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!
May Total: 27
1. Spaceland, Switch My review
Started this one at the end of April. It’s basically bite-sized XCOM with a great pace, strong variety in level designs and a great sensibility overall. The thing that really got me, though, is that each level is handcrafted with different objectives so it doesn’t just boil down to kill all enemies every time like some strats do. I’m not a huge fan of the hand-drawn potraits, but that is a micro-micro-nitpick on what is a generally rad game. Still playing. RECOMMENDED!
2. Stranded Deep, PS4
This stuck-on-a-desert-island survival game makes a lot of errors that put me off of it in a hurry. The tutorial is not great, I ran out of basic crafting materials and wasn’t able to find more, there’s not enough direction (at least in the beginning when the player is still learning how the game works) and saving is tied to an item that needs to be crafted. I got stuck in a place where I could not make the item I needed to save and had no way to get the mats for it, so I turned it off and quit immediately. Saving is a basic amenity that makes games compatible with modern life and I don’t have time for games that don’t get this. There’s potential here but a lot of rough edges need to be polished off first. Deleted.
3. Zombie Army 4, PS4 Review by Dan Weissenberger
I like killing zombies and I definitely like killing Nazis, so taking out armies of Nazi zombies seems like a sure thing, but Rebellion’s recent work is best enjoyed with others – both this title and Strange Brigade (2018) are tedious slogs alone, but pretty good romps with at least one other person. Luckily, the wife was on hand to go through it and we had a fair time, although it’s a pretty flat experience overall – not much variety, level design that encourages scouring every corner of every level, and not many dramatic high points. Even so, there’s appeal in going through some shit with a friend at your back, and for that it was fun for a few days. Finished.
4. Picross S2, Switch
Still chipping away at it before bed. Progress is slow as these puzzles get harder, and rows of 1 1 1 1 1 can get fucked. Still playing.
5. Dungeon of the Endless, Switch My review
This odd duck is a blend of roguelike, turn-based, and realtime strategy elements with some tower defense thrown in, to boot. It’s hard to tell exactly what it is until you spend some time with it, but once it clicks, I actually think it’s pretty great. That said, the runs (12 levels until credits) feel a bit too long and most of my pre-release time playing it for review was wasted thanks to a severe glitch that crashed the game and wiped my progress about half of the time. Of course, the bug was fixed after I had become thoroughly irritated with it so overall it’s a pretty solid game, and a neat addition to the Switch’s already-powerful roguelike library. Wanted to finish but deleted it because it’s still broken.
6. The Trail, Android
Picked this up on a whim in my never-ending quest to find a backup for the days when I don’t feel like playing more Marvel Puzzle Quest on my phone and was surprised to see this came from 22 Cans, Peter Molyneux’s outfit. I didn’t play it long, but I didn’t delete it either… Apparently you walk on a trail and collect crafting materials on the way. It seems super chill and fairly passive, but that’s a good fit for right before bedtime. I plan to come back to it and explore further. Still playing.
7. Marvel Puzzle Quest, Android
Nothing new to report here, this is my regular mobile fix. Playing daily.
8. John Wick: Hex, PS4 Review by Jeff Ortloff
Taking a property like John Wick and turning its gun-fu combat into turn-based strategy is a pretty brilliant move, and Bithell Games comes fairly close to nailing it. Unfortunately, it’s not close enough, though. The concept and style are here, but there are a dozen things that hold it back like the fact that crucial UI isn’t as intuitive as it needs to be, it’s hard to tell when you’re safe behind cover and when you’re exposed, and as far as I can tell, many levels throw infinite goons into the mix while John has limited resources, especially in regard to health. Seeing thug after thug stream into a bar destroys any potential for coolly evaluating a room, exploding into action, and surveying the carnage of a successful plan. With another 6 months and a bigger budget, this would’ve been a killer game. Deleted.
9. Book of Demons, PS4
I’m not sold on the papercraft look of this Diablo-likebut it seems to be aiming for a simpler- more accessible version of a traditional dungeon-crawler, and it mostly hits the mark. The systems are easy to learn and make sense and there are plenty of quality-of-life amenities, but it doesn’t seem to really do anything to stand out other than be friendly, and the combat is a bit bizarre – characters auto-attack and melee attacks can hit at a distance. Enemies can also strike at a distance, so it’s hard to tell where you’re safe and where you’re not, or where hitboxes are. I’ve played a lot worse than this, but was not convinced to sign up for the long haul here. Deleted.
10. Kingdom: Two Crowns, Switch
This 2D sidescrolling realtime strategy (I guess?) title has the player controlling a ruler on horseback – they can’t dismount and have no weapons, so they must ride back and forth on an island while collecting money and using that money to slowly build up their village. It’s pretty chill and gratifying to see a patch of land become a well-defended township, but this is also an intensely frustrating experience. The devs give the player almost no information beyond the barest basics, but in a game where it seems they want the player to explore and experiment, it’s too easy to fuck yourself into a no-win failstate and be forced to start over. In one attempt, I couldn’t progress because my citizens refused to build structures — they’d all become defenders, and there’s no way to reassign them. In another attempt, I ran out of citizens to recruit and my village became a ghost town because it’s possible to unwittingly make NPC spawn points go away. It’s incredibly bad design to let players screw themselves over due to a lack of information while also encouraging them to discover. After a few aborted attempts, I gave up and went to the internet for a walkthrough – I enjoy playing it when I understand the consequences of what I’m doing, but it was driving me crazy to waste so much time on things I couldn’t know without learning through failure. It says a lot that I still want to finish this game after being so cheesed off with it, but prospective players should absolutely read a walkthrough first. No shame. Still playing.
11. Kingdom: New Lands, Switch
This game was created before Two Crowns and I dipped into it when frustrated (see above) but it’s virtually identical except that it has less content and slightly different systems, primarily offering more of a roguelike angle with harsher punishment for death. I didn’t put a lot of time into it. Deleted.
12. Idle Champions of the Forgotten Realms, Switch
I saw this one a million times on every console so finally gave it a whirl since it’s free. I’m not big on ‘clicker’ or ‘idle’ games but this one started off well enough – fairly fast-paced, some strategy in where different characters are placed in the lineup, and the D&D theme was a plus. Basically you just watch a small party of adventurers walk from left to right while they auto-kill enemies. Nothing much to it, but it was sort of entertaining in a turn-off- your-brain sort of way. Then I got to the end of the first campaign and all of my progress was wiped. Apparently the devs want you to go back to zero and re-grind up after every campaign? Fuck that. Deleted.
13. Halo: Spartan Assault, Xbox One
Good man @KnicksRIP recommended this one to me after I was going on and on about Helldivers again since they’re both top-down action games. This is a weird one since the levels are super-short and the game wants players to buy temporary weapons and buffs that are only good for one run. Then I found out it was originally a mobile game, and then it all made sense. It was fun for an hour or two but the appeal of the mobile-focused design wore off and I’m not much of a Halo fan anyway. Neat to check it out, tho! Deleted.
14. Dark Burial, Switch
If you’re gonna make a platformer, rule #1 is that the jumping has to feel good. There are a jillion platformers out there that get it right (or at least, right enough) so if you can’t nail that aspect, you’re sunk. This game does not nail the jump feel. I like the concept of having a character who has to shoot arrows to make his own platforms, but when jumping feels like crap and most of what you’re doing is jumping…. Deleted.
15. Dread Nautical, Switch
I love Chtulhu-themed stuff, I love roguelikes and I love turn-based strategy… This one has all of those elements, so you’d think it would be 100% my jam, but not so. Players are trapped on a ship that keeps going through a time loop and you have to Groundhog Day your way towards making progress, but the graphics are kinda meh and the tactics got grindy and boring real fast… in a situation like this, the combat either needs to be fast and peppy or interesting and varied, and Dread Nautical doesn’t manage either. It turned into a repetitive slog too soon and I noped out, which is a shame since (on paper, anyway) it has so much going for it. I suspect the fact that it was originally developed for Apple Arcade might have had something to do with it. Deleted.
16. Highrise Heroes: Word Challenge, Switch
This one came outta nowhere and surprised the hell out of me. Picked it up for $2-3 at random, but this word-search game delivers the goods. Tons of levels, lots of mechanics to keep it interesting, and even a basic little storyline as players work their way from the top of a burning tower towards the bottom. Plus, chimpanzees and robots! Still playing. RECOMMENDED!
18. Jet Lancer, Switch
This aerial combat game has some neat art and some good ideas. It reminds me a lot of the much better Luftrausers in that the plane is constantly fighting gravity and can also spin around and do crazy maneuvers in the air – it’s less of a traditional airplane game and vaguely akin to something like Asteroids. Unfortunately, the action is pretty fast and furious which would generally be okay except for one small detail – the devs neglected to put anything in the air around the plane to signify directionality and speed of travel. When flying, it looks like the plane is holding still on a static blue background. There are no clouds, no smoke trails, no particles… just nothing. It’s tough to tell how fast you’re going and even in what direction until you slam into an enemy or realize that you’re not flying nearly fast enough. It seems like such a simple, basic thing but it has huge impact on the gameplay and it turned me off in a big way. Deleted.
19. Eternal Castle Remastered, Switch My review
This faux-remaster is really a new game crafted in the oldschool rotoscoped style of something like Out of This World or the original Prince of Persia. It’s a little chuggy in terms of controls, but the graphics are fucking stupendous and the little modern touches the devs have added like gear to pick up and secrets to find give it a nice layer of substance that this type of game has generally lacked. It’s a solid play for fans of this genre, but it’s an orbital home run when it comes to artistic style and indie juice. Finished. RECOMMENDED!
20. Turmoil: the Heat is On, Switch My review
Another nice surprise this month. Brutal honesty time? I only tried this because absolutely nobody on the GC team would bite. But it worked out!! This economic sim-ish game puts players in the role of an oil prospector in the 1800s. Pick a plot of land, drill for oil, and pump it out as fast as you can for maximum profit. It’s simple and straightforward, but… it was also kind of fun? Working on min/maxing my techniques was a good exercise in both muscle memory and managing several things at once – making sure pumps didn’t overflow, watching fluctuating market prices, constantly drilling for more resources, and more. When all of the systems are going and I knew what to do, each level got me into a micro flow state. The real-life oil industry can get fucked and global warming was on my mind while playing this, but by the time credits rolled, I realized that I had a great time with it from a systems perspective. Finished. RECOMMENDED!
21. Atomicrops, Switch My review
Combining roguelikes, shooting and farming was enough of an idea to get me in, and the trailer was pretty kooky and cute. Unfortunately, it feels like an Early Release game that’s not done, or a Kickstarter that only met half its stretch goals. Really rough, unbalanced, systems that don’t really make a lot of sense and very few quality-of-life features made me bounce off this one in a hurry, which is a shame – I bet after 2 or 3 patches it’ll be pretty neat. Deleted.
22. Jamestown +, Switch
I heard a lot about this vertically-scrolling shooter a while back when it first released, and it’s alright. There’s a weird, half-comprehensible plot going on about the missing Roanoke colony (google it) and colonial-era stuff happening on Mars which is kinda neat, but it didn’t really gel for me. The shooting is solid and it has a neat system where the player sort of powers up for a brief period of invincibility that leads into a combo multiplier. I might come back to it later, but it wasn’t really grabbing me at the moment. Didn’t finish.
23: Neo Cab, Switch Review by Joshua Tolentino
Another in a string of really interesting visual novels I’ve played on the Switch recently. The graphics are a neat blend of realistic/cartoonish styles and the player is basically one of the last Uber drivers in a town where cars are going automated thanks to an overlord tech company taking everything over. If you’ve ever seen the old HBO series “Taxicab Confessions”, this is basically how it plays – you drive and have a convo with a fare on the way to their destination. I dig it so far! Still playing.
24: Nioh 2, PS4
I was a huge fan of the first Nioh (the main game, anyway – the stupid-hard DLC can go fuck itself) and it sounds funny to say it as a critic, but Nioh 2 is just exactly more of the same with a little extra polish and… I’m kinda loving it? It looks the same, feels the same, and has almost all the same systems. It’s got a few new things like more weapons to choose from and the ability to turn into a yokai, but this is pretty much more Nioh. While I’d likely hammer another game for being so similar to the previous one, in this case it’s fine since the original was super-tight and one of the only soulslikes that really carved out an identity that was distinctly different from what Fromsoft did. In this case, a second helping is all I needed and I’m all in. Still playing. RECOMMENDED!
25: Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath, PS4
This is the first story-based add-on to a modern Mortal Kombat and the team at NetherRealm did a fantastic job. This content tells the tale of what happens after players defeat Kronika in the main campaign while adding three new playable characters (Sheeva, Fujin and Robocop. Yes, Robocop) and some other various goodies. MK11 is a great game all on its own, and this expansion was a great reason to jump back in. Finished. RECOMMENDED!
26: Drake Hollow (beta), Xbox One
This Early Access title from the devs behind The Flame in the Flood is a multiplayer-focused game (although solo players can go it alone) featuring a string of islands separated by a toxic miasma. Little plant people called Drakes live there, and the player has to run around and collect materials to build things at a base camp while slowly expanding their search outwards towards the other islands. It’s cute and seems aimed at a younger audience who might want a virtual playground to hang out in – not really my thing, but I could see how some would really dig it. Heads up tho, it’s really heavy on the crafting, which makes it strike two for me. Deleted.
27: Luftrausers, Vita
After playing Jet Lancer (see #18 above) I was reminded of how much I enjoyed Luftrausers and was motivated to dig my Vita out and fire it up. It’s a 2D flying action game with some procedural enemy generation. The player’s plane has a ton of unlockable parts that change how it handles and it offers pretty intense sessions that are also fairly short – 5 to 10 minute runs, at most. I really want a version of this on the Switch as I’d be happy to pour more time into it, but it’s a perfect fit for the Vita. The minimalist visuals are pretty fab, although the devs went with a quasi-faux-Nazi-Germanic style for the characters which is a bad look these days. I’m not so keen on that part of it, but the gameplay and game design are pretty right on. It’s hard AF tho! Still playing.