HE / HIM , BABY!!!!!!!!!
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Favorite Games

The House in Fata Morgana
The House in Fata Morgana
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
Disco Elysium: The Final Cut
Disco Elysium: The Final Cut
Shadowrun: Dragonfall - Director's Cut
Shadowrun: Dragonfall - Director's Cut


Total Games Played


Played in 2023


Games Backloggd

Recently Played See More

Transformers: Devastation
Transformers: Devastation

Mar 19

Start Again: A Prologue
Start Again: A Prologue

Mar 18

Billy Frontier
Billy Frontier

Mar 11


Mar 10

Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale
Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale

Mar 04

Recently Reviewed See More

Not much more than meets the eye.
PlatinumGames started running into a bit of a wall in the mid-2010s. When exactly they started to become less consistent in the quality of their releases is still an unresolved topic of discussion, but the line I've heard floating around the most is "when they started making all of those licensed games". I've asked a few friends which game marks the start of this era, and every single one of them said it was The Legend of Korra. The irony is that, two years prior, Platinum put out Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, which was actually their first licensed game. But, for most of the people I've talked to, it doesn't seem to register like one. "Licensed game" is a four-letter word. If you actually enjoy a licensed game, you have to preface that statement with a disclaimer that this is actually one of the good ones, unlike all of those other licensed games.

Transformers: Devastation
is fine. Not "fine for a licensed game", but fine. It's still a step down from their best work, but it's fine.
It's certainly a strange game in Platinum's catalog. It's a mish-mash of a lot of elements of their previous games; an Anarchy Reigns not in terms of casting, but in tone and mechanics. You've got your Metal Gear Rising menus and musical riffs, your Bayonetta witch time, your Vanquish shooting, your shitty gimmick levels that interrupt the core gameplay, the whole nine yards. This hardly sounds like a terrible idea on paper, but the devil is in the execution. The music mostly sounds like the generic Metal Gear Rising grunt combat themes, without any of the explosiveness or punch that the vocal boss tracks of that game brought; enemies barely ever get put into hitstun, meaning when you're meant to be putting the hurt on in your Bayonetta witch time, you have to be ready with another dodge because your enemy is completely able to act out of your combo at all times; Vanquish already kind of sucked, and the highest level of gunplay on offer here is to fish for headshots to get easy SS ranks. Transformers: Devastation is a jack of all trades and a master of none. I'd much sooner suggest playing the games that make up its constituent parts.
But it's still fine! It's just not great, and I don't know if it had the potential to be. Some truly confusing design decisions — why in God's name does this have random loot and crafting systems? — are ultimately not that impactful to gameplay, but they're annoyances that pile up. The absurd overuse of controller rumble made my hands go numb, twice. The weapon switching menu takes up so much of the screen for such a long amount of time that trying to swap to a different gun in the middle of combat is almost guaranteed to make you eat a hit. The story is Saturday morning cartoon fare, but, you know, it's Transformers. It's fine. I was struggling for a long time to land on a score for this, and a 3.5 just felt too high. There are peaks here, but there are far too many valleys for me to pave over them.
I wasn't expecting much. I didn't get much. I suppose it's only fair.

Yeah, we've done this before.
Spoilers below.
I think we, as a collective, need some time apart from time loops and multiverses. It's not them, it's us. We've been over-reliant on them the past few years. It doesn't need to be a permanent breakup, but we definitely need a break from one another. Much in the way that Everything, Everywhere, All At Once ought to be the temporary conclusion of Hollywood's fascination with multiverses, let's let Start Again be the temporary conclusion of indie gaming's fascination with time loops. We can revisit it in a few years if we really want to, but maybe it's best for both of us if we just leave things as they are for now.

Start Again
is in a middling sort of mire. Next to a lot of its contemporaries, it stands head and shoulders above them; next to the best that the "emotional indie time loop game" subgenre has to offer, it's clearly lesser. The game is going to draw inevitable and unfavorable comparisons to Undertale, given the fact that both of those titles occupy a similar space. It shouldn't be much of a secret that, between the two, Undertale wins out. But, you know, both are still infinitely better than fucking Braid.
There's not a ton here to love. Gameplay is the most bog-standard RPG Maker fare, complete with a literal Roshambo "elemental" damage mechanic. Music is forgettable, character designs are all over the place, graphics are servicable. There are enemies that are clearly made to look like those cursed emojis that were going around a few years back, which should be as damning of a statement as you can make it sound in your head.
If you're looking for a hook, it'll be in the writing. Normally, these depression allegories tend to skew pretty personal to the author; beyond the broadest strokes of "I feel sad and like a burden", a lot of these stories are going to wind up only resonating if you can put yourself in the shoes of the person who wrote them, rather than the characters actually going through the narrative (provided there's a difference between the two anyway, and it isn't a piece of vent art). Start Again doesn't really suffer this common hurdle. The narrator and player character, Siffrin, has earned their misanthropic stripes. A Groundhog Day loop is still alien enough to us that we can grip onto the more universal feelings of helplessness and holding yourself together for someone else's sake without feeling lost in the greater plot.
Starting the game at the "end" works here, because the tiny world that these characters occupy feels storied. It gives off the feeling that you've started the game on someone else's save slot, which is genuinely kind of hard to pull off, and I should impress upon you that this is a solid writing feat. It would have been a bit cuter to have that play into the UI — having a file already made and ready to go on first boot, where you're made to select "continue" instead of "new game" — but what's here works well enough. You play, you lose, you try something different in the hopes of breaking the loop, repeat. Ludonarrative harmony, baby.
The entire True Ending sequence is saccharine enough to make your teeth curl. There's something about it that feels kind it had to be there, I guess? Maybe I'm even more jaded and cynical than our protagonist, but having everyone grab your hands and tell you that they love you while they dump Therapy 101 motivational phrases on you barely connected with me. There's a moment right at the end where everyone is celebrating, and crying, and cheering about how they finally did it, and I had the distinct thought of "if this game has any balls, it'd loop me back to the start right now".
And it did.
Whatever score I was going to give this immediately shot up a full star the second the game decided to pull the rug out and go all the way back to the beginning after doing everything right. Twelve Minutes has a similar trick, but Twelve Minutes also sucks complete ass and has the gall to pull three more twists out of its hat after you've been through the first. Start Again ends just in time for you to realize that nothing is going to end. One final twist of the knife. Good shit.

Start Again
really isn't all that impressive, and I wouldn't recommend anyone who's read this far to bother playing it if they haven't already. It's a short, mediocre title that manages to pull ahead on the final lap with a clever, brutal surprise. And that's where it should have stopped! Further investigation reveals that there's a much longer reimagining of the game called In Stars and Time set to release by the end of 2023, and it sounds like a terrible idea. There was barely enough meat left on the timeloop bone to get this out the door; shooting for a several-hours-long pseudo-sequel seems like tempting fate in the worst way.
If there's any cycle that needs to be broken, it's our insistence on remaking Strange Life of Ivan Osokin.

Remember that scene in Breaking Bad where Jesse Pinkman is playing RAGE, but it's a version made exclusively for the show that converts it into a rail shooter? And if you're at all familiar with video games as a medium, you can immediately tell how jank it looks since they're just using slightly edited gameplay footage and trying to pass it off as a different genre than it actually is? Billy Frontier feels like that. It's like a fake game that someone plays in a TV show when they can't pull the license for anything else.
Everything here feels exceptionally half-baked. You've got four core game modes, and I'll break them all down in the hopes of demonstrating why they don't come off as a cohesive whole:
Duels. You're put into a duel upon selecting any of the other three game modes. The game prompts you to hit a combination of arrow keys within a time limit. If you get them all, you win the duel. If you don't get them all, you lose. There is nothing more to this.
Stampedes. You auto-run towards the camera like one of the levels from Crash Bandicoot. Picking up hot peppers gives you a speed boost, picking up coins gives you points. You can jump over obstacles, and if you don't, you'll stumble and lose speed. There are only two of these in the game.
Target Practice. Objects get thrown up from the bottom of the screen, and you have to shoot them out of the air. You'll be prompted with something like "shoot five peppers". Shooting five peppers does not win you the game. You have to wait until you run out of either time or ammo, and then you win. The optimal strategy is to blast the peppers and then sit and wait patiently for a minute and a half so that you don't accidentally shoot a skull that instantly kills you and makes you fail the mission. There are only two of these in the game.
Shootouts. What I imagine is intended to be the meat of the game. These are rail shooter segments where you walk into an area, stand stark still, and then freely rotate the camera around to shoot at enemies. Unlike most rail shooters, where the goal is to be fast, and snappy, and constantly pushing you forward, the rail shooting segments in Billy Frontier are slow. They're incredibly slow. They do the rail shooter trick where they hide power-ups in crates and barrels that you have to waste time shooting open if you want the prizes inside, but clearing a screen doesn't automatically advance you. You have to hit the alt key to manually go to the next screen, which means you have all the time in the world to methodically swing the camera around, carefully shoot at the boxes and barrels, and stock yourself back up to hundreds of bullets and maximum health. The fact that you're actively rewarded for doing this means that you're going to be doing it every single time you're prompted to keep going. I was starting to get a sneaking suspicion that this was actually meant to be a tool to teach children how to use a mouse, ala Minesweeper. I never found out for certain, but I can't think of any other reason why this mode would require this much precision while also being this plodding and methodical. Anyway, there are only two of these in the game.
In total: six Duels, two Stampedes, two Target Practices, two Shootouts. Game is over within half an hour. This isn't new for Pangea Software — you couldn't play a game of Nanosaur for more than twenty minutes if you wanted to — but it feels so thin. It's a collection of barely-related minigames that feel as though they were crammed onto the same disk just for the sake of being labelled as a package.
The personality isn't really here, either. The instruction manual boasts about it being this cosmic, spare-faring combination of cowboys and aliens, and it doesn't especially feel like it. There's one little alien design with a curly mustache and cowboy leathers, and another very ill-advised alien design that wears a feather headdress and throws hatchets, and that's about it. The other creatures are cow people, frog people, Kanga-cows, and Kanga-rexes. It's boring! These are designs that look like they were pulled straight from the basic enemy pool of Spyro the Dragon and dropped directly into a stock "Western" asset pack. Pangea was shooting for The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, and they landed somewhere closer to Wild, Wild West.
There are little bits here and there that I like — the way that Billy's lip trembles in the duels, the legally-distinct Morricone soundtrack — but man, is this a rough experience. Apparently this got an iPhone port back in 2009, and I have to agree with Pangea president Brian Greenstone in saying that this feels like it'd have more of a home on the early App Store than on an iMac. It's simple, it's bland, and it's far from Pangea's best work. A major letdown this late into the company's history.