I've been playing games for far too long
Give me an interesting flawed games over perfectly refined games that add nothing new.
Using this space to rely less on my sieve brain and also to put some thoughts into words on the things I am playing old and new.
Personal Ratings



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Well Written

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1 Years of Service

Being part of the Backloggd community for 1 year

GOTY '22

Participated in the 2022 Game of the Year Event

Gone Gold

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Played 100+ games


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GOTY '21

Participated in the 2021 Game of the Year Event

Favorite Games

Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition
Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition
Deus Ex
Deus Ex
Super Mario Galaxy 2
Super Mario Galaxy 2
Zero Escape: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors
Zero Escape: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors


Total Games Played


Played in 2023


Games Backloggd

Recently Played See More


Sep 28

Chants of Sennaar
Chants of Sennaar

Sep 20

The Messenger
The Messenger

Sep 15

Sea of Stars
Sea of Stars

Sep 07

Ghost Squad
Ghost Squad

Aug 26

Recently Reviewed See More

The portmanteau of this game is the highlight.
I don’t just mean that the game’s title being memorable is all this game has going for it but Gunbrella’s biggest strength is the Gunbrella itself.
As a tool it is used for combat, traversal and tricks - the gun fires like a shotgun with the ZR trigger while tapping and holding R unfold an umbrella, using it while being attacked creates a shield, using it while falling causes you to glide like Mary Poppins, that would be enough but there is more. This “shield” has a parry as timing the opening just right can ricochet projectiles back whilst a simple tap while moving a direction also causes the protagonist to dash and finally if there are hooks they can be grabbed giving more options for traversal as they appear in the later levels.
Alongside usual hopping and wall jumping the Gunbrella makes this game a fun time to control if a little floaty.
Back during, I want to say, Steam NextFest this alone sold me on the game. It was a joy darting about through corridors, splating enemies, taking out turrets with their own attacks - it was slick, simple and responsive.
Sadly however the demo really did just show the best game had to offer as progression of systems is slow and arguably non-existent.
You do get different ammo types, grenades, machine gun bullets for a longer range and others but none of them ever feel as good as the default shotty.
Switching weapons is done simply using the d-pad but I found having more choices just meant flicking between them was more of a pain and I’d just sell most of it in-game for health items or the later, extremely unexciting upgrade system that increases strength and reload speed.
Enemy types seem to be diverse at first, the sewers have weird creatures whereas elsewhere on your mission above land you’re fighting cultists with their guns, magic and turrets but those two splits are mostly all there are too.
Levels too mostly feel quite similar, the dark grimy steampunk world of Gunbrella involves a lot of shades or brown and grey, later on there’ll be a bit of snow and the finale does bring a little more colour but again for the largest percentage of the game it feels quite the same.
Regarding the world of Gunbrella this is a point where it completely changed from my expectations and I wasn’t left either excited or majorly disappointed, once the credits rolled however I still just wondered about the logic in the design decision and whether or not the end game was what Doinksoft were even going for.
To explain, with a side-scrolling action platformer I was expecting a lot of extended stages of fighting through, moving right into another with an occasional boss.
What I was met with was much slower, the protagonist on a revenge mission to save his daughter and avenge his dead wife traveling slowly between chatting with NPCs to get leads that would eventually get you into action heavy levels, get a macguffin or piece of information and back into the crawl of doing so again.
I love stories in games, but here it just felt like it was trying to take the main stage on a game in a genre which is meant to be led by how it feels to play and not how you feel experiencing its story.
The story isn’t bad per say, it is just unremarkable and takes up more time with going back and forth with NPCs than it does letting you use the thing the game is named after.
I said by the credits I questioned if this is what Doinksoft were aiming for - in game you have a journal that gives you your objective but it is never more than one page and I never seemed to have more than one sidequest at a time. The way the objectives are presented says to me that there were going to be lots of quests, during the game there are conversation choices and whilst you do see some impact of your decisions it didn’t feel like it ever branched anywhere, just another thing to give the illusion that the game wouldn’t be linear and would branch out.
Non-linear isn’t something I was expecting going in and I wasn’t disappointed by the end when it wasn’t, but the choices in pacing and presentation made me feel like maybe the developers were worried about being labeled linear, that a journal to show objectives or conversational choices would hide their “shame” of simply being an excellent action-platformer and that’s weird.
Gunbrella was on my radar quickly because they made the excellent mini Metroidvania Gato Roboto which I thought was great, an excellent distillation of the genre, still had some of its own style and never outstayed its welcome. Gato Roboto never seemed to show hints of it trying to be anymore and that was fine, it aimed to be something and it succeeded.
Now Gunbrella has its own style, didn’t out-stay its welcome either but just feels a lot muddier and messier.
I almost feel bad because in a way I am saying that this game having ambition was a poor choice.
As far as what they did with this ambition, I found it a mixed bag.
The characters and dialogue are solid, the story while fairly cliché was good and the world with its hints of Lovecraft was good.
The dreary feel and colour did help create a world but not only did it make levels feel a little too similar as mentioned before, it also made some parts harder to navigate, back and foreground items not always being so clearly marked, invisible walls and odd edges occasionally ruining the flow - the world is cool but it was not concise.
The challenge or at least the curve barely went up due to lack of diversity and I always felt I was given tools but not much to do with them.
Even in combat encounters like bosses, the first two or three felt good and later on they either felt too easy, simple or even like a retread with the final boss just being disappointing.
Sadly disappointing is the word. I was expecting more from Gunbrella, coming into 2023 I believed this would be one of a handful of indie games that everyone should play and everyone would be talking about but instead 2023 has been too good that it has passed by and even somebody like me, who would prefer to shun the AAA and shout about the smaller titles, I find it unlikely I’m going to recommend this with such love as some of the other recent indie titles I’ve played even in the last few weeks.
Doinksoft have definitely got some great ideas, even though I’ve come out the end feeling quite cold I would like to see more Gunbrella because as I said from the start the Gunbrella itself is great - a thing to experience and enjoy, it just needs a better world to be carried through.

You, a nondescript robed person awake in what seems to be some sort of sarcophagus, you wander down some stairs, through an arch and further up some stairs of a beautifully vibrant yellow world full of clean lines and strong shadows along with a lovely whistling tune that accompanies you. You eventually find yourself at a broken piece of wall that leads out to a glistening man made stream, possibly a canal and just a little further you come up to a door and your first interaction both literally with actions and also with the game's world and ideas.
Before you is a simple device with a handle and what seems to be a sign. Both the device and the handle share a simple two point gear stick-type marking but the sign has four icons. Four characters possibly?
These characters are certainly not latin-script, they’re not arabic or kanji.
It takes you little time to notice the four of them are in two sets of two and both pairs have the same glyph second.
Your protagonist opens a journal to take note of these and now you’re allowed to write whatever you want to relate to them, but what do they mean?
This here lies the puzzle and the main thrust of the game, you can take an educated guess, you can pull the lever to see what happens to further inform your decisions or you can leave it and move on to see if anything else can give you some context.
Not too far on you meet another character, seemingly a little stuck across the canal who speaks to you. The NPC says something shown to be one glyph, followed by another three, you know from your previous fun with the door and other levels that they want you to open a door.
Albert Mehrahian surmised that communication is only 7% words, that more than half of it is non-verbal while the rest was vocal.
The NPC seems to do a small bow and the tone of their voice is certainly not threatening so you can be sure that the thing to do, not only because you’re playing a video game but is right, is to help them.
Through a small series of one-sided conversations the two of you meet, they say the same glyph they first used when they saw you and leave.
After a group of interactions the protagonist notes down with illustrations some of the things they have seen and you can now assign the glyphs to these things.
If you had been making notes you’ll be placing things quite easily but even without you can use some process of elimination.
In a similar fashion to Obra Dinn’s rule of three, these double page spreads that typically are no more than a handful of pictures will not tell you if your guesses are right until you have them all.
Once this is done however each time you see or hear those glyphs again in the world you’ll have subtitles where not only your guesses are used but grammar is corrected because as you’ll be quickly reminded in Chants of Sennaar not all languages have the same sentence structure and grammar can change throughout.
Without ruining the beautiful sights, as you progress up the tower seemingly as with the whole game a reimagining of the biblical Tower of Babel (which is the land of Shinar), you’ll meet different people with different languages.
The game will not always make you start from scratch however as much as visiting foreign countries some signs and other things may show two sets of languages which will not perfectly translate but give you a huge head start into figuring out yet another language.
Each of these floors have different people and different vibes but they are all interconnected and they all look beautiful.
Chants of Sennaar is one of the best arguments for art direction over graphical oomph. I ran this game on a very underpowered laptop at higher settings with no hiccups, no issues, not even a slightly hot machine. Simple may sometimes come across as an insult, but it is far from it here.
Whilst visiting these sights and untangling the puzzle of new languages the only small fly in the ointment swims up to the surface in the form of stealth sections.
I understand those two words alone will be enough to put people into a state of shock, but do not be worried. While the stealth sections are by no means fun or something ever worth thinking about they do at least fit within what is happening and are short and forgiving.
Chants of Sennaar is a beautiful and wonderful game that gives you the right amount of head scratching alongside the joy of feeling like a genius when you get something right or you start to feel you’ve cracked the code.
While occasionally you may find yourself simply guessing in a poor process of elimination, much more often you will notice patterns in the glyphs, how they relate, where they are and when they are used. Your guesses will be more and more educated and very rarely a shot in the dark and even if you are struggling to see what the game is trying to show you the Obra Dinn-like journal will always give you a fighting chance.
Chants of Sennaar doesn’t just play and teach us with the wonders of translation, it shows how it can connect us all throughout its strong, but again simple, narrative and this allows the game to not only let you think “I’m a genius” but quite a lot of the time that things can be nice and you’re doing good in this virtual world.
Once it’s all said and done this game will stick with you will feel good about yourself and that you’ve spent your time wisely and that is something that’s not always easy to say with a straight face when talking about video games.
So come on, you should really give this game a Chants.

WARNING I always try to keep my reviews spoiler free but I will be talking about what is the main twist of the game - I believe most people reading this will be aware of it but I’m giving those sensitive a chance to bail.
There was a later level that I really enjoyed that was very fun and well designed but had the extra fun of feeling like an homage to Sea of Stars. Funny because at the time this game was released Sea of Stars didn’t exist. Whilst I don’t think everything you should aim to be the MCU things like this do show why having connected universes between very different stories can be a whole lot of fun.
Playing The Messenger second weirdly felt less wrong than I worried it might due to the shared DNA. The Messenger also has some time travel elements so it almost felt correct, going back to the future as it were.
Just as Sea of Stars (SoS) is Sabotage Studio’s love letter to SNES era JRPGs, The Messenger is their love letter to 8 bit side scrollers and specifically Ninja Gaiden.
In the same way SoS does, The Messenger feels like you remember games being, while actually being far more precise and much more forgiving.
Some tight controls and very generous check-pointing make running around and occasionally failing as a Ninja an enjoyable lesson like many of the top modern platformers do.
The Messenger’s interesting take on the double jump, the cloud step, also does heavy lifting. Rather than simply jumping a second time, if after a jump the protagonist hits an enemy or object a small cloud appears which allows for another jump and yes, these can be chained into more attacks followed by jumps.
Whilst being 8 bit doesn’t allow for the acrobatics a 3D environment or higher detail could, cloud step helps create the illusion. It can bring speed when it wants and make a screen feel like an obstacle course for things such as the interesting selection of bosses.
Your man also gets a few upgrades to help with his movement which is pretty standard affair, none of them are mind-blowing but they are game changing and enhance the experience.
Sadly at the same time this is where one of the game’s biggest issues lie but we have to take a little jump and an explanation to get there.
Before we take the leap into that I will finish speaking on upgrades by mentioning the shop and the shopkeeper themselves.
First of all the shop is simple and I like that, too many games want to give you piles and piles of upgrades, tiny percentage changes and other RPG elements that do not need to be in every genre of game. This keeps things simple and clean, you’re never stressing about what to spend your money on either because you know it will never take too long to get the other thing you were looking at.
The shopkeeper however isn’t as straightforward, unfortunately one of SoS’s weakest elements rears its ugly head here and, in this linear timeline of The Messenger actually coming out first I think it shows an even younger, less experienced writer stinking up the place even worse.
I don’t want to brush over it to ignore it, but I will mostly brush past because even looking into it my knowledge of the situation isn’t great but it seems that, once upon a time, the writer liked Jordan Peterson and sadly that explains a lot. Now I will note it doesn’t sound as if they still do but the warning from me to you is here.
Even with that aside, much like the pirates of Sea of Stars, Sabotage aren’t happy with the game showing you it’s meta but having to tell you it is and much like Sea of Stars the writing goes on for too long past any point a joke may have been funny.
It’s a shame because the game’s plot is far better than it needs to be but because it’s held together by completely annoying and unlikeable characters you don’t take as much of it in.
If you’re a fan of the writing, or much less likely are one of the people involved with the writing in this game then I am sorry, but it stinks and you’ve just read 700+ words of my horseshit.
Now we’re at the bottom of the pit, let's take that leap we mentioned because as Yazz mentioned the only way is up. Right?
The Messenger is an 8 bit style Ninja-Gaiden like, but The Messenger is also a 16 bit style Metroidvania.
I mentioned time-travel elements but that is not simply kept to plot and it is where the twist and genius of this game is.
In the simplest terms, when the protagonist finds themselves at “the end” of their quest as The Messenger they are shown that to break the time loop that will forever be they must pop back and forth to previous (and new) areas to collect some certain things.
The game now ceases being linear and via some portals and discovering that each area you fought through is truly connected the game becomes a Metroidvania, retreading old ground using abilities gained later in earlier areas and finding alternate routes.
This switch of genre is a great mechanical twist that ties in beautifully with the plot and the idea of time travel but The Messenger doesn’t stop just at that.
Revisiting earlier levels you are now a 16-bit style sprite, with 16-bit style music around you, these two styles represent two eras within the game and they are not gated as one of the other as within the levels themselves are gates that switch you between the modes seamlessly.
This is truly where the wonder of the game lies, retreading “old” ground to find new directions then treading new ground to “old” directions all while the game switches its sounds and feel due to pixel art and palette without the game ever feeling like it’s halting you to do so.
Now this leap I spoke of seems amazing, we’ve taken this game to a new height. It’s sitting at a top tier some might say - but unfortunately there’s a few things to trip us and it’s that bloody shop again.
The writing in “the future” doesn’t get any better or worse, but what does is the shop and purchasing upgrades itself.
I didn’t lie when I said it was simple and clean, but unfortunately what that does mean is all the interesting upgrades you get on your 8-bit adventure are really it - the rest are mostly stat boosts and when you’re in a metroidvania that is not what is going to excite you.
Sadly with the ninja adventure you have and the skills you learn there once you hit what is “the halfway point” of the game all you’re left to get is the time-jump gimmick.
This makes the second half of the game feel sadly a lot worse. While I think the highs such as the newer levels and bosses are better than the first half, the retreading can become quite boring especially as what you’re rewarded with for doing so is essentially a tick in a box, no new abilities, no weapons, nothing just a “great now go find more”.
Again it is a shame because while hunting down these items you do come across stuff that link the areas and the use of time-travel in cool and interesting ways.
I do enjoy going back to games of developers I have more recently enjoyed, I just wish that Sabotage Studios had the same ability as The Messenger and maybe they could have gone back to shorten the second half and re-write the dialogue because if they could it would be one the easiest recommendations I’d make whereas now - if you have nostalgia for Ninja Gaiden or it’s on sale is where I would maybe give it the nod.