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Demons happened. There's your plot. More specifically, they apparently happened to everyone except you, but the process still messed with your tv, so there's nothing for it but to fight your way through them to some kind of solution.
Demons Happened is a curious blend of very rapid action faintly reminiscent of Hotline Miami, and an Abe's Oddysee type of puzzle game. Such disparate genres don't often blend as well as this, and I'm disappointed that it hasn't got a bigger reception.
Supporters only: ADACA is a lightweight angry playmobil S.T.A.L.K.E.R
Suffering for your artifacts
There's a set of Unreal assets that Alice of Bees once described as "angry playmobil". I've wanted to quote that for years but had yet to play a game using them that grabbed me enough to warrant an article. Let us be thankful, then, for ADACA, an angry playmobil FPS.
It's actually two games, and I'm not sure which to call the main event. I know which one I prefer, because the story mode is a love letter to Half-Life 2, complete with Bane-muffled jackboot cops, endlessly catching up with a Story Guy who's inexplicably ahead of you again, a bionic arm standing in for the gravity gun, and a spooky dark underground section where you're swarmed by creepy mutants. It was good enough to tempt me this week, despite a few minor niggles, but its other half, Zone Patrol, is a Stalker-esque sandbox where it really shines.
Supporters only: I am not good at The Final Earth 2
Stackable cube things
I like a building game that doesn't need constant babysitting. I also like one where you get to be a bit creative and build according to your whims as much as to necessity. The Final Earth 2 is an ant farm kind of game that places very few limits on what you can build where, and lets you cheaply restructure as needed even if you mess it up.
The idea is you build vertically, with each building taking up a block, and your people freely travelling through all of them to get to work or home or the pub. Everyone else who plays it seems to build enormous, elaborate, impressively well organised structures that are even kind of beautiful. I build a random pile of crap. I am absolutely rubbish at it.
Supporters only: Why are there no games about running?
What I talk about when I talk about running
Alice O's excellent Tour de Jeux words - which see her celebrate cycling in games and real life alongside the ongoing Tour De France - got me thinking about the sorts of exercise that take up a good chunk of my spare time. As some of you might know, I'm that badminton guy. That guy who always mentions he's away at a tournament sweating and eating bananas. That guy who believes Gears Of War and badminton have more in common than you might think, and reckon Gears is the closest thing we'll get to a proper badminton game.
Badminton aside, running is another pastime that's become dearer to me over the last few years. And that's a universally understood form of exercise, right? Especially when compared to the likes of badminton. So, why are there no proper games about running? I'd like one.
Supporters only: Supporter podcast - The Nate Files episode 12: if you go down to the woods today, you're in for ANTS
Also termites, and bees, and some cockroaches
Once again I went into the basement of the treehouse - into the very roots, this time - to retrieve one of the reels of tape on which episodes of the bonus podcast Nate Files are recorded. I walked until the ground became unpaved and earthy, and the darkness became velvety. I heard the chittering of many pincers and carapaces colliding, and felt untold small bodies moving around me. Only for you, the supporters, would I make such a journey. I won't detail how I made it back alive, but I did, and it is with gratitude that I present this episode of The Nate Files to you. It's about ants!
Supporters only: PowerWash Simulator has a secret boss, and it's started to bleed into my real world cleaning habits
The Underside will make you question the concept of "clean"
For the most part, PowerWash Simulator helps me reach a state of total focus. Grime must be eliminated and I am there to facilitate that request with water and power. But occasionally I succumb to frustration as something I consider pristine isn't determined clean by the little progress bar that usually pats me on the back for jobs well done.
Then I learned that although grime can’t move, it makes up for it with cunning. It cements itself on surfaces in ways you wouldn't expect, as if to belittle my cleaning standards. After many encounters, I've identified this menace as The Underside: a secret boss you'll need to beat to become the ultimate power washer.
Supporters only: The Tale of Bistun is a modest but creative retelling of the Persian romance tragedy Khusrow and Shirin
Casting as Persians
Prettiness, a strong musical score, and being a very welcome product of Persian myth and literature rather than Mount Olympus or Shakesbore again are good reasons to consider The Tale of Bistun. But I am absolutely shallow enough to be immediately invested in a game that implies my overarching goal will be to team up with Shohreh Aghdashloo. It turns out she's barely in it, but by the time I'd figured that out I was already won over.
Supporters only: I think I might actually want a Steam Deck because the Nintendo eShop isn't as good as Steam
I don't like adapting to different things!
I have long been on the "eh, seems okay" side of the fence regarding Valve's newest lil child. To me, the Steam Deck did not do anything not already covered by the four different video game boxes I already own. The largest advantage afforded by the Steam Deck, the ability to play cool games on a handheld device, was surely the domain of the Nintendo Switch - a console that I personally use about once a year. Usually the process is that I go "Oh yeah!", pick up the Switch, and contemplate buying Breath Of The Wild before I see that it has not depreciated in value whatsoever since it came out five years ago. Then I turn off the Switch.
Last week, though, I picked up the Switch, saw that Tangle Tower was on sale, and played it through in one go. "This is great!", I thought, marvelling at how I could play a game while sitting on the sofa, but leaving the TV free for my partner to watch whatever stupid TV show he wanted. I went to look for other cool indie games that might be on sale on the Switch, and that's when I discovered that the Switch eshop is hot garbage unless you know specifically what you're looking for. So now I want a Switch.
Supporters only: My LiveJournal turned 18 this week, and man alive, baby Katharine had some terrible video game opinions
The worst thing is, the recent Monkey Island backlash proves that video game discourse is still stuck in the mid 00s as well
Earlier this week, I had a real blast from the past moment. Apparently, my ancient LiveJournal turned 18 on Tuesday, a thing I haven't posted in or given a single thought to for at least ten years. Naturally, curiosity got the better of me, so I dipped my toe back in to see what teenage Katharine had been blogging about in the mid to late 00s. Aside from all my custom images having been eaten, probably with the closure of whatever photo upload service I used back in the day, everything else was pretty much in tact.
But man alive. Those OPINIONS. Just terrible. Bad, awful, narrow-minded. In some ways it's quite funny looking back at how angry I was about Nintendo putting trains in a Zelda game, for example (joke's on me, Spirit Tracks would go on to become one of my fav Zelda games of all time), but in many ways I'm just quite glad I've (hopefully) moved on as a person, if only because recent weeks have reminded me there are still plenty of people out there like late 00s Katharine who are in all likelihood the same age I am now. Yes, I'm talking about the backlash to Return Of Monkey Island.
Supporters only: Lost Nova is the low intensity gathering game you might need
I thought I wanted a gardening game. The few I tried were fussy, though, and too much like the kind of cold scientific procedure that turns growing things into industry. With Lost Nova on my back burner I shrugged, and gave that a go, having frankly forgotten what it was.
It's a gathering game, so almost the reverse of gardening, or perhaps the end point of it. But its relaxed pace, warm tone, and fun dialogue were, it turns out, exactly what I needed. There's no pressure, and not too much to worry about. You can just wander about enjoying the vibe and digging things up with your gentle laser as you go.
You might recall that not too long ago, I hit the Elden Ring exhaustion point. Pre-heating the oven and a rigorous badminton schedule didn't mingle too well with an open world that demanded every ounce of my concentration. I went MIA from the Lands Between for three months, spending my time watching cushy reality TV like Below Deck Mediterranean and lying in my bed, hoping its springs would somehow channel electricity into my bones and recharge my weary mind.
Over the past few days I've returned to the Lands Between with renewed vigor. I've taken a dustpan and brush to the map, sweeping up optional bosses and forts and quests with the wild energy of a cleaner who mustn't stop for even a second. In doing everything it takes to finish this game before I burn out again, I've learned the importance of investment and why spending is good, actually.
Supporters only: Tangle Tower's art gallery is a cool window into great character design
Have no character in your game that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful
Katharine has been raving about Tangle Tower ever since she reviewed it a couple of years ago, and I finally sat down and played it this weekend. I can confirm it's really good! A lovely point and click mystery with some tricksy puzzles, but unlimited goes so you still get to feel clever - plus the story plays with some mystery tropes in really fun ways. But the real joy is its characters. It's a cast of suspects that are both wacky and relatable, and I love them.
There's no rule, but I try to cover things here that haven't already been poached by, for example, Graham last year. Sanabi is far too good to overlook, though.
I've nothing against 2D platformers, but to stand out in such a saturated genre you really need to capture something special. Wonder Potion have more or less nailed both the tricky but rewarding platforming, grappling, and baddie smacking parts of their formula, and perhaps more impressively, the story parts as well. This is a game with character, and the storytelling chops to make the most of its relatively simple ideas.
Supporters only: Everyone needs to witness Monster Hunter Rise Sunbreak's live action music video
A true ray of sunshine for the soul
Back in April, Ed advocated that more games should adopt anime-style openers. I come to you today with another proposal. In addition to, or perhaps instead of, anime openers, I put it to you that more games should celebrate their launch days with live action music videos - and after watching Capcom's freshly unveiled "Matsuken Sunbreak" vid for Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak, I think you'll heartily agree.
Supporters only: Street Fighter 6's modern control scheme is an absolute game-changer
Finally, a way in
Aside from the many indies and Sonic Frontiers and this breakfast sandwich I got from Birdies, I must say that Street Fighter 6 was a major highlight of my time in LA for Summer Geoff Fest. Honestly, I went into my hands-on slot expecting to plaster a big "meh" on the game in my notepad. But the inclusion of a "modern" control scheme flipped this on its head. I'm telling you, it's an absolute game changer.
Supporters only: Extraneum is a bit Doom, a tiny bit System Shock, and a huge bit fun
Bring your slaughter to work day
The old school FPS revival has largely left me cold, if I'm honest. Even the ones I've enjoyed tend to get old within an hour. Most of the things that get recreated aren't the things I miss about 90s games, and if they were... Doom still exists, you know? So does Blood, and Strife, and Quake was never that good anyway.
Extraneum is good, though. I think it's precisely because it's not doing a big song and dance about its influences, although those are very clear. It's not big or brash, nor overly stripped down or obnoxious about difficulty. Clean blasty strafey fun, with a tiniest hint of horror. In an odd way, it's all the more faithful for that.
Supporters only: Starfield's big reveal helped suppress my inner skeptic
Can't take me anywhere
We finally got our first glimpse of Starfield at the Xbox & Bethesda showcase at Summer Geoff Fest, having seen lots of clips of Todd Howard speaking words with devs who nodded across tables. I partly share the same opinion as Alice Bee, who thought the game could've shown us anything and they chose grey rocks again.
What I wasn't expecting was to feel a bit emotional about the game's reveal, though. I mean, I felt this weird swell in my chest of excitement or something. Maybe it was the crushing jet lag, or maybe it was a heady mixture of nostalgia. Let's investigate.
Supporters only: Fear my tiny undead minions in Necrosmith
Necrosmith was actually the name of the scientist
I didn't get to play as much at Steam Next Fest this weekend as I usually do, partly because I just ran out of time, and partly because the time I did have I spent playing Necrosmith. There were some demos I was meant to play for, like, actual work, and then I ran into a puzzle wall or a bug or something so I just fired up Necrosmith again.
Necrosmith is a 2D necromance 'em up that is also sort of a tower defence game. In the middle of the map is your evil lair, the Hall Of Bones, a sort of legally distinct Sauron's tower that gets more flying buttresses the more you upgrade it. If enemies (which can be packs of wolves or flying bugs or all manner of things) do enough damage to destroy it, you lose - so that's your defense bit. For the towers bit, you have to imagine that the towers can move on their own, and also that they're shambling undead monsters made from a jigsaw of different limbs you find, like an army of very unhygenic Mr Potato Heads.
Apparently I'm very musical, which will come as a shock to anyone who's heard me sing. But when I found myself playing By The Rivers of Babylon by ear to thank a sentient stone head for opening a door, I realised why Sonority had grabbed me so easily.
Supporters only: Supporter podcast - The Nate Files episode 11: Phants On Parade
Aka the noble heffalump
One of Nate's favourite animals (apart from all of them) are elephants, so for this edition of our supporter-funded special extra podcast we talk about some of the best 'phants from history, including a cool one that had all armour and one that sadly lost a fight with a train. Thank you once again from the bottom of our massive elephant hearts to our lovely supporters, who let us have lovely silly chats like this.
Abib the troubadour killed an ancient evil spirit by throwing his knife at it. Tinyfolks is not a "story generator" sort of game, but that fight removed any doubt that it was excellent.
There's no shortage of dungeon-ish turn based combat games, nor of those made of all the usual fantasy archetypes, nor of pixelly low-fi games with bleepy bloopy music. Nor again are we likely to run short of games that combine some or all of the above. But like a good meal, combining even the most common ingredients in just the right way can make them delicious.
It doesn't matter that you're a monarch ousted by evil forces, now set on reclaiming your land within 45 days by fighting tonnes of monsters until your team is tough enough to kill the big nasty. What matters is that you'll have a great time doing it.
Detailed-yet-relaxing village builder Ostriv isn't far off one of my favourite games. Entirely unrelatedly, I had Tile Cities installed for about a month before finding time to play it.
Except, it's not unrelated at all. It's the game that Ostriv developer Yevheniy made while suffering through the invasion of Ukraine, "to switch my mind from death and destruction towards peace and creativity". I'd be recommending it for sure even if I hadn't found that out, because it's a terrific little game that's far more engaging than it looks.
Supporters only: Letter From The Editor #08: a note about your RPS supporter subscription
Our renewal process needs a bit of... explaining
Hello folks. Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve written one of these Letters From The Editor. Things have been… manic, to say the least. Manic in the traditional ‘busy’ sense (hello Elden Ring, PAX, V Rising and now notE3 planning), but also in the ‘man, there are so many cool things I want to talk to you about but aren’t quite ready to announce yet’ sense. I’ve been on the cusp of writing about these things every single month since, err, March, but then something falls through, the weeks go by, and we’re back to square one again. So I’m sorry about that, I really am.
What I’m writing to you about today still isn’t one of those exciting things, unfortunately, but it is nonetheless very important. When we relaunched our RPS Supporter Programme last year, we did so on June 17th, which means its one-year anniversary is just around the corner. It also means that those of you who signed up for our yearly supporter tier will be coming to the end of your subscription soon, and I wanted to explain a little bit about the renewal process as it’s… err, a bit convoluted. Sorry again about that.
Supporters only: 7 of the most cutest things in Little Witch In The Woods
The Ronseal of games
Readers may remember my delight over the demo for Little Witch In The Woods, and I'm happy to report that game is now out in early access. It's already much more polished than the demo, with more yet to come. It's a life sim with a bit of a Stardew Valley or Animal Crossing vibe, except instead of farming you are a witch called Ellie (size: small) living in a biome (type: forest).
In the story you start to free the nearby village from cursed vines, and this requires that you catalogue and collect ingredients for spells, and thence expand your repertoire of witchy recipes. At the same time you can trade spells and magical candy with locals for currency, which you can use to improve your little machines - a roaster, a caldron, a press for ingredients - to make even better things, more efficiently. It's a satisfying process of mastery and exploration. But that is not the important bit. The important bit is that Little Witch In The Woods is disgustingly adorable.
A while back I finished Yakuza: Like A Dragon and felt a little bit lost. You know the feeling, right? When you snap shut a piece of fiction you’ve been reading for days, or months even, it can be difficult severing those relationships you’ve built with its characters. Unless there’s a direct sequel, you must pull your pants up and shelve those emotions and move on.
Not that I struggle with letting go of characters and stories particularly, but my brain makes an exception for the Yakuza games. More specifically, Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio's games. I’ve reached a point where I’m ordering Lost Judgment with no intention of playing it for months - maybe even a year? It’s all a ploy to hang onto RGG’s characters and worlds for as long as I can; a sort of buffer to keep the unease at bay. Having nowhere to turn to next isn’t an option.
The word that comes to mind is "slick". In a genre defined by busy screens and showy light spectacles, Drainus does well to distinguish itself with such excellent animation. The enemies, and particularly the way they spill from levels like the battleship one, demonstrate some of the best sprite work I've seen for ages.
It's more than just stylish, too. As I've mentioned before, I'm bad enough at scrolling shooters, and outright averse to bullet hell, to make me less than an authority on which are the best. But Drainus held my attention for long enough that you should definitely give it a chance.
I'm not going to do a pun about the name. I'm not. I'm definitely not.
Joining the scandalously overlooked Blast-Axis and the more recognised Overload in the pantheon of Descentants this week, it's Zerograve. Is this a genre revival now? Three solid contenders (that I'm aware of) must surely bring us close.
It's fully 3D space-ish combat, this time with colourful stylised levels, somewhere between technicolour neon and oddly minimalist. I don't want to start on a downer so let's say that my opinion of it improved the more I played it.
Supporters only: RPS@PAX 2022: A deep dive into PAX's Pinny Arcade community
Some pinteresting conversations
We did a lot of cool things during our time at this year's PAX East. We attended a wonderful talk by "Skyrim Grandma" Shirley Curry. We gawked at the coolest booths on the show floor. I got nightmares after looking at a super cursed baby. My personal highlight, though, was talking to the Pinny Arcade collectors during the show's official trading event.
I’ll admit, before I went to PAX I didn’t really appreciate how big Pinny Arcade was. I’d definitely seen photos of colourful metal pins depicting characters from various video games fly across my screen as I browsed Twitter, but I had never thought much about them beyond that. I was shocked, then, to arrive at PAX and realise just how integral this collectable is to the show. Merch booths sell starter packs, individual demo stations flog game specific rarities and avid fans adorn their lanyards with their favourite pieces. It turns out, Pinny Arcade is huge.
Supporters only: Mechfights made mellow in Ignited Steel: Mech Tactics
I cannot tell alkali
While fads come and go, mech games continue to simmer pleasantly away without ever taking over or going away. The latest one I've finally made some time for is Ignited Steel Colon Mech Tactics, a turn-based tactical game with a light sprinkling of FTL.
Despite appearances, it's quite mildly roguelike, and those of you who dig a complex strategic challenge or skin of your teeth type survival story aren't quite the right audience. This one is a more forgiving affair, and yet not easy or simply enough that I ever got bored. It's a good time.
Supporters only: Supporter podcast - The Nate Files episode 9: All Creatures Small And Even More Small & episode 10: Don't Kinkshame The Skin Worms
To get rid of the curse of knowing about caecilians, you must pass the knowledge on
Hello, gentle listener. I'm afraid it has been a while since we went into the exclusion zone to find an episode or two of The Nate Files, our extra supporter-only podcast. This is entirely my fault; I was incautious while we were in there and accidentally refracted into an eel, and then Nate nearly ate that eel - it was a whole thing*, but I'm right as rain now. That's a-moray! Thank you for sticking with us while we got that admin sorted out. We really do appreciate your support so we can make these podcasts and do other fun things (like pay for my de-sliming). We couldn't do it without you!