After three weeks in a nightmarish limbo, my blog wrapping up my time spent gamering in 2021 is finally ready to scar the eyes of the innocent!
First off, I'd like to give a hearty shoutout to the real capital 'G' that is Kevin Mersereau (otherwise known as DeadMoon before his ascension). He put in actual time and effort to get just one blog working, eventually having to seep into the mod tools and (temporarily?) override the spam filters! I've said this plenty of times over the past couple weeks as you guys came together and purchased a bunch of my unwanted games (with the buyer doubling the price on more than one occasion), but this place rocks.
More than that, it's peachy keen. I've spent more time here than any other site in my lifetime (alongside YouTube and FurAffinity *COUGH*) and it's because this community truly has become like a family. We are the most accepting, welcoming, horny place on the web for Gamer Fuel-blooded individuals. Often all three emotions at once!
But, like... if we were horny for our family?
I wouldn't have spent this much of my own time and energy doing this if I didn't genuinely really like this place. That some actually bother to read it also helps!
Originally, this was intended to include every single entry from every quarterly blog, but the editor refused to save the final 10% or so within the draft. A curiosity that wasn't able to be solved, unfortunately. Nonetheless, I tried to gussy up this last 2021 update as best I could.
So, thanks for giving me an opportunity to rant about my shit takes and allowing me to feel like there's something I do that people might hypothetically look forward to every few months.
*chunks blog at reader's crotch*
UTOPIA 9 - A Volatile Vacation
+ Chipping away at enemies' armor is very satisfying
+ A mechanic derivative of Middle-earth's Nemesis system, albeit a shallow interpretation
+ Occasionally fun weapons
- Mistakes are too harshly punished
- Lacking OST
- Gunplay can often feel slow and stilted
- With how weak and inaccurate your starting pistol is, there's no reason why it can't have unlimited ammo
- Annoying voice clips
(SIDEBAR: For someone's first game, which this supposedly is, this could've easily been much worse. Judged on its own merits, however, it's a subpar roguelite with solid ideas on top of lack of polish and frustrating balance issues.
I played it way longer than I needed to in order to come to this conclusion, but I wanted to give it a fair shake. It sometimes felt like I simply didn't know how to better min/max my resources or avoid damage. That quickly subsided once it became clear how bored I was of playing it.
At its best, it can actually get pretty satisfyingly bombastic! These moments, though, are fleeting. I can recommend this game given it's frequently on sale on the eShop for a buck, and it's definitely worth that to see if you might gel with it. At it's original price, it's a rather large no-no.)
[Score = 4.5/10]
+ Excellent visual style
+ Witch tits
+ Solid gunplay
+ The added verticality is an interesting twist I've not yet seen in these types of games before
+ Great, often vibrant OST
- Roughly half of the bosses are unimpressive
- The isometric perspective sometimes befuddles my very weak brain
- Digby, in his current state, is unfun and in desperate need of rebalancing
(SIDEBAR: After having gotten the True Ending several times, I can definitively say this is a new honorable favorite.
In ways both big and small, it's essentially an isometric Binding of Isaac. It's not chalk full of content like it (not many games are), but between the alternate floors, narrative sequences that extend the game's longevity, collecting pieces to turn into a key to unlock a new boss, some of the items, the overall structure is...
"Like Binding of Isaac, with guns!" - Machinima
Part of me even considers it better than Isaac! It is hard to replace a game so integral to the growth of indie gaming, responsible for mine and the market's fascination with roguelites, as well as a game that just generally holds such a special place in my heart. Setting aside my biases as best I can, however, Dead Estate is at least on par with Edmund McMillen's magnum opus. No small accomplishment, to be sure.
There's also a really cute reference to Resident Evil 3 during the Dead Estate floor boss fight and it never gets old.)
[Score = 9/10]
+ Solid worldbuilding
+ GOAT chase sequence
+ Interesting puzzle/interactivity mechanic
- Far, far too short, even for a single chapter
(SIDEBAR: Keep in mind that this score can very quickly go down if expectations aren't met. Currently, said expectations are fairly high, but I am cautious. If Chapter 2 doesn't capture the same magic and/or the pacing remains withdrawn despite some hefty potential for future conflicts, I'll be very disappointed.
This game absolutely blew up, and I hope the developer recognizes their potential to shift the conversations happening within the indie horror space. Not naming any names, but I think this 8 year-long Fazcination with a certain Fredchise is bearly holding even my interest.
Bite of '87.
[Score = 8.5/10]
+ Lo-fi horror makes me moist
+ An immersive first 30 minutes that successfully sells a payoff...
- ... that never happens
- Ear-piercing audio cues
(SIDEBAR: This is a 9/10 initial half hour, but it wholly disappoints as a horror experience by the end of its 1-2 hour run. A huge upsell into something I could get out of any random itchio or Gamejolt horror jam for free.
What's sad is that even the game's best elements are things enjoyed only because you have to wait 10 literal minutes for your in-game laundry, a cute piece of immersion that eventually felt like a crutch as things shift into something painfully mediocre and it funnels you through its latter attractions.
If you can get this dirt cheap or, somehow, free, it's worth it. Though, then again, I seem to be in the minority of opinions.)
[Score = 6/10]
Lost in Vivo
+ Feels almost like a first-person Silent Hill 4 or like a distant cousin of indie classic Cry of Fear
+ Successfully brings you along with the player character's trauma using symbolism, as well as audio and visual trickery
+ Great OST
+ Some very well-crafted spooks
+ Fun side modes
- The second half of the game is considerably more obtuse, making one wish for an archive or glossary of the notes you find along the way
- The second half is also considerably less pleasant, complete with a bullshit, albeit creepy, SCP-173 ripoff
- A bit of a feature creep narrative
(SIDEBAR: The first 2.5-3 hours are pretty dang awesome. There is clear direction in most of the symbolism, the combat is sparse but balanced, the spooks are great, there's a pretty okay little puzzle, I could go on. It was showing it knew what made a horror game not only scary, but lasting and worth pondering on years after your first playthrough. Audio design, atmosphere, Silent Hill-esque mindfuckery, the works.
However, for the life of me, I cannot wrap my head around the second half. Or enjoy it nearly as much. Something about it doesn't feel conclusive. If it IS conclusive, I'm not sensing a cohesive and/or concise vision. Heck, what I HAVE been able to continue piecing together within the first hour or two of my NG+ run hasn't instilled me with too much confidence. If anything, it made me further question the direction of the story.
I'll grant that some abstractness can be easily justified, especially for a game that takes so much inspiration from Silent Hill. I'm likely never going to 100% piece games like this together myself without some serious extrapolation, and that's okay. Unfortunately, though, I feel the game is working with a loooooot of different baskets with about two or three eggs in each. The more abstract you get with so much subject matter, the more it'll feel like a mess. Silent Hill 2, this is not.
Steam claims this is "a horror game about claustrophobia", but that is a misnomer. It's about claustrophobia in the same way the 2012 Avengers film was about Nick Fury.
I reckon this is a very fun game to discuss and it's definitely one of the most interesting yet simultaneously solid indie horror releases out there. Barring anything revelatory on my NG+ playthroughs, though, I can't call this an absolute winner. Akuma Kira's other more notable release, Spooky's Jumpscare Mansion, was a far more satisfying horror experience as a whole.)
[Score = 7.5/10]
+ A breed of tense, engrossing RPG gameplay that is hard to come by
+ A statistician's dream
+ Strict economies that make every decision feel important
- UI can feel incredibly unintuitive
- A high skill floor that took hours to climb above
- Boring OST, with one or two possible exceptions
[Score = 8/10]
SteamWorld Dig 2
+ Beautiful visuals
+ Excellent OST
+ Casually enthralling, initially
- Takes too long for navigation to evolve beyond mostly mindless digging
[Score = 8/10]
Shin Megami Tensei V
+ SSS-tier art design
+ A soundtrack that's equal parts atmospheric and ass-kicking
+ Slick, addictive, satisfyingly challenging gameplay
+ Sprinting/sliding about the densely-packed hubs is incredibly fun
- Very underwhelming on a technical level
- Sorely lacking narrative when compared to other post-5th generation MegaTen titles, with even presentation taking a hit from IV despite the transition to 3D-modeled scenes
- Incredibly easy late-game bosses (on Normal)
- Super limited use of the new Magatsuhi skills outside Critical
(SIDEBAR: SMTV is, quite possibly, the best MegaTen title from a gameplay perspective. Without a doubt, an incredibly engrossing JRPG just as any other iteration before it. However, the surprising lack of character depth, competent writing and a particular atmosphere soured my impressions by the mid-point and especially on into the final stretch.
This isn't to say that it didn't feel like Shin Megami Tensei, but these games owe a good deal of their charm to how it feels to exist in their worlds. Gone is the oppression of Strange Journey or the urban grunge of SMTIV and what we get in return are loosely strung together, SMT-like elements that almost seem to clash with the advancement in hub design. Said advancement in the hub design is fantastic and works brilliantly with the formula, it's just that they did nothing to advance the game thematically or atmospherically along with it or even keep up with the standard set with the previous entries.
Especially egregious is this story not only bad, but a wasted pseudo-sequel to Nocturne. I just cannot have nice things.
The actual playing of the game has never been better, which was the saving grace that made it fairly easy to ignore its glaring issues. I only pray a follow-up to V capitalizes on what was done right here and feverishly addresses the extreme lack of depth in storytelling.
It's a sad day when I look back on Apocalypse's narrative with envy.)
[Score = 8.5/10]
Halo Infinite (Campaign)
+ Great gunplay, as per
+ Mission design (more often than not) hits all the usual Halo beats, featuring very solid use of verticality, enemy placement and overall great combat hubs
+ The (mostly) new abilities really age the old combat system and, when used just as liberally as used effectively, make you feel like a big boner badass
+ The open world isn't entirely justified, but it did provide some thrills that I wouldn't have otherwise gotten with the old, linear Halos
- I firmly believe the Chief x Cortana arc should've ended (as it almost did) with Halo 4; Narrative is a snoozefest, with dialogue as thin as a tetherball pole
- Chief's new abilities BEG for a radial menu, which would've elevated this game's action to whole new plateau
- Inconsistent dynamic checkpoint system that is simultaneously too lenient and, at times, frustratingly harsh
- Considering some smaller issues that compound onto one another, the lack of biomes, the story that's barely there, etc. the game can feel really half-baked despite some excellent ideas
(SIDEBAR: Originally, I had a whole thing here written about just the checkpoint system.
Towards the campaign's climax, though, I began to really tire of the copy/paste rooms and hallways. Then I realized the story truly wasn't going anywhere interesting. Like applying butter to a ricecake, the brief flashback sequences sparked some of the only actual intrigue. Now, it's hard not to just wish I was playing Halo 3 again.
Plain and simple, the campaign is incredibly fun at times. Ultimately, though, a disappointment. Halo's moment to moment FPS gunplay is only outmatched by Overwatch and Destiny 2, IMO, and that is what saved this from being an even lower score. It's a game worth giving a second try on Legendary difficulty, for sure, but definitely not any time soon.)
[Score = 7/10]
Happy's Humble Burger Farm
+ Surprisingly engrossing when on the job at Happy's; A more fun than it is morbid, gamified spin on fast food service
+ An enticing hub world to explore
+ Tons of fun attention to detail
+ An often refreshingly slow burn approach to vidja horror
- Despite the admirable amount of effort put into selling the experience, the subject matter mostly uninterested me
[Score = 8/10]
+ Great art design
+ When it works, the combat is satisfying
- Why are flying enemies, so often, the absolute worst?
- Annoyingly-placed checkpoints
- Visual noise/color palette obfuscates enemy attack animations
(SIDEBAR: It's deeply unfortunate to see an otherwise damn good GoW clone is mostly ruined by a couple balance tweaks.
Every tick of health counts on the difficulties above Normal, so even the occasional sucker punch will sting. However, between the visual noise and flying enemies that fire off their fast-flying projectiles with zero warning, this means making a choice between either making the game too easy or incredibly frustrating.
Even though Dante's Inferno is far from ancient, I think the action genre has come a very long way in perfecting the little details that matter a lot in retrospect. I used to really like Big Dick Satan Simulator 2010, but I gotta call a spade a spade.
On that note, if you want a good, cheap GoW-like, try Marlow Briggs.)
[Score = 5/10]
How about that, huh? Got a nice image header for it and everything!
A tradition amongst a lot of fellow Gamers and Gamer/Gamer-adjacent establishments is to lay down what they felt were the best games for the catagories they thought would be the most appropriate, applicable or maybe just the most interesting to them as they look back on a particular period of time. Only this comes with a slight twist:
It's all about me~!
You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll probably glance through most of it! So, let's say we finally get this out of the way?
That I had fun with Ashen didn't surprise me at all. What surprised me was just how much I loved it despite the plethora of issues I had prop up in my playthrough.
It's rare (and I mean rare) when I can confidently score a game this high (8.5/10) with so many sizable marks against it. But, something about it just tickled me pink. I called it "ambitious", though I wish I had elaborated, because I actually forgot what was so ambitious about it!
Originally, I was scripting a long-form video project about my time with Ashen, until that fell through. Clearly, to me, it was no average Souls-like. Whether it was to do with the exploration, pacing, world design, a melding of solid mechanics or all of the above.
Perhaps, in 2022, I'll play it again to recoup those feelings. To reconect to old memories and make new ones!
I just hope I'll still be able to find a new friend or two along the way (I'm still rather proud of the editing in that latter third).
I remember, during the run-up to this game's release, thinking how boring it looked. It stank of "asset-flipped semi-sequel" (which, granted, it sort of is), even as someone who, originally, really enjoyed the original (less so, now). Then, BOOM. On the backend, it pulls a goddamn Fallout: New Vegas and makes itself into a far more mechanically solid RPG experience.
That was the surprise. Oblivion-style "use to improve" skill points, improved leveling system, more distinct character builds, better loot grind, the works! I expected some slight improvements here or there, but even some things I expected to dislike (the tower defense sections) I rather enjoyed!
I recommend anybody who still won't turn up their nose at a good zombie sploosher to give this a hefty consideration.
This one was fairly crushing.
Thankfully, I found out about it and was suddenly able to dive right in rather than be led to believe this was to be something far more from Kickstarter inception and all the way to launch. Nonetheless, I saw the potential of this game just in its title and came away merely inoffended.
The writing simply wasn't up to snuff for something that clinged so heavily to its characters and story, like me to a hot, young, blonde of 25-35. And whilst the gameplay was competent, that wasn't why I bought in. Yes. Like puppy love, the affection fizzled away quickly and I so, so wished I had gotten what I had so anxiously signed up for.
For the past, oh... 4-5 years, I've noticed a dramatic shift in the types of horror experiences being offered within the indie space. I've noticed a lot, LOT more lo-fi 3D horror. And, this shit? This shit gets me fucking diamonds.
Far from my first foray into what is practically its own sub-genre, Bloodwash began unlike any other I had played before it. It began like it had something truly awesome to show me. It came out swinging with that big dick energy. Those first 30 minutes were paced brilliantly, making you feel not quite sure of anyone you came into contact with and being an empathetic portrayal of a woman walking the town at night, alone.
It built out the mystery so effectively, to a point where I fully expected for it to capitalize on it all as the game was, after all, only billed as a 1-2 hour experience.
But, immediately after the killer showed up, nothing was scary, there was almost zero tension or atmosphere and the general feel of it all was no more tasteful than your average, free horror romp you might find on Gamejolt or Itchio. Heck, even that might be doing somewhat of a disservice to such experiences.
The soured cherry atop this melted sundae is that the closure is less schlocky and moreso plain lazy. Much of the mystery is left unexplained and I can't imagine there's going to be any sort of sequel that isn't only tangently related to this game's narrative.
I'm not going to hide that I'm in the minority of opinions on this. I'm not quite sure what people see in this game's latter half, but we, clearly, just aren't seeing the same things.
I've been playing, on and off, since 2016. Why stop in 2022?
For 15 dollars (off-sale), you get a great game with:
At least on paper, Cozy Grove has undergone a couple moderate shifts since I last played. I nearly dropped back in with the Halloween update, as it is my favorite holiday, but held off. Likely to simply play something new. I hardly ever go back to play more of any one game I had only just played unless it's for a consistent period of time.
A leave of abscence has led me to completing Resident Evil 4 twice and Portal 2 thrice. Whilst Cozy Grove never did reach the insane highs of those former two games, I think I will have done well to wait just a bit longer before returning.
(artist credit: coffeetears)
I don't know. I just really thought Dead Estate deserved at least one award.
Annnnnnnnd, finally~ ...
Whodathunkit? The very first game I decided to play for 2021 remained the one, out of approximately 70+, I could look back on most fondly (and the one with the highest score I allocated, 9.5/10)!
It wasn't even through any particularly thoughtful selection process that I happened upon this game over another, but a very rough guesstimate of my tastes at that time. Perhaps I miscalcuted just how much of an impact this game's, presumed, above average world and atmosphere would have on me. A world, at that, populated exclusively by sentient and, in some cases, completely sapient insects.
That Team Cherry made a lifelong entomophobe lament leaving behind this environment, genuinely distressing as it was hauntingly beautiful, of bipedal grasshoppers and supersized pillbugs is a testament in and of itself. That that is just one half of what makes this game so amazing is another thing entirely.
I can guarantee I'll be eventually returning to Hollow Knight. Imposing a super unique identity onto several established modes of play (Souls-like, Metroidvania, etc.) I happen to really, really gel with, it immediately shot up into my top favorites. Resident Evil 4, Persona 4: Golden, Oxenfree, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and now this. "Fluid" is far from how I'd describe these five slots, but I eagerly welcome Hollow Knight into the fold nonetheless.
You would think this was a better fit for "Biggest Surprise", though I was hearing rumblings, just before my time with Days Gone, about just how much it clicked with a specific demographic. I knew it wasn't a bad game, but could I be this demographic?
You could say that
I felt too bashful to award this anything higher than I did (8/10), but that doesn't mean I didn't have an incredibly fun time with it. Whilst a slim majority of my time was junk food thrills, its economy so well reinforced its addictive gameplay loop(s) that I did not mind. Escapism in its purest goddamn form!
For those first 60-70+ hours, every piece of meat I skimmed off the wildlife, every horde I would tackle, every outpost I cleared, etc. was important. Granted, if I wanted what the game offered for these bounties, and I did. The gunplay was really solid, so I wanted those sick weapon unlocks. I loved riding that bike, so even better handling, armor and top speed made that love last.
The more I participated, the more I got out of it. Even once I had maxed out what I could leech from the settlements, I was still unlocking loads of enticing paintjobs for my bike for clearing out a certain percentage of hordes, outposts, etc.
Days Gone made me realize that we might sometimes overestimate what it takes to create a damn good video game. It's formula might describe your typical Ubisoft joint, but so many of those games fail to make each carrot on the proverbial stick interesting or worthwhile.
Your bike is a unique and super integral part of you journey, so those upgrades matter. The weapon unlocks are quantifiably better and/or (typically) functionally far different than the previous unlocks, not just a better fucking scope or a bump stock for increased accuracy. These games are easy to play for the sake of it, but not for long. Days Gone, on the other hand, encourages you to keep playing, through steady, meaningful unlocks every step of the way.
If I may step back a bit, it also helps that I love me some good, old-fashioned zombie slaughter.
Days Gone was a brilliant distraction for the nearly 100 hours I put into it. It might be the most AAA video game ever crafted, but its systems that most developers put in for purely cynical purposes were honed to such a degree that Days Gone practically feels like a first of its kind.
See ya, post-apocalyptic biker~
Boy! I didn't play nearly as much as I wanted to this past quarter.
Right around the end of November, I was starting to emotionally crash for reasons I can't really explain. It became hard to devote myself to new experiences instead of staying locked into what I was already playing, resulting in my least active few months since before I began this journey over a year ago. Nonetheless, it was more than I was known to tackle throughout 2020. This little diary, of sorts, has not only helped tremendously in finally tackling my several lifetimes worth of a backlog, but it's also been pretty fun!
Disappointments regarding what I wanted this final post to be as opposed to what it had to be aside, of course.
I hope you had a groin-grabbingly good time! I'll (hopefully) see you again next year!