Hello! I no longer work from home (or with computers at all now) so posting and lurking on the forum has become more difficult, but I wanted to return and say I’ve been playing sooo many games from this bundle, many of which I’ve reviewed over at my Backloggd. There’s a few that haven’t been mentioned that I think are really special so I wanted to highlight them.
Ganbare! Super Strikers is a soccer tactics RPG that’s really full of life and interesting mechanical flourishes. Really solid concept and execution, great music, sequentially engaging. I particularly like the mastery system which reminds me of FFTA, where abilities are learned through equipment but once that ability has been mastered you don’t need to keep that piece of equipment on your team member to have them use it.
Also, the AI ripped me to pieces a few times when I tried to complete the bonus objectives, which was a nice way of balancing the incentive to try and do them every time. As a result I missed a few pieces of gear, so might go back and try and get them now that I’ve got end-game stats.
Loved a lot here that I haven’t mentioned yet - the character and team customisation is sick, the story is sparse but has a perfect minimalist shonen vibe to it. Also love that it was made by a solo Australian developer!
Some menuing is a bit unintuitive and occasionally the interface gets a bit cluttered with noise which made it hard to assess my best moves. Small quibbles, nothing that kept me from enjoying this for the few hours it took me to clock it.
I started Circa Infinity pretty unimpressed with what seemed like too simple an idea to be interesting to me in 2022. However by level 2 I was thoroughly hooked into the vision of this game, which is in equal parts both compelling and utterly disorienting.
This is a twitch-platformer in the vein of VVVVVV or Love, but segmented out in digestible chunks in the same way a puzzle game might do it. I think that’s where my initial impression may have faltered, because I assumed the challenge was cerebral rather than dextrous. Turns out, it’s both! The response-time needed for some of these levels was preposterous, but progression was (for the most part) pretty forgiving. I really liked the way checkpoints were implemented organically as circle-layers, rather than through some obvious flag the way most games do them.
I also REALLY loved the bosses, and the first was where my feelings really started to shift. Rather than simply acting as a conclusive event, they function as a test of the skills developed in each level, which is - I think - the ideal of what a video game “boss” should be. The only thing I didn’t love was that, upon taking damage, each boss fight starts again from the beginning. I totally understand why this was done, but it resulted in a frustration that eventually overtook me and prevented me from getting past the fourth level.
Swim Out was really hard!! I don’t like to resort to guides in puzzle games (and even if I do, I sure as hell don’t like to admit it) but a couple of the puzzles in the last 2 chapters seemed literally impossible to me until I watched someone else do it. Apart from these hurdles, I had a great time with this game, super glad I checked this out. I’ve been writing an essay through the week and this was a great game to allow myself to play between moments of writing, good brain cleanser.
There are a LOT of moving parts in Swim Out, but the elements all fit together harmoniously. While I was streaming, someone called this “Into The Breach: Pool Edition)” which honestly rings pretty true - there’s a rhythm to the game that telegraphs the next few turns, allowing for both tight planning as well as moments of last minute improvisation. The liminal ambience was a great accompaniment absent any background music, and the interstitial animations set a perfect mood (they also weirdly reminded me of Katamari Damacy?).
I gotta admit, while I completed every level I did not hit every optional achievement. I often tried, but as the maps got bigger and the unit-types were delivered in more complex configurations it became too much to juggle.
I REALLY wanted an undo button, even one that was single use. Far too often I’d make a wrong move 60-70 moves into a large map, and even if I didn’t die straight away I would see it coming several moves in advance.
Butterflies Episode 1 pays perfect tribute to its influences and feels great to move around in. There’s really nice sense of momentum with only a few camera issues keeping it from feeling super polished.
I really liked the mission structure in the open world, nice twist on the formula keeping it from being pure Jet Set Radio tribute hour. Unfortunately there’s no map (or none that I could find) and the world does not have enough distinguishing landmarks to not continually get lost, and I wasn’t able to find all graffiti spots and missions.
Episode 2 is early identical in every relevant way to the first episode, meaning I had a lot of the same problems with it: namely the open world level is too big to not have a map or more distinguishing landmarks, and the controls occasionally veer from “rough” into “irritating”.
That said, I’m developing a massive taste for this series and enjoyed this thoroughly in spite of my critiques. The music is HOT, and the ability to pick up new tracks was a fun bonus that (I think?) was absent in the first episode. I like the new characters and I think over the two episodes I can see a real sense for scope in the design of the levels. I also continue to mostly love the way it feels to skate around in this game, I like the versatility of movement, and at it’s best this game FEELS fucking fantastic.
Penance is metal as all hell! There’s a lot to love here, it’s fast and hilarious and cruel and heavy. The soundtrack rips, the levels look phenomenal, the colours are perfect. Love the limited scope and the accessibility of everything - there’s a set of levels and you can play through them for the score and the cred, but if you wanna just see them all, you can simply select each level from the menu. The character and enemy design is perfect, wouldn’t change a single thing.
I have two main gripes that keep me from singing Penance’s praises unconditionally - firstly, there doesn’t seem to be a map view (which is probably intentional) and losing your bearings is frequent. If the corpses of enemies remained in place like they do in Doom this wouldn’t matter, but a few of the levels require a lot of exploration to be able to parse fully and if you’re not paying attention sometimes that can be troublesome.
Secondly, there isn’t much grit when it comes to the feeling of everything, no feedback. Guns don’t recoil, enemies have no weight, when you get hit you don’t FEEL it. There’s just a lot of fast-moving parts all flying around at once and none of it feels like I think it deserves to.
All of that said I really really like this, it’s so much fun. It’s a speedrunners DREAM, would love to see this at GDQ or something.