I had a pretty memorable Independence Day this year. Among other reasons, I finally sat down and played through Incredible Crisis. It’s a quirky game that has been on my backlog for a while now, and on my radar for even longer; I probably first learned of it surfing the net in the mid 2000s. For me, it’s remained a stalwart example of the scores of zany Japanese games that somehow saw release in the west during the late 1990s and the mid 2000s. Maybe off-the-wall games like it had been, and perhaps remain, prevalent in Japan, but at least in the west, it seemed like they came and went during these years. Continue reading Incredible Crisis [PlayStation] – Review→
Probably the quintessential example of a cult classic in the video game industry, at least here in the United States, the Super Nintendo RPG EarthBound had an underwhelming debut when Nintendo released it June 5, 1995. The SNES was reaching the end of its commercial lifecycle, and RPGs on the system had matured to include ever more complex gameplay systems and grandiose visuals. Heck, the Sega Saturn had released a month prior, Sony’s PlayStation was on the horizon, and Nintendo was already discussing the next generation Ultra 64 publicly, so it seemed 2D graphics were on their way out. Yet here comes this simplistic looking game based in a reality not unlike our own instead of an imaginative fantasy or sci-fi backdrop. Similarly, the plain combat system could’ve been considered a throwback, even then. But, there was an audience for the game, and in the years since its debut, that audience has grown into a thriving fandom. Now that I’ve experienced firsthand the charming, unique adventure that EarthBound offers, a fandom so vibrant is well deserved, I’d say. Continue reading EarthBound [Super Nintendo] – Review→
As a character, Kirby is well-known for his youthful innocence and delight in simple pleasures, like eating. Simple is also an apt descriptor for the majority of games he’s starred in, generally platformers; simple, but often inventive, in one way or another. In the case of Kirby’s Epic Yarn, the game is a pretty basic side-scrolling platformer with a remarkable visual identity. The yarn and felt visuals were more than just window dressing though, as they influenced the gameplay in creative and subversive ways. Continue reading Kirby’s Epic Yarn [Wii] – Review→
I’m competitive, always have been. I spent my youth playing organized soccer, and the desire to win was real. This translated to other activities, such as Monopoly, or anything else that had an element of competition to it. I wanted to win! In terms of my schooling back then, my parents instilled the importance of studying, that the effort I put in would result in good grades, which in my mind was a competition of sorts. Not necessarily against others in this case, but against myself. Competition was a means of self-improvement. It was the mechanism that gave me the drive, the motivation to succeed. Heck, even Pokémon encouraged competition, whether through the core trainer battles in the video games or via the infectious theme song of the anime.
And speaking of Pokémon, I can make a case that that franchise influenced my completionist tendencies. As I’ve mentioned before, when I experience something, I want to experience the whole of it. Similarly, when I play a video game on a modern PlayStation or Xbox, trophies and achievements materially impact my experience. If I’m digging the game, I’ll do my best to unlock as many as possible. When crafted well, they can complement the gameplay experience by rewarding experimentation or offering up unique challenges. Even when they’re not crafted well, I still feel compelled to obtain them, or at least do a cost-benefit analysis to determine which are worth my time. They’re a fun element of modern gaming; a nifty way to compare progress with and compete against friends, and an element that I care way too much about.
Bastion is one of those games that has been near the top of my backlog for years. From all accounts, it was a hit when it debuted on the Xbox 360 on July 20, 2011, and in the years since, it has gone on to appear on damn near every platform, like an indie version of Resident Evil 4 or Skyrim. I first acquired it through a Humble Bundle in May 2012 and have checked it out a few times since, but never for more than a half-hour or so. In fact, I’ve spent more time listening to the soundtrack in the intervening years than actually playing the game! Obviously I think the soundtrack is great, but hey, it turns out the game is pretty good, too! Continue reading Bastion [Switch] – Review→
Free money… what’s not to love? And when’s its coming from a chap calling himself Mr. Sunshine, there’s no reason to question it. So what if his robots harvest all the corn crops? With all the money he gives away – for free, mind you – food can be bought! No reason to be suspicious, at all.
Alas, these were not the concerns of Piku, the bipedal oblong I played as in Pikuniku; at least, not at the outset. Produced by Sectordub, a collaborative studio with members based in London and Paris, Pikuniku was their debut work as a unit, although individually they have worked on a variety of projects. It was released digitally for the Switch and PC on January 24, 2019, having been published by Devolver Digital, the scrappy indie publisher whose presence acts like the Nintendo Seal of Quality. Which is to say if they’re on board, I know the game is going to be great, weird, or as in this case, both.
Nearly ten years ago, a friend and I decided to play Mansion of Hidden Souls on the Sega CD. We didn’t know anything about it, and at that point neither of us had much experience with similar first-person adventure games like Myst. The plodding movement and crude 3D pre-rendered visuals did little to entice us, but we enjoyed the emphasis on puzzle solving. If anything, it was informative to play through a style of game that was no longer in vogue, and one that showcased an early example of full-motion video. We followed it up with playthroughs of a couple similar games and have dabbled with the genre since then, albeit infrequently. One game in particular has been at the top of our to-do list for years, yet we always passed over it for one reason or another. Well the stars aligned last week, and we finally played D. Continue reading D [Sega Saturn] – Review→
After experiencing the three titles that make up the Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix compilation in quick succession last year, I needed a break. It was a desire to join in on the zeitgeist surrounding the release of Kingdom Hearts III that prompted me to finally jump into the series, though truth be told I’d always been interested. I started itching to get back into the series while playing the F.E.A.R. games last year, if anything to experience something a little more uplifting. First up: Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix. Continue reading Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix [PlayStation 3] – Review→
It was a brief comment in Dave Halverson’s review of Dragon Quest VIII from the November 2005 issue of Play Magazine, and not especially relevant to the full review, but it’s stuck with me ever since: “…given the detail, that the lead character is not dynamic to steps and slopes does take a bite out of the realism.” I wouldn’t say I’ve paid attention to the functionally irrelevant detail of characters walking on stairs in every game I’ve played since, but sometimes I notice. In Shenmue III for instance, whenever the protagonist Ryo walks up or down a flight of stairs, his feet hit every step. Every. Step. I know relatively little about the rigors of game development, but it seems ludicrous to offer such attention to detail for something as banal as navigating a flight of stairs. And yet, Shenmue III is in many ways a game about embracing the banal, for better or worse. Continue reading Shenmue III [PlayStation 4] – Review→
As was the case with History 2048, one of my main motivations for purchasing Miniature – The Story Puzzle was its appealing art style (it didn’t hurt being on sale, either). The screenshots posted on the game’s eShop page highlighted neat little dioramas, not dissimilar from History 2048. Both games were developed by purpleElephant, so the shared design aesthetic makes sense. It was a good looking game, but there just wasn’t much to it.
Each stage of Miniature told a story across five scenes, represented by changes in a diorama. For instance, one stage told the story of a deep sea dive. Early scenes had the diver getting ready aboard the boat and entering the water, while later ones highlighted the discovery of treasure and threat of a shark. I cycled through the scenes randomly, moving the diorama around, zooming in for clues, in an attempt to put them in the correct order.
There were about a dozen stages to play through, which altogether took less than a half-hour to complete. The controls were the most puzzling aspect at first, but once I figured them out, I was off to the races. Conceptually, the gameplay of Miniature was enjoyable, and the presentation was neat! But, there wasn’t much to the package. Although I don’t think the game is a particularly good deal (even on sale), it’s probably the perfect length.
Adding more puzzles could’ve improved the value proposition, but to prevent the game from getting stale, I think the developers would’ve had to increase the scenes per stage to up the difficulty, or expand the gameplay in another way. Miniature was enjoyable, but it seems better suited as a novel minigame in a larger game.