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Games I completed in 2021

Couldn't quite get to 50 in 2020 for various boring reasons but I'll make more of a go of it this year.

List items

  • PC - 4/5

    Looks simple but is actually a really nicely tuned driving game with a nice mellow soundtrack. Initially challenging as it's hard to monitor your speed and the undunlation of the track but once you get into it, nailing a drift is so satisfying and you genuinely feel a connection with how fast you're driving. Going through a stage smoothly is an excellent feeling.

    So close to a 5 this one, just felt a bit baggy towards the end of the campaign with the 20-stage seasons. If possible I'd have had the same number of races but maybe one more short 'super-season' at the end; the Group A cars were just about doable for me in terms of speed but going past the limit one last time would have been a great way to polish things off - like the Lakeland stage/Stratos in Sega Rally.

  • PC - 4/5

    Initially weird and confusing as someone who doesn't know my Osea from my Erusea, once it gets into its stride it's really compelling. By the time I got into an F-35 the flying felt great and I was just shooting down stuff left and right, and the ridiculous action move finale really brought things to a close nicely.

  • PS4 - 5/5

    Now this was a journey. There's 2-3 games worth of stuff in here; I don't just mean in the sense that it's long (123 hours for the true ending) but it genuinely shakes things up more than once in terms of both setting and how you actually play it. It remains a grid-style dungeon RPG throughout but it swaps between being a 'normal' one where you map everything out meticulously and fight a boss to one where you have to react to the landscape and watch out for landscape features and enemies alike. The final stretch in the postgame is a marathon crossed with a sprint that could have been sold on its own, I've not played a DRPG like that before. I can't really go into much more detail as it'd spoil things and there are some things where seeing them yourself is a lot of fun.

    Story ended up delivering as well; it has some of the nasty tone changes as seen in previous Izumi games (though it's not as bad as some previous efforts) but a bit more editing to rein some of the stuff in would be nice next time around. Or maybe a therapy session for the guy, I think he's got a couple of Akira Tsuchiya-style unresolved issues.

    Anyway, great dungeon crawler, highly recommended for anyone familiar with the genre. Not one for first timers though - although system wise it's actually very accommodation, not only is the difficulty level a bit uneven, but the whole thing's a bit sprawling in terms of maps and systems for someone not familiar with the genre. Hope to see another one, with a bit less than a 4 year wait this time around.

  • PS4 - 2/5

    Story's fun once it gets going, some good setpieces and technically really great for 2016, apart from some really old-looking TAA. I also liked the ending. But man, what a pain to play. The controls are dreadful; it's apparent that actually interacting with the game rather than watching it flip between 500 painstakingly performance captured animations is definitely secondary. Once you turn on the option to lock on to enemies rather than aiming manually (which seems to have taken its cues on responsiveness from Perfect Dark Zero) it's playable but it really struggles with anything more complex than holding forward on the stick and pressing X when a hand hold or a gap appears. The driving was just abominable.

    I also can't remember the last time a game was so fucking pleased with itself either. It's constantly talking about how gorgeous all the views are and how amazing all the action bits were and once I noticed I couldn't see it as anything apart from a direct order to the player to be impressed. Docked another mark for that.

  • Magic Potion Millionaire - PC - 3/5

    Decent little platform dungeon crawler. The pacing isn't quite there, though: it takes too long for the stat inflation to really start for the player compared to the enemies, and there are probably a few too many floors on each dungeon. The enemies which can't be hit with bullets are really aggravating too. Excellent soundtrack, and the music player is nicely designed as it lets you flip between the original track and the loop they cut from it.

  • PC - 3/5

    This was a 4 until the last two levels, where the game stripping Sam of all weapons AGAIN, a slog of an indoor mission and a dreadful last boss just sucked the life out of it. It's a bit of a shame as for a while in the middle of the game it did feel much more like a Serious Sam game, with the weird humour, some surprisingly varied battles and the occasional fun secret. Special shoutout to the rocket launcher, which is completely awful and yet they give you loads of ammo for it.

    Still worth it, I think - there's a good few hours of fun in there between a slow start and a weak end.

  • PC - 2/5

    Fine, I guess. A fun idea with a story that initially looks interesting but then just kind of falls apart, and then the game stops because that's all the guy had made. The action's good when you get tuned in but there's a slight randomisation on each attempt which just constantly threw me off. Good soundtrack.

  • PS4 - 3/5

    AKA Man Versus Camera. Once it gets going it's a great ride, going across a vast landscape, taking on unique bosses with great style and better climbing than Uncharted. The camera and horse control are really infuriatingly bad, though - you can mitigate it somewhat by holding down L2 the whole time but really.

    Loses a mark for covering the ending cutscene with back office credits. I don't give a flying cack who's responsible for marketing activations or the IT department for the EU localisation team, don't literally cover up what's happening with their names.

  • PC - 3/5

    Charming, really nicely presented. The premise/gimmick of the game is that you're reading a storybook and the whole thing is presented as such. I particularly like the single narrator reading all the spoken lines like it's Jackanory.

    The bit where you actually play it feels quite messy though - the main issue is the way it handles actually moving Quill the mouse. It's tied to the direction you're holding your head; this seems sensible at first but I found it difficult to judge where I was moving from a standing start, and if your head drifts tracking the action then your movement drifts with it. Also it just kind of stops halfway through the story and it doesn't look like there's going to be a sequel, which is a shame.

  • PC - 2/5

    Very old school VR - not a surprise as it's of the same vintage as stuff like Job Simulator. Some fun interactions but mostly trial and error, often against the clock, and the lack of other stuff to do means that it just feels really limited. Short, too, even with the extra levels. Controls with the Index controllers were also super wonky, never fun to have stuff stick in your hand while you drum your fingers against the controller to try and make it realise you've opened your hand.

  • PS4 - 3/5

    Not there yet. The story's possibly the weakest in the series, it's literally missing more than half the classes from before (from 47 to just 22) and the game balance really needs some tuning.

    I'm not that down on the game though. I'm interested in seeing how the season pass goes, and I like the idea behind the new system: tuning the AI is very fun and involved! They need to have a few more roadblocks and manage the system as you go through the game as it gets too trivial towards the end. I also think the graphics work well - on PS5, you can have it running well over 4K and the models appear to be mostly untextured, with a reasonably high polygon count and toon shader. All the 2D assets in 1080 look really poor, including all the artwork. On the other hand, it does mean that the entire thing comes in at well under 3 gigabytes, even with fully voiced story cutscenes (though no animated intro).

    One worry though - I've had 4 crashes in the last day alone on my PS5. This is the least stable game I've played on the machine, and disappointing after a rock solid 120-plus hours on Galleria.

  • GBA - 4/5

    Nice solid Igavania for a day where I wasn't sure what to do. It's definitely a bit too far on the easy side but the action's smooth and fun, there's plenty of overpowered magic attacks and the double map is a fun idea that admittedly doesn't quite have the impact of the reverse castle in SOTN. I spent most of the game with Gradius shields, it kind of trivialised everything but in that fun Igavania way - see also Bloodstained.

    Its main weakness is an issue with the GBA I think, in that it just doesn't have enough buttons. You might say that they shouldn't have put dashes on both triggers but to that I say I really liked motoring through all the areas I'd been through, fully shielded. What I really wanted was maybe a kind of loadout system as the menus were just fiddly enough not to make it worth swapping out magic or weapons based on the situation. Oh, and the soundtrack sounded like someone throwing a faulty MSX down some stairs - allegedly a hardware issue that they later acknowledged but I'm pretty sure that the GB sound chip could belt out some good sounding music even if you don't have a GBA helping. Indeed, the significantly better sound quality playing over the credits also confirms that the composition, at least on the main theme, was terrible, and you can't blame the tools for that.

  • Switch - 4/5

    I've been turning this over for a while, been flipping between a 3 and a 4. It's a really good game - lots of variety in characters, some great playable character choices and a fun story, but it's completely let down by the Switch hardware. It gets so choppy and inconsistent that it significantly affects your defensive options as the dodge is so inconsistent. I ended up with a 4 as there'll surely be better hardware at some point, so I'll come back to it when it's a more consistent 30, rather than fluctuating between what feels like 15 and 25.

  • PC - 4/5

    Not only is this a really solid shooter with a great soundtrack, it's got a nice story mode to it which takes a slightly different tack to what you'd expect. Loads of weapons to buy and use, plenty of stages. It's not an all-time classic but you know what - it works at 120hz, it controls really nicely with an analogue stick: they have done everything you want to make this kind of game approachable and smooth to play. Highly recommended if you either like the genre, or like the idea of the genre.

    Too expensive at the full price they wanted on Xbox One but even without discount this is something worth supporting. Also buy Eschatos because not only is it a great old-school shooter but it has an all-time great soundtrack.

  • PC - 5/5

    Base game done on PC with a magic-based character.

    A decent version of an exceptional game. DLSS is what made this end up working for me; on my 3900X/2080 setup it's still a bit too much of an ask to run at 120fps but it's crisp, stable and responsive at 60. Being able to play with friends is a lot of fun and it's designed so that it's still worth it as they do still get relevant loot, albeit without the chance to level up. I'll be coming back to this again and again.

  • PC - 3/5

    Very good but very short and easy. It's only about an hour shorter than Touhou Luna Nights ended up being but I think that was the point where it turned; that game also has a better gimmick with the time stopping and Sakuya feels considerably less overpowered than Deedlit, who can basically keep everything in the game at bay with relative ease and has unlimited healing while one of your sprites is fully powered. A high 3, but it doesn't approach Touhou Luna Nights or the earlier Megami Tensei game they made and released for free.

    To be clear I'm not one of those weirdos who does things like work out how much a game cost per hour, but it just kind of ends while it is still getting going mechanically. You only ever get two sprites, magic while powerful is limited in number of spells (possibly for the best as it's a pain to change while in battle) and I was able to just steamroll every single boss without having to learn it or grind in any way.

  • PC - 3/5

    I can see what the author was going for, and it's very impressive that he managed so much with so little help, but by the end I wasn't enjoying this much.

    The combat's really weak, and only really serves to drip out currency and put you off when you're trying to work out what he wants you to do. Puzzles seem to have only one solution of most of the time and by the end it's just 'make things change colour'. Signposting isn't very good, and the lack of a map is annoying given how samey many of the areas look; this led to times where I solved something and just felt stupid and annoyed. It's very easy to miss important powerups like the one that lets you destroy weaker enemy spawn points. My sense of direction isn't amazing so I genuinely had trouble remembering how to go between places. There's no fast travel system but there are unlockable jump pads which have you soar between areas - an impressive bit of scale as you fly right up into the sky, and can see most of the world in one go, but frustrating to actually use as it's not clear where they lead.

    But it's still a 3 because I really like the idea and for the first few hours it really was very enjoyable. The lack of a map, poor signposting and the fact that puzzles pretty much all seemed to have just the one solution may have dampened things towards the end, but when it was a bit more linear I was having a lot of fun. Looking at what the dev is saying about how he wants the second game to go, it really could go either way - particularly in regards to what he wants from the map. If what he means is 'you have to mark it all up yourself but we still count what you've picked up' then great - all I wanted was to know what I wasn't able to pick up earlier, and preferably have some idea of how much of an area I'd cleared, but if it's like the one ingame now where it's just an unlabelled picture with some lines on it showing transporter routes then that would just be aggravating.

    Oh yeah, there's humour in there too but it really didn't work for me as it's all just 'thing look like thing you know but in game instead'. Catchy end theme though, shame I had no idea what the lyrics were as they were all in German.

  • PC - 3/5

    Firstly, if you have Game Pass then take this as a 4 or even 5 - it's unique, has some fun technology and doesn't take too long to get through. Spend an evening on it, it doesn't waste your time and it's not like anything you've played before. If you don't have Game Pass, then this is the kind of game that justifies it.

    If you're coming from the position of actually buying the game, it's a 3, I think. For all the unique main character and its amazingly simulated movement, it peters out at the end and ultimately you feel too weak in the final encounters. It does pay off, though, and it's still worth a go. Get a month of Game Pass, get this done and play through some other stuff. Seriously, it feels made for it. Just have a go at slithering around the screen and firing out tentacles. Really interesting and fun.

  • Xbox - 3/5

    Not bad. It's a fun conceit to get in and out of the robot, and it doesn't outstay its welcome. Good way to use four hours.

  • Mac - 5/5 (Part 1)

    This took me by surprise, although given how much I liked previous Mistwalker RPGs maybe I shouldn't have been. Don't be fooled by the fact it's on phones, it's a proper JRPG in the late 90s style, replacing the then-common pre-rendered graphics with photos of diramas.

    Graphically it's solid; decent character models, runs nicely at 4k on my M1 Mac. The star of the show is the backgrounds though - each one is a photo of a properly constructed diorama (the list of builders in the credits massively dwarfs the Mistwalker team). I'd often find myself stopping to look at the detail, the way they'd craft ropes out of string, the cute little cups and bottles, detailed little pieces of furniture, the texture of materials. The only real downer is that a lot of the outdoor backgrounds could be a bit higher resolution as they tend to get a little blurry. In terms of video there isn't much, but that's made up for by a surprising number of realtime cutscenes which work nicely against the static backgrounds.

    Audio's good too; the sound effects are only fine but the soundtrack is excellent, and varied. Since this is likely Nobuo Uematsu's last soundtrack he's really pulled out all the stops. It goes all over the place, going from synths to live instruments and back again. Could have done with a victory fanfare though.

    The story isn't going to win any awards with its characterisation and this is perhaps the oldest-feeling part of the game. Dialogue's sparse, occasionally falling into jargon but the characters keep things going and most importantly the plot keeps moving at a good pace, never staying in one place for too long. After years of spending two-plus hours in a single location in modern JRPGs it feels really urgent and lively. The constantly changing team helps too, with eight party members across the run-time so far.

    The battle system is a really good one - at first you'd be fooled into thinking it's a simplified one intended for play on a phone but it has a couple of distinctions which make it a lot of fun. First is the ability for some attacks to be curved, either to hit or avoid the enemies you want to. Getting an extreme curve on a magic spell to hit three enemies behind another enemy which would block the attack is really satisfying and enemy positioning is definitely set up for that. Second is your ability to save up random battles and fight them all at once - you top out at about 8-10 enemies on screen but actually being able to run through an area and then turn around and beat down the 30 enemies that you 'encountered' on the way is really fun, especially given the bonuses you can hit while in that special arena. Difficulty seemed well-balanced too, and I had to restart more than once when I was playing sloppy.

    Overall I really like this one so far. Although it's on Apple Arcade there's no suggestion of an intended phone audience changing anything about it, but nonetheless it plays in a nicely streamlined way. For example, the way you can see the current area map and plot an auto move so your character runs automatically to a point of interest combined with the Dimengion machine gathering encounters means you can play the game how you want without having to be interrupted - but you still have to deal with the enemies. Really looking forward to the second part later this year, which promises a different, less linear play style.

  • Xbox Series X - 4/5

    Story's terrible, it doesn't explain how you're meant to play it and the first five hours or so are just terrible. But once you get through that it's a super satisfying third person Diablo-like. I guess this is what I wanted from Hellgate London all those years ago. Terrific shotgun too. Some technical dodginess going on but playing solo I didn't have too much bother, except one evening when the servers were down for maintenance. The key here is that I wanted to come back to this immediately after finishing the final boss - both to do the challenge missions and even to start again with a new class, maybe even to buy it on PC so I could use one of the precision weapons. Just good fun, and perfect Game Pass fodder.

  • PC - 4/5 (Red's route)

    A really interesting game, albeit a bit scrappy. Fun battle innovations, like the monster characters, a cool hero gimmick and the combo system lets you reall cook the enemies sometimes. The story can be a bit abrupt at times but honestly I found it refreshing. Done in ten hours but seven more stories to go. I'll definitely be tackling more as the year goes on.

  • Xbox Series X - 3/5

    Some solid Game Pass fodder. It stays around about as long as the concept lasts and it's a fun way to spend an evening. Technically a bit shaky and the humour didn't quite work for me at times, but worth a go.

  • PS4 - 2/5 (Frozen Wilds expansion)

    You ever pick a game up after a while and wonder why you liked it in the first place? I worked it out in the end, they clearly didn't have a solution for the shield armour you pick up at the end of the game so they just massively ramped up the damage. Combat becomes frustrating, particularly due to some inconsistent checkpointing.

    Worst of all though, there's very little Lance Reddick in this, who is desperately needed to try and bring some quality to a dreadful script.

  • PC - 3/5

    More good Game Pass fodder. It's a bit one-note but when it's a fun note it doesn't really matter. Cool finale too!

  • PC - 5/5

    The first rogue-type game I've actually completed a full run on. Combat's sharp (though sometimes it can get messy in a fun way) and you get plenty of new 'stuff' which massively reduces the frustration factor when you inevitably cop it. Voice acting's a bit variable but I really liked the amount of stuff people say, and the sound track is absolutely top class.

  • PC - 4/5

    Enjoyed this a lot, even though I'm not really a horror fan. I played through with a guide after missing a secret literally in the first ten minutes and that seemed to be the way to go for me: I could really enjoy the atmosphere of it. Some great references there, too, particularly in the first half of the game.

  • Xbox Series X - 5/5

    Still a terrific game. My opinion on this one hasn't changed since last year, I do think this is my favourite in the series and I can't wait to see what happens next. Playing on Series X was a big improvement too, with the extra smooth framerate and super quick loading, as well as the machine not sounding like it's trying to tear itself apart during play.

  • PC - 2/5

    This is a 'nearly' game in so many areas. It's short but repetitive, I hated the bosses, the guns mostly feel weak and slow, but there are hints of something really nice in there. I reckon if they do a sequel to this they have the potential to do a Surge 2 and make something that's really good.

  • PC - 2/5

    A Diablo-like game from Neocore with some interesting ideas, which sometimes work. I liked the guns, particularly the gravity gun and the bolter, and the cover system's a really good idea that works maybe 70% of the time. Once I got a sword it was all over - just absolute D3 barbarian style carnage. Fun. Story could have been interesting too if it had been better presented (there's a character you meet multiple times through the game but when you see him near the end of the campaign it's as if you've never met? Eh?) and better voiced. One of the characters sounds like Siri and most of the others sound like when an amateur modder gets his mates to do voices for his amazing Half-Life story mission.

    I almost gave this a 3 but it's just too scrappy to recommend. That said, if you want to blast some Chaos at a much lower framerate than you should be getting, take a look. I'll be going back at some point for Prophecy.

  • PS5 - 4/5

    Just good fun. Constantly running through and shooting stuff with crazy guns, enjoying the graphics, Bit buggy - it hard locked my PS5 to the point where it had to recover itself twice. Otherwise pretty smooth and friction free, with some genuinely great graphics. Best looking game I've seen as of mid-2021.

  • PC - 4/5 (Kasane route)

    Much better than I expected. There's a heavy Tales influence which runs through the game, giving you a good 'party' to run through the game. The story's a bit plot-holey and it kind of forgets a lot of stuff when the main thread ramps up, but the interactions between the characters are often good. The combat's not totally amazing but there's plenty of satisfying actions, particularly involving smashing enemies with stuff scattered around the environment. My main issue is some really bad side quests which ended up stalling me for a while before I completely gave up.

  • PC - 3/5

    A high 3, though: this is a surprisingly good first effort for a young programmer, taking the classic flat FPS a la Wolfenstein 3D and expanding on it with new weapons, better enemy variety and magic while keeping the large enemy counts and lots of secrets.

    It's got a few rookie blunders like some poor optimisation (I had to run it in Low detail on an RTX 2080) and some balacing issues but looking at the Steam page for PW2 I can see that these are all known, and in hand. Can't wait.

    Great buy at three pounds or so on the Steam sale. Give it a go if you need to shoot some stuff.

  • PS5 - 1/5

    The absolute worst. A game with a mediocre core and some genuinely bad aspects.

    The mediocre:

    - Limp, featureless handling

    - Blurry yet obnoxious graphics

    - A career which sort of pootles along and 'climaxes' with a jaunt around a damp Norwegian village in a Volkswagen Touareg at speeds of UP TO NINETY MILES AN HOUR!!!!!!!! and then another race after the credits?

    The awful

    - The worst implementation of vibration in any game I've played for a very long time, culminating in a 'big patch' where they made it even worse and forced me to turn it off entirely as it was making my hands literally numb. Hilariously that also pretty much deactivates the active triggers.

    - Obnoxious audio, from the awful podcast shit between races to the actual sound mix which seems to be set to "make the user think his receiver is broken" dynamic range setting, with your engine veeringly wildly from barely audible to max volume. I've got a menu up with music playing, in the 'home cinema' setting and the volume is fluctuating.

    Glad to get the drive space back.

  • PC - 4/5

    Another good game in the series. Gets really crazy towards the end! Shooting feels a bit more limp with more enemies around though, and the PC version's had its issues. Definitely want to know what happens next.

  • PC - 3/5

    Interesting premise and quite fun to play but very much balanced towards speed running. Levels all done in two hours if you're not going for that. Soaring around in slow motion flinging your bouncy ninja star boomerang is very fun, albeit tough on the hands - holding lots of buttons down a lot.

  • PC (Pixel Remaster) - 3/5

    Ultimately this is a fundamentally old game with a lot of the rough edges filed off, making it quite a simple game to play. Coupled with some attractively redrawn sprites and an exceptional rearranged soundtrack, though, this ends up being a fun 12 hour run through some basic RPG systems. Essential? Maybe not, but I definitely got a kick out of things like the Wizardry-style magic system and the often slightly different origins of system staples. They originally called Thundaga Thungar in the Japanese, for example.

  • PS4 - 4/5

    I've been turning this one over in my mind for a little while. In many ways it's my favourite of the action games from the Ryu ga Gotoku team, but everything around the Keihin Alliance and mortal damage is so terrible it drags the rest of it down. I remember the tailing being frustrating in my PS4 run but now it's so easy that it's just a bit boring. The rest is excellent though, with a great story leading to a crazy climax. Sequel next month, and I'm sure they've fixed the biggest issues like they usually do.

  • PC - 2/5

    A depressingly unambitious HD port of what was a terrific game. The soundtrack remains excellent but sticking to a simulation of the PS2 game (I assume) leads to things like the game mostly moving at 30fps but a majority of animations at the 120 refresh of my monitor, which looks really offputting. Having the katamari spray out items and slam around because you get caught trying to climb up the wrong polygon seam of there's something within half a mile of the edge is something else that's been long solved so it shouldn't happen.

    Also, Bandai Namco - if you're going to try and be clever with language selection with Windows 10 apps, then follow the app language I've selected, not the Windows display language. I shouldn't have to log out to avoid your ropey translations. I've not been invited to 'set' a controller in a decade.

  • Vita - 3/5

    I remembered that I had a few levels left on this one to do so I polished it off. It's interesting to see how the series moved forwards both in terms of the game itself and its presentation. It's pretty clear that the game doesn't involve the original people behind it as the tone's noticeably changed for the worse but as a game it's a definite improvement.

    As a package though it doesn't quite hold together. The clarity of ratings is a much needed improvement, as are the improved physics. The jump button I'm ambivalent about; it makes everything much speedier as you don't need to contend with the climbing as much, but it does kinda feel like cheating, just like it did in Crazy Taxi 2. I don't rate the soundtrack anywhere near as much as the original, and there's much less sense of the game building towards the last level; the second-to-last is a target of 12m and then it just sets you on the way to the finale. I'm not convinced by the stretching mechanic either, as while it's very occasionally useful, having to remove your thumbs from the sticks to make it happen is pretty bad and it feels imprecise.

    The tougher time limits and requirements do make it more of a game, you can't just sort of dawdle your way through as you go on. I think the original would have made that frustrating but with the physics improvements it's clearer that it's your fault.

    I'd like to see a properly new one of these, taking advantage of modern systems' memory capacity and resolutions to jack up the numbers of items. That moment when you hit something that's been built out of parts and it just collapses onto the katamari or when you're rolling around on something and then you get big enough to pull it out of the ground is like nothing else. Feels like I'm chasing a high that I got 15-plus years ago.

  • PC - 3/5

    Fine I guess? It just seemed to go by, thinking it was being more clever than it was. The final boss encounter was a fucker but aside from that the whole thing just sort of floated past.

  • PC - 1/5

    Pretentious wank. Dicitonary definition of it. When you drop your amazing twist, maybe check to see if your players burst out laughing.

    Starts out promising enough with a funny if muddled and frankly borderline broken escape room-esque game where you try and put item A into slot B to continue things but when it actually tries to tell a story it completely falls apart. Hollywood talent can't save that, especially when your main stars, both from the UK, are forced behind American accents for some reason.

    Shit like this is why I don't play 'narrative' games for the most part - because this is the kind of garbage I think is waiting for me.

  • PC - 4/5

    The Machinegames episodes. A really great way to get back into Quake. Dimensions of the Past is a straight episode where you start with a simple level and things get more intense but it does a great job of reminding you how to play - the bit where it puts you alone with a Shambler at close range in particular is a great bit of 'show don't tell' and it'll have you Shambler dancing in no time.

    Dimension of the Machine is a very impressive episode which is to Quake what something like Hexen was to Doom. Very advanced mapping, huge areas (only one of the maps had less than 100 enemies in Normal difficulty) and a super cool hub and spoke system.

  • PC - 3/5

    It's alright. Not as good as I'd hoped. Some balance issues, area weirdness (extremely annoying to have miniboss enemies reset and heal while still in their spawn room) and it's still a bit stuttery and janky overall. Itemisation was extremely disappointing too.

    What I was after was a more solid version of something like Warhammer Martyr; the idea of a top down loot game where you can take cover and mostly use guns is appealing but nobody's quite nailed it yet. This one's promising though - if they do a new one then I'll definitely keep an eye out as they're most of the way there.

  • PC - 5/5

    A real treat. Amazing style, great audio and a fun story to run through. It's what the first game promised but with less of the irritations that ended up stopping me getting through. Don't get me wrong, the platforming's a little blunky at times and the combat isn't very good but the game is too busy throwing imaginative new areas and ideas at you for it to matter. At times visually it's something which could only ever work in a video game. On Game Pass it's a must play.

  • PS5 - 3/5

    Fine. Web swinging's good, stealth is strong, it's a good demo of the PS5's abilities and Miles is a likeable character but I really hated the combat. You feel so weak!

  • PC - 3/5

    It's a Tales game, so expect the usual pluses and minuses. The move to the Unreal Engine is at fault for some, the usual 'oh shit we ran out of time and money' combined with corona is at fault for others.

    The characters are mostly good but there are long periods of no character progress at all as it's too busy going introducing new groups of characters in each area who are then promptly dumped. This kind of comes to a head near the end where you basically have this massive plot dump followed by an extremely extended final dungeon filled with the game's worst enemies - big boss-type ones with insanely huge life bars and almost no reaction to your attacks. I ended up putting it in story difficulty in the end, not because I was dying but because everything was taking so damn long to kill.

    The graphics are fine once you turn off the chromatic aberration in the INI file but it comes back with a vengeance in cutscenes, and when combined with the oversharpened textures it looks quite ugly. Sound is frankly poor: not so much the quality of the compositions and arrangements but the way it's been mastered. The music sounds tinny with no bass and it really suffers for it.

    In the end, it's good but just not as good as Berseria. Three areas in the main part of the game and more time spent in the back end (particularly spacing out the exposition dumps at the end) would have helped a lot, I think. The final dungeon was better than the two corridors you got in Xillia 1, I guess?

    Also, the intro track is so incredibly terrible. I suspect I missed some stuff in the credits skipping it when that came on but fuck it. I didn't like nu metal twenty years ago and some fucking throwback with horrible english lyrics sprayed in randomly isn't going to fix that.

  • Xbox Series X - 5/5

    A real barn-burner of a game. As much as I love all the rich side content in RGG Studios' games, once I hit about the mid point of the story I just had to go main quest non-stop until I got to the end of the story. Tense and gripping with plenty of great character moments and a fully integrated setting that wouldn't work if it wasn't for what had come previously.

    In terms of game system improvements, I'm happy with the compromises they made. Tailing is less boring and flows much better, chases are more consistent so you don't need to be staring at the middle of the screen for prompts, mortal attacks have gone (mostly) from something you run away from to opportunities for high damage, your tools for avoiding encounters are better than ever while rewards for battles make them much less of a waste of time - all fundamental improvements which keep the nature of the game while reducing frustration. The only blot on the copybook really is the insta-fail stealth but you can retry fairly quickly and they're mechanical enough that once you've worked it out you're fine.

    Special call out to the soundtrack too, they've really gone for it this time around with lots of special themes and battle tracks. Great stuff.

  • Switch - 4/5

    I liked this a lot in the end. What struck me was how well paced it was for the most part - I never found myself getting particularly lost or stuck as the design was very good at guiding me in the right direction. I enjoyed the cutscenes with angry Samus too.

    A few reservations though: I don't think the EMMI sections all worked that well (though I'd have been a lot more unhappy if it didn't have the quick restart feature) and the Switch did end up feeling a bit creaky towards the end. It could have done with another area or two as well, as you basically get the final upgrade and then immediately go to the final boss. The lack of a decent fast travel system didn't help, though in its favour you can cross the map fairly fast.

  • PS5 - 4/5

    Probably the best one in a while, as a game. I liked the new battles when I realised that the action bits are just to get an advantage (or blitz through weak enemies - always a good part of these games). The characters are good as well, particularly the new main character. He's not that different from Rean, who I ended up hating, but he's a lot better tuned in areas that the Sen series missed a lot: his voice actor is a lot better, he's a lot more self aware, he knows what's going on, he's effective and intelligent and he's got history with key players in the series. As a result you go from a guy just sliding around and winning at random to a character who sets out deliberate plans which then save your bacon. The game also has an ending!

    On the flip side, the technical half of this game is absolutely dreadful. We've gone from close to 4K at a solid 60fps in the previous game to barely above 1080p at 30 and with some hideous loading times. I'm talking 15 seconds for some loads on a PS5 - including loads during story sections! On multiple occasions the game will spend ten seconds or more loading a scene with one character who says maybe three lines and then it spends another ten loading the scene it was just in. The actual writing is still as rote as it always was, with pet phrases appearing all over the place and the writer of a scene just getting mental blinkers and using the same weird phrasing for something multiple times in a row. I found the soundtrack a bit disappointing with a lot of repetition and only a few tracks I really liked. And that wasn't helped at all by the fact that it's just too long. I know it's a new character and a new setting but I don't think it needed over 120 hours to get there.

    I'm looking forward to seeing what they do with the next one but they really, really need a PS5 patch and an engine upgrade. I don't think it's acceptable in a videogame to have not only objects pop in over a second or so when a camera angle changes, but also lights and shadows. No joke, the camera will change to a dark area which will then slowly light up because of the street lights in the scene.

  • PC - 2/5 (Enhanced Edition)

    A bit of a curate's egg this one. Inconsistent pacing, a half-baked morality system and seemingly shoehorned-in 'big level' type design contrasts with a game that works well when it's pushing you forward through an area. Shooting's good, and there's a good sense of design and style in the world somewhat undermined by some dodgy accents.

    Docked a mark for being the least stable game I've played in years; there was nearly a gigabyte of crash dump files in the game's save folder and at the end I got a crash literally two minutes after loading in. Intensely frustrating, which in fairness was the most I ended up feeling during some of those boring, spaced-out big levels.

  • iOS - 3/5 (Lostbelt 5 part 2)

    Trying to catch up after a year and a half without a commute as the game wants me to complete 5.5 and 6 by next month for events. I feel like the game's losing its way; in terms of story it's feeling more and more formulaic (arrive in area, nearly get killed, find resistance, bad guy turns to your side, you carry on, stakes increase, big bad wasn't actually that bad, you win) and the battle system's just completely busted at this point. I'd mind less if you could skip NP animations or if you got a better heads up on which bits of text can be skipped and which are directly related to the story. If I'm in a hurry to get through then I'd rather be able to just ignore the stuff involving characters who will die at the end of the chapter.

  • 4/5 - PC

    Another game that's great on Game Pass. Only a couple of hours long but visually striking and based around a super fun mechanic: you basically turn the gravity up, catch hills and 'flick' yourself off ramps and slopes. Really cool.

  • PC - 3/5

    A decent evening's entertainment. It's got a great look and definitely has good presentation (although there were a few bits where my system would just go under 20fps for seemingly no reason). The game itself was a bit crap though, with swimmy movement and I didn't like the buttons they chose for the music parts.

  • GBA - 4/5

    Really solid Igavania. Good map, solid bosses. Could have been a little easier to get around but it didn't feel stretched out particularly. Made me want to play Bloodstained again!

  • PC - 4/5

    Another great fit for Game Pass. Really nice little experience in environmental storytelling and judging people you never see. Ending song was a bit twee for my liking but there we go.

  • Mega Drive - 2/5

    A small amount of good artwork by Mutsumi Inomata and a battle system that's interesting on the surface is mangled by trying to fit a 1995 standard game into a 16 megabit cartridge. Battles should be interesting with two pure melee characters supporting a sole mage with up to 36 different spells but in practice it suffers from the worst of ATB's pacing problems where you fumble with an absolutely terrible interface as the game marches on or end up just waiting for fights to conclude far too slowly. It's hard to overstate how sloppy the interface is; everything in both menus and battle with almost no exceptions is cycling through a single visible option on a system with bizarre menu ordering. Even selecting the right spell is infuriating as even once you've worked out what the correct type of spell you want is (1 is an attack, 2 and 4 are buffs, 3's a heal, 5 is 'other' and 6 is counterspell), the numbers are selected backwards!

    The memory on the cart is all spent with the pretty title screen and the few full-screen cut-in pictures in the beginning. There's maybe two more of those as you go through the rest of the game and in terms of background you are going from field to town to dungeon to castle over and over. It's short but it felt quite repetitive towards the end as the game ran out of things to show.

    As a comparison, '93's Phantasy Star 4 'only' has half as much space again, but it uses that space much more intelligently with less elaborately animated skills in battle and many more but much smaller cut-in pictures. They then used the rest of the memory for an amazing battle system, many more characters, a great soundtrack, multiple planets and an actual plot. I should play through PS4 again.

  • iOS - 2/5 (Loatbelt 5.5)

    Really burning out on this game with this plan to try and push me to the current content. Too much dialogue, too many gimmicks to try and get around the battle system they broke themselves, no skip for the long animations and no summaries when you skip the 5000th pointless story section. Granblue's been doing this for 8 years at this point. I was supposed to have LB6 done for the event that's currently ongoing but after a few hours of forced team compositions, lengthy dialogues and not understanding what's going on because I'm skipping most of it I've just sacked it off for now. Not sure if I'll go back.

  • PC/XSX - 4/5

    They say that Halo is 30 seconds of action repeated - where this game succeeds is that it lets you pace those 30 seconds out at your own speed, with a grappling hook. The hook is fantastic and makes the other gadgets frankly obsolete, which means that it's even worse how fiddly they are to deploy and swap back.

    I'll come back to this once they patch in coop and fix the framerate, I think. Falling through the ground on a botched checkpoint a few times on the last level was also frustrating but not quite enough to knock it down one.

  • PC - 4/5

    Just what I needed, more Horizon. The driving's great, the scenery's beautiful and they made it worth it (and much easier) to swap around cars for each event - what's not to like? The endless chatty voices still grate and I'd like to see more performance banding in the events, but I'll be back when the expansions start appearing.

  • PC - 4/5 (main missions)

    I'm not a programmer so this was a really interesting few hours of getting algorithms to work. They could do a better job of helping you out with some of the things they're after ingame but they do point you in the right direction for stuff to Google. Interesting stuff and it was fun to see it all play out - though the interface could be much better on PC.