I love video games. :) I also love wrestling and cats. I'll only post reviews here as I play/replay stuff, so they're fresh in my mind.
Review guide:
The criteria I rate with are as follows:
- Visuals (graphics, art direction, color design, UI)
- Sound (music, voice acting, sound effects)
- Story (plot, writing, characters)
- Gameplay (mechanics, controls, level design, systems)
- Worldbuilding (lore, environmental design, atmosphere)
- For stuff that doesn't really have a story (i.e., Tetris or Donkey Kong Country), I instead rate replayability. These types of games are all about hooking you on the gameplay/keeping you engaged, so I feel that it's fair to rate that.
I give a short number review before going in-depth for these sections.
Personal Ratings


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Favorite Games

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number
Fallout: New Vegas - Ultimate Edition
Fallout: New Vegas - Ultimate Edition
Hollow Knight
Hollow Knight


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Red Dead Redemption 2
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Dino Run DX

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Miracle Merchant is a mobile game, one both pleasantly simple and surprisingly nuanced, about combining colored cards to create potions for customers. When I first found MM in the app store years ago, I fell in absolute love with its art style; and after downloading it, I was happy to discover a short, addictingly fun gameplay loop to back that presentation up. It may not be something that you’ll play everyday for weeks straight, but MM is perfect for ten-minute bursts when you just need to pass the time.
No matter what, this is easily one of the best-looking phone games I’ve EVER seen. It’s honestly stunning. The style is bold and colorful; it’s cartoony, in that charming Adventure Time way, while also showing a great attention to detail. The artist, Thomas Wellman, is very talented.
The environments are a prime example of this. Even though there are only a few, each one adds so much flavor to the game’s style and the fantasy setting as a whole. The opening credits sequence - which is skippable, but I recommend watching at least once - shows off the potion maker’s village. We see various cute buildings, such as a magic shop and a clockmaker, before landing on the potion shop itself, a line coming out of the door.
The main menu then shows our potion maker, a tiefling-like fellow, hard at work inside his shop. He’s surrounded by equipment and ingredients, mixing up a concoction in his mortar and pestle. A neat detail is that when you start a game, the camera pans upwards, revealing webs of pipes and shelves full of potions.
Last but not least, there’s the rest of the shop, which is shown once you begin playing. Lining the walls are shelves filled with all kinds of knick knacks, such as skulls, plants, and logs of wood. A beet, a dead bird, and a fish hang from the planked ceiling. The door outside gives us another glimpse of the village, as well as a night sky full of twinkling stars.
It’s such a wonderfully whimsical little fantasy world, and like I said, the detail is palpable. Even the UI is perfectly stylized to match the aesthetic. During games, the bottom half of your screen displays a wooden table stacked with the decks of cards, complete with a decorative mat. Additionally, all of the menus/buttons are drawn as scrolls and pieces of paper; I think it’s especially cute how the little options at the top of the main menu are taped to the pipes. It lends to the warm and inviting feeling that permeates the game.
Without a doubt, though, the best thing about the art is the character design. The cast members aren’t just cute and appealing - they each feel like a fully realized little person, despite the game’s interaction being so basic. Each one expresses so much personality through both their appearance and their little mannerisms. My favorites are the yellow guy with big eyes and a snout-like mouth, and the nordic-like redheaded man with a rooster.
The last integral element visually are the potions themselves; after combining four cards, you’ll create a brew for the customer, whose final appearance and name are based on the cards’ most-used color. These are also accompanied by a smaller token - such as a tomato or a starfish - which I believe is based on a lesser-used color.
Each potion is so visually interesting. Many of them are quite weird or conceptual, but they still marry perfectly to the color(s) - and by extension, the elements or ideas - that they represent. In fact, I only have one gripe with MM’s visuals. I just don’t feel like the potions are given quite enough attention. After all, they’re the final product you’re working towards making; yet they only pop on screen for a few seconds before being sent off. It would be cool if there were a more engaging animation or presentation to go along with them. There IS a potion book that tracks what you’ve discovered, which is a neat little feature, but you unfortunately have to buy the full game to access it. Ultimately, though, this is a very minor gripe and it’s not something I’ll hold against an otherwise perfectly-crafted experience.
Similarly to the art, MM’s sound is very well done. A single track, consisting of a simple beat and acoustic guitar, accompanies your brewing. It’s a calming piece that I never find myself tired of, much like Minecraft’s piano melodies. Then, there are relaxing brewing sounds going on in the background to set a perfect atmosphere; and the cards’ sound effects are the satisfying cherry on top.
Another detail I love are the little noises that the customers make in lieu of speaking. They’ll occasionally let out a ‘hmm’ or the like. It’s such a small thing, but it adds even more personality to the characters themselves and the world.
Lastly is, of course, the gameplay. Fortunately, it’s easy to catch onto here, but there’s also many mechanical nuances to keep the game challenging. As I’ve mentioned, you create potions by combining cards from four limited stacks, each representing its own color - red, yellow, green, and blue. Every individual card may have a symbol on either side or on its middle, which can in turn be any of the four colors itself. If you place that symbol’s color on the board - either on the corresponding side of the symbol, or anywhere, if it’s in the middle - the ‘point’ value of the original card increases.
The goal is to get as many points as possible, while fulfilling each customer’s demands. They have two individual requests; the first is a required color, while the second is an optional color they’d like included. For each of the latter cards you include, their individual point value is doubled.
You also earn points based on the general positioning of the cards in relation to each other. If two of the same color are side-by-side, it’s called a ‘twin’. Three side-by-side are called a ‘triplet’. Four matching are called a ‘distillate’. One of each four colors is a ‘mixture’. These are a huge source of points, meaning they’re really important to consider.
The biggest difficulty of the game is managing the black cards. These give negative points (either -1, -2, or -3), and are randomly shuffled into all four decks. If you don’t feel like you can play around a black card at a given moment, you can periodically boot the current customer to the back of the line - which I recommend doing at least once anyways, so that you know what’s coming at the end of the game and can be prepared.
And that’s all there is to it. Each mechanic is so easy to learn, and they work together completely seamlessly. My only real issue is that the black cards can be quite annoying to play around at times, especially when it seems like there’s just more of them appearing than usual. At least there’s never two in a row in a single deck.
The overall simplicity makes this such an easy game to come back to time and time again, though. I’ll forget about it for weeks, then randomly get the urge to play it. I stopped writing this review multiple times just to go play a game or two… partially for research, and partially just because it’s that fun.
I think MM’s only noteworthy flaw is that there’s really not much to it at the end of the day. Games obviously always play out the same way, and there’s no alternative modes or anything like that to explore. There IS a daily game/leaderboard, which is nice, but I do wish that some more stuff would’ve been added over time.
Still, Miracle Merchant is such a fantastic little experience - especially since it’s free and easily accessible on your phone. The presentation is top-notch, and it’s so fun and relaxing. I’d highly recommend trying this out, especially if you enjoy card games.
Visuals: 5/5
Sound: 4.5/5
Gameplay: 4/5
Replayability: 3.5/5
Overall Game Score: 4/5 [4.2/5]

One Night, Hot Springs is a wonderfully heartfelt VN centering around a trans woman named Haru. Haru is invited to go on a trip to the hot springs with her childhood best friend, Manami, and Manami’s other close friend, Erika. While there, she must navigate her anxieties about being publicly trans, as well as her relationships with the two other girls - one old friend, and one new.
As a fellow trans person, I really appreciated ONHS’ story. It’s an authentic look at many issues we face, whether that’s discrimination, ignorance, or the fear and self-doubt we feel internally. It addresses all of these topics in a thoughtful, kind, and informative manner, while still maintaining its integrity as an enjoyable and positive story.
There were parts of this game that even I found educational. I particularly learned a lot from the conversation addressing Japanese anti-trans laws. Staying aware of these kinds of things is undoubtedly important, so that we can support our community worldwide.
ONHS’ narrative is not built on trans suffering, though; it’s instead a celebration of transness, and the little victories we achieve in everyday life. It’s about friends, facing new experiences, and relying on others for support. It’s about finding some kindness in the world even when you don’t think there is any.
A big part of what makes this such a good story, aside from the wonderful themes, are the characters themselves. Haru is an instantly relatable protagonist for many, given her anxiety, self-doubt, and introversion. Meanwhile, Manami directly counteracts her with a lovable, outgoing personality; she’s so positive that it seems like nothing bad ever happens around her. Lastly, there’s Erika, an ex-delinquent who may seem a bit abrasive at first, but turns out to be a huge sweetheart herself.
All three girls are individually likable - but they’re even better together! Their diverse personalities lead to a lot of fun and interesting interactions. The dialogue is so cute and overflowing with chemistry. All of their relationships feel genuine and unique; I particularly enjoyed watching Haru and Erika grow closer over the course of the trip.
To understand the full scope of ONHS’ story, and these characters’ relationships, you’ll need to replay it a few times. There are a total of seven different endings - a good, a bad, a normal, two dedicated to Manami, and two dedicated to Erika. The latter four are undoubtedly more fulfilling, and their specific choice paths reveal intricacies between the girls you wouldn’t otherwise see.
On the other hand, the former three are much more forgettable. I’d go so far as to say that they’re only necessary from a gameplay standpoint, to fill out branching paths that don’t particularly involve either friend. It does make sense to have a bad ending of some sort, but honestly I found the “good” ending to be far inferior to any of Erika or Manami’s. The girls’ relationships just feel too integral to the narrative to not be part of the conclusion.
This is my single issue with the way ONHS handles its VN format. Thankfully, these weak points are the minority; the rest of the endings stay consistently great. And another big reason for that is how it handles its choices.
Since VN ‘gameplay’ centers around choices and watching them play out until the end, it's particularly important that they have a noticeable impact on the story and characters. In other words, the player needs to feel like their input matters, whether it’s in big or small ways. ONHS accomplishes this tremendously. The branching paths offer amazing variety, especially for being such a short and simple game. There are a surprising number of significant decisions to make in its 20-minute span; and even the less important ones offer small changes, usually in dialogue.
Another element of ONHS that I really enjoy is its visual style. Although it’s fairly plain at first glance, it’s also very charming; everything is very rounded and simplified, making for a nice, inviting aesthetic. It kind of reminds me of Sanrio.
The character designs are particularly lovely and memorable. In fact, Haru’s warm appearance was why I initially became interested in the game. Look her up on Google and tell me that’s not a girl you’d want to be friends with!
My only complaint with the art lies in some of the environments. Although they generally use their simplicity well, there are a few weak points where they lean into it a bit too much. It can leave a scene feeling bare, or even a bit ugly. Still, this is only an issue in a few instances; I otherwise really love the execution.
Just like the art and characters, the soundtrack is a real gem as well. It’s full of calming piano, with some soft electronics thrown in - and it’s all original work by the creator! There’s not very many tracks, since the game is so short, but the few we have are really great.
Really, ONHS’ length is the only other complaint I have about it, and that’s only because I loved it so much. There are small snippets of worldbuilding for the characters here and there, but I’d love to see more of their individual AND interpersonal histories… well, you can imagine how excited I was when I found out about A Year of Springs! It’s high on my wishlist now.
When I picked it up, I knew that One Night, Hot Springs was said to be good, but it honestly surprised me how much I ended up loving it. This is a VN that I think can be enjoyed by everyone. It’s a trans-centered narrative that is not only digestible, but I think even relatable, for all kinds of people, because the writing and characters are just so great. I truly can’t wait to get around to A Year of Springs.
Visuals: 4/5
Sound: 4/5
Gameplay: 4/5
Story: 5/5
Worldbuilding: 4/5
Overall game score: 4/5 [4.2/5]

Survive in Space is easily one of the worst games I’ve ever played. Even if you find the core shoot-em-up mechanics fun, there’s no way to look past its hideous presentation and terrible design choices. Honestly, the fact that something this ugly, unoriginal, and boring is being sold on Steam for eleven dollars is a borderline scam.
There are a whopping 50 levels in Survive in Space (51 if you include the endless mode), stretching its length out to around four hours. The game presents itself as having quite a bit of content… and well, technically, it does. In reality though, most of it’s so repetitive that the game could easily be cut down to an hour without much of a loss at all. In fact, I’d wager that the actual reason there are so many levels in the first place is solely to inflate playtime.
Genres such as shoot-em-ups often rely on combat to keep gameplay feeling fresh. Pattern learning and recognition are usually an important part of this; it’s inherently more rewarding to overcome a challenge if you learn how to overcome it yourself, after all.
Take Galaga as the grandfather of examples. Each wave of ships are thoughtfully planned, from their flight patterns to where they land in formation. Even if there are dozens on-screen at once, every single ship feels purposeful.
Survive In Space is the exact opposite; there’s zero level design to speak of, zero planning or thought. It constantly throws random enemies at you with no rhyme or reason. There aren’t any fun bonus stages to reach or attack patterns to learn. Each level, at VERY least, has its own specific set of ships that appear in a specific order… yet it still feels like you’re playing the same thing again and again!
Every single other attempt to keep the gameplay engaging for four hours are similarly lazy - and similarly unsuccessful. The enemy waves increase from three to five over time. A few new enemies are introduced, but only a few; most are there from the very first level, and even the handful that aren’t are brought in early on. Nothing ever feels new, or fun, or purposeful.
The only other distinction between Survive in Space’s levels is that each is represented by a different planet on the level selection screen. Yet this detail is ultimately irrelevant, because despite these same planet designs cycling in and out of the backgrounds once you enter a level, it seems like that never includes the ONE that’s actually supposed to be there. So why is each one assigned a planet if they’re not even going to show up?
Anyways, let’s get into the nitty gritty of the gameplay. There are ‘attack’ and ‘defense’ modes for you to switch between at will; not only does this affect your general stats, but it also affects the four rotating balls encircling (and protecting) your ship.
While in ‘defense’, you have higher shield/HP that also regenerates faster, but you do less damage and move slower. The balls stay very close to your ship to fully shield you, but they are destroyed upon enemy contact; you’re then left partially (or sometimes fully) exposed while you wait for them to respawn.
In ‘attack’, you deal more damage and move more quickly, but you have less shield and regenerate it more slowly. The balls expand to encircle your ship at a much wider radius, and they are no longer destroyed upon contact - meaning they never have to respawn. However, you’re left much more susceptible to attacks in this mode, since your defensive ball-shell is gone and you have reduced shield.
Theoretically, this is a pretty interesting mechanic, even if it’s not anything new. The problem is that the ‘attack’ mode is just… terrible in comparison to ‘defense’. To make use of the ‘attack’ balls, you have to constantly reposition yourself around the movement of both the other ships and the balls themselves; by that time, you could’ve just used your other abilities to take them out. Even worse is your ship’s increased vulnerability, thanks to the loss of its ball-encasement protection and a chunk of your shield. It’s a lot more likely you’ll just get overwhelmed by enemies and die.
The IDEA is for you to switch between these two modes frequently and quickly, but it’s honestly just not worth it. I stayed in ‘defense’ nearly my entire playthrough for the extra protection; the balls are just so much more useful that way. The hits you take to your damage and speed don’t even really matter once you start increasing your innate stats.
As for your other three abilities, they’re fairly standard and most likely what you’d expect to see. You’ve got a basic attack, which starts out slow and weak, but becomes much more deadly as you upgrade it - an admittedly satisfying transformation. The second is a laser, my usual go-to, since it deals a lot of damage very quickly. The third are homing missiles, which are definitely my least-used attack. They just feel slower and clunkier than the other abilities (which isn’t helped by the fact that you don’t directly control them in any way.)
As I’ve mentioned briefly, there are many upgrades to earn by killing enemies. The first are points to disperse among and improve your base stats - shield, shield regeneration, evasion (speed?), cooldown reduction, bonus damage, and enemy slow. Pretty basic stuff, pretty boring, but useful in the long run. As far as I can tell, you can upgrade these infinitely (at least, long enough to finish this boring game.)
The second upgrade you earn are points to invest into skill trees for the basic attack, laser, and homing missiles. You are given experience (and subsequently, points) for an ability when you kill an enemy with that specific ability, I believe. You can put a limited number of these points into damage, cooldown reduction, lifesteal, experience boost, instant kill chance, and ministun chance.
There’s also a few rarer upgrades, which are, obviously, even more limited - critical chance, critical damage, split shot (which splits your shot into two diagonal beams), major bonus damage, and dot damage (which deals extra damage over time, I think?) By the end of the game, you’ll likely have all of these for all abilities, with an extra point in critical chance or damage.
Lastly, there are five ships made freely available to the player; each of these has three pre-selected upgrades, which you earn in succession by using that ship and gaining experience. Their upgrades generally tend to focus on a specific ability (with a few exceptions.)
For some reason, though, there’s no stat differences between the ships. The closest comparison are individual stat buffs that a few of their upgrades offer. I find it strange that there’s no intrinsic difference beyond that; it seems like an obvious inclusion, since it makes each choice feel even more distinct. Additionally, I think it’s kind of fun to look through stat charts while putting together a build in games - at the very least, they add a bit more depth.
The last decision you’ll be faced with before starting a level are a few extra challenge options. Aside from having a standard difficulty slider, you can choose to spawn asteroids, fortresses (AKA planets with cannons), and/or extra enemies. Each selection gives you 50% more experience, too. It’s a nice and thoughtful inclusion, I guess… but I don’t see who would want to make this game more difficult for themselves OR replay it.
Scrolling through all of these menus, you’ll quickly realize how bad the UI is. There are spelling mistakes throughout, the fonts are basic, and the ship page’s layout is particularly confusing. Navigating everything is just a chore. And the in-game UI isn’t any better, unfortunately. A chunky bar displaying largely unneeded information takes up the bottom strip of screen. Most of this could have easily been streamlined or cut; for example, the left corner displays an ugly character portrait of the protagonist, while the right corner is usually noticeably empty, except during boss fights to display boss portraits.
Let’s get into the actual combat, though. The positive thing I can say is that the enemies have surprising variety in their individual abilities. There are, of course, the standard basic attack ships - a handful of different kinds, which shoot in varying directions. There are fast melee ships that aim to crash into you (one even blinks in and out of invisibility.) There’s a ship that teleports around the screen, and a giant ship with a shield that you can only shoot from behind. There’s even a healer ship.
So variety obviously isn’t an issue when it comes to the enemy design… instead, it’s basically just everything else. Despite their numbers, all of these abilities are fairly standard and uncreative. Again, what you’d likely expect to see. And as I’ve discussed, there’s also no real individuality injected into the levels. There’s no focus given to or taken away from enemies, no gameplay changes to shake things up. Everything just bleeds together.
The sole exception to this are the boss fights that take place every tenth level. These are ALMOST fun! Don’t get me wrong, they’re not particularly well-made either, but the change of pace alone is a breath of fresh air.
Accompanying these boss fights - and a few other select levels - are full-on cutscenes, complete with cringy voice acting and atrocious art. A majority of the gameplay is remarkably terrible, but somehow, the presentation and story are even worse. It’s like a middle school anime fan was hired to write a video game story - and, judging by the quality of the final product, this kid was also their lead artist. They might’ve even hired their classmates to be the rest of the voice cast.
Let’s start with the so-called ‘art’. I do usually try to be kind to artists of all skill levels… but again, Survive in Space is being sold for 12 bucks on Steam, so I’m past giving a shit. If a game stamps its major artistic flaws with an exorbitantly high price tag, that tells you all you need to know about its creative integrity.
Visually, these ‘cutscenes’ are nothing more than a series of poorly-made stills. Everything from the character designs, poses, and colors palettes to the backgrounds, perspectives, and shading are basic at best. I noticed that the style actually changes a bit throughout the game, seemingly improving over time. The earlier art has scratchy, unfinished black outlines; yet later outlines are noticeably cleaner, as well as colored.
It’s funny, actually, some of the game’s better drawings are ONLY present as store page screenshots and trading cards. Both these and the women they depict are completely cut from the final product. Makes you wonder.
Equally as terrible as the art is the voice acting. Imagine the worst anime dub you could imagine… then times that by ten. Not only are the VAs completely failing to deliver their lines, but they’re also trying to hit generic anime vocal beats at the same time. It’s twice the cringe. At least it’s entertainingly bad, though.
There’s no music to accompany cutscenes, but once you enter a level, you’re immediately subjected to endless terrible freeware dubstep (at least, until you give in and pause it from the built-in music player, or turn the music to zero.) These songs don’t fit the spacefaring vibe at all, especially since it’s a random collection of other people’s work from around the internet. One track even had the [Free Download] still in its name. There are no words.
Fun fact: I thought that there were actually dozens of songs in the game because of how long the credits were, until I realized that the same few pages were just looping over and over. Also, I realized while exploring the settings that it’s possible to add your own music to the game. Yet there’s still no subtitles.
The levels’ visuals are their own special kind of bad, too. I’m a sucker for space aesthetics, but it’s completely ruined here. The ship designs are forgettable. The planets floating around in the background are hideous. But worst of all - and possibly my biggest gripe with Survive in Space as a whole - is the color coding.
Your ship’s visual effects are either blue or red, depending on whether you’re in ‘defense’ or ‘attack’ mode. This is a fine way to differentiate the two - but what’s NOT fine is that enemy attacks can come in these exact same colors, plus others, such as orange and purple. Worse, their ships are the same rainbow of shades.
Since nearly all of the enemies show up in every single level, things quickly become confusing. It can be next to impossible to read the screen if it fills up. If the busyness doesn’t outright kill you at times, it’s at the very least a noticeable nuisance.
The only thing left to talk about is, unfortunately, the story. Once you start playing, you’re greeted by an exposition dump that establishes the history of Survive in Space’s setting. Many planets have been conquered by an alien species. Humanity is enslaved.
We follow our Gary Stu, equipped with a cool sword and dual-colored hair, as he goes on a vengeful rampage against the generals and their emperor. He’s only strong enough to fight them because of his deal with a black, red-eyed shadow demon (who is voiced by a British woman with a deep voice overlay, hilariously.) The demon possesses Gary’s body, providing him with the power needed to fight.
[Spoilers] And then, we find out that the big twist of the game… is that the demon is evil. Turns out that he used to be the right-hand man of the emperor, until he went on a genocide spree and tried to become emperor himself. He was punished by being trapped and turned into his current form. So this whole time he’s been manipulating and using Gary to go on his own revenge spree.
[Spoiler End]
This plot is really only told through character dialogue and exposition; and since the presentation and writing are so terrible, these interactions lack absolutely any weight or depth. There’s no intriguing lore involved, no layered storytelling, and nothing else engaging. It’s so bad that I’ve already forgotten chunks of it, like how Gary helped the demon escape from his prison. Oh well. I’m not restarting the game to watch the exposition dump again.
At the end of the day, there isn’t a single thing about Survive in Space that makes it worth playing - especially for 12 bucks. It’s repetitive, unoriginal, and has possibly the worst visual AND audio presentation I’ve ever seen. This was nothing but a chore.
Visuals: 0.5/5
Sound: 0.5/5
Story: 0.5/5
Gameplay: 1/5
Worldbuilding: 0.5/5
Overall game score: 0.5/5 [0.6/5]