Pony Island

Why hello there. You’re unsettling.

Game Name: Pony Island (2016)
Developer: Daniel Mullins Games (Grav, Agent Maxwell: Master of Math)
Platform: Windows, OSX, Linux, Mobile
Categories: On-Rails Adventure, Minimalist Puzzles, Minimalist Sidescrolling Action, Mouse-Only, Dark Comedy, Self-Aware Meta Gaming,  Indie Experiment, Corrupted Nostalgia, Interactive Novel

May Appeal To: tongue-in-cheek gamers, weekend vg jaunters, anyone with ‘meta’ in their vernacular, Steam completionists and hoarders, indie snobs, and those looking for mold-breaking conversation starters about the state of our industry.
May Repulse: not many people actually. It’s short and easy – any opposers to that may have a bad time. The stylized CRT retro-graphics might be a bit rough on sensitive eyes.

Comparable To: Five Nights at Freddy’s in terms of simplicity, tone, and the lore-hungry community over-analyzing every snippet or encrypted character dump that appears in frame. The Stanley Parable’s story and game structure is cognitively similar. Pony Island is infinitely easier than every sidescroller, arcade title, and ‘Escape the Room’ style predecessor that it alludes or emulates. Both GlaDOS and Psycho Mantis approve of the narrator/player interactions.

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Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries

Recon mission? I’ll send this hundred ton Clan battlemech and friends.

Game Name: Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries (2002)
Developer: FASA / Studio MekTek Inc. (Heavy Gear Assault, Beneath the Surface)
Platform: Windows
Categories: Battletech Pilot Simulator, 1st/3rd Person Shooter, Single Player Campaign, Multiplayer Deathmatch, Multiple Endings, Squad Tactics, Walking BattleTanks and Equipment Juggling, borderline overwhelming Mech Loadout Designer. Lasers, Missiles, and multi-ton 31st century Shotguns to the Armored Face, oh my!

May Appeal To: aging gamers with a hard-on for big, clunky, 80’s robot brawls. (Demographic outliers need not apply.)
May Repulse: those expecting modern finesse, flow, balance, and graphics from their gaming excursions. Fair warning: if you liked Mechwarrior then, you’d like it now. If you weren’t aware of it then, you’ll wonder what the fuss is/was about.

Comparable To: Hawken’s plodding arena battles with a kick, featuring mechs less maneuverable than Gundam games but more fluid than Armored Core. The mech garage sections remind me of Front Mission 3; it’s more interesting than Mechwarrior 4, more immersive than Mech Commander, it’s less thematic than Mechwarrior 2: Mercenaries, has better gameplay and design than Mechwarrior 3, is less ‘modern’ than MWO, has considerably more depth than Mech Assault, and made me wish my Mechwarrior 3050 SNES emulator would just work dammit.

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Legend of Grimrock

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The walls are square, the ceilings square, square gate lattices, and your hosts…. also squares.

Game Name: Legend of Grimrock (2012)
Developer: Almost Human
Platform: Windows, OSX, Linux, iOS
Categories: First Person Party Dungeon Crawler, Old School Design, Real Time Combat, Grid Based Movement, Storyphobic, Secrets, Missables, Role Playing, Stat Driven, Simple & StraightForward, Relatively Short for its Genre

May Appeal To: dungeon rats seeking an old school point of entry, pack mules and inventory jugglers, visionaries melding graphics with classic design, mobile gaming prisoners craving quality, and unconventional advocates wanting a blend of both fresh and familiar.
May Repulse: children birthed this millennia, purists, gaming evolutionists, unchallenged tacticians, repetition haters, and those absolutely unswayed by a handful of well done, overused wall textures illuminated by three types of light sources.

Comparable To: a restricted version of Might & Magic Lite – with no quests, NPCs, or open world areas to bog down the pace. It plays very much like Wizardry: Tale of the Forgotten Land in setting and general navigation of the labyrinth, though precludes the need for backtracking or “safe” havens like the village. It’s also less complex than earlier Wizardry titles, and I hear it’s very much inspired by Eye of the Beholder. Etrian Odyssey entries tend to be more in-depth, deliberate, have more obvious puzzle answers, have harder, drawn-out combat, and take considerably more grinding than Legend of Grimrock. Continue reading

DOOM (The Ultimate DOOM)

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Green! Red! Gyah…. Bad Touch Death!

Game Name: DOOM(1993); Special Edition Release – The Ultimate DOOM (1995)
Developer: id Software
Platform: MS-DOS, Windows, Mac OS, OS/2, Linux, NeXTcube, IRIX, Solaris, RiscPC, AmigaOS, BeOS, Acorn Archimedes, Atari Jaguar, PS1, PS3, PS4, PocketStation, Xbox, Xbox 360, XBOne, Sega 32X, Sega Saturn, Super NES, Nintendo 64, 3DO, Game Boy Advance, Tapwave Zodiac, Shield Portable, TR-DOS, iOS, BlackBerry OS, Windows Mobile, [and likely a bunch of other stuff I’ve never heard of]. Of course, Doom has been ported by fans to just about anything with a screen, including a Canon office printer. You heard me correctly.
Categories: FPS GrandDaddy, Retro, Reaction Based, Ammo Management, Abstract/Complex Labyrinthine Levels, Lethal Ambushes, Monster Closets packed to the Brimstone, Keycard Finding, Gore, Satanic, Multi-Difficulty, Low Res, Distilled Shooter, Co-op, Deathmatch, Long Campaign, Moddable, Thriving Community, Storyless, Frantic Fun, an Immortal Franchise and unequivocally/demonsterably METAL as hell.

May Appeal To: aging gamers eager to write dissertations about their generation’s superiority, future alien archaeologists studying the lost husk of human culture, gaming nerds completing bucket lists, twitchy tweakers, and those with low attention spa….
May Repulse: graphics snobs, story cravers, the young, enjoyers of Everyone’s Gone to the Rapture, and those that believe ‘DOS’ is the primary villain in Portal

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Axiom Verge

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Please don’t eat me. You’re going to eat me.

Game Name: Axiom Verge (2015)
Developer: Thomas Happ Games (only Axiom Verge, which is sufficient for now)
Platform: PS4, PC, Vita, Wii U, XBONE  Releasing in that staggered order
Categories: Quintessential Metroidvania, 2D Platformer, Unlockables, Single Player, 8 Bit, Backtracking, Multi-Difficulty, 2 Endings, Indie, SciFi, a Retro Love Letter, Varied Combat, Visual Puzzles, Brutal Bosses, Exploration/Secrets Centric

May Appeal To: classic platform pornographers, pixel art fanatics, and most anyone with black rimmed glasses and a beard
May Repulse: 8 bit haters, challenge unenthusiasts, hand holders, the easily lost, brosefs, Engrish can’t-standers, and those that didn’t grow up with the soothing bleeps and bloops of OG gaming

Comparable To: more intricate and harder than Guacamelee!, immersive and addictive compared to Roge Legacy, and is a fusion of innovation with classic inspiration like Braid. *Inhales* Tighter controls and more visual flair than Metroid, improves upon the formula and is mechanically/thematically closest to Super Metroid, faster paced and less claustrophobic than Metroid II: Return of Samus, similarly interesting environs as Castlevania 1, more varied combat and less monotonous than Castlevania 2, thoughtful map design as opposed to Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, and as quirky/immersive though less RPG-like when compared to Symphony of the Night.  Continue reading