13 Reviews liked by ticky

Despite the game's algorithm not playing well with my brain and thus fucking up the playtime (a friend finished the game in nearly half my playtime) the game has technically made me cry twice which means it gets 5/5 from me.

What a cool game. This is exactly why I love Playdate. This game is perfect handheld, just the right length, and the kind of thing I might have missed if it weren't in a "season" like this.
It's the perfect mix of chill puzzle that's also got enough going on to keep me thinking the whole time. Has the vibe of "what if Popcap still made video games".

Hyper Meteor is the best Housemarque game on the Playdate.
HM is an excellent endless game with tight and comprehensive controls. I love playing it

There's a ton of work simulator games but not many about workers, which is a shame, cause it adds a lot to this one.
The core game play rules. It just really clicked with me. Learning the ships felt good. Trying to work too fast and getting sucked into the furnace really made me re-experience the feeling of fucking up at various jobs. I like how mistakes aren't really punished mechanically, but the context makes you feel bad anyway.
In general, I was a big fan of the writing. Lot of the specifics about the work and the characters felt real. A subtle thing I think they nailed is how there actually are people who like doing dangerous, physically demanding jobs, and people who take pride in their work, and how the company uses that earnestness to exploit them further. Also, upgrade trees suck, so it was a good joke how all the upgrades are about having to pay for proper software updates and safety measures.
The dialog gets a little hokey, and I didn't like all the performances, but whatever. The endings (both of em) were just awful. But overall a game that was extremely my shit.

I feel like I'm usually pretty patient, but man. This is easily one of the worst games I've ever played.
Lots of enthusiasm, very little understanding of what makes a game tick.
It's very excited about making you read lots of very poor, florid writing. Your wife gets referred to as your "loving wife" 12 times before she's killed in a scripted encounter 2 minutes into the game.
You switch resolutions by typing "1" through "9" on your keyboard, and any option you pick makes the window disappear permanently. You enable gamepad controls by hitting the "3" key on your keyboard in the options menu. Stepping into most walls gets you stuck or lets you clip through.
The map design is slapdash in a way a lot of amateur map design is, with wide open spaces and escher-like mashing up of verticality into flat spaces. In a Yume Nikki-like game this could work really well, but this game doesn't seem aware that its map design is weird, or that its "bad" properties could make it interesting.

I played Unpacking during a particularly hectic time in my life because I was looking for something relaxing. It definitely did fill that need for me - as someone who loves organizing it felt very good to put all these little items just in their place. I felt like there were some minor mechanical frustrations but nothing that really heavily impacted my experience.
What I didn't expect from Unpacking was how much I would love the storytelling - exploring the ways life changes over time through the items we value and the places we live. The mechanics of the game do such a lovely job of communicating phases of life and how our relationships grow and change. The feeling of not wanting to move your roommate's stuff, the freedom of your own place, and the way the line between "mine" and "theirs" becomes fuzzy. To see which items are constant throughout life and which things we obtain and discard as we grow just felt very special.
Overall a game that was exactly what I needed when I needed it. It's earned a special place in my heart.

Wow. What a game. As you can probably tell from how I'm writing this so long after my playthrough, it's stuck in my head.
In the west this gets compared to Mother/Earthbound a lot, but this is a game about individual characters and their very personal struggles that leads to a very different kind of storytelling than Mother goes for. The focus is less on the events, less on an epic world-scale story, and more about the very specific personal journeys of the protagonists.
I think Boy's existential struggle for "what does it mean to find your place in the world" is a pretty common feeling, but it's expressed with a depth and conviction that really comes through. His parasocial relationship with Sebastian is interesting to reevaluate in the era of streamers and "accessible" modern celebrities. It pairs interestingly with Sebastian's nervousness about taking responsibility for his own art, his ambivalence as to whether anything he says matters.
Bonnie's arc is maybe the most nuanced and interesting, not only her struggles with her own art and what it means to expect something from an audience when she shares it, but also her struggles with how and whether to live in the future.
It's impressive how smart the map design is. This is a feature phone game - it couldn't have had more than 512KB of storage. The very clever reuse of maps, having characters retread their journeys frequently, is a smart way of making the most of what they have. Instead of feeling repetitive, it encourages you to develop a very close, personal relationship with the city.
I dearly hope this gets a translation of some kind someday. I want more people to be able to experience it.



This review contains spoilers

I'm really torn on Omori. For context, I played the "good ending" route without the bonus Basil scene.
I don't mind messy RPG Maker games - in fact I love a lot of them - but parts of Omori are messy in ways that aren't interesting. The early game especially tends towards weak map design and merely "okay" cute wacky story sequences that didn't really pull me in.
There's an interesting tension in the fantasy world sequences about how invested you can really get in what you know isn't real, about these characters you know are fake in the game's own fiction - but that tension doesn't really hold for ~10-15 hours of gameplay.
Up until the last few hours I thought it was okay, if not great. The late-game twist feels, honestly, incredibly unearned and mawkish. It feels timed and written to prioritize shocking the player and making the player feel sad over accomplishing its narrative and thematic goals. I see a lot of players making memes about how sad the game made them, so I guess it worked for some people, but it just didn't land right for me.
According to the wiki, there's internal text for the "Truth" photo album that tells the story of Mari's death in lurid detail. It feels intended specifically for wiki dataminers who need every detail, and, honestly, those details are better left untold. The scene's more effective by being told vaguely and leaving the player room to interpret; leaving it carefully written out frankly takes away from it. Worse, it makes players start thinking about whether it's even possible for it to have happened, and at the point players are thinking about "could this even work" you've lost the mindset you need for this kind of horror to work.
For the same reasons, I ended up finding Basil a more interesting and nuanced character. You're not given as much detail about what happened with him, or how to think about him, and it leaves a lot more room to think about it.
A version of Omori that's about 10 hours shorter and less focused on "making players sad" would be a lot more interesting.

I initially wrote a more ordinary review about DiRT 4 as a set of features, describing how the car feels and how it compares to the DiRT Rally series. After a little more thought, though, none of that really stands out enough to warrant writing a whole review. What's remarkable, though, is the sense of camaraderie you feel with the AI co-driver.
No other sports game has done as good a job with this. In most sports games, your AI teammates are (at best) competent enough not to think about, and at worst feel like poorly concealed double agents. DiRT 4's co-driver demonstrates that you need them through your own fuckups and the moments in which you doubt the accuracy of the pacenotes. Moments in which you hear "caution crest, immediate right 1, don't cut" and think "eh, this looks just like any other sharp right turn" only to realize that sight-reading that turn would've air-mailed you both right off a cliff. Moments in which you have screwed up badly enough to lose your headlights on a night stage and can barely see your own car, but still manage to post a decent enough time because the course is being read to you.
This isn't the first rally game to include pacenotes, and it's not even the first game in the DiRT series to include them either. But the arcade elements present here lend the game a greater sense of speed and a more balanced sense of danger - I've played both DiRT Rally games prior to this and never really felt like I should be going all that fast unless I want to hit a fence at 16 kph and somehow simultaneously puncture 3 separate tires. With greater control over my car, though, and somewhat decreased vehicle damage, I feel like I can fly around corners much faster - meaning that my co-driver is all the more valuable when she's telling me how I should crest a hill, or when I can safely cut a turn, reining me in when I get a little too confident. And sure, the co-driver isn't some well-rounded human character, given that she never misreads the pacenotes, or drops them, or loses her place. But a little chatter at the beginning and end of races about how well you did, or encouraging you to do your best despite damage to the car, that goes a long way towards making her feel like an incredibly trustworthy human instead of the "robot reading from a script" that she actually is.
DiRT 4 has actually managed to succeed in making me feel like I've got a dependable teammate when I'm playing completely alone, something that I've never seen outside of scripted, story-oriented games, and they managed to do it primarily through arcade-like driving physics - emboldening me to hit the gas a little harder, and take blind corners with confidence.

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