52 Games Challenge: 2019 Edition
  • acemuzzy
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    Anyway, I'm underway, having finished KAMI 2

    And before I get slagged off / the MMG chat starts, I refer you to http://thebearandbadger.co.uk/discussion/comment/1550697#Comment_1550697.
  • Was struggling to think of a 5th game

    No higher praise.
  • acemuzzy wrote:
    Anyway, I'm underway, having finished KAMI 2 And before I get slagged off / the MMG chat starts, I refer you to http://thebearandbadger.co.uk/discussion/comment/1550697#Comment_1550697.

    Right?
    "But enough talk. HAVE AT YOU!"
  • Andy
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    acemuzzy wrote:
    Why do people equate short with shit?

    I don’t. It just seems that, in order to do this, one must stick only to very short games, or remarkably unchallenging ones, and there are clearly insufficient good or challenging ones for that to be an enjoyable prospect.

    I’d rather be picking games based on what I’d enjoy and want to play for playing’s sake than what will help me reach an arbitrary goal.
  • Fwiw I've stuck with stuff I'm not keen on for the sake of numbers on rare occasions (*cough* Dead Nation), but I've never started anything I didn't genuinely want to play (one or two Vita games notwithstanding, I did move into a grey area to clear the PS+ backlog). The vast majority of M&Ms I play are things I've waited for in a sale that I've had my eye on for months.
    You have minecraft?
  • I dont think thats true really. If you have VR there are numereous short but fun games. Plus throws up quite a lot of short indies, and lot of AAA games can be knocked off in 8 hours or less.

    If you play retro games, many are short by modern standards. I think I finish Sonic in an hour.
  • acemuzzy
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    Andy wrote:
    I’d rather be picking games based on what I’d enjoy and want to play for playing’s sake than what will help me reach an arbitrary goal.

    Fair enough
    Andy wrote:
    there are clearly insufficient good or challenging ones for that to be an enjoyable prospect

    Nonsense (particularly the "clearly" bit). Just cos you're not looking for them doesn't meant they don't exist. Unless your average gaming week is sub-one-hour I suppose.
  • acemuzzy
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    Aye, Dante gets it
  • Andy
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    acemuzzy wrote:
    Nonsense (particularly the "clearly" bit). Just cos you're not looking for them doesn't meant they don't exist. Unless your average gaming week is sub-one-hour I suppose.

    You’ve not seen Moot’s lists, then.
  • Andy wrote:
    acemuzzy wrote:
    Nonsense (particularly the "clearly" bit). Just cos you're not looking for them doesn't meant they don't exist. Unless your average gaming week is sub-one-hour I suppose.
    You’ve not seen Moot’s lists, then.

    He hasn’t seen his own either.
    "But enough talk. HAVE AT YOU!"
  • acemuzzy
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    I'm not sure either of us is the prime exemplar...
  • Hands up if you've lost track of the points being made here.
    You have minecraft?
  • acemuzzy
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    o/
  • 3. Celeste (Switch)
    Only reached as far the credits and didn't attempt a lot of the strawberries and no B-sides done yet. I'll dip back in at some point. Anyway, very good. I haven't played a game where the story and the challenge of the game feel so meta and intertwined since Braid. I like that it let me play more casually, without the running timer and grading system of super meat boy constantly reminding me how shit I am. Reaching the next screen in Celeste always feels like an accomplishment. In SMB, later stages anyway, it always feels like you've failed and you're wasting your time scraping through this game that's too hard for you (or me anyway).
  • 2. Assassins Creed Odyssey 9/10

    My opinion didn't really change much from my thoughts from 2/3 through the game.  
    I've been playing Odyssey over the last couple of weeks - My first Assassin's Creed!  (well, I've tried a couple before, but immediately bounced off them, so they don't really count) It's one of those games where I could do a grocery list of bits I don't like or don't think work all that well, but then there's just as big a list of things I love!  It's only been the last couple of days that it's really dragged me in, with an abundance of side tasks that I absolutely have to see through to the end (I'm level 35).  Seem to now have a good idea of which tasks I don't interest me too and can curate those out of my game.  Not sure what to make of the story - in that it seems like perfectly good adventure game fare with an excellent and fun main character (and a mostly fun cast), but it's a bit poorly told - like some bits seem to peter out into an anticlimax, there's some of that video game 'kill 100 blokes and I'll give you some information that's vaguely helpful' stuff, and a lot of the Assassins Creed lore goes over my head.  Not sold on the dialogue trees either; they seem a bit stilted. But yeah, it says a lot that I planned on mostly just bashing through the main quest within a week or two, but it's gonna take a month to see everything I want now.  Impressive stuff on the whole and I'll check out more Assassins Creed over the coming months.

    Feel it's a great story away from being a classic.  Another of my narrative whinges about the game, think it's because you need to kill so many people from either side of the conflict while working with them that i found it hard to care about anyone.  Still, fantastic fun in spite of that.
    When you got movies like Tom Cruise in them, you can't lose
  • 2. Bayonetta 2 (Switch) - 17/01/2019 - c10 hours

    It’s a [10] for sure. The fighting and mechanics are just as good as the original. Feels a bit faster but also a lot easier. I didn’t think there was as much variety in levels and I preferred the original’s battles and pacing etc. Despite the QTEs and instadeath, I prefer the first game. Better final battle too. And...

    Fly Me To The Moon > Moon River

    Doing Witch Trials. How many are there again? Don’t remember doing them on WiiU. Will go back to Bayo 1 Hard mode then come back to do Hard on 2 and grind out halos on mech level to buy the Platinum Ticket.
    "But enough talk. HAVE AT YOU!"
  • And I'm off!

    1. Light Fall - Switch.

    Checkpoint platformer with an emphasis on speed.  Manages to stand out thanks to the manual platforms twist - you have four to place in mid air, but your feet must touch terra firma to reset the counter.  On paper it sounds like it might slow the game down, but it's quite well handled and means that you can really race through stages with a bit of practice - place a platform while careering forward in mid air and you can jump again without breaking stride, which means you can dip down or jump up, adjusting for oncoming obstacles at a fair clip.  Some sections are weaker than others, one of the block mechanics should've gone in the bin really (manual manoeuvring) and it's not up there with the greats, but as a speed runner it's got chops.  It's also pretty enough, in a sort of budget amalgamation of Ori/Limbo way.  I enjoyed this, but it would've been overpriced without the 50% off.  A definite Moot recommends at half price though, off to a good start [7].

    2. Astro Bot - Playstation VR

    Easily one of the greatest gaming experiences I've ever had, and to think I was secretly mocking VR up to a few weeks ago.  Phenomenally inventive, beautifully presented corridor platformer (think Sly Racoon or Super Magnetic Neo for better examples than Crash Bandicoot) with a massive twist.  'Be the camera' isn't going to shift units, but don't knock it until you've tried it.  Great visuals, quality sound design and music, terrific stage layouts, inventive item mechanics, old-school screen-filling pattern bosses, well spaced checkpoints, replayability, post credits longevity (challenge mode), perfect movement controls (which sounds simple, but think how many games have got this wrong over the years), buckets of charm and bundles of character - it doesn't put a foot wrong for my money.  The best exclusive on PS4, it's mere inches away from a ten.  Exquisite craftsmanship, sequel please.  [9]

    3. Until Dawn: A Rush of Blood to the Head

    The VR train rattles onwards.  I miss lightgun games, to the point where OMG LIGHTGUN GAMES was close to my first thought when I strapped on the headset for the first time.  I played with a pad, which worked well for the most part (with plenty of on the fly recalibration) but I'd imagine the Move controllers improve things substantially.  With the screen strapped to your face and headphones in the horror aspect is well done; the jump scares shit me up pretty much every time and it has no problem switching from creepy/eerie (child ghosties singing, natch) to massively OTT (screaming screen sized pig heads swinging from ceiling hooks dripping blood).  Plus you've got stomach churning corkscrews to deal with as your minecart rumbles on, occasionally leaning and ducking to avoid obstacles - great fun.  Final boss aside, one section of which was just the wrong side of irritating with a pad, this was superb.  Branching paths, collectibles, stage secrets and tons of hanging targets to improve your score mean it's replayable too.  As good as some of the better lightgun games on Wii, better than any since and another truly excellent example of The VR Experience. [8]

    4. Mr. Shifty - Switch

    A very pleasant surprise.  Picture a close quarters combat Hotline Miami where you control Nightcrawler.  Enemies have range weapons, but they can't 'shift', which is forward motion short teleport from a depleting/recharging bank of 5.  Any variety is mostly provided by a gradually increasing roster of speciality fodder, so you'll be learning how to deal with new types every couple of stages (shotgun guy, rocket launcher guy etc).  It's all very simplistic, which is why it works so well.  Quick shifts get you in and out of trouble and you'll be pinging around the screen in - depending on skill - total control of the chaos.  Or in my case not quite total control of the chaos, which might be the sweet spot for maximising the enjoyment.  I'm surprised this didn't receive more critical acclaim, a few bugs and hiccups aside it runs well undocked and makes for terrific handheld gaming imo.  I did have to reboot it once though, as it started to lose maybe 10fps per stage before gradually grinding to a halt.  

    The whole experience is extremely focused and even the screens with shift blockers in them don't manage to ruin the fun.  Building a game around an ability then taking it away doesn't usually goes well, but there's no real harm done anyway.  Unlike Hotline Miami it's not hugely difficult - unless this one really clicked with me (I struggled with certain stages of both HM games on occasion) - more 'tricky but doable'.  Most stages can be seen off in a matter of minutes once you're in The Zone.  Genuinely good stuff, critics and naysayers be damned.  [8]

    5. Splatoon 2: Octo Epansion - Switch

    A brilliant, full game sized add-on to Splat2, and almost certainly better than the already excellent single player mode to that.  Combined, they're genuinely one of the best 3D single player experiences in the Nintendo hall of fame.  The layout is refreshingly old school and the requirements for progression are harsh.  Most stages are tricky but some are fiendish.  I had to cheat on one to progress, for shame.  I'll go back to it.  My only complaint would be that the bosses are rehashes of the original guardians.  No big deal, but everything else is so polished it still came as a slight surprise that they weren't all new.  Highlights?  Hard to narrow it down, but the rolling ball stages were particularly great and the final stretch was a joy. 

    There's plenty more to do (only hit 42 mem cakes to get four thangs), but I'm done for now as it's a pretty intense experience.  The multiplayer is supposedly pretty nifty too, and even though I still don't fancy that it's fair to say this is easily one of the games of the generation.  [9]

    6. Moss - Playstation VR

    A lovely 3D puzzle platformer that benefits from VR, but unlike Astro Bot could feasibly exist without.  It adds to the experience but it doesn't define it.  Quill is exceptionally well animated, to the point where it's a surprise this controls as well as it does (it almost seems over animated, but the interactions remain smooth).  The rest of the visuals are similarly excellent throughout; it's a gorgeous game.  Nice soundtrack too.  When the credits roll the quest is referred to as 'book 1', and I really hope Polyarc get to continue the story as there's a lot of potential to be tapped.  In fact, the game is so short - lovely as it is - that it feels like it ends just as it's warming up.  The in-game clock said 5hrs for me, but that's nonsense.  It jumped from 3.03 to 4.28 a session that lasted just under an hour (I timed it as I had a hunch the clock was acting weird), so I'm not quite sure what's up with it.  Perhaps the devs thought they could pull a fast one?  I'd peg it at maybe 3hrs long, which is why I'm only giving it a [7].  I would've been more generous if I'd played this before Astro Bot, it really is cracking game with some great puzzles but there's just not enough of it, it feels like a game that could've had a hell of a lot more to give with a bit more time in development

    7. New Super Mario Bros Switch U Wii Deluxe - Switch

    Pretty good Mario game.  I don't go deep with them, so purists would say I'm doing it wrong, but this was enjoyable to plod through in co-op.  Nabbit and Toadette are good additions for younger children (Nabbit - very easy - doesn't take damage and Toadette - easy - can become a floaty superboost Peach).  Bosses are still laughable but the level design is on point.  The coin hunt is an excellent addition to Mario games, really adds to it in two player.  Good but I didn't see enough to call it great  (which it supposedly is for proper fans).  [7]

    8. VR Worlds - PS4

    Right, so I'm starting to notice a pattern developing with a few of these VR titles - they're overpriced.  I paid £10 for this, which is more than fine, but I believe the original RRP was £25, and for a glorified demo disc that's a wee bit rich.  The games, from bottom to top:

    Ocean Descent

    Fairly enjoyable one-and-done VR experience.  It's the sort of thing you'd use to showcase Playstation VR to mates who've never played it, but only in a world where Star Wars Rogue One VR, The London Heist (spoilers, that one's good) and Rush of Blood to the Head didn't exist.   

    VR Luge

    Didn't really do it for me.  It's passable, but there's no reason why this couldn't have been a lot better.  It works, it's fun for a while, but the devs hardly reached for the stars here.  

    Scavengers Odyssey 

    Now we're in pretty good territory, this was a decent FPSVR experience.  Controls are solid and it looks nifty, but be warned - it chucked me around so much I needed to suck boiled sweets to avoid a visit from Uncle Dick.  Definitely the poster child for 'queasy' from the VR experiences I've had so far.  Good though, and of a passable length for a multi-game package.

    Danger Ball

    Genuinely good VR pong game, all controlled with head flicks/leans/swipes but criminally lacking in a multiplayer online mode.  I'd probably buy a fleshed out full game based on the basics here.  Good stuff.

    The London Heist

    Wow.  Even both barrels of mock stock didn't take the shine off; a top tier cockney caper that's surprisingly well acted throughout.  Ya fackin' two-Bob mugglewump.  It's all over bar the shouting within half an hour and there are only really two (traditionally) playable sections, but while it lasts this is probably the best thing not starring Astro Bot on PSVR.  Even the shooting galleries are good, I just want more.

    [7] overall for the package, less at full price.

    9. Into the Breach - Switch

    Not done with it but ready to review after 8hrs or so, credits have rolled.  Yet another case of me really liking something I assumed I wouldn't but hoped I would.  This one's probably even better than Dead Cells (haven't had a successful DC run yet).  Enough has been said about this elsewhere by people who went far deeper than I have or will, but this is an exceptionally good videogame that can be accurately described as 'genius' at times.  Will be in my final top 5 for the year when I finally stop fretting over the order*. [9]

    *AKAGOTY2015

    10. Horizon Chase Turbo - Switch

    Lovely looking bright 'n chunky retro inspired racer.  Very old fashioned in the way it plays, but that's clearly the point.  Simplistic pedal to the metal twists and turns, rubber banding as front and centre as the rubber burning and passable HERE WE GO race choons.  You'll need to brake occasionally but it's mostly gunning the gas, letting up a smidge for corners and looking for straights to bust out the finite nitros.  It's not without faults, notably the campaign length (10hrs for me - far too long) and the need to mostly finish 1st or 2nd in every sodding race in order to progress at the final stages, but overall I enjoyed this.  Not exceptional by any means, just a solid mission accomplished/medium-firm back pats for the designers.  Also has pretty good split screen multiplayer performance and two players can tackle the world tour together, which is always welcome.  [7]

    11. The Gardens Between - Switch

    I really liked this.  Delightful, delicate puzzler that nails the charm offensive from the opening moments to the credits.  You're in charge of two characters at once in meticulously designed dreamstate islands.  The view sweeps and rotates around the duo as you push the stick forwards or backwards to control the flow of time - intrinsic to all solutions.  They'll stay the necessary distance apart for you to solve the puzzles correctly.  It's gentle rather than brain busting, with set-ups often being clever rather than ingenious, but as mentioned it ticked tons of boxes for me.  I don't like to be puzzled by puzzlers for too long, I tend to get fed up, and it'd be fair to say this one's on the easy side.  There's not much to it in terms of ways and means with the brain-teasing - you're mostly trying to light a lantern and progress to the correct section while holding it, which requires fiddling with the forwards/backwards mechanic by freezing certain items in time and so on.  It doesn't take long to find your feet, and therein lies the rub as the whole shebang only lasts two hours anyway.  This is something that should be known by any badgers tempted to go in as that'd be a deal breaker for many.  I paid £8.99 at 50% off and it's one of the best gaming experiences I've had this year, but it's absolutely not worth £17.99 until the world's officially gone mad.  Once again though: I loved it. [8]

    12. A Hole New World - Switch

    Could well be the turdliest Moot/Muzzy game of the generation.  Not only has it been given possibly the worst videogame title of all time, it's also one of the least fun 8-bit indie bandwagon platformers I've ever encountered.  Ninja Senki EX pisses on this.  The Messenger and Shovel Knight do unspeakable things to it.  Rotten.  I'm actually offended by it, and the fact that it's received some fairly decent reviews.  Nope, this is not how you do it - you don't make an 8-bit game in 2018 with all the problems that might plague an average 8-bit game in 1988 and just add kinder checkpointing.  It even has performance issues on Switch, and the last boss is one of the most hideous I've ever encountered.  Turgid filth, and the worst game I've finished in three years of doing these lists.  Even the core conceit of normal/upside down screens is shit - build a game around something interesting morans, and if you can't do that at least do interesting things with the idea you had. [2]

    13. Super Inefficient Golf - Switch

    Another blind purchase in a sale.  The idea is solid - place detonators on a golf ball and guide it around 18 holes using impact explosions - but the execution is lacking.  It's the spin on the ball that ruins it, you can't really set up your shots with multiple detonations in a controlled way.  Inefficient, geddit? It's a shame, but what you get is still quite entertaining.  I mostly played it with straight ahead propulsion.  I suppose there's replayability in there with perfecting the holes, getting angles right for hole in ones etc, but it's not really skill based (although I suppose that's the sub-genre, if we're putting this alongside the likes of Zany Golf).  The closest thing I can compare it to is Monkey Golf in SMB; definitely fun while it lasts but a bit of a one-and-done.  [5]

    14.  Pixel Ripped 1989 - PSVR

    *New genre alert!*  Batshit nu retro VR tower defence/lightgun game hybrid oddity.  I've never playing anything remotely similar to this.  Your character is mostly playing a handheld games console which you're holding and looking at in an attempt to progress through the simplistic 8-bit inspired platform shooter stages, whilst simultaneously creating diversions in a classroom so the teacher doesn't spot you playing a videogame.  To do this you need to fire projectiles at various parts of the scenery which sets up distractions so you can return to the game - kinda like playing a hillbilly moonshine shooting gallery (albeit controlled with your head) while playing a Gameboy.  Other stages have you using the handheld unit as a retro overlay for a shooting range (protecting students from being taken, like a weird lightgun game within a lightgun game Defender thing).  Plus the whole thing is littered with retro nods/wiks/homages - Alex Kidd helicopter stage! - and has a very British sense of humour running through it.  I could go on, but it's all just as mental and I've already 'ruined' half the surprises.  Genuinely not sure what to make of it.  Absolutely not worth the full £22, but at the current price of £10.99 it's worth it for the insanity.  BARMY.  [7] 

    15. Escape Doodland - Switch

    Autorunner with lenient gated progression - collect squidgy things within the stages to unlock levels and buy characters/minor perks.  There's a jump button, which also works for double jump, and timed/limited fart propulsion (wait, come back!) dependent on where you point the right stick and how many matchboxes you've picked up.  That's it.  A big beastie is chasing you and if you're snagged by too many sticking points it eats you and you're dead.  If you fall down holes or get blown up you're dead.  Otherwise it's business as usual for these types - get through the stages with a mixture of skill and perfection through repetition, grabbing the fiendishly placed squidgy things en route if you're feeling brave.  Levels have three or four checkpoints, reaching the next one replenishes one of your three lives. I think this usually sells for £9.99, which is a bit much, but at the current price of 89p it's an absolute bargain.  Believe it or not, not only does it play well but it looks great and sounds fantastic. [8] for a quid, a solid [7] at full RRP.  I like this genre and it's definitely of the better efforts I've played.  Unlke Runner3 it runs well and doesn't over-egg it with new inputs every 5 minutes.

    16. Wulverblade - Switch

    Bold and beefy scrolling beat 'em up that looks incredible and sounds even better.  Excellent voicework - both characters and narration - and a quality rousing score combine to make one of the best sounding games I've played for ages; it's an absolute treat through headphones.  Gameplay is nothing new, refreshingly (it just pushes the envelope away - fuck you, envelope.  Or maybe it grabs it and stuffs a love letter to the 1990s inside) but the core brawling is good enough for immensely satisfying 'in the zone' mongol roman horde obliteration.  There's a block that doubles as a parry with correct timing plus a dodge and a limited number of attacks (light, heavy with a pick-up, jumping attacks, energy depleting special, grapple throws and grapple hits), which you'll be repeating ad infinitum against various enemy types.  You know the drill - plod through a level and beat the boss using one of the three available characters in either single player or co-op.  Love it or hate it, that's the genre.  It's precisely as deep as it should be, exactly as long as it need to be, just as tricky as you'd expect - i.e more so than it would've been in 1994 but with the added concession of checkpoints - and far more enjoyable in this day and age than it has any right to be.  Absolutely bloody superb.  Along with Mother Russia Bleeds this gen has treated us to two of the top 5 scrolling beat 'em ups for all time.  [9].

    17. Headmaster - PSVR

    Channel your inner Steve Bruce as a student at The Football Improvement Centre.  Coming off the back of a poor season, your aerial prowess will be put through its paces in a series of hands free tests designed to improve your ability to get your nut on the end of it.  Balls are launches into the air and you head them at the bits of the scenery that add to your score - that's basically it.  Part VR coconut shy, part Aperture Science facility, this is a bona fide PSVR gem and one of the best experiences I've had with the unit.  The script is strong and everything is just about accurate enough for you to deal with the stringent testing.  Even when tests feel like they're asking too much given the not quite perfect mechanics, practice will make you closer to perfect fairly quickly.  It's easy enough to get two or three stars on everything and the gating for the exams isn't strict.  It might look like a wonky Kinect cast off from screenshots but there's a surprising level finesse to the whole thing considering what you're being asked to do and how you're required to do it.  I only paid £3.99 but with the party mode taken into consideration I'd say this is absolutely worth the full £15.99.  I'm torn between an 8 and a 9, it really is that good, so since it doesn't matter in the slightest I'll given this one the coveted [8.5] High five for @Diluted_Dante

    18. Captain Toad Treasure Tracker Special Episode DLC - Switch

    A joy, as expected.  Light on content but it's hard to grumble for £5, the new courses are mostly pretty good.  It's nice to have a purpose to the recently added co-op mode too, where planning and character placement is key to picking up crowns.  Will happily buy more, and like many Nintendo games these days I don't see the need for a direct sequel if the dlc keeps coming. 

    19. Statik - Playstation VR

    In the puzzle thread I wrote:
    Moot_Geeza wrote:
    Obviously it's Baba time in here, and rightly so it seems, but the main reason I popped in is to praise the pants off Statik on PSVR.  I'm not sure how many of you have or could have access to the VR stuff (specifically Playstation in this case), but it's wowed me with the way it perfectly executes its core idea.  I don't know how long I've got left of the main game, but if it maintains the current quality we're talking near Portal levels of aplomb.  For each puzzle your character is seated, with both hands inside a contraption that's key to success.  As you twist the dual shock pad the one-of-a-kind box that contains your hands moves with it, buttons/stick clicks/directions and so on perform different actions on different areas of the box.  The room that you're in may also contain clues or areas to interact with.  Your task is to gradually work out what you need to do to solve the metallic muff conundrum.  There's no direction, no assistance - you're just left to get on with it until the solution starts to click.  Once you succeed the device prints out a ticket that's scanned by a robot and you're gassed to sleep.  It's like having the Crystal Maze in your hands, brilliant stuff.  
    ...and it really was as good as I'd hoped from start to finish.  Easily one of the best puzzle games I've ever played, and I also enjoyed watching the Statik riddle being solved on YouTube.  Numptymortals like myself would have no chance solving it, but it was all very well done and the extra ending was good.  One of the best games on PS4 and probably the second best VR game I've played (despite not being as deeply dependent on VR as you might think, it's still a great fit).   [9]  

    20. Donut County - Switch

    *Review pending* (will be typing out my daughter's thoughts for this one) [8]

    21. Severed - Switch

    Just seeing the name annoys me, because it's one of two games I forgot to download on PS+ for Vita ages ago and it ended up costing me £6.  Anyway, it's a touch-screen maze based RPG type with an interesting battle system from the creators of Guacamelee.  Part Shining in the Darkness, part Fruit Ninja (maybe, I haven't played that) and, in the way the battles work, part Panzer Dragoon Saga.  It's a pretty interesting concept fairly well executed, but it runs out of steam two thirds of the way through.  You have to swipe the screen in various directions to attack, while managing which point on the compass the next attack is coming from.  Enemies need to be suppressed, frozen or polished off early, for example, depending on type.  The checkpointing is extremely generous, so even the trickiest battles are usually done within five to ten minutes.  Even so, I was glad when it was over in all honesty. I did enjoy some of my time with it but it wasn't really my sort of thing.  Lovely visuals though, and I'll doff my cap to the devs for trying something different.  [6]

    22. Adventure Pals - Switch

    At first this was okay, with the simplistic hack 'n slash platforming providing serviceable co-op fun.  Then the relentless monotony started to creep in, and pretty soon I found myself wading through one of the most tedious and least rewarding games I've played for many years.  I was tempted to write about this in depth but I put close to ten hours into it before the credits rolled and I don't want to waste any more of my life on it.  It's not a terrible game when you break it down, but it's got no business being any longer than 3hrs from start to finish.  It's like a windy Amiga game that keeps dishing out extra levels that feel like they've all been designed as cover mounted freebies.  No class, just content.  [4]

    23. Megaman 11

    I'm not too familiar with the Megaman series, having only played no.2 and X to completion - the former with save state spamming and the latter closer to 'properly' with retroking (we did use save states iirc, but nothing silly).  I opted for casual difficulty on this, which was the second of four difficulties, described as 'for those who love Megaman but haven't played in a while!'.  Five lives rather than three, slightly less damage taken apparently.  It seemed to be the right choice all told, as the stages flitted between cakewalk and tricky.  It certainly wasn't a breeze at any rate.  There's a step up in difficulty when you get past the initial boss selection area, and some of the fiddlier jumps are the reason this dipped from an 8 to a 7 - Megaman just isn't quite manoeuvrable enough for some of the late game cog jumping not to feel hit and miss.  This is the way it's always been, so fair play for the fan service, but it's just a touch on the clunky side for a modern continuation.  I'm unsure if bullets pass through scenery in all MM games, but it struck me as unusual here - it works though, and it's fun to switch between weapons for different situations as you start to amass a bigger arsenal.  Perhaps as a result of playing it on a lower difficulty I thought the double gear stuff was mostly redundant, and as Jon mentions elsewhere you can buy your way to victory quite easily.  Still, I had a decent time with it.  It's got a nice visual style, the 3D geometry 2D plane thing works well in this instance.  Overall it's a good platform shooter but I think you'd need to be armed with a bit more nostalgia to describe it as great.  The boss run at the end though - now that was great.  [7]

    24. Black Bird - Switch 

    I've been intrigued by this for a while.  It's basically a snazzy looking Fantasy Zone minus shops and extra lives.  Even if you think that's up your alley you have to factor in the brevity, simplicity and ease of it all - I'm no shmup head, but I got to the final form of the final boss on my first go.  I didn't save enough bombs for the same boss second go, but the credits rolled on my third. Okay, so it's a score chaser, but even after rearranging expectations having the whole thing roll over and show its belly after four stages (yes, four) is ridiculous. It's 50% off at the time of writing but this is supposed to sell for £15.  Nope.  Having said that, it's a terrific experience. It plays really well, has a striking visual style and a lovely score.  I've unlocked 'true mode', but the internet suggests that's basically the same deal with slightly tougher enemy waves. A reluctant [5] from me. If I was reviewing a retro run through I hadn't paid for I'd be shouting about the quality, but as it stands it's an odd little super stylish glossy budget feeling title that should sell for £5.99ish.  I wish it had so I could give it a higher score.

    25. Red Dead Redemption 2 - PS4

    I did it, despite tending to dislike games that require this much undivided attention.  It's Rockstar encapsulated; part monstrosity and part monumental achievement.  It's an exhilarating, sprawling cowboy epic, yet it's also a padded out dime novel that mistakes itself for Lonesome Dove.  

    Starting with how it plays, there's a distinct lack of finesse to the mechanics.  I'd describe it as an above average last gen 3rd person cover shooter that's had one of the most breathtaking game worlds ever envisioned built around it.  Arthur ambles around during gunfights, transitioning from rock to rock like a sack of spuds that never feels like it's fully touching the ground.  Buttery smooth it's most certainly not, the shooting is merely functional, and if you're looking for faint praise, adequate.  I found that staying put was often the best route to success, popping up with snap-to aiming while laying waste to varmints that all felt a touch autopilot.  I've said it before, but the actual gameplay in the much maligned The Order: 1886 is marginally superior, despite being set thirteen years earlier.  Both have good old fashioned shooting gallery trigger satisfaction, but one can be vanquished in 7hrs, to use a word that brings to mind a smoother experience altogether, and one has to sustain an experience that could last somewhere in the region of 70 hours.  Do I tend to like slightly clunky bolt action rifle shooters?  Yes, as a rule, but the action isn't good enough to do much heavy lifting here, and the whole experience would've been vastly improved with slightly more enjoyable shoot outs.  You roll up at a destination, you shoot some baddies, then you tear off on horses, mopping up any idiots who dare to chase you.  There are other mission types, but in terms of action this sums up well over 50% of the standard missions.  

    I'm led to believe that the phrase 'greater than the sum of its parts' and Rockstar go hand in hand, but this often made for tiresome sessions if I only had 30-45 minutes to spare.  This is a game to immerse yourself in, rather than hop from yellow spot to yellow spot on the map, which was always something I was going to struggle with, especially with the checkpointing being overly harsh for my tastes.  If you don't play this with a view to losing yourself in the experience you'll only be able to get so much from it, hence the fact that all my opinions here need to be taken with a pinch of salt.  If you like to go deep with your games there's an obscene amount of satisfaction to be had I'm sure.  With combat being a bit of a chore though, I found myself getting instantly annoyed pretty much every time my character died.  I have further grievances - the occasionally unfathomable forced walking (no running in camp, fuck off but okay, but no speeding up for 100 metres on the way out?), the glitches, NPCs getting ironed out because they Leroyed into a skirmish ahead of me, necessitating a restart (and more loading, and a further 5 minutes replaying the same section) - but it's time to get positive!

    The positive bits.  

    Attention to detail is astonishing.  The environments are breathtaking at times, real 'look how far we've come' stuff (in gaming history terms, not 'Christ it took me ages to get here'...wait, positivity).  The score does its job, sometimes rather well.  It's a decent stab at Morricone meets Ry Cooder that mostly plays at trigger points and it's a yes from me.  

    When it all clicks, and if you play it for long enough it will, there's nothing quite like it.  I'll liken it to Shadow of the Colossus here, as it contains some of the very best moments in gaming, but it's all held together by slightly ropy padding.  For every session that had me grinning like a loon there was one that had me double facepalming over a mid-level inconvenience.  


    Um...I didn't do too well with the positive bits, so this is bound to read like a [6] when it's not.  The story aims for grandiose, but really we're just - spoiler alert - following a gang of outlaws who gradually fall apart, despite the sweeping vistas and wolf fever dreams it's still a bit Quick Draw McGraw Paints His Wagon By Numbers.  Duck, I says.  It has its moments, but there's nothing masterful in the way the plot is pushed forward or in the way the story is presented.  It's admittedly still a cut above most games, but it all plods along as you'd expect for the most part.  I thought the Native American reservation father/son conflict was particularly ham-fisted, but there are some quality characters in the crew, plenty of neat set-pieces and some successfully deft touches (hello Willie Nelson, and props to the entirety of the epilogue).  

    I've tried (and clearly failed) not to be overly harsh because I liked this enough to finish it, which feels like enough praise as western setting aside it's the antithesis of my usual stuff.  It's too much game, good as it is, and therefore not particularly gamelike at all in my eyes.  The tastes of the masses have changed, and I don't need to keep up as I'm catered for and then some with indie games - it's literally the best ever era for me to play my sort of thing (oh God here comes Elf...) - but my take away hot take on the hot mess is that huge chunks of the package are...unnecessary.  When at its best it's exceptional, but it's also proof that you can have too much of a good thing and far too much of an above average thing.  [7]

    26. Katana Zero - Switch 

    I waffled on about this a fair bit in the Switch thread as I was playing it.  It's got the makings of an all-timer, but the less-is-more approach to playable sections hauls it down a rung or two.  Visuals are exceptional (this is a stunning looking game, and precisely what something called Katana Zero should look like, imo) and the Hotline Miami B-side choons are solid, but the real star is the cut, thrust, hack and slash of the gameplay.  They've executed the 2D close-quarters room clearance thing perfectly - no section drags, no mechanic is over-used, and whenever you're controlling the character it's an absolute joy.  The story segments are also decent, and I wouldn't say there are too many of them per se, rather that there are too few playable sections around them.  Instead of force feeding the player the incredibly accomplished mechanics over and over again until they lose their lustre, the developers seem to have opted for the little bites approach to the fruits of their labour.  It's a poor decision for me; it's overly concise and the whole thing left me in a bit of a sulk tbh.  It's absolutely outstanding from start to finish, mind.  Due to the numerous problems with the front-end on the new Trials it's also my GotY as it stands.  [8]

    27. Owlboy - Switch 

    Lovely looking 2D Metroidvania* action platformer with some decent ideas, held together by a tedious story, occasionally frustrating controls and terrible signposting.  It's partly my fault I was seemingly lost all the fucking time as I bored of the dialogue pretty early on and took to hammering the A button during exchanges.  This approach doesn't help if A) one of the NPC characters says something like 'I think I saw that guy you may or may not know you're looking for head east at Tropos!', and B ) you don't know where Tropos is anyway because, inexplicably and inexcusably, the game has no map, no hint button and no handy pointy arrow.  Poor design can be far worse than hand holding.  It's not a terrible game, but it is a very odd one, even down to the complete mish-mash of its audio.  Meaty explosions and 8-bit bloops coexist in a world where sweeping orchestral scores and cheap chiptunes drop in and out depending on nothing in particular.  It's undoubtedly a conscious decision, but it doesn't work.  Most of the actual dungeons (or whatever you'd care to call them) are solid enough, so the [5] I considered would've been overly harsh, but the high Metacritic score for this one smacks of bandwagon jumping for me.  I play some weird games, granted, but tons of the no-name Moot_Muzzy offerings are better than this (and cheaper too - thankfully I bought it on cart as I half heeded the numerous badger warnings).  [6]       

    *Seriously?  I do think people are a bit too precious with not pigeonholing genres at times (even for the purposes of a loose definition) but I saw this referred to as a Metroidvania in numerous reviews and it's nothing of the sort for me.

    28. Crossing Souls - Switch

    Bit of a slog in the end, this one.  Partly because it's one of the glitchiest games I've played for years, at least in undocked play.  One boss was almost unplayable due to huge frame drops (we're not talking stuttering, was more like buffering) and I had to watch a few of the animated story sections online as I was presented with a blank screen while the audio played - even when docked.  Same deal with the end credits, they just didn't display.  Unacceptable really, it clearly needed a patch that didn't arrive.

    On to the game itself though, it's enjoyable enough (with the caveat of 'I suppose') and just about succeeds with all the unabashed borrowing from retro games and film tropes.  I'd had my eye on this for ages, way before launch, but unfortunately it's pretty run of the mill if you strip it down to the 90s gameplay at the heart of the I heart the 80s window dressing.  Part Zombies at my Neighbours, part Lost Vikings, but with tons of Goonies/Stranger Things vibes.  It has the standard posters for things like 'Ghost Boshers'; you'll meet characters in time travelling cars called 'Martin McFlye', or a bloke in a wife beater crawling around an air duct who says he's not having a good Christmas this year (not actual examples, afaik).  THE SHNNING!  It's lazy reference chumming, which got old many years ago, but it's all so lightweight it ends up being enjoyable.  Oddly enough the plot, silly as it is, goes to some interesting places.  Look away now, the sum total of none of you ever likely to play this:
    Spoiler:
    Otherwise it's fairly standard stuff, and not particularly well executed either.  Yet for some reason I knew I had a soft spot for it even at the height of the annoyances.  It's not a good game, but it is a good 1990s style experience, even down to the irritating manual save points.  I'm not sure I could really give it kudos points for that though, it'd be far better with standard modern checkpointing.  Yep, you will occasionally have to replay an entire 15 minute section.  Also, if you die on a boss - which you will - you'll have to sit through all the preamble dialogue again each time.  Even the moveset for various gang members are under utilised. The tom-boyish (natch) female character can propel herself across chasms if she stands next to the obvious double stump visual clue, but you have to do this what, twice in total, maybe?  The whole thing feels half baked.  I've gone on for far too long here so I'll put a sock in it.  Why did I quite like it anyway?  Fuck knows.  [6]

    29. I Am the Hero - Vita

    Dusted the trusty Vita off for a final final farewell.  Had my eye on this on Switch for a while, very nearly bought it on release but thought better of it, ended up grabbing it for £3.29 in a PSN sale.  Turns out it wasn't worth the wait, so I'm not sure who won that particular stand off.  It's a functional side scrolling juggle-heavy beat 'em up where you're usually battling between one and three enemies, somewhere between Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story and The Dishwasher (and published by a fake Devolver).  The view is noteworthy in that I don't think I've ever played a skewed side scroller where the characters get closer as they move to the right of the screen, but it's a gimmick that adds nothing whatsoever to the experience (and ends up makes a couple of the bosses slightly more annoying - well played guys).  Not a *bad* game per se, had it been released in 1996 I might've said there was depth to the combat compared to something like Die Hard Arcade, but even as a Saturn release it'd only be an 81% jobbie.  Which means in 2019 it's more of a jobbie jobbie. [4]  Would've scraped a 5 if it had managed to maintain a constant framerate, there are worse ways to spend a couple of hours (as I've proven over the past few years).

    30. The Bridge - Vita

    This was fine a while but by the fourth chapter the puzzles made my head hurt.  Your character and the balls you have to roll around seem to be operating on different rules of gravity, which means many of the solutions never felt right for me.  Happy to admit I'm a div here, this and The Swapper are the prime examples of puzzlers with final stretches I had trouble solving.  Not a terrible game but definitely a slog; you'd have to pay me handsomely to play through the bonus stages.  [5]

    31. Valiant Hearts - PS4

    In this day and age the discerning gamesplayer need two piles of shame - one for games purchased, and one for games attained via subscription services.  The 'freebies' tend to get sorted into three categories - nope, maybe at some point if I'm hard up for something to play (which is the same as nope), and yep.  Valiant Hearts has been on my yep pile for PS+ since before I picked up a PS4 (see? There was a point to this intro).  Even on the yes pile, there's a rough order to proceedings, and as this always stayed somewhere near the middle it never got played.  I've bored myself now, IGNORE THIS PARAGRAPH.

    I thought I'd give this a go this weekend and ended up getting sucked in completely.  Aside from the few screens I played when I first got it I did the lot in one day.  I wasn't sure how they'd handle the WWI setting, because it seems ripe to be left the fuck alone for videogames in case you end up with a guns 'n ammo war is hell Get Some! mawkish mess.  Thankfully this is deftly handled and I think the devs deserve far more credit than they got.  The graphic novel style works a treat, with stylish comic panels appearing at key points to assist your actions, which tied with the weighty knockabout approach places it in some sort of miraculous sweet spot.  I remember this being considered quite good, but it's closer to excellent imo.  I've never been one to inject history into my veins, yet I do dabble with The Great War from time to time.  I've read things like Forgotten Voices and Letters From the Somme, and at one point a younger me thought Birdsong was a perfect novel.  Two of the four times I've been abroad were to visit battlefields in Belgium.  I tried to watch They Shall Not Grow Old but pulled the plug when it switched to colour as I was hungover, much like I am now, and the shift punched me in the fuck.  I'm more delicate the morning after, see?  So in a very David Brent way it's my favourite war, to use a phrase that should be avoided, and the historical info throughout the game is neatly presented to temper the occasionally playful vibe of the main game.  

    The gameplay consists of the sort of puzzles that can be easily enjoyed despite the fact that they rarely break the stride of progression.  It's all fairly simple and over-reliant of cranks and pulleys, but remains enjoyable throughout.  The use of the canine companion is well handled, as are the majority of the off piste sections like stealth missions, double character areas and the frankly masterful into-the-screen rhythmic car chases.

    It can only be an [8], because if you boil it down to the core puzzling it's merely functional, but with all the bells and whistles attached it really is a beautiful game.

    32. FutureGrind - Switch

    A Thursday punt pays off at last.  £1.52 this cost me, and as it came out in January, according to Google, it's game of the sodding year.  It's a course based auto runner where you grind on (or on the underside of) rails , only touching them with a wheel of the corresponding colour.  You can double or triple jump, depending on your grind mech (?), and spin the craft forwards and backwards.  That's it, the rest is just built around the near perfect basics.  At first you have to try to get through the track unscathed, then additional paramaters are added (don't touch the purple rails, for example).  The progression system doesn't give you much leeway, you'll mostly need to complete all three challenges per stage to move on.  This would be annoying in most games but I was up for doing that anyway - because it's fun - so it gets a pass.  Combine Unirally, Trials, Colour Guardians, Bit.Trip.Runner, Thumper and Olli Olli and you've got a game better than most of the other ones mentioned in this sentence.  It's constantly tricky but the tasks are always doable, even when it feels overwhelming practice will see you through as although it's mostly skill based, and can be played as such, memorisation can give you an edge eventually.  I can't recommend this highly enough, would've happily paid full whack for it. [8]*

    * I changed this from a 9 to an 8.  F.Y.I

    33. Monster Boy in the Cursed Kingdom - Switch

    AKA Ultimate form Wonderboy III.  The more I played the more absolutely everything grew on me - at first the visuals were merely fine, but by the end I'd decided they were quite stunning; parallax scrolling has a new champion and some of the late game locales are spiffing.  The main switch up from The Dragon's Trap is the ability to change characters instantly, meaning the puzzle possibilities for any given screen are far deeper than just 'mouse dungeon' and so on.  The controls are still old school, so it lacks the ultra precision of many modern games.  As an updated homage though, this works perfectly.  If you want a meticulously designed Wonderboy III sequel with controls you're already familiar with - and I assume you do if you've read this far - this may be one of the highlights of your gaming year.  I finished on 14hrs52mins, and I'm heading straight back in tonight (honest guv, I know I often say this) because I've got maybe an hour's worth of things to mop up.  Is it worth £35?  Yes, if you fall in the target audience.  Should it be £35 though, considering what's available elsewhere for less (*Hollow Night coughs from stage left*)?  No, it's a moronic decision.  Back to the game though - some of the dungeons towards the end, crikey.  I've never seen anything quite like it, they're absolutely epic.  I'm sure one of them took me well over two hours to chip away at.  

    I have a few complaints, but they're minor.  Ball rolling physics are odd, the potion/death/savepoint system sort of works, but an ability you get midway takes a lot of the sting out of the difficulty if you can be bothered to use it regularly (plus it can be used to farm gazundles of cash at a very obvious point, which of course I did).  Pressing Y to read signs or talk to people should've been patched, as the prompt disappears regularly and you have to shuffle away and back again to highlight them.  Minor, but annoying.  That's about it.  

    The Master System port of Wonderboy in Monsterland is in the top half of my top 100 in The Stu's Top 100 thread, and this is better than that.  I got fully addicted in a way that I haven't since Hollow Knight and probably averaged an hour a day on it since I started.  One of the best games this gen. [9]

    34. Ape Out - Switch

    This is currently receiving some well deserved forum love.  It's hard to fault really, the main game is all over in a couple of hours but the arcade mode adds longevity.  The close quarters Hotline Miami/jazz fusion is immensely satisfying to the eyes and ears (and err thumbs) and it's definitely a 'play how you like' type.  In fairness your choices are limited to careering through stages vs the slow and steady or a mixture of both, but it rarely feels like it's strong arming you into a particular approach.  The random level generation didn't bother me at all, in fact it probably added to the experience as the route remains the same even if the layouts chop and change.  Presentation is faultless and it absolutely deserves to be played at either slightly too loud volume or with headphones thanks to the way the audio apes your actions.  Another absolute win for Devolver Digital.  [8]

    35. Wandersong - Switch

    Sing your way through a magical quest to save the world from inevitable destruction.  Light puzzling and even lighter rhythm action combine with gentle platforming to form a very Western feeling side scrolling walk & talk abdridged roleplaying game with a heart the size of a bus.  Sounds like a lot?  Also sounds good though, right? 

    Such a beautiful game.  Played the whole thing with my daughter and it's definitely her GotY, I loved reading it all out and she was genuinely into the story.  The feels, crikey.  Constantly amusing, occasionally very funny and not far off touching when it tries to be, I'd say it's almost perfect at what it does in terms of narrative.  Good dialogue throughout doesn't hurt - traditional RPGs take note.  The only things that let it down slightly are the more standard gamelike sections that are often shoehorned in towards the end of a chapter; some are fine, a couple are poor, but none ruin the overall package.  It really is an absolutely delightful little game bursting with a lightness of touch and littered with incidental window dressing that elevates almost every area into the niceness stratosphere.  Buy if you liked A Night in the Woods, but settle in for a better experience overall.  A gem. [8]

    36. BroForce

    Pixel art run and gun with low level level randomisation and a colossal smorgasbord of 80s/90s action hero characters.  Gameplay is simple - you can only fire straight ahead - and the environments are destructible (occasionally to the point of no-win situations).  The forced character switching is a neat idea - rescue another member of the Broforce and you'll gain an extra life while switching avatar to whoever you rescued, meaning you could lose Brobocop for Bronan, which is a nooooo, and there's a randomiser on your replacement character upon death too.  So you could lose Brobrocop for Bronan and then, to add insult to injury, have him replaced with Indiana Brones.  

    Most of the time you'll just grab the extra credit and hope for the best, but occasionally tactics come into play.  Crumby characters are beneficial to the overall fun in the long run, and their names will probably make you chuckle even if you're the sort that'd be desperate for them not to.  Checkpoints are generous and the whole thing is set to hard but doable, with the optional single life missions providing the real tests.  Good fun, probably would've been a strong [7] but the co-op element pushes it over the line to an [8].  More Devolver goodness.

    37. Gato Roboto - Switch

    Decent Metroid-lite with a pleasing visual style.  Not quite the cracker I was hoping for - strip away the sweet style and mechanically it's no better than half the stuff I play that the snobberati turn their noses up at - but certainly enjoyable.  If you fancy a quaint exploration shooter that doesn't require much head scratching, doesn't last long (3hrs 17 minutes for me, 75% of items found) but is priced accordingly, you can't go far wrong.  Difficulty is a bit random - a couple of early bosses are tricky/fiddly, one in particular, but I dispatched the last three or four at the first attempt.  Good but not great; a fun [6].

    38. Golf Peaks - Switch

    Grid/turn-based isometric golf puzzle game.  Sink the ball within a certain number of strokes using the shot types set out for each hole.  Move three square, jump two square and roll one etc.  108 holes in total, each world presents a new hazard - mud (SINK), ice (SLIDE) and so on.  Quite simplistic but a rewarding little head scratcher for a couple of hours.  Holes take a fair amount of planning towards the end, but the way you can retract single turns or restart from scratch at the touch of a button help stave off any real frustration.  It's cheap at the mo, £3ish, and it's well worth that if you fancy a quick and easy to learn puzzle fix [7]

    39. Hyper Sentinel - Switch

    Stylish 80s inspired arcade shooter - It's basically Uridium, apparently, which I haven't played myself.  It's a great template.  You're constantly moving towards the right or left of the stage (hitting the far edges spins you back in), switching direction puts you in an invulnerable state for a split second, with a rechargeable speed boost and a rapid fire blaster at your disposal.  Along with an occasional item pick-up (usually attack based), that's it.  You've got to destroy all ground targets in a stage, usually between 20 and 50, which triggers the level guardian.  The bosses are actually quite good, which is unusual for a game whose inspiration stretches so far back, and each requires individual tactics that you can just about work out during the battle, but will occasionally requite a couple of attempts.  It's simplistic, which of course is the point of these homages, and it'll surprise no-one to hear that it's absolutely ripe for score chasing.  

    It's not a tough game, thanks to the generous (and rechargeable) shield, but it always manages to feel tricky as you vanquish a stage by the skin of your teeth.  It's seriously legit at what it does, and really shows up Black Bird imo, which I played earlier in the year.  I paid £1.99 but it's been under a quid since.  Quality. [8]
    You have minecraft?
  • 40. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons - Switch

    Another slightly older game I fancied that I dragged my heels on.  I'd heard it was good, but having played A Way Out first (Josef Fares' decidedly wonky second game) I was genuinely surprised at how close to excellent most of this was.  You control both brothers simultaneously, using a stick and a shoulder button each, on a quest to find a cure for their ailing father.  Puzzling is mostly simple, but solving them and executing the solution is rewarding - not to mention refreshing, thanks to the dual character set-up and unusual brain teasers this approach brings to the table.  Most of the puzzles and sections are somewhere between passable (rowing through whales) and superb (working in tandem to escape a dog, steering a glider, trapping an ogre), leaning heavily towards the latter in terms of overall quality.  A co-op mode has been added for the Switch version, which works perfectly well mechanically, but as Andy pointed out you'd be losing a particular pay-off if you opt out of adventuring alone.  

    It's a grim fairytale that gets slightly darker the further you progress, and the lack of dialogue combined with neat touches to differentiate between characters, or deft moments of sibling bonding are really nicely done for the most part.  Once again, this comes as a surprise after A Way Out, which was partly appealing because it was so facepalmingly ham-fisted.  Easily one of the best indie experiences of the previous gen and absolutely worth a playthrough on the current crop of consoles if you missed it.  [8]

    41. Pato Box - Switch

    Ever craved a B&W Punch-Out clone where you play as a boxing duck without a duck button?  This may scratch that itch, but take heed - the frankly ridiculous padding vomited out between the memory/reaction/rhythm style boxing bouts ruin the main game.  The standard single player mode probably weighs in at a [5] overall, thanks to the overwhelming in-betweeny bits, but it would be a shame to ignore its various merits.  As an arcade box the bosses game it's very good, and it's not like we've been inundated with these types of late, so anyone who fancies this should go straight for the arcade mode - eight bosses that'll take between ten minutes and an hour each to learn and defeat. Spoiler: the last boss is all the bosses.  Ruiner: The last boss in the standard game has to be played as a turd-tier third person battle, rather than the pattern style that presumably everyone who bought the game would've wanted.  Just scrapes a [6] due to the mostly well designed square circle baddies.  Stylish looking and backed by a decent score, but it's as bloated as Butterbean.

    42. Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the Necrodancer - Switch

    I wasn't completely up for the Zeldafication of Necrodancer going in, having bounced off the original pretty brutally on Vita, but positive reviews and irresistible allure of 2D Hyrule reeled me in.  After a shaky start - I considered throwing in the towel a couple of times in the first 90 mins - this gradually revealed itself to be one of the best games of the year.  The learning curve is steep, but the difficulty on the whole is quite forgiving.  More on that later.  Having limited knowledge of how it works didn't seem to help me as I still felt like I'd been chucked in at the deep end with iron boots instead of flippers.  If you refuse to be overwhelmed (having just paid £20 for it helps) the basics start to make sense after a dozen or so restarts.  Then the addictiveness rapidly sets in.  I polished this off in four evenings, so it joins a very small list of roguelikes I've finished (Enter the Breach and.....ummm).  Instant travel takes the sting out of most of the things I don't particularly like about the genre, although I may have been lucky by finding the required item early on.  

    I quite like rhythm games, not that I've played more than a generous handful over the years, but the genre crossover thing works extremely well.  Marginal dumbing down of the Necrodancer template coupled with how deftly they've bolted it to the Zelda franchise stands as a genuinely impressive achievement.  It really gets its claws in, with very few missteps, and even threatens to usurp Mario Rabbids as the king of unlikely third party spin-offs.  I'm not one for replaying, but it'd certainly withstand multiple runs as the layout changes with every new save file.  

    A few minor negatives: The bosses are a highlight, but they're so easy to defeat they manage to feel like a bit of a joke in the end.  In fact, once you've got the hang of it and know the location of a fairy cave/witch hut or two, you don't really need to die at all if you're careful (in a continued niceness concession the red elixier even kicks in upon death rather than forcing you to chug it in time).  The spear trumps all close range weapons, and pretty much negated their usefulness for me.  Perhaps that was just my play style, but it felt OP.  The *minor spoiler* character swapping is mostly redundant, and after the initial hour or so your diamond stash is too.  That's about it though, excellent game and a very welcome surprise.  Plus it may well be the niftiest looking Zelda game of all time.  £22.49 is maybe a bit much (a straight playthrough took me 6.5hrs), it feels like there's a there's a touch of first party News Feed Highlight tax added on there, but absolutely worth grabbing at the first sniff of a discount.  In with a minor shout for GotY. [8]

    43. Toejam & Earl: Back in the Groove - Switch

    Not a good game per se, but decent fan service and still a boxfresh experience.  It's set out in a similar fashion to the 1991 original - make your way around an unmapped stage until you find either an elevator to go up, or ideally, a ship piece and an elevator.  Avoid earthlings and collect presents, the contents of which remain a mystery until you use them (or pay to see what's inside).  Using presents when you occupy the same screen as your co-op buddy gives the ability to both players.  Yup, it still does the nifty single screen/horizontal split screen thing as you wander around. Items range from useful (hi-top sneakers!) to counter-productive (poisoned food!).  Collect ten ship pieces without running out of lives and you win, which I believe is locked in to happen on the 25th floor.  It's clunky and a bit glitchy, but still enjoyable as (an admittedly too easy) co-op diversion.  The numerous playable characters have stats, which can be levelled up via promotions, but if you play cautiously I doubt it'd be too tricky to finish as a weiner or a doofus.  It's all a bit lightweight and certainly not a game that controls particularly well, given that earthlings often hone in on you at unavoidable speed, but the nostalgia charm offensive takes up some of the slack.  Worthy of note is the choice of a fixed or randomised mode for the stage layouts, which basically boils down to it being a fixed design experience that feels randomised as it's so unpolished, or a an ultra-light rouguelite in the style of the original.  

    Scrapes a [6], as a fan of the series I'm glad I bought it and played with the soundbar blaring the familiar funkybeats, but one to avoid if you don't fancy more of the same.

    44. The Messenger - Picnic Panic DLC - Switch

    For reference, my Messenger review from last year:
    The Messenger - Switch 

    Fantastic idea neatly executed, with the addition of a quality script for the most part.  I found it odd that the game felt like it lost a layer of polish once you hit the 16-bit visuals (the shopkeeper decided to cease telling parables for a start, all of which were entertaining for the first half of the game, was writing another eight or so too much to ask?).  In addition to this I found the Metroidvania* half a little too much of a chore, vastly preferring the straight ahead stages, especially as there's not always an explanation that you require a pick-up to progress (underwater maze, I'm mainly looking at you).  I spent A LOT of the 13hr runtime hoping to stumble upon alternate paths.  Controls are slightly fiddly - the unlockable downward slash should've been assigned to down + attack while gliding - but overall it's great to zip about the screen using your various moves.  Some of the music is excellent, some is just blip and bloops.  Not knocking the sound chip style, just that the composition of some tunes is half baked whereas others feel somewhere close to classic.  That was often the way of it though, so hey ho - successful retro nod.  It's a good game to play with headphones because they highlight the sound differences between the timezones.  Hmm, anything else?  The bosses are high quality, but there aren't nearly enough in the Metroid half, which is a crying shame.   I'm aware that I've been overly critical of it, party here but mainly elsewhere, but that's only because this could've been an exceptional game rather than a very good one.  On paper it's almost my dream game, and at its core it's a very, very good ninja platformer. [8] *Loose definition.  You're revisiting areas and searching, but finding them is only occasionally locked behind the need for a specific ability.
    Mercifully, the DLC is pure A to B platforming, with the Metroidvania trapping unceremoniously dumped (there's even a gag about their shitness, well played devs).  Unfortunately the mini campaign isn't at all consistent in terms of quality and basically consists of more of the same but meaner.  The difficulty is often poorly judged, with some screens being rattle-smashingly frustrating and some being an absolute breeze, seemingly bolted together at random with no eye on incremental toughness.  Maybe I'm misremembering the original, but having been forced to replay the last level in that in order to play this, due to a save glitch, I'd say the dlc is considerably harder than the full game overall.  Again, the controls occasionally feel like they're not quite up to the job, particularly in the harder sections, it has to be said (*picks dummy up, gives it a wipe*), which could possibly be down to the JoyCons but probably isn't; they're just a smidge iffier than they should be.  [6] from me then; if you rated the main game at a [7] or below my advice would be not to bother.  Shout out to the final boss though, good stuff.

    45. Dragon's Lair Trilogy - Switch

    (which is apparently Dragon's Lair, Dragon's Lair II and Space Ace)

    I did enjoy them in the end, but the breakneck Bandersnatch experience wasn't worth £8.99.  A few thoughts from the currently playing thread, as I didn't like them enough to type any more:
    Moot_Geeza wrote:
    I finished Dragon Lair last night, and I've played as much of the sequel as I'm willing to without being paid for the privilege.  That's not to say that I didn't enjoy my time with them to an extent, but the sequel requires an item quest that I didn't even know was a thing until it booted me back to the opening scene.  I'd collected none of the 15 or so items, and the final scene is gated behind a complete collection.  I was far too busy keeping Dirk alive tbh, luckily the scene is viewable from the menu.   I also started Space Ace, which I'll finish today. They're bizarre games; I'm up for the memory test to images thing, but the inputs are so demanding that the whole thing is played in a vague haze where you're only partly able to compute what's going on - a bit like when I play Switch while my wife watches Love Island.  Lair 2 is the pick of the bunch by a mile, shite collectathon barrier notwithstanding - I watched it all after my playthrough and it's a quality collection of animated sequences.
      
    Space Ace was the I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer of the trilogy, in case anyone's wondering.  [5]

    46. The Butcher - Switch

    Quality twin stick platform shooter than flirts with greatness on occasion.  Stylistically it's all very Devolver (the recently announced Carrion is similar looking at a glance), but it plays better than most other retro tech-gore impostors.  The left stick moves, the right stick aims, LB jumps and RB fires.  Weapon swapping is handled with the X and Y buttons, which is where the game loses a few kudos points during its more hectic moments - it could do with a few more options for weapon changing, rather than going up or down the rail (slots assigned to the d-pad would help, but a DOOM 2016 style favourite two swap would be equally welcome).  It all gets a wee bit fiddly once all the weapons are unlocked.  As mentioned though, it plays very well for the most part with its measured super-trickiness, die-and-retry layout learning shtick and satisfying shooting mechanics.  Shout out to the shotty; it's a good'un.  The main levels took me just over two hours to wade through but the final boss stumped me for a further hour or so.  Now that I've bested him I don't quite hold the grudge I was forming last night, as I think I could do it again fairly quickly now that I've worked out my movement patterns, but it's not a good boss fight (which is a shame as it's the only one, and it does take the shine off a bit).  A rather harsh [7] then - it was cruising for an 8 or 9 at one point - but I'd definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys a spot of Broforce and its ilk.  It brought to mind the (utterly stupendous) Rive on occasion, as it felt like a reduced/streamlined version of that due to the controls, wave-based sections and the way you'll stick close to felled enemies as they drop pick-ups.  100% worth £4.

    47. Trials Rising - Switch, XBox One

    I've spent close to 60hrs on this across both formats and I'm done for now.  Will return in the unlikely event of further competitions on here.

    It's an excellent Trials game with some genuinely top-tier racing lines on numerous normal and hard tracks that's hamstrung to blazes but an idiotic front end.  It shoots itself in the foot for sure - it's doesn't blow both trotters clean off like Trackmania Turbo, but it's in that ballpark for facepalm.  You'll have to grind through experience levels in order to unlock the stages, which is a terrible idea.  It wasn't broke so it shouldn't have been fixed - it reeks of change for the sake of change and whoever's directly responsible deserves to be woken up with a fierce nipple cripple every day for the rest of their life.  

    Performance wise it's clearly miles better on Bone, but suffered from a random spit-second freeze on almost every single run, at least on my console.  This may have been patched out ages ago; I got rid of the big boy version a few months ago and focused on the handheld entry.   Intermittent stutter aside it looks and ran superbly.  Switch version is passable, but unless you're obsessed with the ability to play undocked like me it's not worth considering compared to the full-fat edition.  It's fine, I got 40+hrs out of it and I guess the port is laudable to an extent considering the gulf in specs between the consoles, but 30fps, low res blurry digital trigger Trials is a mug's game if you plan on playing it on a telly like a normal person.  

    I haven't bothered with the Extremes, and I don't think I'll put myself through it with the JoyCons, but I did finish all nine stadium finals and the grand finale (a single Extreme track I blootered through with zero finesse).  With a better UI it'd be a [9], but the final scores are [7] for Switch and [8] for Xbox.  For deep fans there are some spectacularly good tracks in it and the first round of DLC is high quality.

    48. Blazing Chrome - Xbox One

    Unabashed Contra homage that highlights precisely why I like these modern retro titles - the best ones are occasionally better than the games they're imitating.  Modern concessions like checkpointing after major areas and replenishing lives after using a non-finite continue push this into the fair zone, while proving to be just as dastardly as their inspiration screen by screen.  Compare this to Probotector on Megadrive and there really is no contest, 'classic' or not - Konami's effort may have marginally more memorable set-pieces, but difficulty-wise it was always an nigh-on unplayable hot mess.  For me, this just pips SNES Contra III too; everything about it feels just about right.  It certainly doesn't have crappy top down sections dragging the average down.  

    You know what to expect if you've seen the trailers, but it's still impressive how well they've pulled it off.  Level design is very good overall, bosses are mostly decent and the challenge (for normal mode) is pitched at tricky rather than evil.  With only 6 stages it's short, so £16.99 is a bit off in terms of value imo, but it's an excellent game nonetheless.  If Volgarr the Viking is the ultimate version of Rastan, and Monster Boy in the Cursed Kingdom is the ultimate Wonderboy, which they bloody well are, then the same can be said of this when compared to Contra.  Grab a co-op partner and get those patterns learned. [8]

    49. Yoshi's Crafted World - Switch

    Four months in and Tilly & I are finally done.  After the pre-launch fervour and initial buzz this joined Pokemon Let's Go by the wayside, but we picked it up again a couple of weeks ago.  She had a blast, but it was hard going for me, despite the charm offensive.  Much like Kirby All Star Allies it's an exceptional game for youngsters, it absolutely succeeds in appealing to very young players with its casual mode, but Christ almighty it's mechanically dull.  The levels are varied in a typical Nintendo style, but the fundamental running, jumping, floating and egg firing is wafty.  You'd have to pay me to collect the non-essential items, but thankfully nabbing the vast majority of the flowers en route to the last gem gave me more than enough to pay each toll - reviews citing required backtracking were way off; you'd have to be deliberately avoiding flowers to necessitate further collecting imo.  Special mention to the music - it's fucking terrible.  The main theme is fine (once or twice), but it's regurgitated throughout in surprisingly quarter-arsed fashion, which is especially jarring after playing Woolly World on 3DS (thumbs up for the tunes in that). 

    Overall I'm inclined to be harsher on this than I would've been before continuing with the campaign.  I've already mentioned Kirby, but I'll mention it again - much like that slightly weak-sauce platformer it warrants two scores - [8] for the kiddies, mission accomplished there for sure, but probably a [5] for fully grown folk.  It's also a bit tight for two players in places, and doesn't quite feel suited to co-op throughout.  As an amalgamation of Bug!, Clockwork Knight, Tearaway and Yoshi's Island it sort of works, but 'enchantingly boring' is the takeaway description overall.  One of the weaker first party Switch efforts.

    50. Tacoma - Xbox One

    Fancied this for a while but always hesitated to part with money for it.  Turns out I made the right decision.  I've got a soft spot for the genre, but I'd put this a fair way down the list of examples I've played.  The interactivity is dull, which doesn't always hurt this sort of thing, but the sci-fi narrative was a bit of a damp squib for me.  Not abysmal, but fundamentally monotonous and all a bit played out.  I can't put my finger on why received a healthy dose of love on here, yet Everybody's Gone to the Rapture - with its similarly unremarkable storyline yet tons more atmosphere - got such a kicking.  Y'all just really like AI space stuff, maybe?  Whereas I like deserted rural villages and Ron from Goodnight Sweetheart.  

    Did not enjoy. [4]

    51. Framed - Switch

    Sliding tile sequence puzzle game, presumably something that was originally a mobile game.  Standard espionage scenes unfold as you readjust images to make them flow in the correct order for success before hitting the play button.  Quite limited, and becomes less enjoyable when it attempts to mix it up a bit (specifically the reusable frames), but not a bad experience all told.  Will play the sequel at some point, which is included in the collection.  [6]

    52. Mechstermination Force - Switch

    Bought thanks to Andy's recommendation in the Switch thread, having previously mistaken it for an overpriced budget game.  It's not quite as good as I was hoping, but I definitely had a good time with it.  Continuing from the groundwork laid with the excellent final boss in Gunman Clive 2 and taking cues from Contra, Cuphead and Shadow of the Colossus, what emerges is a likeable hodgepodge that could've been stupendous with better controls.  There's a slightly off-kilter feel to the character movement that's hard to pinpoint, but imo the experience is marred by wonky physics and odd inertia.  Basic running and jumping feels like a game that exists in a perpetual state of 12% ice world slipperiness and 6% moon gravity, which is just enough to make the whole thing feel slightly off, especially after the addition of the [minor item spoiler]
    Spoiler:
    As this type of game is intrinsically frustrating, almost as a raison d'etre, what you don't need is something else to complain about when you snuff it for the umpteenth time.  The difficulty compensates for this - unlike Cuphead, once you've leaned what to do executing the plan is relatively straightforward (whereas you learn far more gradually in Cuphead, and must stay on your toes to succeed as you can't often force/spam a win).  It's still a tricky game, but it probably becomes slightly easier as you progress, chiefly thanks to powerful additions to your arsenal.  Visually the cel shaded bot look is bold but not particularly striking - it looks okay, but I won't focus on the graphics as I'll end up damning it with faint praise.  I couldn't comment on the music as I paid attention to none of it during my playthrough - I'm reasonably sure it was nothing offensive, but it was clearly just...there.  I couldn't even tell you the style of muzak tbh.  Stick you own tunes on, if ye be heathens.   

    On to the plus points - despite the inelegance of its gameplay it's hugely addictive.  I was done in, iirc, 3hrs 50 minutes, with just over 100 deaths.  I'm not great at these games but I do like things that eventually succumb to persistence.  Boss design is varied and - key point coming up - exhilarating at its best.  This is where the SotC similarities are pushed to the forefront.  For me, that was a game that came alive at its best moments, which helped to paper over the cracks of its lesser parts.  There were sections in this where I was positively buzzing - when everything comes together as you successfully execute a jump from the arm of a skyscraper-sized robot to its head to deliver a final blow it's a bit of an air puncher. There's undeniable quality here, which is especially noteworthy for an unheralded console exclusive indie release.

    Anyway, the tl,dr everyone's so fond of these days is: a commendable boss rush shooter that's extremely likeable but not quite good enough to love. [7]

    53. Mutant Year Zero - Xbox One

    Tactical turn-based strategy game where you guide a group of hard boiled mutants through 'the zone' on a quest to find the near-mythical Eden.  The graphic novel style vignettes are high quality and the voicework is mostly very strong (with the sore-thumb exception of Magnus).  Avoiding skirmishes plays an important part of the proceedings, so it's as much as stealth game as a grid tactics thing, but you will need to engage regularly to avoid keep pace with the enemies.  Catch-22 in a way, imo your best bet is to take out as many nasties as possible along the way.  Your entire party levels up as one, and the games is unafraid to regularly put you out your depth.  I played on 'normal', which is the setting down from default.  In all likelihood I wouldn't have had the titanium testicles required for hard, let alone ultra hard iron mutant, or whatever the top level was.  I'm not a whizz at the genre, despite the fact that I like it, but this is undeniably rough from the outset in terms of difficulty and I was really struggling until I got the hang of the major mutations like the Hog Rush (which cracked the game wide open due to its ability to silently incapacitate a ghoul).  I get that people don't like hand holding in games, but it took over half the game for me to settle in with all the systems in play.     

    Visually it's nice enough, I'm glad I sent the Switch version back as I don't think they'd suit being much muddier/murkier.  The Bone version is a bit glitchy anyway, and takes an eternity to load new areas (or reload stages) which is irritating enough to take the shine off a bit.  Off the top of my head this is the first grid tactics game I've finished on a TV since Shining Force 2, so it was doing plenty of things right though.  The genre goes hand in hand with handheld gaming for me, which is one of the reasons I'd like to see X-Com 2 appear on Switch (bounced off on PS4). I'm waffling a bit now.  I liked this a lot, when it all clicks it's an excellent game and I enjoyed the world and what I've seen of the Mutant universe, but it's no Mario Rabbids.  Shout outs to Borman and Dux as protagonists though, even though it thrives on gruffness the dialogue rarely falls flat.  [7]
    You have minecraft?
  • 2: Onimusha Warlords Xbox One - 8/10
    Awesome game, so simple and linear but just good early naughties fun! Simple story with some hilarious characters! Was aces going back in time to enjoy a game I first went through 18 years ago. Really enjoyed that.

    3: Resi 6 Xbox One - 5/10
    Finally finished this. Have tried so many times and just fallen away. God awful. Gets a 5 merely because it’s Resi. Finished every other Resi multiple times but this?! Unlocked the ADA campaign, tried that and literally could not put any more time in. Cannot wait for Resi 2 to erase this.
  • 3. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

    Finished this in co-op with the Boy. He absolutely loved it although it was hard for him (he is 5). I found it ok. Not much to it. Bog standard left-to-right platformer, rather dull in places, but occasional decent levels. Bosses were annoying and the kind that you fight and think “they should do away with bosses”. Worst of all were the tedious cart and barrel levels. I thought we left that kind of thing behind decades ago or now relegated to cheap smartphone games.

    Still, it was all rather polished and well put together. And I appreciate it’s probably meant for people looking for a retro gaming fix, but it didn’t quite play great. 

    [7]
    "But enough talk. HAVE AT YOU!"
  • The best cart bits are some of the best Nintybits ever imo.
    You have minecraft?
  • I know you love the game and those cart bits, dude. Just not my cuppatay.
    "But enough talk. HAVE AT YOU!"
  • Next up with the Boy: Captain Toad. Another enjoyable game.
    "But enough talk. HAVE AT YOU!"
  • Feed me minecarts and bosses.
    You have minecraft?
  • 2. Astro Bot - Playstation VR

    Easily one of the greatest gaming experiences I've ever had, and to think I was secretly mocking VR up to a few weeks ago.  Phenomenally inventive, beautifully presented corridor platformer (think Sly Racoon or Super Magnetic Neo for better examples than Crash Bandicoot) with a massive twist.  'Be the camera' isn't going to shift units, but don't knock it until you've tried it.  Great visuals, quality sound design and music, terrific stage layouts, inventive item mechanics, old-school screen-filling pattern bosses, well spaced checkpoints, replayability, post credits longevity (challenge mode), perfect movement controls (which sounds simple, but think how many games have got this wrong over the years), buckets of charm and bundles of character - it doesn't put a foot wrong for my money.  The best exclusive on PS4, it's mere inches away from a ten.  Exquisite craftsmanship, sequel please.  [9]
    You have minecraft?
  • Moot_Geeza wrote:
    Feed me minecarts and bosses.
    オレノナハ エラー ダ
  • That last barrel level was pretty decent. The bosses were shit though. Too slow and a lot of the times just standing there waiting to jump over something and for the boss to get to it’s vulnerable state etc. Too long.
    "But enough talk. HAVE AT YOU!"
  • Agree that the bosses could've been better.  Wouldn't go as far as shit, but certainly nothing special.  The horned owl(?) and the polar bear were the highlights.  I still enjoyed them, always do really, but I wouldn't want to play a Tropical Freeze boss rush.  They didn't have enough vulnerable states that favoured boldness - the risk/reward thing, so there was a lot of waiting for a window at the end of patterns.
    You have minecraft?
  • Agree with all of that. Shit was too harsh. Just nothing special.
    "But enough talk. HAVE AT YOU!"
  • Shit would be Mario games, excluding the last battle with Bowser. They vary from ok to great.
    オレノナハ エラー ダ

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