It’s a brief update this time around - while I played quite a bit in August, I won’t be done with some of those games until well into September. What is on the docket is a set of four very different games, in a very wide range of styles.
First up, I played the very meta French adventure There Is No Game: Wrong Dimension (2020). While it definitely hasn’t converted me to point-and-click adventure games, it’s easily the best one I’ve played. Next up is a pair of games I’ve reviewed for Entertainium. The first is Cursed to Golf (2022), which failed to impress me with its eccentric take on the sport. I much preferred the turn-based tactics of Hard West II (2022), even though I have some misgivings about its difficulty. Finally, the best gaming experience I had in August was Metro: Last Light (2013), the superbly atmospheric shooter sequel made in Ukraine and Malta by 4A Games.
There Is No Game: Wrong Dimension (2020)
Developed and published by Draw Me a Pixel
Here’s the thing - I hate point-and-click adventure games. Some of my most miserable gaming experiences have been with these misbegotten things. A lot of people revere something like Full Throttle (1995), but it alternately bored me rigid and drove me insane. I could go on and on about my distaste for the genre, its static motionlessness and absurdly contrived puzzles. The relevant point is that There Is No Game is a point-and-click adventure and yet I played it, and sort of enjoyed it?
The first reason I gave it a chance is the very strong reviews it got, and especially the absolutely rapturous write-up by John Walker on his blog Buried Treasure two years ago. The second reason is that my experience with Inscryption last year taught me that perhaps I actually do like games which are intensely meta and which keep pulling the rug out from under the player. There Is No Game is very meta indeed, in a way which dominates the whole experience. It’s a very clever commentary on games, with very impressive and varied pixel art. I like it, but I can’t love it as John Walker does because ultimately it still boils down to fairly obtuse puzzles. At least there’s a hint system! There Is No Game was an interesting experience, by far the best I’ve had with its genre, but I won’t be ploughing through the Gabriel Knight series or picking up Phantasmagoria any time soon.
Cursed to Golf (2022)
Developed by Chuhai Labs, published by Thunderful Publishing
Golf is an obviously demonic sport - a catastrophic waste of perfectly good land, water, and television broadcasts. Indie developer Chuhai Labs made a game which has a different take. Cursed to Golf, the first of two new games I reviewed in August for Entertainium, is a 2D roguelike centring on a golfer trapped in a twisted netherworld. Quite a few indie golf games have popped up over the last few years, and on paper this one sounds perfect. The promise of wacky hazards and impossible trick shots is appealing but I found the game to be a bit below par.
The problem for me, really, is that Cursed to Golf too closely resembles the real sport. Instead of the fun hazards you can expect to find in mini-golf, this game is mostly packed with plain old bunkers and pools of water. Even using a greatly simplified physics model, these aren’t fun to navigate - they’re annoying. It’s a shame because Chuhai Labs have put together a great soundtrack, and some imaginative pixel art. To my surprise, a lot of other reviewers liked the game far more, notably including Gamespot who gave it a 9 (!) and called it “wildly experimental” (!!). Different strokes for different folks, I guess.
Hard West II (2022)
Developed by Ice Code Games, published by Good Shepherd Entertainment
Western-themed games are quite common now, and in my book that’s an unambiguously good thing. In fact, 2022 seems to be the year of so-called “weird west” games, which combine the usual gunslingin’ with supernatural themes. No less than four are coming out this year. I reviewed the game actually called Weird West back in March, and in the coming months we can expect to see Evil West and Blood West heading out onto the trail, as well. In August though, I tackled turn-based tactics sequel Hard West II and, in the main, had a great time with it. Certainly, I think it’s a much better game than Weird West, which strains to do so much and delivers so little.
Hard West II feels like a game for veterans of the genre. It is heavily indebted to XCOM 2, still the reigning champion of tactical combat in my estimation, and offers a very tough challenge. In fact at times, it can feel downright unfair which is my main misgiving. Chaining kills to set up glorious, sprawling turns is a joy though, and the game delivers a very solid weird west atmosphere and some likeable characters. Hard West II seems to have generated a lot more buzz than the first game did back in 2015, so hopefully we’ll see another entry in the series which may yet iron out some of the rough edges. In any case, my review is up at Entertainium.
Metro: Last Light (2013)
Developed by 4A, published by Deep Silver
I’m sure of it now - the post-nuclear Moscow of the Metro games is one of my favourite settings. Playing the original Metro 2033 (2010) two years ago, I was deeply impressed by the bleak, believable underground spaces that 4A Games created. With Last Light, they made both the dank tunnels and the irradiated streets above even more compellingly atmospheric. Truly, the Ukrainian-Maltese studio are masters of environmental design and arguably the best inheritors of what Valve achieved with Half-Life 2 (2004). This sequel is just a great example of a linear, story-driven FPS.
If you wanted to be critical, you could point out that Last Light is a “more of the same” sequel which adds little that 2033 didn’t already have. Playing the Redux versions of the games, the second entry also lacks a graphical advantage over the first. I can’t bring myself to get worked up over these issues, though. The handful of new weapons, enemies, and characters all give Last Light a little extra lift, and it’s built on the extremely solid foundations of the original. It’s just a constant thrill being in the boots of plucky soldier Artyom, exploring new parts of the metro and scavenging for new gear. The DLC is a bit of a mixed bag, but the best parts are excellent. This is a shooter that is as effective in its quieter moments as it is in its full-throttle gunplay - I’ve loved my time with Last Light, and I’m more keen than ever to pick up the more recent third game, Metro Exodus (2019).
While August was a light instalment, you can expect September to be quite a bit busier. I’ll have thoughts on another shooter from 2013, this time BioShock Infinite which I’ve finally got around to playing for the first time. By the next entry I will also have reviewed No Place for Bravery (2022), one of those 2D Soulslikes that are a growing trend right now. I will also have gathered my thoughts on the dieselpunk battles of Iron Harvest (2020), which has helped keep the tattered flag of strategy games flying in recent years.
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I write about classic science fiction and occasionally fantasy; I sometimes make maps for Doom II; and I'm a contributor to the videogames site Entertainium, where I regularly review new games.