- Good core concept! I'm a sucker for these (somewhat) inventive takes on sports, and while this is fundamentally still just air hockey, the MOBA character gimmick pulls enough of its weight that I almost immediately found myself spam queueing for games, trying to hone a strategy based on what went wrong in the last match.
- A lot of basic functionality missing at the moment. I didn't know that you could view champion abilities before entering a game, because the button to look at that information is one of the smallest on the main menu. Attempting to report a player opens a browser window - if you want players to actually report toxic behavior, you should do everything in your power to make it as easy as possible. The lack of communication makes it hard to grief your teammates, but it also means that you can't ping where you're sending the ball, you can't ask for a position swap, and attempting to strategize mostly looks like an attempt to induce Pavlovian conditioning in your teammates. The main menu has several dropdowns that don't look anything like dropdowns, meaning it's unclear how to change your character's passive abilities, what position you want to play, how to change the "default" character (the one selected automatically when starting a match), until you've clicked around enough to stumble across it. No dealbreakers here, the game is playable, but this is absolutely the time to make a good impression - once the streamer attention dries up, I'm wondering if this game's charm is strong enough to overcome the lack of QOL features.

An 8/10 game brought down significantly by frustrating encounter design. There are 40 levels in this game, each of which is a huge coin flip where one possible outcome is a treat, the player using their unlocks and abilities to make a mob of enemies look like fools. The other possible outcome is playing one of the most frustrating levels in recent memory - shotgun enemies showing up 5 at a time, any one of whom can one-shot you. Multiple un-stagger-able enemies whose only attack is a ground pound with an enormous hitbox that instantly ragdolls you. Multiple gun enemies pouring into an arena as a motorcycle tries to run you over, exploding if it hits a wall.
The hitboxes on enemy attacks in this game are truly massive, and it's incredibly frustrating when so many of them are one-shots, nearly one-shots, or have the ability to chain-stun you. The game is clearly designed purely as a power fantasy, but the ability of enemies to lock the player down ruins much of this fantasy as there's no satsifying way to counter the most annoying enemy habits. Perhaps more annoying than any attack is the enemies' tendency to constantly pick up things in the environment and throw them at you, resulting in near-constant slo-mo as you dodge roll around the map to avoid chairs, environmental hazards, bullets, one-shot command grabs, and ground pounds, none of which can be blocked or parried.
When this game works, it's fantastic - you feel like you're playing through a John Wick movie where they forgot to give him a gun, but if you try any of these fun cinematic takedowns at the wrong time, you'll likely die, since you take full damage and can be staggered out of any of these animations. It's bad enough that I actually went to go post on the Steam forums for the first time in a decade, and apparently I'm not the only one. The fact that you can go to the "playground" and customize your own encounters - and the fact that this instantly makes the game 40% better! - indicates that it's a well-made game that desperately needs an experienced level designer, someone who can figure out how to challenge the player without resorting to "dodge a lethal map effect every 2 seconds".

Developer is so unhinged that the infamously hands-off Valve banned them from posting in their own game's forums, so they've taken to posting their 1. transphobic, 2. anti-masker, and 3. conspiracy theory-laden ramblings in the patch notes, one of which has been marked as a "MAJOR UPDATE" on Steam (lol), simply titled "DONE"
Some links for those of you who would prefer to see the evidence:
- Imgur album of their Steam ""updates""
- Their now-banned Twitter account
- from the dev's steam profile lmao
RIP BOZO. fuckin loser

A very nice open world with an incredible amount of stuff to do, but this game's raison d'etre is milking you for money via a waifu slot machine, so they're deathly allergic to doing anything interesting with the game they've built on this chassis. People have already taken this game to task for the predatory nature of gacha mechanics, for openly aping Breath of the Wild's style (and doing it worse), etc., so I want to take this in a different direction and focus on what keeps the best parts of this game from being better:
Dungeons required for progression are locked behind a time-gated resource, with rewards that rotate based on the day of the week. The combat is serviceable and I could easily see myself grinding these if it let me (a la Diablo 3, spamming Nephalem/Greater Rifts). Many rewards are locked behind a story with countless unskippable, intrigue-less conversations - no human character that you actually see on-screen will do anything meaningfully villainous outside of the opening cutscene. It's a shame, too, because their writers have shown that they can actually create worthwhile stories in this universe - there's a fairly compelling storyline in Liyue about a lesser god whose kingdom collapsed around her, and it demonstrates the kind of stories that can fit in this world if you're not afraid of a character getting dirt on their clothes.
Every playable character is palatable, inoffensive, marketable anime slop. Male characters exist in three flavors: Twink, Tall Serious Guy, and Itto. Female characters represent a few more archetypes, but you're still not going to be blown away by the creativity on display here. Give me more varied characters, Mihoyo! You underestimate how horny people are - you can get way more adventurous than this and still have people dropping stupid amounts of money out of sheer thirst. Give me a silver fox character, give me a character with even 5% more body mass, give me an actual-ass evil character (not just assertive! I want evil!).
Why am I actually rolling for these characters, anyway? Optimal gameplay demands that I use one character 80% of the time, with the other 20% split between the remaining characters in my party - you swap them onto the field, trigger their abilities, and swap them out. Unless you're releasing a new character for the Main DPS role, there's no reason to give them interesting mechanics - not that this really happens anyway. Implementing new game mechanics is hard, and I acknowledge that, but Mihoyo has the money and the time to justify it. Currently, the most adventurous set of mechanics in the game belongs to Childe, whose abilities act as a stance system, swapping between ranged and melee - second place goes to Beidou who - wait for it - has a counter-attack on her basic ability. I'm hoping that with the eventual release of Lyney and Lynette we'll see a tandem character, but this would be radical compared to what's in the game now.
Genshin Impact has given me the worst gift possible by being a game that gives you valuable rewards for your time investment, but not interesting rewards. There's so much potential being left on the table here due to a complete dearth of ambition, but rough edges don't sell.

can't hear anything over the sound of spider-tongues and boot leather

I wish so, so badly that this were a better game.
Throwaway lore justifying the type of "pirates v. ninjas" conflict that the internet of ten years ago seemed so madly in love with. A fighting game core stripped down to its basics, so that even people who don't normally engage with fighting games can enjoy it. And I do, but none of the modes here ever feel like the one that you're meant to be playing. I'll break this down in detail below, but if you want the TLDR you can skip to the end.
1v1 - The character movesets offer mixups and combos that are easy to memorize, but leave very little room for player expression - there are players who use the entire hero's kit, and players who only know how to chain together 2 or 3 moves. Very rarely will you feel like you've played someone who has used a hero in a unique way, meaning that 1v1s feel more like a training mode for the "real" game than a mode that can stand on its own. There's no glaring flaws with 1v1s, so I understand why this is one of the more popular modes, but what am I doing this for? A lot of the things that draw people to play fighting games aren't present here - continuously honing your play on a character you like, expressing yourself by developing your own playstyle, etc.
2v2 - Mostly the same problems as 1v1, except for with the wrinkle that there are now additional players to worry about. Typically, people in this game mode will pair off into 2 duels, and whoever wins their duel first has to go deal with the remaining opponent. Sure, you could gank while your duel opponent is still alive, but because they can clearly see where you spawn and every hero is roughly the same speed, they're just going to come slap you in the back of the head as soon as you get to their teammate. This feels like the right number of players for a game mode in For Honor, but with no neutral objectives or macro gameplay to worry about, there's not a lot to chew on here either.
4v4s - There are a couple iterations of 4v4, but Dominion is definitely the more popular of the two. You capture and hold 3 zones that passively grant you points, and once your team has 1000 points, respawns are disabled for the enemy team. This is definitely the closest For Honor comes to having a "core" game mode, at least in terms of how it feels. There are entire systems present in 4v4 that are unusable in smaller game modes, and the maps allow for all kinds of traps and playing around enemy sight lines, taking advantage of the fact that 4 people is just enough that your brain can't hold all of that info while you're squaring off with someone chain-spamming Orochi's light attacks. The loadout system and the objectives allow people who are weaker mechanically to contribute to the team, and it means that even heroes with more rigid movesets (warlord) can still contribute to the game by adopting a support-like playstyle (or by cheesing players into environmental hazards). The issue here is that the fighting game-like nature of the game makes the ganking and other "no honor" behaviors incredibly frustrating for everyone involved. Despite all this, this game mode is so chaotic that there's no real way to strategize unless you can recruit three friends to join you (lol good luck). Most of your time in Dominion will be spent running from capture point to capture point, trying to formulate a personal strategy that makes sense amidst the broader chaos. Time for the Revenge mechanic!
Revenge - This is one of the ways the game tries to balance things for players who get ganked. Your combat options are severely limited unless you lock onto a player, at which point a little "shield" pops up on your HUD. With rare exceptions, every attack comes from the left, right, or the top, and you defend by matching the direction. When a player ganks you, any attacks from them will always be from the side they're standing on, making it easier to defend against them, and you'll build up extra "Revenge" meter, a buff not worth describing here except for the fact that you hulk out and temporarily gain a larger health bar. Skilled players can often 1v2 with the help of this mechanic, and skilled gankers will often try to repeatedly guard-break an opponent instead of throwing out a parryable attack. What this means is that a gank from an unskilled player will often result in the victim killing both of you, frustrating both attackers. If it does work, it feels like playing a fighting game where a second enemy player suddenly connects and starts throwing out special moves in the middle of your opponent's normal combo.
Conclusion: There are some interesting ideas here, and I really like the medieval-ish fantasy aspects to this game, but the same mechanics that are intended to serve as anti-frustration measures often make this game more frustrating for everyone involved. It's a shame that Ubi didn't immediately knock it out of the park with this new IP as it's one of my favorite ideas from them in recent years, and I'm not even sure what to call it other than a "truly 3D" fighting game. If you want For Honor without playing For Honor, your closest comparison is probably Absolver (maybe?), but I never felt like Absolver's world does anything to sell a fantasy. Beyond that, I'm not aware of anything that plays like this. This is the kind of fighting game that I want, the kind of fighting game I'd like to learn, but this iteration of it definitely needs more time in the oven. I'd love to see For Honor 2 (or a shameless rip-off), but I don't know if I trust Ubisoft to take the right lessons from this game.

So, listen. I don't really play fighting games. I know what most of the terminology means and generally understand what the frame data people talk about means, but when I'm playing these games I am two measly notches above truly mindless button mashing. I'm never the person who excels in games due to superior mechanical skill, so I'm not particularly interested in getting deeply invested in a genre of games where I'll never feel capable of mastering anything.
But this game? This game feels good. Other reviews here seem somewhat displeased with this game's potential as a competitively viable fighting game, but this is a dream for someone who engages with fighting games on the same level as I do - a level where you "learn" a character until you feel like you can do some mildly cool shit sometimes, and your eyes glaze over when you see some 40-input combo string appear on your screen. The lightning fast pace and truly bonkers mobility options set things up so you always feel like you're a split second away from doing something flashy and just laying into this little idiot baby who thinks they can cook you. Even defense feels chunky - successfully shielding an attack feels like a lightning strike. I can't even be mad about it, I get just as hype watching them block my own attacks.
Gotta love the characters too. These are VN characters, baby, and Nasu can't stop you before each match to make you read for 45 minutes about what constitutes a "vampire" in Souya, so it's a lot of fun seeing how they've adapted the newly-HD cast to squeeze character expression out of the animations. Mostly, this work was already done with previous iterations of Melty, but it's still fun to see the way Shiki and Aoko's mentor/mentee relationship translates into moveset similarities (and the way you can show someone three seconds of gameplay from the identical red-haired maids and they would immediately understand the dynamic the two have). Not exactly reinventing the wheel in terms of characterization here but it's schlocky anime fun all the way down. Even its most serious cast members are wound so ridiculously tight that you can't help but laugh at them ("the perfect combination of human and demon blood").
It is completely brain-off fun? No, but it's as close as a mainstream fighting game will come to providing that kind of experience.

The biggest thing this game gets right is survival/action gameplay combined with defined goals that can be knocked out in 30-90 minutes. In the same way that Battlerite felt like a MOBA without the laning phase, this feels like a survival game where the first five hours have been compressed into five minutes. It's a shame that there's nothing else really special about this - take a survival game, add a class system, compress the entire "run" into a couple hours, and that's it! Because things move so fast, there's never a whole lot of room for individual runs to shine - there's not enough time for you to feel like your "build" is doing anything unique, or like you've been forced to play in a weird way due to the way each run is "randomized". I think the ideal version of this game is somewhere in between the two modes presently available, where you'd have enough time to feel invested in a particular run and its unique qualities without feeling like you've just started a new full-time job. Creating this hypothetical game mode would require a pretty drastic re-imagining of the game's identity, so while it's unreasonable to expect devs to completely reinvent their game just for me, I hope there's a game dev out there playing this and going "Damn.. survival games really should be shorter."

You're telling me that two years after this game was unceremoniously shoved into its "Former Game of the Week"-themed grave, we're trying to bring it back? I won't stand for it.
I would've assumed that a game like this needs a hook, that the minigames need to actually be good, but after two years you can now play Tip Toe with friends and I'm not really convinced that that's enough to redeem the experience. Winning is still primarily the consequence of lucking out and not getting griefed into the sun, rather than a reward for actually doing anything right during the course of the minigames.
Maybe I just hate fun? Definitely a possible answer, but I'm mostly tired of streamers as tastemakers. I don't care about the latest Free-to-Play battle pass, no matter how many Hatsune Miku cosmetics or Lebron Jameses you put in. Release my friends, demon, I want to play games with them again.

It's more Forza Horizon but it's hard to be excited about - they've done the Hot Wheels thing before, it's cool to do a big-ass loop-de-loop a couple times, but ultimately it's just a handful of bright orange lines that keep you from using your fastest cars until you've done a few races and played a few of the Hot Wheels Advertisement Missions. I don't have any nostalgia for Hot Wheels, so I primarily find myself wishing that it was a little more like FH4's LEGO collab - slightly more imaginative.
There's still good stuff here, especially with the ice and water flume tracks, but you could mostly achieve this same result by adding more "Dirt" and "Cross Country" races in the base game. Still fun, but unless you're a massive Hot Wheels or FH5 fan, you'd probably find more enjoyment in purchasing an entirely new game at the same price point.

The other day the AC unit broke in my apartment, and maintenance sends up this kid (probably 16 or 17) to set up a portable AC unit until they could get it fixed. He looks over at my computer and says "I like your setup, what games do you play?" I tell him I hop between things and crank my brain up to Jimmy Neutron-brain-blast levels of power trying desperately to think of a single example of a video game I've played that a normal person would know, and I end up going "oh, have you heard of Dinkum?" He shoots me a look, immediately says "uh, no. I play Apex," and leaves without saying another word

I had a coworker describe this as "oh, it's like Day Z meets The Sims" and I guess that works? Really, I think the best point of comparison is NEO Scavenger, but that game gives me the impression that its fans use command-line web browsers, and Backloggd probably doesn't look great on those, so I'm assuming there's not very many of you here.
I normally despise survival games, and I think it's because for most of them, the "challenge" in surviving is that you have to run around for a long time before you can find the right thing to press E on to fill whatever bar is currently low. If you've only played a couple hours of Project Zomboid you'd be forgiven for thinking that it's similar, since you can survive pretty well doing just that for the first few in-game days. Food rots quickly, though, and canned food is finite, so you'll need to find a food source that isn't just "my neighbor's refrigerator" pretty early. Survival requires real planning and investment in Zomboid, not just reacting to short-term needs. And given that a single mistake of basically any kind can cause your death on standard settings, setting and achieving a goal (or even just surviving a week) feels like a real victory, no matter how small the ambition.
The early game of NEO Scavenger and PZ are pretty similar, although in my experience you escape "early game" much faster in PZ - unless you chose the "starter kit" option, your earliest moments in the game will be defined by running around the map with whatever you can cram in your pockets/hands: a bag of some kind (probably a trash bag), some vaguely weapon-like object, a couple ready-to-eat food items, and the most portable water receptacle you can get your hands on. If you survive long enough to set up a secure-ish base, you're probably set until the power and water cut off. After that, your next big difficulty hurdle will be to do all of this in the winter, with all that entails.
Big flaws? It's survival for its own sake, there's no endgame, and the developers have indicated that they have no interest in adding an end other than death for the player. If you can survive the winter and have a sustainable food source, only respawned zombies (on by default) will still pose a threat, meaning that the player will have to come up with some additional goals that aren't survival-related to keep things going. There's also the matter of early access - as things stand, the level of detail present in the game can lead players to make some misleading conclusions. In a game where you can die from cuts acquired while walking without shoes, you would assume first aid is a useful skill - wrong. Levelling carpentry or foraging will radically change your capabilities when interacting with those systems, but some skills (first aid is just the worst offender) function as noob traps, something that you should never go out of your way to improve. For the impatient, this game is also updated slowly - every new system added has comparable levels of depth right from the start, so while the devs post about upcoming changes constantly, no major content has been added since their (massive, overhaul-level, and yet remarkably stable) Build 41 update 7 months ago.
PZ seems to be one of the great success stories for Steam's Early Access program - you could release this game as-is and I don't think people would have much to complain about, so it's exciting to see that the devs are still feeling ambitious - NPCs, animals, an overhauled crafting system, etc. I think I've given somewhere in the range of 10-15 copies of this game since it first arrived on Steam 9 years ago, so I'm probably not the best suited to an impartial evaluation of this product, but $20 seems like a no-brainer of an investment for a product that has steadily improved this much and maintained a consistent level of stability/polish along the way.

It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that my (slight) discomfort when playing the Sims comes from the fact that I constantly boot it up expecting a different experience than the developers are willing to provide. The Sims contains a truly insane range of activities, hobbies, etc. that you probably wish you had the time/money to master IRL - as things are in the Sims 4 right now, you could go to your day job (President of whatever country this is), come home, learn how to bring a ghost back to life, go skiing, build a relationship with your pet llama, and write a hit song before you have to go to work again the next day. Honestly, it's kinda rad! I like that there's a huge variety of things for your Sims to dabble in and improve at. It's nice hopping between activities and watching your Sim grow, watching them rack up a number of achievements rivalled only by Forrest Gump. Despite this, playing the Sims feels like I'm constantly speedrunning activities and careers without really getting to enjoy any of them, and it took playing Project Zomboid and a couple major Sims mods to understand why.
The Sims games are very good at simulating social interactions, to the point where just clicking someone and selecting "Friendly" gives you a downright overwhelming number of conversation choices, from telling knock-knock jokes, to trying to console them, to just unloading on the poor fucker about every hobby you have (I think the "sentiment" system is one of the best things the Sims has ever added and I really want to praise them for that, but that's a topic for another day). Improving skills, on the other hand, seems to be less about playing out the fantasy of building expertise and more about providing opportunities to socialize, acquire money, or smooth out other inconveniences (e.g. becoming so good at repairing something that you can make items unbreakable). Bringing your Do Things Level from 1 to 5 mostly looks like clicking the "Do Things" or "Research Doing Things" buttons over and over until you unlock the ability to "Do Things Quickly".
To be clear, I don't think this is a problem, I just think it's a mismatch between developer focus and what I want in a life sim. But it's clear that the Sims is capable of more, because some of the most fun I've had with the game comes from the skills that change how you interact with the game, or ones that link with other skills. Cooking is already one of the more interesting skills because it's split into 3 different types of cooking - cooking, baking, and gourmet cooking, where you have to choose portion sizes and account for the dietary preferences of the sims eating the food. Acquiring the DLC that lets you grow a garden means you can try to live entirely off your own home-grown food, and when you have virtually no money and no recipes to cook at the start, the challenge it provides was enough to single-handedly renew my interest in the game.
This is what I want more of! I think the Sims would truly ensnare players to a dangerous degree if there were more of these skills that allow you to really dedicate your attention to improving them and working with their systems. There are mods that allow you to use the systems present in the game to grow and sell drugs, interfacing with the cooking system (making edibles), the social system (can discuss/share drugs), and the aging/family system (parents can search their teens' furniture for hidden drugs). I mentioned Project Zomboid earlier, and I think the Sims could learn a lot from Zomboid's approach - the way that many skills are still primarily performed through menus, but there are additional layers of investment required to interact with them. Cooking requires that you have the correct utensils (and is done by selecting a recipe template and filling it with compatible ingredients); repairing a car requires that you have the replacement parts, the tools to remove/install said parts, and also the tools to remove/reinstall any parts that are in the way of whatever you're working on. This is a bit technical, and I think it works for Zomboid, but it would definitely require some tuning to work in the context of the Sims, which is a far more casual game with a more casual audience.
I'm asking for a lot here, because I think the Sims is at its best when it offers players the option to really get lost in a fantasy, instead of skimming the surface of twenty different fantasies. Other games will always do this better if you want to go play a dedicated Lumberjack Simulator or MouthSimulater [sic], but by adding like 20% more depth to the skills and/or changing the ways they interact with each other, the Sims may just start consuming the souls of unsuspecting players.

Has perfectly scratched the rhythm game itch I've had lately. Between the massive tracklist and the huge amount of difficulty customization you'll always have a good amount of songs that are in the perfect sweet spot of being fun to play while also providing a reasonable challenge.
About the tracklist here - it's decently large, it covers a fair amount of genres (some of which seem like they straight made them up), but it won't be everyone's cup of tea as techno and D&B are wildly overrepresented, and if you're not a fan of K- and J-pop either the pickings are somewhat slim. The hip-hop here ranges from uninteresting to god-awful. The best offerings in both gameplay and music here come from YUKIKA (understandably) and other rhythm games. I don't want to link the whole tracklist here but I do really want to highlight some of the most bonkers shit that's on here: their tokusatsu parodies, the worst song I've ever heard in a rhythm game, this song that sounds like every alt rock song that was on American radio in 2002, this chorus that accidentally got left out of the Paradise Killer soundtrack, and my personal favorite - whatever this song turns into.
About moment-to-moment gameplay - the timing is fairly lenient, but you get virtually no buildup on your "Fever" meter if you're more than slightly off, it just lets you keep the combo. Notes are clear and it's fairly easy to sight-read songs, even with the music videos (which exist for every song) playing in the background. They're charted well, and it's always fairly easy to tell what sounds you're actually "playing" in the song. If it's hard to tell the difference between chords and slightly offset single notes, it's probably time to turn the note speed up a bit. The UI can be changed pretty thoroughly (and to some pretty absurd, borderline-unusable elements), and doing so makes it pretty easy to find a combo that makes the game more readable or gives it some personal flair.
Quite possibly the best rhythm game on PC at the moment - at least, the best among the games that have a fixed tracklist.
Some minor gripes:
- The music video illustrations are DeviantArt-tier, which is mostly fine, especially because you can just turn them off while you play if you really hate them.
- Why bother with volume sliders if they bottom out at 50%? At the lowest possible setting this is still the loudest game on my PC by a mile.
- I can't really tell how the "random" button on the Freestyle menu decides what difficulty to pick.
- Not really a complaint, but I thought the "missions" would be a good introduction to the game. In a sense, they are, as long as you only stick to the first, like, three missions. They ramp up in difficulty extremely quickly and are very clearly more of a challenge mode than anything.
- DLC pricing is downright punitive. I hope you don't like any of the rhythm games they've collaborated with, because if you want any songs from your favorite three-dollar rhythm game it'll cost you six times that price.
- Why can't I favorite songs in the live-play "Air" mode? I get that it lets me play songs that I don't own, but at least let me favorite the songs that I do. It doesn't show the title of the song after you play or when pausing either, so I hope you remember what it said before you started playing.
- I am so goddamn sick of hearing that League of Legends K-pop song, good god.