When an indie game like Planet of Lana comes out I’m a sucker for these types of games. 2D atmospheric platformers that may or may not tug at your heartstrings are usually quite beautiful to look at and have great pacing. When playing Planet of Lana I got vibes from various other games such as Inside, Limbo, Max and the Magic Marker, A Boy and His Blob, Little Nightmares, and so on. There’s a mix of all these of these games inside of here, but it still has its own identity. There are also artistic vibes similar to Studio Ghibli films and even War of the Worlds. I got all of this from playing this game and it was nice to get those nostalgic flashbacks.
The game is a strict 2D platformer with some puzzle and platforming elements thrown in. Your main character, Lana, controls similar to other characters in games like these. He feels heavy and doesn’t jump very far so you rely a lot on pushing boxes, dropping ropes, and moving platforms around to get around. However, to its credit, the game doesn’t heavily rely on this to pad gameplay. Puzzles happen maybe a few times per level and they are quite satisfying and fun. For the first time, I do want to mention that this game benefits from having an ultrawide display. The luscious landscapes spread across the screen and it just looks amazing. The game slowly introduces gameplay mechanics to you and it really opens up when you come across your cat-like companion Mui. You use him to flip switches, jump up on robots to flip switches high up, order to lure creatures, etc. The gameplay mechanics are mixed up all the time and no two puzzles are the same.
Enemies exist in the game and you always have to avoid them. Be it either robots or creatures. A lot of the time there is timing involved. Study their walk path and run when it’s clear or somehow use the current puzzle to take them down or disable them in some way. Each encounter is new and fresh and the pacing of the game is great. You can play the game for nearly four hours to the finish line and feel satisfied. I rarely ever got stumped and the environments are always changing.
I will say that this game suffers the same thing as all other short cinematic adventure games. The story is nonexistent. You’re trying to rescue your sister from an invading robot species and that’s it. There is a final ending and it works, but there’s no reason or way to get attached to characters or care about them outside of Mui due to his personality on screen. I feel like developers shouldn’t sacrifice stories for short game time. There’s a way to make you care. Braid is a perfect example of this concept. The game is gorgeous and the puzzles are fun, but please give me a story to care about. Sure, there are your typical three acts and an actual ending, and it makes sense, but I wanted to care about this world a little more.
Overall, Planet of Lana has great pacing with a lot of fun puzzles that always change up, enemy encounters mix things up, and environments are always changing. Having an ultrawide monitor is beneficial for the lovely landscapes, but there just isn’t much of a story here. The game is also less than four hours so some may feel like they want more.
It’s no secret that STAR WARS Battlefront II was one of the most controversial games ever made. While Motive is a fantastic developer, the pressure from EA higher-ups created the infamous loot box scandal. It was one of the most talked about stories in 2017. The awful and immoral practices of mega-corporations in the games industry were finally coming to a head and it was so bad that Motive removed the paid loot box system entirely.
With that said Motive did add a single-player campaign which was sorely missed in the first game. While the campaign is nothing to write home about it’s there and the effort was appreciated. You can blow through the whole thing in about 4-6 hours. There is a three missions epilogue you can play through as well that maybe adds 45 minutes to an hour at most. You play as a brand new character created for the game Iden Versio. She’s a great character on screen and very charismatic. The First Order elite turned resistance fighter is a nice touch especially since you start out as the enemy in the game. Sadly, the game doesn’t really go anywhere story-wise outside of telling a small battle before the events of Episode 7. A lot of your favorite heroes and villains are present such as Boba Fett, Luke Skywalker, Lando, and Chewy.
The campaign mostly feels like a very linear version of the multiplayer game. You can just stand in a hallway and blast everyone away. Weapon damage and stats don’t seem to really matter in single-player. You mostly just want a weapon with a high rate of fire for when you are out in open areas which is most of the time. You can equip battle cards that give you three abilities. These range from healing, grenades, scanners, and secondary weapons. They are most useful in multiplayer to give you a bit of an edge. You occasionally get heavy weapons you can equip and they have cool-down timers rather than ammo so you can keep them. There are also vehicles, but you will mostly be flying them in space in the campaign which is really well done. Ships fly well with fantastic controls. You get a taste of all of the maps in the multiplayer campaign. The campaign is mostly just reworked multiplayer maps with a few hallways thrown in. Getting through each level isn’t complicated. Objectives range from securing an area to splicing a console and that’s about it. Nothing too fancy. The main story is entertaining the one time you will play it and then it’s off to multiplayer.
Multiplayer is where the meat of the game is at. It’s built up on the Battlefield franchise anyways. Multiplayer consists of large open maps with 20 vs 20 and you must secure points on the map. This is the most common mode. The new Heroes vs Villians is really popular and fun. Heroes are nerfed to an extent. You have a stamina bar for blocking blaster fire, jumping, and swinging your lightsaber around. This makes it fairer for other players. You get three abilities just like every other character too. The lightsaber combat feels and looks good, and also plays the part. You really feel like a more powerful character, but just a tiny bit. You don’t want the game unbalanced.
If you are familiar with previous Battlefront or Battlefield games then you know what to expect. The game looks and feels like large Star Wars battles both on the ground and in space. There are many iconic maps and planets as well as numerous factions such as the Droids, Republic, and the Empire. Everyone will have a favorite to play as but expect a long grind. You can’t even get a single battle card equipped until you level up a character. This will mean playing each one at least one match until you find a favorite. Unlocking weapons, cosmetics, emotes, voices, and taunts all come at the cost of grinding. Sadly, the game just isn’t interesting enough for me to dedicate that much time. I spent maybe 4 hours in total in multiplayer and while it’s fun in short bursts it just doesn’t have that addictive nature that Battlefield or Call of Duty have. There’s nothing there making me want to come back and I think the grind for unlocks is part of it. Everything is locked away from the start with no incentive to keep playing.
I did have a lot of fun in multiplayer, but only in short bursts and only then for a short time span. After a while, I just couldn’t dedicate the time needed for the insane unlocks and grind. The game looks fantastic with EA’s Frostbite engine at work doing its magic, but that also comes at a cost. The game was a technical nightmare at launch and DirectX 12 is still broken to this day. Cut scenes stutter and hitch at higher resolutions and the game used to crash a lot on certain configurations. Motive has the essence down right it just needs more meat around a third entry.
Overall, Battlefront II doesn’t quite live up to the original charm and essence from years past. Multiplayer is fun with huge open battles, but it comes at a cost of a serious grind just to get a single battle card equipped. The campaign is appreciated, but it’s short, uninspired, and Iden’s character is underutilized. Combined with poor performance issues and the loot box scandal at launch this game is a bargain bin purchase at best.
Obsidian Entertainment lit the world on fire with their game Fallout: New Vegas. Many considered it superior to Bethesda’s own offering Fallout 3. The Outer Worlds was considered a spiritual successor to New Vegas. The same type of play style. A first-person RPG with shooting elements, a large story, companions, quests, and worlds to explore. Many were calling it New Vegas in space, but is it really that and does it live up to New Vegas?
The short answer is no. If falls short in nearly every way. The game really does feel like it’s trying to be New Vegas with the funny humor in the propaganda posters, the overseeing mega-corporation that’s trying to take over the Halcyon colony, and you’re trying to get factions to agree with each other or side with them. The overarching story is pretty much forgettable and that goes for most of the game. The story, characters, and side quests are mostly boring. I hate to really say this as this game sat installed on my PC for a couple of years now and I would do a mission or two and quit because of just how dull the game is. The characters aren’t memorable, there’s no personality that stands out, and the overall mega-corporation humor that overshadows the game just feels like it’s in the background.
The game is also incredibly short. I did several companion quests, dealt with all the factions, did multiple side quests, and still clocked in at around 12-13 hours. If you blow through the main story you can finish it in 4-5 hours easily. I feel that contributes to the problem of the story and characters being uninteresting. There’s not enough time for them to develop. Your entire crew is all humans, and they all just feel like generic Bethesda faces that were run through a random generator and nothing stands out. I wound up skipping through a lot of dialogue because I just didn’t care. I loved the characters and overall story of New Vegas. It was fresh and interesting, but this just feels like a generic space odyssey.
So what about the gameplay? It’s tighter and more refined than New Vegas, but not by much. I hated the upgrade and skill tree system. They felt generic and half-baked. The game’s poorly balanced where it’s either way too easy and you mow down enemies or they swarm you and kill you on the spot. I felt like none of the items you can use helped at all, stats didn’t seem to matter, and the only thing that really did matter was your level in each respective category. You really want to get your speech levels high including engineering as you can bypass a lot of battles with speech checks. Most of the weapons in the game felt pretty generic and their weapon power didn’t seem to matter.
Weapons can be tinkered with and modded at workbenches. Mods can be picked up and attached to various parts of guns. They can add elemental damage, increase clip size, add scopes, and do damage to different types of enemies, but outside of this you can just tinker the weapon’s level up with you and future weapons don’t matter. There were no cool unique weapons found on bosses or for getting into a hard-to-hack safe. Looting like in Fallout feels pointless as there is so much given to you. By the end of the game, I had thousands of rounds of ammo for each weapon type. You can specialize in long, pistol, or heavy weapons, but I just wound up dumping points into all three. Add a few good mods and tinker the weapon up to your level and you will stick with the same weapons through most of the game rarely trading them out. You can equip up to four weapons, and I rarely ever used healing items until the final showdown where you are swarmed by enemies in every room you go into.
Another balancing issue is with the factions. You can gain and lose reputation and this will make guards attack you on-site in certain towns locking out quests and not being able to finish any in this case. I wound up pissing off a couple of factions and had to abandon the quests there and couldn’t go to the shops too. This is really frustrating and there’s usually no way to gain the reputation back. This can lock off companion quests and many side missions. Throughout the entire game I mostly just mowed down every enemy in my way and used my companion’s abilities when I was swarmed on occasion. You get a single ability to slow down time which is useless because it slows down time too much.
The only thing I really enjoyed was the visuals. The game looks like a last-generation title, but the worlds are unique and look really good. I was interested in discovering new towns and new enemies, but that was really it. Everything else was either ignored, forgotten, or skipped because of how uninteresting most of the game is. I don’t feel like this is Obsidian’s best work or their love letter to New Vegas. The game is horribly optimized, looks dated, and feels dated by being too safe. The game lacks any depth and most may not even enjoy the shooting. The story and characters are boring and unoriginal, and the game’s length doesn’t justify this type of game in general. Who wants to play a 4-5 RPG with supposed vast worlds to explore? You might enjoy blowing through the main story but that’s about it.
You can’t really call this a walking simulator or a platformer. It’s a bit of both. A Short Hike doesn’t have a touching story that tugs on your heartstrings that a lot of short indie “walking simulators” have, nor is it a skill-based platformer that requires precision timing. It reminded me of something familiar from the 32/64-bit era such as Super Mario 64, Donkey Kong 64, or Kingsley’s Adventure. This is an isometric “retro pixel” style 3D platformer with tons of charm and a fun island to explore. The entire game can be completed 100% in less than four hours, and the main story finished in one hour, but if you just race to the top of Hawk Peak to get the cell phone reception you need to hear back from your mother then you are robbing yourself of an entire game.
There are dozens of characters dotted throughout the island offering challenges, golden feathers, hints, and just plain silliness. The writing for the characters is very similar to 16-bit and games of yesteryear. Your main goal to progress is golden feathers. These are single jumps or stamina for climbing. I found 11 on my journey, but there were a few more I missed. You can do more than a single hop without the first golden feather. You really should glide around the island and explore. Some characters want sea shells, one runner is missing a headband, and there are treasure maps, chests with coins, digging spots, fishing spots, and a few other activities like Stickball and parkour races. You won’t discover these without talking to creatures and exploring. I love the exploration in this game. It’s not overly difficult and you can always figure out how to get to a seemingly hidden spot. Just upgrade your feathers.
Coins are used to buy feathers from a couple of characters, and you can sell caught fish to get more coins. This all sounds like a lot of game, but it’s packed into a single hour and somehow doesn’t feel overwhelming. The island seems big at first, but you will easily remember the landmarks and there are signs everywhere pointing to the different trails and landmarks. You eventually unlock shortcuts by watering spring flowers and using a pickaxe to knock through a tunnel. It’s incredibly satisfying to find all the objects for a creature and then run back knowing exactly where they are and get your reward and it’s always one step further to progress. No matter what you do in the game it will always push you closer to your goal.
Even after reaching the peak, you get an opportunity before finishing the game to complete everything. By the first full hour, I had almost all the feathers and I could go anywhere I wanted. I didn’t 100% the game, but I got close to it. The platforming itself is wonderful with great physics and tight controls. I never felt slippery and gliding never felt off or wrong. You do eventually get a sprint ability and this helps you get around the island even faster on foot. Thanks to the short length there’s a constant sense of progression with every action you do. The visuals are bright, colorful, and charming and the music is fantastic. There’s not much to hate about this game other than its length and lack of an overall story.
A Short Hike is one of the highest-rated games on Steam for a reason. It’s a bite-sized chunk of gaming goodness that merges the exploration and fantasy of adventure from the early days with better controls and tighter designs of today. It may only take an afternoon to complete, but it’s incredibly satisfying and isn’t something you will quickly forget.
Dead Space has been one of my all-time favorite games. I picked up the original game the weekend it launched thanks to its critical acclaim and revolutionary gameplay for the horror genre. I replayed the game a few times over the years and just couldn’t get enough. The HUD-less stats, holographic overlays, the dismemberment engine, the Necromorphs themselves, and the unique mystery around The Marker wouldn’t be really unraveled until the sequel. The remake brings Dead Space to a whole new generation of gamers and anyone else who played the game in the game in past will absolutely love this remake.
If you already played the original then you will know what’s in store. This is essentially a graphical remake with some balancing tweaks. Nothing new was really added outside of some suits. There are some side objectives and some of the level layouts have been tweaked, but other than new character models that’s about it, and that’s perfectly okay. The original game holds up well even today, and I’m glad not much else was drastically changed. Dead Space is mostly all about the combat as the story elements are tossed in as you play with only a few cut scenes that wrench the controls from you. There aren’t even that many scripted events. They were placed very carefully in this game.
As you start out you get the Plasma Cutter weapon which is the best weapon in the game once it’s maxed out. Each weapon has an alt-fire mode and the Plasma Cutter lets you cut horizontally or vertically and this matters. Necromorphs come in all shapes and sizes. The standard kind runs at you so it’s best to cut off their legs and then their arms. There are small little babies with three tendrils that shoot at you. Cut off the tendrils and it will run away. There are large dog-like ones that should have their arms cut off as they have no legs. Then there are large bosses peppered throughout the game that can be pretty challenging. There’s even a Mr. X-style Hunter that chases you later in the game and can only be killed with something powerful. These types are introduced throughout the game plus many more that I haven’t mentioned. Necromorphs will even sport armor later on so you can only cut off limbs that aren’t guarded.
There are plenty of weapons in the game and you will find that not all are very useful. I rarely used the flamethrower or the ripper as they aren’t great weapons unless fully upgraded. You will probably only fully upgrade a single weapon in your first playthrough as nodes are very rare and you have to rely on buying them at the stores if you want to upgrade faster. You also need to buy suit upgrades as well as use some nodes on your suit. It’s a balancing act and this encourages playing a New Game+ as there’s also a new alternate ending. Dead Space gets better the more you play and that’s really awesome. I actually am looking forward to the next play-through as I can finally upgrade other weapons and start maxing more out.
There are some puzzles thrown in that usually take up entire rooms. There aren’t many, but they do exist and offer a decent challenge. Most of Dead Space consists of finding the next switch as you need to restart nearly every system on the Ishimura and this involves using your Kenesis ability to move batteries into slots and or toss objects at enemies. You can also use your Stasis ability to slow objects and enemies down. These are essential tools and you will rely on them as the game gets tougher. And it really does get tough. The game starts throwing hordes of enemies at you expecting that you’re careful with your ammo and have upgraded something. You will need to have a balanced weapon loadout for long distances, short range, and area of effect to keep enemies off of you. There really is a strategy to killing everything as this isn’t Call of Duty.
The game is incredibly well-balanced. No two areas are alike and you’re always doing something new or different and the level of design is always changing. While the game is very linear each area throws new surprises at you or none at all when you’re expecting one. Enemies pop out of grates or ceilings in some hallways, but you may enter a new area expecting to be bombarded when nothing happens. Dead Space doesn’t play too much into the psychological horror despite The Marker messing with your head. You see signs of it throughout the ship, read it on text or audio logs, and this isn’t really explored more until the sequel. The game does a great job with traditional horror by always making you feel on edge and tense because you never know what’s coming next.
The upgrades to the actual game are great. The graphics got a fantastic boost and make the game look better than ever, the new character models are well done, and the game feels new enough for veteran players to really get into. This is honestly still one of the best horror games ever made and one of the most unique combat systems to ever be invented in the last 20 years. This is a classic and I’m glad there’s a better way to play on newer systems.
Harry Potter is one of the biggest media phenomena of the 21st century. When the novels came out they were all over the news and I read them right from the beginning. While the novels were big the movies were even bigger and I don’t think Harry Potter would be where it is today without the success of the movies. I remember my family going to see every movie up until the first part of the 7th movie on Thanksgiving every single year. By the time the 7th movies were out, I was an adult and saw those with my now wife. I did get burned out on the series though so thankfully it’s great to know Hogwarts Legacy is 100% original content with all new characters and story.
The only thing the game follows from the books or movies is the lore, aesthetics, and visual representation of various architecture, creatures, and overall visuals. You play as a nobody 5th-year student who gets caught up in a giant plot of goblins finding a way to wield dark wizard magic. You must fast-track your education at Hogwarts while also fighting off this powerful new foe. The story drags you along on a breadcrumb trail where you slowly unveil the plot, the intricacies of the characters, and the mysteries. Portkey Games did a phenomenal job of making the story feel like one of the books. The slow unfolding of the story gives a sense of mystery and constant guessing. It’s a pretty good story and one of the best so far this year.
There are of course side quests and larger side stories involving various students at Hogwarts. One involves a Slytherin student, Sabastian, and the Dark Arts. Another is a girl named Poppy who just wants to stop poachers and save creatures, and then there’s Noa who wants to avenge her father’s death. The entire game has a massive open world consisting of Hogwarts itself, Hogsmeade which is the only major town in the game, and then the rest of the world itself consisting of various regions, secrets, and activities. The game can seem overwhelming, but the entire game is strung out to you very slowly as you play. It allows you to get the ropes on all the various systems in the place game with one of the biggest being combat.
Combat is probably the weakest and coolest part of the game. It plays similarly to an MMO with shortcut keys and hot bars. Each hot bar has four slots and you can have up to four hot bars. You learn spells through the story as you attend various classes. These are all the spells you know from the book and movies. Wingardium Levioso, Avada Kadavra, Repulso, Accio, and many others. There is only magic combat in the game so don’t expect to find swords and shields. Defense is dependent on a halo around your head that flashes red or orange. Orange means you can deflect attacks while red means you must dodge.
You can whip out spells at a lightning pace, but of course, they have cooldown timers so this means you need a balanced loadout and need to switch between hot bars constantly. This is something I didn’t like in the game. I can understand with a controller you can only have four hotkeys, but do what Dragon Age did and give PC players the ability to use maybe eight hotkeys and combine hot bars. I found myself always fumbling with the controls trying to quickly dodge, deflect, keep an eye on my timers, swap between hot bars, and keep an eye on the enemies, and then my health and magic meter. It’s too cumbersome and needs some balancing in the next game. The combat looks cool with fast and smooth animation, great sound effects, and tons of on-screen info being blasted into your eyeholes. There are plenty of boss fights, mini-bosses, world bosses, and all sorts of enemy types to shake a wand at. Goblins, beasts, and humans alike.
The next part of the game is exploration. This game is very similar to Skyrim in that manner. You will always find something no matter where you go. Once you unlock the ability to fly on a broom you can use Revelio in the air and it will mark stuff on your map. There are a lot of activities to do from filing out your field guide by finding flying books, interesting spots, and objects, there are secrets inside Hogwarts itself like hidden chests under bridges that require puzzles, but you also need the spells to complete certain puzzles and get to certain areas. You can pick locks (which has an absolutely awful lockpicking mini-game that can’t be skipped), but one of the major problems with all of this exploration is the lame loot. If you get ahead of the story you will mostly end up finding armor that’s behind you in levels. Exploring dungeons is fruitless as you will solve a puzzle and get a lame piece of armor or just 50 coins. I wound up ignoring side paths in dungeons because it just wasn’t worth it. Finding the best armor in the game will come to you eventually.
The third biggest part of the game is the Room of Requirement. Here you can decorate, expand, and craft. You can add traits to clothing/armor, and breed beasts that you can capture in the wild for more unique traits that can be woven into clothes. You can also plant seeds for using the three combat plants or creating potions. While this all sounds neat and fits into the world of Harry Potter it’s very tedious. I wound up not bothering to add traits to clothing as the loot you find it pretty awful anyways and you end up selling 90% of what you find. I would add traits closer to the end game when you stop finding a lot of armor that is at a higher level. I also didn’t bother brewing potions much as you must wait in real time for plants to grow or potions to brew. It’s pretty dumb and tedious.
You can fast travel between dozens of Floo Flames as you discover them and this makes traveling quickly essential. The various activities you can do are Merlin Trials, a combat arena, various puzzles, and of course side quests for people around the world. It really is a well-created open-world game and feels different from the dredge of crap we’ve been getting the last ten years. I always had fun exploring the world, doing tasks and puzzles, and seeing what secrets the game had. It really is this generation’s Skyrim or will be as close as we get to it.
The visuals, voice acting, and overall atmosphere of the game captured what we loved in the movies perfectly. The visuals are gorgeous with great lighting and tons of love and detail in every part of the world. Sadly, it’s so poorly optimized. Ray tracing is unplayable, and there’s stuttering in Hogwarts no matter how powerful your system is. Some patches have ironed most of the problems out, but they will never be perfect. The game still looks fantastic and I loved flying over new areas for the first time or seeing the seasons change. Portkey Games did a stupendous job making this game feel like a living breathing world.
Overall, Hogwarts Legacy is a wonderful open-world RPG with some flaws. The combat can be unwieldy sometimes and cumbersome, crafting is a chore, and the game is horribly optimized, but the characters are wonderful, the graphics are fantastic, and it feels like a living and breathing world of Harry Potter that captures all of the magic and love that we grew up with. You will spend dozens of hours having fun exploring the nooks and crannies that the world has to offer, the powerful beasts you can fight, and the creatures to capture.
Resident Evil 4 changed the entire gaming industry. It was one of the most influential games of all time. It actually still kind of is. It showed how drastically you can reboot a game and honestly started the whole reboot craze and is the gold standard to live up to. Take a game that has tank controls and pre-rendered backgrounds and throw it into a third-person shooter with unique control and a well-balanced gameplay loop. It was talked about for years and inspired other games like Gears of War. Resident Evil 4 (2023) is a reboot of a game that mastered reboots. It has the highest standards to live up to. Thankfully the last two Resident Evil reboots were fantastic and took pages from RE4. So, what we get is just a better-remade RE4.
The story itself is supposed to have taken place after RE2. Leon is sent to save the US President’s daughter, Ashley Graham, and that’s about it. There is a new virus that got loose from Umbrella and the Los Plagas will come out of enemies every so often and it happens more as the game goes on. Their heads will pop off and a new tendril-like creature will come out in various forms. You can stop this before it happens when they are on the ground twitching. The characters in the game are pretty simple and have no time to become interesting. Outside of Leon and Ashley the other characters show up for just a few minutes in the game, so the story itself takes a back seat. It’s the weakest part of the whole game.
Right off the bat, you will notice an immediate change. Not only are the environments more detailed, but the opening scene has changed as well. We get an all-new voice cast (that’s much better), new music, and updated sound effects, and the overall feeling is more modern and less stiff. You can actually shoot and walk this time around which is a huge change in balance for the game. The knife has also changed as it can be broken but also upgraded. Crates can be stomped on rather than sliced so gameplay flows better. You can acquire boot knives that can be used to ward off enemy attacks up close. You will also notice that quick-time events are pretty much gone. These scenes are now fully playable with you in complete control rather than an actual cut scene.
All of these changes are for the better and add a whole new dynamic to the game. Combat mostly remains the same with enemies slowly lumbering towards you with various weapons. Enemies can throw axes, molotovs, and shoot you with crossbows. Some will shock you with sticks, others will carry shields, and then there are the bigger enemies. Rarely occurring, chainsaw-wielding enemies will appear that require explosives or heavy damage to kill. You need to constantly run and turn back to shoot. Using your surroundings is key. Lure them towards explosive barrels, or funnel them everywhere down a corridor so you can line up headshots. The level design is fantastic as you get little arenas that you can immediately scan and strategize with.
Every time an enemy dies they will drop something. Unlike the original game, this time around a whole new mechanic of crafting has been added. Enemies will always drop something whether it’s resources, gunpowder, health, ammo, or money. You need resources and gunpowder to craft various ammo types. Recipes can be bought from the merchant. You can also buy weapons, armor, resources, health, and various other items. Another new system is the side missions. These can be found posted on walls and convert the older challenges into missions. The blue medallions, tough enemies, shooting rats, or finding certain objects. These are traded for spinels which can be traded for rare items such as exclusive new weapons, treasures, and more. Cases are not just expanded now, but different case types will drop certain items more frequently and new charms can be attached to help lower the cost of sales, increase sell value, drop rates, and so on. These charms are won by completing target practice missions in one of five locations in the game.
That’s a ton of new things already and it’s so well-balanced. It’s a way to take the older systems and tweak them into something new and more fun. You can move around and technically kill enemies easier so with an added crafting system you always get rewarded. There are still treasure maps to buy and valuables to look for which are key to racking up coins. Certain valuables can have jewels inserted into them to increase their sell value so hang onto those gems! On to something much bigger is Ashley herself. Many felt she dragged the experience down. You have to always catch her when you hopped off ledges and she always got captured easily. Now you can send her away, hide her in lockers, and she does most actions on her own now. She’s much less of a burden.
Speaking of Ashely there are stealth elements in the game now by sneaking around and offing zombies, but this is easily ignored. It doesn’t work outside of a couple of zombies and then everyone sees you. The AI walking patterns are too random to sneak through areas, and this wasn’t intended in the original game anyway. While sneaking around zombies is possible sometimes there are new enemies in the game, but I don’t want to spoil anything. Original enemies are updated and look even more grotesque. That’s another theme of the remake. Horror is much more prominent in this game. Like in previous RE remakes the flashlight is added so Leon will whip it out in dark caves and there is a constant sense of tension and dread no matter where you go. The game relies less on jump scares this time around.
There are three acts in the game. The village, the castle, and the island which is split between a mine and a military base. My favorite part is act one which is the most iconic. The castle is okay, but the game gets insanely tough during the second act. Ammo is incredibly scarce. You must be very cautious about what ammo you use and when. Save more powerful ammo like grenades and magnum rounds for the mini-bosses and bosses themselves. Save your sub-machine gun ammo for large crowds and your rifle ammo for enemies are off. The pistol is going to be your main weapon throughout the entire game so always keep a stock of it.
The visuals are a nice upgrade over the previous remakes. Ray tracing has been added, but it’s not great. The RE engine is still insanely well-optimized for lower-end PCs and runs really well. However, there is still no DLSS support so it needs to be manually added through a mod, but even on the Steam Deck, the game runs fairly well. The visuals are top-notch and the art direction captures the vibe of RE4 in a more visceral and raw way. I love it. When you’re all finished with the game you can run through on a New Game+ which is a must as that’s the more fun way to play. Overall, RE4 (2023) is a massive update to an already iconic game and changes nearly everything wrong with it. I just wish the game was a little better balanced and it does get repetitive after so long. You are just walking around shooting zombies with a couple of simple puzzles thrown in. At least the exploration is fun and there’s always something new to look at.
I never thought that I would have so much fun with a chore. There are various curated threads online about watching power washing. It’s satisfying to see someone turn an incredibly dirty surface into a sparkling clean one like wiping a window with a squeegee. There are many jokes about missing a spot and everyone in the comments losing their minds. r/powerwashingporn is a popular subreddit dedicated to these videos. FuturLab has done an incredible job of making this chore feel fun and satisfying. There’s even a silly story that’s evolved over the course of the Early Access phase involving gnomes.
Every surface is covered in dirt, rust, mud, or some type of grime. You get a power washing nozzle and you spray things down until they turn clean. You can decide what to spray, what direction, and in what order. That’s part of the fun. Tackling each area in a certain way is satisfying and fun for you. Your tools include various spray nozzles that have different widths as well as spray liquid for getting tough areas, but this stuff is expensive and limited. You also have a spray gun that shoots various distances. These can be bought and unlocked with money by completing levels. You are paid at the end of a level and you can see a sped-up replay of your work. There are also cosmetic items such as your suit and gloves.
Some levels are multi-storied so you get step stools, ladders, and scaffolding that can be moved around and put wherever you need it. There are a few levels that have some frustrating buildings to clean such as the giant shoe level. There is a meter on each surface that shows how complete it is and sometimes it can be hard to find that one dirt spot that’s keeping the surface from dinging. Thankfully there is an illuminate dirt button that turns all dirt a golden yellow for a few seconds so you can see what you’re missing. Getting down the last percent in each level can get annoying as you’re just hunting down that last dirt spot. There is also a list of each surface and the percentage that they’re cleaned, so you can at least eventually narrow it down.
There isn’t any background music. You just get ambient noises like birds chirping or cars driving in the background. It’s a very silent game. You’re best just playing your own music in the background as this is a very zen game where you can veg out and not think about much. I also appreciate the control scheme on a controller too. It’s easy to control and you don’t have to move your aim camera back and forth like you used to in Early Access. You can now press a button to move your sprayer within the frame of the camera. This can reduce motion sickness and overall irritation. It wasn’t a big problem on a PC with a mouse, but it was unbearable with an analog stick. Most levels can take you 1-3 hours to complete depending on how big they are. There are smaller challenges that involve just cleaning a vehicle like an RV, alien spaceship, Mars rover, or bicycle. Levels get more complex as you go on with more small objects and more complicated surfaces. Things like planes, boats, helicopters, and the previously mentioned shoe house can get really busy. I would end up doing some levels in multiple sessions. The longest level I spent time on was nearly five hours.
Again, you have to like this kind of thing to see an appeal to it. The visuals are bright and colorful, but rather basic and simple. There is no raytracing, AI anti-aliasing, or anything complex rendering-wise. The game can technically get very repetitive, but that’s actually the point of this game. I feel many may mistake this game for a business simulator when you only do the power washing and buy upgrades and cosmetics. I had a blast (no pun intended) with this game and FuturLab is still putting out content that I need to catch up on. Overall, PowerWash Simulator is one of the most relaxing and satisfying games I’ve ever played.
What would it be like if humans were invaded by aliens, but they weren’t killed or captured for the usual reasons. What if we were awesome drugs? That’s what High On Life is all about. It’s written like a Rick & Morty episode which would be expected. Justin Roiland heads the writing and voice acting for the game just like in the shows. If you don’t like Rick & Morty then you won’t like this game either. I thought it was insanely funny and had a lot of witty humor not just in general, but also poking fun at gaming tropes. Walk away from a character mid-sentence and they will comment on it, sprint for too long, stand in one place for too long, and many other things.
The opening sequence sees your planet being invaded by aliens while you and your sister are in your house with your parents away. A series of events follow and you acquire your first talking weapon, Kenny, and then you are introduced to the game mechanics. There are five talking guns in total, and I found this very original and more interesting than just making a standard shooter. Each weapon is organic and shoots organic ammo. Kenny is a standard pistol, but using his Trickhole sees him shooting a green bouncing blob. This can be used to solve a few puzzles in the game as well. The second weapon is Gus. He’s your standard shotgun, but his Trick is a bouncing saw blade that can be volleyed with your knife. He can also suck enemies toward you. The third gun is Sweezy who is clearly a mock of Halo’s Needler gun. She can be used as a sniper pistol and uses a bubble that slows down time. Shoot the bubble to have it expand and explode to do damage. The fourth standard gun is Creature. He is kind of like a grenade launcher, but he shoots babies that attack enemies. His trick is a mind control baby that can help you out. He wound up becoming my favorite weapon just because the babies are fast and can kill enemies quickly and keep them off of you.
The final gun is Lezduit, but he is only used in the final level as a very powerful ultimate weapon. These guns will talk to you through the whole game and the humor is injected even into their animations. They stare at you and make faces, comment on everything you do, and just have this gross wet, and squishy biological thing about them. The game’s humor is full of vulgar humor from the sexual, potty, and overall just stuff that everyone usually laughs about. These weapons kind of remind me of Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath. Weapons that are living and interact with you. The entire game is very organic and everything just looks and feels wet and goopy. It’s pretty hilarious.
Sadly, the story isn’t anything to write home about. It’s pretty much just like a TV show episode. You run around from level to level shooting the same bad guys in waves, jump around a bit, and kill a boss at the end of each level. These are bounties that you can turn in for Pesos to purchase suit and weapon upgrades at the pawn shop. Upgrades can give you bigger clip sizes, faster reloads, and enhance your Trick. Each boss fight is mostly different. A couple of them are pretty funny, but not everyone requires you to face the actual boss itself. I don’t want to spoil anything, but these are well done. You do eventually acquire a grappling hook to swing across larger gaps, a jetpack, and mag boots to walk on certain surfaces, but overall the combat beat is pretty repetitive. Sadly, despite how cool the weapons are, none of them feel very powerful and I always felt like I couldn’t kill as efficiently as I could in other shooters. Enemies are sponges and take a lot of damage and this can get frustrating with a lot of them coming after you. No matter what weapon I switched to I just felt like the balancing was off. Up close, Gus doesn’t do enough damage, and far away Sweezy’s charge shot can’t do enough damage. I just didn’t understand it.
Most of the cut-scenes are just characters talking in front of you and there are very few scripted events. You are mostly just going planet to planet, killing wave after wave, and killing a boss at the end. It’s very repetitive and I wanted to lose interest in the game pretty early on. The characters and writing are really fun, but it’s those long stretches of endless shooting that can really bore you. The shooting is bad, just unbalanced and there’s no variety. My favorite parts of the game were just the dialog and seeing new planets and character interactions. The shooting kind of came second. I really wanted to like the shooting more, but something just always feels off.
In the 8 hours it takes to finish the game it sadly has a really bad ending. It just quickly ends, and this goes to show there really aren’t any characters you can get attached to. They are all written like the small characters on the TV show rather than larger characters who should be memorable and defined. Kenny was probably the most interesting character of them all. This is one of those games that would be a good rental, and then you would quickly forget about it. There’s so much potential here for this to be a better game, but just not enough to put into it for it to be as refined as the games it makes fun of. Even the visuals, as bright and colorful as they are, kind of all blend together and the game is a technical mess. A poorly optimized Unreal 5 engine causes the game to run pretty badly even on really powerful PCs.
Overall, High On Life is a riot of a game with witty and fun dialog, funny characters, and some interesting weapon ideas, but the game’s moment-to-moment beat is repetitive and dull. You never feel like your weapons are powerful enough to do what they should thanks to bullet sponge enemies, but at least the boss fights are clever and funny. There are very few scripted events so there’s nothing to break up the mundane gameplay outside of standing still and listening to characters talk. The game is also poorly optimized despite how pretty the visuals are. Playing this once and forgetting is sadly what most people will do.
Dead Space was one of the last original IPs to really push the horror genre forward. I felt it was the only horror game to take Resident Evil 4’s torch and carry it along. The Callisto Protocol received a ton of hype because Dead Space’s co-creator Glen Schofield was leading the charge. The game was another third-person horror shooter with sick monster designs, a desolate Callisto moon, and a great story. I was honestly shocked by how below average this adventure is and was quite saddened the longer I played.
The game actually starts out quite well. You are Jabob Lee. A space courier delivering medicine to the prison colony on Callisto when suddenly everything goes wrong. Your ship crashes and you are wrongfully charged for a crime you did not commit. The game takes you on a pretty long cinematic journey for the first 30-45 minutes before the action starts. This is when things immediately started falling apart. The game’s main mechanic is melee combat. That would be fine and all, but it just doesn’t work as intended. You are expected to go one-on-one with each enemy and whack at them like Whack-A-Mole and then dodge attacks. It’s a dodge-and-then-attack type combat system. You can’t parry without unlocking it as an upgrade and animations can’t be quickly interrupted. It’s hard to judge the enemy’s attacks and how long their combo will go on. These animations just aren’t well done. It lead to many cheap deaths that came from the animations being too long and not interruptable.
This makes the first couple of chapters a chore, and most people might quit here. You do get weapons, but ammo is scarce until later on in the game. There are five weapons you can acquire, but don’t think these are as unique or interesting as Dead Space’s weapons. You really only get three weapons with two being nearly identical. Two pistols and two shotguns. One is a “Skunk” gun and the other is a riot gun. The only difference was their spread, to be honest. Your first weapon is the Hand Cannon which can pack a punch, but the Tactical Pistol is nearly useless. All of these weapons feel handicapped until you start upgrading them. Just like Dead Space, you get a limited inventory with healing items, valuables, and ammo. It’s literally a 1:1 ratio of how Dead Space plays.
Weapons are acquired by finding schematics (yeah that’s a direct copy too). You can find 3D printing stations throughout the game that will print add-ons, health, and ammo, but you won’t be able to buy everything in one play-through. No matter how thorough you are. It’s best to just upgrade the Hand Cannon and either Skunkworks or Riot Gun and do the rest on the next play-through. That is if you even want to. This hand-to-hand combat with these monsters just isn’t fun. Once I was able to get more ammo more often by stomping enemies (seeing a pattern here?) I tried to avoid melee combat. That’s not a good thing when the core combat mechanic is so bad that you don’t want to ever use it. Sadly, it’s forced upon you during the same two repetitive boss fights, but there were a couple of patches later on that made it more tolerable, but still not good.
Sadly, despite how great the visuals are the level design is insanely linear and boring. You just run down the corridor after corridor fighting randomly popping-up monsters until you get to the next fuse, switch, or generator. It’s pretty mundane and has already been done in many games before it. Unlike Dead Space, there are no puzzles here. In fact, the overall level design is just elementary and basic at best. There is one area where you must sneak around monsters that are sensitive to sounds. You can stab them in the back and do takedowns, but this was for an entire chapter. It became dull really fast. The only advantage was killing them all silently and then stomping on them to rack up tons of ammo. You do get a grappling glove that allows you to pull and push objects away, but this just seemed like an excuse to use death traps in certain arenas. It was poorly implemented.
The story itself doesn’t get interesting until the final chapter. There isn’t much story here at all. I wanted to know what this thing was that killed off the entire planet’s population, but you just move from scene to scene falling around trying to escape each section. It’s a poorly paced-story that seemed more like an afterthought. Jacob himself is well-acted, but we know nothing about him nor did I care one bit about his character. Dani is the other main character and I cared about her just as much. The game isn’t long enough or has enough story to tell us anything worthwhile. There’s no care in world-building through visuals like Dead Space did. You just move through corridor after corridor killing enemies that pop up and that’s it.
The visuals might be really good, but the performance is awful. Even after half a dozen patches, AMD FSR2 is broken, ray-tracing cuts the frame rate in half even on a 3xxx series card. There are tons of stuttering from poor shader optimization as well even months after release. Despite the nice visuals, they aren’t taken advantage of due to 90% of the game just being in cramped corridors. Overall, The Callisto Protocol is a colossal disappointment trying to copy Dead Space to a tee and failing to capture anything that made that game stand out or become the icon it is today. The monster designs are neat, the visuals are good, and the story’s premise is good. That’s about it.