Tiny game reviews

This is just a list of games we’ve played through, accompanied with some feelings about them. Consider them tiny game reviews.

I’ll be updating this list from time to time. Feel free to come back here if you ever want to know my quick thoughts about the games you see in the sidebar’s game list.

Note: If you’re a fan or a developer of one of these games, try not to get upset. I may come off overly rude at some points, since these thoughts are very condensed and honest. Feel free to use the comments section to contact me if you want a more detailed and constructive article about any of the games. I’d love to give constructive feedback to you.

Browse reviews by genre


Action-adventure

Battle Princess Madelyn (Switch)

A short arcade-style game very much like Ghouls ‘n Ghosts. Despite finishing it in a day, I really enjoyed the experience. Will definitely return to play this again (note to self: I’m not very good at keeping promises).

Cadence of Hyrule (Switch)

Forget the Link’s Awakening remake. Get this instead. I’m musically challenged and never really had a problem with the rhythmic gameplay. There’s a physical version coming at the end of 2020, too, with all DLC included.

Fallen Legion (Switch)

(I want to write a full article about this one some day, since it’s hard to condence my exact thoughts in this small space.)
There are quite a few of things in this game that made it feel like it was made by “Japanese gaming otaku” (I’ll probably have to write what I mean by that someday). Although it wasn’t. The game is FULL of very small things that, if fixed, would likely make it a good game. But as is, the experience was quite lackluster. I recommend playing Has Been Heroes or Indivisible instead (if you’re looking for a somewhat similar game style).

How to Survive (PC)

A zombie survival game. The game is from top-down view (like Diablo) and has simple crafting elements. Despite being quite short, amateurish and somewhat buggy I liked the game enough to buy all the DLC, and…

…well, I wouldn’t call it a “mistake”, but the DLC is quite unpolished. (Even compared to the unpolishness of the main game.) It’s nothing horrible, but the texts aren’t written very well, the characters speak different things compared to the texts, and you can hear the NPCs shout things like “Stay away from me” during combat when the NPC is no longer even on the whole island.

About the bugginess: there’s nothing game breaking. Mostly it’s just the physics being a bit janky and some of the DLC is accessible during certain moments even if you don’t own it.

Link: steam


Beat ’em up

River City Girls (Switch)

A bit more straightforward than I’d hoped from a River City title. I like the AI much more than in River City Ransom: Underground. The world feels more lively with enemies doing their own stuff in some areas and not dodging 100% of your special attacks. The music and graphics are wonderful. We played the heck out of this game and enjoyed it tremendously.

Link: gog


Platformer

A Hat in Time (PC)

A short and sweet 3D Mario-like with co-op. Main story took us about 30 hours with all DLC. There are extra DLC challenges we skipped.

Like with most other games that have it, we really liked the co-op. The visuals and humor were nice. We really liked the visual world of stages, although they were disorienting at times. (Especially compared to stages in 3D Mario games.) Gameplay was pretty great for a 3D platformer, although the occasional level design and camera issues sometimes caused problems (playing co-op, which forces split screen, might have also affected this).

Link: gog

Super Mario 3D All-Stars (Switch)

Super Mario 3D All-Stars has been getting some slack for being a pretty lazy port of the first three 3D Mario games. There have been some gripes about the quality of the games. I can assure you, if you’re not a speedrunner you most likely won’t notice a thing. Especially if it’s been a dozen years since you’ve last played these games.

Despite the gripes, there have been some improvements as well. Camera directions have been changed to follow modern standards. The games run smoother for the most part. Sunshine and Galaxy have wider aspect ratio. Some textures are higher quality.

Personally, I’m just happy to have these games on a modern console. Even ft’s not a considerable upgrade like the Super Mario All-Stars, which overhauled all the 2D Mario games’ graphics and introduced the original Super Mario 2 to western audiences.

Super Mario 64 (Switch)

Considering that this was the “rocky start” for the 3D Mario games, the game holds up suprisingly well. Pretty much my only gripe was how tacky the camera is.

Super Mario Sunshine (Switch)

I stand by my previous assessments that Sunshine is the Sonic 2006 of the Mario series. The cutscenes, characters, story and gameplay all feel somewhat of a deviation from what Mario games represent. There’s something of a rusty fanfic vibe to the whole game.

And despite all that, Sunshine is a pretty good game. My second biggest gripe is how they made each Shine only available in its respected episodes. And biggest gripes is with the blue coins. Those are not just hidden all around the stages, but are often only available within specific episodes.

Like Mario 64, this game is pretty great if you’re young and want a game where you can just waste time exploring every nook and cranny.

Super Mario Galaxy (Switch)

They brought back long jump, but took away diving (and generally just slowed Mario down quite a bit). Many stages put you upside down and running around planets in weird camera angles. On one hand, it makes controlling Mario somewhat difficult at times, and at others, it reminds me that Nintendo is one of the few game companies that can pull this kind of thing off without completely and utterly botching it.

Galaxy is also much more linear than the previous 3D Mario games. I’m not sure if its the linearity or something else, but the game feels even longer than 64 and Sunshine.

The original Wii version used Wii’s remote sensor for some of the controls. These have translated surprisingly well, even if you play with a pro controller.

Galaxy feels like a good game, but after playing it now that I’ve somewhat recently experience Mario 64 and Odyssey, I definitely prefer the controls and open-worldness of those games.


Point and click

Sam & Max Hit the Road (PC)

An old point and click game aimed at younger audience. The game is visually very pleasing, but suffers from some problems with the UI. There were at least two screens in the game that I probably would have never found if Vayandil hadn’t pointed them out to me (because she’s played the game for hours on end as a kid).

There are quite a few completely optional minigames likes dress-up and battleship. They will probably increase the game’s length for younger audience, but to anybody else they’re quite unplayable.

I would like to suggest playing Telltale’s Sam & Max series instead, but according to some reviewers, those might not operate any more on Windows 10. (The Telltale games are also pulled from GOG because “Telltale went under in 2018”, and don’t seem to be back despite the company being bought by LCG Entertainment and seemingly resuming operations. Hmm.)

Either way, I don’t think Sam & Max Hit the Road is exactly a bad point and click game, but it’s mostly carried by the characters of Sam and Max and their humor. Watch a trailer and play it if you think that might be your thing.

Link: gog

Tsioque (PC)

This is a super short interactive fairy tale book (that looks somewhat like a point and click game but isn’t exactly). Essentially, you click stuff you see around you and stuff happens. Sometimes that stuff is a game over. Actually quite often, since many puzzles contain sudden “quick time” events (with no prompts). You just have to realize that you needed to do something while something else was going on. But don’t worry, you get checkpoints with almost every click, so you get to retry the event immediately.

The animations were really, really neat and it was an enjoyable little story. Still, I wouldn’t recommend the game unless that is exactly what you’re looking for.

Link: gog

Thimbleweed Park (PC)

A very nice modern Lucasarts style point and click adventure game. Our playthrough was about 15 hours. There are quite a bit of things to do so it very rarely felt like we had no idea what to do next. There is an in-game hotline for if you need help. Can’t comment on its quality since we didn’t end up needing any tips.

Our only gripe was that the game is very meta. If you prefer your point and click adventures with very little or completely void of fourth wall breaking, then you might want to skip this one.

Link: gog


Puzzle

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (PC)

I don’t usually like to recommend games that are story-based (aside from visual novels), but I really liked this one. A big reason was probably because there was no text and no comprehensive speech, so the narrative is based completely on body language and actions. I recommend this if you want to experience a couple of hours in a morbid fairy tale puzzle land.

Link: gog

Layton’s Mystery Journey (Switch)

The puzzles are quite nice, aside from a few cases where we had trouble understanding the premise.

However, the stories told in the game are very tame and therefore, quite dull. It’s a bit weird that the puzzles sometimes feel complicated, but the game otherwise feels very safe and casual.

There’s a system for “daily puzzles” where you can download a new simple puzzle every day. At the time of this writing, the “daily puzzle” thingie already has several hundred puzzles to solve so it’s a nice extra.


Role-playing

Breath of Fire II (SNES Online)

Pending more game play.

Breath of Fire (SNES Online)

I’m really enjoying these older RPGs that have much more condensed stories compared to most modern games. A very interesting cast of characters who have different abilities. May require you to look up some stuff from a walkthrough (I don’t know if those things are hinted in the manual since we didn’t have one). If you happen to realize those things without looking them up, you’ll feel like a genius. Not without its flaws, but still highly recommendable.

Collection of Mana: Final Fantasy Adventure (Switch)

I actually enjoyed this quite a bit. Maybe even more than Secret of Mana and Trials of Mana (which are also bundled in the collection). Story is definitely not the game’s strong point, but that didn’t really matter. Even though most of the game is pretty linear, it felt like a semi-proper adventure with delightfully confusing dungeons and gameplay. (If you decide to play the game, make sure to have a bunch of keys with you at all times.)

My only major gripes are that the inventory system is pretty cumbersome and the music is very repetitive. For example, pretty much all dungeons have the same music.

Collection of Mana: Trials of Mana (Switch)

The combat definitely feels much better than in Secret of Mana. You don’t have to wait as long between attacks and doing special attacks is done with a press of a button (instead of holding down the button for a long time). It’s still a bit troublesome how the game stops any time somebody casts a spell or does a special attack.

The game has some major bugs (shields, dexterity and luck effectively do nothing), although you probably won’t notice them if nobody tells you about them. (Sorry about that!) The game does not really reward exploration: areas have all sorts of optional routes, but there are next to no chests or other rewards to find there. The game has co-op, which is really nice, but sometimes status effects make you switch to another character and get all confused. The menus are super slow and clunky. And yet, even with all that, the game has been pretty enjoyable.

StarTropics (NES Online)

There are some cheap deaths and we ended up using the save states quite a bit. Also there’s one part that requires you to look up “copy protection” from the internet to keep playing. Other than that, the game was very enjoyable. Highly recommended.

Secret of Mana (SNES Classic)

Something felt off with the combat system. I’ve played Seiken Densetsu 3/Trials of Mana (the SNES version, not the remake) a long time ago before this one, and that has a much improved combat and gameplay.

Overall, the game was okay but nothing spectacular. (I know that at least the person who recommended we play this game is sad about that verdict.) I did like that we could play co-op, but many boss fights boiled down to just me competing with the boss about who is quicker to open up the menu and cast spells, so there were times when Vayandil had nothing to do.


Strategy/simulation

Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord (PC)

I’ve been playing the early access. It’s buggy and missing a lot of features. Still, it feels so good to be riding on the fields of Calradia again. I want to make a blog post about this one since there’s a few game design choices I’d like to discuss (things that have been made really quick to access, and things that take a lot of time), and show off some bugs.

I already have over 150 hours in. Still, since it’s early access I suggest you wait until the game is closer to ready. Also, it’s one of those games that teaches you what it’s like to be rich.

Link: steam

Stronghold Crusader HD (PC)

I had really hard time placing walls until I realized you have to press SPACE to flatten the view. Without doing that, the game tries to guide your wall-placing, making it difficult at times.

I’ve really been liking the game. I’m a real sucker for building forts and defending them. And while the single-player campaign doesn’t really have a story this time, it does have something like a whopping 80 missions.

A word of warning about the GOG version: it actually contains two games. It has Stronghold Crusader Extreme HD and Stronghold Crusader HD. The problem is that while both games have different content, GOG only gives you a shortcut for the Extreme HD. If you want to access Crusader HD (and those 80 missions I mentioned), you have to navigate to the installation folder and make your own shortcut for the “Stronghold Crusader.exe” file.

Link: gog


Visual novel

AI: The Somnium Files (Switch)

A near-futuristic murder mystery visual novel with much humor and puns sprinkled around. The game keeps track of routes you’ve traversed and you can easily jump to different scenes without having to juggle tons of save slots. This means that you can actually manage through pretty much the whole game without a walkthrough. (Except possibly for a few hidden objects.)

The Switch version has many framerate issues. I don’t think I really payed them mind while playing, though. If that’s a problem for you, I’ve heard that the Steam version doesn’t have those issues.

Link: steam

Clannad (PC/Switch)

This is a semi-legendary dating sim visual novel with a lot of humor, melancholy and tragedy.

Clannad is without question the visual novel I’ve enjoyed the most thus far. I don’t think I can stress that enough without going to a rant, so instead I’ll just give a few warnings/suggestions.

Use a non-spoiler walkthrough that shows which options to pick. (Crossed out options are ones that you must NOT pick on that route.) It took me 120 hours to play through the entire game. Without a walkthrough, expect that time to rise tenfold if you want to experience most of it.

The game is slightly on the older side, so there is a huge chunk of the MAIN GAME hidden behind a convoluted “light orb” gathering mechanic. (I think at least one light orb can only be accessed if you happen to finish two separate routes back to back.)

There’s also a very well done anime adaptation available. The game has more content, if that’s what you’re looking for. But if you just want a condensed version (or get turned off by the somewhat dated art style of the visual novel), then the anime may be the better option for you.

Link: steam, LimitedRunGames

Doki Doki Literature Club (PC)

Do not google this game. Also do not look at the reviews. And do not look at comments.

As long as you’re not turned off by the “This game is not suitable for children or those who are easily disturbed.” warning, I suggest you just get it and play it. It’s free and only a few hours long.

Link: website, steam

Little Busters (PC)

This is a visual novel with a bunch of mini (and some not-so-mini) games in it. It’s an interesting concept, but I’m glad that you can also turn the bigger mini games off because they do get a bit exhausting when you’re playing through the game for umpteenth time.

The dialogue seems to change a little bit depending on which routes you’ve finished. I’m not quite sure what to think of that. On one hand, it’s nice to see the characters evolve and scenes change. On the other hand, you’re going to miss out on stuff if you don’t start every playthrough from the very beginning.

I really like that you can easily move backwards in the game. You can either go back screen by screen or hop into a previous/next choice. These make it easy to retry fights and minigames without having to play around with save states.

This is another massive visual novel with certain endings hidden until you finish certain others. So looking at a walkthrough may not be the worst idea.

Link: steam

Nurse Love Syndrome (Switch)

This is a yuri visual novel about the nursing life. There is one specific thing that got me intrigued about the game: the story is apparently written by two actual nurses. And you can really see that in the game. A lot of anime and visual novels suffer from the fact that the writers aren’t familiar in the fields that their stories are based on. That’s not the case here – it really feels like the characters know what their talking about.

Other than that, I thought the game had a very good mix of humor, drama and romance. There is one minor technical issue (at least on the Switch version): the text sometimes gets cut. You have to press up or down to open up a view where you can see it fully.

Three of the six available character routes felt much shorter than the other three. That felt a bit disappointing while playing, but I found out there’s a reason for it. The game on Switch and Steam is an improved version. The original game didn’t have those three routes at all, so I guess it’s a nice thing they were added in the first place.

This game, too, is pretty complicated if you want to experience all endings, so don’t be afraid to use a walkthrough. There are a bunch of different endings and some routes need to be cleared before others become available.

Link: steam, LimitedRunGames


Other

A Short Hike (PC)

This is a super short open world exploration game with stuff like climbing and flying and talking and running around and fishing. The overall feeling of the game is a bit hard to put into words. It’s like… if you want to experience Stardew Valley or Breath Of the Wild, but without fighting or farming and condensed in just a few hours. Either way, it was fun while it lasted.

There’s a postmortem video about the game, if you’re interested in some of the decisions behind the game design.

Link: gog

The Beginner’s Guide (PC)

A narrative walking simulator through one person’s crummy games. It’s made by the same guy who made Stanley Parable. If you’re looking for “an interesting narrative experience game”, I suggest skipping this and going for Stanley Parable instead.

Link: steam

Peace, Death (Switch)

This game is somewhat similar to Papers, Please. Except that you use buttons to interact with your clients and stick directions to decide where to send them. (As opposed to having to drag things around with a mouse on your table like in Paper’s Please.) Also you only have a certain amount of clients every day. This makes the game more fast-paced and manageable. If you liked Papers, Please for its gameplay style but disliked the setting or realism of having to manage your table, then this game is probably heaven sent for you.

Stanley Parable (PC)

This is some kind of a reactive-narrative experience.

Not sure what else to say. If you’re looking for something a bit different then try it out. It’s not very long but it was rather amusing.

Link: steam

Wild Guns Reloaded (Switch)

This is an arcade-style game where you essentially play until you get game over and then start from the beginning, slowly getting better and better and making it just a bit further every time. I like that the game has co-op (1-4 players) and it’s really satisfying learning the stages and getting better. I also like the new characters. I’ve been wanting a bomb/grenade user type of character with satisfying gameplay mechanics, and the new character Doris really fills that need.

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