Bio
Casual gamer. I log the original version of every game that I play. The only current gen consoles I own are a Switch and a garbage laptop that can't run anything.

12/13/23: Removed all star ratings. Apologies to anyone who may have found them useful for recommendation purposes, but constantly thinking about games in terms of numerical score has hindered my capability to enjoy them to a degree that I can no longer ignore. This has been a long time coming.
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Favorite Games

Elite Beat Agents
Elite Beat Agents
WarioWare: Twisted!
WarioWare: Twisted!
Super Mario 64
Super Mario 64
Resident Evil
Resident Evil
Dark Souls
Dark Souls

449

Total Games Played

003

Played in 2024

012

Games Backloggd


Recently Played See More

Super Sami Roll
Super Sami Roll

Feb 25

Super Mario Bros. Wonder
Super Mario Bros. Wonder

Feb 01

Outer Wilds
Outer Wilds

Jan 14

Dropsy
Dropsy

Dec 30

Mass Effect
Mass Effect

Dec 20

Recently Reviewed See More

The "New" was only ever entirely literal: disappointingly, that subseries was essentially a Mario highlight reel rather than anything actually new. Of course, novelty isn't tantamount to quality, but it often feels like Nintendo's only strength as a developer in the modern age is their willingness to experiment. We'll never see another first-party Nintendo game that's not painfully easy and overtutorialized, or one that pushes its mechanics and is at all willing to punish you, or even one that feels mysterious, but buy a Nintendo console and you'll still always end up with a handful of exclusives that are at least fresh conceptually. Just... without "Mario" in any of their titles. Galaxy is far from my favorite Mario game, but it's the most recent one that actually felt like something new, which is concerning considering that it released when most of this site's userbase was still in diapers. We're in the mid 2020s now and traditional, lives-and-continues-based 2D platformers are basically dead and buried, but here comes Super Mario Bros. Wonder with what seems to be a singular, concentrated effort to be new and not just New. You can turn into an elephant in this one!

Unfortunately, though, the elephant powerup is even more emblematic of the entire game than anyone could've anticipated. It looks completely unique to Mario, and, I guess, technically, it is, as he's never had an upgrade that requires him to reload his projectiles before, but does it actually change the gameplay in any meaningful capacity? No. It's just another way to break blocks and attack enemies horizontally. The whole game is preoccupied with appearing new instead of actually being new, and, I mean, it succeeded in this regard, considering I actually bought it after skipping both New Super Mario Bros. U and Bowser's Fury. Wonder flowers feel less like a central gameplay hook and more like short bonus sections that are part of already minuscule levels. The only way they were ever gonna work from a mechanical perspective was if they all happened during high-pressure situations and forced you to adapt to unpredictable twists on the fly (although that would just be a rehash of Wario Land 4) and the only way they were ever gonna work from a spectacle perspective was if they actually went all in. For every wonder section that genuinely took me by surprise- switching the point-of-view to top-down or putting me in outer space or making Mario really, really tall- there'd be five that would just turn the level into an autoscroller, or just make the enemies bigger, or just move the geometry around more than usual. Too often, it's weird in the same way that Mario Land 2 is weird: visually, and that's it. Ultimately, it's far prettier than the New Super Mario Bros. games, but it's no less bland.

And outside of the wonder sections, there really just isn’t all that much to talk about. The badge system makes Mario’s moveset loose and flexible akin to something like Yoshi’s Island, but it’s missing the level variety and mechanical experimentation that made that game work. A few stages have bonus exits, but they lack any of Super Mario World’s pseudo-puzzle solving or sense of mystery. What’s left? The fact that it has a handful of decent stage-specific mechanics? (All of the other New games do, too.) Those one-screen puzzle levels? (Didn’t care for them in Mario Maker, still don’t here.) The weird, Dark Souls-ass asynchronous co-op? (I refuse to pay for Nintendo’s online service, so I can’t comment.) How every individual world feels like its own little adventure? (Alright, I admit it, I liked this one.) If you’re not going to be new, you could at least be cohesive- I’m a big fan of both 3D World and Odyssey, but I’d hesitate to call either of them particularly revolutionary, instead focusing on being a conduit for co-op shenanigans and a modernization of Mario 64’s mechanics, respectively. Besides being bright and colorful, is there a similar underlying summary that you could apply to Wonder? More and more, it feels like Mario is becoming Kirby: not striving for anything beyond a vaguely pleasant experience and producing no bad games, but no great ones either. Maybe my standards are just too high- after all, we don't expect Star Wars or The Simpsons or Halloween to be cutting-edge anymore, even though they were at one point, so why should we Mario? But, in 2024, this franchise is unrecognizable from the one that gave us 3's level map and World's secret exits and 64's moveset. And that just saddens me more than anything else.

This review contains spoilers

There's a lot to discover out there- or, there was, at one point, but it's all been discovered since, hundreds of thousands of years before you even hatched. Games like this can offer recluse from the harsh, pre-explored reality that we live in, so it's disappointing how often Outer Wilds shifts focus away from its naturally occurring astronomical mysteries and towards its ancient alien race that has already solved all of them. It's not about monitoring the cyclones on Giant's Deep and reasoning out that some push and some pull; it's about trying to get into an observatory that houses a model of the phenomenon. It's not about sending out a drone to take pictures of an angler and realizing that its eyes are glazed-over; it's about finding the skeleton in the Sunless City and the accompanying biologists' report that says that they're blind. Of course, you can figure out any of these things on your own, but the 22-minute timer actively discourages the extensive trial-and-error that's necessary to evoke a true feeling of discovery, effectively telling you to try visiting a different planet if you weren't able to make any progress on your last loop. The Nomai are undeniably essential as a way to tie all of the cool space stuff together, and their story is certainly worth telling, but I wish their findings weren't so well-preserved. There's an important distinction between discovering and just plain learning, best illustrated here by the Tower of Quantum Trials, which feels like the tutorial level of a Portal-inspired first-person puzzler rather than a part of a wider world. The gap between what's plainly written out for you (blind fish) and how you can use that information to reach your goal (move slowly) is pretty small, and it's only made smaller by the fact that your ship log neatly summarizes all of the important bits for you. What I crave most from a game like this is the feeling of being stuck, or, more accurately, of overcoming said stuckness, and Outer Wilds just doesn't deliver in that regard, and, as a result, I was never as into it as I would've liked. I kept waiting for it to stonewall me, for that moment where I felt like I'd exhausted every possible avenue, but it never came.

And yet... the game just works anyway. Contrary to how dour that first paragraph reads, I do enjoy learning (albeit less than discovery) especially when it's done this well. Every loop brings a new revelation, and not a single fact about the universe feels forced or out of place. I'd go as far as to say this is the most consistent set of internal logic that I've ever experienced in a video game, and it knows it, considering how much joy it takes in hiding things in plain sight. Of course that fog planet you kept seeing was the quantum moon all along. Of course Ash Twin runs out of sand eventually. Of course the Tower of Quantum Knowledge can get sucked into the black hole. Of course you can't land your ship on the sun station, why do you think it's marked with the same pattern as all of the other warp spots? The amount of mileage it gets out of being a game where you can't interact, only observe (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) is staggering, and what makes many of these world mechanics effective is that they're decidedly un-gamey. Most other games would've let you know in some way when you're being properly shielded by a jellyfish in order to combat I-tried-the-right-solution-but-it-didn't-work-syndrome, but the fact that you don't get any feedback and just unceremoniously pass through the electricity barrier makes it that much more satisfying. It seems like it would be great fun to watch someone else play this game, smirking internally as they walk right past something that you already know is cosmically important, and laughing hysterically as they destroy their ship by ramming headfirst into a planet at 400 m/s. Because it's hard to imagine this game going anywhere without committing to the unforgiving physics of outer space- aside from the ship's autopilot system, arguably, no corners are cut here, culminating in an environment that feels appropriately cutthroat. Get too close to the sun and you're screwed, drift too far from your ship and you're screwed, forget to stop and refuel your jetpack and you're screwed. It's a nice reminder that we as humans (or as Timber Hearthians) have no real way to conceptualize true three-dimensional movement, and, as a result, arriving anywhere safely can often feel like a small miracle, which leads to the game's best moments. Carefully following the gravity crystals to reach the Hanging City for the first time, struggling to land on the quantum moon while simultaneously viewing a picture of it, and, of course, that final trek- replaying the end of loop music during was nothing short of brilliant. I'm much more mixed on that overly artsy indie epilogue, but getting to the Eye at last was the perfect capstone for an experience that deserves its reputation as a universal recommendation... even if my personal solar system wasn't as shattered as many others' were.

You ever go back and watch, like, Shrek or some shit and then you're like "wait a second, since when was 'Bad Reputation' in this? And how does it work so well?" That's every single stage in Elite Beat Agents. A dozen and a half action-packed vignettes concerning characters trying to do anything from babysitting to drilling for oil to surviving on a remote island, accompanied by a licensed music track that, more often than not, feels lyrically contradictory to what's actually going on in the story. And as you're walkin'-and-a-talkin'-and-a-movin'-and-a-groovin'-and-a-hippin'-and-a-hoppin'-and-a-pickin'-and-a-poppin', you might ask yourself... How? How is it that these specific soundwaves, produced by these low-quality DS speakers, originally devised by pop stars who were already outdated by the time this game released, are able to compel my stylus to fly across the bottom screen so quickly? And with such precision? Because, even if you ignore how genuinely witty this game is, parodying at once both American movie montages and the concept of rhythm gaming itself, it's so utterly mechanically satisfying at a base level. There are few, if any, video games that bring me more joy than what I feel whenever I manage to drag myself out of the red with a perfect string of beats as the EBAs pick their heads up and start chanting in tandem to my actions during the most frantic section of "Sk8er Boy" or "Material Girl." And, yeah, the two scoring systems are at odds with each other, on higher difficulties you can die just because there's too large of a gap in between notes, and spin beats don't serve much of a purpose. But, having just now finally completed the game with the Divas after leaving them sitting on "Without a Fight" for the last who-knows-how-many years, I think I can safely admit to myself that I simply do not care. Most of the time, whenever I'm playing a different rhythm game, I just think about how I could be playing Elite Beat Agents instead. And whenever I think about Elite Beat Agents, I usually think about how they managed to cram three minutes of blatant sexual innuendo into a Nintendo game, and how it happens to air while you're playing as an anthropomorphic representation of a teenager's bloodstream. Or I think about how it presents the most painfully melodramatic Christmas story of all time, focused on an anonymous family that you have absolutely no connection to... and how it still works on an emotional level just because Chicago happens to be playing in the background. But, mostly, I just think about how, whenever I hear any of these songs in isolation, I can still visualize the pattern of in-game beats that appear during each section of the track. Music lives.