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Reviewed on 06/2023

Developed by Wishes Unlimited and published by Klei Publishers, the demo for Beastieball is really cute and sweet and funny - really, I don't have a lot of notes about the core concept of this game, or it's execution. You're out to save your hometown's natural habitat from getting bulldozed for a coliseum that the Beastieball league almost certainly doesn't need, and to get the league's attention, you need to get to the top 50, which means coaching like you've never coached before. In short, I had a really great time with this one, both as a concept of being a coach to your not-Pokemon and the concept of winning a game by virtue of playing well and out-maneuver instead of worrying about hit points. I can also relate to it as an old fella whose gotten burned out on so many things like Pokemon and similar because it all feels like a mad rush to develop the most devestating meta to crush your opponents - "Beastieball used to be fun." I have to say, I'm really looking forward to this coming out next year.

Reviewed on 06/2023

Call it a consequence of getting older if you like, but after a certain point this month after seeing several game announcements come and go, i realized that what I really want out of gaming is the baseline stuff that's been there the whole time - solitaire. While there is a fancy Microsoft solitaire that comes pre-installed on Windows 10, Big Klondike has a signifigant advantage of not making you have to look at ads for predatory gambling apps unless you pay for a subscription to a solitaire game. No thanks. This game has a choice between 'draw 1' and 'draw 3' styles, as well as regular and Vegas style Klondike. The cards make a very satisfying 'plap' as you turn them over, which is always a welcome addition to any card game. There was a point where I thought it wasn't actually possible to lose a game of solitaire, but Vegas style made a humble enby out of me. Overall, a delightful addition to anyone's game collection!

Reviewed on 07/2023

Coming in three years after their last game Rym 9000, Sonoshee is back and with one of the most enticing stories of kinship, betrayal, and rebirth that I've seen in a while. While it would be crude to compare this game to something like World of Horror, the comparisions are unmistakable as you wrestle hopelessly against a tidalwave of eldritch horrors and seemingly inescapable fates. But beyond those obvious comparisions is how Sonoshee merges the stylings of Satoshi Kon with a magical realism similar to works like Achewood. You participate in five stories, represented by the 'critters for sale', as various people who all seem to be connected through a web of fate in which everyone and everything hang in the balance. This is a game you'll need to brace yourself for - the endings in these stories are not happy and frequently uncompromising, with one very happy exception that I won't reveal out of respect for the artist. Needless to say, this is one you'll be very happy to have picked up, and here's hoping that Sonoshee can deliver on more stories in this game's universe in the future.

Reviewed on 07/2023

One might call it unseemly to recommend a game where you get to break blocks by getting incredibly fat, but I'm a grown adult and I know what I'm about. The first game by Plubber/Plubsoft to be featured on Steam, Doughball Descent is yummy arcade rougelike fun where the goal is to eat a bunch of food in a descending dungeon grid full of sentient food and traps galore. You play a nondescript 'dough-cat' who changes shape the more pounds they rack up. You move through the level by either breaking the blocks underneath you by jumping, or by doing a 'belly bump' to your left or right. There are 5 dungeons with 3 levels apiece, with a random breather level where you can spend your weight to gain either new items, alter the dungeons' rules, or get a new power to make the game easier. I really have to give kudos to the sound design in this game, it makes the overall experience really delightful. I'm very excited to see what Plubsoft does next!

Reviewed on 09/2023

I'm absolutely enamored with the worlds that Yeo creates, and Fading Afternoon is no exception. The best way I can describe it is as a thematic bookend to their previous work, The Friends of Ringo Ishikawa. You play as Seiji Maruyama, a yakuza fresh out of jail. From the outset, the player prompts themselves to think of this as a mythic Kiryu Kazama character as they speak with their aniki, Azuma-san. But you learn very quickly that the story of what family controls what part of the city is not, in fact, what the game is about. Without getting into spoilers, Fading Afternoon is about how a person acts when the end is upon them. It's not something anyone talks about, but the way Yeo carefully used game mechanics to make you feel the immense weight on Seiji's shoulders - the way you walk through all these familiar areas of town without any run button, watching strangers living their lives, seeing couples at the disco embracing in a slow trance, the slow comprehension that the most human relationships Seiji has are all transactional...this is a truly beautiful work, and I can't recommend it enough.

Reviewed on 10/2023

As the sequel to this incredible game has been announced as of this writing (and it looks beautiful) I figured it was high time to put it on the list here. I still get chills playing this game, trying to figure out where precisely the enemy is coming from and how best to approach them. For all the allusions to the Hotline Miami games this style of gameplay may conjur up, Intravenous is a completely different animal. Stealth is the name of the game here, and the AI for your enemies are extrememly sophisticated. They'll perform safety sweeps, fall back, position themselves, work in groups...all things that make your decisions on how to progress carry more weight. The use of light in this game is wonderful, too - you can feel the sense of creeping dread as you hear footsteps of a patrol moving in and out - are they coming from the left or the right? - and all the while trying to find the best way to avoid detection. You want an intense action title? This is the one for you!

Reviewed on 07/2023

I had put off getting this one for a long time because the concept of a desktop simulator that wasn't Hypnospace Outlaw wasn't grabbing me the way it is now that I've become more interested in Solitaire, but that was largely my own loss because this is a magnificant addition to anyone's game library. Not only does the desktop itself have a lot of character by itself, but you begin to learn more and more about the person/people involved with getting it into your hands, which is remarkably in line with what Melos Han-Tani has spoken about with regards to the concept of ludoancestry. As for the games themselves, well:

20th Century Food Court - A highly technical automated food simulator where you use node editing and pipe puzzle logic to construct a conveyer belt to fulfill the people's need for nachos and pretzels. I'm going to be really straightforward and say that while I'm not particularly good at any of these games, this is the one i literally do not understand on a basic level. I can tell it's a blast to play, especially for those looking for something close to the aesthetic of old Nitrome flash games, but it's not for me.

Chipwizard™ Professional - This particular game is an edutainment title about how to properly construct components, disguised as a puzzle game, disguised as business software. The concept is to follow the specified parameters to make a piece of machinery that carries a charge in a specific way from an input to an output setting. I feel a sense of pride from doing something right in this game because it's a logic puzzle with real-world logic questions. I also just really love the aesthetic.

Dungeons & Diagrams - A D&D themed map-building puzzle game, the goal is to place walls inside a grid filled with monsters leading to a treasure chest. I'm not very good at it. You have a set amount of blocks you can put on each row and column of the dungeon, making the game a bit like a really nerdy Sudoku. It is a great slice of dungeon design that lets you really dig into the concept of making a dungeon out of scarce pieces.

HACK*MATCH - A matching game in the style of Puyo Pop, but with the wrinkle of shuffling a preset block layout as opposed to creating the layout with random blocks. You play as Hackmaster, a shounen hero commanding a small robot who can pick up one block at a time from the rapidly descending hoard of colorful blocks. This one has the added style of coming with it's own emulator, the JUiCEbox Arcade.

Kabufuda Solitaire - This version of solitaire really threw me for a loop at first, because I have zero familiarity with kabufuda, but is also a lot of fun. The concept is to arrange a deck of cards into sets of four in an empty space on the game board, with the caveat that you can only set like cards on top of one another and the top four shelves only take one card. The difficulity varies by how many slots are available at the top, but much like Sawayama Solitaire, it's entirely beatable if you just focus and stay strategic in your movements.

Sawayama Solitaire - As the name implies, this is the desktop's default solitaire program - at first sniff, it seems to be the basic straightforward Klondike solitaire, but with a highly inventive twist, where it's a 'draw 3' format, but with the wrinkle of having every card you draw stay on top of each other, with an extra space to lay a single card where the deck originally sat, similar to Freecell. Much like Freecell, I am also really, really bad at Sawayama solitaire, to the point where I thought the game was unwinnable in certain cases - the truth is that this is a solitaire clone that mainly just requires you to be strategic in a way that standard solitaire isn't. Because there is no 'undo' button, it makes the game a tough but fair challenge in comparision to the seemingly toothless 'draw 1' version I'm used to. It's a delightful version that really makes you feel accomplished when you finally win.

Steed Force Hobby Studio - This is the game that I associated Last Call BBS with the most before getting my hands on it. It's a fairly straightforward gunpla simulator that lets you build models from the fictional Steed Force anime, five in total. It is remarkably relaxing, and I quite frankly can't believe this isn't already a more common game type.

X'BPGH: The Forbidden Path - This is the game I vibed with the most, taking the commonplace puzzles up to this point and turning them into a grotesque gene splicing puzzle game. The goal is to fill a specified grid layout with a specific cellular growth of skin, bone, flesh, or metal. You have twelve slots to change the way the cells form inside the grid, but it will require logic to figure out which cell data is going to get the result you need.

Overall, this is a really in-depth, lovingly built game, where you can be playing this for hours and still not scratch the surface of what it's capable of. It even has a means of making your own websites in game by adding .js files! It's a lot to take in that this is to be the last game Zachtronics ever develops, I really feel like I missed out on something special by waiting so long to see this beautiful swan song.

Reviewed on 06/2023

This is another fine solitaire game, albeit one with a lot more bells and whistles than most others. The game looks and sounds like it's running on early equipment, with a bitcrushed announcer saying the name of every card that's produced. This particular game is a random version of 'draw 3' Klondike but with a specific twist on the formula; instead of having to start over when you get deadlocked out of available moves, the game has the option of taking the currently selected card in the deck and 'getting Radical' with it, changing the game into a horizontal breakout clone where the ball hits against the card at the end of the stage and changes it to an available card on the playing field at random. It's a fascinating twist on an old classic, and is worth checking out just for the aesthetics.

Reviewed on 06/2023

This particular demo is only available until June 26, so get it while it's hot!

From Die Gute Fabrik, the developers behind Where Is My Heart? and Mutiozone, this is a really strong showing of what the final game will boast. You have roughly six characters on a boat that you send out in teams of two to investigate the disappearance of your captain on an island overrun with cats. The style is very similar to a graphic novel in terms of both presentation and it's basis on talking and relating to your motley crew. The dialogue system is not dissimilar to Knee Deep in the sense that not all of your choices are making the impact you expect them to make at first sniff, but it's a truly pleasant and cozy time overall! Here's to a successful development cycle, fellas!

Solsuite Solitaire 2023

Direct Site

Reviewed on 07/2023

After having bought this game on the promise of more solitaire than I could dream of, the fine people at TreeCardGames have more than delivered. There's an absolutely mind-boggling amount of solitaire and patience games to choose from here, not to mention a multitude of card types and playing mats, but all of the games involved use the basic French card deck setup, with exceptions for Forty Thieves style games or really any game involving 104 cards or more. Solitaire from all over the world is in this pack, and they all range from 'so easy it nearly plays itself' to 'so hard it makes you question the very nature of solitaire rules'. Among the bells and whistles in this collection is a random solitaire selection; a Solitaire of the Day that allows you to explore the sheer density of solitaire available layer by layer; a handy-dandy internal guide to the rules and origins of the solitaires you're playing; an autoplay feature that goes so fast that you can blink and the game's over if you're not paying attention; and, achievements that track both your win/loss ratio and little awards for beating solitares a certain number of times. I can think of no better endorsement than the fact that I've been playing this program's daily solitaire every day since I got it. You gotta try this one out!

Reviewed on 06/2023

The latest offering from Black Eyed Priest Games and Henry Hoare, and produced through Torture Star Video, Sniper Killer is the latest upcoming game set in the same universe as Bloodwash and Booty Creek Cheek Freak. In this demo, you play as the titular 'Sniper Killer' and two of his victims. Like Night at the Gates of Hell before it, you play as an oblivious person who gets the first taste of the horrors to come - in this particular case, a model named Pamela responds to a photo shoot from a fellow named Hans, played with scenery-chewing gusto by Ellis Knight. From there, you get your only exposure to what the Sniper Killer's life is like, and the grim possibility that his are not the works of a madman but the direct requests of the government - not very likely, given the general vibe of these games, but having just seen White House Plumbers earlier this month, I could lean one way or the other. From there, you go to a carnival (and might I say, walking past an empty shooting gallery right before entering the level was a very nice narrative touch) wherein the game takes inspiration from adventure game puzzles as you try to find a way around a guard blocking entry to a high vantage point. At this point, while I would have appreciated a picture of the shot I was meant to take before I had to restart the level, the game proceeds apace as you take on the role of Gail Jenkins, and up-and-coming journalist with her cameraman Clyde. From there, you talk to a few people before getting a phone call to the final scene of the level, in which you run for your life against the Sniper Killer, a very nice setpiece with a surprise ending. I'm very much looking forward to the full game coming out!

Super Kiwi 64

Steam | itch.io | Nintendo e-Shop

Reviewed on 07/2023

This is a game that I am admittedly REALLY late to the party for, but this is a really staggering piece of post-Rareware art. Made by Marcus Horn and ported by Sebestian Kuepper, Super Kiwi 64 is a game where you play as a kiwi bird with a set of goggles and a backpack that can turn into several items. Gameplay-wise, you have a lot of options for mobility like a Ninja Gaiden-esque wall jump and a glide - the camera is really responsive to your movements as well, which is always well-appreciated in a platformer like this. You have little in the way of offensive manuevers but as you learn fairly quickly, you don't really need them. In a similar vein to 'creepypasta' games of this sort, the bright and cheery atmosphere is disguising a dark story of religious zealotry as the very first level presents you with a skeleton posed as though meditating inside the remains of an oak tree without any explanation. As you continue through the levels, you witness other pieces of the seemingly dead civilization that you're exploring, crawling out from the sewers that act like your hub world like some kind of Ninja Turtle, or possibly The Punisher. The graphics are a real stand-out feature of the game as it carefully nails the specific aesthetic of games like Banjo Kazooie and Jet Force Gemini (the ending scene even includes a nod to the ending of Star Fox 64) while also working in badass visuals that evoke imagery like Dark Souls, Evangelion and even Zardoz. I really can't recommend this game enough!

Reviewed on 07/2023

This one's a real treat! Performing a twist on the story formula not dissimilar to Moon RPG, you play as a horde of skeletons trying desperately to prevent a knight from becoming overlevelled by destroying treasure before they can reach it, and keeping your fellow undead out of harm's way. Stepford and AndyL4nd prove a formidable combo along with Dougle/Oklahome, JPabuga, and music by Milkypossum as their style of art and programming makes your skeleton pals at both points adorable and nerve wracking as you point your mouse to their destination and hope they don't trip or bump into walls. The knight tracking you down is also relatively easy to distract, but you're in a race against the clock and saving everyone is truly impossible. After several levels, you come to see if your efforts were enough to prevent the knight from killing your boss. All in all, a really terrific game to come out of Game Maker's Toolkit 2023 Jam!