Holy Potatoes! A Weapon Shop?! [Steam store page]

Synopsis:Gameplay is one-note: click and wait. Click and wait for your worker to craft, to sell, to shop, to explore. The grindy lack of depth destroys my soul.

I was hoping for another game with good atmosphere, like The Fall - but this one seemed more interested in linear puzzle/swimming areas than making the environment interesting.

Having to restart the entire level when your slow companion gets himself killed really doesn't add any appeal to the game either, it just drags things out. (Particularly when there are plenty of 1-hit kill enemies and obstacles throughout the levels)

Synopsis:Very slow paced, and probably would have been better with a single character, even though the companion is supposed to be a puzzle gimmick.

Neverending Nightmares [Steam store page]
Quick review of Neverending Nightmares

Well, it does end eventually, but they dragged out the game a bit too long for something where you spend most of the time just walking. The beginning was great, finding objects and then using them other dream sequences - but that mechanic went away quickly. After that they tried to shoehorn in every horror steath mechanic and it felt a bit formulaic or tacked on.

The last 15-30 minutes of the game (it felt like an hour) was just walking, no new mechanics or interesting objects to interact with, and this became tedious very quickly.

The sound design is what really makes this game interesting and gives it a good horror vibe - it keeps you tense throughout. The first half of the game also gave some good jump scares, and didn't overplay them either. Once again, those disappeared completely in the second half though - leaving it feeling a bit bland.

So while it only took an hour and a quarter to beat the game, I feel like it would have been more enjoyable if it had been half the length. Especially since there are a couple alternate endings, and an hour of repeated walking to reach them seems like a real chore.

Synopsis:"Good horror vibe and design, but they dragged it out for far too long - it would have been much more compelling as a 30 minute experience instead of 75."

ENSLAVED: Odyssey to the West Premium Edition [Steam store page]
Enslaved is a third person adventure game. I would call it a jumping puzzle game, but it's completely linear and doesn't let you fall off by pressing the wrong direction, so a monkey could beat the jumping puzzles with trial and error. Occasionally you have to use your companion to distract enemies, or do a bit of 3-button combat, but it's all pretty basic.

Speaking of monkey, that's actually the name of the main character - and really the only detail I didn't like about the story. Everything else about the characters was pretty decent, and the overall story was interesting enough - not as cliche as I was expecting. That said, I felt like the environments left a bit to be desired - mainly because of the camera angles.

Since it's in downward third-person perspective it's a bit awkward to look at the cool scenery, and would have been much more visually appealing as a first-person experience. There are numerous cutscenes as you enter areas, so that makes up for it a little bit - but it still would have been nice to see it from your own perspective. They even have some forced slow-walk areas that are obviously meant to let you look around, but it just doesn't give the impact they intended.

It also sometimes has some weird graphical glitches when the camera focuses on the characters in cutscenes, and I'm not sure what causes that.

So overall you would probably get just as much enjoyment watching all the cutscenes on youtube as you would actually playing the game, since the platforming isn't particularly entertaining or challenging. It wasn't bad enough to make me want to turn the game off, but I definitely didn't want more of it either. Even in later levels the only real challenge is timing - sometimes there will be fire, electricity, or moving objects that you have to dodge as you jump - but that's not exactly rocket science. Maybe this game was aimed at younger kids, I don't know.

Synopsis:"Completely linear with simple puzzles that are often difficult to fail. Decent story with scenery ruined by awkward camera angles, except in cutscenes."

Noir Syndrome [Steam store page]
This is basically the board game "Guess Who" in pixel art form. You go around the city talking to people and inspecting objects - the people will name suspects and the objects will give clues about the profession, gender, etc of the murderer. Often it's two choices, so one clue will tell you the suspect is a "dancer or poet" and another will tell you "poet or driver", so you can deduce that the killer must be a poet.

Unfortunately because you don't know all the suspects up front it's often a frustrating waiting game to see who the candidates are, even if you know that the murderer has to be a female poet. Keep in mind there are often multiple suspects with the same profession as well, so just because a female poet is added to your list doesn't mean she's the only possibility.

This would be much better if you knew the whole roster going into it, because I've had quite a few games where I didn't even know all the suspects by the end.

Synopsis:"Basically a flawed pixel-art version of the board game "Guess Who". Hard to accuse a killer when you don't even know all the suspects by the game end."

A strange one-button runner - hold to run, release to jump. Unfortunately because of the screen shake and precise reactions required at certain areas it seems more geared toward memorization than one-playthrough based on your skill.

This is especially true on the level 4 speed, which gives you basically no time to react, you have to know what's coming since your character falls rather slowly. So you'll miss the platform if you hold your button to drop too late - and too late on the higher speeds means "when you see it".

I was also a little put off by the way they handled ascending to other levels, since there isn't a good indication of how high you can jump. This problem is compounded because you can actually plow into the side of platforms - so if you miss your jump you can completely ruin the run. This was more frustrating on some downward falling sections though, where theres a low roof with a platform below it.

Because of the line-art style this roof section isn't clear until a bit too late, and if you hesitate and let off your fall you'll plow right into it. Yes, you can run across the roof - but that's a choice you have to make beforehand, once you start falling you've missed the opportunity and will plow into the roof if you stop falling - something you only learn from experience. You have to try to anticipate your jump and fall trajectories, this isn't a game where you can reach the edge of a platform and instantly press to fall onto it.

The endless mode is much more simple - no verticality, just a single stream of platforms that you have to hit properly. The issues I mentioned before, camera shake and face-planting into the edge of platforms are your major enemies here. Since there aren't any roof segments the face-plant only happens when you screw up your trajectory, which is fine but becomes bland very quickly. Sure it can get fast, but it's very monotonous after a few minutes. If you want to watch someone play this mode I'd suggest this video (Skip to the yellow segments to see the faster/fastest gameplay)

So the more engaging part of the game is all about memorization, but there is a bland infinite mode if you want it. There are plenty of other games that do infinite reaction-based gameplay so much better though.

Synopsis:"A one-button runner that's more about memorization than reflexes in the handful of premade levels. There's also a bland and simplistic endless mode."

The Stanley Parable [Steam store page]
Quick review of The Stanley Parable

This game is a walking simulator built mostly around the narrator, who guides you through the "correct" path in the game, and narrates a story based on your obediance or lack thereof. It's decent if you enjoy exposition, and has some surprises - there are somewhere around 16 endings total - though after a couple hours I didn't care enough to find the rest of them. Most people probably won't discover all the content without a guide anyway - some of them are complicated or tedious to unlock.

So while it's well produced and humorous, I did eventually find myself wishing it had some legitimate gameplay - you can't even jump and most places are just a choice between two paths. So while it has a lot of decisions they all feel relatively shallow. The other thing I would have enjoyed is more visual endings. Only a couple had a specific cutscene at the end and this felt a lot more compelling and meaningful than the narrator giving you a speech and placing you at the beginning of the game. (Yeah, I get it, the whole game is a joke about game design - but still like the cutscene ending best)

Obviously I lean more toward visual experiences and puzzle solving than narrated stories, but it wasn't a bad experience. Just not something I loved quite as much as some other people seem to.

Synopsis:"A decent narration-heavy walking simulator with an emphasis on humor. Linear with a number of branching paths that give around 18 different endings."

This game has a weird difficulty curve and progression - it's a randomly generated dungeon, and the first couple levels are downright boring. If you spend 15 minutes fighting a decent number of enemies on the next 4-5 levels you'll have all the upgrades necessary for the rest of the game.

At that point they pull out the suicide bomber enemies that can one-hit you, and then it's just a rush for the exit in the next ten levels. Sure you could sit around and fight stuff while dodging the explosions, but there really isn't any point.

Aside from the balance and pacing, the combat is also super simple - just swing and block. And blocking is rarely necessary, usually you can just run circles around the enemies while swinging wildly. This gets pretty repetitive even with all the enemy types, so although it's randomly generated I doubt I'd go back and play more after the first couple hours.

Synopsis:"Odd progression curve that goes from boring, to hack-n-slash, to running for your life. Because the combat is just attack and block it gets repetitive."

Crimsonland [Steam store page]
Although this is better than most bare-bones arena shooters, it still has some of the major flaws of the genre - like enemies spawning out of nowhere rather than at the edges of the screen or obvious spawn points. This one does have spawn points too, but they mostly serve as hives that continue to spawn unless you destroy them - just adding extra enemies to those that would normally appear.

There are also some splitting enemies that don't pause when they split, and move just as fast as you do. So normally you would shoot an enemy in the face to buy some breathing room, but with these you're just suddenly facing twice as many enemies - just smaller and harder to hit. If they paused for a moment as they split it would be fine, but it's a bit overpowered as it is.

These two flaws mostly matter because you have to get through a level with absolutely no damage if you want the star, and that's hard enough to do already since the AI is pretty good. They move in different patterns and speeds depending on the enemy type - but they'll all try to flank and surround you in an effective way. The game could really use some sort of AOE option, like the grenades and rolling dodge in Nation Red, or the ability to hold multiple guns.

As it is certain guns like the rocket launcher are more likely to get you killed than be useful, since you can't use them effectively in horde mode situations. The enemies just shadow you too well for them to clear out a proper gap, and they're too slow firing and reloading to use on a consistent basis. If they could be held as a secondary gun it would be a viable option, but you can only hold one at a time. You can't even drop it to go back to a basic pistol, you're stuck until another spawns, and this doesn't always happen often.

In fact since weapons and powerups drop where you killed the enemies it can be difficult to reach them, even at the start of the game.

It has an endless mode which also has perks, which tend to make the game a bit more random and fun. But it also ends up feeling a bit less skill based than Nation Red, because of the good AI pathing combined with lack of AOE - so unless you get the right guns and powerups at the right stages of the game you're dead. The enemy hives can also be difficult to keep under control for this mode, since you can't see the entire map at once and they spawn randomly across the entire area.

So it's not a bad game, definitely better than I expected, but not compelling enough to keep me coming back for more.

Synopsis:"Better simple shooter than I expected, the AI is great - but it really needs some grenades and dodging to get out of tight situations better."