, cover based shooter from 2012 but you do literally nothing but shoot guys. Alongside the disconnect from the environments, the fact that you aren't doing anything personally to advance the story makes Max Payne 3's narrative feel ultimately pointless. Though it claims to steer the game forwards, the way it's all put together alongside how you play it makes it hard to care about anything-- and by extension, it makes the gunplay feel pointless. Why am I shooting all these men? Why do I care?

    I don't know if any of that makes any sense, but Max Payne 3 is such a truly mind-boggling game. It has no idea if it wants to be a game or a movie, and it suffers trying to walk the middle road. The highs are extremely high; it's the best feeling third-person shooter I've ever played, and the writing apart from Max's extremely bad internal dialogue is nice. I also appreciate that this game took those risks, but it's very different in a way that doesn't bring positives.

    At the least, I can understand why people had such strong feelings about this game because I think I feel the same way now.

  • | PlayStation 4 | September 5th | 18h01m playtime |

    I like Yakuza Kiwami... or rather, I like the Yakuza 1 parts of Yakuza Kiwami. When they stick to the main plot lines, Yakuza 1's story is still pretty nice although tiny in comparison to how ridiculous and complex the later games get. Relatively small beginnings, but it was nice to revisit the Nishkiyama story after playing 0, and getting to meet Haruka again. The added cutscenes for Nishki were nice and all, but after how 0 developed characters like Nishki and Reina, it's disappointing to revisit and see just how little screen time they get. Plus, Jingu is still a really lame villain all these years later.

    It's a budget title, so its carbon copy of Yakuza 0's mechanics slid by-- though it was considerably less fun without much of the flair that game had. Plus, while it has its moments, the Majima Everywhere system is not very good. It's an oversaturation of that character, and it undermines the great original fights that you have with him in the story. They lean too heavily on Majima's ~~~crazy~~~ side, letting slip his threatening and more serious sides to just... make Majima uninteresting. Plus, a lot of the humor tries real hard to be wacky and ends up being just... lame.

    There are other nitpicks like how bad the boss battles suck and how pointless the Dragon of Dojima style is, but otherwise it was nice to revisit Yakuza 1 in a more modernized package.

    A few stray thoughts:

    - I still love Haruka so, so so much. I'm starting to think she's just one of my game characters- period.

    - Nishkiyama's voice actor, as he was in 0, is terrific in this game. I just wish he had more time to shine.

    I cross my fingers that Yakuza Kiwami 2 (my favorite Yakuza game after 0) comes West and is handled with a little more love than this.

  • | PC | September 29th |

    Though I adored the original Half-Life for years and years, I'm not sure if I have actually ever "finished" this game. I remember getting to the annoying end boss and giving up pretty easily. I also remember just using cheats to go blow him up, though my memory on that is too fuzzy to be sure.

    Whether that was the case or not, I did the same thing this time around. My Half-Life play through was all about forward momentum; I had already seen and played everything years ago, so I binded noclip and god mode to keys so I could just hit them whenever I got lost, or got stuck in some crazy fight with no health. It was really nice, too because Half-Life, like all shooters of the era, moves at light speed so there was a lovely breakneck pace at which everything was unfolding. It was such, _such_ a nice thing after the slog that was Max Payne 3.

    There's a lot less story in this game than I remember. Gordon Freeman is barely a character, if at all. Plus, Everything is just "aliens are here, go kill the aliens" which isn't so bad considering how good the game is at creating creepy and derelict environments. The adventure itself is fine enough thanks to that and a total lack of cutscenes; something that to this day remains one of my favorite methods of storytelling in video games. Half-Life is among my favorites in terms of sound design as well, though I imagine a lot of that comes from playing so much Counter-Strike 1.6 as a kid.

    I liked this game way, way more than I did Half-Life 2, but I also feel that I look at games and appreciate them in different ways than I did ten years ago. I would like to see how HL2 has aged-- and if I'll actually like it a lot more this time.

  • | PlayStation Vita | October 4th | Gessen Girls' Story |

    I have been very slowly, but surely making my way through Shinovi Versus over the past few years. I may or may not have teared up in the bus during the Gessen ending.

    I've probably repeated this several times over when talking about the SK games, but the reason why the boobage works so well in these games is because there is a refreshing sincerity with which the game approaches fan service. There is some really lovely, if brief initial characterization to everybody and it makes all the clothes ripping, lingerie and bounce physics feel "earned" for lack of a better word. It doesn't feel as cheap or weird as it does in like, Dead or Alive.

    Plus, I really, genuinely do love the stories these games tell. All the characters fall into their sort of archetypes, but I love that they develop out of those molds enough to become very likable. I hated Minori at first, but by the end of the story, I understood her purpose, both as a character to serve the narrative and as a person within the story. I ended up loving her a whole lot because of the mirrors I saw of her in myself. I felt the same way with Hibari back when I first started playing these games.

    In terms of the arc the Gessen girls go through, it's more or less the same as the Hejibo girls from Senran Kagura Burst, but it's still one that I love all the same especially because of how Homura's squad ties into the whole thing. Familiar, but enough to still get me pretty emotional.

    Though I have been very, very slow to play through this game and I kinda want to be over with it, I am still really enjoying it at the pace I'm going at. There's one more school story left to do, and I kinda hope that beating all three will unlock a story with Homura's Crimson Squad... as if I don't have four other Senran Kagura games left to play.

  • | PC | October 7th |

    Half-Life 2 is basically a 10-12 hour tech demo, but it's one that I really, really like a lot.

    To my surprise, HL2 holds up really well; it's so much more impressive, immersive, unique and fun than I remember it being when I first played it. I figure that's both because I played it on the crummy PS3 port the first time around, and because I've learned a lot about video games since then. Details like how naturally the game conveys the function of weapons, enemies and physics through in-world demonstration and language is seriously impressive to me even if Half-Life 2 isnt't terribly complex. Plus the intricacies of combat and the Gravity Gun's many unique uses just make so much more sense with a mouse, keyboard and quick save. There's plenty of room to experiment and the precision to pull off really cool stuff without the worry of awful load times, or the slower control of an analog stick.

    Just like with the original Half-Life, the total lack of cutscenes is, still, much needed and real refreshing. Though I do like the sharper focus on story and world-building this time around. Though I like HL1 a lot, I also barely can remember most of it after finishing it a few days ago let alone over the course of the past ten years. Now that there are actual named characters, more distinctive environments and more meaningful objectives with said characters involved, Half-Life 2's narrative feels at the very least something worth caring about-- even if still not terribly much.

    Gosh, I'm like... taken back at how much more I liked Half-Life 2 this time around. Like... I love it. A lot. I didn't really understand why people were so koo-koo over this game for so long, but now I... kinda get it. This is a unique first-person shooter even what, thirteen years later and I'm genuinely impressed at how well it holds up now.

    ...ending still kinda sucks, though.

  • | PC | October 8th |

    Half-Life 2: Episode One (or Hangin' with Alyx) is short and sweet. Thank goodness they made Alyx's AI both invulnerable and totally competent in combat because it's half of what made this little episode so much fun. Though she wasn't terribly expanded in terms of characterization, it's still nice to hang out with Alyx. It makes the whole traversal thing feel way less lonesome, especially since it creates a slightly different dynamic to usual Half-Life.

    One thing that I didn't expect is that this game has some really pretty environments. The raining asphalt is a nice touch, but there's super nice uses of lighting and some cool scale to boot. I took a bunch of screenshots just because everything looks so cool in the right framing.

    I... uh, don't have much to say apart from that. It's more Half-Life 2 and it's real fun!

  • | PC | October 15th |

    BOY, this game sure ends.

    A (good) downer of an ending aside, HL2 Episode Two is, surprise, way better than I remember it being. The Strider battle is something I really didn't like on 360, but here it was probably the coolest part of the game. Fun, if not a little too easy.

    Though Episode One felt a lot like a bonus episode, this one was on par with the original HL2 considering it's back on track with story stuff and huge maps. The story in this game gets real juicy, though there's a lot of setup for very cool things that we will probably never see.

    I... don't really have anything to say about this that I haven't already said about the other games. It's really good and I like it a lot.

    Though I'm still at peace with the fact that Episode Three will never happen, playing through these games again actually just made me wish that Valve made more story-focused games in general instead of shooty men 4 and billion dollar hat simulator... but money's money, right?

  • | PlayStation 4 | October 31st |

    At the time of this writing, Wolfenstein II has been out for a few days and while I am very, very excited to play it, I decided to buy Super Mario Odyssey instead. In the meanwhile while I save up for Wolf II, I wanted to play through The Old Blood considering I missed every time it was on sale.

    This game was 24.99 which even at its regular price feels like a steal. There is a lot of cool, high-quality stuff going on in this campaign, even if it's brief and relatively light on the story stuff. I still really, really like the direction MachineGames has taken with BJ and the writing across the board from the humor, to Brian Bloom's sweet gravely, brooding monologues is still way better than Wolfenstein has ever been.

    One thing in particular that I love is that this game feels like a nice homage to Return to Castle Wolfenstein from its dark, moody, cobweb decorated castle hallways to the creepy crypts, to the high-tech labs with super soldiers. It certainly isn't 1:1 to its benefit, but there are some nice overlapping themes with the supernatural and the whole escape from Castle Wolfenstein sorta thing. As someone who deeply adores RTCW and Wolf ET, it was like a little nostalgia trip. I liked it a lot.

    The problem now is... I really wanna play Wolfenstein II. Real bad.

  • | Xbox One (via Original Xbox BC) | November 4th |

    Ninja Gaiden Sigma is one of my all time favorite games, though I understand that die-hard NG fans prefer Black because of its balancing and what I assume is Itagaki's supervision. Even though it's not my preferred version, NG Black is still very, very good.

    Granted, its crummier parts really, really have not aged all that well; notably the camera, platforming, lack of checkpoints and Rachel. Everything else though is, at this point, probably proven to be timeless. The soundtrack is killer, the visuals and art style are still gorgeous (especially given that this was all on an original Xbox) and the combat is masterful. I still love this game's approach of an emphasis on elaborate animations, efficient blocking + dodging and pure reflex. It makes every battle; even those with bosses feel equal and especially challenging since your enemy can kill just as swiftly as you can.

    I also just... love the hub city of Tairon. I love its blend of architectural styles, its history and how it slowly expands into something huge as more areas are explored. Ayane's kunai tips are unquestionably the coolest way to give hints and guidance in this specific tutorial style. It even comes down to the little details like music reprises and the way the world changes over the course of the game. It's a detailed and exceptionally well-crafted video game that still impresses me to this day.

    There are a lot of times when I long for this era of Team Ninja, given how they were on the top of the world on the Xbox with this and DOA Ultimate. There's a craft and love here that isn't in modern Team Ninja games, and I can only imagine that's because of Itagaki's supervision over this era of TN games.

    I certainly don't idolize Itagaki; I really don't like his public persona and even without that, he seems like kind of an asshole in real life. Devil's Third was also proof that he, alone was not responsible for the success of these games. Still, there's a feeling in these games that makes me nostalgic for a console that I never owned; for an era of online gaming that I never participated in. There's a fascination for me with the Xbox, with the context that these games were developed in during the early days of online console gaming and in an era where fighting games were dead. Especially so, a Japanese developer creating such high-profile Xbox exclusive games.

    I like current day Team Ninja; Dead or Alive 5 sans the heavy emphasis on DLC is the best playing game yet in the series and though I haven't played it, I hear very nice things about Ni-oh. I have no doubts in my mind that Team Ninja has still got it, but there's a certain magic that I cannot yet put my finger on that games like Ninja Gaiden Black possess.

  • | PlayStation 4 | November 6th |

    Wolfenstein II is euphoric. Its violence is absurd, graphic, delightfully over the top. Its cast of characters are colorful, delightful, wonderfully written and performed. Its boldness is admirable, ridiculous and refreshing, if not always fully realized. Often times, I was amazed that this game existed. I'm grateful that it does.

    It's not perfect by any means; much like The New Order, it suffers from a very abrupt ending that needed more build up and the latter half of the game doesn't quite live up to its fantastic mid-game, jaw-dropping moment. Still, just about everything else in Wolfenstein II is irresistibly lovable.

    I've said it time and time again, but the Wolfenstein series is very dear to my heart. Though I love the straight forward shooty action of Wolf 3D and RTCW and sometimes dearly miss its excellent multiplayer, I really like the narrative focus that MachineGames took with the series. BJ is an actual character, with some great characterization and excellent performance from my favorite Brian Bloom, with his somber, gravely internal monologues. Every main character bursts with life in genuinely funny, well-directed cutscenes that often times leaned on movie quality.

    The campaign is also just consistently entertaining, with little surprises at every turn alongside some very, very big ones. Fran Engel was a superbly entertaining villain in The New Order, and she has some really good moments that capitalize on the potential her character possessed. This was probably the most entertained with a linear, single player FPS campaign since Modern Warfare 2.

    I have... feelings about its depiction of America and what exactly it is to be a 'true American' as somebody who is definitely a non-American. It was often times harrowing because of how closely it sometimes mirrored what I saw about the increasing white supremacy in the US, but also concerning in how the Native American identity is more or less nonexistent. I appreciate the game's diverse cast as least; it feels very natural, not shoehorned like diverse casts tend to be from time to time... *cough* Overwatch *ahem*

    I do like this game a whole bunch, though. The shooty part is very fun and all, but I admire a politically-centered narrative that is willing to actually take a side among frustratingly centrist stories... and it's weird, because around the time I was playing The New Order, I was questioning whether it was okay for a game to be about murdering nazis left and right. I thought that by giving tons of exposition about the nazis in letters, notes and idle dialogue, there was an attempt to depict them as sympathetic.

    What I realized this time around was that nazis are not sympathetic through their humanization. These are very much evil, evil people with bad intentions for people just like me-- but they are still people. They are bad, but they aren't dehumanized. I thought that was very fascinating.

  • | PC | November 11th |

    There is a lot going on in Detention, and most of it isn't totally explicit. It's... daunting, and what it says is often times harrowing. Though, there are few moments of light that shine through as tremendously beautiful. What I took away from it was a little bit sobering, though not in a way that makes me happy. That's not to say that I didn't like Detention; very much the contrary but this isn't a happy story. I don't know if there are multiple endings or what, but I did not have a happy ending.

    It's hard to talk about this game without getting into story details, but I loved the historical context, the setting, its real-world references and style of horror. This is, relative to the norm in horror games, a pretty unique perspective and though the style of gameplay itself wasn't all that great, everything I got to see was refreshing.

    Most of all, playing Detention makes me want to do a lot of reading. A lot of learning.

  • | PlayStation 4 | November 20th |

    For some godforsaken reason, I was feeling a little nostalgic about my time with Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad and kinda wanted to play a garbage video game like that. For better or for worse, I had no idea that game was being localized and was coming out in a few days... so naturally, on a whim I ordered a physical copy with all I knew about the game being a Japanese trailer I had seen last year.

    And... well, it's a garbage video game all right. SG/ZH might be the worst running video game I have seen on the PS4. The frame-rate is constantly sub-30 and is a nightmare in crowded situations. The loading times are also awful, especially since the game just kicks you back to the mission select when you die for some stupid reason. It also looks like super duper junk and the cutscene direction is... unbelievable.

    The combat is miraculously more shallow than the Onechanbara games, with crappy mobility options against skin-peelingly annoying enemies- which combined with the awful frame rate, sucks huge ass. There's also a level-up system that has no apparent effect, value or sense of progression whatsoever...?

    But, look... I love this garbage-ass video game. It is not quite exactly Onechanbara, but it's just the sort of budget, poorly designed, exploitative, shallow video game that I have been craving for the past little while.

    For the first while, I wasn't really sure if the game was really campy or really crappy, but at some point I found the archetypical, predictable characters and their cookie-cutter character development to be super endearing. Whether that's because of legitimately hitting the right notes or because I spend just enough time with this game to convince myself that what I was dealing with is maybe kinda good, is something I have yet to figure out. It's weird, but this is probably the only zombie thing that has actually ever made me want to be in some sort of zombie apocalypse scenario. I don't know what that means.

    The gunplay is exceptionally shallow and hardly ever satisfying, sure but I... still kinda like it? It's just easy and totally mindless enough to get lost in, and the new weapons keep coming and coming even if I could barely tell the differences between them. It never even touches the sort-of vague stylishness that Onechanbara hit with Z2, though. I always do love dress-up, but I wish there were more clothing and hair options that weren't "school-themed attire" or "hair color swap."

    There was never a point where I hated SG/ZH. Even in its most poorly designed encounters, there are always ways to exploit the crummy systems in play to get by. I also grew to really like the bread-and-butter dynamic between the characters and its story arc. It's done pretty well for what it is, and it ends better than most video games could ever dream of.

    It's also never super fan-servicey. The underwear stuff is played up as ridiculous and silly more than it is sexual and alluring. Though the whole "school girls battle zombies that are attracted to their clothes" is inherently exploitative, it is so in a way that throws back to like, 80s horror movies more than it does play to weird schoolgirl fetishism. I felt good about it.

    Though it wasn't quite the Onechanbara kick I was hoping for, with more dense mechanics and a more overtly stylish direction, I ended up liking School Girl/Zombie Hunter a whole lot. It's shallow garbage, but it's exactly the sort of endearing trash that I needed right now. I am really glad that Tamsoft is keeping the porch light on for shameless, low-budget, garbage-tier video games and I'll always continue to support it as long as it keeps on being lovable...

    ...I kinda wanna play this game on hard mode.