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About Saricino

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  1. Portraying love and relationships in games can be tricky, and developers often struggle with how much interactivity, or even significance, should be given to intimate moments. Florence, an interactive graphic novel, finds a powerful balance in its exploration of love, offering a breathtaking experience. This breezy game puts you in the shoes of 25-year-old Florence, who is wrapped up in a mundane routine. She snoozes her alarm several times before waking up, mindlessly browses social media on the bus, and chats on the phone with her worrisome mother. When she meets Krish, a cellist whose music enchants her one day during a stroll, her world lights up. The relationship that unfolds has its share of ups and downs, as the two do a careful dance of growing closer and growing apart, making the game feel authentic. Florence tells its story mostly without words and requires minimal interactivity, but this simplicity adds to its allure. For example, in several short chapters, you match pairs of numbers to help Florence’s productivity at work or interact with a slider to put images in focus to advance a scene. These moments make the experience smooth, like conversation flowing naturally between two love-stricken partners. The simplicity keeps the focus on the narrative, so that I could better enjoy Florence’s clever and creative methods of marrying its thematic visuals with interactivity without complicated or distracting systems. (Please visit the site to view this media) Florence doesn’t just excel at portraying good moments; it also appropriately enhances the tense scenes with distinct aesthetics and changes to gameplay. Florence’s simple color palette can make the world comforting, while other times it makes more striking colors pop to accentuate strong emotions. For example, Krish’s cello-playing is overwhelmingly alluring when Florence follows floating music notes that grow into a vivid yellow background, and arguments are jarring and uncomfortable when the two wear bleak grey attire as blood red speech bubbles zoom upward. These fights are especially well done, as you try to fit puzzle pieces into speech bubbles quicker than Krish while harsh music plays. Though failing to be quicker doesn’t come with consequences, it tilts your view like a sinking ship. This imagery immersed me, as I envisioned the argument like a fierce tug-of-war. I imagined what terrible things the two were saying to each other while tears fell down their cheeks silently. Despite not having agency in the story’s direction, I felt a connection to Florence. I cheered her on as she discovered new inspirations, and felt a knowing pang of sadness as she brushed her teeth solemnly without someone by her side. She’s relatable in some of the simple ways all humans are – we all want to be loved – but she’s also young, idealistic, and finds passion through those she admires. It makes her plight more engaging and relatable. My interactions helped her through this snapshot of her life as I eagerly turned the digital pages of what felt like a personal journal. Florence is a beautiful experience that isn’t afraid to tell an ordinary story. This isn’t an action-packed, heroic tale or a somber story filled with tragedy, but it still hits some of those notes in subdued ways. Florence is happy, distressing, and admirable in its reflection of young romance, and it left me with a sense of unexpected hopefulness. View the full article
  2. As an early action/RPG, Secret of Mana helped popularize the genre with its cooperative elements and impressive creativity. It kickstarted the Mana franchise and set a high bar that the series has yet to hit again. A remake seemed like a wonderful way to resurrect this important game, giving longtime fans a chance to revisit it while allowing new players to take in the experience with modern mechanics. Sadly, Square Enix’s attempt to update the classic doesn’t live up the original’s legacy, nor does it improve its more problematic elements. I enjoyed the trip down memory lane, but the Secret of Mana remake is middling in every way. As a 25-year-old game, Secret of Mana’s story is straightforward and occasionally campy. Square Enix tried to inject more personality into a tale about a boy recovering a legendary sword that in turn sets him on a world-saving quest. This is mostly done through the addition of voice acting and some dialogue changes. The voice acting feels unnatural and jarring; characters’ mouths don’t move as they speak, even during close-ups. The voice performances’ poor quality disrupted so many scenes that I eventually turned it off, significantly improving my experience. The campiness still has its charm, but the new force-fed personalities make the cast more annoying than endearing. Sometimes less is more, and that is certainly the case here. Remaking the game was a chance to modernize the original for this generation of gamers. Unfortunately, Square Enix only made small tweaks. The movement is the best it’s ever been, with the analog stick opposed to the d-pad. The ability to assign shortcuts to items, magic, and weapons is also a great improvement, as the flow is not interrupted by menu navigation. That being said, the game is still inconveniently menu-heavy. You can only assign a few shortcuts, so just to make simple changes to weapons or cast a spell can be a hassle. Also, if you choose to play local multiplayer (online multiplayer is not available), shortcuts go away, making you and your partners constantly juggle menus to use items or cast magic. (Please visit the site to view this media) Playing co-op alleviates issues with the terrible A.I. (which was also a problem in the original), but playing with others has other drawbacks, since you lose flexibility in managing your entire party. Your A.I. allies get better as they level up and you can alter their tendencies, but you still spend too much time babysitting them. Even worse, some characters’ abilities are necessary to beat bosses, so having them die easily is frustrating. They also sometimes run into walls and lag behind, another carryover issue from the original. Additional frustrations surfaced with technical foibles, like frequent stuttering and a few hard crashes. One of the most notable changes to the remake is nixing the 16-bit graphics in favor of 3D-enhanced visuals. While I prefer the original graphics, the new style retains its predecessor’s colorful essence, and the improved monster designs are a nice touch. The same can be said for the newly arranged score; it doesn’t trump the original music (which you can thankfully swap to), but it still carries a lot of the game’s spirit, even if I disliked some of the tracks. The remake disappointed me more than delighted me, but it’d be disingenuous to say I didn’t have fun with it. Taking down a boss that’s triple your size is still satisfying, and the wondrous world is teeming with creative baddies, from mushbooms to nitro pumpkins. Even so, this remake doesn’t do enough to address or improve the original’s problems. Some tweaks are for the better, others are for the worse, but the end result is a remake that fails to do anything meaningful with a beloved classic. View the full article
  3. With its distinct art style, melancholy tone, and ambiguous story, Fe tries its best to run with the artistic indie video game crowd. While its heart is in the right place, Fe comes up short in nearly every way, delivering an experience that is frequently frustrating and consistently bland. Controlling a spiky being named Fe, you work your way through a large interconnected forest and save your animal neighbors from a mysterious alien threat. Except for the occasional tutorial prompt, you won't read any text or dialogue or be told about the story in an overt way. Fe unlocks new traversal abilities and learns different languages which are used to communicate with other animals who offer additional traversal assistance. The emphasis on expanding your movement is smart; for example, unlocking wings for gliding is a great reward because it changes how you interact with the world. I like that my platforming moveset expanded as I progressed, but no matter what skills I gained, it never fully corrected the issues that plague the core movement. Prematurely jumping off trees happens all the time, and sure footing on platforms is rarely guaranteed. I frequently slipped off ledges because of the inaccurate controls, which was especially problematic during a few sequences where I had to climb large structures. Stealth is also required to avoid the alien menace, and the loose controls made me move past the bushes of safety right into my enemy's field of view, which is instant death. Checkpoints are friendly, but when the controls are failing you and not your platforming abilities, it's a problem. (Please visit the site to view this media) The narrative pulling Fe along is vague, but some parts are enjoyable. Early on you come across story moments in the world naturally, and you can figure out what needs to be done from context clues. The further along you go, however, the more traditional cutscenes are triggered. A laughable moment occurs near the end where the story conveniently forgets Fe learned how to fly hours ago. Ultimately, the story has a satisfying conclusion, but the path there is just so bland that nothing stands out as memorable. The art direction is undeniably unique, but I never found it inviting or particularly pleasant to look at. With the myriad spikes, every creature in the game looks like an enemy, which is a gameplay problem, but I also struggled to sympathize with any of the creatures based on their designs. Every area of the forest also feels similar, even if the color scheme is working overtime to try and make locations feel distinct. Since it was always hard to tell if I was in a new location, I had to rely on in-game markers to point me in the right direction too much. I don't want Fe to be the red flag that makes Electronic Arts reconsider the great idea of supporting comparable projects, but nothing about Fe is exciting or interesting. It tries to tell a story about animals overcoming adversity in a large interconnected forest, but falls short in just about every aspect. View the full article
  4. Loyalty isn’t easy to come by. The kind of devotion that inspires poets is only built over time. Civilization VI’s new Rise and Fall expansion takes this concept of loyalty and bakes it into Firaxis’ incredibly robust sim. Lead your nation well and you inspire other city-states to rally to your side. Mismanage your population and even your most cherished municipalities could rise up in secession. Rise and Fall cleverly builds off existing designs without destroying Civilization VI’s groundwork; it’s the kind of smart design that has earned Firaxis its own loyal following. As with all Civilization games, the ultimate goal is to lead your nation through several millennia of progress and become the dominant world power. Properly managing an empire requires rulers to carefully spin several plates at once. You might need to maximize the productivity of your population while making sure your cities have proper amenities while also defending your national interests from warmongers. These elements can be micromanaged to the nth degree, and it takes a while before you begin to see through the matrix, but once you develop a winning strategy, you feel like you’ve built something incredibly special. Rise and Fall maintains all of Civilization VI’s incredible flexibility. I had playthroughs where I focused on conquering the world through religion and avoided combat altogether. In another game, I used my scientific lead to nuke everyone – then conquered the charred remains of the planet. Thanks to Rise and Fall’s loyalty system, spreading across the globe too quickly can lead to ruin. Cities built further away from your capital are now more susceptible to the cultural influences of other nations. If those nations influence your city too much, that settlement might eventually run a new flag up the top of its courthouse. This push-and-pull mechanic adds a nice element to your strategy, and I loved exploiting it and pulling other nations cities over to my side. (Please visit the site to view this media) Micromanaging each city’s loyalty is never tedious thanks to the addition of governors. These administrators can be installed in a city where they boost that city’s loyalty. Governors also have their own unique skill trees, and buff things like food production or military strength. These characters add another layer to city management, but all their buffs run in the background. That means I didn’t feel connected to them, since they demand little attention once installed. Another change for Rise and Fall is a reworked era system. Nations no longer progress through the ages at their own pace; every nation on the map moves through eras together. As you establish contacts with other nations, discover Natural Wonders, and building unique units, you earn points for that era. Manage your nation well and you enter a prosperous golden age. But if your nation slacks off, you suffer through a dark age that diminishes your population’s happiness and loyalty. Thankfully, digging yourself out of a dark age is easy; the only time I fell into one, I was able to rebound into a fruitful heroic age. This new era system didn’t dramatically impact my overall strategy, but it is a playful way to chronicle time, and it gave me some short-term goals to aim for while I kept my eye on the global prize. Firaxis’ Civilization franchise has remained popular because each entry is an incredibly rich, multilayered strategy. Fans love this intricate network of surprisingly flexible systems. Rise and Fall adds numerous new leaders, buildings, units, and wonders. It also tinkers with the nation-building strategy in some bigger ways thanks to the additions of loyalty and golden ages. In the end, Rise and Fall’s moment-to-moment action isn’t dramatically different from the base game, but the new bells and whistles provide a good excuse to return to Firaxis’ excellent strategy game. View the full article
  5. A Case of Distrust makes players feel at home in its noir world as they try and solve an intriguing case as private detective Phyllis Malone. The visual style and well-written dialogue easily draw in players, but the point-and-click gameplay – while natural for an investigative adventure title – does not do any favors to the noir vibe the game tries to establish. Malone is following in the footsteps of her uncle, a legend on the San Francisco police force. As a woman in a man's world, Malone has to navigate the environment as an outsider, both in standing apart from people's expectations and in trying to penetrate the fog of clues and misdirection surrounding the inevitable murder. The setup adds flavor to the otherwise common trappings of the genre and time, adding a layer to Malone's personality. However, the way that her identity is relied upon to unpack the case's resolution is an inelegant fit. A Case of Distrust's strength is its world – its visual style and presentation, script, and reaction to player's dialogue choices. The noir genre has its share of blaring symbols, like the femme fatale and wise-cracking detective, but this game doesn't tread clumsily. Choosing what you want to say to other characters reveals well-written lines of dialogue that sometimes expand on Malone herself or the world, but the game is not over-written in terms of style or volume. Sometimes small details jump out while inspecting a bottle or choosing to talk to a cabby (or not). For an adventure game where you're clicking on the screen for anything that gives you a response, the fact that the dialogue doesn't overstay its welcome says a lot. (Please visit the site to view this media) That being said, this same gameplay conceit of clicking on anything and everything also stresses the game's relationship with the noir genre. The inherent trial-and-error introduces slack in otherwise possibly tense interactions, as you shuttle between menus (easily, I should add) looking for and presenting evidence. Also, in a larger sense, your total control over events as the protagonist belies the doomed inevitability and powerlessness to larger forces that is an arresting hallmark of the noir genre. "Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown," isn't a sentiment that is conveyed in the game. Contrast this with L.A. Noire, for example, which successfully executes investigative gameplay within the noir genre by letting players operate as a detective without sacrificing its noir undercurrent. The visual style of hard lines is appealing – and reminiscent of noir's classic juxtapositions of light and shadow – but I miss cinematic elements such as subtle acting, frame composition, and lighting which aren't present here. Finally, the story's ending does not land. While it's logically sound, it doesn't register with its intended gravity. I'm not sure how you'd figure out its finer points on your own; as a detective, it feels like you've been taken off the case, and are instead reading how some other detective figured it out via the case file after the fact. It also works from without rather than from within because it relies on sentiments for a character that I didn't feel. View the full article
  6. The two half-clothed hunters circle me. One of them has already pegged me in the chest with an arrow, and they’re both taunting me as I try to duck out of sight, nude and armed only with a club that was once someone’s femur. The first hunter charges but misses with his spear. I slam the club into his face, killing him. I hear the pluck of the bow snap and turn just in time to get another arrow in my belly. He’s prepping another arrow when I slam the bone down on him over and over again. Soon he’s on the ground, wounded, begging me not to kill him. I smash his skull in with a rock and take his bow as my prize. My victory is short-lived. As I wander away from the site of the battle, I notice that I’m bleeding out. Within seconds, I topple over and die. Such is the world of Rust. Facepunch’s quirky and vicious survival sim is filled with stories like these. Across my time with the game, I discovered and took part in many of the mini-dramas unfolding across the massive map, where players form alliances or strike out on their own to survive as long as possible in a harsh environment. Using voice chat, I once begged another player armed with a rifle to take me into the community that he had built with others. He invited me into their makeshift sheet-metal castle, and after five minutes of pleasant chatter, he shot me in the face without warning. In another occasion, I was being chased by three hunters on the plains, all of whom were suddenly attacked by a bear, and I listened to their screams fade as I made my getaway. In these moments, Rust is enthralling, proving to be fertile ground for player-driven stories. However, the cost for taking part in those stories is high; Rust’s deadly and tedious world rewards only the most tenacious and stubborn players. Every game begins with the player waking up on a random spot on the map with only a rock and torch. From there, you have to gather materials, chopping wood and stone with your rock until you can craft more efficient tools and other thing necessary for survival, like spears, clothing, fire, and respawn points. If you survive long enough, you might even be able to build a house or a fortress – maybe even gather an army of fellow players! But that’s a big “if.” Rust’s appeal is rooted in the volatile unpredictable nature of its community. Every player you meet can be either your killer, your savior, or a stranger you pass peacefully. However, the majority of the players I encountered were openly hostile, killing everyone they came across despite my frequent attempts to make peace. Rare were the games in which I survived longer than 15 minutes; hunters found me picking stones, then brutally murdered me before I could get my bearings. This happened even when I had played long enough to know what materials I needed to survive the opening moments of each life I spent. Respawns are quick, with almost no downtime between each life since every map persists until the server resets (about once a week, depending on the server). The houses you build last until the server wipe even if you don’t —unless another player destroys them. Upon each death, you lose everything you were carrying. Since other players generally loot your body, you start at square one every time you die. This makes every death crushing. While I’m a fan of punishing rogue-likes and survival sims, losing progress in Rust often felt like wasting a huge chunk of time just because an aggressive, better-equipped player happened to wander by. The fact that Rust has been in early access for several years also creates an uneven playing field, putting the odds against newcomers. A number of technical issues also consistently interfered with my experience. While Rust’s draw distance is impressive and the forest environments are lush and pleasing to look at, models of both human characters and animals are rough, and their animations are stilted. Worse, lag cropped up across multiple servers, and choppy action makes stalking prey and fighting with other players difficult. The amount of toxicity I came across was also off-putting. I encountered constant disturbing and bigoted behavior, from players screaming racial slurs to mimicking sexual assault over other corpses. As the distasteful interactions and glitches mounted, my enjoyment of Rust’s better qualities waned. You can turn down the volume to mute voice chat, but that’s basically closing yourself off to Rust’s emergent stories. At the center of Rust lurks something fascinating, with the Wild-West sense of lawlessness and the exploration of trust and betrayal that emerges when trying to survive. Yet Rust’s habit of tripping over its own feet makes it difficult to get to those fascinating stories. As the survival genre continues to mutate and create compelling experiences generate exciting player-driven stories regularly with little frustration, even Rust’s most compelling feature feels sadly archaic. View the full article
  7. A Nostalgic Epic

    Crossing Souls makes no attempts to hide its love for the ‘80s. Within moments of the opening credits, the player is bombarded with images of Ghostbusters posters and references to Excitebite. However, this indie adventure doesn’t just make nostalgia a pretty wrapper; it thematically mines the zeitgeist of the decade for all its worth. Beyond the pixelated veneer lurks a fun action game that tells a beautiful story about the power of friendship in the face of rampant greed and materialism. You play as a band of five teenage friends trying to make it through the summer of ’86 in the small California town of Tajunga. After one of them makes a disturbing discovery, the group squares off against supernatural forces hell-bent on wreaking their lives. While you start with the baseball-bat-wielding ringleader of the group, Chris, you soon gain the ability to switch among five kids with the tap of a button. Every kid has their own stats and special traversal abilities. Chris is capable of parkour and climbing while Matt, a diligent nerd, can use his jetpack to reach places others can’t. To solve environmental puzzles you need to control all five characters and use their unique skills. For example, one puzzle requires Joe to move boxes around a labyrinth. However, to reach some of those boxes, you need to switch to Matt, who can fly around obstacles, and then switch back to Joe. The switching mechanic results in fun, breezy puzzle-solving that impressed me with solutions that emerge naturally from the characters’ abilities instead of feeling forced or tedious. The battles are also bolstered by the character-switching. Combat is initially presented as a basic hack-and-slash action game, but character-switching makes things more dynamic. Chris might be overwhelmed by four approaching enemies, but switching to Charlie makes short work of those foes thanks to her jump rope’s wide attack and her enhanced evasive abilities. Switching to Joe lets you brute force your way through stronger enemies when Chris needs to recharge his stamina. The character-switching lets you develop strategies for any situation you come across on the battlefield, and the continual formation of strategies I made throughout my playthrough kept me entertained for the entirety of the game. Characters aren’t the only things that are switching in Crossing Souls. You gain access to a device that lets you flip between the lands of the living and the dead, so you go from fighting bullies to zombies, ghosts, and other supernatural foes. The world around you also changes; though you’re still navigating the streets of Tajunga, you come across bizarre sights, like the ghosts of civil war soldiers huddled beneath a dinosaur, or cave men sitting around a living room. Some of these ghosts even give quests, like one understandably grumpy Native American who wants you to convince a suburban family not to build a pool over his grave. These quests are short but worthwhile, rewarding you with fantastic dialogue and useful health recovery items. (Please visit the site to view this media) From top to bottom, Crossing Souls oozes style and charm. Tajunga feels like a lived-in place thanks to its eccentric denizens and the detailed art of its neighborhood and downtown distracts. The five characters you control are also likeable, with fears, ambitions, and desires that make them more than clones of the Stand By Me cast. The relationship between Chris and his brother as they navigate the troubles of adolescence and what it means to lose people they care about is a strong point, as is Matt’s attempt to escape the looming shadow of his parents, both brilliant (and cold) scientists, with his own inventions. To delve too much into the story would spoil some of the fun, but I found the eight-hour journey to be immensely rewarding, culminating in a moving, memorable ending that shows the cost and reward of meaningful sacrifice. Even more impressive than its surprisingly deep story is how well-paced Crossing Souls is. Beyond fighting ghouls and exploration, you have to complete various mini-games. All of them are fun and challenging, especially a Back To The Future-inspired rhythm game that I won’t say too much about. However, these diversions are most interesting when they take on the form of plentiful boss fights – well-designed battles that test your brain much more than they do your brawn, like one battle in limbo where you play a game of Simon Says with a ghost king to deal damage to him. Crossing Souls changes things up exactly when it needs to, spacing fights out with quirky investigations and charming detours that endeared me to both the characters and the setting. Crossing Souls is a inventive thrill ride that embraces clever, varied gameplay and heartfelt storytelling to coalesce into a gem of a game. As someone rarely wooed by ‘80s nostalgia grabs, I found an enchanting world worth exploring in this great adventure. View the full article
  8. For Final Fantasy fans and enthusiasts, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT provides a cast of high-profile characters ranging from the series’ inception to its modern-day road trips. Having Sephiroth, Kefka, and Golbez take on Cloud, Terra, and Cecil in an arena soiree is the stuff fans dream of. However, a dramatic dissonance forms between these neat offerings and the core experience. Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is a disjointed mess of multiplayer meanderings, threadbare single-player options, and puzzling story content that demands you spend time doing non-story activities to progress. The cast is divided into broad buckets that give players an idea of their playstyle, though every character has their own feel. Dish out fast and furious attacks with high-damaging assassins like FF XV’s Noctis, or assault your enemies from afar with a marksman like FF IV’s Golbez. Vanguards like Sephiroth excel at staying at the forefront of the action in the middle of battle, and specialists like Exdeath defy traditional class distinction. Dissidia presents an interesting mix of character roles and a ton of favorites from games old and new (even Final Fantasy Tactics brings Ramza into the fray!). Unfortunately, these awesome characters are thrust into a conflict that doesn’t give them the opportunity to shine. (Please visit the site to view this media) The main mode of Dissidia (and the one you spend the vast majority of your time on) is 3v3 battles. These team-oriented battles typically take several minutes, with players frantically slinging skills and spells at each other. To incentivize action and keep players from running around the spacious arenas in circles waiting for a perfect time to strike, summoning stones create critical zones to battle over. If your team successfully summons an iconic Final Fantasy creature into the arena, like a fire-breathing Bahamut or a field-drenching Leviathan, you gain a powerful advantage. These summons often are loaded with incredibly powerful skills that topple your opponents outright or create space for you to bring them down yourself. On paper, this sounds like a freaking blast. In practice, combat is difficult to control and parse, with many characters firing things off at once. Despite a solid tutorial that lays everything out in an easy-to-digest format, everything goes to hell when several players start ganging up on one, or when you lose sight of your allies. This happens a lot; the camera is awkward at best and devastating at worst, and getting lost in the chaos is too easy. Simply put, the 3v3 format is sensory overload. Too much happens at once in all directions, and it’s difficult to get actionable information at any given moment. The combination of elements from multiple genres like fighters, brawlers, and MOBAs just doesn’t work here. It’s not fun. The lackluster multiplayer takes the center stage, with meager single-player offerings attempting to buoy the ship. The story and associated cutscenes are fun, but to unlock them, you must dive into multiplayer or grind against A.I. controlled teams – and neither are enjoyable. On the plus side, plenty of Final Fantasy loot is waiting to be acquired and admired. You’re always earning gil even if you’re being demolished in the arena, and you can spend your hard-earned coins on awesome new weapon visuals, skins, portrait icons, and classic Final Fantasy music tracks. That these cool Final Fantasy tributes are attached to this particular game is tragic; it is a great celebration of the series anchored to something no one should play. Undeniable Final Fantasy charm flows through Dissidia Final Fantasy NT, and it pains me that the gameplay doesn’t justify a delving into it. The roster from across the series puts on a great show and is fun to customize and engage with, but the crux of the experience is the multiplayer, which doesn’t hit home. Unless you’re a hardcore Final Fantasy fan that really wants to get Golbez a new outfit, it’s not worth suffering through the arena for the perks. View the full article
  9. Mountain climbers don’t climb mountains because it’s easy. Difficult challenges are often intrinsically rewarding, and Celeste is that kind of experience. This adorable platformer about a troubled young woman named Madeline who pushes herself to climb a mountain is full of platforming sequences that mirror the heroine’s own struggles. The journey isn’t always easy, but the view from the top is spectacular. Celeste’s early levels feature a series of precise platforming challenges in the vein of indie hits like Super Meat Boy. However, Madeline can also climb up most vertical surfaces until her stamina runs out. Instead of a traditional double jump, Madeline performs a mid-air dash, which gives her a wider range of movement once she’s airborne. I never grew tired of even the basic platforming sections thanks to the tight controls and the wide variety of aerial maneuvers. Jumping across a bottomless pit and then dashing up to find purchase on the side of a narrow pillar is incredibly harrowing, and Celeste is filled to the brim with exciting moments. The basic mechanics aren’t complex, but each stage puts a unique spin on the action. In one area, I used the momentum of several moving platforms to launch across wide chasms. In another section, I strung together a series of shimmering diamonds that refreshed the mid-air dash to perform extended aerial stunts without touching the ground. Every time I started to grow tired of one environment, the game threw out a curveball and added some new element that made it feel fresh again. (Please visit the site to view this media) Many of the platforming sequences offer a fair challenge, as well as occasional frustration. However, the reward of overcoming these trials always overshadows the bumps along the way. Those who want to mitigate their pain can turn on several assist mode options like more air dashes and immunity to environmental damage. Players can even skip troublesome levels altogether. If you want a heartier challenge, you can collect floating strawberries in hard-to-reach places. I enjoyed collecting these berries, but my efforts ultimately felt futile since you don’t get anything for collecting them apart from a relatively insignificant change to the ending. Throughout your journey, you encounter a grouchy old woman, a fellow climber, and an awkward ghost, but the story ultimately centers on Madeline’s struggle up the mountain while overcoming her own anxieties. I won’t spoil the specifics, but the adventure is surprisingly heartfelt, and the clever dialogue and bizarre encounters are as compelling as the platforming. Developer Matt Makes Games’ previous release was TowerFall, the archery-themed four-player battle royale. With its single-player focus and touching narrative, Celeste might seem like an odd follow-up. However, like TowerFall, Celeste features polished and intense action that makes it easy to love and hard to put down. View the full article
  10. When I first plunged into the depths of Subnautica’s vast sea, I was filled with awe. This underwater world is both familiar and otherworldly, with giant coral tunnels, uncharted caves, and alien-looking fish. Everywhere I turned, I discovered something exciting and grandiose, making this gripping survival game a joy to play. Right from the start, Subnautica offers an engaging premise. After your crew’s starship crashes on a watery planet, you take refuge aboard a tiny lifepod near the wreck. The planet you’re stranded on is filled with both danger and intrigue, and you survive by gathering supplies, building sea bases, and managing your character’s basic needs. Luckily, you begin in a relatively safe region filled with edible fish and enough materials to provide drinkable water. These systems aren’t too complicated or overwhelming, making it a pleasant start that becomes more intense as you progress to increasingly dangerous territory with scarcer resources and predatory enemies. Subnautica offers different options for those who want to tune the difficulty of their experience. Freedom mode removes health and thirst gauges, hardcore mode limits players to a single life, and the creative mode is more of a sandbox with all buildable items unlocked. Each brings something unique, but I enjoyed survival mode the most. Here, you have to manage your basic needs like health, thirst, and hunger. It makes you both curious and frightful of what awaits you in the dark waters, while also offering a rewarding balance of challenge and progression as you unlock new crafting formulas. Crafting is one of the most enjoyable parts of Subnautica. Your lifepod is equipped with cutting-edge tech, including a wall-mounted fabricator that allows you to construct items from raw materials. As you venture into the unknown, you stumble upon wreckage you can scan for blueprints and discover necessary items to create new equipment. I was always excited to see what I could build next as I discovered new recipes. One of my favorite creations is a large submarine that lets you plunge deeper without worrying about air pressure or oxygen supplies, since it allows you to reach fantastical biomes and ancient alien structures that were once inaccessible. (Please visit the site to view this media) Exploration is both rewarding and thrilling, as you progressively upgrade your gear to journey out further. Whether you’re entering a cave filled with glowing plants or freezing in fear as a colossal beast approaches, Subnautica always offers something new and compelling. To make these treks easier, you can build sea bases. These give you safe zones where you can stock up, build items, and decorate the interiors to your liking. I enjoyed personalizing these spaces with different décor and discovering the functions of different rooms. For example, the scanner room deploys camera drones into the water, helping me pinpoint locations of resources. Long journeys, however, come with a cost. You have to be cautious, as they require you to stock up on food and water. Massive sea monsters also lurk in the shadows, and while you can build a knife or use decoys, they can still take you out quickly. This introduces a vulnerability akin to horror games, especially when traveling at night when visibility is reduced. Positional audio gives you cues on when a predator is near, and while these are helpful, it’s still downright terrifying. Subnautica’s narrative is deeply rooted in exploration, and it’s a well-crafted story despite diving into some science-fiction clichés. You can follow the story at your own pace, and this freedom brings an enjoyable variety to the gameplay. I often jumped between building my sea base, upgrading my equipment, and engaging in story missions. Narrative missions are received through radio transmissions, where you listen to distress calls from other stranded crewmembers. These transmissions provide superb voice acting, which invested me in the plight of the characters. Upon listening to these messages, it’s up to you to find these missing people or discover what happened to them. Sometimes this includes following coordinates to abandoned lifepods or investigating the crashed starship. These events all tie into a larger, captivating story about the daunting secrets this sea-like planet holds. While I enjoyed following the story, I encountered a few bugs that required me to exit the game completely, such as getting stuck between walls. At one point, this caused me to lose 20 minutes of progress, because Subnautica allows only one save per world. This was mildly aggravating, but these isolated incidents didn’t happen too often; the rest of the game performed without problems. Subnautica is gorgeous and enthralling, offering rewarding progression and a fascinating world. The story is well told, and it offers a crafting system that is easily accessible even for players who aren’t familiar with survival games. With fantastical sea beasts, fun gadgets to build, and a sci-fi story that gets its hooks into you, Subnautica is as deep as its sprawling ocean. View the full article
  11. Making a Metroid-inspired pixelated platformer as an independent developer is practically a rite of passage. We have seen plenty over the years, and for good reason - they're a lot of fun. Iconoclasts fits this mold and checks the right boxes with a confident red marker. The pixelated art looks great, figuring out how to explore each area and build out its map is a lot of fun, and both jumping and shooting are accurate. These elements alone would merit a recommendation. However, Iconoclasts takes its success a step further with an impactful story touching on topics not widely explored in video games. Iconoclasts follows Robin, a smart mechanic with a big wrench who recently lost her father. The local religion, the One Concern, is integrated into every aspect of life, and it violently punishes those who go against its rules. The One Concern labels Robin a heretic for choosing to be a mechanic over the job selected for her. She rejects the One Concern's efforts to collect Ivory, the most valuable resource on the planet. Her actual mission is tough to nail down, which makes her journey all the more intriguing. She's not necessarily trying to save the world or favoring one side over the other. She's just trying to help those in need when they need it. To delve deeper would spoil the game, but I was surprised by the story's direction, what happened to its characters, and especially by the conclusion. Iconoclasts tackles topics like religious zealotry, competing faiths, familial responsibility, environmentalism, and other serious themes, but it does so while maintaining a sense of humor about the video game medium and letting its characters be light-hearted at the right moments. Truly feeling the weight of an end-of-the-world scenario in a video game is rare, but Iconoclasts pulls it off. I was scared for everyone in the game, even its sympathetic villains, and I am still thinking of the story after seeing its closing credits. (Please visit the site to view this media) Iconoclasts has a lot more going for it beyond the compelling story. Both its art and musical direction are great, and it plays well. Clearly drawing inspiration from Metroid, you reveal the map for each area by exploring it. Your arsenal of abilities doesn't expand dramatically over the course of the game, but figuring out how to get to new areas is still exciting thanks to a collection of clever puzzles that constantly make you use the tools you have in new and rewarding ways. Backtracking is thankfully kept to a minimum, and on the occasions where you do have to retread, visual flourishes are typically in place to tease upcoming bosses, or handy shortcuts are created as a result of solving the necessary puzzle to get there in the first place. Of all the locations, The Tower was the only one I found frustrating thanks to a series of elevators and blocked paths that were not entirely clear on the pause-map. This was the only area in the game I abandoned before solving every puzzle. The rewards for the plentiful side puzzles littered throughout are materials that can be exchanged for minor upgrades. They can make you run a little faster, or make your wrench hit a little harder, but the number of slots you have to equip them is small, so even though I ended the game with lots of material, I only ended up making a handful of upgrades. Despite the underwhelming rewards, I still went after every piece of material just because I liked the puzzles I solved to get them so much. The myriad bosses stand out thanks to their varied visual design, strategies, and implementation. In any game, I sometimes find too many bosses frustrating as they can they act as gatekeepers to more exciting areas to explore, but I was excited to tackle each encounter, even at the end of the game, which throws a number of impressive bosses at you back to back. With its Metroid trappings, Iconoclasts began as a familiar experience, but by the end I was left thinking more about the impactful character and narrative moments. Despite its bright and colorful aesthetic, Iconoclasts' world is a dark one, and the journey across it is one I did not expect to be so affected by. Couple that with design that would excel even without the narrative hooks, and you have a game that stands above its peers. View the full article
  12. When EA Sports signed its deal with the UFC in 2012, the publisher had an uphill battle. The previous UFC series by Yuke's set a high bar that EA initially struggled to meet. With UFC 3, EA Sports refines and sharpens the entire package, finally earning its place as the champ of mixed-martial-arts video games. No game captures the calculated-yet-violent spirit of mixed martial arts better than UFC 3. The rush of entering the Octagon with the sole purpose of topping your opponent is well represented through both gameplay and presentation. The UFC brings multiple martial-arts disciplines into each fight, and you must always be on guard against both ruthless knockouts and technical submissions. Fights often turn into breathless affairs, keeping you on the edge of your seat. Just because you're winning the fight doesn't mean a single well-placed uppercut or takedown won't turn the tide in your opponent's favor. UFC 3's striking controls are the best the series has ever seen. From the base knowledge of each face-button corresponding to a limb to the more advanced strikes using shoulder buttons as modifiers to your basic attacks, the stand-up game in UFC 3 is intuitive and accessible while maintaining depth. New vulnerability windows leave you open to damage when you attack to make striking a more careful art. This, when combined with the finely tuned stamina bar, successfully balances out the number of fighters who come out swinging for the fences, as getting caught with a head kick in the middle of throwing a haymaker puts them in a precarious situation. Animations have been rebuilt from the ground up for UFC 3, making for seamless transitions between moves. In addition, there are few awkward strikes and glitches during gameplay, and fighters look and move much more like their real-world counterparts. Each fighter's stance, pre-fight routine, and post-fight celebration looks authentic to how they behave in real-life. With how great and authentic UFC 3 typically looks and feels, I'm disappointed by how often the commentary fails to keep pace. Play-by-play analyst Jon Anik does a great job in his debut effort, but longtime color commentator Joe Rogan adds little in way of new voiceover, a noticeable detriment in sequences where Anik and Rogan are going back and forth. In addition, the commentary sometimes lacks contextual awareness, with incorrect calls or set ups that give the wrong storyline of fights. (Please visit the site to view this media) UFC 3's overhauled career mode is a huge success. The new GOAT Career mode peppers in multiple short-term goals to keep you engaged at every turn. I enjoy watching my fighter climb the ranks on his way to his first title shot, but the satisfaction of completing smaller goals every few fights on my way to a better contract is much more exciting. I also love how each contract gives me a new rival to trash-talk throughout my contract before facing off against them. UFC's licensed shows help tell the story of your fighter each step of the way, making each milestone even more satisfying. Earning the title is still one of the ultimate goals, but to become the greatest of all time, you need to perform well inside and outside of the Octagon. I love the balancing act between training and promoting during the lead up to a fight. Do you want to boost your fight's hype by talking trash to your opponent on social media, or do you want to learn a new submission that might come in handy during that fight? I often struggled with the answer to that question, and because of that, I looked forward to each training camp as much as the fights themselves. In addition to career, players can engage in several diversions, both returning and debut. Popular one-off exhibitions like Knockout mode return (with Snoop Dogg delivering humorous commentary), while the new Tournaments feature allows you to pit 8 or 16 fighters against each other in a bracket-style tournament with custom rules. I'm glad Live Events are back, as I enjoy following along with real-world cards and putting in my picks for who I think will win. Online, you can play in ranked championship in pursuit of a belt, or unranked quick-matches, resulting in a basic-yet-enjoyable suite. Online play is mostly smooth and absent of lag, but I'm annoyed you still can't skip the long-winded pre-fight and mid-round presentations unless both players agree to. Ultimate Team also introduces many new features. As you fight through opponents online and offline, you earn in-game currency, which can be used to purchase packs. Each pack you open features fighters, moves, and consumable boosters that can be applied to different slots of each fighter in your starting lineup. Items can also boost your chemistry rating if you apply them to the correct weight class, fighter type, and slot (for example, punches to the arm category). With each added move and consumable boost, your fighter becomes more competitive, which helps whether you're jumping into online matchmaking or staying offline. With items carrying different tiers of effectiveness, and better packs costing more in-game currency, it opens the mode up to tempt you with microtransactions. However, without paying any real money, I still fell into the addictive loop of earning coins through completing in fights and opening packs to improve my fighter. Opening a pack to reveal your favorite fighter, or the move you've been missing from one of your starters' arsenal is a thrill. I love that the online portion of Ultimate Team has been complemented by a fully featured offline mode for those who don't want to throw down in the fiery gauntlet of online competition or worry about players who have paid money to acquire the best items. By building on its already strong foundation and adding meaningful new gameplay and modes, UFC 3 delivers a terrific MMA experience from top to bottom. Whether you want to play against a friend in a single bout or develop a fighter from local favorite to greatest all time, UFC 3 allows you to live out the fantasy of stepping into the Octagon like never before. Note: The online portion of this game was evaluated using EA Access servers prior to official launch. View the full article
  13. I don’t think I am being hyperbolic when I call Shadow of the Colossus a masterpiece. Even among Fumito Ueda’s small-but-impressive collection of games, Shadow of the Colossus stands out as my favorite. I know I’m not alone in that, which is why remaking Shadow of the Colossus is a tall and dangerous order. Thankfully, developer Bluepoint was up to the task. While it does not improve on the original game (or the HD remaster from 2011) in every way, this version of Shadow of the Colossus is absolutely worth seeking out for both fans and newcomers. The biggest and most notable overhaul to the game are the visuals. Remakes are often complimented for allowing you see dated games as you remember them as opposed to how they really looked, but Shadow of the Colossus goes well beyond that sentiment. You can see individual blades of grass as you ride with Agro, and the portals to the sky that appear above defeated colossi take on a new beauty. With so much to look at, the added detail leads to fewer moments of boredom as you travel. It adds more weight to the moments between colossi, and made me more eager to explore. The new environmental details are impressive, but the colossi are astounding. The beard on the sixth colossus looks better than it ever has. The eyes on colossus number 10, who chases you underneath the sand, have a humanity I’ve never seen before. The fur in particular, on all the colossi, is especially realistic. Even the new details impress, like a wave that accompanies the bird colossus you fight on the lake as it speeds toward you. Along with looking great, the wave gives the beast more implied weight, and even gives you a better cue for when to jump. The impact of meeting each colossus has never been lost on me, even after -multiple playthroughs, and it has only been elevated for this remake. I gasped at near-falls, and my heart raced as I leapt from Agro’s back onto the flying dessert colossus just as it did in the past. (Please visit the site to view this media) For all the visual steps forward, one element falls short. Mono and Agro look great, and even Lord Emon (who had the least amount of detail of any human character in the original) has a new impressive wizened look – but Wander’s face looks bad. Something was lost in translation on the way to PlayStation 4, and Wander looks like he has been recast by a younger actor with softer features. Newcomers may not be bothered by his new appearance, but I couldn’t get over the fact that he simply never looked right. A number of other changes are small, but still improve the experience. The original control scheme was atypical, to be polite, and the new default control scheme is more in line with contemporary button layouts (X to jump, circle to roll). Your items are now quick-select on the d-pad, making it easier to quickly change from sword to bow. Changes to the stamina bar also make its upgrade progress clearer, and it uses less screen space while still offering the necessary information. You also get a detailed list of stats you can refer to anytime, tracking things like distance traveled, time riding fish and hawks, Agro stunts, and your fastest times for defeating colossi. I love stat-tracking, so I definitely appreciate their inclusion. The option to play a mirrored version of the game after you beat it is one of the few true additions, and it’s an inoffensive unlock that doesn’t change the game in a substantial way. While the lack of more significant content additions might be disappointing for some, I appreciate how true this remake remains to the original I adore. Bluepoint strikes a good balance, making welcome changes that leave the core experience intact. The original Shadow of the Colossus is easily one of my favorite games. It was among the first that made me want to violently point at the screen and yell, “Look! Video games are art!” at anyone within earshot. Bluepoint’s remake feels different in some respects, but is exactly like Shadow of the Colossus in the important ways. Scaling beasts feels appropriately epic, and the few story moments that exist still tell a heart-wrenching tale of sacrifice in the face of impossible odds. The PS4 Pro Edge A few advantages exist if you’re playing Shadow of the Colossus on a PS4 Pro. Outside of the expected additional 4K display options, you can also choose to play the game in Performance mode. As the name implies, this mode prioritizes performance, boosting the framerate to 60 FPS. The other mode, Cinematic, lowers the frame rate to 30 FPS, but displays the game in 4K. On a standard PS4, the game plays in 30 FPS. Performance mode was my preferred way to play. The higher frame-
rate makes the game lose some of its filmic qualities, but it plays and feels better as a result. View the full article
  14. Dragon Ball FighterZ accomplishes a difficult task: Taking two insular genres (fighting games and licensed products) and broadening the appeal of both. With its gorgeous characters and explosive combat, it wonderfully captures what has made Dragon Ball such an enduring power fantasy. With a steady learning curve and simple-but-varied combat, it is immediately rewarding as a fighting game, but also has the potential to turn average players on to the fun of learning, adapting, and improving through competition. A casual glance at the team-based, 2D fighting of Dragon Ball FighterZ could be confused with an episode of the Dragon Ball anime. Goku, Frieza, and the rest of Dragon Ball’s absurdly powerful cast bear a stunning resemblance to their animated counterparts, and several moves and supers artfully recreate stills from the manga or anime. Every frame of animation during fights looks immaculate, and exchanges regularly have an over-the-top bombast to them that made me feel cool just for being a part of them. Throws are a flurry of punches and kicks that sends opponents flying at top speed, and fatal super moves cut to a shot from space of a planet-shattering explosion. For all the action’s faithfulness to its source material, the biggest accomplishment is how the fighting underpinning it all slowly reveals its layers, offering new players a great onramp to fighting games without bogging them down in tutorials. Rather than be quarantined to a “simple” mode that eschews creativity in favor of flashiness or automatic combos that are useless in a real fight, one-button strings are an integral part of combat. Characters like Beerus or Piccolo have automatic attacks that are useful in disorienting opponents and can lead to longer combos. Even my early matches, in which both my opponent and I fumbled combos and spammed the same moves repeatedly, were fun. That’s because combos are easy, satisfying, and don’t kill characters immediately. You also have a number of easy-to-use maneuvers at your disposal, and a great mix of dashes and double-jumps make movement feel incredibly freeform. Once you have the hang of them, the variety of flashy ways you have to close the distance and start a combo helps you diversify your strategy. Is your opponent firing lots fireballs and playing defensively? A super dash breezes past the fireballs, and a vanish may catch them off guard. Is your opponent abusing super dashes? A well-timed Kamehameha or heavy attack forces them to think twice. Because of all these options, I rarely felt helpless during a loss (unlike many combo-heavy fighters). This lessened the sting of losing, and drove me to think more creatively. What specific tools does my team bring to the table? How I can I escape bad situations while devising a few traps of my own? These same tricks work when you head to training mode to maximize the damage of landing a combo on an opponent. Longer combos take some practice, but emphasize putting all the tools at your disposal over strict timing. The more intricate combos aren’t easy to master (most players will still likely have to consult guides online to see some of the more obscure tricks and combos), but most of the tools you can use to deal more damage are right in front of you, making it easier to think up new tricks. You can even cook up a few ways to try to summon Shenron, which is difficult to pull off in a real match but offers some powerful benefits, like completely healing or bringing a character back from the dead. The roster also strikes a good balance of varied and simple. You can use the same basic joystick motions, combos, and tactics with the entire cast, so switching characters doesn’t feel like learning an entirely new game. But as I tinkered with various characters, I found exciting new tricks I could use can use to deal more damage using double-jumps, fireballs, and swapping in a teammate. Kid Buu, for example, has great long-range options with his stretchy limbs, Android 16 can amp up combos and break defenses using his crushing piledrivers, and Hit can stop aggressors in their tracks with counter moves. You don’t need to switch stances or keep track of secondary characters (staples of developer Arc System Works’ other titles), but these differences make for enough intricate setups and team-specific combos that those who love to tinker in training mode for hours have lots of reasons to do so, though it isn’t a requirement to enjoy fighting. If the complicated terms and rhythms of fighting don’t appeal to you, you can head directly to the story mode. This single-player campaign clocks in at a meaty 15-18 hours, and offers a great starting point for Dragon Ball fans. Between cutscenes you make your way through simple board game-like maps where you navigate your party through spaces, leveling up party members and swapping them out after each fight on the way to each boss. Which fights you choose and in what order are mostly irrelevant, since they don’t present much of a challenge until the last couple of hours. This mostly makes them useful as a way to learn or practice combos. A few elements also attempt to complicate the fighting in story mode, but are underutilized. You can equip various stat bonuses that drop randomly after fights, but I never bothered to use them until the end, since most fights are a cakewalk and opted for experience boosters, since leveling up characters unlocks more conversations with them. This is more of a missed opportunity than a real impediment since I still enjoyed mowing down teams of bad guys without paying much attention to my party or navigating each board. The real draw of the story mode is listening to voice actors ham it up as classic Dragon Ball characters (even if some reads tend to miss their mark), as well as some of the more lighthearted conversations that draw on and poke some fun at the series’ extensive lore. What does Gotenks think of the Great Saiyaman? Why would the Ginyu Force blindly follow all of Frieza’s orders? These clever scenes are good for a laugh and occasional insight, and were my main motivation for completing the story mode. The overall plot of this story mode isn’t terribly captivating (it spends far too much time justifying why Goku and crew are all evenly matched with clones of each other), but I was eager to see what conversations my next unlikely team setup would cause. While the story mode is more about fun than challenge, the arcade mode skews in the opposite direction, testing you with opponents who react more quickly and deal ridiculous damage with even basic combos. This can be a little frustrating since two characters are locked behind beating the harder difficulties with high marks, but players can also earn zenny (the in-game currency) elsewhere to unlock them if they don’t want to fight these lopsided matches. (Please visit the site to view this media) Between matches you can roam around an online lobby, which acts as a central hub for players to communicate, set up private fights, watch replays, and take on the world in ranked and casual matches. Private matches and party matches (six-player brawls where one person controls each character) are confined to local lobbies, which makes them difficult to set up. You earn zenny as you play more matches and work through the various modes, which you use to purchase capsules that randomly drop new avatars and stamps. These unlocks are a fun way for Dragon Ball FighterZ to explore the more obscure parts of Dragon Ball’s fiction, letting players walk around as Mr. Satan or a casually-dressed Piccolo. This system exclusively uses in-game currency (no microtransactions), so it feels fun rather than exploitative. The lobbies work smoothly, and if you don’t want the hassle of moving around this area, you can bring up a menu and hop right into a match. Dragon Ball FighterZ seamlessly blends accessibility and complexity, making for a feverishly-paced fighter that makes the learning process gradual and engaging, and gives casual players hours of worthwhile things to do solo and potentially turning fighting game fans on to the world of Dragon Ball. Even after dozens of hours in single-player, training mode, and online, I’m excited to keep digging into its combat and see just how many more gorgeous flashes and explosions I can cause. If I happen to blow up a few more planets along the way, all the better. View the full article
  15. The Payoff

    You ever have that one friend? Delightful one minute, and a rage-fueled monster the next? You like their company, but you’re never sure when they’re going to go off and reveal the Mr. Hyde that lurks within. The second season of Telltale’s Batman has been about being trapped in a room with this particular kind of person, and the fourth episode makes good on all the tension associated with that. This culmination results in not only the best episode in the series since Lady Arkham’s debut in the first season, but also one of the more compelling Batman/Joker relationship stories in years, in any media. Last we left Bruce, he was trapped in a cold and deadly predicament. After escaping, he resumes his quest to bring down Harley Quinn and the rest of the villainous Pact, with the help of secret agent Avesta and John Doe (a.k.a. The Joker). Much of the episode revolved around just how much you trust Doe. Is he actually willing to help you? Or is he working behind your back to earn Harley’s affection? Regardless of intentions, Doe commits some horrific actions during the episode. However, he seems properly contrite and confused in the aftermath of them all. Is it all an act? The foundation of Episode 4 is whether you can trust Doe as a friend, playing your own knowledge of Batman and Joker’s relationship throughout the years against the events of previous episodes. Telltale’s version of Gotham City follows its own logic, for better or worse, often recasting old favorites in new light and rearranging origin stories to make a world that stands in stark contrast to the rest of the Batman mythos. (Please visit the site to view this media) Watching Telltale’s version of this classic dynamic come to a head in the final hour of What Ails You is enjoyable. I spent the majority of the episode wanting to guide Doe toward doing the right thing while also balancing that against what was right for Gotham. Familiar Telltale-brand problems rear their hydra heads more than a few times, like bad animation and a few tedious walk-around-the-room-and-look-at-things sequences, but the writing and tension prevalent through the episode is strong enough that those are easy to ignore this go round. Rooting for The Joker as a likeable, sympathetic person is a strange, unexpected thing. And yet Telltale has accomplished that much with its season-long gambit. One more episode remains and I’m curious to see if Telltale will go all-in on letting players shape Joker as a character. Regardless of how the finale plays it, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the journey of trying to rehabilitate one of comic’s greatest villains. View the full article