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Played in 2023
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Neon White is the best feeling game of 2022. I've only ever taken the most baby of steps into speedrunning. But Neon White is able to condense that joy into a digestible package.
The dialogue and characters are something I'm mixed on but the style is a perfect match for the gameplay. The environments aren't too cluttered to keep them readable. And the music helps elevate your own tempo to match that which the game requires to ace each level.
The final set of levels, titled Thousand Pound Butterfly is one of the best culminations of a platformers mechanics in the genre. Taking all of the movement abilities and lessons from the journey to that point. Flipping them on their head with the final card and movement mechanic led to the apex of its many levels.
A Plague Tale: Requiem takes a bunch of big swings. This is what leads to some of its strongest parts, both as a sequel and existing on its own. But as a result of its compensatory misses, this game is a lot messier than its predecceor, Innocence.
Once again Plague Tale is visually stunning, from the nature scenes to the busy cities to the deep dark caves. Music is solid. Voice acting is great. Although I had hoped the lip syncing would be improved since Innocence, its still just as bad. They've also renovated some of the characters faces from Innocence, I never fully got used to this.
The new characters don't match the heights of those in the first, but one stands out as being almost at that level. But most importantly, the journey of Amicia and Hugo is what is most successful. I had my ups and downs with the story. The beginning chapters felt like a rehash of Innocence. As did the use of the main villain, although it is much weaker here. The very end had me emotional, feeling the weight of the journey but it wasn't tied together seamlessly. And lots of the steps along with way were messy or otherwise unsatisfactory. At the end of the day, story is still the strongest element of the game.
The other elements being exploration, puzzle solving, stealth and combat. They completely redid the equipment, putting the special alchemies as universal powerups on the different action types, the sling, free throw, pots and the new addition, the crossbow. Giving the player more freedom and options of course appears like a welcome change but the game is still far to linear in its puzzles that the few times I felt like I could get creative, I would be shut out without logic. Other times I was left confused as I would say, try to extinguish fire to move past it, get stuck, check a guide only to realize, 'no you have to extinguish with a different action type'. Not a great feeling.
The combat is given a few more inches of depth, along with embracing killing in whatever quantity you wish. Unfortunately, the combat, for lack of a better word, sucks. the lack of a proper hit point system makes it feel unfair. Limited movement options and no dodge makes it feel sluggish. And boring enemy types make the sling and crossbow feel alright, but more of a foundation than a properly fleshed out combat system.
Stealth and navigating rats have no substantive changes since Innocence. They are good enough but nothing special.
My favorite section of the game is when you are let out on the island. While it isn't an open world (and shouldn't be), it is the largest open area in either of the games. It was a breathe of fresh air. A long break from stealth, combat and set pieces to let you just take in this wonderfully crafted world, admire the sights and sounds. This becomes a hub of sorts and you crisscross through it many times, backtracking I was happy to do.
I had a rocky time with A Plague Tale: Requiem. It is a game that suffers from both not making enough changes from its predecessor and wrongly choosing which elements to double down on. Still its beauty, tragedy and adventure compelled me to blast through it in just a few days. Amicia and Hugo are all time great video game characters as far as I'm concerned and with what is teased towards the end of the game, I cannot wait to see what lies over the next wave.