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.

A couple of days removed from finishing this game I thought to myself about what made me love it so much but why I didn’t see it as perfect, this game made me not only reflect on my time with it but the entire JRPG genre.
Before I continue I realise by definition the J in JRPG is used incorrectly here, Sabotage are Canadian as far as I am aware, but either side of the argument on whether JRPG is a reductive term that you sit on you know what I am referring to. This title is a giant love letter and homage to the SNES classics that really put that style of game on the map and to save name dropping a dozen different games JRPG will be a term that is used throughout.
A somewhat obvious statement to make is that there are factors of this game that I like a lot that some people experiencing it will find either no fault in at all or believe they are large issues.
As I spent time thinking about these factors, the things that commonly may annoy folk and the JRPG genre itself, the main word that came to my mind was ‘Pacing’.
First of all I will state that Sea of Stars never outstayed its welcome and these days having any sort of RPG be completed (not rushed) within 30+ hours is a welcome surprise.
The start of Sea of Stars with its throws you in and then suddenly stop you to explain origins set up may feel violent in how fast it tugs you back but I felt the game using the classic of mechanic introductions via training stories worked well here as it does a good job of building the characters, their world and their purpose even if a lot of it is somewhat cliché. It does drop teases towards the future of the plot and whilst I would say most twists were either too obvious or telegraphed when you’re making homages to so many classics it’s hard to not make some of that slightly predictable.
Good pacing doesn’t mean fast but does mean that the audience or player in this case is excited about the moment and looking forward to the next, and hopefully not begging for it to come out of boredom.
Games can do this by introducing new mechanics, JRPGs can suffer as due to their average length they may not be able to introduce as many “per minute” as other titles because simply that could become too overwhelming and really there are only so many ideas that can work well together within one game.
The other issue is that mechanical pacing isn’t the only thing that needs to be good to keep a player engaged in a larger RPG tale but also the story itself.
I could probably write a completely separate piece about that, but much like a film and exactly as with mechanics the audience needs to be kept engaged and in games this can be down to how often big story beats take center-stage, how long they keep you out of playing etc.
To put it simply, developing games is hard and I would say getting the balance of pacing right in any JRPG is actually somewhat of a miracle.
The point I’m trying to land on with this far too wide and deep rabbit hole is, I believe Sea of Stars gets it so very close to perfect but my close is not the same as yours or everyone else’s and I think it matters a lot.
Mechanics wise the game is arguably quite front loaded, Valere and Zale the dual protagonists of this story learn combat and their main slew of skills at the very start.
Once they learn to “use magic without using magic” the future abilities they gain for the turn-based combat is down to the companions they meet along the way and what ‘Combo’ abilities they can use with them.
Now there are plenty of different combinations of line-up you can make during the game and the enemies are quite varied meaning the combat does evolve and change as you learn against them.
One of Sea of Stars main positives is that it makes turn-based combat as engaging as it can, with techniques seen in other titles timed button presses on attacks and blocks can help as well as abilities and combos sometimes implementing things like rallies or controlling directions of an attack.
The other mechanic is what the game calls “locks”. Each enemy always has a countdown timer before they make their attack but sometimes next to this clock will appear a set of panels with symbols denoting slash or blunt attacks and the game’s mix of elements.
Your aim is to use those types of attack the enemy’s lock is showing and break it so they do not get to do whatever special ability they had planned, even if you don’t manage to break the lock completely in time if it was building to a big attack and you got for example four out of five broken the attack will deal your team less damage than if you didn’t bother.
The lock system is great because it causes tension, it makes you wonder “can I get that done in time?” you have to stop and plan your moves, sometimes you know you can’t so how are you going to prepare to take this potential big hit? It makes combat not just tactical but almost a puzzle and because it’s always in your interest to solve these it makes you engage with all of the different attacks and abilities you have at your disposal rather than just rely on clicking the same thing in every fight.
Now this system is why I think the game front loads mechanics because you wouldn’t want Zale and Valere with twenty different abilities each by the end, that would either be confusing or make any lock combination irrelevant.
It also means that depth can be added as characters join, new elements are discovered and enemies potentially become tougher.
You’ll start by thinking a lock with four panels is tough and be facing bosses with ten, the ‘Combo’ abilities you learn which are co-op attacks gained from building a gauge will make these possible but again you will need to plan and learn.
Overall I love Sea of Star’s combat. I think it’s one of the better turn-based combat systems I have played and the only issue I ever really found was it did mean fighting jobbers in earlier areas took a little longer than you’d like even though they were no real threat.
Sea of Stars isn’t just turn-based combat however, outside of towns where typically plot progresses and items are bought and sold, the areas where the battles take place are not just corridors. Areas ranging from dungeons, to forests, to mountain climbs all involve traversal that can find you solving (fairly simple) puzzles, using equipment you gain and much more like a good Zelda dungeon might.
Outside of all these areas is also a beautiful map that isn’t as vast as you may expect but traveling that will be a similar experience to many past JRPGs that use a world map - if with a few unique twists on the way.
If I were to argue the combat may have been front loaded I would say that the story was the opposite.
Now thankfully I do not mean to imply that in the last part of the game you get huge lore dumps but the plot doesn’t get truly exciting until what for me felt like the final third.
I will not go into specifics because I am not here to spoil the game but the start of the game feels extremely trite and a lot of the adventures you go throughout the game are based on a MacGuffin that will be at the end of the next dungeon you’re entering.
It does keep everyone of these a different length but whilst I may never have felt bored due to this design choice I didn’t find myself as excited as I would do towards the end.
One of the issues I have is one that really does involve taste and it’s the writing.
Overall it feels modern, snappy, and never long-winded. However in the same breath it also aims to be funny and for me I found a lot would land and then become annoying.
A podcast I listen to described some characters as “speaking just a minute too long” and this is a perfect description especially of a group of pirates you meet early in your journey - one of which is attempting to be meta and that can quickly become grating.
As an aside (what are my reviews if not a series of tangents?) I am currently playing Sabotage’s previous game “The Messenger” because I enjoyed this so much and the comedy is very much the same there so if you’ve already played that game you know what to expect.
In the end I would say the plot was good, just not great and one that bar a couple of twists I will probably forget down the line.
This review has fallen into the 90’s magazine classic of breaking down and scoring each element of the game. I would love to say this was on purpose, I’m trying to be nostalgic, this is an homage but that would be a lie. However if we’ve done Gameplay and Story let’s finish with Graphics and Sound.
Sea of Stars is a beautiful looking game, not really 16 bit but gives those feels with its incredible pixel art. Like many great remakes do, it looks how you remember games looked.
A lot of what works for it are things such as modern lighting, these can bring things to life in ways they may not have on the SNES and also add a simple layer of magic to the more exciting attacks.
The music has some great highs thanks to getting the legendary Yasunori Mitsuda on for a few tracks.
Sadly for me personally the music never fails to be good but I rarely found it great. Many tracks did grow on me over time and I suspect out of all the things I went in with too high an expectation of was the OST because for me some of the strongest pieces of music ever come from JRPGs and not just the older ones.
Sea of Stars is very good and just occasionally touches greatness with the tips of its fingers.
It is easily one of the best modern homages to the 16-bit era JRPG and it manages to be retro while also still feeling modern. Its story and mechanics are not the deepest you will encounter but this for me is easily as much of a strength as it can be a weakness.
I never once felt lost in the twisting plot points or jargon but immersed enough that twists could surprise. The game never felt too hard that I felt a need to grind but there were boss battles that kept me engaged more than many others of the past have.
In the end it could be argued that Sea of Stars, even with all its nostalgia, isn't made for people who played what it is riffing off but actually for a new audience that never got to experience those games and deserve a taste, and I think that if that was the mission it delivers on it in spades.

After finishing Arcade Paradise recently I was thinking about the arcade experiences I had in the past which are a rarity now.
Fighting games never went away and beat ‘em ups have had indie revivals here and there but light gun games that’s something that really doesn’t exist outside of their “evolved form” of VR shooters.
Konami and Sega killed it with this genre in the arcades with games such as: Point Blank, Time Crisis, House of the Dead, Virtua Cop, Silent Scope… who remembers Police 24/7? That game blew my mind at the time, a decade ahead of the Kinect.
The point in time I remember most about these were when the light guns came into our homes and offered “arcade accuracy”. Sure there were N Zaps and Meancers but the Playstation and Saturn eras, that was when for me it clicked the most.
Now as far as Arcade cabinets go I’ll take Point Blank over most, I also wouldn’t disagree with anyone who said Time Crisis was the king of the light gun games but for me my time with the Saturn and Dreamcast holds that place in my heart if not my head.
House of the Dead and Virtua Cop were series I played with pals to death, ports that were good even without guns because of the depth and ideas these games were bringing during this period.
All of this brings me a little further in time to the Wii and this game.
As CRTs started to disappear and flat screens and HD ready were the craze, light guns were no longer the plastic accessory people wanted - it was guitars.
Nintendo though, always stubbornly staying behind the curve were a shining beacon for the man who wanted to point a gun at his screen and the Wii and the zapper accessory if you wanted still allowed that to be a possibility.
I could continue to talk about other titles, the failures and successes, the ports and the strange tie-ins but I’m here to review Ghost Squad.
Ghost Squad is probably best thought of as a spiritual successor to Virtua Cop and much like the time of the Saturn, it’s really second fiddle to House of the Dead but for me is the heart over head choice.
There are only three levels but Ghost Squad loves to play with its arcade stylings by bringing variety in a lot of replayability.
Multiple routes add different directions and game play elements to missions where sometimes you’re not simply shooting terrorists but uncuffing hostages, disarming mines and more.
The more you play the more routes unlock and the more you play those the more weapons you unlock to change up play styles.
Ghost Squad on Wii goes as far as to add a Ninja Mode which replaces the protagonists, enemies and even some of the scenery with Ninja themed items, throwing stars and all.
To hit the credits in Ghost Squad takes maybe fifteen minutes, and that’s a complete guess because it flies by and is such a laugh you’re not checking your phone to see the time.
The alternate routes aren’t all as exciting as each other and sometimes feel as if they make little difference but really it doesn’t matter, you’ll be coming back to run through again and wanting to tag in some friends.
The game doesn’t take itself seriously, the villains feel like they’re pulled from B-rate action flicks and the voice acting matches with its terrible bluntness.
To think too deeply about this game would ruin it. It is more about how it feels and it is frictionless and joyful.
Ghost Squad is pure and it is fun. It’s not an all-timer stand out in what games should be and isn’t the best argument for why light gun games should still exist, but what it is, is a bloody good time.

My heart hasn't been pumping like this since... my first date! I was so nervous, I forgot to wear my underwear, baby!
As Bomb Rush Cyberfunk was nearing launch I was excited yet nervous. Team Reptile with their smoking sexy style shown in Lethal League did seem to be the right studio to take up the Jet Set Radio mantle if Sega were just going to leave it there.
They’d made all the right killer moves, keeping to a style somewhere between Jet Set Radio and Jet Set Radio Future, they got Naganuma in for some hot tunes and were releasing the game on Switch (that’s the closest thing to a Dreamcast we have right?).
Excitement and expectation are the parents of disappointment though, I couldn’t take a JSR successor wiping out and tripping on its own feet.
Thankfully BRC rolled out ballin’ a few stumbles here and there but it has stuck the landing and I am so happy to be playing a “new JSR” in 2023.
To speak about why BRC is so enjoyable is the same as why I love JSR.
The looks, the sounds and the feel.
JSR put cel shading on the map, it bought strong, hard, dark edges to make the characters pop - paneling out its world with bright colours in paint and neon lights.
BRC brings this too, it looks exactly as you remember the Jet Set games looking, surreal, cartoony and very cool. Realism is in the bin and style is here to show you the way.
The music is great, Hideki Naganuma comes in with three new tracks, Team Reptile got a track from the amazing 2Mello who has created not one, but two beautiful homages to the JSR series and these are backed up by a good mixture of tunes from varying styles and genres.
Lastly, the feel. The controversial point as many people have understandably bounced off of JSR due to how it handles. Jumping isn’t as accurate as I’d like but the way you can smoothly skate around feels wonderful - strange and slippery at first but it takes minutes to get used to.
BRC in many ways handles better and gives the player an opportunity to get off their wheels if needing a little more precision here and there. This adds another layer of discovery too, hidden spots for items and places to put down your art.
BRC did exactly what any JSR fan really wanted but I can’t say it’s perfect.
Its characters, crews and locations are all fantastic but I personally felt it never quite hit the heights of JSRF.
The crews are great, a lot of nods to the other games and a bunch of new fun ideas.
Locations mostly feel like homages and there weren’t quite as many as I’d have liked and the collection of friends you get along the way feels much lighter and less exciting than either JSR.
Admittedly JSRF has over twenty years of love so maybe BRC just needs to grow on me a little but even with that, BRC needed its own Professor K. That man got you much more hyped than reading text.
Also whilst the music is very good and there is variety, I don’t think BRC’s OST even has the same depth as one of 2Mello’s tributes to Tokyo-to.
BRC does a few good and bad things to be its own game.
One of the good parts is that it doesn’t retread the same story JSR and JSRF told, in fact it has a much more interesting narrative with a few twists and turns alongside some extremely cool bespoke dream stages.
Another good addition is different styles, now I will admit I mostly stuck to blades as that’s why I was here but the addition of boards and BMX’s gives a nice little bit of variety even if just aesthetically.
The bad parts however at some points made me laugh, I didn’t think BRC would be a game I exclaimed “this is shit” out loud at but a couple of points created that and they mostly revolve around the same thing. The combat.
One of the annoyances Jet Set Radio had, especially the first was when the police got involved and stopped your flow. BRC has a similar system with “Heat” which thankfully does bring the addition of portaloo’s that allow you to get changed in and be rid of the status, a bit like a GTA repaint of a car.
The idea of being chased by ever increasing threats is one that I actually find enjoyable. I say classic JSR suffered the worst from this because the larger graffiti spots became irritating to almost impossible to do when the full force of the state was after you. BRC’s graffiti has an inbetween system.
You’re never standing still following directions on screen but you’re also not just tapping the spray button over and over like you did in JSRF - instead you pause time briefly and have a six point star to move between for different art and you’re done.
At first this sounds like BRC has made all the right moves to cut out an irritation the original duo of games had. Early in the game you also realise that the buttons that make you do tricks are also attacks, you’re not just running away or bumping into enemies, you can kick them too, another great addition right - not quite.
It seems that Team Reptile with all these design choices were well aware of this blot of JSR’s record but decided that although combat was the worst part it’d force segments of it upon you.
If this were just big flashy bosses that’d be understandable but more than once the game gates you into an area where it wants you to fight off the police as if you were playing a similarly stylish game in another genre like HiFi Rush.
You have attacks but saying Bomb Rush Cyberfunk has a combat system is a bit of a stretch.
Sadly terrible combat systems aren’t the only new decision that falls flat.
The trick system has its face covered in dirt too.
JSR was never Tony Hawk’s. It was always more about traveling, chilling and getting that paint down than doing tricks.
Tricks were just a way to add swag to movement and BRC decision to make the crew battles based upon high scores is a bit of a letdown especially when the trick system it has is very bare bones and basic.
To be brief BRC has three trick buttons but your score is barely based on what of those you press and more on your transitions. This is cool for smaller challenges, trying to find lines and increase the multiplier with tight corners, wall rides into grind and more but having two minute sessions as if it were THPS shows it to be flawed and just not that fun.
I never expected that I’d miss the parts of Jet Set Radio where you chased the opposing team to spray their backs but, and this may be nostalgia powered, I felt those fit the feel and themes of the game and its world so much better.
Really with all these bad words to say about it, Bomb Rush Cyberfunk is the perfect successor to Jet Set Radio. A flawed masterpiece with style over substance, issues that do exist but are mostly drowned out by cool sounds and vivid colours and if you take the time to love it, it will love you back.
To say I was perfectly pleased would be a lie, again it could be nostalgia but I don’t believe BRC is as good as JSRF, but even with that said I am so happy that it exists and I hope that it does well because this opens up the chance for a world of not just sequels but Sega smelling money and finally pulling their finger out.
To steal a line from Drax from here on Backloggd; let’s see if Sega still understands the concept of love.

This review contains spoilers

Oh, hello there Baby Dick.

The 90’s are an important decade for me, my youth, the ages where I’m making memories but am not tainted by being a teenager.
It would create tastes that elements of I still have to this day, even creeping ever closer to 40. There's music I enjoy, art styles I like, toys and video games still dominate my adult mind as much as it did when I was in single digits.
Arcades were a huge part of all this, living in a seaside town, previously having a Sega World in the next town along, all of these elements really added to my discovery of games.
These places are no longer quite the same, usually more about coughing out tickets, mobile tie ins or strange nostalgic movie tie ins.
In the 90s these were new frontiers, top graphics, new genres, fresh ideas. They were loud, bright and exciting and outside of maybe a few places in Japan I doubt anywhere can fully capture the same feeling they had - not without want of trying because shout out to all the arcade bars that exist to keep that dream alive.
Arcade Paradise’s biggest strength is that of a modern arcade bar. You aren’t back in time but for a few seconds you can trick yourself. It has “immaculate vibes” as people younger than me could get away with saying.
The radio station, the music, the colours, even the smaller elements like gum being everywhere really add to the feel of being in 1993. It’s a true love letter to that time with enough honest reverence for the decade that it is willing to poke fun at it.
Arcade Paradise as a game isn’t simply about just the Arcade games and machines, although that is a major element I need to come back to.
From the start your character Ashley has inherited a laundrette (or laundromat as it’s US based) from her father (voiced by that Geralt from Witcher). They discover in the back some arcade machines and quickly realise that not only are they obviously more fun than washing and drying clothes, there's actually more money to be made with them.
This is where the story and the loop of the game starts.
You do the daily errands of picking up trash, pulling off bits of gum, unclogging the toilet and doing the laundry biz of washing and drying clothes in the machine.
All of these are presented with little arcade game overlays, making everything a game and reflecting how Ashley possibly makes the menial tasks not so cripplingly boring.
As you do this you collect the money from the hoppers or the arcade cabinets too discovering where the real money lies and invest it into more machines - of the Arcade variety, not the washing.
Thankfully the game doesn’t just make you do the boring jobs, because it allows you to play these machines yourself - in fact a smart thing the game does is encourages you to play them as the more goals on each cabinet you achieve the more popular they become with the clients.
As the story progresses and more money is made, you get new machines, knock down a few walls to make the arcade larger and more but really this loop stays the same throughout.
For a while I found it very moorish, addictive in its own way.
Into work, clean the rubbish away, throw the big bags out, pick the gum, get some washing in the machine go to a game I like, hop off when my (in game) watch tells me a wash is done, put drying in, more washing on, back to the game until my watch went again, back and forth until closing time, collect money to put in the safe - hope I have enough for a new machine or upgrade and move on.
It’s a good loop but a limited one. Arcade Paradise does a few things to try and keep this fresh, arcade machines can break, playing a variety of games helps because you can make them all earn more money.
You could even just stop washing realistically as the games are where the profit is but even when giving up on the laundry part of the business the games themselves only have a limited appeal.
As I said earlier, you can play the machines and this is one the game’s strongest and at the same time weakest points.
The nods and the choices of types of games you get as the story progresses is smart and well thought out, but that means many of them feel like old crap that no one really wants to play anymore, at least not for more than five minutes and sadly I found that’s how I felt with the majority.
The minority that I did enjoy however were good to great, some clever takes on games such as “Racer Chaser” which is Pac-Man but in a GTA skin that if you get caught you do have a chance to get to another car and move on.
My favourite of all, at least it’s the one I’m sure I sunk the most time into, was Blockchain - thankfully not a game about cryptobros but a puzzle game that plays almost exactly like drop7 but with occasional power-ups.
Whilst Blockchain and some others deserve praise the issue lies here that actually, none of these games are better than free things you can play on your phone.
The in-game versions of sports you get (you can figure it out but no spoilers) are some of the worst versions I’ve played in video games.
The in-universe major game, a beat ’em up, you get later into the story was also disappointingly poor.
There were moments when I was playing this and wondered if maybe licenses would have helped, ignoring money and legal reasoning, you could have had big Namco or Capcom games fill the cabinets. However I don’t think that would be better as the question would then become “why don’t I just play a collection?”. I appreciate the devs made lots of little games and I didn’t expect every single one to be a banger, it’s just sad that barely any were.
In the end Arcade Paradise was like a sandwich with chores for bread.
The start of the game is a lot more of the washing side of things and whilst that may not be the smartest thing to keep people interested I think it was intelligent in terms of storytelling and I guess brave.
However towards the end I got to a stage where I was simply waiting for money to come in and the games were boring. I would literally open my phone to play Marvel Snap as Arcade Paradise ran in the background, picking up the pad only to fix a machine or collect money from a full hopper.
Then even when enough money had been made for an upgrade the choices were so limited that they never felt like they mattered.
A whole business simulation element felt so flimsy and tacked on, I could understand why it didn’t want to become a full simulator but the line between casual and hardcore could have been placed nearer that side to give the game more meat if you wanted it.
I could possibly write an entire piece here about how I didn’t like the money options, the progression system and lack of customisation but hopefully this one sentence is enough to say - it could have been so much better.
The entire time since finishing this game I wondered if maybe I “played it wrong” maybe I should have been playing this between something else for it to feel more fresh and less of a grind?
I’ve wondered, maybe the game was too long, or maybe too short because all though it dragged the end almost felt too sudden.
There are so many elements of this game I did enjoy, it’s a vision of a game I can fully understand and get behind but it is either missing pieces or some need replacing and without that it never hits the high of being paradise, just simply “a game that I played”.

Before Devolver Delayed 2023 I had never heard of this series, their “one more thing” was saying this title had DLC “available everywhere” so I checked to see if it was on GamePass.
I read some brief descriptions of it online “WarioWare meets Point & Clicks”. Sounded great to me, maybe if this was good fun I could check out the previous entries!
So as I said, before Devolver Delayed I had never heard of McPixel and now I wish I hadn’t.
The concept itself seemed good on paper. It should be a laugh but the answers of the puzzles were usually completely nonsensical or not following rules established previously. This nonsense I’m sure is meant to add to the hundreds of “gags” this game has but the humour was so bad.
Repeating segments over and over until you click the correct thing can only hold its charm for so long and whilst I enjoyed a little bit of the music and there were a couple of great bits of pixel art the rest of the presentation was a bit poor. No sound effects for most of the game was a major strange point that had me checking menus to see if I’d turned them off.
Regarding the humour, I do find farts funny. However, pissing and farting jokes one after the other, kicking all the NPCs, these things lose any comedic qualities they have if that is all there is.
I won’t lie and say I never laughed but the hit rate was so abysmally low it wasn’t worth the rest of the time I had to spend playing the game to enjoy those very rare chuckles.
There will be some folk who play this and they will be absolutely wetting themselves and I guess, good for them, however I did not and if your game is mostly jokes over anything else then it’s a failure to me.


Venba is a beautifully told story of an Indian couple, the titular Venba and her husband Paavalan, covering their struggles starting and living far from home, as they make a new life and start a family in Canada.
The story and the struggle is one that personally I cannot completely relate to, but one I find interesting and informative - a story of holding on to tradition while trying to fit in, honouring your past while trying to create a better future.
A thing that would be difficult alone or as a couple but further widens its reach in depth when bringing a new life into this new home becomes a part of it.
As a game the story is told in two particular fashions.
First is the more obvious, conversations, with choices following great art and music as Venba discusses issues, rejections, dealing with family far and away plus more.
The second part, arguably “the game” , is looking at these links through cooking.
Venba has her mother’s old cookbook, it has personal recipes and ties the family back to traditional cuisine of India, not the Pizza and Poutine they possibly find themselves surrounded with.
With the cooking comes quite tactile little mini games that also act as puzzles, puzzles because sadly due to time this cookbook is no longer perfectly clear with its instructions.
I enjoyed the puzzles, they felt fairly tactile and the game was generous with giving hints at what to do. I enjoyed the soundtrack throughout the game but there were some especially good parts during these games.
The pacing of Venba between its story segments and cooking puzzles made the game fly by without me stopping once.
What also helped is the game is barely over an hour, something I am struggling with when I think about this title but I’ll return to that later.
My main issue with the smooth pacing however, which may sound like the stupidest thing to complain about is that I think the game avoided nearly all friction and challenge to get there.
For me the toughest cooking challenge was the first. I don’t believe all games need to have an increasing difficulty as they go on but some parts felt less like puzzles and more like very minor interactions to keep the player engaged - engaged in a way where any naysayers could say it’s not just a Visual Novel.
Unlike some of the dishes you create in Venba I found it had little bite in terms of its puzzle elements and that left me sad as it does build into some interesting moments only to tail off into repetition or extremely basic interactions that remind me of Pokémon Diamond and Pearl.
That strange pull of a comparison (to cooking Poffins) also made me think about how this game may have appeared if it were over a decade ago.
To me, and this is by no means and insult, Venba would’ve been a great DSiWare game, maybe even an early smartphone game between messing around with a soundboard or “drinking” an iPint.
These comparisons don’t make me dislike the game, in fact they make me find it more charming but as I referred to earlier the short length becomes a small issue when I think about the cost.
Being on GamePass if you have that service this game is a no-brainer as it’s a great time to spend an hour or so, but could I advise someone to buy it for the roughly £13 it costs on Steam or the Nintendo eShop - I do not know.
I hate to use the term “your mileage may vary” in a review because if all reviews were that simplified there would be no use in reading them.
I’ve not been in the situation where I feel like a minority, at least not day-to-day and never to the extreme of how moving from one very different country to the other must be.
I’m not married and I don’t have children.
None of these things stop me understanding the characters, the stories or the struggles but they are, as I said at the start, not things I can relate to, and due to that I don’t think the effects of these twists and turns hit me as hard as it would do others.
I look at the puzzle side more as a thing to learn from and enjoy because for me that is actually a great way to connect to a culture that is not my own but I feel this game deals in that part too softly.
The story too is great but to me felt quite basic, fairly obvious and (sometimes sadly) not surprising. I respect it for doing something new in, as far as I am aware, this particular story with these particular people has not been told but that part which would be so personal for some is not for me.
Venba is good. In much fewer words that is all I want to say.
It’s good and borders on great but sadly doesn’t cross the line for me.

One of the reasons I have a lot of love for Nintendo is that although they’re not an underdog indy and they have their big franchises they make many sequels for, Nintendo historically seem to like to do their own take on genres and give us something quite unique as players.
Some of these adaptations of genres work for me and not for others or vice-versa, for example I hope Nintendo go back to ARMS, it’s a hugely different take on fighting games that I thoroughly enjoyed where as the much more popular Smash Brothers, still a very different game when you compare it to Street Fighter and its ilk doesn’t do half as much to keep me entertained.
Splatoon is one of my favourite shooters, Mario Kart created its own sub-genre of racing and all these, typically, “family fun” variations lead me here to Pikmin.
Pikmin is to Strategy what Splatoon is to Shooting. It’s very hard to put it alongside something like Total War and say “that’s the same genre” but the ideas are there, it leads more into the management side but the shared DNA is there and whether or not it’s a better or worse take the important thing for me is that it’s interesting.
Once you get to the fourth entry in a series however, interesting is not quite enough.
So, as always the question is: is it good?
The answer is, Pikmin has always been good but I believe Pikmin 4 is great.
Pikmin 4 does what any strong sequel should, it takes the best elements from the previous entries, adjusts some of the less-liked ones and builds upon it all with some new ideas.
The standard Pikmin game is there, you will pluck and grow legions of these little plant pals to help you in a giant world (from the protagonist’s perspective) carry treasures to help fix up your ship and continue your search for even more treasures and other survivors.
After a brief tutorial introduction as Olimar, who has once again crashed his ship, you take control of a character of your own design who is part of the Rescue Corps.
The character creation is rather limited but every little hero you make looks cute and funny.
Unlike previous Pikmin there isn’t so much of a survival element, be it time like Olimar so desperately needs or even juice to live like the crew of Pikmin 3.
The world feels more open and free to explore and a lot less stressful than previous titles.
In one sense this could be seen as a loss for the series, the heartache of hearing a Pikmin cry is still there but they’re survival isn’t so strictly connected to yours meaning that, as selfish as it may sound, you have less reason to care.
Even with Pikmin 4’s very generous rewinds you’ll eventually find yourself thinking “just one death to that big monster is fine”... so who is the monster really?
Day cycles still exist however and the game does promote the idea of efficient work ethics in the form of “Dandori”.
Dandori however is not only a suggestion but is a way for several game modes to be added and give anyone who still wants that challenge of desperation, survival and machine-like efficiency to still get their kick.
Two main flavours of Dandori see you either trying to collect treasures in a certain amount of time with the high score chasing reward of medals to prove to yourself you’re the best, or battle against another aiming to sweep up more goodies than you, with the added fun of pulling against each other, sabotage and more.
Whilst the bulk of Pikmin’s levels are nice open spaces that now give you all the time in the world to explore these Dandori adventures can be found to mix things up alongside the returning underground dungeons of Pikmin 2, giving you less restrictions in time but more in resources and figuring how best to use a typically smaller group of flowery friends.
To top it all off, and really the previously mentioned modes of variety is enough, Pikmin 4 also gives you a chance to go out at night.
In the night missions it’s more of a case of tower defense, the usual Pikmin are asleep and the Glow Pikmin come out to play.
Whilst I really like the Glow Pikmin design and abilities I found this to be the most lacking of all modes in the game which is a shame because it felt like this had the opportunity to be the biggest addition to the game.
Overall even with some neat ideas and great enemy designs I found all the night missions felt too similar.
One feature I’ve failed to mention is the game’s new friend and companion Oatchi.
This dog like buddy gives Pikmin 4 a new element whilst also giving a light feel of the previous title.
At first Oatchi just feels like a big Pikmin you permanently have with you, he can dig, collect items and so on.
Later you realise that he can’t dive like a Blue Pikmin but when he grows can carry you and your squad across water.
As the game progresses Oatchi becomes trained to gain new skills, carry more, attack creatures and even be controlled as a separate character to split tasks much like the trio of protagonists in 3.
Oatchi like many of the newer elements Pikmin 4 brings adds what at first feels like something that just makes life easier to a puzzle tool to eventually an important piece in your efficiency.
Although not all modes are equally as good, Pikmin 4 proves itself to be a wonderfully generous package. Many games can claim this too but in my experience a lot of content can typically mean a lot of padding.
Pikmin 4, even with feeling longer than the other titles, doesn’t suffer from this. Without going into spoiler territory the game gives you many jumping off points, in discussions with friends during my time playing it the first comparison that came to mind is the structure of most modern 3D Mario games - there’s always things to improve on, if you want, more things to find, if you want and more game to play past the credits and beyond, again, if you want.
To put this into numbers so it may be more easily understood, I had finished the game at a leisurely pace trying to get 100% of the treasures in around 21 hours.
I am now at over 42 with digging into each mini game and unlockable adventure the game has given me and if I were to feel I still wasn’t quite done with it, there’s still some Platinum medals to earn.
If you like Pikmin chances are you’ve already got this. If you’ve not touched the series before the previous three are now all available on Switch but do not be afraid to start here, why not just download the demo (which is the start of the game and transferable)?
Worst case for this game you’ll get to witness some little guys carrying around a Gameboy Advance SP like some sort of giant structure and we should all be able to enjoy that.

Expectations have a powerful effect on most of our live’s events and this is especially apparent when consuming any media including playing video games.
I went into playing this title with little more than curiosity and a love for the franchise as positives.
I don’t recall hearing of this title, especially not in any sort of cult status like some other Transformers titles have kept.
Sometimes you just have to take a gamble and when a game is a couple of quid second hand it’s not particularly high stakes.
Transformers Animated: The Game (TFA:TG) is by no means a hidden gem but is a surprisingly decent quality “cash in” that has some good ideas that gives you enough time to pause and wonder “is this actually good?”.
In TFA:TG the game is split into a couple of sections, the majority is 2D puzzle platforming where you play as not one but three of the heroic Autobots that are the protagonists of the cartoon; Optimus Prime, Bumblebee and my favourite Bulkhead.
These three take up three weight-class style roles with abilities to match.
Bumblebee being the fast cheeky lad he is can jump, wall bounce and use his stinger weapon to turn on electrical generators.
Bulkhead is the big lad who lumbers along but can smash down doors and push heavy objects onto pressure points.
Optimus sits between but has his own traversal mechanic as well as stylus guided axe throwing to hit switches and enemies.
What these things create is a situation where you need to get the team to the goal but each of them must use their abilities to guide themselves and each other through the levels.
It’s an innovative take on the genre and for me hit a good level of difficulty where as soon as it felt it might be getting too complex, pulling away from me, a moment later it would all start folding together.
The other sections are race/chase segments where it’s in the classic third person perspective and you’re chasing enemies, avoiding traffic and even sometimes Transforming to be able to attack enemy drones. The first of these felt the worst as the targeting felt too precise and fiddly but later on these were nice breaks in the game.
These two game modes are also wrapped in a package with lovely voice acting, short cinematics and screenshots taken from the cartoon to tell the story along the way.
Unfortunately whilst all of this is an interesting and fairly unique package for a tie-in game it seems the budget for using things straight for the cartoon has taken away from much elsewhere.
Many of the things in the game feel a little clunky, the guided axe and wrecking ball is fun to use but there’s some strange start up to the animations which mean they don’t always go off and you are probably continuing to be shot.
Speaking of being shot, the combat is by far the worst part of the game - there is an attack and block but it usually consists of running up to an enemy and tapping the button until they explode with very little oomph in feedback.
Bumblebee’s stinger, which shoots out electricity if used as a weapon, has full 360 degree aim but is harder to line up in some situations than you’d imagine and again the feedback is less of a thing based on feeling the attack and more of an interference, a short wait for something to happen on screen.
Before I move on from the not-so-great feel of the characters I must also mention that your Transformers do not Transform in the puzzle platforming segments, the majority of the game, and while I get that may be IP specific it is a disappointment. I would’ve just liked to turn into a car and move forwards at the very least, especially when controlling Bulkhead to be the third bot to hit the finish line in painstakingly slow speeds.
The other issue which to me feels based on budget is the level variety.
The chase levels look all the same and the side scrolling parts have about two distinct flavours - there’s a lot of drone factories.
Having a small variety of level themes does mean that when new elements are added they are extra clear and the small variety that does exist fits with the cartoon, but just a couple more would have made the whole game feel dramatically more interesting.
Lastly on the variety complaints and one that is unfortunately not helped but loving the franchise is the enemies.
Many of the Decepticons, the baddies of this story, appear in the cutscenes but you see only two of them in game. Generic enemies are drones and there’s barely a handful of variations of them either.
As far as expectations go though, this game over delivered but I was expecting some barely playable crap.
Instead I was served up some fairly unique ideas that interested me long enough into seeing the game through to the end.
I took the gamble with not just money but time and I feel like I broke even.
At the very least it’s a game that makes your DS do the transforming noises when you open and close it and that alone is something I’d be tempted to give 5 stars.

No Rest for the Wicked in this case is an Adventure Jam game you can find here:
An enjoyable half hour of pointing and clicking.
You play a Dracula’s servant who after a two hundred year kip needs to get up and also fill the world with eternal night so he can stroll about and do what he likes.
During this short adventure you’ll meet more of the Dracula’s staff and, let’s say guests.
All of these characters are well voice acted bar one exception that was more an issue of audio quality than line reading.
Sprite work here is good and mostly clear. I believe all modern point and clicks should give you access to a highlight button, however even without that I didn't find myself pixel hunting - the only issue I had in that department was the use of a bookcase and several titles on it, these weren’t separated or marked too clearly for my liking.
The music was fun and the puzzles all had some playful but solid logic.
These include the usual combining, “enhancing” and strange use of items.
Everything here is a standard affair when it comes to an adventure game. However with being made in two weeks and being this tidy and smart, there is not really anything to fairly criticise.
Every element "could be" better, but each element is also at a very strong standard.
My main comparison for this would be Loco Motive and I think whilst this isn't leagues below that, it just doesn't quite have the same level of writing and the locations just don't feel quite as original in NR4TW even if "a train" isn't the biggest brain idea for setting either.
There is nothing “wrong” with this game but there wasn’t anything that will probably keep in my mind all that much longer.
If you enjoy point and clicks, give this one a look.
It's very short, you can pay as much or as little as you want and maybe you'll find it funnier or more endearing than I did.

One of the themes of this year in gaming, for me, is to experience more from Cing, a defunct studio which I love almost solely on the basis of two games; Hotel Dusk: Room 215 and Last Window: The Secret of Cape West.
Those two games to me are five star titles, not only are they great stories full of wonderful writing, characters and fun puzzles but they do something I’m a big fan of and that’s use the hardware they were designed for in fun and interesting ways.
I’m a “waggle defender”. I love the games of Nintendo hardware where non-first party developers bothered to use what was unique rather than something that could be easily ported to any machine.
Cing are King when it comes to this on DS and in a previous backloggd review, I showed they were pretty good at it on Wii too.
So yes, I played the games in the wrong order and yes completing Another Code R did spoil a minor bit of plot for Another Code: Two Memories but it did not ruin my enjoyment.
Much like the Wii sequel, you take on the role of Ashley who in this title is thirteen years old. She is called to Blood Edward Island to meet with her father who she has not seen in over a decade.
She’s there not only to find out why he has been gone so long, but anything she can about the death of her mother which took place a little while before dad up and left.
The hook? Ashley has been sent a machine called a DAS that looks strangely familiar to you (the player) and this device has messages for you, lets you store photos and then throughout the game aids you in solving puzzles.
I’m a sucker for reflecting the tech the player is using in the game, trying to break the walls of what’s in and outside of the story down.
This game doesn’t do that too deeply outside of aesthetics but as you search Blood Edward Island, meeting a friend, learning the island’s history and uncovering its secrets you get to use the DS in a few unique ways which don’t include simply button presses.
Cing would go on to do these things again and do them better in Hotel Dusk and really those words can be applied to almost every aspect of the game.
Art, music, characters, writing, plot - all of these factors are great in Another Code, it's just that they become excellent in the future.
In a way maybe deciding on how good a game is based on something that came out in its future is unfair but that is what we’re working with and whilst Another Code is brilliant and a worthwhile little gem it’s not a great, expansive or as nice and clever as Hotel Dusk so can’t be placed at those same heights.
Another Code is simple in a lot of ways, to some that would be a fault. The game and the story it tells is quite linear and the cast of characters is fairly small and even where it does expand with the former residents of Blood Edward Island’s history it’s less revelations and more reflections.
The game however is short and that is not an issue, in under five hours it tells a great tale and limiting its scope means that it doesn’t feel baggy or out stay its welcome.
The only case where an eye-roll of boredom ever happened would be clicking on something by accident and being stuck in a little bit of text I’d already read.
I had a great time with Another Code and it was very pleasant going back into Cing’s catalogue and seeing the steps they took to get to where they were with one of my all-timers.
Maybe it’s time to go even further back and play Glass Rose? I’m not sure if I am that dedicated.

It’s a great feeling finishing a game that is just as good as everyone who had played it said it was.
After finishing this remaster I really hope that this can get the sales it deserves across all platforms and that Shu Takumi can become even better known as not just the Phoenix Wright guy.
Ghost Trick is an almost perfect blend of puzzle and narrative.
It layers both these elements with just the right level of complexity as the game progresses to keep you excited and intrigued.
Very much peak handheld design in structure, controls and art.
The chapters are never too long that you feel you’re stuck somewhere for too long, always just short enough that you may start to tell yourself “maybe just one more”.
The updated controls of putting what was stylus based on a joystick work as expected and each of the other small button presses are clearly marked on screen without distracting.
The art and music are highlights and although there was nothing wrong with the pixel work on the DS, if anything far from it, the higher resolution and smoother look of the remake looks absolutely beautiful on both big and small screen, the accompanying new arrangements of music similarly add to the feel of just a pinch of modern shine on a game that never needed touching.
It’s all just extra shine and no scarring like some remasters can do.
One of the few things I did dislike about this remaster are the unlockables.
The content, that’s great, art, screens, music, all lovely stuff to lap up after finishing the story but locking some of these behind dreaded sliding tile puzzles feels like a crime.
These things are the worst and most basic puzzle game filler to exist and are not a part of Ghost Trick’s main game so why put them here? The only positive it has is as a comparison to the puzzles of the game itself “they’re never this bad”.
As mentioned previously, next to the beautiful music and art Ghost Trick’s greatest feat is how well it can layer its story alongside its puzzles.
The story never becomes too complicated but there are smart twists and turns along with great character development, a lot of which feel quite real in a world of colourful comic characters.
The puzzles never become hard, at their best they make you feel smart as you can start seeing the lines before they’re pointed out. The pointing out is there though, but these hints are not clicking a question mark to give you an answer but the much sleeker design of having the characters mention aspects or ponder ideas that will push you in the direction needed.
During my playthrough I never felt stuck outside of one situation where honestly, the answer was stupid and not as clear as it should have been (I’ll mention vaguely what in the comments if anyone needs to know). However that was one speck on a great series of puzzles that really only have the downfall of potentially feeling too trial and error - checkpoints, text skipping and generally short levels though make any repetition feel quite easily forgiven.
Ghost Trick is as good as people have said for the past dozen or so years and I am more than happy to have spent money to experience this on a modern machine - although I should have always finished this on my iPhone those many years ago.

Unoriginality, retreading ground, being inspired by things of the past is not inherently a bad thing.
After all people do love a sequel and even a remake, and if there’s a gap in the market, if there is a lack of a certain genre or subgenre why not make a game for the people who want it?
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is a proverb with some merit but this can be contradictory when it comes to replication. Sure, you could just do the thing that worked before and people will enjoy it but conversely why bother if the original still exists and “ain’t broke”.
Unfortunately this is me just ruminating on Planet of Lana and how even though it is by no means bad, it’s also so unoriginal it’s hard to call it good.
Planet of Lana is a beautiful game, a less dreary-dark version of what it is aping. Its companion creature is genuinely cute with great sounds and animations.
The music at points is fantastic and there are some nice little puzzles.
All of these elements should far exceed a passing grade but the basic and sometimes boring glue that holds it all together pulls it away from the possibility of excelling.
The game itself is quite slow, which turns appreciating the beautiful backgrounds into a chore as you slowly plod across a similar looking setting to be rewarded with an extremely similar puzzle.
The companion is cute but sadly the mechanics are paper thin on innovation, there are a couple of good ones there but they’re surrounded by what feels repetitive and quite basic.
The narrative is an element that can hold basic gaming together and also hold it high as a great experience, however I found the narrative much like the gameplay lacking and unoriginal.
I will not spoil the plot but it is exactly what you expect from playing the first few minutes with the most run-of-the-mill “twists”.
If you really love Limbo and Inside, can’t get enough of that subgenre and need more then give this game a go. Just do not expect it to join that personal pantheon for you.