Solo: Islands of the Heart seems like it's trying to be your counselor. Go to an actual counselor. The gameplay is calming, the scenery is cute, the colors are vibrant, the design is unique, and the puzzles require a good amount of thinking without being too easy, but its attempt to analyze a real human person with pre-determined questions starts it off teetering on the wrong foot. It never quite regains its balance.
Mechstermination Force feels like it comes very close to having a manageable learning curve. Quality-wise, it's great, and a good homage to its boss-filled predecessors. However, there's nothing more game-ruining than, you know, not being able to play the game. There's hard, and then there's hard hard, and then there's Mechstermination Force. It can be done. It can be beaten. I just hope you have a spare hour or two for every boss, and some throat lozenges and ice water nearby.
The King's Bird has the potential to be wonderful—and in its art and music, it is. Based on that alone I would play it all day. But the sense of freedom it is trying so hard to evoke is held back by its finicky controls, and since the game's very foundation is meant to be freeing, it falls short. Altered controls and a slightly wider margin for error, especially on console, would really let The King's Bird soar beyond the confines of its cage, and boost its mechanics up to the high tier of its design.
Ultimately, Gone Home is the same game no matter what platform it is played on. It brings the same emotions, anxieties, and intrigue to the table now as it did years ago. There is no denying, however, that the versatility offered by the Switch version fits the calm nature of the walking sim, whether it is played docked or not—plus it's just plain cool to experience the story in such close quarters.
Not Tonight is a good, solid game. The mechanics are fun, the characters are memorable, and the setting is well executed. However, for its satirical approach, it should have gone a few steps further, and taken the risk in order to become the truly biting, funny, and meaningful social commentary that it wants to be.
Dream Alone has a tired story, clunky controls, and flawed mechanics, and most of its problems can be traced to the near-fundamental incompatibility of this type of horror with this type of platforming. Its most promising aspect—multiple dimensions—is by far the creepiest part, which is enjoyable, but it seems to sabotage itself with a few key flaws that impact the entire game's playability.
Moonlighter is a delightful rogue-lite shopkeeping sim game (because that's a common combination) that can either take up one day of your time or multiple weeks, depending on your playstyle and preferences. If you're looking for a mild challenge, but want to have an overall relaxing experience in a lovingly crafted environment, then I can't recommend this game enough.
If you're looking for a mobile puzzle game worthy of your time, then Umiro is where you should turn. It's short, with admittedly low replay value, but hey—it's a mobile game, primarily. It's not the place to look for a fully-fledged, complex plot, but it does the job on the puzzle front, and is great at keeping you engaged for however long you have to play it.
This historian notes the progression in the pirate's attitude. At the outset, she is optimistic at best and infuriated at worst. Her outlook seems to peak when she first joins a crew and sails with friends, but she cannot maintain that energy, and eventually devolves once again into frustration—primarily, it seems, with other pirates of the time, who show little to no restraint in their violence for no reason. However, she maintains a constant love for the sea, and seemed to greatly enjoy the time she spent in a full crew; even throughout misfortunes, such as lost ships and chicken mishaps, there seemed to be great amusement. Perhaps, had she a more accessible and constant crew, her piracy might not have ended so soon after her arrival in the Sea of Thieves.
Fe is a beautifully ethereal game that, despite its flaws with plot comprehension and spatial organization, is a pleasure to play. If you're fine with wandering, and don't mind the feeling of being swept along on a journey rather than pioneering the journey yourself, then the weak points of this game will seem a lot less weak.
Hyakki Castle probably wouldn't be great for newbies to the dungeon-crawling scene, but if you already know you like the movement and combat system then it's definitely something to try. It has its mechanical issues, and requires a lot of fiddling to figure out at first, but is executed creatively and diversely enough to still be engaging. It just needs a little extra touch to become the beacon that it wants to be.
Middle-earth: Shadow of War is great for veterans and tough for newcomers, but a joy to play for either party once you get a hang of the mechanics. It gets tedious at times, and there are missed opportunities here and there, but the Nemesis System that was a beacon of success in the first game has come back bigger and better than ever. It's definitely a return to Middle-earth that is worth the play, and an homage to Tolkien's works that everyone can appreciate.
The Journey Down's story is captivating, confounding, and lovable all at once, with its roots in real-life culture making it all the more unique. Chapter 3 especially feels engaging and exciting, though the tone of the game never strays from its intention. There are plot details that could do with some patching up, but ultimately it was a pleasure to play, and I would definitely recommend it for somebody looking for a point-and-click puzzle game that carries with it a breath of fresh air.
The Pillars of the Earth has its mechanical flaws, and it doesn't translate seamlessly from medium to medium due to technological constraints, but that aside it's a truly gorgeous experience. The art, music, and voice acting all come together as one to blend this story into one that transcends the pages upon which it was originally written, making it a very unique and interesting experience.
What Remains of Edith Finch knows its niche from the beginning and rarely strays, resulting in a cohesive experience that I was never jolted out of. It elicits the strangest mixture of emotions, and its different modes of storytelling are second to none. The controls don't translate seamlessly from PC to Xbox One, but you don't play this game for the controls; you play for the story, and the story is gripping.
The unique premise of Vostok Inc. breathes new life into the tired genre, making this moneymaking game much more than something to just play on the toilet to pass the time. While it's definitely not everyone's cup of tea, I urge you to give it a chance if you're on the fence; it definitely didn't seem like my cup of tea either at first, but the embedded humor and interesting mechanics made it relatively easy to suffer through the annoyances.
Pixel Night makes a brave foray into the exploration genre that doesn't quite pan out in the end due to detached storytelling and repetitive mechanics. If you're a dedicated adventure game player, Empathy: Path of Whispers will offer little challenge, except maybe in the way of overcoming boredom. It is, at the end of the day, a walking simulator that knows exactly what it wants to be, but falls a few steps short of actually being it.
Mass Effect: Andromeda doesn’t quite live up to the hype, but it comes close. Considering the situation in which the developers found themselves, they put out an addition to the franchise that really feels like returning home even though you’re millions of light years from Earth. With stunning scenery, a distinct Mass Effect feel, and an abundance of things to do, it’s a worthy investment for any Mass Effect veteran or newcomer—but don’t expect it to be perfect.