The title of this article says it all. Rad custom art by @Alex_Connolly!
July Total: 29
1 – Returnal, PS5 my review
I found Returnal to be an endlessly frustrating experience because surprisingly poor decisions hold it back from being a better game. The mechanics and graphics are great and the cool factor is pretty high, but the underpinning design puts too much emphasis on pure reflexes and shooting mastery without enough supporting content or options to give a boost to players who need it. There’s also way too much emphasis on ‘negative’ items, with very few of the good ones offering a substantial bonus. The lack of significant persistence and no ability to save (!!!) were also pure head-scratchers. The game is *brutally* difficult in biomes 1-3, but I went through biomes 4-6 in a single day and rolled credits soon after. With some rebalancing and a few patches, this will be a stellar title. But as it stands? It’s impossible to recommend to anyone but the most hardcore. FINISHED.
2 – Greedfall, XBX review by Baabuska
This RPG starts off pretty well, but after maybe 5-6 hours I was flagging. It was hard for me to pinpoint why it was losing me, but I think what it ultimately came down to was that it didn’t do enough to get me invested — it got into the ‘do quests’ mode pretty quickly, without first cementing my affection for the characters or world. It’s not bad at all, but if I’m going to sink 40-60 hours into something, it’s gotta make me care first. DELETED.
3 – Sumire, Switch
This thoughtful story about a girl who contemplates her life as she travels with a magical flower who is only on Earth for one day was recommended to be my Matt Sainsbury, and I think it’s a good call. The art is cute and I enjoyed that the writing was more direct than I’d expect in something that looks so pastel and warm. STILL PLAYING.
4 – Marvel Puzzle Quest, Android
My one and only mobile jam. PLAYING DAILY.
5 – Fortnite, PS5
Still having fun with the current ‘alien invasion’ season. Got the winner’s umbrella, got the skins I wanted, and it’s all gravy from here. PLAYING WEEKLY.
6 – Hellfront: Honeymoon, XBX covered on episode 240 of So Videogames
I played this solo on PS5 last month and was quickly overwhelmed by the difficulty about halfway through the campaign. In response, I bought it again on XBX and recruited my wife to give me some backup! It’s a lot of fun with a partner, but I do feel a little salty about games that say you “can” play by yourself when the difficulty has obviously been tuned for co-op. That aside, this is a cute and smartly-streamlined RTS that is heavy on the action. Short campaign, too — if you have a partner. It makes for a great afternooner! STILL PLAYING.
7 – Sakura Succubus, Switch
I’ve been a little surprised at the amount of spicy content that Nintendo has allowed on the Switch lately — obvious sex animations, images of fully-naked women in suggestive poses, and more — so I was wondering if this Visual Novel was another ‘stealth sexy’ release. What I saw was a fully-linear (meaning: no choices) graphic novel with a ton of text and not nearly enough art to support it. The few images were re-used, many sections used background art only, I never encountered any nudity, and it was way too wordy without offering much humor or sharp observation. I quit it after an hour or two, it was intensely boring and kept putting me to sleep. DELETED.
8 – Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolf, XBX covered on episode 240 of So Videogames
I’m a sucker for 40K games and this one’s been out on multiple different platforms. I’ve never clicked with it during any of the other times I’ve tried it, but I have to say that the Xbox version is the best overall. It’s a weird blend of turn-based tactics and card-based deckbuilding that doesn’t quite gel properly, but it’s not the worst 40K game out there. It’s not the best, but… not the worst. DID NOT FINISH.
9 – Risk System, Switch covered on episode 240 of So Videogames
This is a no-frills 2D sidescrolling shmup where the one and only gimmick is that your bullets gain power the closer you are to an enemy. Not a bad idea, but it’s not enough to carry an entire game. The story was incomprehensible nonsense and it all got really tedious in a hurry. DELETED.
10 – Unavowed, Switch review (PC) by Jeff Ortloff
Hold the phone — we’ve got another 2D point-and-click that actually rocks! This urban fantasy about a group of supernatural detectives has great writing, great characters, a great story and a great ending sequence. On top of that, almost all of the puzzles are totally logical and manageable and it’s a great port on the Switch! I absolutely LOVED this game, it is SO GOOD. One of the year’s best, by a mile. FINISHED. RECOMMENDED!
11 – Picross S2, Switch
I finished it! I finished it! I finished it!!! The very last “clip” puzzle had soooooooo many pieces, but I finally got it done. yay! FINISHED. RECOMMENDED!
12 – Within the Blade, XBX covered on episode 241 of So Videogames
This indie ninja game has a way overcomplicated tutorial and once the action starts, it just doesn’t feel good. The weight and timing of the controls is just… yuck. Ratalaika (as a publisher) has a very distinct style to the games they put out in terms of how they control, and this falls right into their typical profile that just doesn’t work for me. DELETED.
13 – Labyrinth City: Pierre the Maze Detective, Switch covered on episode 241 of So Videogames
This is a super cute, super chill, super charming version of Where’s Waldo? That would be perfect for kids or for folks who wanna blow off some steam with a low-stakes experience. Good stuff if you’re in that zone. DID NOT FINISH.
14 – Deep Rock Galactic, XBX preview by Brad Bortone
My kid wanted to play this multi, so I jumped in with him. The gist: take on the role of a spaceborne dwarf who’s dropping into hostile underground areas to look for ore. It’s kind of a fun idea, but I didn’t get a lot of enjoyment out of it… The character classes feel fairly unbalanced and maneuvering in the environment felt clunky. I have some friends who swear it’s a great time in a group (and I believe them!) but it didn’t click with me. DELETED.
15 – Dreamscaper, Switch
A new isometric action-oriented roguelike. UNDER EMBARGO – CAN’T TALK ABOUT IT. (Sorry!)
16 – Ranger Dog, Switch covered on episode 242 of So Videogames
A cute, silly 2D shmup in the vein of Gradius or R-Type. Simple, but well-done. FINISHED.
17 – Cyber Hook, Switch covered on episode 242 of So Videogames
A grappling hook game that has a crappy-feeling grappling hook. DELETED.
18 – Fates of Ort, Switch
This indie RPG is surprisingly large and deep! It kinda caught me by surprise, and I was impressed with the scope — it’s like a micro-sized Elder Scrolls! That said, it’s not the kind of thing I’m looking for on Switch. DELETED.
19 – Streets of Rage 4, Switch covered on episode 242 of So Videogames
A ton of folks were raving about this but I gotta say, it feels too dated for my taste. I get no enjoyment from performing long combos, so the lack of a dodge, a block, any skill trees or other recent advancements mean that this feels like something that could have been in arcades in the early ’90s — it would have certainly been fine enough back then, but I don’t have much interest in something as retro-feeling as this. Too dull, too repetitive. DELETED.
20 – Chained, Switch covered on episode 242 of So Videogames
This is a cute little indie about ‘hacking’ bank computers while a short story unfolds about a guy who’s lost his job thanks to being made redundant by new technology. It’s simple, quick to play (maybe 2hrs?) and does what it wants to do. A fantastic palate cleanser between other games. FINISHED. RECOMMENDED!
21 – Picross S3, Switch
Yes, I finished one and immediately started another. What can I say??? STILL PLAYING. RECOMMENDED.
22 – Death’s Door, XBX covered on episode 243 of So Videogames
This isometric actioner is pleasantly streamlined and has a pretty good pace for most of its run. The combat feels good and there’s a good balance between fights and simple environmental puzzles. Also, being a bird with a sword is pretty novel! The bosses at the end of the game are a real drag tho, and there’s a lot of postgame stuff that might have made the main campaign feel a bit richer while I was going through it if it had been included. It’s good, but not great, but the music is lovely. FINISHED.
23 – Last Stop, XBX covered on episode 243 of So Videogames
This Telltale-esque narrative game offers three separate storylines which eventually converge — a dad who switched bodies with someone else, a cheating lady spy, and a schoolgirl who kidnaps a dude. It starts strong with this interesting set of premises but the pace is slow, there’s not much attachment or investment with the characters, and it feels as though the player’s choices have absolutely no effect on gameplay — the story goes exactly where it wants to go regardless of what dialogue options I choose. The things the player actually gets to affect are so inconsequential, It might as well have been a non-interactive video. DELETED.
24 – Eldest Souls, Switch
This isometric boss rush seems to be shooting for the same sort of moody environmental vibe as a Souls title but it’s brutally hard, the controls feel slow and mushy, and the hitboxes are tough to figure out. Combat is also largely repetitive — hit the enemy three times, do a charge move, dodge back. Wash, rinse, repeat. It just doesn’t feel good to play at all, and in a game that’s 95% combat, that’s a huge problem. DELETED.
25 – Zombie Blast Crew, Switch
An isometric twin-stick shooter where players shoot a lot of zombies and earn resources to level up their weapons and earn unlocks. It’s super simple and straightforward, and clearly got its start on mobile. However, it feels good to play and was perfect for quick sessions. I was actually having a great time except that it was designed with microtransactions in mind, and while those have been disabled on the Switch, the game has not been rebalanced to compensate for their removal. I hit a point where I had to replay old levels and hope for random drops since I couldn’t put any real cash in to buy unlocks, and that lack of care with the port just killed the experience. A shame! DELETED.
26 – Worse Than Death, Switch
A good-looking 2D horror experience that starts off a bit like I Know What You Did Last Summer. (It also reminds me a lot of the 2D horror game Home, from the same developer!) I hit a point where I was tracking down various notes to figure out the code for a keypad door and I’m just not here for this kind of puzzle any more. DELETED.
27 – Banners of Ruin, Switch
A Redwall-flavored strategic deckbuilder with wack-ass controls and text that is way too small. It also felt too complicated at the beginning on top of the other issues, and I wanted out pretty quickly. It’s probably great on PC, but this is not a great port to the Switch. DELETED.
28 – Doomsday Vault, Switch
An isometric puzzler about collecting plants at the end of the world. UNDER EMBARGO – CAN’T TALK ABOUT IT. (Sorry!)
29 – Frontline Zed, Switch
This is a strange one. There’s very little tutorial or info given, but basically you have one survivor in a zombie apocalypse who builds a wall that must be defended from incoming waves of the undead. Between waves the player can search a nearby town for extra guns, more survivors, exploding barrels and more. It’s strangely addicting, but also really repetitive and bare-bones. If there were a story, maybe some story choices, upgrades… or hell, I dunno, like anything beyond the simple loop it has, I think it would hook me. As it stands, it feels like a proof-of-concept for a full game that’s still in the works. STILL PLAYING BUT PROLLY NOT FOR LONG.
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