52 Reviews liked by ber

What a wild fucking ride. A must-play for anyone who loves mysteries. It's so satisfying to watch the larger story unfold over these chapters. I could play 1000 of these.

This review contains spoilers

In a game of constant revelations and unexpected twists, maybe my favorite was the growing understanding that you aren’t really a detective, unraveling the mystery and bringing the guilty party to justice, but more just an observer, simply charting the flow of history and watching the chaos unfold. Especially as you get deeper and deeper in the game, the conspiracy’s generational scope and ever-expanding reach seems like it’s only been afforded by this unique position, but I do wonder if it’s an approach that explains some of the game’s weaknesses.
You’re meant to fill in a mad-libs style description of events with the names and phrases you find in the environment, and you get a notification if you're down to missing two clues or fewer, so once you know the basic shape of the mystery and feel out the one phrase that you’re missing, it’s easy to spend much of the game feeding data into the machine until it spits out the correct result, and not earnestly working on understanding the "who" and "why" of the case.
Less of a problem as the game goes on and each scenario gets has so many moving parts that it’s faster just to try and make sense out of everything, but it seems like the behavior that would be harder to get away with if you were a key figure in the story (Like, I doubt in most other mystery games you would let accuse everyone- and then every combination of names in the word pool- without reminding you of how graceless of a solution that is.)
On the other hand, this voyeuristic quality helps embrace another side of player behavior; as you progress through the game you end up building on so much of your prior knowledge that it’s often valuable to jump back to some older scenario and refresh yourself who’s related to who and the other bits of connective tissue in the world. Certainly wouldn't be disastrous if this was a non-diegetic action, but it comes far more naturally to a game that frames everything as part of the timeline of events- flipping back and forth between key points until you finally understand the connective tissue of the world.
Though even as I started to really get into the game, scribbling theories and notes about each of the cases, I also couldn’t help but think a lot about the one-off nature of these detective games as well. Know it was on the mind of because of a talk mentioned by CarbonCanine is his review of Tunic on his GOTY 2022 list, where designer Eriz Zimmerman questioned the legitimacy of the mysteries provided puzzle-box games, in comparison to the continual sense of systemic discovery provided by games such as Chess or Tennis.
While his framing of the point is kind of harsh, I generally agree with what he's saying, and it also seems like one of other limitations of this sort of puzzle-box design is that you also get very fragile mysteries- have a solution or the story spoiled for you, and it's likely you’d lose a tremendous reason to play through them. I know it was the reason I was so reluctant to look up hints and one of the reasons I’ve been so wary to discuss the plot in greater detail. I’m not even sure whether or not knowing that you’re going to really fully experience the game once is good or bad, certainly felt like it prompted a greater degree of engagement with it than if I knew I was going to revisit it again and again, but I also wonder about the enduring qualities of such games- which seem to fall by the wayside once everything is solved and filed away.
Hope that one day we get some mystery titles where those mechanical truths aren’t just limited to that first playthrough.
Extra thoughts:
- Great example of “perfect information” as well, similar to something like Into the Breach. Most scenarios only consist of a few screens, and the default setting highlights every interactable object in the environment, so you don’t have to engage in pixel-hunting or worry that you're stuck on some puzzle you don’t even have a full understanding of.

- Loses points for framing "overthrowing the monarchy” as villainous.
CarbonCanine, The Thirty-Five Best Games I Played in 2022, Link

"...on the one hand, it seems like you are creating this wonderful palette for players to have these wonderful experiences of discovery and mystery...on the other hand, I also kept on thinking that it's almost like we're sort of coddling the player...You're designing this sort of baby crib for the player...like a special place for them to be able to crawl around and have these artificial experiences of discovery and mystery...and I was thinking about Meg Jayanth (who's a game writer), and she was writing and speaking about her experience with 80 Days and talking about this notion of 'player entitlement'; that as game designers often we are there to service the players and bring them pleasure, and as an alternative we have to kind of challenge them, to not put them at the center of the universe...and I don't know what the answer is, and one wonders what the alternative can be, but I think about what 'mystery and discovery' is if one is getting really deep into Tennis or Chess, like uncovering a system as you are in conversation with another player...or uncovering the way that other people are expressing themselves through the game, which is different than...finding the little trails of breadcrumbs that you've laid out for them."

A really enjoyable game of deduction, with good-looking pixel art reminiscent of '90s point-and-click games. With only 12 levels, I wish the game was a bit longer, but what's here is fantastic, and exploring each scenario to hunt for clues is a lot of fun.

It feels like playing an amazing animated movie. The music is amazing, the characters are captivating and the gameplay keeps itself fresh at every point of the playtrough

A welcomed reminder that video games do not need to be 60+ hours long, open-world, bloated with content and heavily relying on multiplayer, to be fun. Hi-Fi Rush literally came out of nowhere and nearly every second of its playtime SLAPPED!
'Sunset Overdrive' meets 'Crypt of the Necrodancer' with the flavourings of 'Bayonetta' and the comic comedy of 'Scott Pilgrim vs. The World'. Every element to this neatly packaged experience was brimming with charm, personality and just plain fun. The soundtrack, ranging from Nine Inch Nails to The Prodigy, slapped when flailing my guitar to the beat. The art stylisation was impeccable. The voice acting charismatic. The combat fluid and incredibly satisfying. The bosses intense and varied. Just...what a game!
My only gripes are the forced parrying (I suck at parrying, so that's a me issue) and the occasionally long level design. But these are nitpicks to what is a flippin' rockstar video game. ELECTRIFYING!!!

This review contains spoilers

I have a lot of thoughts on this, but I need this to sink in before I express them fully. But for now, I think this has amazing gameplay and writing, but the latter gets clumsy in the third act and sours the story for me.
Earlier this week I watched a video about what makes good combat in video games, and GoW (2018) checked all the boxes. Ragnarok adds a few more boxes and checks them too. The combat is really solid. Sure, it's mostly the same from 2018, but I love the extra polish and how there's more opportunity to switch between weapons. I ended up doing all the side quests, fighting all the side bosses, upgrading all my weapons and armor, finishing all the combat challenges... and I still wasn't bored with the combat. The weight and flow of it is consistently satisfying.
I also can't praise the direction of this game enough. The performances, the direction, the fine details are phenomenal. All of it raises the bar for the future AAA games.
I think the main thing is stopping this from being perfect is the story. I feel as if the writers had a sense of what they were going for in the first 2/3 of the game, but the last act is just incredibly rushed and unpolished.
Here's a list of gripes I had with the story (and especially the pacing):
- things just feel too rushed. There's a point where Freya goes back to Vanaheim and we follow her, and suddenly her brother is kidnapped? Now we have to find the moon and save her brother within like 5 mins of things having been okay?
- After we rescue Freya's brother, there's a scene on a flying boat. Everything is chill and suddenly dragons attack. Now we see this guy sacrificing himself. There's music playing and its supposed to be emotional, and I'm sitting there thinking... "who the fuck was that guy? was I supposed to know him?". It's just some NPC that we never really interact with. Why have him there, and why give him such a big sendoff if we've never talked to him?
- We never fully understand the World Serpent's story. It's just "implied" that he went back in time after Ragnarok. Wtf? It's such a big thing that they kept teasing in 2018 but now its an afterthought.
- So many new characters are introduced (specifically Thrud and her family, Freyr, that Midgardian kid)... and they never feel fleshed out. Their storylines aren't explored enough, and they all kind of pop in in the last act and just leave. They all feel poorly written as a result of it.
- We never explore what happened to Sindri after Brok's death. He's angry, helps in the war, and then what? Brok's death is such a huge moment but we don't get to see anything about how Sindri was impacted and how he's doing.
- Throughout the game, Kratos says he doesn't want war. And then in the third act, he wants war and works to make it happen. Then 5 minutes into the war, he doesn't want it anymore and wants to go after Odin alone? What the fuck happened?
- Surtr says he can't help. Then a minute later he's like "jk, actually I can"
- There is no army to wage war with. Characters go to raise an army offscreen. We see none of it. Then we step into Asgard and suddenly there's already a war happening. Everything is so rushed!!!
- After the war is over, Atreus wakes up, sees his dad and the first thing he wants to talk about is how he is leaving. They hug and he leaves. What? They literally just killed Odin and lost 2 friends in the last 24 hours. The writing here just felt so unrealistic. Either Atreus is a sociopath who only cares about himself and his adventures, or the writers just forgot what these characters have been through in the last day
- Faye is brought up a lot in this game, and with every occurrence Kratos is reminded that she held back information from him throughout their relationship. They keep hinting that they will receive some information, some missing puzzle piece, that will make Kratos understand why she did this. But they never do.
- A big focus for this story is prophecy. The characters are constantly following what a prophecy says they will do... but then suddenly they tell themselves that prophecy is all bullshit... and then none of it matters. It just feels like there was more here that we didn't get to see. They just change prophecy by saying "we make our own path"? What is this, Narnia?
Idk, I guess its really clear that I had a big issue with the pacing and the writing in the 3rd act of the game. The first 2 acts are solid, really a masterclass in video game writing. But the last act left such a sour taste in my mouth. My theory right now is that this very clearly needed an extra game. They needed to flesh out the new characters, give more insight into the story, let the "prophecy" and "war" plot simmer a bit more.
Right now, I'm leaving towards a 4/5 for this game. Despite all these issues I had with the third act, I can't deny that the rest of the game is pretty incredible.

A puzzler disguised as a first person shooter, SUPERHOT asks you to pierce through ruby foes with whatever you can find, while managing your position to avoid getting shredded by bullets. Time is frozen when you aren't in motion, and while you'd be fooled to think this makes it easy, its honestly a saving grace. Enemies are relentless, and your character is as fragile as a vase.
This game mixes the brevity of Hotline Miami's gameplay with the clean, corporate aesthetic of Mirror's Edge. However, it manages to come out feeling wholly unique. Despite its seeming inspirations, its story is practically nonexistent. I mean, there is one present, but it doesn't amount to anything. Its honestly a shame, because the cutscenes are incredibly stylish, and fun to watch.
The game keeps things short, and manages to sit under two hours. I honestly loved this, as it means the game does not overstay its welcome. That said, I do feel as if more could've been done with the level design. There are a few twists here and there, but overall the gameplay loop doesn't really evolve beyond the first chunk of levels. I'd almost say this is style over substance, as the sharp art direction and killer sound design kept me completely engaged throughout my playthrough.
I missed this one upon its initial release, and though I don't regret skipping out on it for so long, I can see why its so beloved. SUPERHOT has its flaws, but overall, it manages to be a unique, memorable, entertaining experience. You'll know if this one is for you.

New an entry point in Yakuza series. New hero, new city, new fighting system (this time competent JRPG system which at narrative basis is a pastiche). I really like that main plotline is inspired by Japanese novel Coin Locker Babies. Moreover, it is very refreshing when the protagonist and main allies of the hero are adults who the best years of life have behind them. On the other hand, the main hero is so optimistic and cheerful that resembles shounen protagonist but in adult drama.
The game screenwriters have many interesting insights about grey area, NGOs and democratic system.

Up there with 2 and 0 as the best that Yakuza has to offer. A new beginning that switches everything up and provides some funky fresh flavour for the series.

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