2047 Reviews liked by Ardwyw_mp3

Islets (2022) comes in as an amazing salve to the most prominent tediums of Search Action design: Map Bloat, and backtracking. Search Action is an alternate name to the often touted 'metroidvania' term used more in japan, I prefer it because its contructs include games that share the design rather than aesthetic similarities. For instance, The Legend of Zelda (1986) is a top down search action game. It doesn't take much to see how that game shares a similar function of guided exploration for powerups to 'unlock' more of the map. With that said, certain irritations with the genre have existed since then.
Those who don't know, the original Metroid (1987) didn't even have a map which meant you were bumbling around in the dark looking for the next powerup. In a way, that does create a more survival horror tension to play since it centers caution, however maps have become commonplace since then in an arguably detrimental way. Take Axiom Verge's (2015) Map for reference. You would have to constantly pause and interface with it to figure out where you are and hope that the direction you were trying to go wasn't locked off by a powerup you don't have only to then have to go some other direction when you're wrong. I remember I got so lost trying to navigate it I thought I was (and might have been) softlocked. This is because the way Search Action games are structured are going to stretch out the world, you will have what you already explored but also all this new territory you found, and eventually you find yourself juggling between the two.
This is what I really love about Islets then, its entire premise is exploring different floating islands to try and connect the land as a down on your luck mouse hero. Islets succeeds in making the 'juggling' element of exploration work by first isolating each of the territories from the player until they finish a core mission on the island which then connects them to a previous island with new paths in that connection to explore. This makes the core motivation of play incredibly satisfying because the connection points allow for new roads to travel through and also means that by having several different entrypoints you can do something, usually even the entire connecting mission first, before having to worry about being locked out by not having the right upgrade to explore first.
It's hard to understate just how satisfying this is. In most other games, anything from Elden Ring (2022) to Breath of the Wild (2017) down to more indie titles like Axiom Verge or Blasphemous there is a constant need to pause the game, and search on a map. This actually has made exploration in itself so compulsively map reliant that its become a sort of mental loading time. Not to mention most maps in these games are obviously 1:1 replicas of the environment whereas most cartography would have flourishes or parts that are a bit off (probably partially caused by the fact the fast travel system is backed in). However except for rare deviations these games all share a similar momentum of going forwards. Only diviating back to older sections out of boredom, thereby making the map use automatic. Islets excels here, because when you pause to use the map you are actually charting where to go next, it feels less like being a rat lost in a scientists labyrinth, and more like an adventurer discovering lost last. Combine that with the uniquely bold downtempo music and you have a mellow take on Search Action gameplay, which has been teased at but not promised on.
Part of the reason that promise works is that Islets is a very easy low risk play experience. You lose nothing on death aside a minute at most of walkback, you can fast travel pretty easily and warp back to the last spot in a pinch thus erasing almost all but the most necessary amount of backtracking (which given the form of exploration is almost always changing spots). The currency from killing enemies automatically magnetizes to you from any distance. More importantly, the game is very platforming based because the enemies are frankly just cannon fodder for your arrows to shoot at. You are most likely not going to experience more than a half dozen deaths to almost any boss. Even if you do, there's no walkback for them, since the save point spawns you right before the fight. I actually complained about the lack of walkbacks in these titles in my Blasphemous reflection however the whole energy for this game is oriented towards a chill experience so it wouldn't make sense to punish here, not to mention there's almost no point in trying to prepare ahead of time. All and all the main experience is cashing in on the feeling of satisfaction and constant curiosity fueled progression.
There are a few aspects where I think Islets breaks that sense of immersion. The music for all the bosses is exactly the same 2 songs depending on if you are fighting them from the boat or in the sky. Throughout, you get 15 letters in your mailbox when with how nice the world feels to explore a good sense of it could have been found from doubling that number, since most of the letters are all from one other adventurer who mocks you the whole time. More notably there's constant button prompts for switches and talking to others which I've always said is unnecessary and takes away from the experience. Also, words will pop up if you go too low on health or switch weapons. I think this is my experience with esoteric to solve adventure point and click games like Grim Fandango (1998) and speaking here but I have and will always find these spontaneous prompts, popups, and phrases of character information irritating. They push too much of instrumental play at the cost of immersion. If I could rock no HUD in these, I'd be happily do so. HUD/player warning information gaudiness in general is why Rain World (2017) is on my radar for its more minimalist approach. Also, when you pause the game a timer and a percentage complete modifier greets you, which is so overnormalized in these sidescroller map exploration games. This immediately breaks any trance the experience is trying to set and runs is as a colonizing 'number crunching' experience again. I feel like almost no game every should show a percentage amount until you at least beat the game, it's a hideous little inclusion. This complaints may seem extreme, but all these function as unnecessary distractions to the course of play, and I feel we should be mindful of ways in which extraneous information is a middleman to the player beyond just load screens and front loaded tutorials, which is why I rag on these aspects as much as I do. That said, all these issues run business as usual from me, to the extent I'd be willing to overlook them except for the fact it really stumbles on making the final boss have a Boss Rush section towards the end which reads more as disappointment than chill.
Regardless of my whining the map aspect is so incredibly well realized that it's worth checking out for that reason alone. I haven't felt this refreshed from a narratively light Search Action game, much less one with a lot of map use in a long time. It also helps that unlike what I complained about with Hollow Knight, getting 100% is actually not a chore with all the warp points and an upgrade that lets you see where the level ups are, you are talking at most 10% of the overall experience is poking for these post game collectibles, compared to a more tedious 35%~ that you would usually find in other titles like Axiom Verge or Hollow Knight. Overall I'm really happy I got to chill in the world of Islets for a day, and it's very possible I might come back one day.
If anything else though, you should check out the OST. Soothing with just enough groove that you can listen to them again no problem. Minecraft tunes with a bit more gutso, fits tone perfectly.

A strangely agreeable game for something about people chewed up by the never-ending war machine- it’s outpaced in so many particular ways by other titles but everything here comes together remarkably well. The weapon upgrade system tests your routing just to enough to make the early stages interesting on repeat and the story adds just enough gravitas to the action, so that there’s some catharsis by the time the credits roll (though the most forward-looking part of the game might the unskippable radio chatter- very prescient design!)
Probably limited in its long-term appeal thanks to the relative simplicity of the scenarios; by the time you get deeper into the game and get some of the better weapon upgrades, the level and enemy design has basically regressed to the point being a straight line where you just hold the down fire button and walk to the right. The fundamentals here are strong enough that you could be tested on something that required more precision and positioning on your part, something that the couple of rival fights should fulfill, but that end up being a little trite in their execution.
Pacing is real standout here though and the saving grace for the game’s shortcomings; early on I wanted to say that it was too easy to play defensively thanks to your invincible shield, and while you can play that way part of the time, most of the game’s biggest fights force you to play very aggressively, with countdown timers ticking away in the background and aerials skirmishes where you’re unable to use your shield. They're somewhat removed from the core appeal of the weighty feel of piloting a mech, but ultimately, I think the game finds a nice rhythm over its short runtime.
Like, you can’t rent this- but that’s exactly the kind of niche that this fits into. Great for someone who wants a retro title to dive into for a weekend.
(And for the sake of clarity, I played the JP translated SNES version, not the “Declassified” release- but I will always defer to the better box art.)

Feel like I’m slightly ill-equipped to really talk about this, given that Shinobi non Grata owes so much to Ninja Spirit, but I’m a mark for ninja games and boss rushes, what can I say?
Think the biggest issue here is that it’s frontloaded with its most compelling ideas: Stage 2 has a cool gimmick where you’re managing enemies on three different levels, with the ground floor being especially hazardous thanks to endlessly respawning enemies. Navigating through the densely-packed environments is a lot of fun, and had me cycling between weapons to find the best balance between crowd control and single-target damage, but later stages rely a lot on “assault” sections, where you’ll need to kill a certain number of enemies to progress. These have really conservative quotas, and so actually end up being much more manageable, tepid encounters than the chaos of the early levels- and the same could be said for the trajectory of the boss fights as well.
Fights in the first half of the game tend to be more dynamic, such as a centipede that can alternate between a number of different screen-covering attacks that force you to consider your positioning, while the fights latter half have more rigid, predictable phases- the final boss in particular feels surprisingly simplistic, cycling between a few telegraphed attacks that are far less organic weave between and compelling to plan around. My gut reaction upon completing my initial playthrough was to say it’s “too short,” but that’s maybe incorrect; more that it’s incomplete.
Part of that is the scenario design (an extra phase on that final fight would go a long way!), but more surprising is the lack of any extra difficulties or modes upon your first clear of the game. I can admire the spartan charm of it, and it’s sort of reassuring that the appeal that’s kept me coming back is mostly intrinsic, but it seems like a title that could benefit a great deal from pushing its mechanics a little farther.
Much of the distinction between weapons can go mostly unnoticed when playing through it normally, but if you were considering the ammo economy and your limited health more frequently, those unique qualities might become that much more apparent- weighing the coverage of your shurikens against the defensive utility of chain-and-sickle, while conserving enough meter for the upcoming boss. Not entirely absent as-is, as mentioned above, but surprisingly infrequent. (An arcade mode with continues and/or a hard mode that limited your health and ammo seems like the obvious additions here, and would likely add the needed pressure to make the game really shine.)
I have my reservations with this,-but it’s got enough of a pulse that even some of the early bosses still throw me off- even multiple runs into the game- and it’s been seriously tempting to return to it in the hopes of getting a 1CC. Maybe not an unambiguous classic (yet), but hopefully this gets the extra support it needs to round out the experience.

"Dark Souls is a fantastic saga, and I have nothing to say about it".
I said this in my second analysis video about King's Field.
Such a statement is a lie.
Like the ash-colored sky, choked by the winds. And as I thought, mourned by fate, a drop fell and snuggled me. Where those who found a comfortable rest take off to light torches to disturb their sleep. Long ago, in a walled land, far to the north, a great king built a great kingdom. I believe they called it... Dark Souls. Perhaps it's familiar to you. And one day, you'll be standing in front of its decrepit gate. Without really knowing why...
Dark Souls
Dark Souls accomplished many things the day it came out. For starters, it solved an inherent problem for those who enjoyed Demon's Souls because of the systemic rigmarole that it was a game for hardcore people: if you take away the puzzles and give exclusively kinesthetic skill checks, it's much harder to find a guide to solve everything - it's no longer enough to learn the solution, now you have to execute it. The title Prepare to Die says it all.
But, there are still Demon's genetics, both in its pasteurized mossy textures and sector lighting, and in its confusing, rambunctious bosses in the second and oh-so-annoying half. And of course, From Software's intentions to pile on to the kind of games that commend for you to require guides or advice inside and out of the game; is a more than acceptable intention considering its direct influences and the kind of design philosophy it wants to push. Even if Souls purists still claim that x way to finish it is the right way; something the trilogy was able to entrench without losing as much difficulty.
Dark Souls was also a great master at using various masks to hide and shudder an unclear message in the first place, and no. I'm not a fan of the idea that this leads to depression as a concept within the game - however much From handled depressed characters before, like King Allant. The clearest sign is the undead merchants, who should have their eyes scorched from sobering; they seem to be more than comfortable in their inevitable rottenness.
Indeed, they are seen to be comfortable clinging to those who keep them human. For the male merchant, the need to cling to a symbol with a feminine name, Yulia. For the female merchant, the comfort of having resources at hand, as if it had been their only practice all their life. It is denial, not depression - depression takes away from you, it doesn't make you cling.
Moreover, what NPCs talk about more than anything else, in general, is accidents in the present or imagined or past glories. But, as much as grief, desolation and beginnings of gangrene rule in Lordran, it doesn't really feel like it wants to stop us, least of all when we know our ultimate fate.
Mechanically Dark Souls seeks to teach by punishment, although meta-narratively it is a mis-direct conservation of the previous title: the routes to reach the bosses themselves have been much more planned to be studied and repeated, in exchange for Demon's Souls MO that demanded not only greater impetus and tolerance to frustration but sometimes directly stopped you in your tracks. For the same reason, it is the bosses that are the big doers; but for some reason, replaying Dark Souls gives the lights that indeed the world is confident that we will achieve the change... when it happens, which is a light on path that is far from the supposed spirit shelled against the player. Moreover, Artorias of the Abyss, the great opening to what would be the Dark Souls of the future going into the past -ironic, I know-, rightly places us as the true hero who hasn't been able to write his own story but on the platforms of a corrupt and confused time, where we are used as a precursor to an institutional symbol, the great crusade into the Abyss, instead of telling the truth about the supposed chosen warrior. It wasn't Artorias; it was us. Almost like living propaganda.
The idea that the land once inhabited by dragons is an inherent demonstration of deep blackened nihilism without remedy is to disabuse it of its true and greatest maw: the slaying of the titan who reminisces about himself... if that's the path you choose. The decision you make without guides or directions as to what you should do, after getting as far as you can and somehow managing to get to the Klin of the First Flame, probably falls back to becoming the new beacon fueling this world - you don't really see through the fiasco of Gwyn's plan as a vile manipulator of events granted. It's a novel of sword and sorcery sold to you as your avatar's grand ascent to the acclaimed city of the gods, a space you slowly notice is barren and inhumanly empty for the role it occupies. It is all a machination to make you just another pawn in the game of the powers that Be... or so it is, unless you know the truth of your own nature.
In Demon's Souls we must descend into the bowels of the world to stop the cold ocean from which Mother Nature drinks souls. In Dark Souls we "must" maintain the empire of the most powerful so that nature does not claim her own. Sink the world into darkness. Or as I believe, in the real and sincere state of things. In Demon's, we descend into enlightenment; in Dark Souls, we ascend into a false light.
Humanity, or rather, existence, should not be controlled by those who want what is supposedly best for you, but to return to its true state; perhaps it is the animal, as Lordran has chosen to represent. Or perhaps, it needs someone to shed the supposed crown to plunge these pale skies into infinity.
You can choose not to be a king, or in this case, not to be the head of the feudal corpse that Lordran has become, bleeding subjects on their deathbed. I think that's the genius part of Dark Souls first. It's all a commentary on pulling back the veil from those who want to make the decisions for you, selling the idea of a story of the afterlife, of a fairy tale now turned to ruin and despair by the incompetence of a goon Sun God. The image of memories that do not belong to you and never did. This, through the constant forcing of its seemingly archaic, poorly described mechanics and its palpable cycle between injustice and reward. It makes you its own so that you promptly make the final decisions - to quit, to believe or to abandon. It couldn't be a more punk outcome.
So what happens when you feel like you're wasting your time? Because that's what I felt when I replayed it in its entirety. It's... strange, because after the first and great legendary half, in which I was having a more than correct and sometimes even pristine time, it suddenly turned bitter. In a constant replay, an exploration that would end as more trails dazzled in my head telling me "yes, indeed, this is Dark Souls". Is it possible that ideas collapse for yourself and no one else?
First Part from "The Best Dark Souls is in my Head": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5DxPbsqkng

So the popularization of various '-dle' clones as a mode for trivia needs basically no introduction. While there's no 'canon' to which to enjoy, Wordle implicitly brought back the dormant web browser guessing game joy pioneered by Geogeussr and Wikipedia's more general hyperlink information systems. In the sense that it focuses on the relationship between player knowledge and the desire for players to learn anew. All the words in the original Wordle (before the NY Time acquisition fucked up the word pool with words like SNAFU) were fair of course but on the other hand there were plenty of words that you could guess to like January 9th 2022 word 'Gorge' that would coincide with an appreciation for that word. Looking it up and letting it sink in. Wordle in this sense is not simply a process of elimination puzzle game, it's a game that in some very actual sense was pulling your cognitave webmap of the english language to the forefront again. Causing you to process the verbs and nouns that exist in the shadows of concious dialogue. At the risk of overintellectualizing it a little bit, I think this is the real 'mass appeal' of wordle. If it was just a hangman clone nobody would care, the wordlist and its relationship to passive knowledge acquisition does a lot to move the goalpost where it otherwise wouldn't. Crossword players are already in deep, Wordle makes the ambitions way more subtle. Just try to solve this 1 small puzzle and go about your day again. Let the success of guessing the word 'rivet' settle.
Entering down the pipeline are the various clones: Gamedle, Posterdle, Tradle, Heardle etc., yet while these games can be equally as fun to try and guess at for players passionate with it, the knowledge base is far more limited in scope. You usually have to have a prior fixed knowledge on the subject in order to have a good chance, whereas any english language speaker after the 9th grade has a chance in Wordle. There's often a snobbish aversion to 'mass appeal' games on the concept that they are 'dumbing things down' for players, but if there's anywhere we can interfere in our on snobbishness on that idea is in imagining a similar snobbery that crossword enthusiasts would lob at Wordle. 'Its too easy and usually too short' would be missing the point, and the esoterica of trivia linguistic riddles crosswords assess are for people who already have the synaptic network for that part of their brain pulled together. I'm serious when I say that this exact dialogue exists for almost any other genre you can imagine. We often forget that older people have troubles dealing with quick changes in onscreen information, which is why Wii Sports is a perfectly fine alternative to the quick decision making of Madden or Rocket League.
Trivia game postulation aside, I think this is what makes musicle less of a bastard child to what is being tested in these low stakes quick to play trivia games than something like Heardle. In Heardle either you know or you don't the song being run, I think people found the granularity of nessecary preinformation needed to guess a Heardle really funny in this regard, and is the reason there are more Heardle clones than probably Wordle ones. One Direction Heardle, Yoshi Heardle, Touhou Heardle, etc. If you don't know the initial properties then what chance do you have? After you fail to guess how likely are you to really linger on it in comparison? In my case not that much. I usually roll my eyes and move on not thinking about the specific Yoshi song meaningfully almost at all. If I were to actualize a hypothesis from this data it might be something like 'Game design in trivia/puzzle games has to find ways for failing solutions not to feel frustrating'.
Musicle offers a bunch of genres to choose from, allowing for you to choose the difficulty of information, you can choose jazz if you know jazz etc. Then its 'tests' you to listen to a song and choose which album its from out of a selection of 4, with the full cover art of the album fully displayed. That's nothing new, that's basically an exam test format, as dreadful as those have become. The nuance is this: it does feel frusterating at all to fail an answer because the remainder from being wrong is new music to look into! This is the flavor that makes it stand out to me. In this way Musicle operates just as much as a game as an esoteric aggregation resource for learning new music. Even if I'm wrong on any guess I'm never annoyed because I'm lingering on the answer and exploring it. This is I think a nessecary distinction to make and one that makes exploring the '-dles' as more than just an internet novelty worthwhile. Wordle was not that complicated to make but highly enjoyable in its original form, I believe a large part of the spice missing is that it wasn't just a puzzle for puzzle's sake, its was gamified curiosity. While Musicle is a bit too splayed out due to its 20 genre categories to latch on as a popular phenomenon, it'll never have the same level of mass appeal, the spirit of its dynamics is still there. This is that aspect of a lot of these clones I find frusterating. Even if I have fun with Timeguessr, and find out about the picture shown is the berlin wall, there's always this lingering feeling of 'tell me more'. With a simple set of guessed words that process is obvious, but with even Geogeussr there was always this feeling that the ability to get better or have new novelty trivia is right outside my reach.
I could end my diatribe there, but allow me a further indulgence for a moment. I bring this all up because I think as I get older I've come to recognize that educational value and gamification are way more interlinked than we recognize. On my last birthday I played the interactive geometry tool called Euclidea, I was frusterated with the limits of my knowledge a lot then and how to improve with it. If you're interested, you can read it here. Well it's about a year later, my birthday is coming up again soon, and I have to be honest and say that while that game was extremely frustrating almost nothing has given such a direct interaction between authentic knowledge and progression for me since then until this game. When I was in school I was obsessed with algebra puzzles, they were so fun for me and people would often try to get me in higher maths and fail in doing so (because the school tests thought I was too stupid to handle them or whatever). Basic solving equations with neat outputs you can stack upon. Euclidea's progression system is far more linear and end goal driven than any of the -dle clones, but I'm convinced that there's more than just novelty under the surface here. I think we may as a game's culture let Trivial Pursuit speak a bit too loudly and quarantine this entire genre to novelty and vulgar pop culture. Perhaps the depth is more than just ankle deep, perhaps the informative aspect of design is only a few steps away from being resurfaced, with Balance of the Planet being the invisible progenitor to a diaspora in game information systems.

Mitología estadounidense a través de infinitas referencias a la cultura pop aplicada a un juego de género, que explota la libertad de su base para presentar una aventura de inocencia e ingenuidad. La música como el elemento mágico, capaz de salvar a la humanidad de su propia oscuridad. ¿Qué haces cuando el fin del mundo llama a la puerta? Bailas. ¿Cómo vences al malo y salvas el mundo? Cantando.

If you dislike what FF7R is doing in any reasonable respect but like this game then I don’t think we’ll ever understand each other completely

Batman: Arkham Asylum excels at making one feel like a version of the comic book legend. Preying on unsuspecting criminals, dispatching fools with unmatched martial arts, becoming a sort of mini-god through the use of gadgets, pulling yourself into the corners of an environment like an animal. And the way Rocksteady Games turns the contrivances of side missions into a prolonged pursuit of the Riddler -- few moments in big-budget 21st century games match the satisfaction of shattering that magnificent bastard's cockiness -- should go down as an all-time ludonarrative masterstroke. But even though few titles put you in the shoes of a superhero as elegantly as Arkham Asylum, the game comes across as too neat and tidy with the detective vision and automated movement during fights. It's still impressive how Arkham Asylum handles such conveniences (I particularly get a kick out of extending combos with gadgets), but if the idea is to be Batman on an intimate level, shouldn't there be a greater sense of hard work and discovery? The Arkham series runs away from this question. This is Metroid Prime lite to some degree.

Spotting an arcade cabinet of Time Crisis 5 was like spotting a unicorn in the wild for me, and as such, I immediately felt compelled to run through the whole thing. I imagine that the devs must have been just as excited as I was to try out their new toys (in the form of the Unreal Engine), because that would be the easiest way to explain the drop in depth from previous installments. The dual pedal system sounds great in theory (switch perspectives on the fly to target covered enemies from their weak points while dodging more threatening attacks), but it makes the game somewhat of a breeze, because you can switch pretty quickly with no limits and enemies take a few seconds to refocus their attacks towards you, not to mention that you can dodge every bullet your way by doing so. You're heavily conditioned to do so anyways, because the animation for ducking back under cover has been slowed in comparison to how quickly red-highlighted bullets can be spotted and then damage you, so it's much harder to dodge without outright switching with pedals. Besides that, there's a lot less incentive to mess around with your other weapons, because there aren't quite as many yellow grunts to attack to farm extra ammo: not that you'd really need to anyways, since the unlimited handgun deals enough quick damage to dispatch practically everything with ease. The game also feels a bit more gimmicky this time around due to all the other sections that detract from Time Crisis's signature cover shootouts. There are a few quick time events that require you to press the correct pedal to avoid damage, a single sniper section that has you headshotting foes to avoid detection (unlikely anyways since they die to two body shots and you'll usually fire fast enough), and some "break the targets" quick time events that become simple enough since you're provided with unlimited ammo during these moments.
I do have to admit that at the end of the day though, it's still Time Crisis despite the obvious lack of focus, and it's still got many of the hallmarks that got me so interested in the first place. The light gun aiming feels pretty responsive and satisfying due to the vibrations and fantastic visual/audio feedback, there are some pretty intense railgun sections that actually prompted me to really keep an eye on both perspectives with the pedals, and the story still makes absolutely no sense at all with some of the laziest voice-acting imaginable. I can't help but grin though, as the campyness of the franchise, with all its exaggerated boss fights and gratuitous explosions, has always been a big draw in its memorability. As it stands, it's definitely the weakest of the Time Crisis games I've dabbled with, but I'm glad to have finally found and conquered another installment. The search shall continue until I've beat them all...

"House of Leaves inspired Doom mod" is one of the most esoteric concepts you could probably ever cook up, but man, it sure is an esoteric concept aimed specifically at me.
There's a lot to process and unpack, but I don't think the constant comparisons to Yume Nikki are off the mark here: Myhouse is one of those things best experienced rather than actively discussed, even if the (adorably obvious in its adoration for Danielewski's writing) actual "plot" and imagery around the house has a plenty to delve into, analyze and chew on.
On the technical side of things Myhouse is probably the single most impressive feat in the Zdoom engine to date, which is all the more impressive considering the community around that source port (and Doom as a whole) has become more and more defined by getting as much mileage as (im)possible out of a thirty-year-old engine. I don't have as many positive things to say about the actual Doom aspects of it - there's enemy spam at work here that would put Plutonia to shame - but that's not really what you're playing Myhouse for.