97 Reviews liked by SwitSwat

A smaller scale follow up to Human Revolution that while not reaching the same heights in terms of story, the gameplay is a mark improvement. Mankind Divided fixes a lot of the problems I had with the previous game by allowing more ways to tackle mission objectives and also making a non-lethal playthrough viable and enjoyable.
I personally have no qualms with the story being a lot smaller and scale as I felt it was a logical follow up to the monumental ending of Human Revolution. What I will criticize is how short it is with there being only four levels outside of the hub with one of those being the tutorial. I'm all for shorter games but I felt here it does the story a disservice by not fleshing out certain plot points and characters as much as I wish they did. What makes up for this is the hub setting of Prague is a lot of fun to explore and the side quests are interesting and often pose interesting moral dilemmas.
I think what interests me the most about this game is how immersive sims have evolved since its release. The indie scene has evolved the genre to new heights so I think we are all due for a new entry in the series. The world is utterly fascinating and I really like Adam Jensen as a protagonist, now if only Square Enix would stop being so screwy with the franchise.

learning not to lose my mind when a game was "waifubaitey" or "anime" was the best decision I made in my entire fucking life

When your rail shooter mecha game starts and begins with 90s alt rock you know you are in for a badass experience. Really impressed with what they were able to pull off in terms of how smooth the gameplay is and how stylized all the different models were. Some of the fights were a little tricky as the controls felt a little floaty though this was probably because I was playing on an emulator. The latter half of the game also has some frustrating difficulty spikes that would have been a lot more annoying if I hadn't used save states. The biggest pull for me was the variety of awesome mech designs the game has that I was slobbering over throughout my playthrough. A badass game for badass mecha fans.

So, I haven't finished this game yet. I don't know if I ever will, I always strive to finish every game I buy, let alone review, but this one...this one might fucking kill me if I have to play even one more second of this miserable, horrific little mistake of existence. This score is locked in and nothing the game can throw at me past the point I've played will ever change my mind.
This is the worst game I've ever played, in my entire life.
I want to say that this game was a gift from a dear friend, and I hope they don't get the wrong kind of idea or hold any guilt; I saw the game and footage of the first few levels, thought it looked great, put it on my wishlist, you know how it goes. It was entirely my own judgement and if you're reading this, please don't feel responsible in any way bestie <3
But, this game is like a fucking anglerfish is what I'm saying. Cute low poly aesthetic, nice character designs, fun sounding gimmick - what could go wrong? The borderline aneurysms I had trying to navigate the twisted, logicless grids of these abhorrent worlds say it all.
Every single fundamental rule of game design has been violently obliterated here. The core gimmick is borderline useless within the first world. Renata, the protagonist, only has one speed: SLOW. Waddling around at a very modest pace, the only way to make her move any faster is by grappling onto a surface with her titular frogun. Unfortunately, aiming it is just the worst fucking thing ever.
The gun only fires forward in a straight line from where Renata is facing. There's actually a button you can hold down to aim in a 360 degree fashion, but the vast majority of platforming is done in mid-air, where this function flat out does not work. So you instead have to manouvre Renata around in mid air in a circle, and chances are that you have to do this in less than a second due to breaking or moving platforms that result in instant death if you're a frame too slow. Argh.
This game just desperately wants to be its own Kaizo hack past world 3. Insane precision platforming in a game that controls about as well as a drunken gorilla in an ice rink leads to a world of agony and disaster. The devs make you go to ridiculous lengths to manage one-in-a-million jump timing, hitting switches, and if you fuck up along the way, you have to do it all over again when you respawn at a checkpoint.
Writing this review is hard because all I feel right now is boiling rage. Utter contempt and hatred for this miserable wreck. I swear, the amount of basic game design rules that the devs have failed to understand, I genuinely think it was intentional that they set out to make this game as bad as it could possibly be. Combat is a nightmare too, it's either as simple as pointing your gun at an enemy (and praying that it's aligned correctly and won't send you careening into a pit) and shooting, or getting fucking juggled by enemies that are inexplicably impossible to jump on or grapple onto without taking damage. The logic of the game is completely inconsistent, and feels like they make it up as they go along.
What else is there to even talk about? The music is utterly whatever, only memorable because of the total absence of variety in tracks. Boss fights are fucking nothing. Dodge incredibly basic and boring attack patterns for what feels like forever, then hit them when they inexplicably become dizzy.
Also, don't talk to me about the fucking races. Just a load of shit trying to outrun someone who can skip entire sections of the level, but balances it out by taunting for long enough for you to catch up. It feels barely thought out and poorly incorporated into the core gameplay.
Frogun is a masterclass in deception, and how not to make a 3D platformer. I don't have a single nice thing to say about it beyond anything on the front fucking cover. Dark Souls fucking wishes it broke me this badly. Completely miserable experience, and one I'm sure won't get any better in the sequel.
Seriously, a sequel to this shit. What a world we live in.

     'The shadow remains cast.'
Played with BertKnot.
Like other projects such as Final Fantasy XV (2016) or The Last Guardian (2016), Bayonetta 3's chaotic development cycle could not put the savvy player at ease. Experience has often shown that these chronic delays were the result of a real inability to narrow down the vision and realise the envisioned project. In the case of Final Fantasy XV, the eventual storyline is a twisted reflection of the original Shakespearean narrative, while The Last Guardian suffered from a poor execution, owing to the departure of many key figures from the development team. Bayonetta 3's development cycle began at least in 2017, with numerous comparable titles released in the interim – NieR:Automata (2017), Astral Chain (2019) and obviously Devil May Cry 5 (2019), to name but a few – arguably accounting for the lack of discipline and identity the game exhibits during its thirteen-hour adventure.
The player once again assumes the role of Bayonetta in a multiverse plot, which will hardly make sense whether one knows the story of the previous games or not. The title already stands out in terms of presentation with an excessively long prologue, whose dramatic overtones are out of place for a Bayonetta game. The player is often confined to a passive posture, surprisingly so, and this carries on throughout the game. Across the board, the title spends its time changing moods, unable to establish a meaningful tone: the most absurd sequences in the franchise sit alongside maudlin scenes, with mixed effect at best. It is as if Bayonetta 3 was carried by an MCU-esque cinematic inspiration: there is a succession of action scenes, jokes that often fail and unjustified pathos draped in a very grey colour scheme, but always outside the gameplay sequences.
     Disjointed gameplay, distorted references
These are always characterised by a disjointed execution. The various gameplay components are split up and fail to establish an elegant flow in battle. The Demon Slave mechanic feels very clumsy at first, as the player has to wait for their magic bar to refill, as normal attacks are just too weak. Moreover, the summoning of the various demons negates Bayonetta's ability to move, an unlucky choice for the franchise. In this respect, Astral Chain was much more elegant, pairing a joystick with Legion to maintain strong mobility. Bayonetta 3 seems to borrow ideas from different games, but fails to understand their essence. For example, Wartrain Gouon is an aberrant rehash of Cavaliere from Devil May Cry 5, while Viola feels like an empty facsimile of NieR:Automata's battle system. The combat pacing is also strangely reminiscent of Honkai Impact 3rd (2016), alternating between auto-attacks and bursts. The ultimate product is disappointing: some have considered it a compromise between the first two opuses, regarding the use of Witch Time, but the reality is mostly that it is always more enjoyable to avoid using Demons – except to weave Wink Slave moves – and try to play with the traditional gameplay. Unfortunately, Bayonetta 3 only offers two weapon sets and forces a skill tree, making the experience very gruelling, especially at the beginning of the game. A chronic lack of feedback is also noticeable, spoiling a lot of the combat adrenaline, especially when compared to Devil May Cry 5.
Some of the new features work better, like the Wink Slave, allowing the combos to remain fluid. As for some of the Kaiju Battle sequences, they sometimes succeed: the shmup section in Paris was very effective as an extension of the Demon attacks, while the rail shooter in China was satisfactory, if not completely successful. But these sequences underline the mishmash aspect of Bayonetta 3, which only manages to find harmony on a whim. The game piles up various references to please Hideki Kamiya's ego, but cannot synthesise them in a convincing way. The Side Missions with Jeanne are a hotchpotch of Elevator Action Returns (1994) with an aesthetic that overlaps with Cowboy Bebop (1998), Cutie Honey (1973), Mine Fujiko to Iu Onna (2012) and Metal Gear Solid 3 (2004). Despite their diversity, these missions fail to characterise Jeanne and blatantly lie about their content, as the fake opening presents pure infiltration gameplay. In the same spirit, the Kaiju Battles echo classic scenes from Japanese cinema, but the paucity of gameplay is prohibitive. Likewise, the China finale with Madama Butterfly takes up the Xī Yóu Jì (16th century) with a hypersexualised and unpleasant presentation.
Consistently off-topic, Bayonetta 3 stretches out its exploration phases with superfluous elements that are ill-suited to the title's gameplay. The platforming segments are obnoxious and feel like tasteless borrowings from the regular events of Genshin Impact (2020). Thule is built like a pseudo-open world, whose construction may remind of Dragon's Dogma (2012), but devoid of any substance; Ginnungagap borrows from both the disguised loading screens of God of War (2018) and the parallel dimensions of Astral Chain, albeit with a bland art direction. It is so hard not to compare the game with others, as it hides none of its inspirations and desperately tries to take mechanics that have worked elsewhere. These makeshift borrowings never hide the title's very weak technical execution, excessively reusing its level assets. Chapters 4 and 6 in China use exactly the same structure of lifts and chests to open, to the point where a disconcerting sense of déjà vu sets in.
     A fantasied and racist cultural representation
More aberrant is the cultural representation of the different worlds visited. Shinjuku is passable, but China and Egypt appear as racist parodies of the cultures depicted. The former draws on a Japanese interpretation of wuxia and offends by its lack of variety, while the latter is a medley of everything reminiscent of Middle Eastern cultures. The opening exploration of Cairo is an almost exact retread of the sequence from Uncharted 3 (2011), from the aerial drop to the desert hallucinations. Bayonetta 3 then has the ill taste to use a Western soundtrack, compounding its already despicable representation of Egypt. The temple scenes are marginally better, even though they borrow heavily from the Babylonian imagination, insofar as they mix in a rather effective Lovecraftian aesthetic. The notable exception is the depiction of Paris: one gets the impression that Kamiya has an inordinate love for France and its culture, so much so that numerous references abound in the streets. The spooky atmosphere around the Place de l'Étoile is in some ways reminiscent of the Gilets Jaunes protest movement, and the shops all have names that make sense – for example, Citron Télécom is perhaps a reference to Orange. This fondness for French culture is also supported by the Bayonetta-Arsène Lupin of this universe, very much on point, and with French dubbing for the NPCs. Nevertheless, the efforts on the Paris episode only underline the aberration of the other chapters, where not a word of Mandarin is spoken, as the mythical warriors of China all speak English.
     Bayonetta, drag queen aesthetics and heteronormative sexualisation
Certainly, this cultural representation is dependent on Kamiya's fantasised perspective, reflected in the way he describes the characters and their gender. Bayonetta 3, like many Japanese titles released in recent years, is perfectly embedded in the post-Abe philosophy, which encourages procreation in the name of saving Japan's demography. The emphasis on the nuclear family is very significant and highlights that the franchise has never been about queer representation. It has always been the product of Kamiya's thoroughly assumed fantasies. His conception of drag aesthetics fits into a patriarchal and sexist continuum. Jessica E. Tompkins et al. point out the deep connection between women depicted as strong and their sexualisation on screen, through their 'bodies as weapons'. Indeed, 'the female character's body is an object for use in voyeuristic pleasure and satisfying game combat. In a more empowering interpretation, the theme refers to depictions of women's bodies as the ultimate weapons, with an emphasis on physicality and violence as a means of overcoming obstacles' [1]. Bayonetta is always the target of Kamiya's male gaze, more or less subtly disguised, for whom drag queens are an object of desire, and which he transcribes onto a body considered 'purely female'.
Marsha A. Hewitt has rightly emphasised the importance of performativity in the behaviour of drag queens. They 'enact a "perpetual displacement" of traditional boundaries of anatomy and gender on a variety of levels, where identity is rendered fluid [...] in a continued hyperbolic and subversive process of "resignification and recontextualization", depriving "hegemonic culture and its critics of the claim to essentialist accounts of gender identity"' [2]. The fundamental problem with Bayonetta 3 is that it leaves no room for the agentivity of its female figures: all the women characters share the same fate, which is that of a false independence, one that the game takes pleasure in destroying as it proceeds. Because these characters are represented as 'real women', there is no longer any subversion of gender norms, but rather a reaffirmation of traditional patriarchal values, fiercely defended by the ending. Similarly, Bayonetta's dances are vehicles for exposing the sexualised female body, while adhering to cultural standards attributed to women. Although it is not possible to completely deny the idea of female empowerment through dance activities, it is still a tightrope on which reclaiming one's body is very difficult for female dancers [3]. I would argue that Bayonetta's dancing in the first credits provides an elegant and interesting contrast when it comes to gender representation and expression of intimacy, but that the majority of the game – and of the franchise – glosses over these issues, settling for a conventional sexualisation of women.
It is difficult to find any redeeming qualities in Bayonetta 3, because every game design decision seems to be an uncertain half-measure, as if Kamiya's desires were constant objections to the development team's creative ideas. The game seems mired in archaisms. It can only be explained by a chaotic development process, disrupted by successive releases of innovative games. Bayonetta 3 lacks both identity and direction, whilst being overly ambitious. When all is said and done, there is little left enjoyable, nor anything positive. The few functional sequences remain gimmicky and are forgotten as soon as they are over. In the meantime, the game insists on what does not work and was never the focus of the franchise. There is obviously a boldness in renewing itself and wanting to move on, but when the end result struggles to please most people, Kamiya's thinly veiled arrogance comes across mostly as hollow hubris. According to him, the franchise should continue for a long time, but one can only be dubious, considering what is proposed at the moment.
[1] Jessica E. Tompkins, Teresa Lynch, Irene I. Van Driel and Niki Fritz, ‘Kawaii Killers and Femme Fatales: A Textual Analysis of Female Characters Signifying Benevolent and Hostile Sexism in Video Games’, in Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, vol. 64-2, 2020, p. 7.
[2] Marsha A. Hewitt, ‘Cyborgs, drag queens, and goddesses: Emancipatory regressive paths in feminist theory’, in Method & Theory in the Study of Religion, vol. 5-1, 1993, p. 143.
[3] Lisa A. Sandlos, Shimmy, Shake or Shudder?: A Feminist Ethnographic Analysis of Sexualization and Hypersexualization in Competitive Dance, PhD thesis, York University, Toronto, 2020, pp. 73-80 and 121-125.

     ‘’I mean’, [Alice] said, ‘that one can’t help growing older.’ ‘One can’t perhaps,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘but two can. With proper assistance, you might have left off at seven.’’
     – Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass, 1871.
Played with BertKnot.
The genesis of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass (1871) stemmed from the relationship between Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, then a lecturer at Christ Church, Oxford, and the Hellenist Henry George Liddell. Liddell had heard of Dodgson's photographic talents and regularly asked him to take portraits of his four children. On 4 July 1862, as they strolled along the water's edge, he improvised a story for the middle daughter, Alice, which eventually became Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. For his pen name, Dodgson reversed his first name and called himself Lewis Carroll. An essential work in the modern literary canon, Alice in Wonderland has influenced many writers who have followed in its thematic footsteps: James Joyce, for example, borrowed the episodes of transformation and phantasmagoric hallucination when he wrote Ulysses (1920). But Carroll himself built Alice in Wonderland on an interplay of references and intertextuality.
     Narratological and stylistic intertextualities
Carroll was inspired by a collection of children's stories, which he freely parodied and reworked, giving them a nonsensical flavour. It is difficult to read Carroll without thinking of Edward Lear's extravagant poetry; the prosody of the characters in Alice in Wonderland was certainly inspired by The Book of Nonsense (1846). Carroll also retained the anticipatory and mythological aspect that Charles Perrault had introduced into his Contes de ma mère l'Oye (1697), but offered a radical change of tone. Where Perrault wrote with seriousness for a court of aristocrats, Carroll gave way to an unbridled freedom in which intense emotions surface on every page. Just as the author relished the art of portmanteau to create new words, so Alice's encounters are fuelled by rich and varied inspirations – the fruit of an imagination that improvised children's stories in the summer heat of Godstow.
Although Alice in Wonderland is an essential work for Japan, immortalised alongside the adventures of Sherlock Holmes as a symbol of modernity in the late nineteenth century, it is surprising to see a franchise like Bayonetta picking it up to deliver a spin-off just months after the release of Bayonetta 3 (2022). Although the fushigi is an important part of Japanese culture and has exceptional plasticity, the different tone of the game is intriguing. Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon is a radical departure from previous titles, adopting a childlike visual and narrative identity.
     Dreams, children's stories and the forest
The player assumes the role of Cereza, whose early years are revealed. Her mother was imprisoned and she had to seek refuge with the witch Morgana. She has been taken under her wing and taught how to become a witch herself. In the hope of obtaining the powers necessary to save her mother, the young girl decides to venture into the Avalon Forest. There she soon calls a demon, who takes possession of her pet, Cheshire. The story is told through the use of an old female narrator, who immediately sets a dreamlike mood, while the colours, sometimes pastel, sometimes shimmering, engulf the player in a restful serenity. The formula works and it is easy to get caught up in this gentle universe, despite the lengthy exposition scenes. Bayonetta Origins is driven by a very polished art direction, which contrasts with the visual chaos that was Bayonetta 3. The shading, lighting and colours give a paper-like quality to the backgrounds and characters, reinforcing the dreaminess of the adventure. Avalon Forest, a magical location with enormous trees and strange creatures, functions as a catalyst for youthful emotions.
Sometimes serene, sometimes disturbing, the forest of Bayonetta Origins borrows equally from the film adaptations of Alice in Wonderland and Hayao Miyazaki's Mononoke hime (1997). The emphasis on the light coming through the canopy is reminiscent of the 1951 adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, but the game is characterised by an abundance of visual effects and details, which contrast with the sobriety and uniform textures of the Disney film. The little wisps, although drawn from Gaelic folklore, bear a strong resemblance to the little spirits found in Miyazaki's work and their strong connection to nature. Either way, through the various elements Cereza obtains during the adventure, the game showcases varied colour palettes, which help to highlight the emotions Cereza and Cheshire go through. The calm and reassuring green of the early hours is replaced by gloomy reds or cooling blues; this variation in colour keeps things visually fresh and Bayonetta Origins manages to create some striking visuals, such as the arrival at the circus.
     The red train of reference
Musically, the title features an elegant and rather intimate soundtrack, painting a charming fresco full of lyrical flourishes. The various musical tracks are built up almost like a symphonic poem; the different layers are interwoven with complex percussion, creating a particularly ethereal atmosphere. The score is similar to the compositions of Charles Villiers Stanford, who also used Irish material as a source of inspiration; his Irish Rhapsody No. 1, Op. 78 (1902) evoked the love story between Cú Chulainn and Emer, which also involved an initiation quest for the hero. Contemplative sequences follow intense, dramatic and fierce climaxes, just as dreamy melodies alternate with battle themes in Bayonetta Origins. The prominent use of the piano is reminiscent of An Irish Idyll in 6 Miniatures, Op. 77 (1901), where it contributes to the pastoral quality of the composition, while in the game it is imbued with mystery. Most striking are the small melodic motifs, which are taken directly from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017).
Bayonetta Origins makes no attempt to hide its many aesthetic references to other video games. Unlike Bayonetta 3, where the inspirations were chaotic and failed to create an overall coherence, the borrowings in Bayonetta Origins fit well with the themes of a children's story. The micropuzzles are still reminiscent of the Zelda games, but without the holistic brilliance, and some areas are very similar to NieR:Automata's (2017) Amusement Park and Robot Village, Super Mario Odyssey's (2017) Wooden Kingdom, or Hollow Knight's (2017) final boss sequence. It seems to me that the chronological proximity of all these titles suggests a strong referential loan, matching the development cycle of Bayonetta Origins, which certainly overlapped with that of Bayonetta 3.
     Rejecting the absurd: an archaic and non-subversive approach
The title nevertheless suffers a structural shortcoming in this art of reference and in its unexpected artistic direction for the series. Torn between a desire for novelty and an obligation to remain in the bosom of its franchise, Bayonetta Origins struggles to forge an experience that goes beyond a simple charming discovery. While Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass featured very disparate scenes in quick succession to emphasise the strangeness of the universe, Bayonetta Origins quickly settles into a comfortable routine. Although the environments remain charming, the world-building often has the player returning to previously explored locations, while the notable areas, frequently saved for the bosses, are abandoned rather quickly. All the more burlesque and whimsical environments are trimmed away, as if the title was afraid to really commit to variety. Similarly, the game seems afraid to tell anything other than Cereza's initiation journey and her budding relationship with Cheshire; all information about the world is relegated to collectible notes and the wisps are pretextual and underused. They never contribute to a more complex picture of the forest, as the humorous touches in their personalities are not introduced during the exploration.
Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass stand out for their use of subtle and sometimes caustic humour, which contrasts with the childlike world Carroll draws – though it is very likely that these contrasts are more or less involuntary manifestations of Carroll's paedophile impulses, that he encoded his feelings in the absurdity of his text. [1] Beyond Alice in Wonderland, these tensions are emblematic of the modernist novel. James Joyce employed the same absurdist devices to create profound contemplation. When in Book V of Ulysses, 'Calypso', the story returns to Mr. Bloom, the reader thinks they have found a haven of tranquillity after the density of the previous sections. They are then surprised by a detailed description of the character's defecation after breakfast. This passage should certainly be read as a physical representation of the powerful creativity of existence and its capacity to generate art. [2]
     A structure prone to repetition
Bayonetta Origins fails to generate the same creative and invigorating excitement. Departing from the absurdity that formed the aesthetic framework of the franchise, the game loses itself in a children's story, in the strictest sense of the expression. There is no subversion, no clever rewriting of the series. Bayonetta Origins is sweet and very pleasant to explore, but it offers no other major ideas. It also fails to subvert the franchise's original gameplay, opting for an awkwardly symmetrical approach: the left half of the controller is used to command Cereza, while the right is reserved for Cheshire. This dichotomy is reminiscent of Astral Chain (2019), but clearly lacks elegance. With the camera behind the protagonist, it has always be natural to use the left stick to move them; in Bayonetta Origins, the overhead view shuffles the two characters around, making it difficult to adjust effectively. Because the title is relatively short, there is no time for the player to learn how to build up hand independence, and it is always easier to switch one's attention between Cereza and Cheshire than controlling them at the same time. This makes for generally dull fights, saved only by the dynamic light and sound effects.
The various powers acquired throughout the adventure also struggle to find an elegant expression across combat and exploration. Infusing wood allows for moderately interesting puzzles, but the next three fail to inspire the same usefulness during exploration. It is therefore unsurprising, albeit unfortunate, that the game's final chapters are a series of battles that are all very similar to each other. Bayonetta Origins seems reluctant to move forward, and the bonus chapter featuring Jeanne is a prime example of this. The title feels forced to tie its story to Bayonetta 3 in the most frustrating and obnoxious way possible, removing all the childlike magic that inhabited the spin-off.
It is unclear who the game is intended for. Understandably, Platinum Games could not have foreseen the release of Devil May Cry 5 (2019), nor the mixed reception of Bayonetta 3. Nevertheless, as it stands, Bayonetta Origins, even if welcomed as a breath of fresh air by a fraction of the franchise's fans, is a proposition so radically different from the original series that it is hard to see how it can sustain itself over time. Conversely, anyone who discovers the franchise with the spin-off will surely be disappointed by the aesthetic approach of the main series – not to mention young children, for whom it is not at all suitable. It bears repeating that Bayonetta Origins is a charming and enjoyable experience, a perfect game for children, even if it does indulge in some empty references and a repetitive structure. But if the magic works here, the title offers no real guarantee that it will be able to achieve the same feat again, clouding Hideki Kamiya's inflated ambitions, which were already undermined by a Bayonetta 3 that failed to find its identity.
[1] Morton N. Cohen, Lewis Carroll: A Biography, Macmillan, London, 1995, pp. 226-231. It should be noted that for Cohen, who is generally sympathetic to Carroll, there is no doubt about his pedophile inclinations, even if he believes that they are bottled up in the literary text. These elements are clearly known, and Vladimir Nabokov made no mistake when he wrote Lolita (1955), as he scrambled his connection with the main character by denying any reference to Carroll, whereas he took the liberty of quoting Poe, whose image was not as tainted as Carroll's. On this topic, read Brandon S. Centerwall, ‘Hiding in Plain Sight: Nabokov and Pedophilia’, in Texas Studies in Literature and Language, vol. 32, no. 3, 1990, pp. 468-484.
[2] Robert S. Lehman, ‘Original Nonsense: James Joyce, Marcel Duchamp, and Modernism’s Genius’, in Modernism/modernity, vol. 27, no. 2, 2020, pp. 339-360.

Early this year I played Fear and Hunger for the first time and loved my time with it. I praised its worldbuilding and gothic dark fantasy aesthetic while also acknowledging that some of the challenges the game presents can be extremely offputting to new players. I originally felt the difficulty was something you have to push past initially and then the game becomes immensely easier. When getting into Termina, my first thought was how this game was going to tackle difficulty compared to the first game given its larger scope, larger array of mechanics and completely different setting.
Termina takes place roughly 400 years after the first game and is now adopting a more modern European gothic look rather than dark fantasy. What I find cool is how seamlessly this updated setting creates a more character-driven game while also putting more of an emphasis on the story of the world. The plot centers around a battle royale between 14 different characters, 8 of which are playable. I don’t think I've ever seen this concept used outside of a multiplayer setting and it is utilized to great effect to create a hopeless setting where at some point you will have to kill companions or characters you enjoy. What makes this situation harder is how good the writing is for each of the characters as they all have their own comprehensive backstory that makes you feel sorry for them. The inclusion of all these characters also makes progression more interesting as I valued discovering new interactions and set pieces with the characters over finding new items.
The new mechanic Termina includes that works hand in hand with the large roster of characters is the new three-day mechanic. The three-day time limit the game sets up at the start sets a tension to make the most of your time between each save as well as to discover all the hidden events that take place during each day. Each of the 14 contestants can be located all across the map during each day, with their locations changing almost every time you save and the day progresses. This is a fascinating mechanic as you can potentially miss out on recruiting or killing other characters as well as witnessing events where other contestants kill each other or encounters where contestants turn into horrible Silent Hill monsters. These events all have the potential to occur each day and there appears to be more on the way in future updates that will hopefully make this mechanic even more comprehensive to all the characters.
Now the main point of comparison for the two games is how Termina handles difficulty compared to the first entry. The starting hours were near identical as I was plagued with frustrating enemies and mechanics that forced me to restart the beginning section of the game over and over again. Knowing now that I had limited saves put more stress on me initially as I didn’t want to waste one on a run where I lost a limb or gathered crappy resources. But just like the first game, once I finally started to grasp what the game allowed me to do and get away with the game became infinitely easier. Some examples of this include finding an infinite health farm, learning how to regrow my limbs, and utilizing my party to kill every enemy during the first term. The amount of customization on offer is pretty incredible as you can build your character and party in a way that accounts for almost every encounter. The inclusion of numerous additional skills, items, and equipment makes it hard pressed to find players that had the exact same build as you. With each playable character having unique skills, starting items, and interactions in the game, there is a lot of replayability and mixing and matching if one finds playing as one character difficult. The tools are all there to help you maximize your experience and when I finally reached that point it was incredibly thrilling to backtrack through areas that once gave me a challenge and instead become a walking god of death.
Fear and Hunger Termina is the ideal sequel where it greatly adapts and expands upon the original designs and mechanics of the first game. The art and aesthetics are much stronger and more realized culminating in a very disturbing and ethereal horror RPG experience. The amount of details and secrets on offer is mind-numbing that is simply impossible to encounter them all in one playthrough. With the game also continuing to receive updates that promise to add more events encounters and maybe even endings, Termina is a smorgasbord of content. I can already tell this game will adopt a cult following as there is truly nothing else like it. I am so excited to see what fans and creatives will do with the ideas and mechanics this game presents hopefully culminating in a new era of horror-themed RPGs.
My first playthrough clocked in around 19 hours, with 8 of those hours being counted by the in-game clock. So much of my playthrough was trial and error as I wanted to see what was possible in this sandbox and how I could maximize my experience. During my time with Termina, I couldn’t help but be astounded by all the creative designs, locations and story beats that just made me so happy that I chose video games as one of my favorite hobbies. One of my favorite details is how the entirety of ending A correlates to post World-War in a way that I feel is one of the strongest depictions of how the whole world changed. Just like the first game, Termina is not for everyone as it is so heedlessly cruel, especially on the higher difficulties. But I think if you are someone who appreciates it when a medium accomplishes something wholly unique to its genre you need to do yourself the favor and try it out. It’s one of the coolest games I’ve ever played and I am so happy I got into this series.

What does $1 get you? A forty-minute cheerful platformer that couldn't be more simple a game. The plot is you control a small yellow bird trying to get his ice cream back from the grim reaper of video games. The game sports 9 levels with a new mechanic thrown into each one with the themes of the levels repeating themselves after you beat the first four. That's pretty much the whole game. The basic movement is fun and responsive and I got a kick out of trying to speedrun levels. I definitely thought there was going to be some sort of twist as some of the levels built up that there would be some sort of finale but instead, it ends like any other level.
It really feels like a game that could act as an excellent introduction to the platforming genre but overall has very little substance or staying power. That being said I will always enjoy running around 3D retro spaces and the aesthetics of the game made me nostalgic. I've heard its sequel is far better so in my mind this game is simply a jumping-off point for the developer to hone their skills. Still worth the $1 though.

"It's good, for an NES game."
I see stuff like this a bunch, and to be honest it kinda sucks. I know as someone whose first system was the NES it may be hard to take my opinion seriously on such matters, as often this horrible thing called "nostalgia" clouds our vision of the true quality of games from our childhood. There's however a massive problem with this potential accusation towards me and Castlevania. I didn't grow up with it. My dad never owned it, and none of my friends had it for their consoles. Hell, I don't think I even knew what a "Castlevania" was until I read an issue of GamePRO with Castlevania 64 news in it.
There is no demented ghost voice or evil rabbit on my shoulder to go "oooOOOOOooo, tell them the game is good tho!" to everyone like with Crash Bandicoot 1 or something, even when they list valid and fair criticism as opposed to some hack using completely fake dribble like "Crash's cry of "WOAH" upon death disrupts my Netflix viewing experience" or some shit. That just simply doesn't exist for me here, because I didn't play this until I got emulation going on my PSP. As a matter of fact, may I perhaps offer a hot take? It's a take so hot that if you have central air in your home it'll probably kick on as soon you read it.
Belmont movement fucking rules.
Loose movement is neat, but the feel of me playing as someone who seems to be made of concrete and falls like they're under the effect of ten times normal Earth gravity does nothing but satisfy me as I land from a jump like a ton of bricks. Methodical platforming is my crack, to hell with that fast bullshit, I want to slowly strut my stuff and have to deal with the consequences of my actions if I don't think five seconds ahead.
From beginning to end, from Simon walking up to the front gates in that little intro cutscene and fighting the giant bat that reminds me of Golbat, to the very end when I send Dracula's head straight to Saturn and get rewarded with the shitpost credits brightening my day with "James Banana" and "Green Stranger" it never fails to entertain and I never tire of it. To say I could replay this X amount of times and never have second thoughts on doing so is as rare as the Jackalope for me, there are plenty of games in the same high end of my "enjoyment" spectrum that I can't say that about.
"Spyro on PS1? Sorry my friend, perhaps another time."
"Pokemon randomizer nuzlocke? Not feeling it."
"Shitty fighting games? Maybe next weekend."
"...Castlevania? Sure, I got thirty minutes to kill."
It's actually slightly difficult to resist the temptation of another playthrough upon viewing my list of completely-legal-and-dumped-myself NES games on my everdrive. Is a game that is infinitely replayable and only more enjoyable as you master it not the perfect game? Maybe if it came with cup holders and a winning lottery ticket it could be "perfect", but as it stands Castlevania to me gets as close as it gets. As some people say "good things come in small packages" or something, I guess they still say that.
Sorry for my random ramble, it was just something I was thinking on as I was replaying this for the 700th time as I was doing my laundry. NES games rule.

When it comes to games it can't be understated how easily a fun vibrant style can win me over. Hi-Fi Rush has this in spades as what initially pulled me was its gorgeous art style and excellent character designs. Almost everything this game brings to the table is presented with such confidence that it was hard not to appreciate what was in front of me.
What initially made me stick around was the extremely satisfying rhythm-based combat. Even a guy like me who often struggles with rhythm-based gameplay fell in love with how good it felt to get through an encounter without missing a beat. As soon as I heard the invisible crowd chanting my name as I got my first S rank I was hooked.
One of the features that surprised me the most was the game's emphasis on parrying. Being a hack-and-slash game I was not oblivious that there would be some form of parrying. This was something I initially dread as, even though I have played my fair share of these types of games, parrying was something I always found myself struggling with. Unlike these other games, Hi-Fi Rush sits you down and forces you to be somewhat competent with this mechanic. This irked me at first as I felt it was unfair for the game to roadblock me with a mechanic I was hopefully gonna try to use as little as possible. This lesson was what finally convinced me of how useful this mechanic is. Not only does the game become immensely easier once this mechanic is mastered, it is also the gateway to some of the most stylish combat I have ever seen.
Outside of the stellar gameplay, what I truly loved the most were the characters and their interactions with one another. Chai is such a loveable goofball that brings out the best in all the people around him. Watching his journey from a wannabe "rockstar" to a genuine rockstar was immensely enjoyable. The cast as a whole is one of the strongest I have seen in a while. The family love that slowly grows between them on all is genuinely one of the most wholesome dynamics I've seen in games.
A common fact about this game is how it just came out of nowhere. The success of Hi-Fi Rush should be a wake-up call for the industry that a game does not need all the marketing in the world to be one hell of an experience. Turns out that making your game with genuine love and creativity creates one of the most lauded games of the year. Hopefully, this marks a return to form in some ways where games start to incorporate aspects such as alternate costumes, challenge modes, and a boatload of other extra content without them being regulated to DLC.
Overall I feel this is one of the best games in its genre. Tango Gameworks has a record now of surprising releases with Evil Dead 2 and now Hi-Fi Rush. I am extremely excited to see what they make next.