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 (reviewed on PC)
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 (reviewed on PC)
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 (Wolfenstein, Quake, Rage)
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. (reviewed on PC)
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 (reviewed on Vita)
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 Rogue 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

Rogue Legacy

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Solid Snake ruined exclamation marks for me. You hear it too, right?

Game Name: Rogue Legacy (2014)
Developer: Cellar Door Games (not much else, unless you count “Don’t Shit Your Pants”)
Platform: PS3, PS4, Vita, PC, XBOX ONE (reviewed on Vita)
Categories: Platformer, Rogue “Lite”, Retro, Simple, Repetition, Unlockables, Random Dungeons, MetroidVania, Single Player, Bite Size Gameplay, Multi-Death, Hard

May Appeal To: self flagellators, braggers, the trendy, Indie supporters, Steam collectors, OCD driven perfectionists
May Repulse: depth divers, Indie loathers, the undedicated, the frustrated, seasoned gamers, the hard to please, and I’ve-seen-it-all-beforers

Comparable To: any single level of Castlevania, less charm than Guacamelee!, less adventure/mystery than Spelunky, more claustrophobic than Risk of Rain, harder than Megaman maybe, better graphics than Terraria, less satisfaction than the original Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins, throw in a smidgen of Darkest Dungeon regarding the castle build screen, potentially a little Axiom Verge in the retro-platformer revival movement Continue reading

Total War: Warhammer

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Varghulfs, vargheists, and crypt horrors throw the best tailgating parties. Go Sportsball!

Game Name: Total War: Warhammer (2016)
Developer: Creative Assembly (Total War has been *around* son. History-based warfare drips from their very walls…. and Alien: Isolation scurries their ducts.)
Platform: PC (reviewed on PC)
Categories: Multiplayer, Multi-Faction, Campaigns, Turn-Based Strategic Overworld, Pause-able Tactics Orchestration, Massive Battles, Gorefest (with DLC),  Fantasy Horror, Board Game Adaptation

May Appeal To: tabletop gaming titans and miniatures collectors, those looking for an entry into the Warhammer world, eye candy sweet-tooths, Lord of the Rings insatiables, and anyone seeking chaotically organic war mongering.
May Repulse: tactile skirmishers looking for quick satisfaction, proud owners of blunting-edge PC technology, comrades whom fear the DLC onslaught, and those craving granular controls over troop positioning.

Comparable To: Total War in all its shapes and forms – this matches those games with the exception of historically accurate Japanese shoguns and muskets being replaced by magically deified fists slamming into the battlefield as volcanic brimstone peppers your throng of hulking, cannibalistic greenskins invading the Chaos Marches. Scale-wise, this is a string of Forged Alliance battles set on end and the overworld strikes me reminiscent of either ‘Disciples’ or ‘Heroes of Might and Magic’. Let’s throw a comparison to ‘Kingdom Under Fire’ out there as well – it’s pretty close.

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Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland Plus

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It’s a linear world, though my pockets still can’t carry it all.

Game Name: Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland Plus (2009 originally, 2014)
Developer: Gust Co. Ltd. (makers of the Ar Tonelico series, Mana Khemia) -http://www.ateliergames.eu/roronaplus/
Platform: PS3, Vita, a 3DS version exists kind of (reviewed on Vita)
Categories: Single Player, Extreme Crafting, Innocent/Endearing, JRPG, Item Hoarding, Time Management, Assignment Driven, Turn Based Combat, Deliberately Slow Pacing

May Appeal To: event planners, efficiency experts, min-maxers, stat crunchers, inventory jugglers, the young at heart, OCD sufferers, and the Japanese
May Repulse: twitch gamers, violence cravers, Ritalin poppers, anime shirkers, crafting haters, and fundamentally anyone missing the attention span to notice incomplete

Comparable To: the ominously looming time restrictions of Dead Rising just with a de-emphasis on rampantly comedic decapitations; the game also rings true with the overall structure and vibe of Rune Factory 4 though with a declared purpose and direction. This has less ‘Mine’ and 30 times more ‘Craft’ than Minecraft, though the turn-based combat is a no-frills, barely competent vision of literally any other JRPG. Way, way more chipper than Fullmetal Alchemist. Continue reading

The Walking Dead (Season 1)

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Electrified barbwire. Now where did Southern hospitality run off to?

Game Name: The Walking Dead (Season 1) (2012)
Developer: Telltale Games (makers of Sam and Max, The Wolf Among Us)
Platform: PC, MAC, PS4, PS3, XB1, XBox360, Mobile (reviewed on PC)
Categories: Single Player, Traditional Adventure, Morally Gray, Quick Time Events, Low Interaction, Story-Driven, Survivor-Centric, Decision Adaptive

May Appeal To: survivalists and apocalypse buffs, casual gamers, zombie fans, comic readers, protective fathers, and those desiring a quick stroll through a depressing story
May Repulse: those that have had quite enough of the zombie craze, “hardcore” gamers, QTE haters, virtual item hoarders, kleptomaniacs, the squeamish, the nauseous, the religious, and anyone otherwise sensitive to murder, child death, or mutilation

Comparable To: subdued item collection/combining and a smidge more wanton destruction than Sam and Max, not as enchanting/compelling as The Wolf Among Us, tighter and more focused than Heavy Rain, more heartfelt more engaging and less emaciated-butt-kicking than The Walking Dead show, mostly in-line with The Walking Dead comic’s cadence and is distilled to key points in a brand new story Continue reading

SOMA

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I heard you liked loading screens disguised as airlock sequences. Step this way please.

Game Name: SOMA (2015)
Developer: Frictional Games (makers of Penumbra and Amnesia: the Dark Descent)
Platform: PC, PS4 (reviewed on PC)
Categories: Single Player, Sci-Philosophy, Morally Gray, Story-Centric, Mild Scares, Stubborn Stealth, Dread, 1st Person Walking Simulator, Environmental Puzzles, Mind Fuck, and Definitively Immersive

May Appeal To: existentialists, thinkers, technophiles, adventure gamers looking for more than a casual juant, indie fans, mold-breakers, and people who want a satisfying story
May Repulse: action-seekers, game manipulators, those that require a high degree of polish or “mainstream” titles, the shallow, scaredy-cats, and people who want satisfying gameplay

Comparable To: similar tone and setting to Bioshock, less freedom and tamer than Alien Isolation, strikingly similar to Amnesia with a heavier narrative, bad guys by the Slenderman School of Not Looking at Shit That Kills You, Myst-style environmental interaction and awareness Continue reading

Alien: Isolation

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Aaagh, my vacant eye sockets! Who has the laser pointer?!

Game Name: Alien: Isolation (2014)
Developer: Creative Assembly (from the awesome Total War Series)
Platform: PC, MAC, PS3, PS4, XBox 360, XBox One (reviewed on PC)
Categories: Single Player, Pure-Stealth, Cat-and-Mouse, True Horror, Repeated and Violent Deaths, Crafting, Sci-Fi, First Person Shooter, Mini-Games

May Appeal To: fanatics of the original “Alien” movie, retro-future nostalgics, stoic horror aficionados, self-flagellation enthusiasts, art lovers, chaoticians, atheists, completionists, the unphased, and those with thick thick skin
May Repulse: fans of the “Aliens” second movie, run and gunners, the squeamish, the anxious, the impatient, the gung-ho, pattern-seekers, the aloof, the undedicated, the rage quitters whom are secretly terrified, IGN employees, and everyone who isn’t strictly in the “May Appeal To” section

Comparable To: (better theme, monster, and environmental interaction than) Amnesia: the Dark Descent, (trickier stealth than) the Thief series, (reminiscent of the first couple Human missions of) Aliens Vs. Predator original, (less BFG and more in line with the intro to) Doom 3 Continue reading