The title of this article says it all, but I would like to give credit where credit is due and say that this piece was ultimately inspired by @CoreyMotley and @StephenTotilo. Custom art by @Alex_Connolly!
FEBRUARY TOTAL: 29
1. Journey to the Savage Planet, Xbox One
I started this in January but didn’t finish. It’s a fairly straightforward first-person shooter with metroidvania gating elements that has the player searching for resources on an “uninhabited” planet. I admire the simplicity and it’s got a good sense of humor, but I got tired of it about halfway through and bailed — once the gameplay started feeling routine and the formula of collecting resources became clear, the appeal wore off. Also, I was really wishing for a map since many sections of each area look virtually identical to each other. Did not finish. Deleted.
2. Coffee Talk, Switch
Like JttSP above, this was another one I started in January. It’s essentially a visual novel in the truest sense since the player has almost no interaction – they’re a barista chatting to monster people who come into their shop (vampires, werewolves, etc.) but there are no dialogue choices or decisions except when someone orders a drink. Players make the beverage by choosing from a small selection of ingredients (milk/milk/honey, tea/lemon/ginger, etc.) but that’s it. Despite not having much to do besides read, the art is cute, the characters are appealing, and most importantly — the writing is great. I wasn’t sure what to make of it at first, but I set the text to auto-scroll and watched it like a TV show, and by the end I was genuinely sad to leave the characters behind. Finished. RECOMMENDED.
3. Zombie Army 4: Dead War, PS4
I’ve always been curious about this series (and I’m pretty sure I own at least one or two of them) but this is the first time I’ve jumped in and tried one. I like that it’s third person and zombies in WWII is a thing I’m up for, but it feels clearly meant for multiplayer in terms of enemy design. The levels are longer than I’d like and there are tons of foes. Rather than feeling stealthy or strategic, I’d frequently just stand in place and mow down oncoming hordes. Also, this is the sort of joint where enemies will pop up behind you out of thin air after you’ve cleared out a “safe” zone to defend. It actually reminds me a lot of Strange Brigade which makes sense since it’s from the same developer. I went through that game with my wife and had an okay time, but there’s no way I would have finished it solo due to how long and repetitive it got. ZA4 gives me the same vibes – I’m putting it on hold until I can get a second copy from for the wife because I do want to go through it, but it’s too exhausting to do it alone. Did not finish. Will come back to it.
4. Fortnite, PS4
Not much to say on this one, it’s my weekly jam and while the UI isn’t as good as last season, the new espionage theme has added several new twists to the gameplay. Gotta hand it to Epic, they have been doing a killer job of keeping this juggernaut fresh. Check January’s rundown for more details. Playing weekly.
5. Marvel Puzzle Quest, Android
Same as Fortnite, see January for more details. The only notable thing to mention is a new self-selected difficulty (CL10) that adds a lot of great rewards for players who can hang at that level. Not only does it incentivize going for the challenge, it keeps the big dogs out of the lower tiers and stops them from steamrolling players who aren’t as strong. It’s a smart move and I’m surprised the devs didn’t do something like it sooner. Playing daily.
6. Picross S2, Switch
I’m maybe 3/4ths of the way through it and still chipping away at it before bed. Did not finish. Still playing.
7. Concrete Genie, PS4
I recalled seeing the trailer for this one during E3 a while back and the idea of painting things that come to life seemed like a solid one. However, the first 30 minutes I was already bored with the painting mechanic because it came off as something bolted on top of a mediocre action game instead of being the basis of the entire experience, as it seemed to be in the trailer. Did not finish. Sent back to GameFly.
8. Diggerman, Switch
Bought this one at random for $1 a while ago. The Switch has some absolutely bonkers sales – many games even less than a buck! – so I’m always picking up something random if it looks decent and comes up cheap. I’m guessing this one is a mobile port since it only uses L/R as controls and has a built-in coin-grinding mechanic that probably makes more sense in a F2P environment. (There are no microtransactions in this version.) A mole man has kidnapped your girlfriend and hidden her at the core of the earth, so you’re trying to dig down and rescue her. Your character burrows at a 45-degree angle and needs battery power for his flashlight to stay alive. Gameplay is lightning-fast as you scurry downwards trying to collect batteries and make it as far as possible, avoiding hazards along the way. Each round is over in the blink because you die super fast, but it’s simple and arcadey in a good way. I rarely play it for more than 5 minutes in a session, but it’s nice to dip into something as streamlined and quick as this. Did not finish. Still playing.
9. Event Horizon: Space Defense, Switch
I like the idea of building my own space station and having little battles in zero-G, but this barebones indie isn’t ready for primetime. The interface and graphics are hella rough, there’s no story, and it seems like something that somebody threw together without any polish before uploading to the eShop. I moved on pretty quickly. Did not finish. Deleted.
10. Peace, Death!, Switch
See January for more details, but I’m still going through this infernal version of Papers, Please! one or two levels at a time. Did not finish. Still playing.
11. Indivisible, PS4
Eugene Sax wrote a favorable review of this one at GC so I gave it a second look after not being hooked by the demo. It takes a lot of cues from 2000’s Valkyrie Profile (PS1) in the sense that the player explores the world via 2D platforming and then combat maps one character to each face button on the controller for combo-flavored fighting. The fights felt pretty good when the enemy wasn’t steamrolling me with surprise party wipes, but the world is dull and the platforming is annoying. There’s potential for the combat engine to be polished into something that could really hum, but neat fights alone weren’t enough to get me to commit. Did not finish. Returned to GameFly.
12. Bookbound Brigade, Switch
This is an oddball metroidvania where the player’s ‘character’ is actually five small characters smushed together into a lump. They’re all literary figures such as King Arthur, Dorothy Gale, Sun Wukong and more. The gist is that they’re adventuring in book-based worlds and each one (eventually) gets their own special powers that help the crew navigate. Dracula uses his batcape to double jump, and so on. It’s a neat idea but the graphics are really tiny and the levels are dull – just a lot of boring platforms and minimal decoration. The combat is super basic button-mash stuff and navigation is difficult and annoying thanks to small margins for error and a lot of instant-death items like spikes and flame jets. Also, for a game about books and the literary world, the writing is a bunch of bad jokes with too many typos. Did not finish. Deleted.
13. Knights and Bikes, Switch
I heard a lot of great things about this one, but rarely have I had such an intense, immediate dislike of a game. I’m sure this is great stuff for the right person, but I am not that guy. The graphics were too busy for my eyes, the camera was too close to the action, the game wasn’t great about communicating to the player where they should go or what they should do, the writing was irritating, and the action was flat. I didn’t play this one for long — this game is just not for me. Did not finish. Deleted.
14. Helldivers, PS4
This is actually one of my top 10 games of all time, and I regard it as one of the finest co-op experiences ever created. I played *the shit* out of it when it first released in 2015 with my wife and son in co-op, to the point that I got all of the achievements except one (too grindy) and had unlocked everything and beaten every boss on the hardest difficulty. Once I had done everything except that last achievement, I moved on to other things and it started gathering virtual dust. However, I was surprised as hell when the devs, Arrowhead, announced a surprise update in 2019 with new features and new unlockables. Nobody had any inkling it was coming (four years after release!) but I didn’t have time for it until now. I jumped back in and my skills were embarrassingly rusty, but it was as fun and intense as it ever was. I was also thrilled to see plenty of online matches able to be joined and apparently lots of people are still playing. I’m not sure that my skills are up the challenge of three new difficulties that are now harder than the previous nearly-impossible final one, but it’s a treat to revisit this old friend. Still playing. RECOMMENDED.
15. One Person Story, Switch
Picked this up super-cheap on one of the bananas sales that hit the Switch. It’s a reflex-based puzzler where a ball bounces through single-screen levels and the player must press a button to activate/deactivate things in the world – gates, spikes, doors, and so on. The goal is to clear a path for the ball and progress it to the next area. It’s super basic and there’s not a whole lot to it other than figuring out the correct timing for each set of traps and then executing. Also, the devs are trying to tell an inspirational story while you’re puzzling, so each level has a brief “you can do it!” or “you’re not alone!” platitude with powerpoint-quality humanoid figures to go with them. The text got annoying and the gameplay wasn’t super compelling in the first place, so… Did not finish. Deleted.
16. Gunpowder on the Teeth: Arcade, Switch
Another cheapie grabbed on Switch sale. You’re a tiny soldier going through 2D platforming levels and trying to blow up various targets while not getting killed yourself. In a strange move, this game is inexplicably black and white, and the devs are not great with readability. It’s hard to see enemies and bullets, there are shrubs obscuring the levels, and there are a lot of one-hit-kill pits and barbed wire. I found it really tough to visually parse each area and the poor graphics made playing a hassle. Also, there are a couple places where voiceovers pop up and there are no options for subtitles (seriously?!?!?) so I have no idea what was said. Did not finish. Deleted.
17. Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom, Switch
While chatting with folks on Twitter, @makdaddymelb threw out a rec for this one and I owe him some thanks because his instincts were on the money. This is a 2D metroidvania-style game that blends its design with traditional platforming. You need to earn new powers to progress as you would in any other of this type, but each level is crafted in discrete ‘chunks’ that offer small ideas and challenges, testing both your equipment, cleverness and reflexes. It’s also strictly regimented so that you’re never in the wrong place and hitting dead ends. It’s a great mix of play concepts that is extremely well-executed. Of course, I’m burying the lede here since your powers offer the ability to transform into several different animals – a snake that spits venom and goes into small spaces, a pig that casts magic, a frog that uses his tongue to grapple, and more. You can switch between the forms at any time and the animation is superb. It looks great, it feels great to play, it’s got several different kinds of challenge – it’s outstanding from any perspective. I’m honestly a little surprised I didn’t hear more about it when it dropped at the end of 2018! Did not finish. Still playing. RECOMMENDED.
18. Umihara Kawase Fresh!, Switch
Anyone who knows me or listens to the podcast knows that I have a weakness for grappling hooks, and this 2D platformer is all about ‘em. I tried earlier versions of UK on 3DS and Vita and found both of them sorta neat, but they were too idiosyncratic and difficult to make much progress. So, this is attempt #3 to click with the series and I can now confirm that it’s not for me. The graphics are terrible, the animation is terrible and the physics of the “rubber band” grappling hook drive me insane. It feels like torture to play and I ran screaming just after the tutorials ended. Did not finish. Returned to GameFly.
19. Snack World: The Dungeon Crawl – Gold, Switch
I rarely pay full price for games unless I know they’re gonna be a slam dunk. However, @coffeejezus is someone who has incredibly infectious enthusiasm, and I fell under his sway again — if I was standing on an iceberg freezing to death, this guy could talk me into buying a popsicle. Between his honeyed words and my affection for dungeon crawlers (and specifically Fantasy Life on 3DS from the same devs) I decided to pay full price for this one, which is something I almost never do. Huge mistake. It looked great in the trailers, but in practice it was a trashy mess with janky combat, terrible UI and menus, and a core loop that relies too much on grinding and repetition. I tapped out after the first day and did not get my money’s worth. Did not finish. Deleted. Regretted.
20. West of Dead (beta), Xbox One
This is a beta for a top-down Western-themed roguelike featuring a main character with more than a passing resemblance to Ghost Rider and voiced by actor Ron Perlman. The art style seems to be taking notes from comics artist Mike Mignola, but it’s waaaay too dark and murky. Shooting doesn’t feel as precise as it should, and the enemies never miss unless you’re behind cover or mid-dodgeroll. There’s a lot of potential here but it’s pretty far off from feeling done. I’ll check back once it’s finished. Deleted.
21. Bleeding Edge (closed beta), Xbox One
I thought it was crazy that the developer of Heavenly Sword, Enslaved, DmC and Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice would flip their script and randomly produce an online multiplayer PVP title, and their first trailer did nothing to sell me on it. However, I’m eating crow now… I jumped into their closed beta via GamePass and was instantly sold. The cast of characters is awesome, showcasing great visual design and tons of personality. My favorite was a cybernetic snake bonded to a zombie’s corpse (Kulev), but the lady with prosthetic bird legs (Cass) was rad, and I’m always happy to see bigger girls get some representation in games, so Buttercup was also at the top of my list. The 4-on-4 matches have a neat divide between melee/ranged characters and the third-person viewpoint was great. The beta ended long before I got tired of it, so I’m definitely going to jump in as soon as it’s available. Waiting for full release.
22. Aery, Xbox One
This is a chill indie where you’re a bird flying around low-poly levels and picking up feathers. I bounced quick, though – there’s only one music track in the game, the bird can’t speed up or land, and for some reason it kept veering hard right while flying. I thought that maybe it was my controller but other games I tried worked fine, it was just this one that acted weird. I appreciate little indies, but this one needs more content and more time in the oven. Did not finish. Deleted.
23. Glass Masquerade: Origins, Switch
This relaxed puzzler is about reassembling the shards of stained glass windows on clock faces. I picked it up because I needed something for those nights when I wanted something as mellow as Picross but didn’t actually want to play more Picross, and this absolutely fit the bill. Did not finish. Still playing.
24. Demon’s Tilt, Xbox One
This one-board pinball game is veeeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrry reminiscent of the classic Devil’s Crush (a good thing!) and since it was available on GamePass, I gave it a shot. The board is neat-looking and I enjoyed it for half an hour, but I’m not much of a scorechaser and I gotta be honest, it’s visually hard to read when explosions and special effects are happening. Deleted.
25. Darksiders Genesis, PS4
I had a great time with the first Darksiders, but I can’t say the same about the sequels that have come since. I keep waiting for the series to regain lost steam, but this top-down dungeon crawler isn’t gonna do it. The graphics are tiny, the levels are bland and the map doesn’t show where you are (in a dungeon crawler? really??) The gameplay also got boring within the first hour — punch, do a finisher, repeat. Even playing in co-op didn’t help, and neither my wife nor I wanted to keep going after just one session. Did not finish. Deleted.
26. Azur Lane: Crosswave, PS4
I’ve heard that Azur Lane is one of the top mobile games so I was curious to see what it would have to offer on console. I can’t say that I understand it 100%, but there are anime girls with random pieces of boats (battleships, destroyers, aircraft carriers) strapped to their bodies and they go out onto the ocean and engage in battles where they skim across the ocean’s surface at top speed. They also talk a lot. Like, a lot lot. I started skipping the conversations because it was too much inane prattle, but zipping around on the water is pleasantly kinetic. I’m interested to unlock more characters and see how they differ, though I will say that I’m a little skeeved out by the aesthetics. I have no problem with big-tiddy anime girls that look like grown women, but Crosswave’s cast is heavily populated by girls that look like girls – as in, preteen and prepubescent. It’s creepy and inappropriate. I know there’s an army of sad dudes out there who will shoot me fiery emails and tell me I’m disrespecting Japanese culture (I’m not) or that the chars are actually adults that just look young, but these visuals are gross. Don’t sexualize little girls. Did not finish. Still playing.
27. Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor – Martyr, PS4
After being disappointed with Darksiders Genesis I was still in the mood for a meaty top-down dungeon crawler and I had just received a PR email about Martyr’s latest DLC being released. Gotta be honest, I don’t recall Martyr coming out (it originally released in 2018) although to be fair, Games Workshop is famously unscrupulous about who they grant a license to and there are a lot of bad Warhammer games out there – it’s hard to tell the wheat from the chaff. In any event, I saw the deluxe version was on PSN sale for $15 (down from $70!!!) and jumped in. Glad I did, because it was exactly what I was in the mood for — basically a top-down Diablo-like with multiple character classes. There’s plenty of story to get things rolling, the sounds and visuals are great, the camera is adjustable when needed, and the enemy encounters are solid. Best of all, every weapon has four firing modes (including the melee) so progress in each area is constant situational evaluation and management rather than just spamming one button a million times. The mix of enemy types and behaviors supports this, and you’re encouraged to approach each fight carefully. I also love the setting and the pace – it feels slow and deadly, and seeing the character’s shoulder flashlight sweep a room before opening fire with Satan’s own chaingun is kiiiiinda rad. Did not finish. Still playing. RECOMMENDED!
28. Simulacra 2, Android
This mobile game features real actors and filmed footage in the sort of experience that my good man @CoreyMotley calls “digging around in other people’s stuff“. In this case, you receive a phone that belonged to a woman who’s been murdered. The game maps to your real-life phone’s actual screen so that you can pretend your phone is hers. There are spoopy videos to watch and fictional apps to use, and you’ll get fake texts from a detective you’re working with. It’s all pretty neat but fans of @SoVideogames will know that I’m not much for this sort of experience — going through documents and files to find clues is just not my jam. I think it’s pretty cool, but it’s not for me. Did not finish. Deleted.
29. Bio, Inc. Nemesis: Medical Malpractice Simulator, Android
This is the most mobile-ass mobile game I’ve played in some time. You play as evil doctors trying to kill patients for… reasons. The gameplay boils down to assembling a team of bad docs who cause an energy bar to grow and you use that energy to inflict diseases. It’s a race to beat the ‘good’ AI docs trying to heal them, so you wait for the bar to fill, click something (heart attack, depression, bad cough, etc.) and try to outpace the competition. There are a bunch of currencies, a lot of stuff to grind, and the gameplay is mehhhhhh. It’s like the worst of the bad habits mobile games have, but rolled into one. Not sure it’s possible to finish it, but it was Deleted.
30. Our World is Ended, Switch
Had no idea what this one was about, but popped it on my GameFly queue randomly and its turn came since Zombie Army 4 is apparently in high demand. Didn’t get far here, it’s a sci-fi visual novel where the fastest auto-scrolling text isn’t fast enough and it starts out with too much obsession on female characters’ breasts. I’m not a prude but I’m waaaaaay past the point where zooming a camera in on a woman’s chest and dedicating two paragraphs to describing them is quality entertainment – it’s just an immature waste of time. Maybe it would have been interesting when I was 14 (and that’s a hard maybe) but focusing on that before getting the player invested in the game told me all I needed to know. Did not finish. Returned to GameFly.
31. Destiny Connect: Tick-Tock Travelers, Switch
Like #30, this was a random GameFly selection that got shipped since my other picks were not available. It’s a basic JRPG that would be suitable for little kids, and features an incredibly unappealing art style that resembles cheaply-animated CGI schlock. Bailed in ten minutes. Did not finish. Returned to GameFly.
Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody's looking, and his favorite game of all time is a toss-up between the first Mass Effect and The Witcher 3. You can catch his written work here at GameCritics and you can hear him weekly on the @SoVideogames Podcast. Follow Brad on Twitter and Instagram at @BradGallaway, or contact him via email:
bradgallaway a t gmail dot com
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