28 Reviews liked by jbcrowe

It’s rare that I come across a game that puts me at such unease, makes me so uncomfortable in my own chair, that I simply lose the will to stop playing. Doki Doki Literature Club is one such game that caught me like this, as well as Daniel Mullins’ previous outing, Pony Island. I have a soft spot for horror that follows you out of the game once you turn it off, and on that note Inscryption absolutely delivers.
In this psychological horror meets roguelike card game, you’ll wake to find yourself trapped in a pitch black cabin across the table from a demonic figure, shrouded in darkness. It beckons you to draw from a deck of cards. You do so. You have entered the game, and you will play until you die.
Eventually, one of your cards moves. The stoat motions to you not to react, and tells the player that there is indeed a way out. There are two other living cards in the cabin, and after you and the stoat find them you can make your grand escape attempt. Or at least, that’s the plan. At the beginning the stoat serves as the player companion, providing commentary and clues about the cabin and the demon that you continue to play cards with. After an hour he will be the only thing tethering you to sanity as you witness unexplainable horrors unfold.
What makes the setup so damn interesting is that you are fighting only one opponent, the demon, Leshy, for the entire duration of Act 1. As you continuously build and improve your deck during each run, it will improve and change its deck as well. Inscryption is a tabletop role playing game taking place in a locked cabin, with Leshy serving as both the game master and the only other player. Every NPC you meet along the way is Leshy, every opponent is leshy, every wicked event to befall your poor player is Leshy. In act 2 things change a little, but no spoilers.
There is something cryptically stressful about watching a real demon lead a tabletop game in which it role-plays as many different demons, obviously working hard to make sure the game is fair for the player. Between every encounter round, depending on how the RNG rolls, you’ll be able to either add a new card, power one up you already have, or pick an item to keep. You can keep three items with you at a time. The items range from helpful to horrifying to both, and you’ll likely need to stock them up for the exceedingly difficult boss battles. Which are, again, just Leshy wearing a different hat and doing a different voice. And it is freaky beyond description.
The meta-horror elements of Inscryption are what make it a must-play for me, but the card game itself is extremely innovative and addictive. Each card is a monster with HP, power, a cost, and usually a sigil. Sigils are special effects that add a layer of unpredictability to gameplay, since the same cards don’t always have the same sigils. The wings allow a monster to fly high and attack the opponent directly, the dive allows monsters to hide from attacks underwater, etc. Each turn, you begin by drawing either a card from your deck or a squirrel.
The squirrel card is a fascinating mechanic - you always start with one in your hand, and you can draw one every turn if you think it’s the right move. Squirrels have 1 HP and 0 power, so they are quite literally only useful for sacrifices, but it heightens the thrill of the draw. Similar to many games, like Yugioh, a more powerful monster with a blood cost requires a sacrifice of less powerful monsters. Most turns, especially late game, the real question is whether to draw a squirrel and play it safe or draw from your deck and risk getting a card you can’t afford. The real mind game is more often with yourself than the opponent, as you rack your brain about how to win this battle you can’t afford to lose. Acts 2 and 3 offer a very different card game, each one just as intriguing in its own way.
Each run, the player starts with two lives. Every time you deal damage directly to the opponent, that number of teeth drop onto a balanced scale on the table. Whoever’s side hits the table first is the loser. This means that the battle is truly not over until it's over - finding creative ways to stall until you get a better card is not only doable, but necessary. In essence, you don’t need to deal x number of damage points to Leshy to beat it, you just need to deal 7 more damage than it has dealt to you.
Between rounds, Leshy permits you to stand up and walk around the tiny 10x10 cabin and explore. There are puzzles to solve, codes to input, messages to be found, and friends to rescue hidden around strategically. But Leshy will be watching you the entire time, so don’t try any funny business like leaving. Solving these puzzles unlocks new cards to help you in battle. Make sure to get up and stretch your legs a bit, because you’ll need to unlock these things to progress the narrative. Standing up and walking around with its eyes on your back is viscerally frightening.
Now, you may be thinking “well I don’t much like card games or roguelikes. “ I’ve got good news for you. Inscryption is a total deconstruction of both of these genres, finding the most twisted and uncomfortable ways to alter their structures and tropes to make sure you’re constantly on edge. One of my favorite things about Hades was that the deaths were canonical, and every time you failed you made a bit of progress and moved the story along. The same is true of Inscryption, but perhaps in a much more frightening way.
When your player character dies (and they will die, a lot) and the run ends, Leshy gives you the last-rights honor of creating a death card out of the deck you gathered along the way. You pull the power and HP from one card, the cost from another, the sigil from another, and give it a name. Leshy then pulls an old-timey camera out to take a picture of your dying face for the card and finishes your run there. The player wakes up at the table again as a new character. Yes, each failed run means death for your character, and Leshy brings in another unlucky person to serve as his plaything. This cycle will repeat until the end of eternity… or until you can stop him.
Luckily, the one glimmer of hope is that your powerful death cards will appear in random selections to your future players. Your dying grasp is sad, yes, but not surrender. A piece of that character will travel forward to aid someone else, and so on and so forth, after your death. There’s a strange, sad power in that mechanic. We all fight not to escape, but so that one day the nightmare will end long after we are gone.
My biggest complaint with Inscryption is that I am not at all a fan of the art style. I understand it is meant to make players uneasy, but I believe this can be done without using this ragged 3D-pixel style that just looks flat out bad. Act 2 and 3 change up the art style, but it’s still just kind of unappealing to me. The cards look great, though, and I love the style of the monsters.
Additionally, I didn’t enjoy the actual puzzles around the cabin, nor around the other later areas, and after a long while I brute forced my way through them without figuring out how they were meant to be solved. My second complaint, without giving things away, is that Act 2 is a lot less fun than Act 1. I enjoyed the narrative, but the actual gameplay fell a little flatter for me. Act 3 was a bit more interesting, but I felt it dragged on a bit. Although a lot of the dragging on was my inability to play card games well and my being new to the genre.
Inscryption is introspective in all the best ways, asking players to make unspeakable sacrifices and decisions throughout its roughly 15 hour narrative. As you struggle to escape with your card-confined comrades from the cabin and unravel the mystery of who and what Leshy is, you’ll be treated to a wildly addictive card game that has you fighting yourself just as often as the opponent. The boss battles are tough as nails, adding extra layers and conditions upon the rules of the card game, and you won’t be able to stop playing for fear that the demon might just be behind your desk chair.

The card game rogue-lite that they use for the first act of the game is honestly pretty solid even though I'm not the biggest fan of card game rogue-lites. I think the 2nd and 3rd act are more or less the same as the first but slightly weaker, which does diminish its staying power. The game has a pretty similar atmosphere as Daniel Mullins' previous games Pony Island and the Hex, but it didn't give me as many opportunities to explore outside of the core card game (the "metagame") as the Hex and Pony Island from my view, though I'm sure there are some secrets and leads that other more enterprising players have already discovered. All in all, I think I still like the Hex a bit more, but this is an interesting take on the interaction between video games and the player. I definitely would have loved more deconstruction of video game genres (more of the escape room/adventure game elements would have been great) similar to what the Hex did.

backflips over your fave dusty ass family recipe shooter and pops it in the fuckin grape. no sheepish old timer homages here buddy, just a non stop blood red blitz
i'm goin mirror's edge, i'm goin chad muska. maybe I wallride into a 180 using bullet time to send some goons to the morgue with a railgun, maybe I fire my red faction arm to strip the floor out from under them and pick em off midair, maybe I disarm a guy with a crouch slide and give him the pistol grip pump n slump. or why not do all three within the next ten seconds? by the time you finish each lightning round stage it's gonna look like a bomb went off at the voxel factory and you'll have done a few dozen things that have an emergent coolness a league above the competition
awooga... this sound design and music got me turning the volume up every 30 seconds like a sicko. I'm out here daring my tinnitus to come up n get me, and it's all worth it. guns got that heavy thwomp to em, enemies got that meaty chunk to em, and there's a real heft to the kinetics and feedback that you wouldn't expect from something so effortlessly agile and spry. that you could feasibly draw comparisons to FEAR while doing all sortsa freeform prince of persia bullshit is a minor miracle
campaign's over before you know it, but there's a solid lineup of alternate modes and remixed content that shifts the loop enough to keep things exciting. to my surprise the quasi-roguelite mode (rogue steel) ended up being my favourite of the bunch. suddenly you got modifiers like shields exploding, triple jumping, sliding at hyperspeed, and everyone's got a big fuckin head. add in NG+, firefight, unlockables, mutators, user content, and additional difficulties and there's a selection on offer that caters to a wide variety of tastes
in a sea of shooters aimed at pandering to your gen x grandpa it's real refreshing to see the rare exception that's not only rock solid, but succeeds entirely on its own terms
the genre could use more Smokin Severed Style if you ask me

I’m only on chapter 3 but can already say this is at least a 4.5 from me.
Incredibly elegant, cool tone, beautiful minimalist graphics, nice music, and most importantly, thoughtful puzzle design.
What a nice surprise.

stylish and incredibly fun indie FPS that plays like a pared-down cross between Superhot, Max Payne, Mirror's Edge, and Doom 2016. Campaign is just the right length, too, especially if you suck at it like me and keep having to replay levels after dying.
Review for the main campaign only; may come back later to try the bonus mini-campaigns and other content (there's even a roguelite mode that was added recently).

A platformer FPS that will keep you engaged 100% of the time you're playing. It's like the inverted version of Super Hot with some Mirror's Edge mixed in and all the concepts work very well together. I love how powerful you can feel without skimping on difficulty and you're rewarded for better execution. While the gameplay isn't repetitive, some of the utilities become so, such as weaponry and types of movement. The levels also some times feel clostrophobic and limit your want to utilize parkour, but the "Red Faction style" terrain explosion gives more traversing enjoyment. It's great fun and I highly recommend trying it.

>wall running
>wall kick boosting
>go inverted
its like titanfall and ultrakill had a baby that snorted a fuck load of crack

if F.E.A.R., Super Hot, and Max Payne concocted together, and made a game that was so short but enticingly sweet, Severed Steel is exactly that game

Fast paced first person shooters are some of the most fun types of games out there and Severed Steel even with its low budget capitalizes on all the fun very well. Genuinely every game with destructible environments and parkour is cooler for it. If this game went for the trifecta and added a grappling hook I believe It would of made me go into cardiac arrest. The weapons themselves are mostly forgettable (the shotguns and flamethrower being the most fun) and the levels while actually having some good and more than expected variance in their look do feel a bit repetitive (especially considering the objectives) but for such a short gameplay experience and with such a fun mishmash of random stuff + just that little bit of indie jank to hold everything together this game is great and a big recommend. There is some semblance of a story but not really and who cares anyways. But the fact you are playing as a girl does automatically elevate it. Sorry, I make the rules. I think a higher budget sequel with a voiced protag, a little more story and perhaps a bit more level variation while obviously not needed is like, an award winning please inject it directly into my tits kinda formula. I just want more destructible fps games there is no reason F.E.A.R. shouldn't of been more influential. But that's just me daydreaming. Don't go into this wishing what it could be and just let it take you on the ride of what it is. You won't regret it. Unless you're really lame.
This has been a Nancyfly mini review, thanks for reading <3
Up Next: Call of Juarez Gunslinger, and after that - Bayonetta
Nancymeter - 77/100
Game Completion #140 of 2022
November Completion #6

This game ends at the perfect time. It's similar to Rime in that both use minimalistic design and puzzling to attempt to deal with subject matter that exists in our lives (grief in Rime and childhood friendship in this) but The Gardens Between manages to convey the emotion and journey between friends much more effectively.
The game is very short, I think if it was longer the puzzling would felt like a drag and it would've gotten boring. I think the length of the game is also a good metaphor for how short of a time our childhood is. And like childhood, I won't be going back to The Gardens Between, but it was a memorable experience while it lasted.

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