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!
July Total: 29
1. Swarmriders, Switch
I got this on sale for .50 and it was worth exactly that much. The player’s on a motorcycle that can’t stop while swarms of something keep attacking from the back. You shoot them until you get overwhelmed and die, and that’s it. No story, no upgrades, no progression… just drive and shoot and go for a high score. Or, you can do like I did and just bail after two runs. Deleted.
2. Blazing Beaks, Switch review by Michael Prehn
I play all the Switch roguelikes, but I won’t be coming back to this one. The art isn’t great, I’m unclear why the main characters are birds, and the “powerups” actually make the character weaker in an unorthodox risk/reward system that doesn’t feel good or fun. Deleted.
3. Monster Prom XXL, Switch review by Eugene Sax
I assumed this was a visual novel/dating sim but it feels more like a party game/board game. The art is cute but the writing swings back and forth between funny and obnoxious. The mechanics of the game are dead simple – earn enough of the right kind of points to qualify for a prom date with the monster that matches those points – but getting the points feels random as the game asks you to answer bizarre questions that generally feel like random guesses. I went through the game a handful of times and it didn’t get more involving or interesting… I appreciate that the devs went a different route than most, but I’m not sure that breaking from the norm paid off here. Finished.
4. Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus, PS4 my review
I can finally talk about this one now that the embargo’s dropped, and I kinda love it. The turn-based mechanics are rich and nuanced, there are several ways for the player to self-regulate difficulty, and it’s a perfect use of the 40K license. It runs a little slow on the PS4, the graphics need a little punch-up, and I’m not a fan of being unable to keep playing post-credits but overall this is a lock for my top ten of 2020. Finished. RECOMMENDED!
5. Nioh 2, PS4 my review
This is another one I started last month, and I’m going the distance with it. I kept it on my backlog for a while because I had heard people say it was too hard, but once I jumped in, I was glad that I did. This is exactly the same sort of stuff that I loved the first time around, and Team Ninja has delivered another rich, hyper-polished experience. Everything about it is great. I’m in the home stretch now… Just a few more levels until the end. Still playing. RECOMMENDED!
6. Dune Sea, Switch
I am fascinated with the idea of playing a chill flying game and I try every one I find, but this one is near the bottom of the list. The mechanics and physics are awkward and it doesn’t feel good to fly — it handles almost like an airborne platformer since there’s a lot of floating garbage for the bird to dodge, and it has to frequently land and regain stamina. I’ve seen Canadian geese in real life and I know for a fact they don’t need to land every 30 seconds because they’re too tired. It feels stuck halfway between two non-complementary genres. Deleted.
7. Marvel Puzzle Quest, Android
Nothing new to report, this is my regular mobile fix. Playing daily.
8. Brigandine: the Legend of Runersia, Switch (demo) review by Steve Gillham
I like turn-based tactics but I despise the Japanese fallback of “warring political factions fighting to conquer the land” and the tutorial was so goddamn wordy and dull that I couldn’t make it through. Deleted.
9. Yes, Your Grace, Switch review by Nikki Waln
Another contender for top 10 of 2020. This one has players assume the role of King Eryk, monarch of a struggling fictional land which seems like it could feasibly be in Eastern Europe. You listen to petitioners and help them (or not) if you can afford it (or not), deal with family issues and, oh yes, you’re going to be overrun by invaders in a few months so you might want to prioritize building alliances and mustering an army. This game is all killer, no filler with a super-lean design, a speedy pace, and a lot of decisions that are real nail-biters. I loved it from start to finish, and the ending had me on the edge of my seat. This is great, great stuff. There’s a little technical issue with the game freezing if it’s loaded onto an SD card (transfer it to internal memory) but I’m guessing the devs will have patched it out by the time this goes up. Finished. RECOMMENDED!
10. Jump Rope Challenge, Switch
This free download tasks players with jump roping (basically hopping up and down while holding the Joy-Cons) every day. It’s basic and simple, but kinda neat. I did the first day and forgot about it afterwards, but I really want to keep going with it. Still playing… when I remember.
11. Superhot: Mind Control Delete, XBO review by Corey Motley
I really liked the original Superhot but this latest installment left me really, uh, supercold. It’s a run-based roguelike where the player goes through preset rooms that are arranged in different orders. I guess it’s a good idea if the goal is to get more playtime using Superhot’s mechanics, but it started repeating rooms almost immediately and I got bored – something that never happened in the first game. Deleted.
12. Rainswept, Switch
I’ve heard nothing but good things about this one for a while, so I was thrilled when I saw it made the jump to Switch from PC, and it strikes me very much like a 2D, pixelated Deadly Premonition. Unfortunately, it’s more like a story game than the detective game it appears to be at first glance and I didn’t click with the characters or the plot. Also, the art is kind of terrible… Poor animation, more than anything. Deleted.
13. Shadow Fight 2, Switch
Janky, didn’t feel good to play and lacking in polish. Deleted.
14. Demon’s Rise: War for the Deep, Switch
Janky, weak visuals, lacking in polish and it felt like a grind almost immediately. Deleted.
15. Superliminal, PS4
This first-person puzzler wowed me with its trailer, but I had a hard time caring about the full game. The narrative and general design swipes too many notes from Portal and the gameplay mechanics (while neat as concepts) don’t build on each other – each challenge felt random, rather than a slow, upward curve using skills I had learned in previous areas. It’s also a very boring game, visually. After telling the player at the start that the entire thing is taking place in a dream, it’s crushingly dull to see nothing but nondescript office rooms and hallways. There are no abstract dreamscapes or more fantastical elements? It’s a short experience (just 2-3 hours from what people tell me) but I was too bored to even play that long. Deleted.
16. Rocket Arena, PS4 preview by CJ Salcedo
This is a new entry into the Overwatch/Fortnite/Apex Legends-like arena from EA and after one session, I bailed out hard. I can’t stand the art style and character design, and the gameplay felt very chaotic, yet also flat – shoot the other dudes until you can blast them out of the level, Smash Bros.-style. Nothing about it felt good or interesting. Deleted.
17. Mittelborg: City of Mages, Switch
This one is an odd duck. The entire game takes place on a single screen – a wide view of a floating city-island. Storms hit the island every turn, so you have to allocate resources to defend from them, and they come in various colors and types. You also have to manage a few life bars for parts of the city, and an assortment of other things. It’s so bizarre that I was really intrigued, but the tutorial isn’t nearly good enough for something so unusual — nothing intuitive about it! — the writing suffers from a really bad translation, and the graphics and text are both tiny. After 30 minutes of eyestrain and confusion, I passed. Deleted.
18. 1993 Shenandoah, Switch
Apparently this 2D sidescrolling shmup one was started in 1993 by a group of friends and then abandoned for reasons, and it’s just now been completed and ported to modern systems. It’s actually not bad, but the art isn’t great and I’m not huge on shmups (in general) unless they’re amazing. Did not finish.
19. Radical Rabbit Stew, Switch
This is a cute puzzler that tasks a blue chef dude with whacking rabbits into stewpots. The bunnies all have different properties (some are aggro, some are sleepy, etc.) and the levels rely on bounce pads and right angles that pinball the bunnies around once they’re hit with the chef’s spoon. It got a little too complicated to be a good nighttime-in-bed game for me, but it’s pretty neat. Did not finish.
20. Neon Abyss (demo), Switch
A 2D roguelite that centers on sidescrolling shooting and platforming. I’m not 100% sold on the art – the pixelwork is high-quality, but the character designs look a bit too basic and clean-cut. However, the action is pretty tight and the rogue elements were intriguing – guns can be modified, there were different masks and pieces of equipment, and also “pets” with various abilities can be found and hatched on each run. The action felt noticeably different on the three attempts I put thanks to finding different pickups, and this is something that’s always important to me in any good rogue. I finished the demo wanting to play more but I didn’t pop for it as the initial asking price felt a bit too high. I’ll pick it up when it drops to $10-$15. Added to my wishlist.
21. Nowhere Prophet, Switch
This is a roguelike/deckbuilder set in a post-apocalyptic world where you’re on a journey to find a hidden treasure (or is it?) hidden across the wasteland. You gather followers (cards) on the way, level up, equip different pieces of gear that have effects in battle and participate in story events as you trek across the land. Enhancing things is a karma/behavior system that affects how narrative sections play out, there are different characters to play as, and it’s all wrapped up in a fantastic art style that’s a cross between Mad Max and Indian sensibilities. Fam, this game fantastic. Everything about it is super-smart, superbly-designed, interesting and engaging. Absolutely loving every minute of it. Still playing. RECOMMENDED!
22. Max Gentlemen Sexy Business!, PC my review
I heard about this on the Gamers With Jobs podcast (thanks, Amanda!) and it was just the thing I needed – a huge change of pace from the other things I’d been spending time with, and I can’t recall the last ‘adult’ game I’ve played… Maybe Leisure Suit Larry when I was a kid hiding it from my parents? In any event, the idle-style economic sim is more addicting than I’d anticipated, the writing is funny and there’s plennnnnty of adult content here between the naked folks and the racy text-based sex scenes. I had a great time with it and can’t wait to go back in for another run once the upcoming DLC hits. Finished. Recommended!
23. Carrion, Switch review by Mike Suskie
I love the idea of playing as a bizarre, carnivorous tentacle monster but the great spritework and neat idea is wasted on an extremely ho-hum metroidvania template. Most of the action is about unlocking doors, the environments all look alike and there’s no map to guide players to the next goal. I got lost and started going in circles, and when I wasn’t able to figure out what to do after 20-30 minutes, I bailed. This one broke my heart a little, but it just wasn’t much fun. Deleted.
24. Rogue Company, PS4
A third-person online competitive shooter. Everything about it looks generic, you die really fast, and the overall feeling is kind of janky and unpolished. I played a few rounds and felt no desire to get invested, especially with so much competition in the genre. Deleted.
25. Othercide, PS4
A turn-based strategy game presented in black and white, along with text and UI that are both eye-strainingly tiny. The premise is intriguing — it’s some sort of psychological inner journey in a war against Lovecraftian outsiders with an army of warrior ladies spawned from the ghost of a dead heroine who guides the action from… her own mind? I mean, this setup seems like 100% my shit, but god damn it is harsh to look at and it becomes a serious, serious grind to progress almost immediately. I wanted to like it, but I noped out after two sessions. Deleted.
26. Sakura Wars, PS4
I thought that maybe my love of mechs would override my current distaste for JPRGs but NOPE. Too many cutscenes, too much talking… I bailed out soon after booting it up. Not a criticism of the game, I just can’t do this genre right now. Returned to GameFly.
27. HuniePop, PC
After having such a great time with Sexy Business! (#22, above) I decided to give this one a whirl since it’s probably the only adult game that I’ve heard of within the past few years. I’m not a huge fan of the art and the writing isn’t great, but I’m always interested to see how developers blend dating sims with other genres (match-three in this case) and it’s pretty successful, mechanically. The loop requires players to talk to the various girls in order to play the match-three, and the match-three is needed to keep talking to the girls. The matching itself also requires more strategy than the norm, making the player be aware of the color of gem a given girl prefers and offering items which change the board in various ways. I’ve been playing for a couple of hours and haven’t seen anything racier than a bikini pic, but the puzzle play has been solid. Still playing.
28. Hellpoint, PS4
Seems like Dark Souls set on a Dead Space-like space station? I super dig the main character’s design (sort of a weird android?) but I only played a few minutes to see if it felt OK, and it did. I don’t wanna play two soulslikes at once, and I need to finish Nioh 2 first. This one is up next, tho! Paused.
29. We Should Talk, Switch
This tiny indie is all about having a text conversation with your partner back home while you’re at the bar with two potential hookups. You can change your statements around to alter your tone and intent, and you’ll steer yourself towards or away from a person. It’s super short, maybe 20 minutes per run, but an interesting little experiment that’s worth a look for folks interested in designing dialogue systems. Finished.