Fuck you. I hate this. Thank you.
(I dunno, I also have some vague thoughts marinating in my brain about what place this kind of overshare-core stuff has in art, media and our general existence in this broken world, but it's all kinda formless, and this isn't the place for it. But yeah this is like, a 20 minute game, it's very good, and it hurt like hell)

This game is ridiculously adorable, like it's just a whole maelstrom of cute. Atlus should finally give this game an official translation, call it wholesome or something, pretend someone with genders made it, and they'd be running all the way to the bank with the amount of money this whimsy-core nicefest would make with all the depressed burned out idiots like me.
Just look at how cute and pretty the pixel art is! It looks like those pixel art mock up you see constantly on Twitter, but it's like, a real game. And everyone is nice and fun to interact with, except for the villagers who think the protagonist is a witch, but like, that's secret queer theming so that's ok, and you end up befriending them anyway.
At its core, it Is just a very basic Atelier-like, especially similar to the more stripped-down entries in the series, like Atelier Marie. But there's nothing wrong with that. I enjoy Atelier games, and this is a pretty good aesthetic take on the genre. And the time-magic gimmick, while not mechanically revolutionary, does add a bit of personality to the general play.
I dunno, I did two runs of this, and got the bad ending both times. Because I'm really bad at this Atelier stuff. But that was like, 12 solid hours of cutesy fun, so I can't say I have anything against this game. I'll probably give it another go and see if I can at least get the normal ending, but I don't think I'll get there. It's good.

Just adding a simple editable text-field to a pretty straightforward sim game, increases the possibility space for fun and comedy tenfolds. That's game design bb!

Kinda milquetoast. Not awful by any means, but it definitely lacks the vibes and goofiness of Shadow of Memories, Junko Kawano's previous adventure game.
For what it's worth, I found the core mystery to be very engaging, it's a pretty well-structured time travel murder mystery, and it actually got my one brain cell working to try and figure it out along with the characters. Problem is, that plot doesn't Really kick into gears until about halfway through the game, and when the big mystery is not actively A Thing, you're just left with some of the most nothing characters ever. All of the non-expository dialogue is just so incredibly bland that it makes the introductory chapters kind of a pain to get through.
That said, I like it when Visual Novels/ADV games, filter their pace through pseudo-systemic mechanics. Like, yeah, the whole time-travel and hole-drawing don't ever lead to interesting choices, as a """real""" system would, but they add a lot of aesthetic depth to the play, and actually help a lot with the pacing, by giving clear objectives and lines of thought for the player to pursue. So like, that bit is neat. Not Ace Attorney levels of neat, but still neat.
Anyhow this is alright. Doesn't quite get there in being anything memorable, but I didn't hate playing it. Both the worst and best thing I can say about it, is that its blandness sort of made me appreciate Shadow of Memories' boldness and character a lot more.
The cat is cute tho.

I have Thoughts on this game:
• The first of the three sections of the game (Alluna) is genuinely one of the best things I've played in a long time. A really touching story of bonding through trauma and societal oppression.
It's generally less dark than the other two sections of the game, but only because the darkness of its themes bubbles underneath the surface ominously, rather than being directly used for shock (something that can't always be said about the second section of the game). While presenting extremely likeable characters, this whole game segment is permeated by an almost constant fear and sense of dread, that is poignantly coupled with the slow reveal of the traumatic experiences its protagonists have gone through.
It'd almost be a hopeful little self-contained tale about women finding community even through their lingering trauma and a hostile world, if it wasn't for its incredibly dark ending that sets ups the rest of the game.
• Alluna is also perfectly paced. I was sceptical of the "play 30 minutes of a dungeon crawler to get 5 minutes of visual novel" structure, but, especially this section, and to a point the whole game, uses the odd dungeon crawler/visual novel dichotomy to dictate pace in really effective and poignant ways.
• The second section (Alstella) is... messier. This game touches on some extremely dark themes, including sexual assault, and while the first section does that subtly and in a way that supports the game's themes; the Alstella section does seem to fall in gratuitous territory in a couple of instances. While I still want to believe that most of the storytelling in Labyrinth of Galleria is done in good faith, a couple of moments are definitely mishandled/unnecessary.
• The grand overarching plot does eventually kinda fall into anime/visual novel tropes. Aside from the shift to high stakes Sci-Fi/Fantasy (which I don't hate but also don't find as effective as the timeless abstract fantasy tone of the Alluna section), there's just so much... minute exposition of things that don't really matter to the emotional core of the story? Storytelling with this amount of moving parts can work, but in this case it just seems to run against the main strength of the writing, which is characters. This also ends up tanking the pacing during the second third of the game, as there end up being very long stretches of game where nothing interesting/engaging happens.
• I believe an amount of odd/spurious details are there to connect this game to other games in the series and... I'm just so tired of lore? Can we just stop?
• The problem with this kind of grand plot is also that, out of necessity, it tends to always end in the same kind of story beats. The likeable and well-written characters give Galleria a strong emotional resonance throughout its whole length, but still, a lot of the Alstella and Grand Cathedral endings feel a bit... uninspired. I'm just not sure how many jrpg speeches about "a flawed but alive world is better than a perfect static one" I can still take. Especially because the rest of the game, is like, very good, and not about that stuff at all. But once you add world-creation powers in the mix you can't really go anywhere else.
• It can't be overstated that the character writing is honestly incredibly good. A lot of the trauma explored in it hits a bit too close to home tbh. But, yeah, it's really good stuff.
• One exception to this is the big villain of the game. A lot of her motivation just... didn't make a lot of sense nor had any real emotional payoff. I get what they were trying to do with her (and with one of the final reveals, which gives a justification to her often bizarrely misaligned plans), but I feel like maybe this game didn't really need a grandiose villain at all. As mentioned, all other characters are complex and compelling and very empathetically written, so I don't think that the forces causing conflict in the world necessarily needed to have a "face" for the core conflicts presented in the story to work.
• Most of the dungeon crawling is excellent. The combat is deliberately designed to have an auto-battle focus, with most abilities being passive or automatic triggers. This is not something I've seen before, and it works really well for a game that's 100+ hours long but doesn't want to be a purely mechanically focused experience.
• The focus on navigation is something less uncommon, but still very well realized. The wall-break mechanic being one of the first things the player unlocks is specifically a really clever move. A huge part of the game is a pseudo-tutorial, which slowly introduces all of the game's mechanics, but being able to explore non-linearly and reveal secrets by breaking walls, makes the exploration feel organic and way less guided than it would otherwise be.
• The art of some of the later unlocked Facets is... problematic? not great? I dunno, it's not really a main aspect of the game, and it's easily ignorable, so I don't want to spend too many words on it, but still, shit like that still kinda undermines the drama of the game for me.
• I love the soundtrack. It follows the usual Disgaea/Tenpai Sato vibes, but with a more dramatic twist. Specifically, the boss theme and the apartment theme are absolute bops.
• Oh! The framing device, wherein the player plays as a phantom who is summoned by the various witches in the game, and not as the witches themselves, is quite clever. It creates a sort of effective detachment from the story which plays well with the visual novel-dungeon crawler dichotomy. I'm also glad that it's mostly an aesthetic and it never really becomes a heavy plot element. It's just a neat aesthetic choice and I can get on board with that.
Ultimately Labyrinth of Galleria is honestly great. I spent a lot of time focusing on the negatives, but overall this is a very powerful story told in an extremely creative and well-crafted way. It had me in genuine tears in multiple instances, and as much as I'm a bit of a crybaby, that's still an impressive task for what could have otherwise been dismissed as "just another mechanically dense dungeon crawler". But at the same time, it Is difficult to ignore this game's many contradictions, which often end up undermining its drama. Playing it definitely requires a high tolerance for this kind of uneven media, and of course, the willingness to play a 100+ hours-long dungeon crawler, but I can say that if you can get through that, it is a very worthwhile experience.

Very cute fantasy shoujo-inspired rpg. It doesn't really break away from the genre or subvert anything, but it's pretty funny nonetheless and tbh, sometimes you just really need to run around a fantasy world for 10-ish hours (love the breezy fast pacing btw) collecting magical stones in order to kiss a prince.
The dungeons are extremely barebone, and get way better when you can just turbo through them. The combat difficulty is also tuned Way Way down. This is not necessarily bad, but I was at least expecting a bit more challenge from the final boss (which I two-shotted).
But yeah, no, this is very enjoyable. I love a jrpg that can deliver a compelling experience in such genre-uncharacteristic game length.

1. This era of the internet missed me by about 5-8 years, yet it still evokes an uncanny sense of... not nostalgia... just... memory? My era of the internet, was, to an extent still haunted by the echoes of 90s internet. Anything that in the 00s delved into the recent past, would inevitably bring up the aesthetics and mechanics of that early popularization of the medium. So I guess it was a memory then, and now it's a memory of a memory.
I dunno, I coincidentally played this at the same time as I started listening to That One Homestuck podcast, which is another dive into a similar yet different internet that I've ever only been tangentially and indirectly aware of, and I just have a lot of unstructured thoughts about the ghosts of past internets that hang over our current experience of the web. Mostly the feeling that, for all their faults, these past internets seemed, at least to an extent, to promote and enable community and human-ness, rather than merely exploit it, as the current late-social-media era internet does.
I miss blogs and I miss forums. They were 75% terrible, but honestly, I'll take toxic forum culture every day over the relentless and pervasive clout chasing of social media. Past internet was filled with assholes, cause people are assholes sometimes, and it sucked, but at least it was honest. There's nothing honest about any of the culture of late-era influencer-driven social media. It's an uncanny perversion of social mechanics, that just spins its wheels forever, tiring us out, and draining any meaning from the words we write. It commodifies aesthetics and rhetorics rather than exalting them. It slowly kills our sense of belonging as it tries to convince us that just one more like will make us happy.
There's this one page, that appears around December in the game, featuring this song about how "Zones" (the in-game communities) are "places for people to feel the same" and "places for people to feel different". I like that song. I wish I could still think of the internet in that way.
2. So, like, the idea of, basically a wiki-hole game is great. And like, props to everyone involved in the development cause the logistics of actually making something like this sound like a huge pain.
This is fun. For the most part, I love the mechanics. They're cleverly designed to tap into the innate pleasure of "internet research", making the player feel like they're cleverly digging through data and making mental connections, while at the same time guiding them through the content. It's so cool!
I wish this game... dwelled more on itself though. A key part of the experience of the old web, was logging in every day, looking at all your favourite websites to check if there was any new update, or if someone had replied to that one thread you liked on that discussion board. It was truly a "place", in many ways.
Hypnospace Outlaw, while it does feature some mild time-skipping mechanics, never quite manages to fully convey that, almost Animal Crossing-like, feeling of Being in a place that moves at its own, asynchronous, pace. You're always hunting for the next clue, solving the next puzzle, in an environment that's mostly static. It's very much a snapshot.
On the other hand, I understand that to make a game that actually focuses on that feeling of Place, would require a ridiculous amount of content. So like, I get why it doesn't. It's an imperfection in the retelling of those experiences, but a necessary one. In a way, it gives it its own, vaguely ahistorical, but inherently fascinating vibe.
Game's still great. I had fun with it. The first game in a long time where I actually wished it was a bit longer.

I feel like going on at length about this game would make it a disservice. Smarter people than I have talked at lenght about the beauty of its eerie aesthetics, its esoteric points of inspiration, and how its story resonates big time with queer and disabled themes.
Its almost a pioneer in rogue-lite mechanics too, and unlike a lot of its peer uses those mechanic to a point, and not just as a skinner box.
I had played, but not completed, the Wii remake before. But this blows it out of the water completely in terms of vibes and aesthetics.
I love this. This is what video games should be. Maybe a bit less hard tho (ngl, I kinda savescummed a bunch for my final run)

First of all. Petty grievance: This game does not have controller support so it's kinda ass to play on a Steamdeck, not helped by the fact that it, for some reason, also sets the device on fire.
This is an allright shop simulator that builds on the Atelier/Recettear formula. I can't be too mean about it because, yeah, it's a small mechanically dense game that makes a good use of deadlines and scheduling mechanics to create stressful situations and force the player to use clever planning to overcome them. Like, on paper, this is great. The systems work well togheter and there's enough information available to the player for them to actively plan for their goals (the early Atelier games Really struggled with that bit).
I say on paper, because practically I don't know how much the mechanical density adds to the experience. Is this game really more fun for having a deckbuilding game as its haggling mechanic?
Like, there's a lot to this game, and I feel the same goal could have been achieved with... less than a lot.
Also the pacing feels Very quick at times, even compared to something like Atelier Marie. I don't think that's necessarely bad, but didn't fully work for me (Like, games like Atelier or Recettear use long rpg sections as a way to slow down the pace and add an element of real time waiting to the shop-simulation aspect. I like that choice a lot structurally, but I can definitelly see the appeal of a shop-simulation game that cuts down on the rpg faff. It just didn't quite work for me this time around).
It's fun. But again, I think I like it more in theory than when actually playing it.

The fundamental flaw of TEW, and all TEW-like games, is that they seem to basically misunderstand what makes Wrestling exciting and appealing.
To put it simply, when I want to play a wrestling company-simulator, I don't want to do so because I crave an accurate business simulation featuring wall of texts of sports stat. But I want to do so because, at its core, I want a systemic framework within which to play/experience fanfiction.
I love spreadsheet simulators, and TEW is an impressive spreadsheet simulator. But again, I'm not sure a spreadsheet simulator is a great medium for wrestling.
TEW2020 is the closest thing available on the market to a game I would really love to play, but sadly, it is not that game (She said, having played the previous versions for 100+ hours back in uni)

I'm not gonna go through each of these singularly, but yeah. I actually read/played the Sorcery! books a couple of years ago, and they're really fun! Some of the game-y-ers game books, with their prose being often short and to the point, a fun enough combat system and a bunch of interesting decision points.
The inkle adaptation of the books does everything that it should do. Streamlines some game-book-isms, adds some simple yet pretty visuals, and re-structures the combat system to be more video-game-y. All of the addition and changes not only still convey the source material perfectly, but actually end up elevating it somewhat.
Yeah, this is fun. The original books are pretty good and this adaptation is actually a great way to play them. (I would never suggest skipping the source material, because, remember: "True Gamers™ always play games in their original historical context, so that they can have a real and not corporately-curated knowledge of the history of the medium". But y'know, after you've read the original book once, this is the best way to replay them!)
Although I got the Steam version that technically collects the first and second one, and I'm struggling to figure out how to play the second one... that's probably just me being dumb tho.

This is an incredibly frustrating game. I wish I could sing the praise of it, cause yeah, the writing is fluffy and cute and pleasant, the combat is fun and interesting (if a bit easy in most places), the UI does some cool Persona-like stuff, and the whole game is full of that kind of low-budget ps360-era plucky jank that gives it a specific underdog charm... problem is it. just. won't. stop. being. extremely. gross. about. its. high-schooler. protagonists.
Like, seriously. I love the low-stakes high-school shenanigans Blue Reflection is built around. They're pleasant and nice and as well written as something like that can be. But it very much grosses me out when the camera won't stop staring at these kids' asses, while said high-school shenanigans take place.
It would already be eye-rolly and off-tone if the characters were adults. But it's just gross when they're high school students. Especially because this is not just a couple of unfortunate shots, the whole game is filled with SO much of this bullshit. It's gross and creepy and bad and honestly infuriating, because it just gets in the way of what would, otherwise be, a fairly pleasant game.
I dunno, I just want a fun fluffy low-stake magical girl jrpg that's not constantly trying to gross me out and embarrass me for liking it.
This game makes me sad.

A little RpgMaker-adventure-core queer-adjacent game. Really stylish. Fun use of different art styles.
Could have had a more dramatic/climactic ending. The game basically turns to the camera and goes "Coralina. Will return...", and then the thing just ends.
Looking forward to the second episode tho, I dig the general vibes.

Couple of thoughts:
1. This is the classic "do a thing to gain money -> use money to do a thing" game loop, with an evolving central hub setup through which you slowly unlock new features. This stuff is always enjoyable and I'm surprised more modern low to mid budget games don't use these tropes more. I generally classify this stuff as "Atelier Marie" vibes in my head, but I'm pretty sure many games before Atelier Marie did this.
2. That said Everblue 2 kinda lacks a consistent resource sink. I often found myself with no reason to get more money cause the game was not dangling anything interesting to buy with it. On the same note, the crafting system is neat, but given that I had no reason to backtrack to old locations, it fell a bit flat.
3. The most striking thing about Everblue 2 is how incredibly entrenched it is in PS2 Aesthetics (capital A). Between the statically rendered hub town and the beautiful full-3d low-poly ocean, this is both an extremely visually pleasant game, and a game that fully displays all of the generational tropes that PS2 Aesthetics Twitter bots thrive on.
It's kinda weird, cause I lived through 2002, and like, back then this wasn't "a style", this was just what stuff looked like. But it's not in doubt that when decoupled from that sense of "current technology"-realism, the visuals of games like Everblue 2 feel extremely striking and stylized. I don't even think it's a nostalgia thing tbh, it just looks real pretty and otherworldly.

I played the PC Engine CD version of this, and the soundtrack alone is worth going through this game. It absolutely slaps. It gets very power-metaly at times and you know what? That's great. I love it. More, please.
Aside from that, the game is alright. More of an action game than the previous ones. Pretty ok bosses. All the grinding is starting to get a bit tiring but I think that's just a thing in this series at this point.