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Hi r/shmups! I'm currently on a project where I try to review every shmup on the Switch, so I thought I'd share my reviews here! Here's the 26th entry: Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade
We’ve all had a game that is a gateway to a specific genre. That one game which made us pay attention to a style of games and allowed us to fully experience the genre. It might not have been the first one we play, but it is definitely one that stays closer to our hearts. For me, this game was Darius. I’ve mentioned this in the past, but I will say it again: Darius is the shmup that is closest to my heart. I loved the horizontal gameplay, I loved the Silver Hawk, I loved all the huge bosses that looked like fishes. The gameplay also hit bunch of chords that resonate with what I love about shmups. I’ve been waiting so long for this, so alas, I present to you: Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade! Publisher: ININ Games Platform: Nintendo Switch Release date: Jun 16, 2020 Price: $44.99 Tate: Built-in Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade is a collection of the Darius games released on the arcades. This wasn’t your typical cabinet, as one of its main features was the usage of multiple screens. Darius used 3 screens, while Darius II/SAGAIA used 2 screens. M2 really went out of their way to bring the most authentic arcade experience! The result is impressive to say the least! This collections includes 4 games:
Darius and SAGAIA include 3 and 2 different versions respectively, bringing it to a total of 7 playable games. ARCADE GLORY As hard as this might be to believe, I have never played an arcade Darius game before. I always mentioned Darius as my favorite shmup, but the truth is that I began with the SNES games. I had heard on the street that the arcade versions were superior so I was very excited. When I booted the original version, I couldn’t help but feel like I was standing next to an actual arcade cabinet. The game greeted me with 3 screens places next to each other on the center of the screen. I was excited to play, so I pressed the coin button. I was not prepared for what I was about to experience… As soon as I inserted the coin, a typical fanfare played along as my credit counter increased by one. But there was something else. The controller started vibrating to the tune of the music. I just can’t make justice to this effect with words. It felt like being inside an actual arcade cabinet. Vibrations and sound made the experience feel authentic. It made me think about the arcade days where you would hear cabinets everywhere and just feel the energy of the place. As soon as I started to play, the screen changed and the empty spaces were replaced by arcade artwork. This artwork was exactly the kind you would see pasted near the controllers to show you how to play and other general information. Everything about the game was designed to make you feel like on the arcade. This is the kind of presentation that every other arcade port should try to achieve. FISH GRAVY What truly sets apart the Darius Cozmic Collection from any other collection is the amount of features and arcade fidelity that M2 added to the game. Every single aspect, every single menu and every single feature was lovingly added to create a masterpiece. From the get go, you will be presented with the very familiar “A boss is approaching” message featuring King Fossil. The message just says that your game data is approaching fast. It really is only a fancy way of saying the game is loading, but it sets the tone to the orgasmic experience that you are about to have with the game. After going through the intro scene, you will be greeted with the main menu which contains all 7 playable titles in this collection. You also have a replay, manual and staff options. If you are wondering where the options are, they are specific for each game, so they must be adjusted from within each game. My only complaint here is that the manual is in japanese. There isn’t much to learn from a manual though. The only thing was the Darius Gaiden capture mechanic, so I picked that one up from the internet. AN ENTIRE LEGACY Speaking of the games, 7 different titles can be quite intimidating. If you are anything like me, then chances are you don’t know what’s “new ver” or “extra ver”. Thankfully, each game features a sort of museum display that features a screenshot of the menu, the title, the launch date and a very thorough description of the game. The text will navigate you through each version of the games and specifically highlight why it is different from its predecessor or what was changed when going to western markets. Each game includes a training mode for those who wish to challenge specific parts of the game. Training mode will let you choose to play any stage and customize a variety of settings such as the strength of your Silver Hawk and the game rank, which is the in-game difficulty. The obvious use for this mode is to practice your piloting skills and go for the 1CC. Even casual players can view this as a pseudo level select cheat code for maximum enjoyment! Perhaps one of the most amazing inclusions of the collection is the replay mode. For every one of your play throughs, there is an option to save a replay of your play session. What differs from regular replays, is that they pack an incredibly robust set of features. Other than being able to watch a recording of yourself, you can see your inputs and control the playback of the replay. You can rewind, fast forward, go back, increase the speed or even go full slow-mo to analyze your gameplay. KING OF THE ARCADE Challenging oneself is one thing, but going after the world is the true spirit or arcade shmups. Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade features online rankings which are separated into 2 categories: “Arcade” and “All-mix”. Arcade is played with every setting on default and using only one credit. If you are playing and choose to spend an additional credit to continue, then your scoring is changed to “All-mix”. All-mix is a catch-all for every other style, from easy difficulty to hard or even static rank modes. If you ever wondered what’s it like to play like the king of the leaderboards, then you’ll be glad to know you can download leaderboard replays! This allows you to watch the entire play throughs of top players, along with their inputs and the previously mentioned playback features of a replay. A must have for those willing to go for the record or even those curious about what it means to be a champion. YOUR PERFECT CABINET The in-game menu for each game will further let you customize your gameplay experience. The amount of options is truly staggering, so suffice to know that you can change in-game setting as difficulty and score for an extend, screen quality adjustments like scan lines and gadgets, and the controllers. One menu I really want to highlight is the gadgets menu. Gadgets are responsible for making the gameplay experience truly stand out. They track all sorts of data from yourself and the enemies. From a friendly side, you can see your current level of power, the number of hits your arm can take and the information related to the current zone. From a less friendly side, you have all sorts of analyzers that display the current boss, their weakness and detailed HP for each of their parts. There’s even a life gauge that appears at the bottom of the screen for easy viewing when fighting bosses! Although I could see an argument against being way too much information, I’m personally thankful because I’m a data nerd and I love knowing all this information. If it is too much for you, then you can always turn off the gadgets and customize the screen to your liking. The real beauty comes from creating your perfect cabinet. THE EMULATOR ADVANTAGE One of the main selling points of emulators has been the ability to use save states. Darius Cozmic Collection is no slouch and features save states of its own! These save states will let you cheese the game as much as you want, but they also let you replay specific sections and master them for your future arcade runs. I won’t judge you, so have fun with save states! The only caveat is that using save states will not record your score. Unfortunately, replays will only record from the last time you loaded the save state onwards. So there’s no chance of creating tool-assisted runs. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that bringing up the in-game menu will completely pause the game and show you a fully-fledged map of the game, complete with boss encounters for each zone and the amount of power-ups featured in said zone. It really is great for strategy purposes to know which stage will allow you to upgrade your Silver Hawk! Resuming a game will also give you a 3 second count down with a jumping robot animation to ensure you are ready for action. This detail wasn’t really needed, but it is one of the many ways in which M2 shows appreciation for Darius and the player. Out of all this nitty gritty details, I have to say the song name is one of my favorites. In the bottom right corner of the screen there is a pop-up that appears when the song changes and displays the song name. I just think it looks really cool. By the way, don’t forget to check “Olga Breeze”, my favorite song! DARIUS, THE OG Darius, the game that started it all. Featuring 3 screens, this is the biggest Darius game featured in this collection (ha!). If I may add, I also think this is the game that highlights all the love M2 poured into bringing arcade experiences to your living room. With features such as the cabinet art and the body sonic vibration, it really brings home the arcade feeling. As you can expect, playing the first game on the series is both, a nostalgic and a painful experience. Playing on 3 screens is truly magical, but at the same time, it is a victim to the older design choices. Not much that can be done here, after all, it is a decades old game. Just a small detail to keep in mind. Darius helps establish the foundations of the franchise from the very first game. One of the Darius staples is the upgrade system for the Silver Hawk. Throughout the game, you can encounter 3 different orbs which are dropped by different colored enemies. The orbs can be red, green or blue. SILVER HAWK Red orbs will upgrade your primary fire. Each orb increases your power, but collecting 7 will upgrade your shot to the laser, and then the wave. Green orbs will upgrade your bomb, which is your secondary fire. Bombs also get stronger with more orbs and also upgrade when you reach 7. Blue orbs will give you a shield called arm. The initial shield blocks 3 hits and any additional orb will add 1 more hit. Just like red and green, you can upgrade after 7 orbs which will make it so that additional orbs give you 2 hits and then 3. The downside to the upgrade system is that, upon death, you will lose every orb you collected in your current tier. The good news is that if you, for instance, managed to upgrade to the laser, then your shot can never fall below that. The bad news is that the number of orbs is limited per stage, which means it is almost impossible to upgrade within a stage the same stage where you died. The exception is a single stage that has 7 blue orbs in the old version and one with 7 green in the extra version. THE FISH The most distinguishable characteristic of the franchise is definitely the marine bosses. The stages are all over the place with a very diverse space settings, but the bosses are always one thing: fish. Actually, I’d say it is marine biology, but fish is an overly simplistic way to describe it. Darius also has one peculiarity which is that every set of stages has the same boss. For example, the 4th stage boss will always be Fatty Glutton in a different version depending on which zone you chose. The other defining feature of Darius is being able to choose your adventure. After each boss, you can choose to go to one of 2 different zones. This choice is made by either being on the top or bottom half of the screen, as the stage actually splits after beating the boss. It certainly took me off guard the first time as I crashed into the divider. Despite having the same boss, the zones are drastically different and carry the strategic choice of having a different number of orbs. Your path will be determined by which aspect of your Silver Hawk you want to improve. THE COINS What struck me the most about Darius is how unforgiving it is. This is expressed in the descriptions of the newer versions. The thing about Darius, is that the game is next to impossible to beat if you didn’t fully upgrade. Later enemies are merciless and if you don’t have sufficient firepower, then you probably won’t stand a chance. This ruthlessness is exacerbated by the death system, as death will set you considerably behind. Because upgrades are usually a 2-stage effort, getting shot will set you back 2 levels worth of progress. A fun aspect I found on Darius is the dynamic created by having 3 screens. This is probably the widest game I have played, and it brings new challenges to the table. The first one is that you need to gain screen position to succeed. Being at the front is usually better, with moving back feeling like losing real estate. The reason behind this is that you are able to shoot down enemies before they become a threat with their numbers. The other less obvious reason is the number of bullets allowed on screen. That number is limited, so it is in your best interest that those bullets expire fast so you can fire new ones. Being back equals more time before they reach the end of the screen, which is undesirable. Overall, the game poses a unique challenge, but I’m not going to lie, it is actually really fun to play. Achieving an upgraded Silver Hawk is a hard endeavor, but that makes it even more rewarding when you pull it off! DARIUS II/SAGAIA, THE PROOF US WESTERNERS HAVE SHORT ATTENTION SPANS Darius II came in and simplified the game in some interesting ways. First of all it reduced the upgrade system so that it is now only a single stage that can be maxed out. The number of orbs was reduced to compensate. Another simplification comes courtesy of the screens themselves. The number of screens was reduced from 3 to 2 in order to be installed in other dual screen cabinets such as The Ninja Warriors. Unfortunately, the single stage of upgrades means that the game is even more savage when you die. This time around, you actually lose all of your progress in terms of firepower. There will be special rainbow orbs which help you catch up a little, but even then they might be a little too late. As a result, my 1CC had to be done by never dying. I ALWAYS WANTED A THING CALLED A TUNA SASHIMI One thing I want to mention, is that Darius II has my absolute favorite intro sequence of any Darius game in this collection. From the music that goes ramping up to the main theme, to the voice lines calling out the launching sequence: “Main engine energy level, 20% increase !” “I always wanted a thing called tuna sashimi” “3…2…1…” It all creates an unbelievable sense of excitement! A very fun piece of trivia is the existence of SAGAIA. It exists to be a compact version of Darius II to be sold on western markets. Then there’s actually 2 versions of it which feel like 2 pieces of the same game. If SAGAIA trimmed certain pieces of the game, then version 2 came to use those trimmed pieces and created another entry. It’s actually quite funny. DARIUS GAIDEN, THE KING Darius Gaiden is definitely the reason you will keep playing the arcade collection. Quality in older games under a modern eye is usually a product of nostalgia and design elements that still hold on in today’s gaming landscape. Contrasting with that, Darius Gaiden IS a fantastic game that I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase if it was released today. For Darius Gaiden, less is more, as this time around the game was played on a single screen arcade cabinet. The game does seem to lack some of the ambient goodies such as the rumble effects, but it makes up for it in gameplay experiences. TRUE POWER One aspect that is radically different from its predecessor is the upgrade system. Whereas Darius II simplified the Silver Hawk upgrade system, Darius Gaiden took it back to its original Darius roots. This means that, once again, we have multiple upgrade points. Upgrades take considerably less red power-ups to achieve, which actually makes it possible to upgrade multiple times during the same stage. Death penalties are lower as well with death only losing you a level of power. Because there are more power levels, it is more forgiving and doesn’t set you completely behind like the previous entries. Perhaps the best of all is that neither arm nor bombs have any penalty whatsoever. What’s more, you don’t even lose your arm or bomb level when losing a credit. I can say with 100% certainty that this game is actually possible to complete within a reasonable number of credits if you die on the later zones. I would take it one step ahead and say this game has a little of the Contra syndrome. The original Contra is a game that was considered hard, but was significantly easier if you could maintain the spread shot. In the same vein, getting the earliest upgrades makes Darius Gaiden a breeze. A well deserved victory, if you ask me. YOU’RE MINE NOW! New to Darius Gaiden is the ability to capture mid bosses. Half-way through a stage, you will encounter a medium sized boss with a purple orb somewhere in its back. If you manage to take down the orb without killing the enemy, it will detach and slowly drift away. If you capture this orb, then the mid boss will fight alongside you until its timer expires. I gotta say that having a huge fish on your side is surprisingly satisfying! Having a single screen makes the experience much more familiar for shmup enthusiasts. While it does lose some of the charm of the ultra wide field of view, it also rids itself of nuances such as your horizontal movement being low in terms of total horizontal space or the limit on on-screen bullets. A combination of those factors I mentioned contribute to making Darius Gaiden a much better experience. It’s simple to play and forgiving when you lose. Every stage is unique and makes every new play through a completely different experience, not just in a different-ish way, but rather full blown new content! A LEGENDARY PACKAGE OF NOSTALGIA There’s one thing that you might be thinking, and that’s that I might be biased because it is Darius. It is true that I openly admit everywhere that Darius is my favorite. However, in this particular case my work was cut out for me, I don’t need to be biased because this is truly a wonderfully crafted collection that deserves to be on everyone’s Switch. It contains every possible version of Darius you might have encountered on the arcades and then sprinkled some top notch features that make it stand on a class of its own when it comes to ports. It also helps that the Darius games remain to be as fun as they always have been, even with their caveats. I took 3-4 times more time to play this collection, not because it had a lot of content, but because I loved playing every second of it and wanted to try it all. Wanted to 1CC every version, wanted to traverse every possible stage, wanted to created masterful replays. The only possible downside I can see to this collection is the price. $44.99 is a very high price compared to other shmups on the market. In terms of features and overall content (because remember, every game has more than an alphabets worth of different zones) it does warrant its price. Although I can see people double guess their decision, with this game being close to the cost of a first party title and significantly higher than other shmups. TOP 3 My tentative placement for Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade was on the top 3 spots. I really had a hard time deciding where to put it, so I went back and revisited both Ikaruga and Psyvariar Delta. After finishing my Ikaruga play through, I was reminded of the magic that is Ikaruga and how special it is. Psyvariar Delta also reminded me of the buzz system and how the refined gameplay and level ups work towards creating an experience that I can’t quite put into words. The main defining factor, however, was that I don’t think any of the Darius games in the collection beats the top 2 contenders. The 7 games as an aggregate, are certainly a force to be reckoned with thanks to the superb M2 porting labour. With that being said, I will award it a 3rd spot because the gameplay experience is incredible, but a little held back by the age of the games and the hefty price tag. Still, Darius will always be #1 in my heart. THE RANKING SO FAR:
Howdhee-ho everyone! So the other day I did a ranking of all the Showtime attacks. I’d said that if it got a bit of attention and people seemed interested in this kind of stuff, I’d do rankings for other Persona 5 bits. So today I thought I’d explore Palaces. Now, this one is going to be a bit lengthy because Palaces have a lot to talk about. And for the usual disclaimer; Spoilers ahead! And everything from here is just my own take on it. If you feel differently, awesome! I’d love to hear your thoughts as well! So, here are the main criteria I’m basing this stuff on. “Story” - Now, this isn’t a plot review, but rather a review of how the Palace feels in relation to the story. Essentially, how well does this Palace fit, and does it make sense for the ruler? “Creativeness” - How creative does the Palace feel? “Gimmicks” - Puzzles, areas, things like that. Are they good? Do they fit thematically? “Atmosphere” - From design, to enemies, to music. How does it feel? Does it match the tone of the current arc? “Length” - This is not necessarily “how long is the Palace” but rather “How long does it FEEL”. Does it drag on? Does it feel too short? Also, I will NOT be including major bosses as part of the Palace. I’ll be covering bosses another day! So without further ado… let’s dive right in with what I feel is the worst Palace. And I don’t think this one will be a very hot take. #9 - Okumura’s Big Bang Death Star Yikes Alright. I’m gonna tackle this one at a time, just going down the criteria list. So to start with the story, I don’t think that a space station makes sense, because thematically it’s a bit… odd. Realistically, the whole “point” of Okumura’s arc is that he wants to “Ascend to the political world”. And you uh… can’t ascend much further than outer space. I think they could have gotten the same general idea with the Palace being something like a NASA Headquarters. Then you still get the space feeling, and the concept of “escaping to Utopia”. I’ll admit this one is a bit of a nitpick. But it’s always been a nagging issue for me. Now, this is a pretty creative design for a Palace. A giant space station with faceless, robotic drones sacrificing themselves for their leader. It screams of Star Wars with the Stormtroopers just letting themselves get ripped apart for Palpy and Vader. And honestly I remember feeling this sort of overwhelming sense of wonder as I walked into the Palace for the first time and saw SPACE sprawled out in front of me. It’s cool. Now, here’s where the problems come in. The gimmicks. Not only are they not good, but GODS ABOVE they are repetitive. First there’s the “robot interrogation” section. Try to find the highest ranking robot. But first you need to go through all the ranks below him. If I wanted to be sent up a chain of command until I talked to someone who is actually useful, I’d call up tech support. And fun fact, calling tech support is awful and nobody does it for fun. Well, except apparently the person who designed this “puzzle”. Then we have the breaking arms and lunchtime puzzles which are just… build a bridge here, hit the button, sprint across to the new bridge, make another bridge, run back to the third bridge. I dunno. It’s very uninspired. And then we have the airlocks. Or as I like to call it, wasted potential. This puzzle COULD HAVE BEEN great. But they made it so overly complex and so long that it gets grating. Now, for the atmosphere. Honestly, I think this Palace does atmosphere very well (which is ironic since it’s in space). But it really gives the idea of a ruthless, corporate conglomerate. And while I think the music is one of the worst tracks in the game, it really does fit here. It’s tedious, repetitive, and droning. Just like working in fast food (and being in this Palace). And length. Yeah. It’s long. Probably the longest Palace. It definitely feels like it. So yeah. This Palace is kind of not great. #8 - Kaneshiro in the House from Disney/Pixar’sUp Now, I don’t want people to think I hate this Palace. Because I don’t. But I do find it to be one of the more bland ones. It’s just kind of… uninspired. Eh. I’ll get more into it below. So as far as the story goes it makes sense but… there isn’t a lot TO Kaneshiro. Like, he’s a guy who likes robbing people. We never get to know him beyond that. So a bank is kind of the only option. So it makes sense because well… nothing else would as far as we know. And unfortunately, this impacts how creative the Palace is. It’s cool that it’s flying, but the flight part is a little… irrelevant. Once you’re in the bank it’s just kind of… a bank. Like, there’s nothing really unique or cool about it. It’s a bank. All of it. The whole thing is just a normal, run of the mill bank once you’re inside. Well… except the money pit. Which is a full like 5 minutes of the Palace so ya’know. Now, for the Gimmicks. There is one. One singular gimmick. And I don’t really like it. Kaneshiro’s bank has the “letter math”. Basically he has a bunch of notes with things like D=1, U=2, M=3, and B=4. Then you go to a panel with the word DUMB on it and put in the code 1234 (sounds like something an idiot would put on his luggage). So yeah. It… certainly exists. Now I will say, I do like the atmosphere. And the BGM is, as the kids say, “A bop”. I’d say it’s the… fourth best Palace track. And the Palace DOES really feel like a bank. It’s heavily guarded, and you really get the feeling of “I don’t belong here” after you pass the main room. This is the only Palace that really made me feel like I was trespassing somewhere I wasn’t welcomed. And if you’ve ever been anywhere in a bank that isn’t the main hall, I’m sure you get the feeling. And the basement level does give me that sort of “bank heist” vibe. Now, I don’t know how long this Palace is. But it certainly feels long. I think most of this is the basement level. Once you get to the lettenumber puzzle it feels kind of like it starts dragging. So yeah. This Palace is… it’s okay. It’s not good. It’s not bad. It just kinda exists. #7 - S.S. Shido I don’t know how controversial this one will be. But I don’t really enjoy this Palace all that much. It gets REALLY old REALLY quickly. But it does have some merits. Firstly, the Ship idea makes a lot of sense. Especially after Haru just goes “Here’s the metaphor!” in case the player doesn’t get it. Yeah, it makes sense that Shido has a giant cruise liner filled with only the elite as the country around him collapses. Plus, he does talk about “steering the country” more often than Ryuji says “FOR REAL?!” … okay. Maybe that’s not factual. But you get my point. Now I will say, this Palace is very creative. The idea of a giant Ship cutting through buildings is cool. And I like how it’s treated as a cruise liner because it allows for a lot of additional areas, like the pool restaurant, and obviously the usual ship bits. Now for the gimmicks… there is one. It’s the rat puzzle. And it can go fuck itself. Thank you for coming to my TED talk. Now for the atmosphere. It feels perfect. The Palace itself feels grand, powerful, and intimidating, and the score accompanying it amplifies that feeling by quite a lot. I think it’s a bit of a step down from other Palaces, but it certainly makes sense and really works in regards to Shido. As for length… holy hell this Palace is long. Both literally and mentally. It has basically 5 mini levels, really annoying and long puzzles, and a whole game’s worth of dialogue. I get that they have a lot of loose ends to wrap up but ye gods this Palace feels like it takes an eternity to beat. This Palace is the textbook definition of wasted potential. It could have been amazing. It has all the pieces it needed to be. But they squander them by diluting the palace with annoying puzzles and WAY too much tangentially-related plot stuff. #6 - King Kamoshida’s Crazy Castle Now, I know that I have this one at 6th. But that isn’t a bad thing. I personally think this is the first “good” palace. It’s nothing amazing or crazy, but for the first Palace it’s nice and fun. Obviously the Castle aesthetic works with Kamoshida. It makes a lot of sense seeing how he lords his power over everyone in the school. Even Principal Eggman gives in to him. So an idea of him lording over everyone obviously makes a lot of sense. And a bit of a fun fact, the guards in his Palace have the same voices as the other teachers. And the big Castle is actually pretty creative. For a first Palace it really sets a tone, and standard for other Palaces to follow. It’s grand, absurd, and completely disgusting. Makes sense for something formed from distorted desires. There are also some really cool areas like the chandelier hopping, and the crazy, distorted upper floors. Now for gimmicks. They’re kind of simple. The two present are the book ones, where you need to place the proper book in the proper section, and the one where you need to kill enemies to get the eyes for the statue. Neither are particularly hard, or particularly inspired. They aren’t bad though. And they aren’t overly-long. They’re standard RPG trope puzzles. Now the atmosphere is kind of… strange. Honestly, I find it hard to take this Palace seriously. The BGM sounds like something out of a 70’s porno, and the Palace itself honestly feels like 70’s porn meets Dungeons and Dragons. It doesn’t really fit the story content of the outside world. It doesn’t reflect Kamoshida’s abuse or Shiho’s suicide. It feels a little too silly. I still like the aesthetic, but I don’t think it really fits with the plot. It needed to be more serious. And this Palace, unfortunately, does start to drag. By the time you reach the messed up, hyper distorted floors where the floor tiles are floating around, the Palace is getting a bit old. Though this could be due to the fact that you don’t really get to make any progress during your first like… four visits. Overall, it’s a solid Palace, and a great starting point. #5 - Madarame’s Museum (I couldn’t think of a creative name for this one. I’m sorry.) I really like this one. It’s fantastic. And I realize saying that for the 5th ranked Palace is kind of weird, but honestly I think that’s just a testament to how great the next four are. Starting off like normal, this Palace makes a lot of sense… but I always found it odd that his distortion is a Museum. Because like… that isn’t exactly unusual. He’s a renowned artist with a ton of very famous works. I feel like he has art in museums. I mean, we’re introduced to him at an exhibit. I dunno. It’s a nitpicky issue that I don’t want to press. Regardless, it obviously makes sense. And I love how all the paintings in here are sort of distorted in their own way to show how Madarame has to change his own cognition to accept his art as his own. And uh… yeah. This Palace is creative as hell. Sure, at first it feels like a normal museum. But stuff like the weird golden staircase abyss, the awesome courtyard, and the painting puzzles are so cool. Speaking of the painting puzzles. There are two major puzzles here. The painting ones where you enter paintings Mario 64 style, and the Sayuri puzzle. The one where you enter the paintings is kind of cool, because ultimately it’s about remembering the path that works, while also unlocking other paths to take and figuring out which path will let you escape. It’s cool, and brief, but a little TOO easy. Then there’s the Sayuri puzzle which I love. Basically you are presented with a few different paintings. All the Sayuri, but with slightly different modifications. And you need to pick the “real” one. I like this because it tests how well you were paying attention. They start off obvious, but the differences get more and more subtle as it goes on. It’s a great gimmick. As far as the atmosphere goes, this place is great. Not only does it match the overall feeling of an art museum, but it honestly has this sort of tenseness to it. I can’t really describe it, but it almost feels ominous. And I think that fits given that Madarame himself is a rather ominous figure. We know he’s bad, but we can’t really prove it for most of the arc. And I think this Palace has a perfect length. It doesn’t feel rushed or like it’s dragging, and I think that’s more because of the physical length. It isn’t an overly long Palace as far as playtime goes. So yeah. This one is pretty damn good. I like it. #4 - Sae’s Controversial Casino Yeah. This one is going to piss people off. I know that a LOT of people have this as their favorite Palace. And I can understand why. But it has a few issues that sort of drag it down for me. They don’t drag it down MUCH, but they keep it from getting any higher on my list. Obviously, the Palace makes sense as far as the story is concerned. Sae sees her job as essentially rigged gambling. Anyone outside “the system” thinks they can win, but in reality it’s not possible. As such, everything in her Palace is rigged to make it unwinnable. Or it SHOULD be. But we have a Futaba. So we get to cheat too. “Mwehehe”. Honestly, the casino and premise is very creative. The concept of a Casino full of rigged games that you need to unrig is awesome, and the layout and mission is great. Also, I love how they have it set up so Sae actively wants you to try to reach her. It’s incredibly unique as far as that goes. Now for gimmicks. There’s really only one, because most of the time you’re either walking around or killing things. And this gimmick… kind of sucks to be honest. I’m talking about the House of Darkness. It’s the only part that is more than a cutscene, standard area, or standart fight. But all it is is a standard area you can’t see. And it sort of sucks. It’s really… boring. And kind of lengthy. It’s pretty bad. As far as the atmosphere goes it uh… well, it certainly feels like a Casino. And Sae’s presence throughout makes it feel much like how the plot does outside. Sae and the SIU are closing in, rigging the game and challenging you to take the fight to them. It’s great, and I love the plot elements here. And now onto my major gripe. The length. This is definitely the shortest Palace. And it feels short half of the time. The problem is that the parts that DON’T feel short are painfully bad, and feel painfully long. I’m talking mostly about the Dice Game, and the House of Darkness. As I just said, the House of Darkness is little more than some dark corridors. And unfortunately, the Dice Game is the same, but without the darkness. There’s no real “Game” to this Casino. It’s just a bunch of drab, grey hallways that feel like a nuisance to traverse. It sucks when what you WANT is to get to the good Casino shenanigans (like the Arena) but instead have… this stuff. It makes the Palace feel like it drags, even though it’s probably the shortest one. So yeah. I still love this Palace but it has some glaring issues that I can’t overlook. #3 - Lil Sister’s Big Pyramid God I love this Palace. Much like with my Showtime list, I honestly think I could lump my top 3 all in as my “Favorite Palace” but for the sake of this I did want to try to dive into this on a deeper level. I’ll admit, too, that from here on a lot of these placements are more on gut feeling. Anyway, to start off, this one works incredibly well as far as story. Throughout the entire Palace we see Futaba go back and forth between wanting help and rejecting help. Her shadow knows we’re busting in from day one and follows us around just like Sae does. But due to her desire to push people away, we are constantly fighting an uphill battle against her to save her, even though she wants us to save her. And the fact that her Palace is a pyramid out in the middle of the desert is awesome symbolism for how Futaba’s position is. She hates the idea of being near other people, so she locks herself away. Now, I personally think this Palace is super creative. It has a nice blend of ancient Egypt with the pyramid, but also ultra-modern tech stuff. Random flecks of data appearing all around, mechanical traps, and the room before the boss which is basically a massive data stream with floating hunks of pyramid floor in it. It’s just so cool. It’s a combination of ancient and modern that shouldn’t work, but does. As for gimmicks, there are three major ones here and I think they’re all great. Firstly are the Anubis puzzles. These are pretty simple, but the gist is you grab an orb from one statue and need to put it in another. However taking them blocks off certain paths. It’s not super hard. But I like it. Next, there is the binary puzzle. Again, fairly simple. There’s a red column and a blue one, and you need to put in certain binary codes in these columns to unlock certain doors. Finally, there’re the picture puzzles. And honestly I love these. You come to a mural of something important to Futaba’s life and you need to rearrange them to make the picture “correct”. I love it because the scrambled appearance is symbolic of Futaba’s distorted view of these events. And they get harder as you do more, but never overly hard. It’s just a quick, fun mini-game. As for atmosphere, I think it does a great job of showing the isolation, desperation, and mistrust Futaba feels. The music score (my 3rd favorite Palace theme) is absolutely amazing and the wailing guitar helps to show the pain in Futaba’s heart. And while this one is lengthy, it never feels overly long or overly short. It changes up the pace enough to feel fresh, and doesn’t overuse the elements it has. So as you can see, I have no problems with this Palace. Only things I like. Which is why Placing these top three was so hard for me. But I think the things I like in the other two I happen to like more. #2 - The Public’s Prison. Memes and Mentos. Now, Mementos itself is kinda bleh. We all know this. But the Depths of Mementos, the Prison of Regression, is absolutely incredible. And I KNOW this one is going to be controversial as hell. But I can’t help it. I love this Palace. It’s so good. To start with, obviously this one works with the story outside because… well… it’s the one most linked to the outside plot. This is about every single person in the world being unwilling to commit and plot their own lives. And this place thematically matches. It’s a prison, because every person sees themselves as a prisoner. And the creativeness levels are off the charts. Sure, they could have gone with a stereotypical “hell” level but they didn’t. It’s a prison of almost alien design. It’s the kind of weird, off the wall evil that I’d expect to see in Mass Effect. Like I could see the Reapers living in the Prison of Regression while they wait for the next cycle. It’s just so damn cool looking. I love this place. It’s so menacingly malevolent without beating you over the head with the horror it holds. Plus the post-fusion part in the second half is so wild and insane looking. It looks like something I’d expect to see in Doom. The Gimmicks are also great. While there’s only one real Gimmick, it’s a fun one. A puzzle where you need to light up tiles on the floor. The first one is a gimme. But they increase in difficulty to hilariously easy, to you actually needing to complete other puzzles first in order to do the one necessary to progress. I already sort of touched on this with the creative part, but the atmosphere of just existential dread this place holds is immense. And the BGM, Freedom and Security (my personal favorite Palace theme) really hammers that home. It has an eerie, ominous feeling to it that really works well in tandem with the rest of the level. And as I mentioned above, tt flips from being dreadful and terrifying, to having our heroes triumphantly running up a staircase of bones, destroying Yaldy’s minions as they march on to kick his ass like Doom Guy sprinting through Hell to kill a big boss demon. Finally, it’s a perfect length. Not overly long, but not short either. And the plot elements halfway through give a nice breather and tone shift before thrusting you into the awesome second half as you climb up to the Grail’s chamber. If I had to give a reason why this one is in second place, it’s that the second half is a little too focused on being cinematically badass that it foregoes exploration in exchange for a linear path. And while it works well, I still prefer the first half of the Palace. #1 - Dr. Snack’s Hospital of Happiness Here it is folks. My Number one. I don’t think this one will be as controversial as some of the others. But even so. Here we are! So to start, obviously this Palace makes a ton of sense for Maruki. He was intended to get a research lab built in the spot where this Palace forms, and the Palace IS a research lab. So obviously that works. And the whole concept was about using cognition to change people’s lives for the better. We can see this in the Palace during the quiz section where we see how Maruki guides patients to his happiness. Which is thematically nice because it shows that while Maruki claims he wants everyone to be happy with their desires, he actually wants them happy with his. Anyway, I’m rambling. The Palace is great as far as story and makes sense for the character. And yeah. This place is creative as hell. It’s not just a research lab. It’s a massive spire with rainbow bridges, massive telescopes, and a dome on top meant to represent heaven since Maruki sees himself as God. It’s the most grandiose, over the top thing in this game. And I’ll remind you, in this game you shoot a God in the face with a sword gun. *ahem* anyway. The gimmicks here are really damn good. The first thing is the awesome Quiz section. I do think it’s a little bogged down by the whole “The team must meet and discuss” part, but I love how this whole thing is just “How well do you know Maruki?”. If you know him well, you get a reward. If you don’t, you get punished. Then there’s the color bridge section which is just “If the Okumura space tunnels didn’t suck”. It’s so good because it requires a lot more strategy and a lot less luck than the Okumura port. And if you make a mistake it’s a much easier fix. The atmosphere is amazing too. The sterile but obviously corrupted first bit when you’re in the main building feels very clinical. But the strange bits of oddities really gives off an other-worldly vibe. Remember how I said the Prison of Regression felt like it had Mass Effect vibes? This part has like… Resident Evil vibes. It’s like a modern hospital tainted by an otherworldly monstrosity and it’s awesome (and, actually, not far from the truth. Much love, Azathoth.) Oh, and the BGM is my 2nd favorite. I fucking adore Gentle Madman. As for the length, I do think it’s probably the longest Palace. It definitely comes close with Okumura. The difference is you’re actually forced out about a third of the way through and, if you’re playing “optimally”, you won’t be back for a bit. So it never feels like it gets old or tired. And it changes up often enough, and with drastic enough changes that it never drags on like the bottom three Palaces on this list. So it’s great. GOD DAMN I LOVE THIS PALACE. Aaaaanyway. That’s my list. I’m thinking I’ll do bosses next, but I dunno. What would you guys want a massive rank essay on? Bosses? Awakenings? Phantom Thief members? Party Personas? And what are your thoughts on this here list? How would you rank the Palaces? I hope you all enjoyed this, and I look forward to hearing your opinions in the comments!
[Review] Ranking all the Switch shmups Ep25 - Q-YO Blaster
There was a time when I believed that shmups could only feature ships. Then games like Parodius came to challenge that belief. If an Octopus can be the player, then anything is possible. And don’t get me started on Cho Aniki… When it comes to unusual characters for a shmup, it’s always a coin toss. They could either be the most fun you’ve had in a while or end up being a disappointment. Time for me to toss this coin! Publisher: Forever entertainment Platform: Nintendo Switch Release date: Jun 27, 2019 Price: $9.99 Tate: You can, but you might need to tilt your head Q-YO Blaster is by far the strangest 2D horizontal shmup I’ve reviewed for this ranking list. The gameplay and mechanics aren’t anything particularly odd, but there’s something about the presentation and the lore which is legitimately fascinating. For some reason it feels like a game developed by someone out of this world who learned about our culture through animated movies.
SATURDAY MORNING SHMUP
One of the aspects that tipped me over the edge when deciding what to review was the art style. Keeping up with the animation vibe, Q-YO Blaster sports an old school cartoon art style. Enemies will be colorful creatures with quirky details such as baseball caps, big eyes or even Mickey Mouse styled gloves. Their animations are equally as comical whether it is their attack animation of their death animation. Of course, cartoony can be used to describe maybe half of the style. The other half is probably more akin to a sci-fi coat of paint. Along the many bugs and animals, there’s also a great deal of robots, monsters, heavy weaponry and even blood running rampant (or maybe it’s oil?). It does makes sense considering the bugs came from space, and it definitely adds a touch of mystery when navigating through the stages of Q-YO Blaster.
EVERYONE IS HERE!
My original expectation of the game was to have a few pilots including the Q-YO, floating dog head from the screenshots and doggy airplane. Little did I know that Q-YO Blaster has more pilots than I have fingers in both of my hands. Pilots are arranged into 3 different teams. Each pilot has different stats which include damage, speed and fire. The teams can have +damage, +endurance or a mixture of both. Fortunately, despite the outrageous pilot designs and sprites, their hitboxes are all the same. After picking your pilot, you can pick one of 7 different special weapons to round out your style. From whichever angle you want to watch it, Q-YO Blaster offers a crazy amount of customization options. The defining feature of each team is their assistant. Assistant are powerful screen-wide effects that trigger once you fill the assistant gauge. The gauge can be filled by continuously shooting and defeating enemies. Once filled, you can hold the fire button to unleash its effect. The effects are a screen explosion that clears bullets, a temporary shield or a 360 barrage of missiles.
BUILDING YOUR OFFENSE
With all of the previous elements combined, you can play as one of 112 possible combinations of team, pilot and special weapons. In terms of weapons at your disposal, you have 3: your basic shot, your special weapon and your assistant. Your basic shot is an infinite gun that shoots bullets straight ahead with some degree of spread. The first shot is always straight, so you can opt for manual rapid fire to keep a straight line of fire. Alternatively, you can hold the button and just auto-fire. Occasionally, you’ll find power-up weapons flying around the stage. This power-ups will grant you a limited weapon when collected. These extra weapons are considerably faster than your basic shot at the cost of having limited ammo. They also have a unique effect on their very first shot, once more giving you a choice between manually shooting or going with the auto-fire.
ALSO BUILD YOUR DEFENSE
One defensive tool you have at your disposal is the pulse. Pulse clears every bullet on screen and turns them into gems. When collected, this gems will increase the level of your special weapon gauge. This special weapon will be whatever you picked on the character select, and has 3 different levels of strength depending on how many gems you have collected. It also comes with some slight invulnerability so you can use it to get out of sticky situations. The caveat of pulse is that you can only carry 3 stocks, and it is only refilled by collecting extra pulse power-ups. I have mixed feelings about this limitation, as I feel it plays an integral part of your offensive game plan. Its hard limit prevents any smart usage other than just a get-out-of-jail card. I would have loved if it had a gauge like the assistant, as that would have created a balance between building pulse and shooting your special.
Every stage carries a sort of familiar scenery. I like to think of it as Toy Story levels. Considering the characters are Q-YOs and bugs, it makes sense for the scenery to be a relatively small scale such as houses or gardens. I find them to be very charming, or it might be just my nostalgia kicking in because I grew up with Toy Story. Nonetheless, I really dig the stages. At the end of each stage, there’s a very comical boss waiting for you. These bosses represent whichever vibe you got from the level. For example, the boss of the garden level is none other than Queen Bee herself. Bosses turn the action up to 11 featuring huge bullet patterns and significantly more aggressive tactics. My one complaint about the bosses is that they feel a lot like a flow chart. They have a couple of attacks and will cycle through them in the same order all the time. Assuming you can dodge them, it’s only a matter of repeating the same moves over and over until the boss goes down. This is even worse on the harder difficulties when the bosses have much more HP. The most interesting aspects of the stages are the end rewards. Similar to many rogue-lite games, clearing a stage will let you choose a perk for the rest of your adventure. The perks are always the same, but include upgrades such as increased speed, faster shots or even 1ups.
Despite being a shmup, I really recommend paying attention to the story! It really is something else! I don’t think it actually makes much sense, but there’s something about the way it’s told that crashes my brain. It does have some powerful moments as well! Including that one stage with the sad music and the rain. I don’t want to spoil it, but it really hit me hard. I didn’t delve too much into game modes, but there’s basically classic and arcade. Classic is your base mode with the entire story and 3 selectable difficulties. If you don’t want to go through the story every time (even though it is skippable), then arcade mode is for you. Arcade mode features 0 cutscenes, so it’s all fun and games. Arcade mode is also much harder, but has 99 continues.
HARDER ISN’T ALWAYS BETTER
I have to make one of my classic parenthesis to talk about difficulty. Being honest, I think the expert difficulty and to some extent arcade are pretty terrible. The reason is because of the way the game is balanced as a result of them. Harder difficulties feature faster bullets and more complex patterns, but also feature increased vitality for the enemies. The increased lethality of the enemies makes for a hearty challenge, but all good is wiped out by the tedium of enemy endurance. What I found out was that enemies are very durable in the harder difficulties. Rather than creating a fun challenge, it makes it incredibly hard to destroy enemies. Most enemies feel like sponges that just refuse to die unless you have a special weapon. Some enemies feel outright impossible to kill before they leave the screen, an issue which hurts a lot when it comes to homing projectiles that need to be destroyed. Fun and dynamic dog fights become grindy situations where you focus on a single ship and fail to destroy it while having others flood the screen. I really think harder difficulties would have been better without the added HP on enemies but retaining the faster bullets and harder patterns.
SLOW AND STEADY DOESN’T WIN THE RACE
While on the topic of hard difficulties, the homing bullets are another culprit behind the reason the difficulty isn’t fun. I’ve never been a fan of homing attacks as they feel cheap, but it feels like it wasn’t play tested because some slower ships can’t actually avoid a homing shot without the speed upgrade. To be fair, no one shoots homing bullets on stage 1, so taking speed is utmost priority. One thing I do like about speed is that most boss patterns allow you to dodge at high speed. You can’t slow your speed, so it’s nice that there isn’t finesse required to survive some waves.
A LITTLE BIT MORE TIME IN THE OVEN
If I was on a game show about quick words and someone mentioned “Q-YO Blaster”, my response would be “rough”. While some aspects of the game are really cool, there are other where it feels a little bit incomplete. Some enemies don’t match the visual quality of others such as Major Tomm. The UI and menus also seem to come from a prototype version. There’s also a sort of bug where if you die and use a credit, the game immediately pauses. Not a big deal, but it feels out of place. The customization screen is also all sorts of blurry. You can’t remap controls either, which is a shame considering the shoulder buttons would really come in handy. Most of these issues aren’t a big deal by themselves, but they taint the final product by making it feel a little like shovelware. The game is really fun though, so it is sad to think about having it fall under that umbrella.
So the mandatory question is, is it fun? It definitely is! With its bizarre and unsettling vibe, Q-YO Blaster is still tons of fun to play. While there is certainly a lot of room for improvement, Q-YO Blaster is still a solid choice for a shmup if you are fan of the cartoon style, of the horizontal shmup format or just a fan of little critters in general. THE RANKING SO FAR:
Steredenn: Binary Stars
Stardust Galaxy Warriors: Stellar Climax
Sky Force: Reloaded
R-Type Dimensions EX
Sine Mora EX
Shikhondo – Soul Eater
Ghost Blade HD
Aero Fighters 2 (ACA Neogeo)
Lightening Force: Quest for the darkstar (Sega Ages)
20 Point and Click Games You Should Play Right Now!
1.Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge Monkey Island 2 follows Guybrush's continuing adventures some time after defeating the Ghost Pirate LeChuck. His arrival on Scabb Island was in pursuit of the legendary treasure of Big Whoop.LeChuck's Revenge plays like most SCUMM-based point-and-click adventure games. Actions and dialogues are depicted on an Animation Window which covers the top of the screen; verbal commands are listed in the lower left-hand corner of the screen, while Inventory items are shown as icons on the lower right-hand corner. A Sentence Line is located below the Animation Window and serves in describing the actions of the player.The game was one of the few adventure games that offered the player a choice in levels of puzzle difficulty. In some versions, before starting the game, the player is prompted to choose between regular version and "Monkey 2 Lite", a relatively stripped-down experience that bypasses many puzzles entirely. On the back of the game's packaging it is (jokingly) stated that this mode is intended for video-game reviewers. 2.Day of the Tentacle The game, a loose sequel to Maniac Mansion, is focused on Bernard Bernoulli — the only one of the three playable characters that was featured in the first game — and his friends Laverne and Hoagie, as they help Dr. Fred Edison using a time machine to prevent Purple Tentacle from taking over the world. The game utilizes time travel and the effects of changing history as part of the many puzzles to be solved in the game. Day of the Tentacle follows the point-and-click two-dimensional adventure game formula, first established by the original Maniac Mansion. Players direct the controllable characters around the game world by clicking with the computer mouse. To interact with the game world, players choose from a set of nine commands arrayed on the screen (such as "pick up", "use", or "talk to") and then on an object in the world. This was the last SCUMM game to use the original interface of having the bottom of the screen being taken up by a verb selection and inventory; starting with the next game to use the SCUMM engine, Sam & Max Hit the Road, the engine was modified to scroll through a more concise list of verbs with the right mouse button and having the inventory on a separate screen.Day of the Tentacle uses time travel extensively; early in the game, the three main protagonists are separated across time by the effects of a faulty time machine. The player, after completing certain puzzles, can then freely switch between these characters, interacting with the game's world in the separate time periods. Certain small inventory items can be shared by placing the item into the "Chron-o-Johns", modified portable toilets that instantly transport objects to one of the other time periods, while other items are shared by simply leaving the item in a past time period to be picked up by a character in a future period. Changes made to a past time period will affect a future one, and many of the game's puzzles are based on the effect of time travel, aging of certain items, and alterations of the time stream. For example, one puzzle requires the player, while in the future era where Purple Tentacle has succeeded, to send a medical chart of a Tentacle back to the past, having it used as the design of the American flag, then collecting one such flag in the future to be used as a Tentacle disguise to allow that character to roam freely.The whole original Maniac Mansion game can be played on a computer resembling a Commodore 64 inside the Day of the Tentacle game; this practice has since been repeated by other game developers, but at the time of Day of the Tentacle's release, it was unprecedented. 3.The Secret of Monkey Island It takes place in a fantastical version of the Caribbean during the age of piracy. The player assumes the role of Guybrush Threepwood, a young man who dreams of becoming a pirate and explores fictional islands while solving puzzles. The Secret of Monkey Island is a 2D adventure game played from a third-person perspective. Via a point-and-click interface, the player guides protagonist Guybrush Threepwood through the game's world and interacts with the environment by selecting from twelve verb commands (nine in newer versions) such as "talk to" for communicating with characters and "pick up" for collecting items between commands and the world's objects in order to successfully solve puzzles and thus progress in the game. While conversing with other characters, the player may choose between topics for discussion that are listed in a dialog tree; the game is one of the first to incorporate such a system. The in-game action is frequently interrupted by cutscenes. Like other LucasArts adventure games, The Secret of Monkey Island features a design philosophy that makes the player character's death nearly impossible (Guybrush does drown if he stays underwater for more than ten minutes). 4.Loom Loom is based on a serious and complex fantasy story. With its experimental interface, it eschewed the traditional paradigm of graphical adventures, where puzzles usually involve interactions between the game character, the environment, and items the character has in their possession. Loom's gameplay centers instead around magical four-note tunes known as "drafts" that the protagonist, Bobbin Threadbare, can play on his distaff. Each draft is a spell that has an effect of a certain type, such as "Opening" or "Night Vision." Some drafts can be reversed by playing their notes backwards, so the "Dye" draft played backwards becomes "Bleach," while others, such as the "Terror" draft, are palindromes (e.g. C–E–E–C) and so cannot be reversed in this manner. Bobbin can learn drafts by observing an object that possesses the qualities of the desired draft; for example, by examining a blade while it is being sharpened, Bobbin can learn the "Sharpening" draft. When the game begins, Bobbin is only able to play drafts using the notes C, D and E, limiting his ability to reproduce more powerful drafts. As the game progresses and additional notes become available, so his ability to play new drafts increases. The game can be played at three difficulty levels, each differing in how clearly the notes being played are labeled. For example, the "Standard" level indicates the notes on a scale below the distaff, while the "Expert" level shows no notes and must be played by ear. In the original release, expert players are rewarded with a cutscene that does not appear for the other two difficulties. The later CD-ROM release, however, shows an abridged version of this scene to all players. 5.Beneath a Steel Sky Beneath a Steel Sky is a 2D adventure game played from a third-person perspective. The player uses a point-and-click interface to interact with the environment and to guide protagonist Robert Foster through the game's world. To solve puzzles and progress in the game, the player collects items that may be combined with one another, used on the environment, or given to non-player characters (NPCs).The protagonist converses with NPCs via dialogue trees to learn about the game's puzzles and plot.Clues and other information are obtained by clicking on items in the inventory and on objects in the environment.Unlike in most adventure games at the time, the protagonist's death is possible, after which the player starts from the last save point.The player controls a character called Rob Foster. Rob was rescued by a tribe of bandits as a child after he was found as the only surviving member of a helicopter crash, on which his mother was also a passenger. He is raised by the tribe and comes to look upon them as his family, learning skills such as hunting and building himself a robot from discarded scraps found in local garbage dumps. They inhabit a barren wasteland known as "The Gap", a deserted area that was once part of the Australian outback, a harsh place where daily survival is a struggle. 6. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure Last Crusade was one of the most innovative of the LucasArts adventures. It expanded on LucasArts' traditional adventure game structure by including a flexible point system—the IQ score, or "Indy Quotient"—and by allowing the game to be completed in several different ways.The point system was similar to that of Sierra's adventure games, however when the game was restarted or restored, the total IQ of the previous game was retained. The only way to reach the maximum IQ of 800 was by finding alternative solutions to puzzles, such as fighting a guard instead of avoiding him.This countered one common criticism of adventures games, whereby since there is only one way to finish the game, they have no replay value.Also, the point system helped the game to appeal to a variety of player types. Some of the alternative fights, such as the one with the Zeppelin attendant, were very difficult to pass, so the maximum IQ was very difficult to achieve. 7.Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis The plot is set in the fictional Indiana Jones universe and revolves around the eponymous protagonist's global search for the legendary sunken city of Atlantis. Sophia Hapgood, an old co-worker of Indiana Jones who gave up her archaeological career to become a psychic, supports him along the journey. The two partners are pursued by the Nazis who seek to use the power of Atlantis for warfare, and serve as the adventure's antagonists.Fate of Atlantis is based on the SCUMM story system by Ron Gilbert, Aric Wilmunder, Brad P. Taylor, and Vince Lee, thus employing similar gameplay to other point-and-click adventures developed by LucasArts in the 1980s and 1990s.The player explores the game's static environments while interacting with sprite-based characters and objects; they may use the pointer to construct and give commands with a number of predetermined verbs such as "Pick up", "Use" and "Talk to".Conversations with non-playable characters unfold in a series of selectable questions and answers.Early on, the player is given the choice between three different game modes, each with unique cutscenes, puzzles to solve and locations to visit: the Team Path, the Wits Path, and the Fists Path.In the Team Path, protagonist Indiana Jones is joined by his partner Sophia Hapgood who will provide support throughout the game.The Wits Path features an abundance of complex puzzles, while the Fists Path focuses heavily on action sequences and fist fighting, the latter of which is completely optional in the other two modes.Atypical for LucasArts titles, it is possible for the player character to die at certain points in the game, though dangerous situations were designed to be easily recognizable.A score system, the Indy Quotient Points, keeps track of the puzzles solved, the obstacles overcome and the important objects found. 8.Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers Sins of the Fathers follows the eponymous Gabriel Knight, owner of a rare book store, and fledgling writer, as he investigates a series of local murders he plans to use as the basis for his new novel.Its story unfolds, mostly linearly, over a sequence of "days", each of which has a required set of actions which must be performed before proceeding to the next day. However, within each day, play may be nonlinear. Throughout the game, a running score is kept as new challenges, both required and optional, are completed.Unlike newer graphical adventure games using context-sensitive cursors that change based on what the cursor is hovering over, Sins of the Fathers uses "dumb icons" or "dumb cursors" so that the correct cursor must be chosen for a specific interaction with an on- screen object. The various cursors are accessed by either selecting the respective icon from the "icon bar" or by cycling through the cursors in a predefined order. The available cursors are: "WALK", "LOOK", "ASK", "TALK", "PICKUP", "OPEN/CLOSE", "OPERATE", and "MOVE". Inventory items can also be used as cursors with the active inventory item also available in the cursor cycle.Also located on the "icon bar" are the "INVENTORY" and "RECORDER" buttons, the active inventory item window, score, and the "CONTROLS" and "HELP" buttons. Clicking on the "INVENTORY" button will open the inventory window, where items can be selected and combined as well as cursor icons that allow the player to use "READ", "OPEN", and "LOOK" commands with any inventory item.The "ASK" and "TALK" cursors differ in their functions. The "TALK" cursor functions as a short, general, interaction with most characters. The "ASK" cursor is available in "interrogation mode" and is only available with main characters. Interrogation mode allows the player to ask the main characters questions by clicking on a topic from the displayed list. Global Topics may be asked of any character and are always present in the lists, while specific topics are unique to each character and are subject to change. Past conversations are accessible through the "RECORDER" button which opens a recorder tapes window that displays tapes for each of the main characters.At certain points during the game, the player is required to translate and send Drum Codes and Voodoo Codes. This is done by either selecting the correct character for the Voodoo code or by selecting the correct sequence for the drum code. 9.Full Throttle Set in the near future, the game's story follows Ben, the leader of a biker gang, who is framed for the murder of a beloved motorcycle manufacturing mogul and seeks to clear his and his gang's names. Players can move the player character to any place on the scene, interact with objects that are highlighted by the cursor, or leave scenes via exits - either on foot for most scenes, or via the character's motorbike, both types denoted by their own icon. As with other LucasArts graphic adventure games of the era, dialogue plays a large part in the game, presenting story elements and information necessary to advance, as well as fleshing out the characters. During conversations with other characters, several choices of dialogue are presented. The currently selected choice is highlighted, and once clicked, the player character responds with the selected choice. Choosing the correct response allows the player to advance the conversation and ultimately advance the scene.Following on from LucasArts' previous graphic adventure, Sam & Max Hit the Road (1993), which introduced a new inventory and interaction system to replace those of their prior games,Full Throttle continued to refine on the changes introduced in Sam & Max Hit the Road: Objects or characters with which Ben can interact are indicated by a red square appearing around the cursor's crosshairs when it is placed over the object. When this occurs, holding down the control on this causes a contextual pie menu to appear - designed upon the emblem of Ben's biker gang: a flaming circle topped by a skull and flanked by a boot and a gloved hand. The player hovers the cursor over elements of the emblem and then releases the mouse button to attempt various interactions with the object; for example, selecting the skull's mouth to speak to a character, its eyes to examine an object, or the hand to pick up, use, or pull the object. Right-clicking anywhere on the screen brings up the player's inventory of collected objects, which can be examined or dragged and dropped in order to use them with other items in the inventory, or with objects or characters in the scene. 10.Sam & Max Hit the Road Based on the 1989 Sam & Max comic On the Road, the duo take the case of a missing bigfoot from a nearby carnival, traveling to many Americana tourist sites to solve the mystery. The player uses Sam to explore the pre-rendered cartoon environments of the game and solve a series of puzzles using a simple point-and-click interface.The game's puzzles have logical solutions, although a number of them have far-fetched solutions due to the game's cartoon setting. Players can set the game's cursor in a particular mode to designate how Sam interacts with the environment: Sam can walk around an area, talk to other characters, look at objects, pick them up or otherwise try to use them.The cursor's graphic changes when it is hovered over an in-game entity that Sam can interact with. When talking to another character, the player is given a choice of subject areas to discuss, depicted in a conversation tree as icons at the base of the screen. In addition to specific topics involving the game's plot, Sam can inject unconnected exclamations, questions and non sequiturs into a conversation.The game incorporates an inventory system for items that Sam picks up during the course of the game. Items can be used on other entities in the game world, or can often be combined with other inventory items to provide a new object necessary for solving a puzzle. Although Max's character will walk around the game's areas by his own will, Sam can also use Max at various points by using an inventory icon of Max's head on game objects—usually on characters where the solution to a problem involves violence.Sam and Max travel to different locations in the game using their black and white 1960 DeSoto Adventurer, which when clicked on in-game will present a map of the United States with all the available locations the pair can travel to shown. As the game progresses, the number of locations on the map increases.In addition to the main game, Sam & Max Hit the Road includes several minigames. Some of these, such as a carnival game based on Whac-A-Mole but involving live rats, must be completed in order to receive new items and further the game's plot, while others, such as a car-themed version of Battleship, are entirely optional as to whether the player uses them.As with the majority of LucasArts adventure games, Sam & Max Hit the Road is designed so that the player characters cannot die or reach a complete dead-end. 11.Simon the Sorcerer The game follows a boy named Simon, who is transported to a parallel universe to embark on a mission to rescue a wizard called Calypso from an evil sorcerer named Sordid. As a point-and-click adventure game, the player controls Simon using the mouse.Gameplay involves moving Simon around and interacting with objects and other characters. The player can make Simon perform actions such as giving an item to another character, talk to another character, and pick up (add to inventory), examine, use, move, consume, wear, or open or close an item. Some actions are binary: they involve two objects and the player sometimes, after telling Simon to use an item, needs to specify what to use it with.A map that enables Simon to instantly transport to a major landmark (if it has been discovered) is provided.The postcard is used to load, save, or quit the game.The game includes parodies of various popular books and fairy tales, including Rapunzel, The Lord of the Rings, Discworld, The Chronicles of Narnia, Jack and the Beanstalk, and the Three Billy Goats Gruff. 12.Simon the Sorcerer II: The Lion, the Wizard and the Wardrobe The Evil wizard Sordid is brought back to life when a magic-book of his is set ablaze and thrown into the middle of a chalkboard pentagram by the father of Runt, a young boy wanting to become a mighty sorcerer. Sordid promises him that he can become his apprentice if he helps him exact his vengeance on Simon.Several months later, Sordid's Fortress of Doom is reconstructed and Sordid has a new robotic body. He sends a magical wardrobe to fetch Simon but it accidentally ends up on the doorstep of Calypso, the wizard Simon had to save in the last game. Simon then starts to look for a fuel called mucusade which he needs to power the wardrobe in order to get home. 13.Flight of the Amazon Queen Flight of the Amazon Queen is a point and click graphic adventure game. It follows a pilot for hire named Joe King who is hired to fly a famous actress to her next job, but ends up in a lightning storm and crashes deep in the Amazon Jungle. In the jungle, Joe uncovers a plot by a mad scientist to take over the world by creating an army of dinosaur women created from Amazon women. 14. Dark Seed Unlike most point-and-click adventure games, which give the player time to explore, many actions in Dark Seed must occur within precise time limits, or the game will end up in an unwinnable state. As a result of this, one must start over repeatedly to win without resorting to a walkthrough. Amiga Format, in its review, stated with regards to Darkseed's gameplay: "Too many things in the game need to be done within a specific time, or in a certain order, and you don't necessarily know when you've passed that 'critical point' after which you're fighting a lost cause. As a result, you often have to play the game several times over, going through scenes you've seen countless times before." Certain events/puzzles rely on the player dying and then learning from there what to do: for instance, on day two, police wait outside Dawson's house in the afternoon to arrest him if he steps outside the front door, with no clue as to their presence until it's too late, resulting in a game over. Similarly, the player must take a painkiller each morning in the bathroom or the protagonist continually complains about a headache after every line of dialogue; there is no hint or indication to do this.The player has three real time hours within which they must complete the game, which is the equivalent of three in-game days. Time can also be passed by using the in-game wait function, and the time can be checked by looking at Dawson's watch, or by inspecting the grandfather clock in the house. At the end of each day, Dawson goes to sleep and upon going to bed, each night he has a nightmare of the Dark World. Dawson automatically goes to sleep at ten P.M. each night, regardless of where the player is. If it becomes night while Dawson is in the Dark World, he will fall asleep and die, resulting in a game over. Dawson is able to access the Dark World on day two upon receiving a piece of a mirror in the mail and re-assembling it with the rest of the mirror, creating a portal to the Dark World. Every room, person and object in the normal world has a Dark World equivalent and this is often necessary for puzzle solving.When interacting with objects, the options available to the player include look/inquire, touch/manipulate, and move, denoted by a "?", a hand, and four arrows pointing inwards respectively. Looking at an object and manipulating an object are context-sensitive: the "?" becomes a "!" when the cursor is over items or areas of interest and the hand icon points upwards when the cursor is over items that can be picked up or manipulated. 15.The Dig In the game, the player takes the role of Commander Boston Low, part of a five-man team planting explosives on an asteroid in order to avert its collision course with Earth. Discovering the asteroid is hollow, Low and two of his team are transported to a long-abandoned complex, filled with advanced technology, on a strange alien world. Low and his companions must utilize xenoarchaeology to learn how the technology works, discover the fate of the alien race that built it, and solve other mysteries to find a way to return home. The Dig is a point-and-click adventure game, where the player, as Commander Boston Low, uses the mouse cursor to point to people, objects, and other parts of the environment to look at or interact with them, collect and use items in their inventory, and talk to non-player characters. The game runs on the SCUMM game engine, and was the eleventh LucasArts game to do so. A minigame can be found on the communicator menu, consisting of "Asteroid Lander", a Lunar Lander like game. During development, there were plans to include role-playing game elements, but these were scrapped before the game's release. 16.Maniac Mansion It follows teenage protagonist Dave Miller as he attempts to rescue his girlfriend Sandy Pantz from a mad scientist, whose mind has been enslaved by a sentient meteor. Maniac Mansion is a graphic adventure game in which the player uses a point-and-click interface to guide characters through a two-dimensional game world and to solve puzzles. Fifteen action commands, such as "Walk To" and "Unlock", may be selected by the player from a menu on the screen's lower half. The player starts the game by choosing two out of six characters to accompany protagonist Dave Miller: Bernard, Jeff, Michael, Razor, Syd, and Wendy. Each character possesses unique abilities: for example, Syd and Razor can play musical instruments, while Bernard can repair appliances. The game may be completed with any combination of characters; but, since many puzzles are solvable only by certain characters, different paths must be taken based on the group's composition. Maniac Mansion features cutscenes, a word coined by Ron Gilbert, that interrupt gameplay to advance the story and inform the player about offscreen events.The game takes place in the mansion of the fictional Edison family: Dr. Fred, a mad scientist; Nurse Edna, his wife; and their son Weird Ed. Living with the Edisons are two large, disembodied tentacles, one purple and the other green. The intro sequence shows that a sentient meteor crashed near the mansion twenty years earlier; it brainwashed the Edisons and directed Dr. Fred to obtain human brains for use in experiments. The game begins as Dave Miller prepares to enter the mansion to rescue his girlfriend, Sandy Pantz, who had been kidnapped by Dr. Fred. With the exception of the green tentacle, the mansion's inhabitants are hostile, and will throw the player characters into the dungeon—or, in some situations, kill them—if they see them. When a character dies, the player must choose a replacement from the unselected characters; and the game ends if all characters are killed. Maniac Mansion has five possible endings, based on which characters are chosen, which survive, and what the characters accomplish. 17.The Lost Files of Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Serrated Scalpel In November 1888, Sherlock Holmes is engaged by Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard to help with the murder investigation of a young actress, Sarah Carroway. She was killed outside a theatre in the Mayfair area of London. Lestrade thinks the manner of her death shows that this is another strike by Jack the Ripper, but Holmes believes someone else committed the crime. It appears that the victim was killed with an unusual knife, one shaped like a scalpel but with a serrated blade.The investigation takes Holmes and Dr. Watson to many parts of late 19th Century London, including a perfume shop, the zoological gardens, the morgue, a pub, several dwellings, Surrey Commercial Dock, Savoy Street Pier, St Pancras Station, and of course 221B Baker Street. They encounter a number of characters connected to the case and also get assistance from Inspector Gregson, the leader of the Baker Street Irregulars named Wiggins, and the invaluable tracking dog Toby. The player moves around London via an elaborate overview map. Additional locations become available when Holmes finds additional leads. In each location, the player can select nine different verbal options to interact with objects or people. When accessing the inventory menu, the player has three different verbal actions to manipulate any items Holmes has picked up. When talking to people, Holmes has different dialogue options to gain information or try to get their cooperation. Dr. Watson can give his views, which may serve as puzzle hints. He may even help Holmes to perform an action he cannot do alone. Dr. Watson's journal also references the events in the gameplay.The graphics are VGA, with MIDI music and a few scenes with digitalized speech (in the intro and end sequence, and the cutscene at St Pancras Station. In the other scenes there are sound effects, but no speech). The player interacts with the characters through a command menu with verb icons that is intuitive for anyone who had played other adventure games of the period. The 3DO version consists of full voiced dialogue and the portraits of the talkers were replaced by clips with filmed actors, but also drops Dr. Watson's journal feature.In the video clips in the 3DO version, Sherlock Holmes was played by David Ian Davies, and Dr. Watson was played by Laurie Main. 18.Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders The story is set in 1997, 9 years after the game's production. The plot follows Zak (full name Francis Zachary McKracken), a writer for the National Inquisitor, a tabloid newspaper (the name is a thinly veiled allusion to the National Enquirer); Annie Larris, a freelance scientist; along with Melissa China and Leslie Bennett, two Yale University coed students, in their attempt to prevent the nefarious alien Caponians (who have taken over "The Phone Company", an amalgamation of various telecommunication companies around the world) from slowly reducing the intelligence of everybody on Earth by emitting a 60 Hz "hum" from their "Mind Bending Machine". The Skolarians, another ancient alien race, have left a defense mechanism hanging around to repulse the Caponians (the "Skolarian Device"), which needs reassembly and start-up. Unfortunately, the parts are spread all over Earth and Mars. 19.The Curse of Monkey Island The game's story centers on Guybrush Threepwood, a wannabe pirate who must lift a curse from his love Elaine Marley. As the story progresses, he must deal with a band of mysterious pirates, a rival stereotypical French buccaneer, a band of cutthroat smugglers, as well as his old nemesis Captain LeChuck. The Curse of Monkey Island is a point-and-click adventure game. The SCUMM engine was also used in this Monkey Island installment but it was upgraded to a "verb coin" (modelled after Full Throttle), an interface that consisted in a coin-shaped menu with three icons: a hand, a skull, and a parrot, basically representing actions related to hands, eyes and mouth, respectively. These icons implied the actions Guybrush would perform with an object. The hand icon would usually mean actions such as picking something up, operating a mechanism or hitting someone, the skull icon was most used for examining or looking at objects and the parrot icon was used to issue Guybrush commands such as talking to someone or opening a bottle with his teeth. The inventory and actions were thus visible on click, rather than on the bottom of the screen as previous point-and-click games by Lucasarts.The player controlled a white 'X' cursor with the mouse, that turned red whenever landing onto an object (or person) with which Guybrush could interact. Holding left click over an object, whether in or outside the inventory, would bring up the coin menu, while right clicking it would perform the most obvious action with this particular object. Right clicking a door, for example, made Guybrush attempt to open it, while right clicking a person meant talking to him or her. 20.Grim Fandango Grim Fandango takes place in the Land of the Dead (the Eighth Underworld), where recently departed souls aim to make their way to the Land of Eternal Rest (the Ninth Underworld) on the Four Year Journey of the Soul. Good deeds in life are rewarded by access to better travel packages to assist in making the journey (such as sports cars and luxury ocean cruises), the best of which is the Number Nine, an express train that takes four minutes to reach the gate to the Ninth Underworld. However, souls who did not lead a kind life are left to travel through the Land of the Dead on foot, which would take around four years. Such souls often lose faith in the existence of the Ninth Underworld and instead find jobs in the Land of the Dead. The travel agents of the Department of Death act as the Grim Reaper to escort the souls from the Land of the Living to the Land of the Dead, and then determine which mode of transport the soul has merited. Each year on the Day of the Dead, these souls are allowed to visit their families in the Land of the Living.The souls in the Land of the Dead appear as skeletal calaca figures. Alongside them are demons that have been summoned to help with the more mundane tasks of day-to-day life, such as vehicle maintenance and even drink service. The souls themselves can suffer death-within-death by being "sprouted", the result of being shot with "sproutella"-filled darts that cause flowers to grow out through the bones. Many of the characters are Mexican and occasional Spanish words are interspersed into the English dialogue, resulting in Spanglish. Many of the characters smoke, following a film noir tradition; the manual asks players to consider that every smoker in the game is dead. Grim Fandango is an adventure game, in which the player controls Manuel "Manny" Calavera (calavera being Spanish for 'skull') as he follows Mercedes "Meche" Colomar in the Underworld. The game uses the GrimE engine, pre-rendering static backgrounds from 3D models, while the main objects and characters are animated in 3D. Additionally, cutscenes in the game have also been pre-rendered in 3D. The player controls Manny's movements and actions with a keyboard, a joystick, or a gamepad. The remastered edition allows control via a mouse as well. Manny must collect objects that can be used with either other collectible objects, parts of the scenery, or with other people in the Land of the Dead in order to solve puzzles and progress in the game. The game lacks any type of HUD. Unlike the earlier 2D LucasArts games, the player is informed of objects or persons of interest not by text floating on the screen when the player passes a cursor over them, but instead by the fact that Manny will turn his head towards that object or person as he walks by. The player reviews the inventory of items that Manny has collected by watching him pull each item in and out of his coat jacket. Manny can engage in dialogue with other characters through conversation trees to gain hints of what needs to be done to solve the puzzles or to progress the plot. As in most LucasArts adventure games, the player can never die or otherwise get into a no-win situation (that prevents completion of the game).
We need to talk about The Outer World's setbacks, and how much it is streamlined from Fallout New Vegas and other RPGs
Well, I don't really know how to start this. I finished the game last night and I have been thinking about this all day long. Clocked close to 40 hours, did what I'm pretty sure was most if not all quests (even tasks), and played on Hard. My overall impression is that The Outer Worlds is sadly not nearly as good nor as profound as Fallout: New Vegas as so many outlets claimed... and it has some questionable cut-corners and design choices. Below you will find an absurdly long list of points in which this game falls short when compared to its predecessors, and even some of the games it is being frequently compared to. Please do note that this list focuses on things within the scope of a AA game — stuff like game balance, design, structure and writing (spoilers are marked and at the end). Visuals or direct-gameplay are not even discussed. It goes as follows:
No true disguise system: There is a small interaction in the beginning of the game (I can't recall the exact NPC), in which someone points out that you are dressed as a Marauder, and such a thing is dangerous. However, this is the game falsely insinuating that a 'proper' disguise system is in place - this is a facade. The only instance in which there is a disguise system is on marked/segmented areas in which your holographic shroud briefly clouds your identity. Other than these segments, the game (or NPCs, for that matter) never react to your faction clothing. Not only are there not consequences for wearing an opposing faction armor, the NPCs do not even address it.
Quest design: Early quest design is exemplary, especially on Edgewater. However, as the game opens up, quite the number of quests start to deteriorate into fetch quests. Go and retrieve this, go and kill that. Which isn't the crux of the problem — I think simple quest premises are fine as long as there are other elements to support them, like an intriguing plot point, twist, unique enemy type, or something along those lines. Unfortunately, that's not often the case. What I observed is that Obsidian largely chooses a different approach: paddling and extensive exposition dumps. It is good to have extensive dialogue, but sometimes NPCs use sentence structures that no human being would ever use to get their point across. They extend their ideas too much, ramble, digress, and lose sequence structure just to make room to a corporation-shenanigans joke, or a snarky passing-by comment. Other times the quest require you to go to a far away place to talk to another person and then come back. This way the game artificially extends its duration, and also makes objectives seem more complex than they really are. However, it would be unfair to say this problem is unique to The Outer Worlds — most if not all RPGs have quests like this, and not all missions can be the crown jewel of level design. I understand that.
Limited ammo types: If I am not mistaken, the game only has three ammo types: light, heavy and energy. No several ammo configurations for a specific weapon as New Vegas had. There is no piercing, hollow, explosive or any such ammo type. Any variation in ammunition comes from your equip weapon mod / abilities. Fallout 4 had more ammo types than this, even.
Uninteresting perks: Perks are the most boring, uninteresting ones I have ever seen in an RPG. Period. Damage buffs, increased carry weight, companion cooldowns and the likes. No perks like Cherchez La Femme / Confirmed Bachelor, Terrifying Presence, Wild Wasteland, Cannibalism, Mister Sandman or Bloody Mess. Perks that changed the game in fun, dynamic ways that did not have to do with simple stats boosts. Even Fallout 76 has more interesting perks. Taking flaws is straight-up counterproductive as a single perk point, which can only be wasted in garbage perks, is absolutely not worth the often enormous debuff it implies.
No skill checks outside of dialogue: One of my biggest gripes. We all complained when Fallout 4 shipped with no skill-checks, and they were added to Fallout 4: Far Harbor and 76. I could not find a single skill-check outside of dialogue. Specializing in skills like medic or engineering is utterly useless in this regard because you never get to heal anyone or repair anything. Those people in the sick-house on Edgewater? Groundbreaker? Yeah, you can die as, even though I have maxed medical skills, I can't offer my help. I can only offer my help to the guy at the beginning so you feel like there'll be similar options later (there aren't). There is also one robot you can repair on an early-game quest... but you repair it through dialogue. You don't even use components or scrap to do so. I do not count hacking or lockpicking as 'skill-checks' as those are ingrained in the experience differently. Some people like the corresponding mini-games gone, but I disagree. They added another layer of gameplay on an otherwise same-y experience. They were skills that required thought and actual player input - even if tedious at times.
Only two armor slots: You cannot equip rings, collars, layered armor pieces, glasses, or anything of the sort. Only an armor and head-ware. You cannot customize them in any way that isn't some under-the-hood stat increase. This severely limits the flexibility of builds as you are limited to only two armor pieces, which means only two armor effects. Besides, visual customization is severely impaired as most endgame characters will look strikingly similar as a result of the very limited armor selection - which I guess doesn't matter as you never even look at your character, which brings me to...
...no third-person camera: I suppose this is part of the scope of the game. I seriously don't think they intended to release this game as solely a first-person-shooter from the start. It goes against immersion to never be able to see your character. Visual customization is useless because you only see your face up-close during customization. I know the screen rotates whilst you are idle, and I shouldn't even say it, but that's obviously not enough to get a feel for your character appearance.
No companion wheel: I know that there's a companion sub-menu, but it is rather limited compared to the companion wheel from Fallout New Vegas, or the companion dialogue from Skyrim. You can only change their attack pattern, weapon type of preference, and travel distance relative to the player. You cannot order them to hold position, pick up an item, perform a specific action, activate a button, etc. You cannot talk to them about anything unless it's about a point of interest or related to a quest, or part of their small conversation pool. You can't ask them how they are doing or their current interests. I know companions had some dialogue during most major quests in the game, but so did most companions in New Vegas and Fallout 4. I want to add, nonetheless, that this is solely regarding the companion managing system, not the companions themselves. They are well developed, very unique and distinguishable from one another, and their quests are well done (save for Felix's and Ellie's, that are not bad but clearly too short).
Reduced weapon variety and lackluster unique weapons: Unique weapons are as bad as they were in Skyrim and Fallout 4, although at least the latter had more diversity in weapon effects. Most unique weapons are not even re-skins: they are just re-named base weapons with special mods. They are oftentimes weaker than weapons found in the over-world. Weapon variety is bare-bones, with most weapons behaving similarly, lacking punch or weight. Science weapons are mostly gimmicky and serve little purpose in combat, unless one specializes in them (and you are still weaker than if using base weapons with more flexible skill alternatives). No fist nor unarmed weapons.
Enemies: Fallout New Vegas had «legendary» enemies that were unique versions of base enemies, often bigger, stronger and possessing better loot. The Outer Worlds has «colossal» enemies, which just offer a bigger pool of generic loot — which, I should say, the loot in this game is terrible. Ammo and consumables are the bulk of it, with most consumables being redundant since they offer the same buffs, which are rarely needed in combat as the game becomes a cake-walk on any difficulty other than Supernova. Enemy variety is rather lacking. Only one type of generic bandit (marauders), which share like five enemy classes and three outfits. Very little variety in creatures too.
Reputation facade: There is a reputation system, as we all know, but it's really just a facade. Reputation is almost meaningless. The Board was after my head, and then I completed the quest in which you participate in a film, and I went to neutral again with them. Reputations falls to two things: their vendors cut their prices by 25% if they like me, or they shoot me on sight if they hate me. The in-between is nothing. Having negative reputation with a faction is negligible as you can quest your way out of their perception and be in their good graces again even if you did irreparable damage to them.
Binary choices: Everybody always cites Edgewater as brilliant quest design in which no choice feels ideal: that is correct. It's an excellent quest chain; one of the best I've seen in a game like this - no wonder they used it in the very beginning, as quest flow, progression and choice seriously deteriorate the more you play. Choices start to become very binary as the whimsical nature of the character's ideologies makes it rather easy to pick sides depending on your role-playing morale. Most factions are one-dimensional.
World & Simulation: The game feels static and in a constant state of hiatus, waiting on the player to set it in motion. NPCs do not have a schedule, the same NPCs always stand still on the same spot, at all times, until they are no longer needed to progress the game. Exploration is not rewarding as loot is limited, enemy variety is bad, and most interior cells in the worldspace are too similar among one another. There are even in-lore reasons that establish these limitations, as the corporations are cheap and they ship these futuristic, systematic enclaves for the inhabitants to build and settle in. This only makes it weirder that, for whatever reason, Obsidian decided to imitate Bethesda's cell streaming system using Unreal Engine 4. Bethesda uses different cells because they keep track of many dynamic systems: random events, NPCs schedules, dynamic objects, dynamic quests, and any disruption the player character can cause to those core systems. The Outer Worlds doesn't need to keep track of any of that - why does it still need to load the worldspace in chunks? Weird.
And, perhaps my biggest gripe with the game, is the way its ending is handled. Obviously I will mark it as spoilers, so feel free to turn away now if you haven't finished the game — despite my grievances, I still strongly recommend you to finish it. Alright then. The game ending is abrupt, lacking of weight and gravitas, and seems more preoccupied with establishing the premise of its sequel rather than closing off this chapter of the story. Most endings, to my understanding, involve a similar chain of events. Dr. Phineas Wells is captured and sent aboard a high-security prison, located on the planet Tartarus. No matter what you do in the game, most paths will lead you here, with slight variations (like who is taunting you along the way). The game makes it so that you think you can turn in the Doctor, but every time you are close to do it, there's always an excuse as why you cannot. This a major issue with the game - it constantly paddles you with arbitrary obstacles like high-prices for a nav-key, or being forced to travel to different worlds only to talk with someone and then come back. Most choices are not really 'felt', just heard of during the ending. To a certain extent, most of the choices feel meaningless. When you make a choice — not all choices, mind you, but most of them — the world just freezes in this state of hiatus. Nothing really happens until you end the game, and when you do, you only get to hear about it in a slideshow presentation. That on itself it isn't that disappointing, but... there were like twenty slides. A lot of things didn't get closure, and most were rather vague. For example, what happened to that lady scientist that was either working with aliens or solving the starvation problem on Halcyon? No matter what you choose, you never hear from her again and she's not mentioned during the ending. What happened with most of the Corporations now that The Board is disbanded? Most choices are hardly explained during the ending at all. It's like the story accelerates to conveniently corner you into an ending. And, besides... the ending mission was lackluster. Seriously, I have major gripes with Fallout 4's main story, but storming the Institute felt more satisfying than this. Even more so, in Fallout 4 at least you get to choose different endings — even if they are too similar from one another — you destroy the Institute, the Railroad, the Brotherhood of Steel, or a combination of these factions. In The Outer Worlds, most endings involve Phineas trapped in the Taruarus prison, with someone different standing next to him, and having the same EXTREMELY disappointing boss fight. Most endings are virtually the same with very light variations - and not that it matters, the ending slideshow is short and vague anyway. Lastly, and it is a nit-pick, I admit... for all those moments in which your companions participate and talk... why do they NOT SAY ANYTHING DURING THE END? They just stand there, and if you try to talk to them they'll greet you with their generic responses. They don't mutter a word about me assassinating the Chairman or freeing Phineas. They just stand there. I can't even say goodbye to them, and there's no closure at all because no matter what you do they eventually all leave your crew, according to the ending slides. Even your fucking robot abandons you, lmao. I don't want to do a finishing paragraph as this already extended tenfold from what I anticipated, and I don't want to risk redundancy. I'm just overall... disappointed. In retrospective, this game is a facade of a better game that seems to be there, but isn't. I wish more reviewers pointed out some of these flaws, but they seemed to have mostly ignored them. What gives? For all intents and purposes, aside from dialogue flow (which is excellent) and some of the quest design, this game is very streamlined, and hardly takes any risks or brings anything new to the scene.
Ikaruga is a Bullet Hell Shmup that's at its best on the Switch, which not only plays smoothly while docked, but even has features to make the best use of the Switch in portable mode. If you like this genre, you need this game.
Jamestown+ is a Bullet Hell Shmup that has players blasting 17th century colonial European troops and aliens in outer space. The bonkers setting comes with a fantastic presentation, some wonderful and clever game mechanics that add a lot of strategy, plenty of variety and imagination, and a superb co-op mode. It's a shame the game's structure makes you re-play levels repeatedly and forces its story on you over and over again, but overall this is one of the best games in this genre on the Switch.
Danmaku Unlimited 3 is a Bullet Hell Shmup that has players absorbing the bullets of defeated enemies and “grazing” live bullets to power up a “trance” meter for a temporary power boost. This is a solid and visually-striking entry in the genre, but the way players' attacks fill the screen with beams feels overpowered and can be distracting. Still, this is a must-have for fans of the genre.
Dimension Drive is a Bullet Hell Shmup with the unique hook of having players hopping back and forth between two screens. It's a great mechanic that's used very well here, though some players may have difficulty adjusting to it. Also, the game keeps interrupting things with its story. However, if you can learn how to deal with the unique gameplay, you'll find this to be a superb entry in the genre.
Graceful Explosion Machine is a Shmup where players must cycle through four weapons to fend off different types of enemies. This weapon-managing element makes the game delightfully strategic for a Shmup, and the core gameplay here is really good as a result. I just wish it was properly implemented in an endless mode, and I wish the game's otherwise-excellent presentation wasn't marred by muffled sound. This is still a fantastic game, but a few small changes could have made this a must-have game on the Switch.
Horizon Shift '81 is an Arcade-Style game with Shmup elements that incorporates elements of multiple early-80s retro arcade games while still bringing its own unique horizontal-swapping twist on the genre. This is a fantastic game and a wonderful love letter to an era of gaming, although like the games of that era it can be repetitive in places. Overall, this is a superb game well worth playing.
Indie Gems Bundle: Explosions Edition is a Compilation of three Action-packed games, each of them ranging from good to great. If you're a fan of Shmups and 2-Stick shooters, you're bound to find something to love in this package, even if the savings over purchasing these games individually is minimal.
Just Shapes & Beats is a Bullet Hell Shmup where you can't shoot, you can only dodge as the screen throws all manner of obstacles at you to the beat of some amazing music. It's a difficult, punishing game, but if you fancy a challenge, this game is well worth a look.
Sky Force Reloaded combines quality bullet hell Shmup-style gameplay with RPG-style upgrades in a way that encourages players to keep coming back, along with a good presentation. Fans of the genre should definitely give this one a try.
Sky Racket is a family-friendly game that combines the Shmup and Brick Breaker genres into one fun, cohesive style of gameplay with a fantastic, colorful, expressive art style and some absolutely superb co-op play. There are a few frustrating flaws that may result in you taking a few unearned hits on occasion, but otherwise this game is a joy to play, especially if you have a friend to play it with.
Super Hydorah is a Bullet Hell Shmup that is very clearly imitating the classic Gradius games, and for the most part, it succeeds at this brilliantly. The music is forgettable, and the power-up system is a bit more limited than the Gradius games, but the gameplay here is still superb, and the game does some really inventive stuff with Co-Op, especially with the surprisingly good Robot Chase minigame. Definitely worth a look for fans of the genre.
Aqua Kitty UDX is a Shmup with three game modes - two being similar to the classic game Defender, and one like the classic game Uridium. The presentation here is very good, and the core gameplay is solid, with good co-op, but a number of frustrating design choices cause the game to be overly difficult and frustrating. It's still worth a look for genre fans and those looking for a more challenging experience, though.
Q-YO Blaster is a Bullet Hell Shmup. It's a decent game that plays well, but the most memorable thing about it are its absurd heroes and oddball bug-themed enemies. Definitely a solid pick for fans of the genre.
Lightening Force, also known as Thunder Force IV, is a Shmup originally released on the Sega Genesis in 1992, and this version marks its only other US release since then. This is a game that has aged noticeably, with issues both in its graphics and gameplay. However, despite this, the gameplay is on the whole pretty good, and this is a solid port with a good amount of extra features. Fans of Shmups should definitely give this a look.
Steredenn is a Bullet Hell Shmup that incorporates elements of Roguelikes into its game progression. The presentation here is phenomenal, with fantastic pixel art graphics and a great soundtrack, however, the randomized elements and some questionable design choices make for a game that's even more difficult than the usual Shmup, making this a game mostly only the biggest fans of the genre will have the patience for.
Startide combines 2-Stick shooter and Shmup genre conventions and adds in some novel ideas of its own, with some excellent, fast-paced, quality gameplay... that's unfortunately marred by a slew of design flaws and annoyances. It's still very good, but it could have been so much better.
Arcade Classics Anniversary Collection is a collection of mostly Shmups that includes eight games that are mostly pretty good (and also mostly punishingly difficult). This collection gives players a wealth of options and bonus content, and on the whole this is a solid collection of games for Shmup fans
Don't Die, Mr Robot! DX is an Arcade-Style Shmup where you're dodging enemies and collecting pickups to set off explosions in your wake. Think Geometry Wars' Pacifism mode. The presentation is horrendous, but the gameplay is strangely compelling and there are enough features here to keep fans of Shmups coming back.
Inversus Deluxe is an Arcade-style game with Shmup elements where the shots you and opponents fire also limit the area you can move freely in. It's an interesting concept, but a limited number of shots players can fire before reload really mucks with the otherwise fast-paced battles.
Velocity 2X is a game that jumps back and forth between Action-Platformer and Shmup gameplay styles, with a focus on speed and being able to teleport around the levels as you zip through them. It's fun gameplay, but it's somewhat marred by a frustrating control scheme that you can't change.
Black Bird is a Shmup that doesn't do anything truly unique in terms of gameplay, but its presentation is so bizarre that it compels you to see more. Not a game for everyone, but worth a look if you want to see something really different.
Black Paradox is a Bullet Hell Shmup that has you flying a ship designed to look like a Delorean. The game has good gameplay, but the high difficulty and slow upgrade progression makes this a game only fans of the genre are likely to thoroughly enjoy.
Jet Lancer is a 2D Flight Combat game that has you performing aerial maneuvers in a jet fighter in battles with enemy jets, as well as various other enemies. Flying around your jet in this game feels fantastic, but the limited size of the screen relative to how fast these aircraft fly gives players far too little time to react to what's going on, making for an experience that alternates between joy and frustration.
Rogue Aces is a 2D Flight Combat game with Roguelike elements that has players fighting off enemies and capturing bases using their plane. The game has some inventive mechanics and potentially fun physics, but it seems designed to frustrate players by making them die repeatedly not to enemies, but to the landscape. The result is a game that will only be enjoyed by those willing to really get used to this game's physics... and even then, they're still likely die a lot.
Fantasy Zone is a Shmup originally released to arcades in 1986, and some parts of it have aged pretty well, like its presentation. Other parts of the game, like its promising but frustrating upgrade system... not so much. While this is a solid port with a good amount of bonus features, it's ultimately still a game most will want to pass on.
Cycle 28 is a 2D Space Shooter that controls like Asteroids, but with a Roguelike game structure. There are some good ideas here and some classic arcade-style gameplay, but those good ideas aren't well-utilized, and overall the game is too repetitive.
Hyperlight Ultimate is an Arcade-style Shmup where players bash into enemies with a charge attack instead of shooting them. It's a good take on the formula, but unfortunately some design issues makes this more tedious and frustrating than it needs to be.
Pacific Wings is a Shmup that imitates classic games in the genre like 1942. This game does a great job capturing that nostalgia, but the lack of auto-fire makes this game tedious to play, and the underwhelming sound and lack of multiplayer limit how long you'll bother to stick with the game.
R-Type Dimensions EX is a Compilation and remake of two classic Shmups, and while this version improves the graphics and adds plenty of features, including some meant to help with the game's incredibly high difficulty, those features can only help so much when the original games were seemingly designed to be nearly impossible. This is a game only genre fans can appreciate.
Aces of the Luftwaffe is a bullet hell shmup that has you controlling a squadron of four wingmen with unique abilities and personalities. This game has some really great and unique ideas, but it's also plagued with design issues and control issues that keep it from delivering on the game's potential.
Escape From the Universe is a Shmup with a simple look and gameplay that makes the screen scroll more quickly depending on where you move onscreen. Unfortunately, both the visuals and gameplay get repetitive and boring pretty quickly, making for a dull experience.
Hyper Sentinel is a Shmup that aims to be the spiritual sequel to the classic game Uridium, and while fans of that original title may enjoy it, I honestly found it to be a bit of a confusing mess, and there are plenty of other games in this genre on the Switch I'd rather be playing.
Overdriven Reloaded is a Bullet Hell Shmup that uses a color-switching mechanic like Ikaruga. However, unlike Ikaruga, this game doesn't seem to know how to use it, and otherwise the game is just a crowded mess - and not in a good way.
X-Morph: Defense mixes the Tower Defense genre with the Two-Stick Shooter to create something even better, with impressively detailed environments and some really inventive gameplay. This game is a blast to play, and while the Switch version is sadly missing some features, it's still an absolutely wonderful game.
Assault Android Cactus is a 2-Stick Shooter that has some fun, unique mechanics and a lot of great, intense action. It's a blast to play in co-op, and the Switch version is the definitive version of the game. I only wish the sub-weapon dodge-swapping mechanic was better-utilized, and the levels looked more distinct. But those are minor complaints about what is a fantastic game on the Switch.
Hotline Miami Collection is a pair of solid Top-Down Action games with a colorful 80s-inspired presentation and intense action that makes players consider their plan of attack. It's a solid experience, although the first Hotline Miami game is clearly the better of the two, thanks to the more cohesive story and better level design.
My Friend Pedro is an Action-Platformer with Two-Stick Shooter controls that has players involved in acrobatic gunfights at the command of a talking banana. This game's intense, ridiculous action is a blast to play, and while there's a bit of repetition here and there, for the most part this game does an amazing job keeping things fresh and entertaining. A must-have for action game fans.
Neon Abyss is an Action-Platformer with Roguelike elements that feels a lot like the designers were going for a side-scrolling neon-lit Binding of Isaac, and they largely hit their mark spot-on. Only a few technical flaws keep this game from reaching the same height as that classic Roguelike, but it's still a phenomenal Action game.
NeuroVoider is a combination of Two-Stick Shooter and Roguelike that has you fighting an army of robots, stealing their parts, and then using them to upgrade your own capabilities. It's an incredibly fun game with great co-op, a fantastic presentation, and tons of variety and customization. The randomized level design and enemy AI could have used a bit of work, but on the whole this is an absolutely fantastic game that should be owned by anyone who enjoys a good Action game.
The Binding of Isaac is a Two-Stick Shooter Roguelike that places you in the role of a young child fighting grotesque monsters with his tears. It's a lot of fun, but the roguelike elements can make any given playthrough very hit-and-miss, which can be frustrating. It's still well worth playing, though.
Akane is an Arcade-y top-down Action game that has players as a lone woman fighting off the entire Yakuza using only a gun and a sword. It's a game that channels Kill Bill and John Wick extremely well, with some really fun action. Unfortunately, the game is lacking in variety and progression, but the core gameplay here is phenomenal and well worth playing for fans of Action games.
Bleed 2 is an Action-Platformer and 2-Stick Shooter with a simple, cartoony presentation and a silly story about a girl fending off an invasion. This game improves on the first one in almost every way, with even better action, better visuals, a great soundtrack, and the same wonderful variety, great level design, and excellent co-op. However, where it doesn't improve on the first game is value - the main campaign can still be finished in an hour or so, and the extra game modes don't stretch things out much more than that. For $20, I simply cannot recommend this game, but definitely get it if you see it on sale.
Bleed Complete Bundle includes Bleed and Bleed 2, both excellent Action-Platformers with 2-Stick Shooter gunplay, and both also extremely short and extremely overpriced games. Much as with the individual games, if you can get this collection at a discount, absolutely do so because the games are immensely fun. However, even with the savings this bundle provides, it's still horribly overpriced at its normal price.
Debris Infinity is a Two-Stick Shooter that's like a mash-up of Geometry Wars and Asteroids. It looks good, plays well, and the Slow-Mo feature actually brings something interesting to the table. The game is a bit short on features, but what's here is top-notch.
Guns, Gore, and Cannoli 2 is an Action-Platformer that takes the basic idea of the first game and greatly improves on it, adding in 2-stick aiming, fixing the controls, and making the gameplay much more fast-paced. It's still repetitive at times, but overall this is a pretty good game.
Indie Gems Bundle: Explosions Edition is a Compilation of three Action-packed games, each of them ranging from good to great. If you're a fan of Shmups and 2-Stick shooters, you're bound to find something to love in this package, even if the savings over purchasing these games individually is minimal.
Inferno 2 is a straightforward 2-Stick Shooter that has solid gameplay, a slick presentation, and good Co-Op. It's a bit on the easy side, but fans of the genre will find it to be an excellent choice, especially for its low price tag.
Rive is a combination of 2-Stick Shooter and Action-Platformer that does a great job pushing intense action and a good amount of variety of enemies and combat situations. I wish the game's upgrade system was more fleshed-out, but what's here is solid.
Transcripted is a game that combines Two-Stick Shooter gameplay with match-3 Puzzle gameplay similar to Zuma. While the two gameplay styles don't always get along well with each other, for the most part this is a pretty cohesive gameplay experience that's satisfying, unique, and features a superb presentation.
Bleed is an Action-Platformer and 2-Stick Shooter with a simple, cartoony presentation and a silly story about a young woman hunting down heroes to prove she's a better hero. The gameplay here is absolutely fantastic, with some really inventive level design, great controls, a lot of variety, and excellent co-op. Unfortunately, this game is painfully short and insultingly overpriced, and as good as it is, I cannot recommend spending $15 for what amounts to about an hour of gameplay. If you can get it on sale at a good price, definitely do, but otherwise it isn't worth the cost.
Darksiders Genesis is a Diablo-Style Top-Down Action-RPG that's a prequel and spinoff of the main Darksiders game that focuses on the first game's protagonist, War, along with new protagonist, Strife (the latter who plays like a Two-Stick Shooter). While it's a decent game that brings a fair few original ideas to the genre, the lack of loot makes the whole thing feel a lot more repetitive and as a result it's not quite as engaging as multiple other games in the genre on the Nintendo Switch.
Iron Crypticle is an Arcade-style 2-Stick Shooter that plays like Smash TV with a Ghosts 'N Goblins aesthetic. It's a game with good, arcadey action that works well in co-op, though it's not without its issues here and there.
Startide combines 2-Stick shooter and Shmup genre conventions and adds in some novel ideas of its own, with some excellent, fast-paced, quality gameplay... that's unfortunately marred by a slew of design flaws and annoyances. It's still very good, but it could have been so much better.
12 is Better Than 6 is a Top-Down Action/2-Stich Shooter game where one shot kills, much like the Hotline Miami games. Unfortunately, graphical choices result in a game that's filled with a lot of frustration that makes this far less fun than the Hotline Miami games.
Battlesloths is a multiplayer-focused 2-Stick Shooter with a Party Game atmosphere where players take the role of pizza-loving sloths fighting in various arenas with an assortment of weaponry. The core gameplay here is good, but the constant stop-go pattern of action and waiting is frustrating and makes it hard to enjoy that fun gameplay.
Blazing Beaks is a 2-Stick Shooter with Roguelike elements with a cartoony pixel art presentation featuring anthropomorphic birds with guns. Unfortunately, the game's high difficulty doesn't really fall in line with the cartoony presentation, and the nice unique features the game has only add to that difficulty. Action fans looking for a challenge might enjoy this, but I did not.
The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human is a Metroidvania with 2-Stick Shooter gameplay where players command a submarine searching the ruins of humanity to see what went wrong. This game absolutely nails the atmosphere, but the challenge level on the bosses is so steep that most players will probably lost interest after dying a dozen times or so.
Implosion is an Action-RPG with some 2-Stick Shooter mechanics that has players fighting mutants using a human-size mech. The game has some enjoyable combat and a promising loot system, but the combat gets repetitive quickly and the loot system isn't varied or deep enough to be engaging. Oh, and the 2-Stick Shooter elements are poorly-implemented. This isn't a terrible game, but players interested in this sort of thing have multiple better options on the Switch.
Utopia 9 - A Volatile Vacation is a 2-Stick ShooteRoguelike that has a lot of inventive ideas for a different spin on the genre, but its dreadfully slow pacing saps much of the fun out of the experience.
Blacksea Odyssey is a Two-Stick Shooter with Roguelike elements that is basically Captain Ahab In Space. That sounds really cool, but the terribly slow combat and sluggish movement make it hard to get into, and players will likely find the game too tedious to want to play for very long.
Energy Invasion is a cross between a 2-Stick Shooter and an Arcade-style brick breaker game like Arkanoid. Unfortunately, the game feels unpolished and not especially welcoming to players getting used to its odd concept.
Planetary Defense Force mixes the Tower Defense genre with the 2-Stick Shooter, having players defend a spherical planet from an alien invasion. Unfortunately, the spherical map makes it difficult to keep track of what's going on, the game doesn't do a good job of indicating important information the player needs, and the individual elements themselves are not very satisfying. The result is a frustrating game that's not worth playing.
Contra: Rogue Corps is a 3D Action game with 2-Stick Shooter mechanics that doesn't really play much like the other games in the Contra series, and has some severe, glaring flaws. That said, it's not completely unenjoyable, and it doesn't really earn its reputation as one of the worst games of 2019... but it's not a good game, by any stretch.
As I’ve done every year for the last couple years, I’ve done an overly in-depth look at all the cards submitted for the 2018 Reddit Fantasy Bingo Challenge. I am NOT an actual statistician, but I have once figured how much to tip in my head. PRELIMINARY NOTES Before I get into the numbers, here are some notes:
I am not someone who determines of anyone gets a bingo, so when assembling this information, I don’t question a book you may have read or where you placed it on your bingo card.
To make it easier for my analysis, I followed the idea of one book per square (or up to five for short stories). If you submitted the name of a series or an omnibus volume, I took only the first book in the series or omnibus (I didn’t do this in a couple minor cases, however). If you said you read Heartstrikers by Rachel Aaron, for example, I wrote down that you read Nice Dragons Finish Last so I could compare you against others who read only the first book.
Graphic Novels: I subdivided the Graphic Novels/Audiobooks square into its component parts. It's possible that I made a mistake if you weren't clear that you were reading an audiobook versus a graphic novel (I hate everyone who read the comic of or listened to Rivers of London). I found it is more much useful to compare comic book series against each other instead of by volume, so the person who read Monstress Volume 1 was compared with one who read Monstress Volume 3.
I attempted a gender breakdown, but I may be wrong! I said female/male/nonbinary/other based on the pronoun the authors preferred (author bios were useful in this regard), but sometimes I guessed. In a few rare occasions, I couldn't find evidence either way and left it alone. If you notice an error on my part, please let me know.
I did not look to see if the author was a person of color or other demographic data such as language or country of origin or other interesting information. It took me about 60 hours to get the data to its current point, and with almost 1500 individual authors read, it’s far too much work for me to research.
If you want to see my raw data, please click this link. I don’t include anyone’s username on this sheet. Though I only show the most popular books and authors per square below, I do have exactly how many people read what and whom, so if you’re curious about a specific author or book, feel free to ask in the comments!
PART I: What Is Popular?
Overall Bingo Cards
By the time the submissions were closed, I had 282 bingo cards from 264 people. (In 2017, we had 243 cards from 228 people, which is not as great an increase as the previous 3 bingos.)
Not everyone turned in a complete cards, though—47 cards turned in incomplete cards, though all had at least 5. (And one card was submitted with 24 complete—ouch!). So there are 6616 squares of books, short stories, and graphic novels to sift through (up from 5731 last year). 434 squares were left blank (6.2% of all squares).
I counted 6856 total items submitted (+681 from 2017). 2634 of these were unique (+173). 7097 total authors (+703) wrote these books with 1484 of them unique (+69).
Of these 6856 entries, I have 3551 by men only (51.8%), 3124 by women only (45.6%), 90 by mixed authors (1.3%), 46 nonbinary (0.7%), 20 unknown/uncredited (0.3%), 25 by male editors with female contributors (from anthologies) (0.4%).
The square most often left blank was surprisingly Five Short Stories on 25 cards; Novel by a RRAWR Author OR Keeping Up With the Classics was left blank on 24 cards. All 25 squares were left blank at least 12 times.
The square most often substituted with the new rule was Novel by a RRAWR Author OR Keeping Up With the Classics on 12 cards with Fantasy Novel that Takes Place Entirely Within One City and Self Published Novel tying for 11 substitutions each. Only Novel that was Reviewed on Fantasy and Novel from the fantasy LGBTQ+ Database were never substituted.
The most often avoided square (left blank or substituted) is then Novel by a RRAWR Author OR Keeping Up With the Classics at 36 times.
Most Read Books Overall:
The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang was the most read book (64 times) (9.3% of all books)
All Systems Red by Martha Wells (58 times)
Circe by Madeline Miller (57 times).
The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins (53 times)
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers (43 times)
The Poppy War was used on 9 different bingo squares. The book with the lowest ratio of number of times read to squares used (minimum 10 times used) was The Monster Baru Cormorant (11 times in 7 squares). Most Authors Read Overall:
Once again, Brandon Sanderson was the most read author (121 times) (17% of all authors)
(tie) Naomi Novik & Terry Pratchett (98)
Neil Gaiman (86)
Becky Chambers (80)
Martha Wells (72)
Brandon Sanderson was the most widely used author in 20 squares, followed by Neil Gaiman in 15 squares, and Naomi Novik, Terry Pratchett, Michael J. Sullivan, and N. K. Jemisin tied for 14 squares. Random Note: Something I realized is that someone read a Roald Dahl book for this bingo... and it was the first ever in 4 years anyone had read a Dahl book before. It's always interesting what people do and do not read for Bingo versus their possible general popularity in the real world. 1. Novel that was Reviewed on Fantasy Books:
Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames (7 times)
(tie) Grey Sister by Mark Lawrence & Witchmark by C. L. Polk (4)
TOTAL: 268 books (204 unique) LEFT BLANK: 14 / SUBSTITUTED: 9 *Authors: * 1. (tie) Josiah Bancroft & Mark Lawrence (9 times) 2. (tie) Brand don Sanderson & Nicholas Eames (7) TOTAL: 272 authors (166 unique) GENDER: 153 by men (56.3%) / 116 by women (42.6%) / 2 by nonbinary (0.7%) / 1 unknown Note: I was pleasantly surprised by how many different books we got for this one; aside from the short story square, the only other square with more options was the "Fewer than 2500 Goodreads Ratings." When you have it wide open like this, you get a lot of choices, though still leaning male and "Fantasy popular." 2. Novel Featuring a Non-Western Setting Books:
(tie) Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi & The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu (13 times)
Jade City by Fonda Lee (12)
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden & The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang (10)
TOTAL: 276 authors (103 unique) GENDER: 147 by women (53.3%) / 122 by men (44.2%) / 4 by nonbinary (1.4%) / 3 unknown (1.1%) Note: The first square that women "win," thanks to the popularity of 3 of the 4 most popular books. 3. Five Short Stories Short Stories (all tied at 3 times):
“Fandom for Robots” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad
“I, Kane” by Laura M. Hughes
“In the Stacks” by Scott Lynch
“No Fairytale” by Ben Galley
“Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience” by Rebecca Roanhorse
TOTAL: 300 short stories (261 unique) Authors:
(tie) H. P. Lovecraft & Ken Liu (14 times)
Neil Gaiman (9)
(tie) Brandon Sanderson & Tanith Lee (7)
TOTAL: 304 authors (170 unique) GENDER: 156 by men (51.3%) / 137 by women (45.1%) / 11 by nonbinary (3.6%) Note: 60 people chose to read 5 short stories instead of reading an anthology but it was quite obviously with some of you that you were reading FROM a collection/anthology; why didn't you finish them? Collections & Anthologies:
(tie) Brief Cases by Jim Butcher; Lost Lore by Terrible Ten; & The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu (9 times)
(tie) Arcanum Unbounded by Brandon Sanderson & The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski (6)
TOTAL: 214 authors (105 unique) GENDER: 122 by men (57%) / 80 by women (37.4%) / 1 nonbinary (0.5%)/ 11 unknown (5.1%) Note: Not too many surprises for me, Ken Liu is a pretty popular short story writer, and Brief Cases came out last summer, and Sanderson and Sapkowski are subreddit faves. 4. Novel Adapted by Stage, Screen, or Game Books:
The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski (11 times)
The Princess Bride by William Goldman (10)
(tie) A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle; Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski; The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle; & The Magicians by Lev Grossman (8)
TOTAL: 269 authors (90 unique) GENDER: 211 by men (78.4%) / 57 by women (21.2%) / 1 unknown Note: This was the most male-dominated square on here, I think we can all guess why. 5. Hopeful Spec-Fic Books:
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers (12 times)
(tie) The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold & Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan (11)
(tie) Nice Dragons Finish Last by Rachel Aaron & Sir Thomas the Hesitant and the Table of Less Valued Knights by Liam Perrin (8)
TOTAL: 266 authors (113 unique) GENDER: 152 by women (57.1%) / 112 by men (42.1%) / 2 unknown Note: Even though NOT reading Chambers and Aaron would be hard mode, plenty of people wanted to read them anyway. 6. Fantasy Novel that Takes Place Entirely Within One City Books:
Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett (22 times)
(tie) The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch & The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids by Michael McClung (16)
TOTAL: 250 authors (136 unique) GENDER: 163 by men (65.2%) / 83 by women (33.2%) / 4 unknown Note: I think most of the top authors here have a presence on the subreddit, but I'm definitely surprised that Rowe's books took BOTH top slots for this square. 8. Novel Published Before You Were Born Books:
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin (10 times)
The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip (7)
(tie) Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce; Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey; & The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin (4)
(tie) Anne McCaffrey; J. R. R. Tolkien; & Robert Jordan (6)
TOTAL: 262 authors (127 unique) GENDER: 156 by men (59.5%) / 105 by women (40.1%) / 1 unknown Note: Le Guin dominates this, as an easy recommendation for most of the younguns on the sub. 9. Any fantasy Goodreads Group Book of the Month Books:
All Systems Red by Martha Wells (54 times)
Circe by Madeline Miller (17)
Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames (15)
The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang (14)
(tie) Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett & Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse (12)
TOTAL: 262 authors (53 unique) GENDER: 161 by women (61.5%) / 96 by men (36.6%) / 5 by nonbinary (1.9%) Note: Wells and Miller contribute to the women's domination of this category, with the overwhelming popularity of Murderbot quite evident. This is also a rather restrictive square, as there were only 68 books to choose from. 10. Novel Featuring a Library Books:
The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins (40 times)
TOTAL: 264 authors (96 unique) GENDER: 150 by men (56.8%) / 113 by women (42.8%) / 1 unknown Note: People love libraries and they love Cogman & Hawkins. Also, only 5 out of the 110 books had "Library" in their title... but 3 of them are in the top 4, hmm. 11. Subgenre: Historical Fantasy OR Alternate History Books:
His Majesty’s Dragon/Temeraire by Naomi Novik (11 times)
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (9)
(tie) A Star-Reckoner’s Lot by Darrell Drake & The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal (8)
TOTAL: 269 authors (128 unique) GENDER: 176 by women (65.4%) / 87 by men (32.3%) / 6 by nonbinary (2.2%) Note: Another women-heavy square, I'm not surprised by any of the popular books or authors here. 12. Novel Published in 2018 Books:
TOTAL: 275 authors (133 unique) GENDER: 140 by women (50.9%) / 134 by men (48.7%) / 1 unknown Note: You're going to see Poppy War again and again. 13. Novel Featuring a Protagonist Who is a Writer, Artist or Musician (NOT: Kingkiller Chronicles) Books:
Bloody Rose by Nicholas Eames (14 times)
Where the Waters Turn Black by Benedict Patrick
(tie) Dust and Light by Carol Berg & Song of the Beast by Carol Berg (8)
TOTAL: 260 authors (102 unique) GENDER: 140 by women (53.8%) / 120 by men (46.2%) Note: I'm highly amused that two different Berg books tied in this case. Also, even though the highest ranked book by Sanderson is only 31st overall, his general popularity means he may not always win a category but he's often around somewhere, especially with the 20 different squares he's used for. 14. Novel Featuring a Mountain Setting Books:
The Whitefire Crossing by Courtney Schafer (29 times)
TOTAL: 257 authors (110 unique) GENDER: 154 by women (59.9%) / 101 by men (39.3%) / 1 by nonbinary (0.4%) / 1 unknown Note: If you read The Whitefire Crossing you read it for this square, no question. This was the most popular book only used for one square. Also, only 3 books have "Mountain" or "Mount" in them, and the highest ranked one is all the way down in 9th at 4 books. 15. 2017 fantasy Top Novels List Books:
The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson (15 times)
(tie) Krista D. Ball; Liam Perrin; & Phil Tucker (5)
TOTAL: 272 authors (217 unique) GENDER: 146 by men (53.7%) / 124 by women (45.6%) / 1 by nonbinary (0.4%) / 1 unknown Note: Another one of my favorite squares for the sure number of unique books. Almost 80% of the cards have this square unique. If you look at the raw data, I recommend scrolling this section to see what might be new and interesting for you. 17. Novel with a One Word Title Books:
Touch by Claire North (11 times)
Mort by Terry Pratchett (8)
Worm by Wildbow (7)
(tie) Borne by Jeff VanderMeer & Circe by Madeline Miller (5)
(tie) Brandon Sanderson & Terry Pratchett (13 times)
Claire North (11)
Jeff VanderMeer (8)
TOTAL: 272 authors (149 unique) GENDER: 166 by men (61%) / 106 by women (39%) Note: The longest one-word title was Transformation by Carol Berg; the shortest was Ra by Sam Hughes. I think the longest one with one syllable is Scourged by Kevin Hearne. The shortest with multiple syllables is probably City (Simak) or Fyre (Sage) depending on you say that last one. 18. Novel Featuring a God as a Character Books:
TOTAL: 275 authors (88 unique) GENDER: 151 by men (54.9%) / 124 by women (45.1%) Note: Miller adds to her Circe lead with a bit of Song of Achilles. 19. Novel by an Author Writing Under a Pseudonym Books:
Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb (28 times)
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North (11)
The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (9)
(tie) 84K by Claire North & A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab (8)
TOTAL: 288 total (70 unique) GENDER: 184 by women (63.9%) / 102 by men (35.4%) / 2 unknown Note: Raise your hand if you were surprised by this AT ALL, and I still wouldn't believe you. 20. Subgenre: Space Opera Books:
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers (20 times)
Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente (19)
Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey (9)
(tie) Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie & Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers (7)
TOTAL: 278 authors (85 unique) GENDER: 154 by men (55.4%) / 118 by women (42.4%) / 6 by nonbinary (2.2%) Note: I'm disappointed in you all for not getting the actual book called Space Opera to the top. 21. Stand Alone Fantasy Novel Books:
The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (9 times)
The Night Circus (8)
(tie) Balam, Spring by Travis M. Riddle; Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik; & Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay (6)
TOTAL: 278 books (151 unique) GENDER: 146 by men (52.5%) / 132 by women (47.5%) Note: It's interesting to see Riddle's book make it so high here compared to the general popularity/recommendations of the others mentioned here. 22. Novel by a RRAWR Author OR Keeping Up With the Classics Books:
Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft (20 times) [RRAWR]
Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce (18) [Classics]
The Princess Bride by William Goldman (17) [Classics]
TOTAL: 250 authors (43 unique) GENDER: 176 by men (70.4%) / 74 by women (29.6%) Note: I'm pleasantly surprised that the divide between the two clubs here is almost even: 125 books (25 unique) for RRAWR / 121 books (22 unique) for Classics. This was always going to be a tough square because of the limited number of books (only 24 in the end for Classics, and only about 24 authors for RRAWR [now RAB]). 23. Novel from the fantasy LGBTQ+ Database Books:
(tie) On the Shoulders of Titans by Andrew Rowe & Sorcerous Rivalry by Kayleigh Nicol (10 times)
The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee (9)
TOTAL: 281 authors (130 unique) GENDER: 158 by women (56.2%) / 112 by men (39.9%) / 11 by nonbinary (3.9%) Note: I'm glad to see that people took the challenge! 24. Format: Graphic Novel (at least 1 vol.) OR Audiobook Graphic Novels:
Monstress by Marjorie Liu (19 times)
Saga by Brian K. Vaughan (9)
(tie) White Sand by Brandon Sanderson & Rik Hoskin & Nimona by Noelle Stevenson (7)
TOTAL: 171 graphic novels (109 unique) LEFT BLANK: 20 / SUBSTITUTED: 6 [shared with Audiobooks] Authors:
Marjorie Liu (19 times)
Brian K. Vaughan (12)
Noelle Stevenson (9)
TOTAL: 200 authors (111 unique) GENDER: 138 by men (69%) / 62 by women (31%) Note: I actually tried to convince lrich1024 to make the hard mode this year both Saga AND Monstress, so I'm not surprised Monstress had a good showing here! Audiobooks: All tied at 2 each:
Midnight Riot/Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch
Red Rising by Pierce Brown
Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb
Storm Front by Jim Butcher
Authors: All tied at 3 each
TOTAL: 88 authors (76 unique) GENDER: 62 by men / 26 by women LEFT BLANK: 20 / SUBSTITUTED: 6 [shared with Graphic Novels] Another crazy square in which no one really dominates because of the lack of restrictions otherwise. 25. Novel Featuring the Fae Books:
The Cruel Prince by Holly Black (11 times)
Fae: The Wild Hunt by Graham Austin-King (9)
(tie) Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire & Stardust by Neil Gaiman (8)
TOTAL: 263 authors (101 unique) GENDER: 158 by women (60%) / 105 by men (40%) Substitutions Out of 282 cards, 102 used the Substitution rule. Books: No books were used as substitutes more than once except for the following 4 books: Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant; Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor; The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie; & The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin. Squares: 36 squares from past Bingos were used as substitutes with the most popular being:
(tie) Dystopian / Post-Apocalyptic / Apocalyptic / Dying Earth (from 2017) & Sequel: Not the First Book in the Series (from 2017) (8 times)
(tie) Non-fiction Fantasy Related Book (from 2017) & Science Fantasy OR Sci-Fi (from 2016) (7)
Just One Damned Thing After Another was the only one used for the Time Travel substitute, which happened twice. Of the 102 substituted books, 54 were by women (52.9%) Note: Someone apparently would rather read a 1000+-page book by Brandon Sanderson (Oathbringer) than read Five Short Stories. I can't stop laughing at this. Also, another bingo participant decided to replace the Hopeful Spec-Fic square with Dystopian / Post-Apocalyptic / Apocalyptic / Dying Earth. Who hurt you?
PART II: The People You Know and Love
In addition to the popularity charts above, I also ran through each individual card to figure out a few things:
How much of your card did you submit (a full 25, or less than that?)
How many squares had women/non-binary people in them?
What was the unique title count? As in, how much of what you read was unique to your card?
How many people have done the Bingo more than once?
NEW: How did Hard Mode go this year?
Card Completion 282 cards were submitted by 264 people. Of the multiple-card submitters, 16 turned in 2 cards and two turned in 3 (among the secondary cards, 3 were incomplete). 47 out of 282 cards (16.7%) did not fill out all 25 squares. Each submitted card had at least 5 squares filled. In 2017, 44 out 243 cards (18%) weren't fully filled out. One person had cards with only 24 squares submitted. Ouch! Better luck next year. :) Gender in Cards I counted a card as having a woman/non-binary person on it if at least one woman/non-binary person was involved. So if you read an anthology that had at least one story by a woman, it counts. If you submitted 5 short stories and one was by a woman, it counts. 6 out of 282 cards (2%) had zero men on them (with one incomplete card having all 18 squares by women/nonbinary). 16 other cards had at least 20 women. There was an average of 11.4 women/nonbinary across all cards. The average raises to 12.2 for complete cards. This differs only slightly from 2016's 12.3 average for complete cards. Two cards had zero women/nonbinary on them (both were 5-square-only cards). Among the 235 completed cards, two of them had only 1 woman/nonbinary on them Unique Title Count I specifically did not count short stories submitted, but did count anthologies and collections. (There were 300 short stories submitted and they had a very high unique rate overall). For 2018, the average number of unique titles per card was 5.2. Three cards had 0 unique titles (everything they read was read by someone else). 8 cards had at least 12 unique titles, with only one person at 15 unique titles. As more people join Bingo, it becomes harder to get those unique titles. (For 2017, the average number of unique titles per card was 5.3. Ten cards had 0 unique titles. 17 cards had at least 12 unique titles, with only one person at 17 unique titles. In 2016, the average unique count was 6.8, and no cards had 0. 11 cards had at least 12, with one person at 15. In 2015, the average unique count 8.0, and no cards had 0. 18 cards had at least 12, with one person at 18.) Repeat Bingo Readers From the survey we included int he Google Form, 31 of the 264 of you (11.7%) have done Bingo each year since 2015. Well done you! Amazingly 113 say this is your first time doing Bingo--that's 42.8%! Wow. NEW: Hard Mode 30 out of 282 cards were 100% hard mode cards. Another 7 just missed it by one square. 9 people didn’t bother with hard mode at all, including 6 complete cards. Average hard mode count was 11 squares, 12.3 for complete cards. EDIT: Thanks to mantrasong for the calculating the following: Fewest Hard Mode entries:
Novel by a RRAWR Author OR Keeping Up With the Classics (61/246 - 24.8%)
Any fantasy Goodreads Group Book of the Month (69/262 - 26.34%)
Novel Published Before You Were Born (73/255 - 28.63%)
Novel from the fantasy LGBTQ+ Database (78/270 - 28.63%)
Novel Featuring a Non-Western Setting (78/265 - 29.85%)
Most Hard Mode Entries:
Novel Featuring a Library (167/260 - 64.23%)
Format: Graphic Novel (at least 1 vol.) OR Audiobook (174/256 - 67.97%)
Stand Alone Fantasy Novel (176/268 - 65.67%)
Five Short Stories (193/253 - 76.28%)
Hopeful Spec-Fic (195/260 - 75%)
PART III: Measuring Variety
Something I've been interested in for the last couple years is trying to figure out how to meaningfully measure the overall variety of selections per square. For example, in the 2015 bingo, in the Comic Fantasy square, Terry Pratchett was read for 42 of the 88 cards. The next most popular author had only 5 reads. That's quite lopsided!!! In the end, I decided to try to use the Gini index. The Gini coefficient is used by economists to measure income inequality, where 0 = everyone has the same income to 1 (or 100 in my case) = the income is concentrated in one individual. In our case, instead of income, I'm using the number of books read and authors read. If, for example, 25 different books are each read once, its "FarraGini" index would be 0 (all books were read equally). If 24 books were read once and the 25th book was read 51 times, its FarraGini index would be 64. So the more widely spread a category is read, the lower its index number. I've created a table below of all the categories (splitting short stories into individual Stories & Collections, and Graphic Novel and Audio) and their FarraGini indices per book and author. You'll notice that the FarraGini index for Goodreads Group Book of the Month has the highest single number for book as All Systems Red dominated its category, but also that Pseudonym has the highest FarraGini index for author, since Robin Hobb accounts for 20% of all books in that category.
As you can see above, the numbers paint a picture that we've seen in the individual square sections above--the FarraGini indices for Reviewed and <2500 Goodreads ratings are pretty low because of the variety (with Audiobooks at an insane number), where Goodreads Book of the Month and Pseudonym indicate that a book or author is really weighting numbers towards it.
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