Cursed To Golf Review - An Ace In The Hole

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I'm standing on the tee of a familiar hole. A booming drive will fly over ponds, bunkers, and spikes before colliding with a golden idol to add four shots to par. But now that I have a variety of Ace Cards, I can follow a wildly different path. There's a column of TNT directly behind me that I blow up with a card before equipping another one that lets me change the direction of the shot in mid-air. I take out my wedge and pitch the ball into the newly created opening behind me. Before it drops into the water below, I redirect the ball through a narrow passage and into a small nook filled with spikes and a handy ricochet bumper. Then, I fling it backwards at the bumper, which allows me to redirect the ball for a third time. The ball soars through the small opening, bounces twice on the island green, and falls into the cup with the help of a bit of spin I added. A hole-in-one--my first in Cursed to Golf. The first two times I played this hole, it took me around five minutes and more than a dozen shots.

The magic of Cursed to Golf comes from the moments when you figure out entirely new ways to finish levels more efficiently and in mechanically interesting ways. Even though Cursed to Golf allows you to send your golf ball through portals, turn it into ice and thunder, or even transform it into a rocket, it captures the beauty of actual golf in a way that very few golf games have in the past--even "realistic" ones. Like real golf, each and every shot feels different, and, most importantly, the only limitation you have is your creativity and ingenuity. The freedom you're given to experiment throughout each level makes subsequent runs through the very same layout feel entirely fresh.

During the final round of a tournament, you're killed by a lightning strike and sent to Golf Purgatory, an underworld with a diabolical golf course operated by the Greenskeeper. To escape, you have to finish all of the 18 side-scrolling holes in a row without running out of shots. A roguelike structure sends you back to the beginning of the course if you fail during any of the levels. Gameplay is the focus here, but Cursed to Golf has witty dialogue, a rather heartwarming story, and a lighthearted tone despite the fact you're essentially trapped in hell.

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We Are OFK Review - Acoustic Resonance

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Episodic visual novel We Are OFK has a really cool premise. This five-part adventure mixes in notes of a biopic to detail the origin of a real band known as OFK, a group entirely composed of virtual members. It's a fictional story about a real band made of fictional people who make real music because they're tired of working for fictional companies. It's like if there was a game about Hatsune Miku or K/DA that detailed their lives prior to their rise to fame. All told, it's a great story, and though I do wish that the dialogue choices had been more impactful, We Are OFK is an emotionally rewarding tale that explores the fraught and oftentimes cutthroat nature of Los Angeles' music industry through the lens of easily digestible themes and relatable characters.

We Are OFK follows pianist Itsumi Saitō, singer/songwriter Luca Le Fae, audiovisual artist Carter Flores, and producer Jey Zhang, and depicts how their lives come to intersect. The point A to point B throughline of the story culminates in Itsumi, Luca, Carter, and Jey forming a band. You know going in that this is the outcome you'll see. But on the way to that destination, the story takes regular detours into Itsumi's love life, Luca's writer's block, Carter's existential crisis, and Jey's familial pressures. It's in these other storylines that We Are OFK adopts a more slice-of-life style of storytelling, concluding with most of these issues left partially unresolved.

You'll do a lot of texting in We Are OFK.

You'll do a lot of texting in We Are OFK.

If anything, that only makes the conclusion to We Are OFK all the more satisfyingly believable and wonderful to reach. There are no typical bad guys here for the group to overcome and get their happily-ever-after ending. This is a story of what it means to grow, both as a person and as a group, and how that can come in many different forms and also occur at a different pace person-to-person. Carter's arc is notably exceptional in its execution and probably my favorite storyline of the four. The arc sees them grappling with grief and coming to terms with what it means to leave a mark on the world while working within an industry where your work can be quickly forgotten. Itsumi has a similarly strong narrative path from the first episode to the last, which largely digs into her feelings of inadequacy and fear of being alone. Both characters resonated with me in a way that Luca and Jey did not--both do have strong storylines, but they don't feel as compelling as Itsumi or Carter.

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Rollerdrome Review: Skate Or Die

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When I was losing hours to Roll7's latest side-scrolling skateboard platformer, OlliOlli World, I never said to myself, I wonder what this would be like if my skater had a gun. Roll7 obviously did, though, and the result is Rollerdrome. Though it makes departures from the skating games that Roll7 is known for, Rollerdrome nails what's most important about them: it's an easy game to play that makes you feel awesome while you're playing it.

Rollerdrome is similar to Roll7's other titles in that it's a single-player skating game that emphasizes performing tricks, but this isn't just an OlliOlli game with guns. Rollerdrome eschews the side-scrolling nature of Roll7's famous platformer series for fully 3D skate park-like arenas; as you skate through a single area, you must utilize walls and ramps to loop yourself around and to perform tricks. Populating this arena are enemies that spawn in various locations, meaning that while you're doing manuals and flips, you also have to take down the bat-wielding melee fighters and distant snipers who want you dead.

Also differentiating Rollerdrome from OlliOlli is the fact that the former is not a skateboarding game, but rather, a rollerskating game, set in the future as imagined through the lens of the 1970s. Rollerdrome draws heavily from the sport of roller derby, while also taking inspiration from the 1975 James Caan movie Roller Ball, which was about a near-future bloodsport run by a corporation with nefarious intentions. That's pretty much what's going on in Rollerdrome, too.

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Thymesia Review - Hunter Homage

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A lot of games have drawn inspiration from the works of From Software, with varying degrees of success. While many developers look to emulate that high degree of challenge that comes from the likes of Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and Sekiro, they often miss the fact that it's From's thoughtful, tight gameplay and deliberate encounter design that makes these games fun, not just a punishing difficulty. Thymesia, a 3D action game that draws heavy influence from some specific From titles, manages to strike that balance successfully, creating a Souls-like that taps into the same rewarding moments provided by its biggest inspirations.

Thymesia draws most obviously from two of From Software's games: the aggressive, horror-inspired Bloodborne, and the fast-paced, duel-focused Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. And to be sure, developer Overborder Studio owes a lot to its inspirations. Like Bloodborne, Thymesia is about a lone warrior wandering into a plague-stricken world where everyone infected has turned into a maddened, bloodthirsty killer. It has a similar atmosphere to Bloodborne and even its protagonist, Corvus, looks a bit like a Yarnham Hunter--more accurately, Hunter of Hunters Eileen the Crow.

Like most Souls games, Thymesia drops you into the middle of a weird situation without much explanation and leaves you to figure out what you're facing as you explore its world and kill the people you find there. It all takes place in a kingdom called Hermes, which is apparently located in the canopy of an enormous tree. The world has been beset by a plague that infects people and animals, mutating them and turning them into monsters. Until now, Hermes managed to deal with the plague through the study and use of alchemy, but something has gone wrong, Hermes has succumbed, and nobody knows what to do.

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Digimon Survive Review - Digital Devolution

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Digimon has never been shy to delve into storylines and topics that society too often wishes to ignore--the first episode of the 1999 anime literally begins with the main character monologuing about climate change and how it's destroying the planet. Most of the stories in the series explore these topics within the scope of being trapped within a fantasy world inhabited by cute monsters. It's here where the characters must come to terms with the irresponsibility of finding solace in the black-and-white morality of their new reality--an alluring alternative to the nuanced wants and needs of the real world. Pushing on this notion a bit further to dip its toes into the horrifying realities of physical and verbal abuse, terminal illness, psychotic breaks, and weaponizing relationships, Digimon Survive tells one of the darkest tales that the franchise has ever covered. All told, it amounts to a deeply compelling visual novel that's driven by likable characters and an intriguing mystery but that aspect of it is too often interrupted by boring tactical combat.

In Digimon Survive, you play as middle-schooler Takuma, who is attending a camp over spring break alongside friends Minoru and Aoi and acquaintances Saki, Ryo, and Shuuji. Upon learning that the camp is close to a temple famous for its legend about a festival in which human children were sacrificed to beast gods, the six investigate, and they're soon joined by local brother and sister duo Kaito and Mio. The misadventure ultimately results in the kids becoming lost in a world inhabited by the so-called beast gods known as Digimon.

If you're not careful, your choices will result in your friends' deaths.

If you're not careful, your choices will result in your friends' deaths.

It's a familiar setup for a Digimon story (or any isekai story, really), and Digimon Survive spends way too long laying the groundwork with meandering dialogue and unnecessary character backstory. The game dangles the foreshadowing that these kids are about to be trapped in another world, but then spends hours getting there, and then leaves the group confused as to what's happened to them for a while after. It's frustrating to see three separate people theorizing that maybe the group is now no longer on Earth when you as the player arrived at that conclusion hours prior and just want the actual adventure to kick off.

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