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Supporters only: Japanese dating show Love Wagon has surprising parallels with Yakuza and Persona
My new obsession
If there's one thing that brings stability to my life, it's the escapism of reality TV. Below Deck: Mediterranean had me covered last winter (alongside its Sailing Yacht spin-off), as I watched super yacht crew toil to meet the demands of the wealthy and unhinged. Then Love Island stepped up to fill a large portion of my summer with curated chaos. One guy confessed "I licked her tit or whatever," in a shock revelation to his betrothed.
What's on the reality TV menu for winter? Ainori Love Wagon: Asian Journey, baby. It's on Netflix and I'm convinced it shares great parallels with some of my favourite RPGs of all time.
Supporters only: If you're hankering after Bayonetta 3, Valkyrie Elysium might be a good substitute
It's not out on PC until next month, but the console demo has been a surprise charmer
I keep forgetting Valkyrie Elysium's PC release date is later than its console one. The action platformer came out on PlayStation late last week, but it's not coming to Steam until November 11th. So far, reviews have been quite middling, which isn't wholly surprising in some sense, but having played the public demo the other week, I'm not ashamed to say that I had a pretty all right time with it! Based on two hours of play time, I'd say it's very much in the same kind of vein as your Bayonettas and Nier: Automatas, and I'm 100% down for that.
Supporters only: Overwatch hasn't moved on, but I have
I will and won't miss you
It feels odd saying "Overwatch 1", but Overwatch 1 occupies an important place in my personal and professional life. And all things considered, I do not miss it in the slightest. I spent so much time straining against the game's tug-of-war matches that I simply grew tired of trying really hard at it - or perhaps more accurately, trying not to launch my head through the nearest plaster wall.
Clearly, there was a time where I adored Overwatch, though. A time when I'd grind solo-queue most evenings until 3am, in a bid to climb the ranks ever higher. To what end? My own personal satisfaction, I suppose. I'd eventually hit Master (let me brag just once, okay) and then a few months later, I applied for a job at Gamer Network writing guides about Overwatch's intricacies. I moved to Brighton for my first proper job. Now, with Overwatch 2's release, it all feels like it's come full circle.
Archtower is a roguelike and therefore bad, but... hnnnnnnngggh I like it. I might even come to love it, considering it's already so enjoyable even with a few years of early access left (a fact I forgot until I reached a "work in progress" marker several hours in).
You climb a tower and splat monsters and culty magic nerds. You loot, and avoid traps, chug red liquids, and occasionally die and have to start again. But I enjoyed every moment, and never once hit the usual aggravating points that push me out of the genre. It's good stuff all round, frankly.
Supporters only: I played Gloomwood on accidental hard mode because I didn't know I had an inventory
And I filled it with bottles
A couple of weeks back you may remember that I played the early access build of Gloomwood, a very good Thief-like that currently snaps shut just as you reach the best bit. The Richard Gere holding a necklace of video games. One thing that I do not dwell on in my feature, though, is that I was hamstrung not just by the early access limitations of the game. For almost all of the first playthrough I did, I thought that you could neither heal nor store items in Gloomwood. I was like "Wow, this is a really hardcore stealth sim."
You can, of course, do both of those things in Gloomwood. It's just, I am an idiot.
Sometimes, you look forward to a game's release and it's very disappointing. Sometimes, it comes out and it's... fine. Kinda good, even. Only once does the game come out and it's fuckin’ SPIDERHECK WOOOO!
Imagine Nidhogg, cross it with Webbed, give it solid single player options, and throw in one of the sickest game soundtracks I've ever heard. I'd hoped Spiderheck would merely be as fun as it looks. It instead consumed me. Neverjam have united my love for Webbed with my love for chaos, and it's more glorious than I dared to hope.
Supporters only: Move over FIFA, you've got nothing on the footballers from Nintendo Switch Sports
Roger Federer's retirement has got me thinking about AI sportspeople
For whatever reason, I decided that I'd start last weekend with Roger Federer's retirement speech. I'd literally just woken up and rubbed the sleep out of my eyes, only to emotionally destabilise my morning with an eight-minute-long video in which one of, if not the greatest tennis player of all time poured out his heart. Even his great rival Rafael Nadal couldn't hold back his tears, which said it all, really.
As one's mind does in momentous occasions, it turned to Nintendo Switch Sports football and how its small roster of players may be one of the best representations of talent in a sports game that I've come across. Come on, humour me here.
There's a definition of "pure" that's proscriptive; a dogmatic adherence to surface details and strict rituals. I'm genuinely not thinking of any specific game, but many 'retro' inspired games fall into this way of thinking, and many more fans cut a good one down because of it.
Itorah, however, feels pure in the sense of capturing the essence, the heart of a good retro platformer, not just going through the motions to technically qualify for an arbitrary category. Aeons ago, it would have ported comfortably to your GameBoys and gramophones, and probably look just as pretty and feel just as good in motion, judging by the talented art direction on show here.
Man, I was worried this week. I've had a string of possible reports that were all disappointingly tepid. Then I played Trail Out, a chaotic crash-and-ram racing game with, for some reason, a story mode about a former stunt driver who is very much some guy. I'm still not sure if he's talking to himself, through the fourth wall, or to his dog. His best friend wears a gas mask and lifts weights in the junkyard without breaking eye contact.
The racing is very solid, but more importantly it has character. Odd, odd character.
Supporters only: Tyrant's Blessing's low pressure tactical puzzles let it punch above its weight
The only good surprise parties
You start out aiming to restore a princess to a throne, which naturally tempted me on her every turn to lunge onto the nearest spear for a punchline, but I will forgive Tyrant's Blessing for circumstances beyond its control.
Like everything, it's also a roguelike, but it's transparent and fair enough that I can reluctantly forgive that too, not least because I've found myself enjoying this one the more it went on. It's a lighter, cheerier sibling of Into The Breach that's half tactical fighter, half puzzler, and its default difficulty setting is close to perfect if you're looking for something less intense that will still catch you out now and then.
Supporters only: The power of a Steam Next Fest demo
Where it all started for a lot of this week's reviews
Despite lamenting the other week that the rest of 2022's gaming calendar was looking a bit weak sauce after endless delay announcements, September is shaping up to be an absolutely monster month for indie releases right now. As Alice Bee noted earlier in the week, there are just too many cool, interesting games coming out for us to review effectively on the site at the moment (although rest assured, we will do our darnedest to cover as many of them as we can).
Part of the challenge is working out what's worth reviewing, and what we think is worth highlighting for you, our readers. The other part, though, is often entirely selfish on our part, just playing and writing about cool games we like. In fact, the decision to review many of the games we covered this week - Railbound, Jack Move and Roadwarden - were all down to having played and liked some form of demo, making events like the Steam Next Fest an increasingly invaluable tool in helping us cut through the noise when we inevitably enter mega months like September.
Supporters only: 5 weird games out in September that I might not have time to review but really want to
(But will hopefully play and write about at some point because they seem cool)
I saw a panel of thriller authors a couple of months back and one of them made reference to "the fat chapter", and the others all went "Ohhhh, yes, the fat chapter!". Thriller writers deal in short, snappy chapters, and the fat chapter is the one that ends up getting a load of events or exposition shoved into it, somewhere in the second half, because they wouldn't fit anywhere else. Every year in games there's a fat month, where loads of games come out and loads of them look really good and there is never enough time godammit.
This year that month is September. There are so many games out this month that look so much my jam that I want to spread 'em on my morning toast, but September is also the month that a lot of RPS staff have holiday booked - including me, for two weeks, which means that if these games do get reviewed it probably won't be by me. But know that I have my beady little eyes on 'em.
Supporters only: RPS@PAX West 2022: Our top highlights from the showfloor
RPS say goodbye to Seattle
As PC setups are carefully packed away and booths are dismantled, the curtain closes on another PAX West and it's time to say goodbye to Seattle (for now anyway). After four packed days of demos, panels, interviews, and lots of fruit smoothies, Liam and I are completely PAXed out, but we're not done quite yet.
Below you'll find something a little different from our usual daily round-ups. For our last day at PAX, we've done a super, uber, mega round-up on the entire event. We list off our favourite panel moments, the best game demos we played, and our general opinion on how the overall convention went. Click play below to see one of our last videos from the event:
Supporters only: RPS@PAX West 2022: Sunday daily round-up
Day three from the show floor
The weekend is over and our third day of PAX West has come to a close. I feel like I say this every day, but it was another busy day today as we bounced around the PAX show floor. We played some of our favourite games from the whole event and also recorded two incredible interviews you won't wanna miss. Watch our daily round-up of everything we did for more info!
Supporters only: RPS@PAX West 2022: The cast of Team Fortress 2 reminisce about the FPS's lasting legacy
Favourite lines from the game, creating their character's voices, and more.
In an interview opportunity that Liam and I are still reeling from, we had the chance to chat to the cast of Team Fortress 2 about their experiences lending their voices to one of the most iconic FPSs of all time.
After watching yesterday's TF2 panel, we were incredibly excited to put our own questions to the TF2 squad. Ellen McLain (the TF2 announcer), Gary Schwartz (Heavy and Demoman), John Patrick Lowrie (Sniper) and Robin Atkin Downes (Medic) answered all our questions including how they each created the voices for the characters and if they would they return for a completely metaphorical release of Team Fortress 3 which - spoilers - was a resounding yes. Watch below for the entire interview.
Supporters only: RPS@PAX West 2022: We chat with Brainwash Gang about their chaotic deck-building FPS Friends Vs Friends
One of the best demos from the show floor
It's the dawn of day three here at PAX West, and what better way to wake us up than play the incredibly chaotic demo build of Friends VS Friends. We loved the trailer from Gamescom and Liam even chose it for his bestest pick in our Gamescom round-up video, so our expectations were high, and after playing a quick match at the Raw Fury booth, Brainwash Gang's blood-pumping deck-building FPS shot straight to the top of our favourite things we've seen here at PAX so far.
If you've not heard of Friends VS Friends, check out the game's trailer first (its incredibly slick animation is super cool, highly reccomended for your peepers) then watch our interview with Brainwash Gang developer Edu Verz who talked all about the game's development. Watch it below:
Supporters only: RPS@PAX West 2022: Saturday daily round-up
Day two from the show floor
It's been one heck of a busy day for team RPS on day two of PAX West. It's now the weekend so the show floor was significantly busier, but not enough to keep us from getting our mitts on some games. That's right, we actually played some games today!
Have a click on the video below were we break down the day's activities and also to see us get booted out from the show floor when it closed at 7. Here's today's daily round-up:
Supporters only: RPS@PAX West 2022: Ron Gilbert tells us about the pirate shenanigans in Return to Monkey Island
Adventure game fans rejoice
Today's PAX West interview is with the one and only Ron Gilbert, series creator of the iconic point-and-click adventure series, Monkey Island. We are big fans of Monkey Island here at RPS, so after watching him guest speak on the Adventure Games PAX panel today, we got a chance to chinwag with Gilbert and to chat about his upcoming comeback to the series with Return to Monkey Island.
Gilbert was lovely enough to tell us all about the next game in the Monkey Island saga - what it was like to return to Monkey Island's world after so long, what we can expect from the puzzles, and snippets of the game's story. Watch below to see the interview in its entirety and make sure you watch to the end to see my impression of a pirate - you won't wanna miss that.
Supporters only: RPS@PAX West 2022: Hands-on with Souls-like fairytale Lies of P
The murderous Pinocchio game will be out sometime in 2023
It's day two of PAX West and to kick off our second day of game events and demos we got hands-on with a build of Neowiz's Pinocchio RPG, Lies of P. The gameplay demo caused quite a stir when it was at Gamescom earlier this year, so we made it one of our priorities to check it out here in Seattle.
Neowiz are not actually at PAX so there wasn't anyone on the team to give us some behind-the-scenes info, but I got stuck into the demo for a solid 30 minutes, brawling with the game's angry robot lads that roamed the city's blood-washed cobbled streets.
Overall, I had a great time with the demo. Yes, it is incredibly similar to Bloodborne in both its combat and environments but there are plenty of other elements that steer it away from FromSoftware's horror-filled gothic RPG. If you want more details instead of that short summary then check out our video below where I talk about my time with the build, and about having my arse kicked by giant mechanical automatons. Enjoy!
Supporters only: RPS@PAX West 2022: Friday daily round-up
Games! Booths! And more!
The doors have been flung open for PAX West 2022 and we've been busy bouncing between booths, games, and panels all day. Liam and I have been busy making behind-the-scenes videos for our RPS supporters and the last one of today is our daily round-up! We'll be recording and uploading one at the end of each day as a handy summary of what we got up to. Watch below and enjoy!
Supporters only: RPS@PAX West 2022: Gearbox tells us what's new in New Tales From the Borderlands
Director of production James Lopez gives us all the latest deets
It's been a busy day at PAX West, but nothing has been as wild as the Gearbox Software panel. Randy Pitchford made a return to the Seattle stage to let us know what's coming up for Gearbox, but not without some shenanigans first.
After a classic Randy magic trick, a proud display of lock-down Lego builds, and a chaotic bidding war where he auctioned off the literal shirt off his back (which an audience member bought for an eye-watering $1200) we finally got to see some fresh New Tales From The Borderlands gameplay and had a lovely chat with director of production, James Lopez. Watch the video below for the interview in its entirety - it's a good'un!
Supporters only: RPS@PAX West 2022: Tour of the show floor
Take a virtual tour through PAX West 2022
Join us for our mega tour of the PAX West show floor where we go behind the scenes of the show's hustle and bustle to bring you a little slice of PAX gaming heaven. We've been stomping around the show floor looking at all of West's greatest sights, including bonkers booths, game demos, cool cosplays, and all the different gaming areas to give you a full picture of everything there is to see at PAX.
Supporters only: Northern Journey's surreal world deserves to be experienced, not merely described
But you’re only going one way
Oh my goodness, what a creepy, funny, and odd game Northern Journey is. I almost don't want to say any more about it, not because it can be spoiled but because it seems appropriately respectful. Not in a reverent sense, you understand. It just feels like such a world should be preserved, even slightly feared, rather than trampled on by some idiot with a camera in her face.
To call Northern Journey "retro" would completely misrepresent it. It's beautiful in an ugly, desolate way reminiscent of Kenshi or Morrowind. It's translucent in its exposition but not obtuse, hostile, or obnoxiously hard. It's a bit clunky, without that ever undermining the experience. It's vaguely amateurish, yet almost consciously so, like a painter who knows their talent and intent is enough to overcome any technical flaws. This is a bloody treat and I'm so glad I got to play it.
Not since the cruelly overlooked Blast-off has a game so accurately pressed the faster! button in my brain.
Neodash is a type of racing game that pops up relatively often; a time trial crossed with an obstacle course and a little of what I suppose is the endless runner. Picture Trackmania but with the courses condensed into short bursts of high speed dodging and you're basically there. They're often very throwaway and don't really hold my interest for long. Neodash grabs hold immediately.
Supporters only: Blossom Tales II gives the Zelda formula a cute meta-narrative touch
The only Zelda game I've played was Link's Awakening, on the Game Boy. I do not feel short changed by this. In fact I get the distinct impression it was one of the best, if not the one that most distilled the series' essence.
That essence has made its way into Blossom Tales II, a charming light adventure game in the classic "going on an adventure" sense rather than the "rubbing every item on every other item until you're allowed to play again" genre sense.
You're playing out a story playfully told by your grandfather, who's cast you as the wee hero of a village out to rescue your brother from the sinister Minotaur King. Both of you occasionally interject, sometimes prompting a decision that changes the game a little as your granddad amends things to your liking. It doesn't go to the full meta-narrative lengths of a Juarez Gunslinger with it, but it's a cute touch and keeps the framing relevant.
Supporters only: The 2022 video game release schedule is getting worse every single week
Of the 43 games we highlighted at the start of 2022, only just over half are still set to come out this year
You know what it's like at the beginning of a new year. You're all excited about the many tens and hundreds of new video games coming out over the next 12 months, and you go and make a big list of all the ones you're really looking forward to. We did exactly that back in January of this year, coming up with a list of our 43 most anticipated games of 2022. Lately, though, it seems we can't go a single day without word of yet another game being delayed, whether it's just by a couple of months, or that it's been taken off the calendar entirely.
It got me thinking. How many of those 43 games are even still on the table this year? And, more importantly, what does that mean for RPS as we head into the back-end of 2022? Well, I went back and counted, folks, and it's not great reading. At time of writing, just over half that number - 27 in total - are still slated for a 2022 release right now, although with many still listed as a very vague '2022' or 'Coming Soon' on their Steam pages, I wouldn't be surprised if that number fell further. Needless to say, I'm not sure 2022 will go down as one of the great gaming years... 2023, on the other hand? Wow, that's looking rad.
Supporters only: Spare a thought for Neon Blight, a cyberpunk Moonlighter-like that came out just after Neon White
It's all about timing
Heard joke once: man goes to doctor. Says he's depressed. Says life seems harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world where what lies ahead is vague and uncertain. Doctor says, "Treatment is simple. Great game Neon White is out now. Go and play it. That should pick you up." Man bursts into tears. Says, "But doctor... I am Neon White. No, wait. What did you say? Did you say white or blight? Oh, white, oh, okay."
Supporters only: I think my cats hate video games, and I'm absolutely devastated
Zero reaction to both Stray and A Plague Tale so far
As many of you well know, I rather enjoyed cat adventure Stray recently. As an owner of two tortoiseshells myself, it was right up my alley. I do, however, have a confession to make. When I started seeing other real life cats enjoying the game alongside their respective humans, I began to feel sad and a bit left out. You see, my cats Maple and Midna (still!) haven't shown any interest in Stray whatsoever, not even flicking up their ears in response to the cat's in-game meow. I'm not gonna lie, it kinda broke my heart a little bit.
However, I'm beginning to think their (clear and apparent) hatred of video games goes further than simple disinterest. I was playing A Plague Tale for the first time last week, a game famous for its swarms of screeching rats, and STILL nothing. They love hunting rats and bringing them home to leave as little presents for us on our back door step. Heck, they'll even wig out and go into prowl mode when they hear them scrabbling away underneath our floorboards (yes, we do have a rat problem in our house). But clearly, their ice cold little murder hearts are unmoved by their video game equivalents. Is this what it's like when your children reject your hobbies and go and sulk in their rooms for the rest of the day? Because it sure does feel like it.
Supporters only: Zapling Bygone's tentacly skull-stealing hivemind is... kind of neat?
"Metroidvania" is a terrible phrase that gets in the way of its own definition and I hate it.
It does, however, still apply to Zapling Bygone. Describing it in less mechanical terms could make it sound creepy. You're a spore of an all-consuming hivemind, dropped on an unfamiliar planet to assimilate it. You move by skittering about on wobbly green tentacles, leaping and climbing and clinging and lashing out at living things with them, then absorbing the green muck that bursts out, and periodically consuming a creature powerful enough to be worth assimilating. And wearing its skull in the centre of your tentacle mass, because why not.
Supporters only: Spelunky 2 is the perfect scientific measurement of fatigue
More accurate than a ruler
You might remember that I couldn’t beat Spelunky 2's first stage, no matter how hard I tried. Well, I'm proud to announce that my fortunes have since changed and that I've bested it. I should say "we", as my achievement was aided by a co-op pal, and the only person on Earth patient enough to accompany such a terrible Spelunker. We even reached the first boss, and the level after that! Before we both got splatted by an anti-gravity zombie-puppet-that-lives-underwater.
Aside from my – our – achievements, I learned that the game is a perfect measurement of fatigue. Where rulers calculate distance or Ollie's highly scientific WIPERS precipitation system measured the best rain in games, Spelunky 2 is the ultimate tool for accurately determining just how tired someone is.