Bio
"Abandon all delusions of quality control."
25 y/o Northern Irish fella. Fan of all things arcadey, plus nice soundtracks. I tend to focus on positive reviews since I get more fired up about recommending stuff than dissuading.
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Ratings:
5.0/5.0 - Wouldn't change anything about it.
4.5/5.0 - Superb. Likely a favourite in one way or another.
4.0/5.0 - Great. I'm probably pretty fond of it.
3.5/5.0 - Good.
3.0/5.0 - Pretty alright.
2.5/5.0 - Middling.
2.0/5.0 - Not so good.
1.5/5.0 - Huh?
1.0/5.0 - I want off this ride.
0.5/5.0 - Send help.
Personal Ratings
1★
5★

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Participated in the 2022 Game of the Year Event

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Favorite Games

Patapon
Patapon
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory
The Wonderful 101
The Wonderful 101
Fallout
Fallout
Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen
Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen

696

Total Games Played

041

Played in 2023

086

Games Backloggd


Recently Played See More

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

Jun 08

Final Fight
Final Fight

Jun 07

Street Fighter 6
Street Fighter 6

Jun 07

Splatoon 3
Splatoon 3

Jun 01

Streets of Rage 4
Streets of Rage 4

May 26

Recently Reviewed See More

Something’s clearly amiss from the outset of Bioshock 2. The first thing you lay your crusty visor upon is graffiti stating that Babylon has fallen. You’ll then notice that Rapture’s once pristine art deco stairways are now taken over by luminous coral overgrowth, rubbish and, strangely enough, butterflies. Even the game’s HUD is corroded with rust and calcifying under barnacles. It’s like a corruptive force has washed over and warped the city’s very essence, wherein lies Bioshock 2’s own essence – a reinterpretation of one of gaming’s most well realised worlds more thoughtful than it’s ever given credit for.
This is most noticeably distilled in Sofia Lamb, monologue dispenser extraordinaire and embodiment of Rapture’s ideological swing of the pendulum. Collectivism for her doesn’t stop at every I in service of the we, but rather the outright elimination of self-awareness and subsuming of individuals into a singly-minded mass, a bit like a (purely theoretically) more utopian vision of those guys from that other game whose title ends in ‘Shock 2.’ She’s a well chosen opponent for a story whose stakes are so much more personal this time around, revolving around her attempts to erase the individuality of your girl Eleanor and transform her into what she refers to as “the People’s Daughter,” a prototype for the citizenry of the utopia she envisions who’ll be unable to question anything and who can fill any societal role by way of plasmids. Where Ryan and Atlas question the player’s agency, Lamb questions the player’s ethics: you can prove her wrong and even save her from herself by setting a positive example for Eleanor to follow that only Subject Delta as an individual is in the position to produce.
Your treatment of the Little Sisters is a key factor in this respect, as ever, but Bioshock 2 tweaks this mechanic so that the method of obtaining the most ADAM from them is much more proportional than before. To get the best result from rescuing each one, you need to protect her as she harvests ADAM from two corpses scattered about the area, attracting splicers, new kinds of Big Daddies and eventually the bullet sponge to end all bullet sponges that is a Big Sister. Between all parties attacking each other in the crossfire, security bots and a harsher limit on how much first aid/EVE you can carry, these sections can become legitimately tough, if not in terms of deaths accrued then certainly in resources consumed. Harvesting Little Sisters is now granted the niche of middling reward for little risk, an all the more tempting proposition if you use one of the new modular difficulty options to turn Vita Chambers off. It’s an altogether solid solution to the dilemma that led Clint Hocking, lead designer of Splinter Cell 1, Chaos Theory and Far Cry 2, to coin the term ludosudowudo-whatever.
2 revises much of Bioshock’s formula in other, similarly beneficial ways. Being able to wield a plasmid and a weapon simultaneously ties each half of the combat system together by granting you bonus damage to enemies afflicted by plasmids, allows for more flexible enemy design (brutes and Big Sisters are particular standouts, turning every environmental object into both a potential tool & hazard) and is otherwise such an obvious addition that a friend of mine misremembered it being in the first game. They say any FPS is as good as its shotgun, and while we do have one here that’s both very useful and emblematic of this series’ A+ art direction, only Bioshock 2 is as good as its gigantic drill hand, which allows for anime moments and the worst possible deaths in equal measure. They and every other weird and wonderful weapon Subject Delta comes across enjoy greater functional variety this time around too, thanks to an expanded weapon upgrade system that grants each one a unique quirk at the final, gated tier – for example, reflecting projectiles with the drill or ricocheting bullets for the machine gun.
Mechanics aren’t the only things that’ve been fleshed out, either. Bioshock 2 concentrates a veritable Metroid Prime’s worth of effort into conveying the sense that you, the player, really are inside the rustbucket of a suit inhabited by Rapture’s #1 dad. Rims of Subject Delta’s visor occupy each corner of the screen, reflect light and jolt about according to his current state. Droplets of blood, water and certain plasmids spatter and drip down its glass, which also gets fogged up by steam. Landing after a jump is accompanied by a hefty screen shake, an upheaval of lingering dust and a metallic thud. You can even see your shadow now, projected by dynamic light sources, which is used against you for at least one jumpscare that I’m aware of. A diegetic HUD of some kind might’ve helped it stand out even more in this respect, but in general and as befits a game with this kind of ancestry, Bioshock 2’s immersion dial has been turned up several notches compared to its predecessor, making the recipe of raiding long-abandoned apartments and backrooms for tidbits of environmental storytelling and other goodies feel all the more tactile.
This is all without even touching upon Minerva’s Den, but despite deserving its credit both as what should be a standard for DLC and for its influence over a subset of indie games birthed in the years that followed, I can’t help but feel that the general perception of it as the highlight of a lesser entry is erroneous. It’s really just more of what’s an already excellent game which demonstrates an intimate understanding of what made its predecessor tick, gameplay-wise and thematically, and is as a whole long overdue a reappraisal.
Revisit Rapture with Bioshock 2 and discover that what you’ve been misled to believe is an ancillary sequel is, in reality, assuredly among the most underappreciated games to have still garnered relative acclaim, as well as further evidence that the real best games usually have an average Backloggd score starting with a 3.

Train your ears as you make your way through Avalon Forest and you can practically hear a familiar sound.
You could quite easily argue that Bayonetta Origins is the most Clover-esque game to come out of Platinum thus far, but it becomes apparent early on that its level design and progression structure’s drawing from a very different well: Metroid! Areas and items initially just out of reach, cordoned off by the likes of icy branches or rippling lakes, become open as Cheshire gains more elemental powers. These powers sidestep the common issue of feeling like glorified keys by the degree to which they flesh out the game’s action portions, simultaneously enabling a combat system that has more going on by the midway point than most comparable titles do by their climax and bolstering the setting’s labyrinthine characterisation through mechanics. With Metroid Prime fresh in everyone’s minds after having recently been treated to an atypically faithful remaster, one would hope audiences have a renewed appreciation for how rare it is to see this sort of design even attempted in 3D, nevermind executed to such a standard that every loop and interconnection between Avalon’s different biomes feels geographically plausible.
Neither Cereza nor Cheshire will be shinesparking their way out of bounds, to be clear, but that’s just as well, because the artistry on display in Origins is made to be soaked in at a leisurely pace. To illustrate the point, here’s a collage I made out of some of my screenshots. This game’s beautiful, there’s no other word for it, but one reason that’s exciting is because it’s reflective of the hidden talent yet lurking within Platinum. The staff behind Origins includes more than a bit of new blood, including the game’s director, and (if I’m not mistaken) this is Tomoko Nishii’s first time in the art director’s seat. We may hope that her and her team’s work is recognised and rewarded, because the world needs more games that can cause me to involuntarily mumble “how did they do that?” more than once. Their interpretation of Irish mythology is especially ace – the stained-glass, crystalline whimsy of the Tír na nÓgs and the faeries is a wonderful fit for the imagery conjured up by folk songs I’d heard as a wean.
As befits a playable storybook, all involved with the narrative side of Origins demonstrate a similarly tight grasp of their crafts. The voice direction here’s easily on par with that of The Wonderful 101 and suits the characters’ expressive visuals so well, the narrator’s gruff impression of Cheshire being particularly brilliant but not so much as to outshine or overshadow Angeli Wall, whose understanding of Cereza is such that you can all but hear flashes of her future self buried under layers of insecurity and self-consciousness. Therein lies a key strength of Origins – recontextualisation. Every instance of Bayonetta’s attitude in the mainline games feels all the more nuanced having now been exposed to her humblest of beginnings. Considering what he endures in this game, Cheshire has well and truly earned his right to be such a goofball by the time he becomes Viola’s companion (maybe that’s not just tobacco in his pipe). A post-game bonus chapter redefines Jeanne’s eventual fate as a knowing act of selflessness where previously it might’ve seemed uncharacteristic of her. It all represents the best kind of storytelling one could ask of a prequel, i.e. that which retroactively enriches the rest of its franchise.
This harmoniousness is part of why the sentiment I’ve occasionally read cropping up, that Origins turning out to be as great a game as it is in wake of Bayonetta 3 is somehow surprising, is one I find a little perplexing. If Origins’ quality might be seen in relation to its companion piece in any capacity, it’s in a sense that vindicates and is complementary to that game’s principles, not which stands in contrast to them. Origins shares more than a bit of its DNA – the core axis of controlling two characters simultaneously, multiple currencies with independent purposes, a boss, several characters and visual motifs – but perhaps the most important component is the same willingness to throw caution to the wind and upend series conventions, taken to the more extreme conclusion of completely overturning the tone, art style and general formula associated with Bayonetta as opposed to “just” altering all of those significantly. It’s an already bold direction that Origins has doubled down on, which seems a hard thing not to respect when courting mass appeal would likely be so much easier.
If all hasn’t made it clear already, this is the type of game that a cynic might describe as one that doesn’t happen anymore. It’s borne of pure passion, in other words, and come the end credits, there’ll be no doubt in your mind that the team behind it are utterly in love with these characters and the world they inhabit. As rich in mechanics as in story, stuffed with unlockable costumes, riddled with the little things (check out Cheshire’s idle animations in each of his elemental forms) and representing a series with no shortage of fresh ideas, you can’t reasonably ask for more than this.

Miss a beat in Hi-fi Rush and Chai will attack on beat anyway. It’s probably unreasonable to expect it to punish this sort of thing in the same ways that other rhythm action hybrids like Patapon, Metal Hellsinger or Cadence of Hyrule do, because it’s so notable in part specifically for being so different from everything else, but there’s being different and then there’s being disincentivisingly handholdy. It’s a symptom of a larger problem – Hi-fi Rush seems almost afraid of allowing the player to fail.
With a scarce few exceptions like one of the final boss’ more belligerent attacks, the contrast between proper timing and mistiming in Hi-fi Rush isn’t success versus failure, it’s success versus negligibly less success. It’s true that enough mistimed attacks can detract from your final rank, but this is inconsistent with how assist attacks contribute to your score despite not requiring any timing at all (exacerbated by their charitable cooldowns), as does an offbeat jump if it ‘avoids’ an enemy’s attack that was nowhere near you anyhow, and the penalty’s so minor it’s hard to notice. Rhythm Master difficulty goes some way toward assuaging all this by giving you an immediate game over if your rhythm meter falls below C, but it’s not hugely impactful because of the aforementioned inconsistencies, while the fact that it’s only available after beating the game also makes the common action game mantra of “the first playthrough is the tutorial” feel unfortunately literal.
As another example of this, Hi-fi Rush affords the player a generous helping of attack magnetism, or whatever you prefer to call the melee equivalent of aim assist that’s particularly common in western action games. Chai’s mobility is so rigid that I imagine the designers may have felt the absence of this might’ve led to a frustrating amount of dropped combos. Even still, it’s at best unnecessary given that Chai already has an equivalent of Nero’s Snatch from DMC4 & 5, and at worst a net negative for how it diminishes positioning. It doesn’t stop Hi-fi Rush from getting better as you yourself do, like any other worthwhile action game, but being able to both feel and see the developers artificially nudging things in your favour like this does cheapen the appeal of getting to grips with what is, in the grand scheme of things, quite a cool combat system.
Apparent influences from other action games, like its equivalent of Astral Chain & Bayonetta 3’s wink attacks, lend themselves naturally to the combat’s rhythm-based formula and complement the game’s lovely presentation well. Environmental doodads bounce to the beat like in Metal Hellsinger, diegetically communicating helpful information to the player not only in terms of timing but also because enemies always attack to the beat, which ensures consistency on their part (albeit hampering their ability to surprise you). Another caveat to the combat’s strengths, though, is that there isn’t really enough of it, at least until you unlock Rhythm Tower i.e. the Bloody Palace analogue.
Most levels in Hi-fi Rush are very long by action game standards and a hefty proportion of nearly all of them consists of platforming segments. This sounds inoffensive in a vacuum, particularly for a genre in which “gimmick” seems to be a dirty word in most people’s minds, until the stiffness of Chai’s movement and the absence of a proper bossfight for two or three entire chapters in the game’s midsection make it apparent how drawn-out these sections often are. The latter feels especially deflating because the bosses that are here are of a really high standard, being diverse both visually and mechanically, with a huge amount of effort and artistry gone into even just the freezeframes in their introduction cutscenes. I’d much rather have had a couple more of them than be Letz Shaked twice in a row.
What makes it feel especially disappointing to be part of the internet’s propensity for contrarian armchair criticism, aside from the fact that Hi-fi Rush couldn’t be any more up my street conceptually, is that it isn’t a game that deserves to be ragged on like this. At the end of the day, this is a new IP in an historically niche genre that’s feature-complete out of the box, bereft of tonal carcinogens like irony or cynicism, stuffed with substantial post-game unlocks and has Korsica in it. It’s just also one which is eclipsed several times over in depth, variety, pacing and general well-consideredness by any number of other action games both modern and from the period it’s a love letter to, which don’t tend to lack for sincerity, charm or bonus content in the first place.
Is it funny, deserving of success and easy to recommend to anyone interested in action games despite this? Yup. Is it the best action game ever, as suggested by its average rating here and elsewhere? That's kind of wild. I’m potentially open to the idea that Hi-fi Rush is in the top seven or so best games that Masaaki Yamada has worked on.
More firmly, I’m genuinely delighted that Tango’s thrown its hat into the action game ring and that doing so’s rewarded its clearly, transparently talented staff with their most unambiguous success so far. I’d love even more to be able to speak of them in the same vein as Capcom or Platinum or Team Ninja who, barring one or two semi-recent and enormously overemphasised missteps apiece, have long comprised a reliable triumvirate of quality action experiences which light up my frontal lobe in a way few other developers can. How often I found myself smiling during Hi-fi Rush’s cutscenes and character interactions versus actually playing the game means that I can’t yet, but it’s still promising enough to be indicative of their potential to someday join them on stage as one of the action genre’s rockstars.