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!
June Total: 29
1. Neo Cab, Switch Review by Joshua Tolentino
I started this one last month. I loved the visual style and the concept of being a futuristic Uber driver in a city where everything is being taken over by automation – it’s a great premise. Unfortunately, there’s a mechanic where the character’s emotional state limits the responses a player can choose. It doesn’t add much, and in fact, it holds things back because the writing wasn’t able to connect with me in the way that it seems intended to. When my character was ‘angry’ or ‘sad’ I didn’t feel it, and when I couldn’t choose the dialogue option I want to because of her emotional state, the experience failed. Worse than that, the overall story ended up being terrible. I liked the individual vignettes driving people from place to place — those are definitely the strong point of the experience — but when it came time to wrap up the larger arc about finding a missing friend and corporate espionage, it all went down in flames since I felt railroaded into the ending that I got, and none of it made any sense. Neo Cab was very nearly a great game, but the phrase “kill your darlings” comes to mind here. I can’t help but feel like the preoccupation with elements that didn’t really work dragged everything good down. Finished.
2. 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. Still playing. RECOMMENDED.
3. Rogue Aces, Switch Review by Dan Weissenberger
Several people recommended this to me after I mentioned I was a fan of the gameplay in Luftrausers, but this one didn’t click at all. The controls are squirrelly and the visibility is terrible. Without any way to zoom the camera out, the screen doesn’t show enough of the environment and it doesn’t feel great to play. Also, the plane running out of bombs/missiles after one run and requiring constant reloading is a drag. Realistic maybe, but a drag. Deleted.
4. Nirvana Pilot Yume, Switch
I just can’t stay away from visual novels on the Switch. My podcast co-host Carlos actually warned me off of this one but I didn’t take his advice because the idea was just too enticing — it’s a VN combined with a dating sim and then adds gameplay that wants to be F-Zero. That formula sounds bananas enough to be right in my basket, but it’s just a poorly made game. The writing is awful and the gameplay is worse. When driving, it’s hard to visually tell what is the track and what is a gap. Worse, some gaps can’t be jumped because they’re too big, so I have no idea how that’s supposed to work. I ended up playing longer than I expected to because even when you fail a race the game keeps going, but you can only fail a certain number before the game just ends. I took it as far as I could go but since I wasn’t able to win any of the races, I guess I got the worst ending? On the plus side, I think this is the first Switch game that has an obvious depiction of cunnilingus in it. So, WIN? Deleted.
5. Desperados III, PS4 My review
When Shadow Tactics came out it was one of the best games of the year, and its blend of team-based tactics and a realtime/pause time system had me hooked from start to finish. Desperados III comes from the same developers and it’s essentially the exact same thing, only they replaced the samurai with cowboys. I’m not complaining, though. I think the gameplay is absolutely brilliant — blowing up a train trestle or rescuing friends from a local jail is great stuff. There’s even a little taste of Hitman thrown in with the emphasis on stealth and opportunities to make enemy deaths look like accidents. It’s tough and demanding at times, but I loved it. Still Playing.
6. Evan’s Remains, Switch
As a 50/50 blend of visual novel and puzzle-platformer, I’m sad to say that this one misses the mark on both counts. It’s only got one kind of puzzle (figuring out what order to jump on disappearing platforms) and the writing failed to set up the characters or the plot in an interesting way. It’s about a girl on an island with puzzles, and she’s looking for someone, but she may not be who she thinks she is? Or something? Some of the sprite work is really nice, but I got bored with this one in a hurry. Deleted.
7. Liberated, Switch
Liberated had a great trailer that got me interested, but playing was disappointing. It’s a 2D game that vaguely reminds me of something in the same basket as Inside, but it’s framed as taking place in a comic book for no reason that I can discern. The combat features some shaky gunplay and annoying stealth sections, and the story about some sort of oppressive future dystopia failed to grab me. Deleted.
8. Rotating Brave, Switch
This is an interesting 2D pixel game that seems inspired by Downwell, but it’s not nearly as good. The main character is a little warrior with a sword who can only attack while jumping. The twist is that you have to actually turn the Switch in different directions for each level. One might have the character going left to right, so hold it normally. In the next level he’ll be going vertically, so tilt the Switch and play it that way, etc. It’s a gimmick that doesn’t improve the experience and Downwell did it better anyway, so… Deleted.
9. Organ Trail: Complete Edition, Vita
I love the idea of doing a procedural roguelike road trip across zombie country and I have faint memories of playing Oregon Trail a million years ago, so I thought this might be a fun one to get into. Unfortunately, it apes its inspiration too closely. The shooting mechanics are atrocious and too much of the game is spent in menus doing item and resource management. I mean, I guess it’s pretty faithful to what inspired it but I don’t think anyone would hold up the original Oregon Trail as a great game to play these days. Continuing the theme I’ve got going this month, Death Road to Canada does the same thing but with more action and a hell of a lot more fun. Deleted.
10. Luftrausers, Vita Review by Darren Forman
I put more time into this after starting it last month and I still love it, but I think I’ve hit my skill ceiling. The random enemy generation gets really tough, really fast, and some of the in-game achievement-style objectives feel too difficult to do without devoting my life to it. I did manage to blow up a blimp (the biggest boss in the game that I know of) and I unlocked the extra hard mode which is a hoot because I already thought it was quite difficult. I have a great deal of affection for this game but I think I’ve done as much as I care to do and I’m moving on. Did not finish.
11. Depth of Extinction, Switch Review by Eugene Sax
This one seemed like a combination of XCOM and some roguelike elements, but I didn’t get very far. The graphics are bad, the UI is terrible, the animation is rough and the systems were unintuitive. The whole thing is kind of painful to play and look at, which is a tough place to be since there are a million turn-based strategy games on the Switch that look and feel better than this one. Deleted.
12. Help Will Come Tomorrow, Switch Review by AJ Small
This is a resource management sim set in Siberia where four survivors are stranded and freezing/starving. It seems incredibly complex, as it takes into account their personalities, their political leanings, what their individual skills are, and such. Unfortunately, the text is absolutely microscopic on the Switch and I had great difficulty playing it in handheld mode. I really want to get into this, but I’ll have to play it in docked mode. Hopefully it’ll be more visible there. If not then I may have to hang this up and try it on a different console for better visibility. Did not finish.
13. Jamestown +, Switch
I saw this pop up on sale and grabbed it because I recalled it was an indie darling a while ago. It’s a vertical shooter with a bunch of different ships to choose from and a strange backstory about American colonial times (think: pilgrims) mashed up with being on Mars. The narrative doesn’t do anything for me, though… it’s pretty weird, but also fairly incomprehensible. The shmup gameplay is fine but I’m not the biggest fan of the genre and didn’t feel compelled to get into it. Deleted.
14. Galaxy Warfighter, Switch Review by Eugene Sax
This side-scrolling shooter is the definition of a low-rent experience. You fight the same kinds of enemies over and over and over with little variation while you grind for coins to buy upgrades. The action is dull, the graphics are terrible and it feels like a game jam project that shouldn’t be up for sale. On the plus side, the ship automatically fires, which I think is a great idea since you’re only ever going to hold the button down in a shmup anyway, so why not save on the thumb strain? Otherwise, there’s literally nothing to recommend this one. Deleted.
15. Glass Masquerade 2: Illusions, Switch
Take broken pieces of a stained glass window and reassemble them. That’s it. That’s the tweet. This is a great title to play as I’m winding down in bed. I’ve only dipped in for a few minutes here and there, but it seems like the same chill puzzling the original offered, but now there’s also a story or some lore about spirits? I keep falling asleep before I get too far into it (not a criticism!) but I’ll keep chipping away at it for sure. Still Playing.
16. Bridge Strike, Switch
A vertically-scrolling shooter that looks a bit like River Raid from back in the day. It’s a totally fine small-scale arcade-style experience, but it wasn’t what I was looking for. Deleted.
17. They Came From The Sky, Switch
Another tiny arcade-style experience. A UFO goes back and forth on the screen automatically. Press a button and try to hit the targets below. Made by one guy, I think? It’s fun for five minutes. Deleted.
18. Copperbell, Switch
This basic platformer has a cool visual style and some Eastern European theming. It looks super neat and I was sold on the aesthetics, but I got bored with the gameplay pretty quick. DELETED
19. Moonlighter, Switch Review by Jeff Ortloff
I bailed on it when it launched in 2018, but like most games these days, it’s gotten patches, balances and fixes since then — I was curious to see how it had improved. It’s definitely a better experience now thanks to new difficulty modes and other tweaks, but the problem is that it’s just too shallow. The top-down Zelda-like combat is fine, but there’s not much to it. Running an item shop is fine, but again, there’s not much to it. The story is basically MIA, there are no twists or sidequests or surprises, the townsfolk have nothing worthwhile to say… As my podcast co-host Carlos Rodela sharply observed, all of the systems are fine, but there’s no world. Beyond a loop of fight/sell items/upgrade there’s nothing here, and a great game needs more than that. Where’s the drama? Where are the characters? What is the point? I got about 3/4ths of the way through and felt no desire to continue. Did not finish.
20. Arcade Spirits, Switch Review by Nikki Waln
I’ve been playing a lot of Visual Novels on the Switch, and here’s one more. The writing is pretty funny at times, but I only felt half-involved with it. I wasn’t too into the dating dim side of things — despite offering a fairly varied cast (seen above) the character I was most interested in ended up being a “secret” romance. I was able to access it by sheer luck, but there just wasn’t enough of it — although, to be fair the game does offer to let you play in a mode that removes any romantic options, which in itself is pretty cool. Otherwise, the main story about reviving an old arcade was… alright? it’s not a bad game and I’m glad I played it, it just didn’t resonate strongly. Still Playing.
21. Disintegration, PS4
Apparently some people who worked on Halo broke off and started a studio to make this. You play a robot piloting a grav-cycle that hovers in the air. Your team is made up of robots on the ground. The premise is that you highlight enemies or items for them to focus on by calling the shots from above, and they do most of the work autonomously. It’s kind of a neat concept, but in practice it’s quite dull and feels a bit like something that would have been an early-gen offering on 360 or PS3. Every level felt and looked like the last, and the gameplay got stale almost immediately – it’s just not exciting to ping things and watch tiny little figures run around and shoot stuff. After getting the gist, it seemed like I’d be in for an entire campaign of basically repeating the same gameplay until credits rolled, so I noped out. Deleted.
22. Fortnite: Season 3, PS4
I didn’t enjoy the last season much since the skins were boring and spy theme weren’t great, but the devs have really shaken up the formula this time – 3/4ths of the map is now underwater and there are tons of new mechanics like waterskiing behind sharks and the pre-launch trailer showed cars are on the way. I don’t play as much as I used to since it takes away too much time from playing new games, but my son is still deep into it so we jump in a few times a week when he’s in the mood. Still playing.
23. Waking, XBO
This is a one-man game that seems to combine an introspective narrative experience with Dark Souls-like combat. Maybe it is, but I didn’t get more than a few minutes into it. The controls and physics were super janky, and the story felt overly melodramatic from the get-go. The game taught me how to double-jump in the tutorial and then in the next step took the power away to teach me something else (PROTIP: don’t do that) before asking me to use telekinesis to pick up “clutter” and use it to block fireballs from some random enemy in the sky. All sorts of red flags were going up about this because it felt so scattered and shaky, and if the first few minutes were this bad, there’s no way it was going to get better. Deleted.
24. West of Dead, XBO
I like this isometric shooty-dodgey roguelike quite a bit and it’s come a good way since I tried the rough-looking beta, but I still don’t feel like it’s ready for prime time. It’s full of small bugs and rough edges and the unlocks come way too slow at the moment. There are also some visibility issues (because of the heavy shadow usage) and some control issues (sometimes I just CAN’T hit an enemy, and if you’re above, you can’t shoot down???) and in general it still has that Early Access feel to it. I’ll definitely come back to it, but it feels like it needs at least six more months in the oven. Did not finish.
25. Marvel Puzzle Quest, Android
Nothing new to report here, this is my regular mobile fix. Playing daily.
26. 1971 Project Helios, PS4
This turn-based strategy title from Spain has a neat art style, but the experience I had was fairly buggy, and even when it was running fine, it just wasn’t that interesting to play. Combat occurs in small sections of a battlefield so each skirmish is pretty tight in size (which is fine) but after a few rounds I just wasn’t seeing a hook or any interesting mechanics. There are a ton of great TBS games out right now, so anyone wanting to crash that party needs to do a lot more than just check the basic boxes. Deleted.
27. Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus, PS4 Review by Eugene Sax
The PS4 version is still under embargo so I can’t say anything about it right now, but Eugene Sax reviewed the PC version a while ago and you can read his thoughts in the link above.
28. Akane, Switch
This single-screen roguelike is cool as hell — the main character looks like a badass, she strikes fast with a gun and sword, and the action gets the adrenaline pumping. Unfortunately, it’s also difficult as fuuuuuuuuck. You die in one hit, and most of the unlocks require high-level play… big combos, or pulling off tough kills while doing big combos. I like it a lot, but the skill and time required to make progress is more than I want to invest. Deleted.
29. Jump King, Switch
Yet another entry into the “this game only does one thing and does it poorly” category. The point of play is to jump up and up and up, but the problem is that the jumping sucks. You can’t course-correct once in the air, and it’s hard to gauge the strength of each jump. Sometimes I’m too high, sometimes not high enough. Worse, you often have to jump to an offscreen platform that’s not visible, and if you miss the jump, you fall back down. It feels needlessly masochistic and it’s not nearly interesting enough to make me want to suffer through it. Plus, the main character looks too much like Shovel Knight. Deleted.