The title of this article says it all. Rad custom art by @Alex_Connolly!
June Total: 44
1 – Marvel Puzzle Quest, Android
My one and only mobile jam. Just did my first long-term save-up-resources marathon (took me maybe 3 months?) and blew it all on a huge cash-in orgy when the latest five-star (Knull) dropped. Didn’t get everything that I wanted, but it sure was fun to do… And now the hoarding of resources beings again! PLAYING DAILY.
2 – Wanna Survive, Switch my review
The hardest game I’ve played all year, but I’m really glad that I was able to finish it — wasn’t sure I could do it, honestly!! I wish the dev would implement an easier mode but I atill enjoyed it, despite all of the despair and angst. FINISHED.
3 – Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, XBX review by Dan Weissenberger
I was wanting to see the beginning of Ethan Winters’ story after finishing RE: Village and loving it, but I enjoyed this one far, far less. I’m pretty much over the old-school keyfetching/backtracking gameplay here, and the inventory limits/box-stashing drove me up the wall. The pacing was not great, the story was not great, and overall I found it kind of tedious and annoying. That said, the Not a Hero DLC featuring Chris Redfield was awesome, and the End of Zoe mission was hilarious and fun. I was also a big fan of the Bedroom and 21 mini-missions… I had a great, great time with those four add-ons and recommend those, even if the main event was a wash. FINISHED.
4 – The Longing, Switch
This absolutely unorthodox title was challenging in how it made me approach its content and its ideas are little-used… in fact, how it implements time and forces the player to exercise patience reminds me of nothing so much as Seaman from 2000. An indie experience to the core, I ended up unable to resist this enigma and really did adore it, even though I had to go to the internet for help more than a few times. Unfortunately, it ran out of content a little too soon (come on man, you planned it to run for 400 days!) and there’s no question that this game is not for everyone, but there’s little else like it. FINISHED.
5 – Warhammer: Age of Sigmar – Storm Ground, XBX
This turn-based tactics game features some roguelike elements that caught me by surprise, but overall, it’s pretty great. I prefer 40K to the fantasy side of Warhammer, but the theming is good, the graphics are nice (if a bit small) and the systems are interesting. You have to grind a few failed runs before you’re strong enough to complete a campaign, but this one definitely goes into the ‘GOOD’ column when looking at Games Workshop adaptations. My only real gripe apart from the visuals being a bit on the small side is that the game is randomly buggy — nothing major, but strange things like some items not showing up in menus right away, or the game ‘thinking’ for a while before it recognizes an input. A little tightening up would help it, but even so, I think it’s pretty great in terms of tactics and use of the IP. FINISHED. RECOMMENDED!
6 – Necromunda: Hired Gun, XBX
This game — at launch, anyway — is the epitome of jank. Strange controls, a fisheye camera, unpredictable wall-running, jittery framerate and all sorts of rough edges. It is Not Ready For Prime Time and I only put in maybe 30 minutes before I had to bail. I’d come back and give it another shot once they get it running and handing better, but for now it’s a no-go. DELETED.
7 – Crying Suns, Switch
This sci-fi roguelike features both narrative-based decisions and tactical spaceship combat that plays out in realtime, though it can be paused to keep it manageable. The premise of a clone waking up to a universe gone astray is great, the systems are tight, graphics and writing are strong. The campaign is maybe a bit too long and some of the events started repeating before I rolled credits, but overall this is a big winner. FINISHED. RECOMMENDED!
8 – Strength of the Sword: Ultimate, XBX
I’ve been curious about this third-person soulslike for ages, so when it finally went on sale for a couple bucks, I went for it. My bad! The art style is vaguely cool but the combat — the focus of the entire experience — is a sad joke. The tutorials don’t adequately explain what’s going on, there’s no weight or impact to the hits, and it’s hard to tell if you’ve even struck an enemy or not. A combat game with terrible combat is a terrible game. I was hoping to find an overlooked gem, but it’s pretty clear to see why this one went nowhere. DELETED.
9 – It Lurks Below, XBX
This 2D Minecraft/Terraria clone is rough as hell — it feels like someone was making this on their home PC and uploaded the first working beta to the Xbox store. The interface and UI feel like placeholders, the tutorials are a joke and it just doesn’t feel like a finished, polished thing. Yuck! DELETED.
10 – Kowloon Highschool Chronicle, Switch
I didn’t realize it from the trailers, but this is a re-release (perhaps a low-key remaster?) of a 2004 Japan-only PS2 game. The graphics and systems feel rough, but there is some charm to it… It feels a bit like a prototype/spinoff for oldschool Persona or something similar with a group of teens delving into a dungeon underneath their school. The exploration is couched as a first-person dungeon-crawler and there’s lots of dialogue with choices and an emotional-response system that feels very familiar to me, although I can’t put my finger on it. Its age is pretty apparent once play starts and it was a bit too creaky to keep me hooked for long, but I think a certain section of players will find it interesting as an artifact, if nothing else. DELETED.
11 – Poison Control, PS5 review by CJ Salcedo
This is kiiiinda like the visual style of Persona with some super-basic dungeon crawling in bland environments, and that on top of a little bit of reverse-Splatoon involving cleaning up splotches of paint on the floors. The screenshots had me interested, but the gameplay left me super cold. The camera and shooting don’t feel good, the environments are incredibly boring and too much of the game feels kind of loud and in-your-face, but not in a good way. DELETED.
12 – Astalon: Tears of the Earth, Switch
This 2D action-platformer also has a fair bit of metroidvania in it. Three color-coded friends enter a castle to defeat evil and must use their powers to help each other pass obstacles. Players switch between an archer, a swordsman and a magic user at campfires scattered throughout. It’s pretty neat in an oldschool way but it’s also more involved than I had expected — the map feels big and each room is fairly dense with enemies, locked doors and things to do. DID NOT FINISH.
13 – Conglomerate 451: Overloaded, Switch & XBX
This first-person grid-based dungeon crawler really grabbed me with a strong presentation and a good tutorial that got me right into the game, but it feels a bit too big for the Switch and some of the text (not all) was crazy-small. I am pretty interested in this as I’m in the mood for a good crawl, but it’s also available on XBX and that platform makes a lot more sense to me for this specific game even though I generally prefer crawls on a handheld. I’ll check it out there.
EDIT: I checked it out on the XBX and it is — bizarrely — not much better with the visuals. I put a couple hours in, but the lack of polish got to me after a while. There’s a lot of ‘system’ here but not much pizzazz to sell it. DELETED.
14 – Song of Horror, XBX
This third-person horror title starts strong with a good premise and the concept of permadeath — if the current character dies, there’s a cast of several others who will pick up where they left off, each with various skills and attributes. I was all-in for the first hour or two, but it quickly devolves into an oldschool keyfetch with a lot of backtracking similar to ‘classic’ Resident Evil. I just got really tired of combing for items and shuttling between rooms trying to unlock enough doors to make progress. Also, the first (!!!) puzzle I got to was terrible. It was so unclear and confusing I had to hit an FAQ, which is always a bad way to start. DELETED.
15 – Fortnite, XBX
Last season’s “wild” update and emphasis on crafting lost me, not to mention that the skins were boring AF, but this new “alien” season has me back in. Flying UFOs is awesome, the skins are great, and the adjustments to the current formula are back on track. I’m not playing hardcore, but I am definitely going for unlocks via progression. PLAYING WEEKLY.
16 – Griftlands, Switch
This narrative-based roguelike deckbuilder is actually pretty neat in a lot of ways — great art, clever story implementation, and a split between ‘combat’ and ‘persuasion’ approaches but it stumbles by being wildly overcomplicated. There’s just so MUCH to keep track of and it’s difficult to tell what’s going on from just a glance at the screen. I had to constantly open up menus, look up vocabulary and reference various things during play, which broke up the flow and made it drag when it should have been humming. If a strong editor came in and cut away some of the cruft, this would be one of the year’s best. FINISHED.
17 – Outbreak: Endless Nightmares, XBX
Billed as a roguelike third-person survival horror, it’s actually more like an amateur garage project that somehow got released on a major console. Knowing that it comes from one dev does not excuse the abysmal quality and unacceptable roughness. It’s pretty terrible. DELETED.
18 – Techwars: Global Conflict, XBX
This is an isometric mech-action game played in real time against other live players. It’s actually not too bad, but there’s a ton of pay-to-win and monetization permeating the entire experience that made me nope out almost immediately. DELETED.
19 – Stranger of Paradise (demo), PS5
Third-person action that feels like it uses a modified Nioh combat engine (which is good, since Nioh is rad AF) but I don’t have a lot of love for the Final Fantasy universe and the aesthetics are ugly and boring. I also got tired of the combat before even finishing the demo, so I’ll be giving this one a pass. DELETED.
20 – Death Trash (demo), XBX
I stopped myself from finishing the demo because it was too awesome and I don’t want to spoil myself — this is going to be a day-one purchase for me. Reminds me a bit of oldschool Fallout and I love the aesthetics and tone. I am IN! STOKED FOR THIS.
21 – Minute of Islands, XBX
This 2D narrative game with some very light puzzles was pretty great. The world it takes place in is fascinating, the story takes some unexpected turns and the overall mood was strong with some parallels to the modern world. A few sections were a little frustrating due to being unsure what was foreground and what was background, but overall I loved this one. FINISHED.
22- Teacup (demo), XBX
Cute frog character. Got lost in the demo, couldn’t figure out how to progress. DELETED.
23 – ConnecTank (demo), XBX
Your character is a little person running around inside a huge mecha-tank facing off against another. You arrange conveyor belts to feed resources into the tank’s machinery and put materials in to make ammo. It’s a neat idea but I’m not sure that it would be interesting for more than an hour or so…. WE’LL SEE.
24 – Princess Farmer (demo), XBX
I love the aesthetics of this one, and the gameplay feels fresh. Make match-threes by uprooting/planting vegetables in a system that feels unlike any other match-three I’ve played. WILL BUY IT.
25 – Tunic (demo), XBX
An isometric action game starring a cute little fox in a Zelda-like world. LOOKS SOLID.
26 – Fractal Space (demo), XBX
Feels a lot like Portal in space, minus the portals. A test subject who’s not sure why they’re there, rooms full of traps, and so on. OKAY.
27 – The Riftbreaker (demo), XBX
This comes from the dev team behind X-Morph: Defense, which was awesome. Basically you’re a woman in a mechsuit colonizing a distant planet, but it sort of plays out like base defense as you erect walls and turrets to keep the local fauna out. DAY ONE PURCHASE.
28 – Trigger Witch (demo), XBX
Too talky, the graphics were not great and the demo was not clear about where to go or what to do. DELETED.
29 – Black Book (demo), XBX
This game based on Russian (?) folklore stars a girl who wants to be a witch, so she goes to hell and makes a pact with a demon — no remorse and no regrets. That in itself was pretty wild, but the graphics are dark (as in, evil) and the tone feels unlike anything that would be produced in the states. The action happens in roguelike deckbuilder fashion so I’m auto-interested, but my only concern is that there doesn’t seem to be many concessions made for Western players who are not familiar with this content. Many of the words were unfamiliar to me and I have basically zero knowledge of Russian witchcraft, so that seemed like it would be an issue when speaking to characters and being asked to make choices based on lore. WILL CHECK IT OUT.
30 – Splitgate (demo), XBX
This is literally Portal with guns. Come on people, we can do better than this. DELETED.
31 – Justice Sucks: Recharged (demo), XBX
In this demo, you play a roomba who sneaks around their house while avoiding burglars. Activate appliances in the house to knock them out, and keep your domain safe. It’s surprisingly bloody and also quite hilarious… Some of the cutscenes caught me totally by surprise. GONNA CHECK THIS OUT.
32 – The Eternal Cylinder (demo), XBX
GameCritics writer Ali Arkani previewed this game a while ago and he loved it, and now that I’ve played the demo I can see why — control a small squad of aliens while avoiding a colossal cylinder that is forever rolling forward and steamrolling the landscape. Apparently there are ecological themes to be revealed, but I loved what I saw so far based just on the small slice we got. I’M IN.
33 – Lake (demo), XBX
Play as a woman escaping her tech job to become a mail carrier in a sleepy lakeside town? Hell yes! SIGN ME UP.
34 – The Tale of Bistun (demo), XBX
An isometric action game that failed to present a conceptual hook or engaging gameplay. DELETED.
35 – Echo Generation (demo), XBX
A simple, streamlined turn-based RPG set in the ’80s with Earthbound vibes and some colorful voxel graphics. I don’t play a lot of RPGs these days but I’ll play this one. YOU BET.
36 – Deathtrap Dungeon: The Golden Room (demo), XBX
I’m definitely up for modern FMV games and this one has some pretty solid production values. Unfortunately the demo was not great — the first puzzle I encountered made no sense (I googled it and plenty of other people were similarly confused) and when I got the wrong answer I was sent back too far. It also felt like there was too much watching and not enough choosing. WE’LL SEE.
37 – Returnal, PS5
Oof, this game. It looks great and handles great but the devs seem to have ignored every design advance made in the roguelike genre over the last ten years and have gone in on some truly baffling choices. There’s almost no sense of progression other than shortcuts that open up after a boss is defeated, most unlocks are barely noticeable, and there’s no way to start a run off in a significantly better position to give a player hope that they’ll get further. Too much is left to pure RNG, recalling an era of harsh roguelikes that are better left in the past. And no, there’s still no way to save mid-game, which is a ridiculous and absurd choice. It’s a shame because there’s a lot going for it in terms of concept and presentation, but playing it feels like a waste of time when there’s precious little progress made. With just a few tweaks this could be one of the year’s best either as a better roguelike or even just as a standard action game. STILL PLAYING.
38 – Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights, Switch
This one is a lovely surprise. it’s a 2D action-platformer starring a girl who is basically defenseless. To protect herself, she summons ghosts to attack and defend her. The art is fantastic, the aesthetics and tone are great, and the action is tight. Early days at the moment but I’m enjoying it greatly. My one concern is that the levels feel fairly empty and there’s not much to it past the combat… A town or some NPCs to interact with would make it feel a little fuller. STILL PLAYING.
39 – Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin, Switch
Currently embargoed. No comment! ^_^ STILL PLAYING.
40 – The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk: The Amulet of Chaos, XBX
This party-based, turn-based tactics adventure has solid mechanics and a good level of depth in the skills and equipment. The problem? It’s a ‘humorous’ adventure where every character chatters way too much, and the script isn’t funny. It’s painful listening to the characters talk, and I haven’t laughed even once — I really wish the devs would have gone for a more straightforward tale, or at least kept the yakking to a minimum. True fact: there’s an option in the menu to straight-up mute two of the characters (elf and dwarf) so that says to me they knew it might be a problem. DELETED.
41 – The Procession to Calvary, XBX
Talk about going from one extreme to the other. I played this right after my tummy started hurting from Naheulbeuk‘s shit writing and this immediately cracked me up. It’s a simple point-and-click with graphics cut-and-pasted from famous works of art and similar in tone to something like Monty Python. The gags are legitimately funny and the overall presentation is pretty awesome. I live for unusual stuff like this, plus I absolutely appreciate that you can simply kill anyone in your way if you can’t figure a puzzle out! Amazing!! FINISHED. RECOMMENDED!
42 – Aluna: Sentinel of the Shards, Switch
This straightforward Diablo clone offers a neat spin by going with South American mythology but immediately tanks with a terrible framerate, dull graphics and absolutely nothing to recommend it beyond the theming. DELETED.
43 – Hellfront: Honeymoon, PS5
This is a top-down super-streamlined RTS that was pitched as a PvP game (so I ignored it) but AJ Small let me know that it had a separate campaign, so I became intrigued. It’s actually quite fun, but the issue is that while the campaign says that it’s for 1-2 co-op players (local only), the difficulty starts spiking halfway through — despite what it says, it definitely feels like it’s meant for two people. I’ll try to get the wife to go through it with me. PAUSED.
44 – Doki Doki Literature Club Plus!, XBX
I’ve heard about this one for years but never felt motivated enough to play it on PC. And now, that aversion to PC has finally paid off! Essentially it’s a romance/dating visual novel that takes a pretty MAJOR turn in the middle. Unfortunately, I had been spoiled on the game long long ago (it originally released in 2017) so I knew what was coming. On the other hand, the first hour or two is really dull, so if I didn’t know what was coming, I doubt I would have stuck with it! Either way, I’m glad that I finally played it and that it finally came to console. FINISHED.