VIDEO GAME: Pokémon Go (2016)

Pokémon Go Year: 2016 Rating: E Time Played: ~170,000 minutes / ~2,862 hours Ever since Pokémon swept the world in the mid-1990s, fans of the franchise have longed to live in a world where they could actually interact with these creatures. On its surface, Pokémon Go scratches that itch by fusing a location-based game with the successful franchise. I can literally go out in the tall grass and catch virtual Pokémon on my phone. I really enjoy this concept and play the game daily, but there are still plenty of things that it could improve upon. I understand the need to prevent players from cheating, but the need to be connected to the internet constantly—especially when exploring less urban areas with poor cell service—makes this game entirely too frustrating to play. The only times I can consistently trust that the game will work correctly are when I'm sitting on the couch at home connected to Wi-Fi. This game has had several controversies from its developer,...
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VIDEO GAME: Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon (2021)

Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon Year: 2021 Rating: E Time Played: ~270 minutes / 4.50 hours With the overabundance of Roguelike games these days, I appreciate that Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon at least put a unique spin on it. As a puzzle game, it's really no different from a Tetris or Panel de Pon. However, the difficulty curve is such that you need to unlock items/health with the resources gained from multiple runs. Getting to the end, unfortunately, can be a matter of luck of the draw as much as it is your skill of the game. Using the retro-inspired characters from the Shovel Knight series makes the Pocket Dungeon aesthetic work. Even if you haven't played the original game, the characters are visually interesting and have quite a lot of personality. The game developers added new characters specific to this game that also mesh well with the established bosses and enemies. Because everything has a pixel-art feel to it, I had no trouble playing this...
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VIDEO GAME: Pokémon Masters (2019)

Pokémon Masters Year: 2019 Rating: E Time Played: 50,800 minutes / 846.5 hours A defining feature of the Pokémon franchise has not only been the amount and variety of Pokémon the player can catch, but how the characters who use these creatures for battles also have unique traits and personalities. While these characters might have more screen time in the anime compared to their in-game representation, they ultimately have a favorite Pokémon that they use for battling. Pokémon Masters fulfills the dream of many fans by allowing us to actually play as high-level trainers. This game is a free-to-play gatcha mobile app, which should tell you all you need to know about it. The gameplay is simple, but the "gotta catch 'em all" mechanic is collecting all the different characters. This includes "Synga Suit," holiday costumes, and a glut of other variants of the fan-favorite characters. There are plenty of ways to upgrade these characters, most of which require you to battle other trainers for...
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VIDEO GAME: Gato Roboto (2019)

Gato RobotoYear: 2019Rating: ETime Played: 210 minutes / 3.50 hours Here’s the hook: you control a cat who can also pilot a mecha robot. That’s Gato Roboto. It’s a simple Metroidvania, both in length and graphics, but the charm of the concept itself makes it worth a play-through. It almost reminds me of Earthworm Jim (where a worm pilots a humanoid power suit) without all the weird gross-out elements. Despite its straightforward concept, Gato Roboto has a bit of a learning curve. Fortunately, given enough time and practice, it can be beaten in a couple of hours. Your mileage may vary given how used to Metroidvanias and Souls-like games you are. Plot-wise, Gato Roboto has some amusing little twists and turns that help drive the game forward. I love that the principal antagonist is a rat/mouse in a variety of mecha robots. There isn’t too much backtracking/looping involved here, which usually lengthens how long it takes to get through a Metroidvania—thus the...
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VIDEO GAME: Animal Crossing – Pocket Camp (2017)

Animal Crossing: Pocket CampYear: 2017Rating: ETime Played: ~150 hours Before Animal Crossing: New Horizons came out, I had played none of the previous entries in the Animal Crossing franchise. Once I got into New Horizons, I was hooked on the gameplay mechanic and wanted more. Luckily, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp was a free and easy way to continue playing an Animal Crossing game even if I didn’t have my Switch on me. As a free-to-play mobile game, I could log in and do the daily tasks that most Animal Crossing games have, just with the convenience of it being on my phone. While I didn’t play this game at launch, picking it up around 2020, it was clear that some of the standard “predatory” free-to-play practices had been added a few years prior. It locked a lot of the rare or seasonal items behind loot boxes that required real money to purchase. Even some of the “free” items came with extensive time...
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VIDEO GAME: Nintendo Badge Arcade (2015)

Nintendo Badge Arcade Year: 2015 Rating: E Time Played: 6,490 minutes / 108.17 hours Don't let the enormous amount of playtime fool you. Free games on the Nintendo 3DS (like Pokémon Shuffle, Pokémon Rumble World, and Pokémon Picross) rewarded playing regularly, and this one certainly tried its hardest to get me to pay for more playtime. I get why people lose a ton of money on actual claw machines, since this game is basically a digital version of these devices. The desire to collect all the "badges" from each machine kept me playing for a long time—well after the game itself had stopped being updated. The enticement of free plays each day made me value the occasional bonus tries that I'd get for playing the practice machine in the lobby. The problem was, even with extra plays, there were some machines that had badges arranged in such a way that it couldn't be cleared without purchasing more tries. When the extra free tries dried up...
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VIDEO GAME: Super Mario 3D Land (2011)

Super Mario 3D Land Year: 2011 Rating: E Time Played: 676 minutes / 11.27 hours There are few certainties in this life, but one of them is that Nintendo usually releases a Mario game to show off their new hardware. It might not be right at the launch, but it's usually within the first few years—like Super Mario Odyssey. The Mario game that rolled out alongside the Nintendo 3DS was none other than Super Mario 3D Land. While it showed off the capabilities of the 3D screen that doesn't need special glasses, its levels rehashed a lot of what had already been done in Mario games before. Sure, the 3D effect in this game is quite striking. For handheld hardware, the game looks gorgeous. The thing is, it added nothing to the gameplay other than a third dimension to the visuals. And it's not like its predecessor, the Nintendo DS, couldn't also handle some level of 3D Mario platformer since it had Super Mario 64...
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VIDEO GAME: VirtuaCreature (2021)

VirtuaCreature Year: 2021 Rating: E Time Played: 41.3 hours Back in the ‘90s, the digital pet craze led by the Tamagotchi toys taught kids how to take care of a pixelated animal. These pets needed basic things like food, entertainment, and attention or their mood would deteriorate. They could even “die,” which was a threat that kept kids playing with them regularly throughout the day. While this fad has since faded away, there are still remnants of these digital pets around today. One such example is the game VirtuaCreature—a hybrid between Tamagotchi and Pokémon. The simple graphics of VirtuaCreature brought the vibe of Tamagotchi to my computer and Steam Deck. There is also the option to battle these creatures in a rock-paper-scissors style battle that pulls at least a limited influence from Pokémon. These creatures evolve given enough experience through training and battling, but they also have a mood that can sour if you let them get too hungry/full or lose too many battles. It...
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VIDEO GAME: Deepest Sword (2021)

Deepest Sword Year: 2021 Rating: E Time Played: 41 minutes / 0.68 hours There are plenty of reasons I like Deepest Sword. It’s a simple gameplay gimmick with wide-ranging applications. It’s a quick play-through that doesn’t overstay its welcome. Most of all, it has a cute pixel art aesthetic and amusing dialogue for the dragon at the end of each level. There was a lot of love and care put into a game like this, and it shows. It almost feels nostalgic for the little freeware games I used to play growing up and I can half imagine it sitting on some floppy disk in my parents’ basement. As a physics-based puzzle game, the challenge scales with the size of your weapon. Each level increases the length—and by proxy the weight—of the sword. After the first few levels, I was hooked. While it uses basically the same layout for each level, the limitations of my sword forced me into different paths that led to the...
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VIDEO GAME: Mom Hid My Game! (2016)

Mom Hid My Game! Year: 2016 Rating: E Time Played: ~1 hour Mom Hid My Game! is one of those simple puzzle games that feel like they would easily fit into a larger mini-game structure (like the WarioWare series). Its simple gameplay makes for quick rounds of play, which comes in handy for the iterative process of determining the solution. Even its simple visual style hearkens to the peculiar games in the WarioWare franchise. Of course, with such limited objectives in such a game, there wasn’t much to do in Mom Hid My Game! once I completed all the puzzles. The premise of Mom Hid My Game! is explained in the title itself. A young child is trying to find the handheld gaming system that his mother has taken away (likely due to how obsessively the child plays it). The obstacles that separate the child from his game are as simple as doors and drawers and as complicated as an enormous hole in the living...
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VIDEO GAME: Nintendo Labo – Vehicle Kit (2018)

Nintendo Labo - Vehicle KitYear: 2018Rating: ETime Played: ~5+ hours Nintendo’s cardboard peripheral line, Labo, is a magnificent case study of the Switch’s ability to be customizable. For the “03” Vehicle Kit, the Switch joycons are used to control three different vehicles. From steering wheels to gas pedals, this kit provides a setup that emulates the feel of driving, flying, and diving. Even with the flexibility of these vehicles, there are limitations built into the game that make exploring less than ideal. It’s certainly fun to put the cardboard together, but it feels like a waste when I haven’t even spent the same time using the vehicles. As with the other Labo kits, the sturdy cardboard is easy to manipulate. Using the Switch as an instruction booklet is a great way to provide slow-motion steps that also allow for moving the camera to get a better view. These instructions also go over what sensors in the Switch are being used to provide...
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VIDEO GAME: Pokémon Violet (2022)

Pokémon VioletYear: 2022Rating: ETime Played: 45+ hours I’m conflicted. Pokémon Violet is one of those games that would be so much better if they changed one thing. Even though it’s something that doesn’t directly affect the gameplay. Even if all the other mechanics in the game are fun. Sure, I got used to it, but that doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it. Perhaps they should have delayed the game instead of adhering to a strict release schedule. After all, other games have done well by delaying to add that extra layer of polish. Unfortunately, I don’t think anything’s going to change. Visually, Pokémon Violet is a tough pill to swallow. All the Pokémon models look fantastic, which just makes the look of the rest of the game a disappointment. I don’t think it would have mattered if I experienced more of the game in long shots, but the number of close-up focus moments that show jagged jpeg-artifact textures were...
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VIDEO GAME: Fez (2012)

FezYear: 2012Rating: ETime Played: 312 minutes / 5.20 hours When it comes to indie games, I appreciate how much can be done with minimal graphics. These pixel-based games have a charm that’s difficult to get right but really shines when they’re successful. Fez is such a game. As a puzzle platformer, the genre isn’t original. However, pivoting in 2-D planes to create a 3-D game is an ingenious way to expand the gameplay. Of course, this also makes it a little difficult to keep track of where you are and where you’re going. But with such relaxing visuals and sound design, spending extra time in this game isn’t a bad thing. There are limitations to the pixelated style that make navigating the half-dozen worlds difficult to memorize. Sure, there are gimmicks in each world that define how you move around it, but knowing where to go to solve a larger puzzle within the game can be challenging. That there are so many...
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VIDEO GAME: Golden Sun (2001)

Golden Sun Year: 2001 Rating: E Time Played: ~22 hours After the initial rise in popularity of Role-Playing Games (RPGs) in the 1990s, there was a bit of a lull in the genre. Square had established itself with hits like the Final Fantasy series and Chrono Trigger, and Game Freak had slightly reinvented the genre with Pokémon. With some of the “golden era” games from this genre coming from the Super Nintendo, it made sense to see the next notable RPG come in the form of Golden Sun on the similarly powerful Game Boy Advance. Using some tropes of the genre, Golden Sun felt original in its combat and class structure. The introduction of the Djinn mechanic made Golden Sun a blast to play. As pseudo-onetime spells, the Djinn were fun to find in the Overworld and powerful to use in battle. I wasn’t necessarily a fan of how they’d randomly seem to change the class of the characters. The elemental mixtures sometimes made it...
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VIDEO GAME: Mega Man X Dive (2020)

Mega Man X Dive Year: 2020 Rating: T Time Played: 23,340 minutes / 389.00 hours Having played almost every single Mega Man X game, the one thing I felt was missing from these games is the variety of player characters. Sure, you can start playing as Zero in Mega Man X4 and as Axl in Mega Man X7. You can even play as Vile in Maverick Hunter X (a Mega Man X remaster). But what if you could play as the Mavericks? Heck, what if you could play as Mega Man from other Mega Man franchises? Mega Man X Dive delivered on this premise. As a free-to-play mobile gatcha game, most of the gameplay was rather shallow once you'd gotten through all of it. The new content wasn't much different from previous events, boss rushes, or speedrun challenges. At a certain point, all I was doing was collecting resources to power up the characters and weapons I had obtained. I'm disappointed that the end-of-service is...
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VIDEO GAME: Hue (2016)

Hue Year: 2016 Rating: E Time Played: 270 minutes / 4.50 hours The strength of a 2-D puzzle platformer boils down to how well its gimmick works. In this genre, you move from point A to point B and collect items in tough spots for an added challenge. It's how BoxBoy! + BoxGirl! works, and it's how Gris works. If the puzzle aspect is lacking, then the game just becomes a platformer. And making an interesting platformer is its own challenge. Fortunately, Hue has a well-done puzzle gimmick. Using colors to solve puzzles also gave this game a natural difficulty curve that was satisfying to complete. I'll applaud Hue for having some semblance of a plot that explains why changing the colors of the background is the main mechanic. I'm not wild about the student falling in love with her professor, though. It's also obvious that these sections of exposition could have easily been edited out since they occur in corridors that are just long...
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VIDEO GAME: Mega Man Star Force 2 – Zerker X Saurian (2008)

Mega Man Star Force 2: Zerker X SaurianYear: 2008Rating: ETime Played: 1,055 minutes / 17.58 hours After playing through the first Mega Man Star Force game, the experience underwhelmed me. I absolutely loved the Mega Man Battle Network games, so I figured this "evolution" of the formula would still keep my interest. Unfortunately, after two games of this, they haven't won me over. Sure, some mechanics that made the Battle Network games fun find a home here in the sequel, but the whole series just feels so far separated from the original series as to not even be related. I think some of what attracted me to the Battle Network series was the link between it and the robot masters of the original series. In the Star Force series, the enemies have either been based on constellations (as in the first game) or mythical creatures (as in this game). Neat themes, sure, but they don't link to my inherent Mega Man nostalgia....
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VIDEO GAME: Spirit of the North (2020)

Spirit of the North Year: 2020 Rating: E Time Played: 458 minutes / 7.63 hours Spirit of the North is a game about death, rebirth, and the beauty of Iceland. Without knowing much about it, I selected this as the next game my daughter and I would play through since it had no dialogue and seemed to be fairly straightforward. And while I was worried that the random corpses littering the game's levels might scare her, I don't think she fully understood what they were as we played. I enjoyed the ambiance of the music and the beautiful scenery, but the game had some issues. While the beautiful scenery was quite immersive, any time the fox interacted with any of it, the graphics felt dated, like PlayStation 2-era graphics. It was also difficult to control the fox at times, especially when requiring precise jumps to reach secret areas. I also found the portions in the caverns/caves were extremely dark, to the point of being unable...
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VIDEO GAME: Pokémon Rumble World (2016)

Pokémon Rumble World Year: 2016 Rating: E10+ Time Played: 10,653 minutes / 177.55 hours When I first got my Nintendo 3DS in 2016, I downloaded all the free games I could. As a Pokémon fan, I was glad to have such titles as Pokémon Picross and Pokémon Shuffle to satiate my need for puzzle games. I also downloaded Pokémon Rumble World. As the free-to-play version of the game, there were a lot of things locked behind currency that took an incredibly long time to access. The game wanted you to spend enough money to buy the game (at full price) so you could access everything. As is the case with any Pokémon game, Pokémon Rumble World focuses on the "catch them all" aspect. Each balloon you unlock lets you visit a randomly selected area with a specific elemental theme (e.g., volcano, beach, castle, factory, etc.). By battling hordes of the Pokémon found in these areas, they occasionally become "wobbly" and are caught once fainted in...
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VIDEO GAME: Alba – A Wildlife Adventure (2020)

Alba: A Wildlife AdventureYear: 2020Rating: ETime Played: 193 minutes / 3.22 hours As I go through my backlog of free games I received from the Epic Games store, I've been trying to find games I can play with my daughter. Alba: A Wildlife Adventure seemed like it would be a good fit for us to play together, and It certainly was. Alba is a fairly simple game and doesn't take that long to play all the way through. In fact, I 100% cleared the game in the almost three-and-a-half hours we played together. Set on an Iberian island, Alba follows the adventures of the titular character who is spending some of her summer with her grandparents. With her handy smartphone, Alba must collect pictures of all the different wildlife on the island, filling up a digital field guide in the process. Along the way, Alba must help clean up the island and repair the wildlife preserve that was closed after a suspicious...
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VIDEO GAME: Haven Park (2021)

Haven ParkYear: 2021Rating: ETime Played: 281 minutes / 4.68 hours When I started playing video games with my 3-year-old daughter, I purposely tried to find games that favored exploration. Then I could let her dictate where we would go and what we would do. And while the big empty world of Sable was a good start, I thought Haven Park was cute enough and open-ended enough to fit the Animal Crossing niche. And this way I wouldn't have to restart my Animal Crossing island either. Even if it was a little short, Haven Park gave me some quality time with my daughter. With a story that's closer to A Short Hike, Haven Park allows you to build up campsites based scattered around an island. You get to choose what to put in each site, at which point campers will arrive and demand other amenities. It was difficult to keep track of all the different sites, but repairing the broken bridges, fences, and...
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VIDEO GAME: Sable (2021)

SableYear: 2021Rating: ETime Played: 1,092 minutes / 18.20 hours Every once in a while, I’ll get a game for free via Epic Games that makes me want to jump right in and play it. Despite having hundreds of other games I’ve claimed for free in my library, I loaded up Sable and started exploring. I’m still trying to fill the “climb things, then jump off and glide” game mechanic that I enjoyed in Breath of the Wild that Genshin Impact partially met. The adventure aspect of Sable appealed to me, but the art style made me want to download it and play through it immediately. The cel-shaded style of this game is something I hadn’t seen in other games before. Honestly, it’s the game’s greatest appeal. The scenery feels hollow and desolate, which matches the sci-fi sandy crash of a group of colonizing spaceships. And while there’s not a ton of lore to speak of, there are definitely a lot of interesting...
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VIDEO GAME: Portal 2 (2011)

Portal 2 Year: 2011 Rating: E10+ Time Played: 8.5 hours While Portal felt like an innovative leap in gameplay, its bare-bones test chambers left a little to be desired for the variety of puzzles. Fortunately, four years after the release of Portal, Valve released the masterpiece that is Portal 2. Everything about the original game was taken into consideration and improved significantly. The environment was chock-full of lore, the gameplay added interesting mechanics with the addition of the gels, and the characters were funnier than ever. Even playing through this game over a decade after my first time still felt fresh and entertaining. Exploring the different areas of Aperture Laboratories (in various levels of decay) brought a much-needed ambiance to the series that was merely enhanced by the narrations of Cave Johnson (J.K. Simmons). That the game acts as a sort of prequel and sequel to the original merely emphasizes how well-considered its story is and how much lore can be crammed into a physics-based...
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BOOK: Virtual Boy Works (2021)

Virtual Boy WorksYear: 2021Author: Jeremy ParishLength: 176 pages A few years ago, I found myself down a YouTube rabbit hole and stumbled across Jeremy Parish's "Works" series of videos detailing the history of video games. Specifically, he was making videos that chronologically documented the games released for the Nintendo Entertainment System,  Game Boy, Super NES, and Sega Genesis. One system that I was able to watch all the way through was his series on the Virtual Boy, Nintendo's oft-maligned 32-bit console. This book is a written-down version of the scripts from that series. While I enjoyed the bite-size chapters on each of the 22 games for the system, the few additional chapters on fan games were a nice addition that wasn't part of the YouTube series. The book also included a pair of blue/red 3D glasses so readers could catch a glimpse of what these games might have been like (it works OK, but it's no Virtual Boy emulation on a VR...
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VIDEO GAME: Portal (2007)

Portal Year: 2007 Rating: T Time Played: 3 hours When it comes to video game mechanics, it feels like most of the foundational concepts were born in the early years and merely perfected over time. The endless puzzle possibilities of Tetris. The platforming of Super Mario Bros. The first-person-shooter perspective of Doom. It still amazes me that a game made in 2007 could combine these foundational elements of video games into something truly original. Portal is more than its gameplay, though, which is part of what makes its story so iconic—enough to be part of some of the earliest memes. While the length of this game makes it feel more like a tech demo, the gradual reveal of the game's story adds some heft to its impact. As the player slowly uncovers the reality of their situation and the insanity of the expertly written GLaDOS, the portal mechanics become less about solving puzzles and more about trying to survive. That the one-sided banter of the...
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VIDEO GAME: Baseball (1985)

BaseballYear: 1985Rating: ETime Played: 30 minutes / 0.5 hours Recently, I've been filling out my collection of NES games and added the classic Baseball for a few bucks from a used game shop. I hadn't actually played this specific game growing up, having instead experienced the Baseball game Nintendo released for the Game Boy. Having a free evening one night, I got the cartridge cleaned up and running on my NES so I could play a round. While not considered one of the "standards" of the system, Baseball still shows the quality content Nintendo released with their first home console. Even with the limited graphical quality of the NES, Baseball uses what it needs to convey the game simply and efficiently. I'm sure Baseball plays differently in 2-player mode against another human, but the brief nine innings I experienced against the AI were enjoyable. Never did I feel the computer player was unfair in its fielding or batting. Similarly, I enjoyed the...
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VIDEO GAME: LEGO Builder’s Journey (2021)

LEGO Builder's JourneyYear: 2021Rating: ETime Played: 133 minutes / 2.22 hours I've played a lot of LEGO games over the years, but none of them quite matched the experience I had when playing through LEGO Builder's Journey. Early LEGO video games hit a lot of different genres until they settled into the "action adaptation" model that most LEGO games occupied in the early 2000s. Builder's Journey felt both classic and new in its minimalist puzzle platformer format. It's only a shame there weren't more levels to explore, but at least it told a tight story in the few hours it takes to get through it. Each level of Builder's Journey conveys a small piece of an overarching narrative that's communicated without a single word. This kind of storytelling is impressive in its own right, but even more so considering LEGO didn't lean on the expressiveness of their iconic minifigs. Instead, the characters are made of simple bricks that hop around the bonsai-like...
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VIDEO GAME: Super Kirby Clash (2019)

Super Kirby Clash Year: 2019 Rating: E Time Played: 50.50 hours As I have mentioned in other reviews, I have an amount of patience that allows me to play games that try to encourage the use of micro-transactions. These games usually have a currency used for upgrading and a timer to prevent continued play. Super Kirby Clash is Kirby's version of this formula but with an online Player vs. Everyone (PVE) emphasis that sometimes works and sometimes doesn't (as is to be expected with any online games—especially Nintendo's). Still, I played through almost all of this game because it was fun. I think this was another one of those games that comforted me during the height of the COVID pandemic. Quick little boss battles were just long enough to pass the time and just challenging enough to incentivize me to upgrade the equipment of my main battle class (mage, by the way). And while it took quite a long time to fully max out the...
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VIDEO GAME: Chrono Trigger (2008)

Chrono Trigger Year: 2008 Rating: E10+ Time Played: 34.27 hours I've tried to play through Chrono Trigger for a few decades now. Ever since my family lucked out and found this game in a Super Nintendo bundle at a garage sale, I've played through the first half of this game multiple times. Heck, I even bought it on the Wii virtual console because I had such fond memories of it, despite never having reached the end credits. It wasn't until I bought this game (again) for the Nintendo DS that I could truly appreciate the top-notch game Chrono Trigger from beginning to end. While I definitely appreciated some of the improvements the DS version made to the game (including automatic running and visible health/magic bars), the base game is mostly identical to the SNES version from 1995. What's amazing about this game is how it truly changed the JRPG formula by putting the battles right there on the screen with no cuts or transitions. Additionally,...
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VIDEO GAME: Mega Man X4 (1997)

Mega Man X4 Year: 1997 Rating: KA Time Played: ~8 hours Much like how I enjoyed Mega Man’s evolution to Mega Man X when the franchise evolved to the 16-bit era, I equally enjoyed Mega Man X4’s jump to the next generation of console gaming. There’s some amount of “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” here, which has honestly been what the Mega Man and Mega Man X franchises have touted for decades. And yet, the improvements that came with the jump in processing power were put in the few spots where it mattered. This refreshing upgrade brought back some of that “cool factor” that appealed to me with Mega Man X. Ever since Zero’s introduction in the first Mega Man X game, it took way too long for him to be a fully playable character. Sure, there are small sections you can use him for in Mega Man X3, but Mega Man X4 truly makes Zero their own character with a unique fighting...
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VIDEO GAME: Mega Man X (1994)

Mega Man XYear: 1994Rating: ETime Played: ~3.5 hours Growing up as a fan of the Mega Man franchise, Mega Man X was a hugely successful jump from the 8-bit era to the 16-bit era. The basic Mega Man mechanics were the foundation that X built upon, improving many aspects of the 2D platformer that needed some innovation. Yes, nostalgia may cloud my thoughts on this game, but it’s hard to deny how it affected the franchise for the better. It might not be on the level of Super Metroid in how it changed the gaming landscape, but its influence is definitely present in modern games today. Visually, Mega Man X is a treat. From underwater and underground levels to jungles and snow bases, each of the eight animal-themed maverick bosses are unique and memorable. The soundtrack is undeniably excellent, evoking the hard rock riffs that pay homage to the original Japanese protagonist’s name of “Rockman.” Furthermore, the presence of a small amount...
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VIDEO GAME: Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion (2021)

Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion Year: 2021 Rating: E10+ Time Played: ~2 hours Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion is one of those games that got me to play it based on the name alone. That it also only took up two hours of my time was also a plus. A cutesy action-adventure, Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion is just silly enough to not be taken seriously, but not absurd enough to be ultimately funny. I definitely played through it shortly after adding it to my vast video game library, but I also was glad that it was a free game I got as part of my Amazon Prime subscription. As an action-adventure title, there are easy comparisons to The Legend of Zelda games, as well as the Metroidvania genre here. You collect items in dungeons that you need to defeat that dungeon's boss and advance to the next part of the map. Where successful versions of these games succeed is by making it clear what...
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VIDEO GAME: Mario’s Picross (1995)

Mario's PicrossYear: 1995Rating: ETime Played: 666 minutes / 11.1 hours For as many Picross games as I've played, I figured I should probably go back and play the "original" picross video game, Mario's Picross. Since most picross (or nonogram) puzzles are merely black-and-white pixelated images, it made sense to put this concept on the monochrome Game Boy. And while there's nothing significant to write home about in this entry, I can't help but feel that more recent iterations of picross have spoiled me when compared to the early versions of picross to hit the home console market. Some of the charm that Mario's Picross has comes from the artistic style of the puzzles mimicking the "Mario style" (i.e., inanimate objects with elongated eyes). Aside from these puzzles being in-theme for a Mario game, they're still the fairly basic objects that you'd expect out of a Picross game. I'm sure they crammed as many puzzles as they could into a Game Boy cartridge,...
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VIDEO GAME: Picross 3D – Round 2 (2016)

Picross 3D: Round 2Year: 2016Rating: ETime Played: 3,310 minutes / 51.17 hours When I bought Picross 3D, I assumed it was a 3D game for the Nintendo 3DS. While I still enjoyed the three-dimensional gameplay of that Nintendo DS game, I knew the capabilities of the 3DS would easily enhance the puzzles presented in such a game. Fortunately, the developers of the first game came out with a sequel for the 3DS. Picross 3D: Round 2 is basically the same game as Picross 3D, except that you get to see the finished puzzles with the Nintendo 3DS stereoscopic top screen once you've completed them. This sequel has an additional facet to the gameplay that the first game did not possess. While Picross 3D was more or less a standard extrapolation of Picross, this game introduced two colors into the gameplay. Blue blocks are solid, and yellow blocks are corners or other edges that round out the puzzle you're solving. This allowed for...
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VIDEO GAME: Pistol Whip (2019)

Pistol Whip Year: 2019 Rating: T Time Played: 4+ hours While Beat Saber likely convinced many people to jump into owning a Virtual Reality (VR) headset, it should be noted that it is hardly the only music rhythm game out there. Now, imagine if you mashed the rhythm game portion of Beat Saber with the polygon-person shoot-'em-up action of SUPERHOT. The result is Pistol Whip, a full-body workout with great songs and visceral reactions to being shot (and shooting your enemies). With so much free content released for this game, you'd almost be stupid to not get it—even if you already own Beat Saber. Before some of the later updates, Pistol Whip had the same problem most VR music rhythm games have: boring or repetitive backgrounds. Each song would play, and you'd only focus on the beats you need to hit to progress to the end of the level. However, with the "western" and "sci-fi" updates, there's at least some variety in the scenery as...
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VIDEO GAME: Walkabout Mini Golf (2020)

Walkabout Mini Golf Year: 2020 Rating: E Time Played: 4+ hours It's funny how Virtual Reality (VR) can encapsulate both the most banal things (a la Job Simulator) and the most fantastic (a la Moss) almost in the same breath. The prime example of this fusion is in Walkabout Mini Golf. Most people have played mini golf, but few have done so on a space station or in a haunted castle. Sure, some better real-world courses work hard to bring that sense of fantasy, but rarely for more than a hole or two. In Walkabout Mini Golf, the gameplay feels fantastic. Mini golf in VR like this is fun, even if you have to sit through an entire course worth of holes in a particular theme (like a Pirate Island or Arizona). Sometimes, the physics might feel a little frustrating when trying to get a precise shot; but overall, the golf doesn't feel any worse than the golf mini-game from Wii Sports—which is a compliment....
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VIDEO GAME: Genshin Impact (2020)

Genshin ImpactYear: 2020Rating: TTime Played: 350+ hours Having played many free-to-play games, there’s usually a point where you run out of stuff to do and the game ceases to be fun. Usually, this is when the time-based resources run out and you have to wait to keep playing the game. It surprised me how many hours I put into the free-to-play action-adventure game, Genshin Impact before I hit this wall. Even when I reached this point, I still had plenty of diverse activities to do to keep me occupied for hours at a time. With regular story updates, it’s almost overwhelming how much you can get out of this game without paying anything. Part of Genshin Impact’s appeal is its somewhat Breath of the Wild-like open world and visual style. While it leans a bit more on anime influences for its character designs (of which there are plenty of characters to play as in this game), Genshin Impact‘s world might be even...
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VIDEO GAME: Pokémon Quest (2018)

Pokémon Quest Year: 2018 Rating: E Time Played: 105+ hours There are a lot of games I play that are part of the free-to-play structure. Pokémon Quest was one of them. I say was here because there really was no motivation to complete the Pokémon series slogan of catching them all without finally giving in and paying for the items needed to make grinding for these rare Pokémon much easier. If I had given in and paid for the necessary items to make the game completable, I’d be spending nearly $30, and this is not a $30 game. When a game can play itself without player input, it’s hardly even a game. Presented in a pixelated Minecraft style, Pokémon Quest is probably closest to the Rumble side series of Pokémon games. With a few limited moves, the Pokémon you play with in this game are sent into different biomes to take down the Pokémon that live there. While there is some amount of strategy for...
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VIDEO GAME: Murder by Numbers (2020)

Murder by Numbers Year: 2020 Rating: T Time Played: 35+ hours I haven't played many visual novel games, so it only figures that the first one I fully completed was also a nonogram (or picross) game. Murder by Numbers mixes the point-and-click adventure of a visual novel mystery with the blocky puzzle styling of nonograms. Divided into several "episodes," the player follows an actress who plays a detective on TV as she solves actual crimes with the help of a mysterious robot known as SCOUT. It's cute and the characters are pretty fun; however, there are a few things I would change. The most frustrating part about this game was how close I came to completing it 100%, only to find that I could not go back and find one puzzle I missed in one of the episodes and instead had to go through the entire episode again. Since the game gives you an update of how close to "S Rank" you are for each...
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VIDEO GAME: Picross 3D (2010)

Picross 3D Year: 2010 Rating: E Time Played: 4,199 minutes / 69.98 hours By now, I'm entirely on board with the whole concept of nonogram puzzles. Often referred to as "picross," I have had better experiences with these games using a touchscreen and stylus, which was why I picked up Picross 3D for the Nintendo DS. The few other picross games I played on the DS were definitely enhanced by the fact that I could use the stylus to select the blocks I wanted to mark. The third dimension is what sets this game apart from regular picross games. While Picross 3D still suffers from the puzzles common to picross (mainly everyday objects and things), by making the puzzles three-dimensional, there was just enough novelty to make the game interesting to play. Instead of selecting boxes to fill in to create a black-and-white image, Picross 3D has the player chisel away at a box, eventually revealing a 3D model if everything is chosen correctly. Granted,...
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VIDEO GAME: Baba Is You (2019)

Baba Is You Year: 2019 Rating: E Time Played: 1,604 minutes / 26.73 hours Every once in a while, a puzzle game comes along that is so unique in its presentation and gameplay that you almost wonder why nobody else has done something like this before. Most puzzle games—especially puzzle platformers—rely on some amount of “programming” where the user changes part of the environment to get to the end of each level. While using a top-down view (and thus removing the “platforming” aspect), Baba Is You's, core gameplay mechanic is programming. It’s such a simple and well-executed concept that is as elegant as it is mind-bendingly frustrating. The goal of each level of Baba Is You is to reach the flag to win. The trick is, you can move around various word blocks to create programming statements. For example, “BABA IS YOU” defines the variable “BABA” as the player character, “YOU.” Using modifiers to other program statements located in the level, rocks can become flags, water can move,...
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VIDEO GAME: The LEGO Movie Videogame (2014)

The LEGO Movie Videogame Year: 2014 Rating: E10+ Time Played: ~10 hours Growing up with Legos, I definitely enjoyed The LEGO Movie (2014) when it came to theaters. Sure, it may have just been a knock-off of The Matrix (1999), but there were enough humorous bits and meta references for me to enjoy myself. Considering how Lego had been adapting several film franchises into Lego-themed video games for quite a few years prior to this movie's release, it just made sense that they would then turn their first arrival on the big screen into a Lego video game as well. Of course, by now the "Lego video game" had become somewhat of a tired formula. Even if I could play through the events of the movie, the almost mind-numbing action wasn't much different from any of the other Lego video games I had already played. It's no wonder that I felt burned out from these games after playing through this one. You definitely get the...
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VIDEO GAME: Lego Pirates of the Caribbean (2011)

Lego Pirates of the Caribbean Year: 2011 Rating: E10+ Time Played: ~25 hours I have to give props to Lego for making perhaps the best movie franchise video games that have ever existed. Sure, there were a few good Disney games for the SNES back in the day, but the scope of Lego's video game adaptations of famous film franchises makes any official video game adaptations of these movies pale in comparison. Sure, it's basically the same game over and over again with a different skin, but if it's a fun formula, why change it? Lego Pirates of the Caribbean may only cover the first four films in the franchise (which I'd consider a good thing), but it's certainly enough content to enjoy a solid playthrough. These games are fairly easy to get 100% completion on, and this one is no different. Gameplay is still the standard "collect items in each level" and "unlock upgrades and characters with studs" that most Lego video games had...
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VIDEO GAME: LEGO Batman – The Videogame (2008)

LEGO Batman: The Videogame Year: 2008 Rating: E10+ Time Played: ~30 hours LEGO Batman: The Videogame is a little bizarre because it came out well before The LEGO Movie (2014), where Will Arnett made LEGO Batman his own meme-able character (and eventually starred in his own movie spinoff). It also came out the same year as The Dark Knight (2008), which is arguably the best Batman movie in existence. However, this video game came early enough in the LEGO movie adaptation run in the late-2000s that it still had some of the rough edges that they hadn't smoothed out by later games in the series. This video game doesn't quite fit in the "movie adaptation" formula LEGO had created with hits like LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga. Instead, they seemed to pull from the iconic Batman the Animated Series for the game's episodic structure. We can all be grateful that the Tim Burton Batman films influenced this game much more than the Joel Schumacher...
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VIDEO GAME: LEGO The Lord of the Rings (2012)

LEGO The Lord of the Rings Year: 2012 Rating: E10+ Time Played: ~15 hours In the early 2010s, the one franchise I could trust to create faithful adaptations of movies into video games was none other than LEGO. Their formula of action, puzzle solving, and exploration worked for other franchises like Star Wars and Indiana Jones, so when it came time to adapt what is arguably one of the best cinematic trilogies to grace the big screen, I was all on board for the LEGO The Lord of the Rings video game. Following the events from the three films that came out a decade before this video game, LEGO The Lord of the Rings captures the feel of those movies in the individual level segments that follow the plot. As per usual, you need a variety of characters to reach all the collectibles in each level, which sometimes necessitates re-playing levels after beating them the first time. Using these collectibles, they can buy upgrades that...
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VIDEO GAME: Lego Indiana Jones – The Original Adventures (2008)

Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures Year: 2008 Rating: E10+ Time Played: ~20 hours Indiana Jones is one of those franchises that I enjoyed growing up, but was probably a bit too adult for me. Considering the amount of graphic violence that popped up in these films, it was easy to just "look away" during these intense moments. Heck, I hadn't even seen Temple of Doom (1984) until I had moved out on my own. It then seems weird to me that there would be a Lego video game based on this trilogy that's aimed at older children when the movies themselves probably should have been PG-13. In terms of gameplay, Lego Indiana Jones is still the same fun, simple, and mindless kind of game that encourages multiple play-throughs of the levels to collect all the items from three movies' worth of plot. This felt a bit more tedious in this game when compared to the six-film collection in Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga....
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VIDEO GAME: Lego Star Wars – The Complete Saga (2007)

Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga Year: 2007 Rating: E10+ Time Played: ~40 hours Back in the day, this game was an intersection of many of my interests. Not only was it based on Lego, but it had a Star Wars theme and was a playable video game. The trifecta. My younger brother bought one of the earlier games in the series, which convinced me that I needed to buy it myself. Fortunately, I only had to wait a few years for Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga to be released since it contained gameplay from all six of the (at the time) Star Wars films in Lego video game style. Split into a handful of levels that represent the plot from each of the Original and Prequel trilogy films, most of the gameplay is fairly simple. Break blocks, build things, collect items, and overcome obstacles. It can get a little chaotic—but that's when it's the most fun. With an enormous roster of playable characters,...
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VIDEO GAME: Pokémon Ultra Moon (2017)

Pokémon Ultra Moon Year: 2017 Rating: E Time Played: 1,972 minutes / 32.87 hours In each Generation of the Pokémon franchise, the "second set" of games released were often the same game, but with a few notable enhancements. For example, Pokémon Yellow would allow a player to obtain all three of the original starter Pokémon—a feat that would normally take multiple restarts with two cartridges of Red and Blue. When Generation V introduced "sequels" instead of a third enhanced game, these second games lost some of their appeal. Pokémon Ultra Moon carries on this legacy that eventually became the DLC approach we saw in Pokémon Sword. The unfortunate side effect of these sequel games, which feels more evident in Ultra Moon than in previous Generations, is that the first games in a Generation (in this case, Pokémon Sun) feel unfinished. After all, the "Ultra" games came out only a year later, so one wonders why anyone would want to purchase both the original and the...
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VIDEO GAME: Pokemon — White Version 2 (2012)

Pokémon White Version 2 Year: 2012 Rating: E Time Played: 2,857 minutes / 47.61 hours With the "soft reboot" of the Pokémon franchise in Generation V, a lot had changed about these games. Black and White were harder than before, and a whole new set of 150 Pokémon left some long-time fans (like myself) wondering when any of our favorites would appear in the game. The expectation for "enhanced" versions for each Generation was cemented by Pokémon Yellow, Crystal, Emerald, and Platinum. To then get a two-game split sequel in Pokémon Black and White Version 2 was a bit of a shock. Released only a year after its predecessor, White 2 learned a bit from the original White. Classic Pokémon had returned to Unova and weren't locked behind the post-game content. These games still had enhanced features like being able to catch legendaries from previous games—a welcome inclusion that has remained to this day. And while I had just played through White when I started...
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VIDEO GAME: Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS (2014)

Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS Year: 2014 Rating: E10+ Time Played: 1,288 minutes / 21.47 hours Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS was the system seller for me. I held out and didn't buy any version of the Nintendo DS or 3DS until this game (and the New Nintendo 3DS XL) came out. I bought the bundle that included this game and couldn't have picked a better one to start my experience on the 3DS. Since the start of this fighting game series, I've enjoyed playing each iteration of Super Smash Bros. and now I could play on the go. This was a fun game to play by myself, but this was also one of its weaknesses. I'm the type of gamer who likes to play through the different individual characters in story mode and unlock all the little trophies and trinkets. Unfortunately, I also like the couch multiplayer that previous iterations of this series thrived on. The concept of online play never appealed...
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VIDEO GAME: BoxBoy! + BoxGirl! (2019)

BoxBoy! + BoxGirl! Year: 2019 Rating: E Time Played: 511 minutes / 8.52 hours While I was aware of the BoxBoy! series of games on the Nintendo 3DS, I didn't try any of them until BoxBoy! + BoxGirl! released on the Switch. As a puzzle platformer, this game uses the most simple of mechanics in a variety of interesting ways. The cute little box characters were fun to control and none of the puzzles were ultimately impossible. The challenges definitely kept me playing all the way until the end, providing just enough mental stimulation to re-play levels immediately after clearing them. I rarely finish games completely anymore, but BoxBoy! + BoxGirl! had just enough in-game motivation for me to reach 100% in a mere 8.5 hours. It might lean heavier on the "puzzle" side of "puzzle platformer" but this just meant I had to think outside the box (ha ha) if I wanted to solve each level with the minimum number of blocks. I was...
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VIDEO GAME: Virtual Virtual Reality (2019)

Virtual Virtual RealityYear: 2019Rating: TTime Played: ~3 hours The one qualm I have with many VR games is how many of them fail to include any kind of story into their gameplay. It's mostly, "Here's this thing you can do in an immersive environment," and that's it. The ones that have a story (like Shadow Point or Moss) sometimes don't lean into the VR nearly as much—mostly being games that could be played in first- or third-person without VR. Virtual Virtual Reality, though, is the best of both worlds, combining VR interactions with a great story. Placed somewhere between the meta Accounting+ and interactivity of Job Simulator, Virtual Virtual Reality takes the Portal approach to gradual storytelling. There are a lot of parallels that are hard to miss here. At its core, this game's story revolves around a cheery yet malevolent AI who tries to get the player to perform odd jobs for a variety of requestors. However, when you peel back...
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VIDEO GAME: Accounting+ (2017)

Accounting+ Year: 2017 Rating: M Time Played: ~2 hours A lot of VR games lean into the gimmick by providing an immersive and interactive experience. Sometimes, this experience is through stereoscopic 3D, which is easily achieved in a VR headset. Other times, these games use the medium to place the user in settings that are not possible in real life. For the most part, though, each VR game sticks to a single concept or setting. Accounting+ is hard to describe because it goes in so many directions, each of which relies on the "meta" nature of virtual reality to work. There isn't a lot of cohesion between the different "levels" of Accounting+, other than interacting with the characters and environment to find the next VR headset to warp into the next world. As a comedic game, it has its funny moments if you can get past some of its more crass humor. Other portions are a bit gruesome as well, depending on how cartoony the...
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VIDEO GAME: Shadow Point (2019)

Shadow Point Year: 2019 Rating: E Time Played: ~7.5 hours One of the most underappreciated kinds of virtual reality games are the ones that both tell a great story and have interesting gameplay mechanics. In Shadow Point, the story follows a lost girl who finds herself trapped in a parallel universe and enjoying the freedom this bizarre world gives her. Its gameplay centers on a form of “shadow puppets” that the player creates using light and a variety of found objects. There is enough content in both portions of this game to be entertaining right up to the end of the emotionally gripping climax. With narration provided by Patrick Stewart, Shadow Point jumps along the young girl’s timeline with each subsequent world explored via the observatory “hub world.” As she grows up fending for herself, the initial excitement involved with exploring this new world gradually fades. Her voice actor expertly captures this change as the game progresses, eventually leading to one of the most emotional moments I’ve...
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VIDEO GAME: Vader Immortal (2019)

Vader Immortal Year: 2019 Rating: T Time Played: ~3 hours One perk of virtual reality is the ability to experience universes different from our own. The ability to interact with the Star Wars universe fulfills the dreams of many who want to feel what it’s like to shoot a blaster or wield a lightsaber. In Vader Immortal, you get to experience exploring Mustafar while also using the Force in a few key moments. While the story is relatively shallow—far too shallow to split into three parts—it’s disappointing that this experience suffers from somewhat janky VR controls. For a Star Wars game, the setting and characters are definitely the selling points of this experience. VR’s immersive nature made me feel like I was really there, even if the environment didn’t always react to my Force powers as consistently as I would have liked. What is most telling about Vader Immortal is that the lightsaber dojo (which is unlocked with only one part of this three-part game) is the most...
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VIDEO GAME: The Stanley Parable (2011)

The Stanley Parable Year: 2011 Rating: NR Time Played: ~2 hours The Stanley Parable is one of those odd video games that defies definition. Is it a walking simulator? Is it a choose-your-own-adventure? Is it a meta examination of itself? In the end, it truly is a combination of all three, but it's also so much more than that. While most video games have an objective you're trying to accomplish, The Stanley Parable is content with giving you the illusion of free will, then smirking as everything unravels in hilarious fashion. On my first playthrough of The Stanley Parable, I let the narrator guide me all the way to the end of the story. It was an uplifting ending that the narrator's voice prescribed, seeing as he told me what to do the whole time. However, there were no end credits after reaching this ending. Teleported back to the start of my journey, I progressed through this liminal space again, except now I knew what...
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VIDEO GAME: Superliminal (2019)

SuperliminalYear: 2019Rating: ETime Played: ~2 hours I can appreciate it when a game tries to do something different. In Superliminal, the main gameplay mechanic revolves around the idea of forced perspective. Something small can appear large if you hold it up to your eyes, and vice versa. Superliminal fully explores this concept in the psychologically unending liminal spaces of an individual trapped in a dream. Unfortunately, it attempts to be witty about this setting in a way that (as with many indie first-person puzzle games) tries too hard to be Portal 2. What Superliminal does well is its puzzles. Not only is it satisfying to shrink and grow items using forced perspective, but having to align items in just the right way to match with the background uses the right amount of brainpower to be engaging. Most of the puzzles are fairly straightforward and I only struggled with a few of them that suffered from dim lighting (for ambiance/tone's sake). Each puzzle...
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VIDEO GAME: Manifold Garden (2019)

Manifold GardenYear: 2019Rating: ETime Played: 5+ hours I first saw the trailer for Manifold Garden on a Nintendo Switch indie showcase. The visual style and gameplay mechanic were interesting enough for me to download this indie first-person puzzle game. I had seen nothing like it before and its infinitely repeating, fractal-like world appealed to the mathematician in me. Still, there's only so much you can do with a concept like this, so it's a good thing Manifold Garden didn't overstay its welcome. It's difficult to avoid comparisons to other first-person physics puzzle games. You might have a hit like Portal 2 or a pastiche of Portal 2 like Q.U.B.E. 2. Manifold Garden, fortunately, doesn't lean too heavily on Portal 2's mechanics. Instead, it uses the "rotate" feature to modify gravity, thus manipulating the elements needed to solve each puzzle. Plus, the cel-shaded and monochromatic color-coded visual style (similar to Gris) easily helps the player to know how the environment is currently oriented....
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VIDEO GAME: Tetris Effect (2018)

Tetris Effect Year: 2018 Rating: E Time Played: ~10 hours While most virtual reality games attempt to immerse the player in an interactive environment, Tetris Effect is best played sitting completely still. Tetris is Tetris, but Tetris Effect takes this classic formula and adds just enough new mechanics to it for the entire game to feel fresh and engaging. I've played this game both on my PC and on my Oculus Quest, and I have to say that I prefer the Quest version because of how immersive it is. There are no distractions. It's just you and Tetris. Since I recently trained myself on Tetris 99, I still found some levels in Tetris Effect's story mode to be quite difficult. Of course, as a single-player game, Tetris Effect had little to offer past this story mode. That was until they added the "Connected" mode that introduced online multiplayer. The 3-versus-1 mode is some of the most innovative Tetris I've ever played. With the multiplayer aspect...
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VIDEO GAME: Tetris 99 (2019)

Tetris 99 Year: 2019 Rating: E Time Played: 125+ hours The "Battle Royale" genre of video games took the world by storm a few years ago. While most of these games were shooters like Fortnite, one odd entry resonated with me. Tetris 99 takes the versus mode of this classic video game and pits you against 98 other players to see who has the skills to be the best for that round. I never played much "competitive" Tetris before I picked up this game, so there was a bit of a learning curve. Still, I eventually trained my playstyle to survive long enough to achieve the title of "Tetris Maximus." With over 125 hours clocked in this game, I found it easy to pick up and play. After I rose to the top of the 99 players, I could play in the "Invictus" mode, only for players who had become Tetris Maximus at least once. I usually play in Invictus mode for the challenge, but...
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VIDEO GAME: SUPERHOT (2016)

SUPERHOT Year: 2016 Rating: T Time Played: 4+ hours When I started playing PC games a year ago, I recalled being intrigued by a game where time only moves when you do. The game? SUPERHOT. Don't let the low-polygon count and high-contrast graphics distract you from how fun this game is to play. The core gameplay mechanic is so excellent that this aesthetic works to its advantage. After all, there's something satisfying about watching your enemies shatter into thousands of pieces in slow motion. While the function of this first-person shooter is like SUPERHOT VR, they are two different games. I found the VR version easier to pick up and play, mostly because I haven't played many first-person shooters on the PC. I eventually trained myself to adapt to the tighter keyboard and mouse controls to make it to the end credits. Additionally, I have played through SUPERHOT on the Nintendo Switch, which is somewhere in-between the ease of the VR version and the two-handed...
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VIDEO GAME: Q.U.B.E. 2 (2018)

Q.U.B.E. 2 Year: 2018 Rating: T Time Played: ~5 hours Q.U.B.E. 2 is one of those random games that I decided to play on a whim. Fortunately, it was free to me as a perk of having Amazon Prime. After completing this game, I don't think I would have paid for it otherwise. I knew nothing about this game going in, but it was at least interesting enough for me to see it all the way through to the end. That being said, it's a bit derivative of other first-person physics puzzle games that came before it. The more first-person physics puzzle games I play, the more I realize that Portal 2 is the definitive game in this genre. This is mostly because other games tend to rip off on Portal 2, and Q.U.B.E. 2 is one of these ripoffs. While Q.U.B.E. 2 takes itself seriously in the narrative it runs through the game (as compared to Portal 2's occasional humor), the stakes never seem to...
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VIDEO GAME: Axiom Verge (2015)

Axiom Verge Year: 2015 Rating: E10+ Time Played: 843 minutes / 14.05 hours As I play more and more video games, I'm finding that I enjoy Metroidvanias. Something about exploring and upgrading a character to unlock more parts of a map (for more exploration) feels satisfying to me. Axiom Verge adheres to many of the tropes that make a Metroidvania great, including mimicking the pixelated 16-bit style of one of the genre's founders, Super Metroid. The fact that a single person created the entirety of this game is astounding, even if its edges show in a few spots. Even though I enjoy playing through a Metroidvania like Axiom Verge, I also found myself struggling to beat the final boss of the game. Much like how I had to take a break before finishing off Hollow Knight, I found myself just barely able to keep up with Axiom Verge's final boss. It turns out I had missed picking up one of the game's best weapons because...
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VIDEO GAME: Abzu (2016)

Abzû Year: 2016 Rating: E Time Played: ~2 hours After years of obtaining the free game from the Epic Games store, I'm finally working my way through many of them. I'm not doing them in any particular order, but I saw Abzû and thought it looked relaxing. Once I got into it, I found that it was basically an underwater version of Journey. While I loved the narrative nature of Journey, I felt Abzû had less of an emotional impact by the time its short playthrough concluded. While Abzû is incredibly derivative of Journey, I do have to admit that the visuals were quite stunning. Everything was rich and colorful—even in some of the darker levels. There was a lot of care given to the underwater environments and it was clear that the game developers had done their research to recreate these beautiful underwater environments. Unfortunately, the underwater gameplay is also something I struggled with in this game. I constantly found myself struggling with the...
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VIDEO GAME: Flower (2009)

Flower Year: 2009 Rating: E Time Played: 2 hours Video games are truly a unique form of interactive art. While many of the medium’s detractors will point to the excessive violence present in many triple-A titles, many counter-examples show how peaceful the medium can be. Take indie developer, Thatgamecompany, for instance. The beautiful narrative format they used in Journey had me in tears by the end, and the only things I could do in that game were move, jump, and make a sound with my character. One of their previous works, Flower, goes so far as to remove jumping and interacting from the equation. In Flower, you play as a single flower petal that activates other flowers that add additional flower petals to the player’s entourage. A level system breaks up the narrative a little and allows me to see if there were secret areas I had not yet found in each portion of the game. These standard video game conventions—along with defeating the “big...
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VIDEO GAME: Mario’s Super Picross (1995)

Mario’s Super Picross Year: 1995 Rating: Not Rated Time Played: 3,898 minutes / 64.97 hours It’s a little odd to me that Picross (or Nonograms) never took off as a puzzle genre outside of Japan. Sudoku and (my personal favorite) Kakuro eventually found popularity in the United States in the 2000s. This was likely due to the ease with which these puzzles could be printed. While Nonograms have the novelty of producing a pixelated two-tone image, they sometimes take up to 30 minutes to solve (especially for the more detailed puzzles). Pokémon Picross introduced me to Picross games, and it has the advantage of a stylus and touchscreen. The Japanese-only release of Mario’s Super Picross does not have this advantage. Mario’s Super Picross became available on the Super Nintendo Virtual Console for the Switch, which is what allowed me to finally play this game. While the controls take a little getting used to, this game’s one novelty is the little animations that play when solving...
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VIDEO GAME: Hollow Knight (2017)

Hollow Knight Year: 2017 Rating: E10+ Time Played: 2,712 minutes / 45.20 hours Every once in a while, I come across a game that hooks me right out of the gate. The music, ambiance, and gameplay mixed in a perfect combination that encouraged me to keep playing. Despite the sharp difficulty curve I encountered for the main bosses, the stakes made me continue the journey all the way to its conclusion (at least one of the few different endings, that is). There is nothing more rewarding than feeling so close to defeating a boss, only to mess up and need to try again and finally succeeding. For an affordable indie game, Hollow Knight is filled with content. Even if I found myself stuck at a particular junction, I could merely explore some other facet of the gigantic map until my skills improved to the point where I could defeat the roadblock in my way. All the while, I marveled at the unique visuals for each...
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VIDEO GAME: Sayonara Wild Hearts (2019)

Sayonara Wild Hearts Year: 2019 Rating: E10+ Time Played: 1+ hour Another game I picked up during an "indie game" sale on the Switch, Sayonara Wild Hearts looked interesting mostly on the strength of its visuals. When I actually sat down to play it, I found an experience I wasn't expecting. Sayonara Wild Hearts manages to be many different games, all covered by the low-poly style and catchy soundtrack that drives its action. At its base, Sayonara Wild Hearts is mostly a rhythm game. However, its multi-genre approach made it feel like a rail-shooter more often than not. Unlike the normal music-rhythm games out there (like Guitar Hero or Rock Band), Sayonara Wild Hearts allows for some mistakes but brings the action to a halt unless the player performs certain actions needed for quick-time events. Even if it's forgiving in allowing the player to eventually memorize what needs to happen, the result is that the player's ranking for the level suffers. That being said, I...
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VIDEO GAME: Job Simulator (2016)

Job SimulatorYear: 2016Rating: E10+Time Played: ~2.5 hours While I didn't know it at the time, one of the first Virtual Reality games I ever encountered was none other than Job Simulator. Many years later, I bought this game for my Oculus Quest and immediately understood the appeal. Sure, the graphics aren't top-notch, but that's not the point of Job Simulator. If anything, it's an easy introduction into the world of VR that allows the user to play around in a variety of "job" environments. The comedy in this game is quite amusing; however, its replay value is fairly limited. Set in the far future, Job Simulator pokes fun at several professions, including Auto Mechanic, Gourmet Chef, Store Clerk, and Office Worker. Anyone who has experienced any of these jobs will likely get a chuckle out of its tongue-in-cheek satire. As a single-player game, it only takes a few hours to complete all four campaigns. And while the tasks are the same on...
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VIDEO GAME: A Short Hike (2019)

A Short Hike Year: 2019 Rating: E Time Played: ~2 hours I'm starting to like the open-world format of some video games. Sure, there's a broad goal the player is trying to accomplish, but sometimes the most fun comes from the little sidequests that you encounter along the way. Of course, the best sidequests help the player ultimately achieve the game's goal by rewarding a useful item or ability. A Short Hike is a prime example of how to do the open-world format. As an indie game, the big-name developers should take notes here. While the "low quality" visuals initially put me off, you eventually get used to them. This is basically my only gripe with the game, as it's clearly hiding some of the cut corners of its development. As someone who enjoys hiking to the top of mountains, I liked the gameplay with a somewhat loose motivation to get to the top of this island mountain. Sure, the plot is touching when you...
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VIDEO GAME: Donut County (2018)

Donut CountyYear: 2018Rating: ETime Played: ~2 hours Most indie games these days make up for their limitations with stylized visuals and tongue-in-cheek humor. One of the current visual styles favored by developers is the cel-shaded look that gives us games like Untitled Goose Game, What the Golf? and Donut County. While Donut County predates those two other games, it definitely has its moments of humor that likely inspired its predecessors. It might be a bit goofy at times, but Donut County is fun for a few hours of gameplay. There's not much to keep you playing past the end credits, though. The basic gameplay premise of Donut County is similar to Katamari Damacy, wherein you have to make a hole big enough to swallow up larger and larger objects until nothing is left. There's a bit of a puzzle element to some of the levels, where you have to use consumed items to trigger other parts of the level so you can...
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VIDEO GAME: Florence (2018)

Florence Year: 2018 Rating: T Time Played: ~30 minutes Video games as a medium are changing. Technology has advanced to the point where storytelling isn't just confined to books, movies, and televisions shows. Sure, there are "cinematic" triple-A titles that have exciting gameplay and dramatic twists. Then there are the indie titles like Florence that make a heartfelt story interactive through video games. It's a cute game that doesn't have much replay value but is worth checking out at least once if you have a little time to kill. It's odd how such a simple game can pack an emotional punch with such a short story, but that's where Florence succeeds. The player is engaged in portions of the story through a series of minigames that don't necessarily change the plot in any significant way (which might have been an interesting way to increase its replayability). However, these little interactive bits are great at expressing the wordless emotions of the characters as they try and...
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VIDEO GAME: Dead Cells (2017)

Dead CellsYear: 2017Rating: TTime Played: 10+ hours For years, I saw many people praise Dead Cells for its flashy, fast-paced gameplay. I stayed away from it for a long time because I wasn't used to playing roguelike games and didn't like the idea of losing all my progress when I died. Eventually, Dead Cells went on sale on the Nintendo eShop, and I picked it up. Then I didn't put it down again for days. It turns out the right roguelike structure is an addicting combination of steady progress and mastery of the gameplay. The fact that you "lose progress" in Dead Cells is a bit of a misnomer. I appreciated the upgrade system that allowed me to eventually win enough times to get all the way to the end boss and defeat him, thus unlocking even more of the game. Of course, I had to grind for a while to "get gud" before I could even finish the first level (at...
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VIDEO GAME: Moss (2018)

MossYear: 2018Rating: ETime Played: ~4 hours As gaming advances into an era with an option for virtual reality, I'm glad to see some games embrace this technology in ways to bridge the gap between traditional gaming and VR gaming. For example, it's too easy to merely adapt a first-person shooter like SUPERHOT into the VR space since the platform is basically made for the first-person perspective. But what about platformers? Adventure games? Moss shows how games in these genres can still work in virtual reality while also making the interactivity of the medium part of the gameplay. I have to say there's a bit of a challenge in controlling the player character while also using these controllers to modify the environment. This multitasking takes some time to get used to but ultimately is interesting enough to not be completely frustrating. Sometimes, the next step in a particular room isn't readily apparent, which led me to look up the solution to advance the...
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VIDEO GAME: Hyper Light Drifter (2016)

Hyper Light Drifter Year: 2016 Rating: T Time Played: 524 minutes / 8.73 hours As a gamer who grew up on the pixel art graphics of the 8- and 16- bit eras, I can appreciate when a game comes along to try and replicate that aesthetic. Granted, it can be challenging to pull off correctly while also adapting modern gameplay elements. However, there are definitely games that have successfully created an homage to these earlier times (like Shovel Knight). Then there are games that expand upon their predecessors to create something that the original gaming systems couldn't possibly handle. Hyper Light Drifter is beautiful in its aesthetic while never sacrificing its vision or its challenge. Early video games had the flaw of being difficult for the sake of drawing out how long you played them. As a result, some were unfairly hard—to the point where I never wanted to get good enough to beat them. Hyper Light Drifter certainly had a bit of a learning...
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VIDEO GAME: Kirby Star Allies (2018)

Kirby Star Allies Year: 2018 Rating: E10+ Time Played: 5+ hours I enjoyed the Kirby games growing up. They're probably the first games I ever beat. They may have been simple, but they were fun. I still have fond memories of Kirby's Adventure on the NES, which cemented the series formula in my head: eat enemies and steal their powers. The platforming was never too difficult, but the boss battles provided enough challenge to satisfy me when I eventually defeated them. I was also equally engaged with finding all the hidden areas until I reached 100% completion. The latest in the Kirby series, Kirby Star Allies, doesn't stray far from this formula. While I only picked up the occasional Kirby game since my NES days, I knew the "partner" mechanic had been around for some time. Kirby Star Allies doesn't necessarily reinvent anything with this game mechanic as much as it does tweak it slightly to allow four players simultaneously. However, I did appreciate many...
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VIDEO GAME: Breath of the Wild (2017)

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Year: 2017 Rating: E10 Time Played: 90+ hours I’ve been a fan of the Legend of Zelda series for a long time. While Ocarina of Time started my love of the series, I looked forward to each new iteration to see how the items, puzzle-solving, and combat would satisfy my need to visit Hyrule. Consequently, while Breath of the Wild snuck under the radar for me (in part because I didn’t own the consoles it released on at the time), I almost have trouble going back and playing the older Zelda titles because of its mold-breaking success. Needless to say, this game was what impelled me to finally buy a Switch a few years ago. I could continue to sing the praises of this game heaped upon it by other reviewers. But, instead, I’ll point out that it’s a game I’ll still occasionally pull out and play, even when I have newer titles that I haven’t even...
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VIDEO GAME: Ocarina of Time 3D (2011)

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D Year: 2011 Rating: E10 Time Played: 16.95 hours When I was cataloging my video game collection a few years ago, I realized how I seemed to have a lot of Nintendo console games that I also had in a Game Boy version. While this seems to indicate I was the prime market for the Switch decades before it came out, I never considered the “portable” versions of these games to be that good. With the recent uptick in remakes and re-ports to newer hardware, I can’t claim that I appreciate buying the same game I already own and can still play on an older system. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D is the exception to this. While it had been some time since I played Ocarina of Time, it was one of the first Zelda games I actually completed when I was growing up. So, with a bit of nostalgia tinting my play-through of the...
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VIDEO GAME: A Link Between Worlds (2013)

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between WorldsYear: 2013Rating: ETime Played: 895 minutes / 14.92 hours While I bemoan remakes of games that are just straight ports from their original system, I can appreciate remakes that add a little something to make it worth playing the same story over again. That was definitely the case with The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. Basically a 3D re-skin of A Link to the Past, A Link Between Worlds modifies the mechanics and story just enough for me to consider it a moderately unique entry in the Zelda series. In fact, I think I like this game more than I do the game it was originally based on. This game's stereoscopic effect really adds to that top-down visual style that defined the earlier Zelda titles. So, while everything looked gorgeous in its reimagined 3D form, the game already lent itself to this technological feature. I also appreciated how open this game was, as...
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VIDEO GAME: Spirit Tracks (2009)

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit TracksYear: 2009Rating: ETime Played: 21.13 hours For many years, I was never a fan of the dual-screen (DS) line of Nintendo's handheld systems. I grew up on the standard D-pad and action buttons, so having to transition to a touchscreen was quite the adjustment. I had already played through Phantom Hourglass, so I was prepared to face the less-accurate combat system implemented for the DS Zelda titles. Still, this didn't prepare me for how frustrating everything else about Spirit Tracks would be. I get that the Zelda games can be a little repetitive. At least the different "biomes" of Hyrule help create differences between the dungeons that make the gameplay interesting. However, Spirit Tracks does little to distinguish between these dungeons, with each one feeling so similar to the last that I can't honestly remember what made any of them unique. The fact that the story was so repetitive as to be the same sequence of events...
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VIDEO GAME: Phantom Hourglass (2007)

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom HourglassYear: 2007Rating: ETime Played: 19.78 hours Just like Ocarina of Time influenced the style and lore of the Oracle games, the Zelda series’ first foray into the DS system took its cues from The Wind Waker—perhaps even too much. Additionally, as there were plenty of new features in the Nintendo DS that were not present in previous Nintendo systems, The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass decided to take advantage of almost all of them. Again, perhaps to its detriment. Still, for the limited graphics and repetitive sections of the story, Phantom Hourglass is a fairly good Zelda game. Even if it took a little bit to get used to the stylus-based combat system, I did eventually find it to be a neat alternative to the standard button configuration for a Zelda title, even if it didn’t behave as I wanted all the time. There were also limitations to how accurate the stylus inputs were when I needed...
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VIDEO GAME: The Minish Cap (2005)

The Legend of Zelda: The Minish CapYear: 2005Rating: ETime Played: ~16 hours The almost forgotten title in the Zelda franchise, Minish Cap has a subtle nod to its portable system in the way that Link can shrink down to engage with the world on a smaller scale. It’s a shame we didn’t see more unique titles in the Zelda series for the Game Boy Advance, as Minish Cap was a charming adventure that added to the developing lore of the franchise. While the visuals and controls were quite good considering the Game Boy Advance’s limitations, the length of this game left me wanting more by the time I completed it. As a unique entry in the portable Zelda games, Minish Cap has a surprising amount of depth regarding the characters, plot, and overall game mechanics. Each step in restoring the Minish sword revealed a little more about the lore, which caused me to keep playing to find out what would happen next....
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VIDEO GAME: Oracle of Ages (2001)

The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages Year: 2001 Rating: E Time Played: ~30 hours As the second half of the “Oracle” games in the Zelda franchise, Oracle of Ages takes more of its cues from the wildly popular Ocarina of Time than its sister game, Oracle of Seasons, did. While Oracle of Seasons had a fairly unique mechanic (albeit not fully realized), Oracle of Ages had the benefit of its Nintendo 64 predecessor to help craft some of the puzzle-solving that needed to happen throughout its gameplay. And even if I played through using a linked account, giving me quite a few advantages—Oracle of Ages still suffers from some of the Game Boy Zelda titles' limitations. Even if the story in Oracle of Ages isn’t that strong compared to the Nintendo 64 games, it’s at least more fleshed out in terms of characters and their motivations when compared to Oracle of Seasons. The end boss wasn’t nearly as difficult in this game, but at...
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VIDEO GAME: Oracle of Seasons (2001)

The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons Year: 2001 Rating: E Time Played: ~30 hours When video games started splitting off into “two-part” versions in the mid-90s, my brother and I would always split who got which game. As a result, I realized that I had never played The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons, as I had the Oracle of Ages version. After finishing Link’s Awakening DX, I decided to remedy this situation. While it was evident that this game used a lot of the same assets from Link’s Awakening, there was also ample evidence that the Zelda games on the Nintendo 64 influenced these handheld games. The base mechanic of Oracle of Seasons uses the four different seasons to solve a variety of puzzles in the over-world to progress to each of the eight dungeons. While this sticks to the core Zelda formula, this game's unfortunate aspect is how lackluster the story is. This was weird because of how the Nintendo 64 titles...
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VIDEO GAME: Link’s Awakening (2019)

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening Year: 2019 Rating: E Time Played: ~10 hours I'm not a huge fan of HD remakes of older games. After all, it's basically putting a new skin on the same game and asking modern prices for the privilege to play it. When I eventually picked up the Switch version of this classic Game Boy game, I was only partly justified in my skepticism. Sure, I didn't pay full price for these—albeit absolutely gorgeous—updated visuals, so I feel I still got my money's worth out of the game (which I still don't consider to be worth $60). Having only recently completed the DX version of this game for the first time, I found navigating through Link's Awakening (2019) was a lot easier the second time around. This was partly due to my memory of the game and my ability to easily complete some of the game's plot points that weren't as intuitive in my first playthrough. That being said, there...
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VIDEO GAME: Link’s Awakening DX (1998)

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX Year: 1998 Rating: E Time Played: ~16 hours With the recently-released Switch remake of this game, I realized I never actually managed to play through the original Link’s Awakening. Perhaps one of the first Zelda games my family-owned, I decided to pull out my copy of Link’s Awakening DX and play through it (and thus, save me the $60 on a “new” game). While I played for a bit on the Super Game Boy to get that “big screen” feel, the colors I experienced on the Game Boy Advanced made playing in a handheld mode that much more enjoyable, if not more intimate. After running through the first few dungeons, it became evident to me that I never made it very far in this game when I was 20 years younger. I was content just exploring what I could at the time. However, this also highlights how there were some moments where the next step in completing the...
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VIDEO GAME: Pokémon Shuffle (2015)

Pokémon Shuffle Year: 2015 Rating: E Time Played: ~824 hours Considering how much time I’ve sunk into this game, I should probably give it a review. While on its surface, Pokémon Shuffle is merely a branded version of a “match three” puzzle game, the mechanics it adds to this genre gives the game an amount of strategy that is clearly addicting. As a free-to-play gamer, I haven’t put a single dollar into this game (on either the 3DS or mobile versions). Consequently, it takes a very long time to get anything done in this game, at least when it comes to maxing out the stats on the best Pokémon to use. While the game has finally entered a regular cycle of events and specially available Pokémon, there was a time when I was excited to open up the game on Tuesdays to learn what new Pokémon I could catch/power-up each week. At the very least, with the normalization of events, I know I won’t have...
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VIDEO GAME: Pokémon Picross (2015)

Pokémon Picross Year: 2015 Rating: E Time Played: ~78 hours I’ve never been much of a fan of picross-type games. Mostly, the user interface for them required the use of a D-pad, which made solving each puzzle a slow endeavor. Additionally, most of the pictures created via these picross puzzles were not that interesting. This was why I was surprised to find that I enjoyed Pokémon Picross so much. Sure, it might be a picross game at its core, but the addition of the Pokémon brand made it much more entertaining to play than any other picross game I’ve come across. Additionally, the 3DS touch screen and stylus made completing puzzles that much easier than using a D-pad. While the Pokémon content and stylus controls were two reasons I ended up completing this game, I admit that it has one annoying flaw: paywalls. Granted, Pokémon Picross is a free-to-play game, but there are a few points early on where you need a certain amount of...
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VIDEO GAME: Pokémon – Platinum Version (2009)

Pokémon Platinum Version Year: 2009 Rating: E Time Played: 88.65 hours Even though I was a fan of the Pokémon series growing up, when the main-line games transitioned over to the Nintendo DS, I couldn’t justify buying the new system at the time. I felt the dual-screen/touch screen format was a bit of a gimmick (which I still do, to an extent). However, fast forward a good decade or so when I finally gave in and bought a New Nintendo 3DS. This now meant I could play a sizable back catalog of games, including the Pokémon games I had missed since the change over to the DS. Fortunately, because I had waited so long, I could jump right into the 4th Generation games with the more complete Pokémon Platinum Version. Having now played at least one game from each Generation all the way through (I’m still working on Gen. 8, though), I think Pokémon Platinum provides the best experience of any Generation. Not only was...
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VIDEO GAME: Pokémon – White Version (2011)

Pokémon White Version Year: 2011 Rating: E Time Played: 61.88 hours As I worked through the back catalog of Pokémon games I had missed between Generation 3 and 7, I had always heard that the Generation 5 games were the most difficult. Having completed Pokémon White Version, I can say that there is a definite challenge spike when compared with previous entries in the series. This doesn’t mean it’s an impossible game, just that it took a little more work and a little more grinding to be able to defeat the final bosses. Since grinding isn’t necessarily that enjoyable, this made the gameplay suffer slightly as a result. I was quite surprised to start up this game and find that all the Pokémon I was used to were nowhere to be found. Granted, they did show up after I beat the game, but by then, it was clear that this Generation of games was a reboot of the series formula. With a whole bunch of...
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VIDEO GAME: Pokémon X (2013)

Pokémon X Year: 2013 Rating: E Time Played: 36.37 hours When I finally bought a 3DS, one of the games I had missed (that I quickly rectified) was Pokémon X. I appreciated all the legendary Pokémon given out as part of the 20th anniversary of the Generation 1 games. Still, I didn’t get around to playing through this game until after Pokémon Sun came out. For the first game in the series to be fully 3D, I certainly enjoyed the look and polish of it, even if the stereoscopic abilities of the 3DS weren’t used as much as they should have been. After all, with everything rendered with 3D visuals, I want the full game to use the ability of the hardware to display in 3D. After playing the much more difficult Generation 5 games, I did enjoy how much easier they made Pokémon X. Granted, they kind of overdid it with the sharp drop in difficulty. Still, I also think they were trying to...
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VIDEO GAME: Pokémon Sun (2016)

Pokémon SunYear: 2016Rating: ETime Played: 115.37 hours While I grew up with the original 1st Generation Pokémon games, I had lost interest in the series just after Gen. 3. This was around the time I headed off to college, so I didn’t have as much time for video games as I did while in high school. Fast forward to the 20th anniversary of Pokémon and the release of Pokémon Sun and Moon. There were plenty of legendary Pokémon being given out at the time, so I found it was as good a time as any to get back into the series. A lot had changed since I left, and Pokémon Sun carried over plenty of these changes. I appreciated a lot of these tweaks, including the removal of HMs and unlimited-use TMs. And while adjusting the “experience share” to give experience to all the Pokémon in my team made the game a little easier, it also reduced the amount of grind that...
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VIDEO GAME: Pokémon Sword (2019)

Pokémon Sword Year: 2019 Rating: E Time Played: 92.03 hours As with any new iteration of a long-running franchise, it’s equally interesting to see how the formula is changed to make things interesting while also cutting out some of the tedium present in previous installments. While Pokémon Sword has certainly improved some of the quality of life issues present in the franchise, some of the newer features still need a bit of work to be fully enjoyable. That being said, for the first time in many generations, I was able to (almost) completely fill my Pokédex (even with the DLC Pokémon, having not actually bought it) while playing entirely by myself. I still have a few evolutions I need another friend for, but they account for ~1% of the total. I was somewhat pleased with the introduction of the “Gigantamaxing” mechanic, even if it was essentially a combination of Mega Evolution and Z-Moves from Generations 6 and 7, respectively. The annoying thing about these special...
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VIDEO GAME: SUPERHOT VR (2016)

SUPERHOT VRYear: 2016Rating: TTime Played: 2 hours The concept: time moves when you do. The challenge: survive. I had already played a few hours of the regular SUPERHOT game on my PC, but SUPERHOT VR is an experience on a whole other level. Sure, there's not as much of a plot in this version of the game (they are two entirely different games), but it's compensated for by being one of the most immersive experiences I've had on my Oculus Quest. In fact, it's likely one of the titles that caused me to get the Quest at all. What's interesting about this quasi first-person shooter is how it's more like a puzzle game than anything else. When you have to figure out the best way to avoid being "reset" in each scene, you start to think strategically about where you are and what items are nearby to use. Sure, the violence of gunning down humanoid shapes is lessened by them being bright...
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VIDEO GAME: What the Golf? (2019)

What the Golf?Year: 2019Rating: E10+Time Played: 5.27 hours It seems to me that modern indie games fall into two categories: art and humor. While games like Journey and Gris trend toward the art, games like Untitled Goose Game and What the Golf? are solidly in the humor category. Of course, the humor in What the Golf? is best appreciated by those who are familiar with a wide variety of video games. Just off the top of my head, this game references Super Mario Bros., Angry Birds, Superhot, Portal, Metal Gear Solid, and Super Meat Boy. Even without this referential humor, What the Golf? does have enough amusing moments for anyone to enjoy. The biggest problem I found with this game is its difficulty and replay value. Granted, I haven’t found someone to explore the co-op mode on the Switch version, but I completed the base game in just over five hours. Since I also took the time to collect some of the...
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VIDEO GAME: Animal Crossing – New Horizons (2020)

Animal Crossing: New HorizonsYear: 2020Rating: ETime Played: 195+ hours I’d never had any interest in the Animal Crossing series before New Horizons came out. I didn’t get the point of it. There didn’t seem to be any objective other than paying off a loan to a capitalist raccoon. That being said, when I saw the first trailer for New Horizons, my interest was immediately piqued. While the graphics were sharp and adorable, the crafting and terraforming mechanics seemed to give me the flexibility I’d want in such a simulation game. And while there is plenty to do in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, at a certain point, it becomes a repetitive chore. By now, this game is my most-played on my Switch. I’ve put in the time and effort to build a 5-star island and have long paid off my house (thanks to a fortunate week in the “stalk market”). I have orchards full of the different varieties of trees, flowerbeds on their...
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VIDEO GAME: Poochy and Yoshi’s Wooly World (2015)

Poochy and Yoshi’s Wooly World Year: 2015 Rating: E Time Played: 11.35 hours It’s weird to think that it has been 20 years since Yoshi split off into its own franchise. The sequel to Super Mario World, Yoshi’s Island established the franchise’s game mechanics and the titular character’s movements back in 1995. Since then, there haven’t been too many entries in the core series. Yoshi’s Story rehashed some of the gameplay a little over a decade after Yoshi’s Island, just like Poochy and Yoshi’s Wooly World managed to do a decade after that. Part of the problem with this is that the visuals always get an update, but nothing else changes significantly with each iteration. Somewhat in the same universe as Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Yoshi’s Wooly World has a tactile and charming aesthetic that revolves around yarn and other fabric crafts. While Yoshi can launch balls of yarn—much in the same way that eggs were used in previous iterations of the franchise—one of the goals...
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VIDEO GAME: Mega Man Star Force – Pegasus (2007)

Mega Man Star Force: Pegasus Year: 2007 Rating: E Time Played: 17.30 hours I have fond memories of playing the Mega Man Battle Network games in high school. I liked the RPG/Action/Card mechanics of this series and always wanted more. When the pseudo-spin-off series, Mega Man Star Force, arrived on the Nintendo DS, it seemed like a good evolution of the formula. However, I resisted buying a DS for so long that eventually, I had to come back and play these games a decade after they came out. With this amount of hindsight, I don’t know if I was viewing a series I never played through nostalgia or the evolved gaming landscape of today. Since I had watched the anime based on these games, I was already familiar with the basic story and plot structure. Additionally, not much had changed since the Battle Network games, other than a slight perspective shift and some modifications to the chip system. Even with this familiarity, I found myself...
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VIDEO GAME: Mega Man ZX (2006)

Mega Man ZX Year: 2006 Rating: E Time Played: 5.32 hours Much like how Mega Man Star Force expounded upon the Mega Man Battle Network formula, Mega Man ZX evolved the platforming and action of the Mega Man Zero series. While this meant the visual style and difficulty carried over from the Zero series, ZX added just enough modification to the player character to make it more reminiscent of the original Mega Man series. Given how I’d developed some of my skills via the Zero games, I was easily able to jump right in and start playing ZX without too much difficulty. Part of the problem with this game was the slightly “open-world” style of the overworld. I’ve been so used to playing Mega Man games that immediately transport you to the level you want to play. I’m so used to this formula that having to navigate a labyrinthine home base just to get to the next area was frustrating at times—if only for the...
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VIDEO GAME: Shantae – Half-Genie Hero (2016)

Shantae: Half-Genie Hero Year: 2016 Rating: T Time Played: 7 hours After playing through Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse on my 3DS, I was looking forward to experiencing the next game in the series on the big screen. I picked up Shantae: Half-Genie Hero on sale from the eShop, and I believe I got what I paid for. While there seems to be a lot of extra content locked behind DLC barriers, it doesn’t look like any of it adds to the core experience of this game. As far as I can tell, Half-Genie Hero hearkens back to the original Shantae game, relying more on transformations instead of items to uncover the secrets contained in the handful of colorful levels. While the higher definition graphics were great on the Switch, I felt that Shantae handled worse than she did in Pirate’s Curse. Often, I’d find myself trying to perform some action, and the game wouldn’t let me do it (the flying fortress level is of...
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VIDEO GAME: Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse (2014)

Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse Year: 2014 Rating: T Time Played: 562 minutes / 9.37 hours A couple of years ago, I started hearing about a cult classic Game Boy Color game known as Shantae. While this game released near the end of that handheld’s life cycle, there was plenty of buzz about how it was a solid platformer with plenty of potential. Fast forward eight years and the first sequel, Shantae: Risky’s Revenge, made its appearance as a virtual game on the DSi. I happened to jump into this series with the 3DS virtual title, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse and I certainly enjoyed the pseudo-Metroidvania approach that WayForward took with this franchise. While I would have liked to have found a cartridge version of this game, I eventually settled on buying it from the eShop. I’m glad I did, as it allowed me to play the game instead of just thinking about it. Overall, it’s a solid action platformer with plenty of upgrades...
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VIDEO GAME: Super Mario Odyssey (2017)

Super Mario OdysseyYear: 2017Rating: E10Time Played: 20+ hours As is the case with many Nintendo systems, Super Mario Odyssey marked the mustachioed plumber’s arrival on the Switch, much like Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy did for the Nintendo 64, Gamecube, and Wii, respectively. Taking cues from all its predecessors, Super Mario Odyssey is a gorgeous platformer with plenty to do, almost to its detriment. It’s clear a lot of attention to detail went into this game, but it’s also evident that Odyssey is a celebration of Mario’s history as Nintendo’s de facto mascot. The fact that you can now play as many of Mario’s enemies is a fantastic mechanic that is as unique as it is timeless. Odyssey uses the improved graphics on the Switch to create stunning worlds that are just itching to be explored. The music as well is perhaps some of the best in the franchise, with the theme to the Wooded Kingdom being...
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VIDEO GAME: Undertale (2015)

UndertaleYear: 2015Rating: E10+Time Played: 5+ hours By the time I had the chance to play Undertale (on the Nintendo Switch, no less), most of the surprising revelations about its battle system were already spoiled for me. Regardless of knowing the unique playstyle for this game, I tried my best to play by the counterintuitive methods that set this game apart from others of its genre. And while I didn’t get the true pacifist ending for some reason, it was still an enjoyable and humorous game. Despite its somewhat shorter length, I still think making it any longer would have ruined the tight storytelling. Now, Undertale is by no means a perfect game, and I’m sure the diehard fans of this franchise will hate me for saying this. The visual style was pretty good for a retro throwback, but it felt inconsistent from place to place, almost like it didn’t know if it wanted to be 8-bit or 16-bit. Similarly, the fantastic music...
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VIDEO GAME: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (2017)

Mario Kart 8 DeluxeYear: 2017Rating: ETime Played: 5+ hours Just like how Mario Kart 7 expanded on the core gameplay mechanic of the Mario Kart series by adding gliding and underwater features in its tracks, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe goes a step further and removes the confines of gravity from the franchise. This core change to the Mario Kart formula results in a lot of genuinely unique courses that couldn’t have been possible in previous games. To top everything off, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is presented in gorgeous high definition while also including all the downloadable content from the Wii U version at no additional cost. With a variety of new courses, as well as classic racetracks enhanced to the Switch’s advanced graphical capabilities, I was glad to finally see some representation in this franchise from characters outside the typical Mario franchise. Representative characters and courses from the Zelda, Animal Crossing, and Splatoon franchises felt like welcome additions and perhaps even the...
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VIDEO GAME: Mario Kart 7 (2011)

Mario Kart 7 Year: 2011 Rating: E Time Played: 2.35 hours One of the challenges of long-running series like Mario Kart is how to maintain the core gameplay mechanic while also continuing to innovate. Previous iterations in the franchise played with having two characters in a Kart (Double Dash on the Gamecube) before reverting to the traditional formula (Mario Kart Wii). Furthermore, with the limitations present in portable and handheld consoles, there’s a point where the experience isn’t quite the same as it would be on a television screen. Fortunately, Mario Kart 7 seems to have struck a good balance between new ideas and embracing nostalgia. Even if I didn’t use the online mode for racing against other individuals (one of the core attractions of the Mario Kart series), I did find that each race in Mario Kart 7 was just long enough for me to play through in a single sitting. If I had more time, the option to race through a series of...
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VIDEO GAME: Metroid II – Return of Samus (1991)

Metroid II: Return of Samus Year: 1991 Rating: E Time Played: 7.5 hours The forgotten child of the original Metroid trilogy, Metroid II is that weird transition between a neat idea and a video game masterpiece. Relying on most all of the same concepts that made the original Metroid on the NES popular, Metroid II suffers from the innate limitations of the Game Boy hardware. Color certainly helped delineate the different areas in the NES game and made the follow-on Super Metroid that much more vivid and haunting, which is why the lack of it in this game poses several problems. Still, it is a solid Metroid game at its base, despite its few flaws. One of the flaws of this game is its lack of a map. Another weakness is the ability for the player to know what exactly changed when the screen shows a rumbling vibration. I spent way too long going back over the same areas, only to learn later that I...
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VIDEO GAME: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (2018)

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Year: 2018 Rating: E10 Time Played: ~45 hours I grew up playing the original Super Smash Bros. on the Nintendo 64. I loved being able to play as a variety of characters across some well-known (and perhaps less well-known) Nintendo franchises. With each iteration of the series, I’ve enjoyed seeing new characters representing new and classic games join the roster. However, even if I can understand cutting some characters as the series moved forward, it was still a disappointment when I couldn’t play as my favorites in subsequent entries in the franchise. This is why I was hyped up for the release of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. For the first time, I was able to play as a staggeringly large number of characters. The fact that (almost) everything from previous games made it into this one made it feel like this was a celebration of the history of video games and not just a party brawler. And while I didn’t bother...
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VIDEO GAME: Nintendo Labo – VR Starter Set (2019)

Nintendo Labo: VR Starter Set Year: 2019 Rating: E10 Time Played: ~5 hours With the increasing number and availability of virtual reality (VR) headsets, I figured it was only a matter of time before Nintendo jumped in on the craze. I always felt the Switch would be ideal for VR, as it has a gyroscopic screen with detachable controllers that have an equal amount of finesse in their movements. It is then no wonder that Nintendo decided to pursue the VR space with its line of experimental cardboard toys: Labo. While I didn’t have too much interest in the previous Labo sets, the fact that the VR Labo could also be used on other games for a VR effect is what pushed me to purchase the starter set. Putting together the cardboard for the VR goggles and blaster accessory took me a long evening to assemble. I appreciated the user interface for the instructions, as it made the whole process easy and basically idiot-proof. Of...
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VIDEO GAME: Shovel Knight (2014)

Shovel Knight Year: 2014 Rating: E Time Played: 27.33 hours I grew up in the era of retro video games. My favorite was the Mega Man series, but I appreciated what games like Super Mario Bros. 3 and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link were trying to accomplish. While Shovel Knight isn’t a spiritual successor to any one game, it lovingly paints the pixelated beauty of classic video games in vibrant homage. I played through this game and all three of its free DLC add-ons on the 3DS, and I found the stereoscopic effect to be just as mesmerizing as the stunning visuals it used to create the effect. Shovel Knight managed to create a world filled with lore and unique characters that far surpasses anything programmed on the NES. Granted, there was a bit of a cheat in not being wholly constrained to NES graphics or audio, but I’d rather have a great game that fudges some nostalgia than one that suffers because of...
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VIDEO GAME: Gris (2018)

GrisYear: 2018Rating: ETime Played: 3+ hours Much like Journey, Gris is an incredible fusion of art and video game. Taking a watercolor aesthetic and hauntingly beautiful music in stride to tell a subtle story of loss and recovery, Gris ended up being a relaxing trot through its geometric world for me. Unfortunately, much like Journey, the amount of effort that goes into making this game look beautiful was also probably why it ended up being so short. Even if I broke up the platforming gameplay into a few hour-long sessions, I could easily complete it in a long evening. In the end, the platforming of the game is relatively simple. There’s a couple of puzzles that took me a moment to figure out, and I still haven’t found all the hidden items, so I might come back and do a second play-through to complete it fully. The fact that I wanted to play it again shortly after reaching the end credits is...
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VIDEO GAME: Journey (2012)

JourneyYear: 2012Rating: ETime Played: ~2 hours As someone who enjoys movies and video games, I appreciate how cinematic video games have become over the last decade. Additionally, since many films can be “artsy,” there’s no reason why video games can’t follow the same style. Journey definitely fits this definition, and I’d almost go so far to say that it’s interactive and collaborative art. The story is pretty simple, but the execution of it gave me shivers as I finished and watched the end credits. The visuals and music add to the ambiance that engulfed me for the short time I spent playing this game. Perhaps my only qualm with Journey is the same qualm I have with any artistic video game: its length. I would have loved to spend more time in this world, but as it stands, I can easily complete it in a single sitting. Which I suppose is how it should be when you consider that the “partners” along...
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VIDEO GAME: Let’s Go Pikachu (2018)

Pokémon: Let’s Go PikachuYear: 2018Rating: ETime Played: 23 hours I hesitated to pick up Let’s Go Pikachu for the sole reason that I already had bought this game decades ago in the form of Pokémon Yellow. I couldn’t justify spending $60 for a re-skin and decreased difficulty to align it with the Pokémon Go-style of catching. That being said, I was able to pick this title up for $20 as a part of Redbox’s video game sale, and I’m glad I did. Sure, the game is the same as before, but there are a few things I still enjoyed about it as I reveled in the nostalgia it brought to me. First off, the visuals are stunning. I think we often forget how limited the Game Boy’s graphics were, but seeing all these classic Pokémon in full HD on my big screen was an experience. I also appreciated how they removed HMs in favor of special techniques for Pikachu to use, which...
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VIDEO GAME: Untitled Goose Game (2019)

Untitled Goose GameYear: 2019Rating: ETime Played: 2+ hours The indie breakout hit of the year, Untitled Goose Game, has a lot going for it. The action-synched music, the visual aesthetic, and (most of all) the ability to play as a modern-age dinosaur. While most of the geese I’ve interacted with in my life have been of the Canadian variety, the controls and feel of this British goose are accurate enough for me to become lost in moments of hilarity at the hands of this foul waterfowl. However, for $20, I can’t recommend anyone pay that much for what amounts to a polished tech demo. Despite all it has going for it, Untitled Goose Game is incredibly short. I was able to play through the four main areas in only a few hours, not bothering to complete the expanded list of tasks as most of them were minor variants of the things I had already done. Additionally, while the game seems open-world at...
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VIDEO GAME: Owlboy (2018)

Owlboy Year: 2018 Rating: E10 Time Spent: 5+ hours I had seen a video of some Owlboy gameplay a while ago that made the game look interesting enough to buy. The retro 16-bit-style graphics were what drew me to this adventure platformer. Now that I’ve played through it, I found it to be somewhat…disappointing. Sure, the visuals are quite striking, and each location certainly has some elemental charm to it. Additionally, the story is relatively simple but also charming in its own way. In the end, though, I don’t think I’ll give this game an additional playthrough. This is mostly because—without trying—I collected almost everything in the game in my first go. First off, this was a fairly short game, which I should come to expect from independent game developers. After all, Cave Story and Undertale weren’t terribly long, but perhaps I’ve been spoiled by games like Hollow Knight. Secondly, even up until the last boss, I could never quite get the hang of the...
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