Monthly Archives: March 2023

Game review: Raspberry Mash on Google Play Pass

I found Raspberry Mash on Google’s subscription service, and it’s everything I could hope for in a mobile game. A rogue-like set in a dark fantasy world, it offers simple controls, satisfying gameplay that constantly stokes that “one more try” vibe, and simple but effective graphics that bring to mind The Binding of Isaac or Enter the Gungeon.

It is also a sad reminder of how the FtP model is ruining games by injecting ads into even the best ideas. Why watch multiple ads just to get started on a run when you can grab your free gear and go? If you reach a shop slightly short of gold, why not log in with the Free Gold TV instead of watching another ad? Oh, did you die fighting the boss? Here’s one free continue. Or you get the “free” version of the game and have whole minutes of your life sucked away by ads, most of which are bold-face lies about how the real games play. (Fuck those fake ads.)

I cannot overstate that this game is so good that I would happily pay to play it on my phone, and yet I’m constantly shown how the brilliant design was corrupted to accommodate the modern “free” experience. Stripping away all of the mandatory ads creates a wonderful game where every run can grow from “interesting” to “amazing.” But just enough of the FtP experience lingers to show the hell that non-paying gamers have to suffer in. Continue reading

Game review: Gotham Knights for Steam

I got Gotham Knights as part of a Humble Bundle, but I was actually donating to get the full run of Saga as PDF files. The open world adventures of the Bat Family got critically dead-panned so hard that I didn’t add it to my wishlist and wait for a sale. But in a bit of strange timing, the game also released a performance patch the same week that I got the bundle, and I figured I already own it, right?

Before getting to the review, I have a theory for why the content of the game got slammed by reviewers separate from the tech issues. It has to do with quantity drowning out quality. By that I mean, if you’re a reviewer of a major gaming site and you’ve already played ten other open world games this year, Gotham Knights is going to grate because it’s very much more of the same design elements with a different franchise slapped over the surface like a hastily applied coat of Rustoleum.

I haven’t played any open world games for close to a year and a half, so I don’t have any fatigue for the formula. Perhaps because of that, I had a pretty good time in Gotham Knights. I can’t say I loved the whole thing, as some parts were grating or outright aggravating. But on the whole, beating up bad guys as four members of the Bat Family turned into a pleasant surprise that I might even go back to some time in the future, just to goof off, much like I do in Grand Theft Auto V.

Oh, beware mild spoilers after the cut. Continue reading

Hitman, you’re too good for me…

When the Epic store released Hitman for free, I added it to my list just because it’s free, and as the wise sage Usagi Tsukino once said, “Nothing is cheaper than free!”

And yet, I did not start playing it right away. I could lie to you and say the slow speed of my internet connection put me off of trying it, but the honest truth is, I was scared. See, I played the original PC release of Hitman, and I was terrible at it. Back in those days, I might have spent an hour tailing my target to the loo, cornered and strangled him with a garrote, only to have a random stranger walk in on us and run off screaming at the top of his lungs, “There’s a white bald killer on the loose!”

I bungled my way through three levels like this before admitting that maybe I was just kinda shit at being an assassin. I hung up my guns, garrote, syringe, and knife, and despite lots of Hitman games coming out afterwards, I always said, “Yeah, it’s not you, it’s me.”

But I got this free hit, so to speak, and then we got a much better internet connection, so I downloaded the game and played the tutorial. Without hyperbole, I was fucking amazing at killing targets. The first fake yacht, I went into the target’s office, killed him and dragged him back to his bathroom, and then I left before anyone could notice the body. Continue reading

Game review: Firegirl Hack ‘n Splash Rescue DX for Steam

Watching trailers and reading the Steam page for Firegirl Hack ’n Splash Rescue DX, it certainly looks like my kind of game. It’s a platformer with a unique mixture of 2D sprites in 3D environments. The levels are procedurally generated, and the movement options look exciting thanks to a fire hose acting as both the primary weapon and as a rocket for verticality. Plus, who doesn’t want to fight fire monsters while rescuing people and kittens? Sounds awesome to me.

What a shame that it turned out to be an actual garbage fire. Pretty much from the moment I started playing, the game was ruined by repetition, cheap shots in the place of real difficulty, dull grinding, and terrible writing. I slogged through the early parts in the hope that with some equipment upgrades, the game might evolve into something more fun, but even at “full power” Firegirl never realizes the entertainment promised in its trailers.

The biggest problem is that after the tutorial, there’s only one level to play for an agonizingly long time. Firegirl goes to put out fires in the same “building” (the level actually takes place across a block of buildings) over and over. Even this would be forgivable, except at the start of the game, both her hose pressure and water reserve are so low that she’s frequently left with nothing in the tank to reach the exit. Adding insult to injury is the frequency where the exit is in sight, just beyond her reach, and nothing can be done except let the timer run down. The developers didn’t even think through their design enough to add an option to restart the level or leave early in unwinnable situations. Continue reading

Game review: Tomb Raider Reloaded for Netflix (Android)

Let me start by saying that I was actually thinking about talking up another game this week, but initial reviews on Tomb Raider Reloaded grabbed my attention because it was being compared to Vampire Survivors, which I very much liked. I liked it enough that I got the DLC just to send more money to the developers, so having another game with the same flavor sounds really good. As an added bonus, Netflix has the game available with some of the live service bits neutered, and I’m a Netflix junkie, so I already have access to this library of games.

I wish I could share some of the enthusiasm for the game’s take on the newly emerging reverse bullet hell genre, but the problem is, no amount of neutering can change the inherently grindy nature of this beast. With Vampire Survivors, it’s okay to keep going back to the first level, because each run is with a new unlocked character, or a new weapon, or even with a new build in mind. With Tomb Raider Reloaded, the first level is a mandatory grind to collect enough resources to level up Lara Croft’s weapons, outfit, accessories, and ammunition. All of these have to be ground for a couple of days just to make it to the end of the third level. I cannot stress how dull the process became even after just a few hours, let alone days.

Let’s start with the gameplay when it still feels good. Lara is controlled with a single virtual direction pad. When she moves, she can’t shoot, and when she’s stationary, she decides what to target. Killing enemies gives her XP, and with each level up, Lara is given a choice of three power upgrades. A lot of these options are really nice, like bouncing bullets that bound off walls or other enemies, one power that makes defeated enemies explode in a shower of bullets, or just pure damage and attack speed boosts. In the first two levels you might be forgiven for thinking, “Hey, this is kinda fun,” because it really is scratching that same power creep itch that makes Vampire Survivors so satisfying. Continue reading