Remnant 2 Review - What The Dog Doing?

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Remnant 2 is the kind of sequel that improves upon its predecessor in almost every facet. The third-person gunplay has been tightened up and refined, there's more color and variety to its diverse locales, and the various RPG elements and character progression have been greatly expanded upon, giving you more options to construct a unique build along with the incentive to delve into the game's near-limitless replayability. "Dark Souls with guns" was used as shorthand to describe Remnant: From the Ashes, and although that label wasn't wrong, it also wasn't representative of the full picture. The first game stood out amongst a bevy of other Souls-likes because of the ways it deviated from the formula, and Remnant 2 continues to build on those foundations with a more dynamic and robust action-adventure that only falters in a couple of areas.

The first game wasn't without its flaws, either, an underbaked story chief among them. Unfortunately, Remnant 2 doesn't fare much better in this regard, offering another forgettable tale that lacks personality and engaging stakes, almost to the point where it feels like a copy and paste of the original game. Even the setup is essentially the same, beginning on the dilapidated streets of a post-apocalyptic Earth that's been ravaged by an interdimensional being known as The Root. You eventually arrive at a small settlement called Ward 13--the same hub area as the first game, albeit in a slightly different spot--and despite being an injured newcomer, your custom character is immediately entrusted with a crucial task that quickly leads to a mission that decides the fate of all realms.

Contrivances aside, it's difficult to care about the overarching story when the world as you know it consists of roughly a dozen people who might as well be cardboard cutouts. Characters such as McCabe and Rigs return, but they're one-note vendors like before, while the friend you arrived with and risked your life to save performs the same static role. There are more interesting characters found in the various realms you'll visit throughout the game; however, the game's procedurally generated structure ensures that it takes a few playthroughs to form a clear picture of the lore and composition of each world, and by that point you'll have probably forgotten everything you learned previously, such as the abundance of abstract concepts verbally thrown your way. The ending's emotional payoff lands flat as a result.

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Pikmin 4 Review - Veggie Might

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One of the most prominent apps on my phone is a simple to-do list app. I have a handful of recurring tasks every month or year, along with whatever I jot down as a reminder. It took me more than 20 hours with Pikmin 4 before I identified that the sensation it evoked was the same as that of completing my to-do list. Pikmin 4 is a game, sure, but it's also a sort of low-impact activity that gives you the same satisfaction of checking off a list of small, relatively simple tasks. That makes it pleasant to play, but that quality also makes it feel discordant when it briefly adds elements that provide a mild but noticeable degree of pressure--elements that make it more traditionally "game-like." On the whole, I think I prefer Pikmin the activity to Pikmin the game.

Pikmin 4 is meant to be a welcoming entry point for first-timers. The effort to bring you into the world of Pikmin begins very literally, with a character creator that allows you to make your own Rescue Crew member. The tools weren't robust enough to make a facsimile of me--very few beard options, for one thing--but I made a cute little man who I was proud of and wanted to see go on an adventure regardless. With my stubby adventurer fully formed, I was ready to explore the world of Pikmin.

For the uninitiated, that world is basically a suburban Earth-like backyard. While the diminutive characters never acknowledge it, it's very clear from your surroundings that you've crash landed in a garden. Your surroundings might be checkered with gardening tools or mounds of dirt left by whoever occupied the home. There's a playful sense of scale to the setting that recontextualizes common household objects as massive obstacles or helpful bridges. Sometimes, you fall into a steady rhythm of puzzle-solving and completely forget the nature of your surroundings, until you suddenly pull back and realize there was a giant metal pail or bag of sod just next to where you've been excavating.

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Viewfinder Review - One Perfect Shot

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Some of the most well-designed puzzle games are also some of the easiest to understand at a glance. Portal, for all its devious experiment rooms and conundrums within, is simple to break down and explain to new players, letting its depth reveal itself as you use its mechanics in increasingly complex ways. Baba is You is equally straightforward but can get wildly chaotic when you start truly experimenting with how far you can stretch its word-based combinations. Viewfinder neatly fits into their company. It's a short but engrossing puzzle game with a distinct and captivating central mechanic that is satisfyingly explored across a range of challenging puzzles, each of which left a grin on my face upon arriving at a solution.

Viewfinder's core concept lets you take static, 2D images and project them into 3D space in the world around you. For example, a Polaroid shot of an otherwise unassuming staircase can be used to construct a new path to a higher platform once projected into the world, carving out space for itself and destroying anything that might have been there beforehand. The more you play around with it, the more you start understanding different facets of how this power can be used to manipulate the serene and delightfully colorful environments around you. For example, while a picture of a plain wall might only show you what was captured in two dimensions, the effect it has once you apply it to the world is much more, sometimes throwing out whole rooms and important objects from behind it. By the same token, where you place your projections is equally important, too, as large structures that you conjure ahead of you can inadvertently shear the environment in such a way that makes reaching your objective more challenging.

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Oxenfree 2: Lost Signals Review - Unnerving Static

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Oxenfree II: Lost Signals is quite creepy at times, using time loops, crackling radio static, and the occasional vengeful interdimensional ghost to keep you on your toes. Sure, there are moments of levity when the game's characters crack jokes or dabble in a little fun but, like its 2016 predecessor, this dialogue-driven graphic adventure game delights in its unsettling atmosphere. The best parts of the experience are drowned out in the dreadful static of Oxenfree II's unmemorable companion and irritating secondary antagonist, but navigating the game's growing sense of unease as you slowly uncover clues to a greater mystery is an engaging and chilling thrill.

Taking place five years after the original game, Oxenfree II has you play as a new protagonist: Riley Poverly. Returning to her hometown of Camena--the part of the mainland closest to the first Oxenfree's Edwards Island--Riley is partnered with the town's resident handyman, Jacob Summers, and tasked to set up transmission radio towers around the coastal town. The seemingly simple job devolves into a much stranger and more dangerous situation, however, as electromagnetic waves take a toll on reality, opening portals to other timelines. As Riley and Jacob struggle to understand what's happening and fix things, they find their efforts repeatedly thwarted by a trio of teenagers who are a part of Parentage, a church-like cult in the area, and lingering supernatural specters.

Sometimes choosing to say nothing can also affect how the story plays out.
Sometimes choosing to say nothing can also affect how the story plays out.

Like its previous games, developer Night School Studio utilizes both a choice- and timing-driven dialogue system, taking note of not only what you say but when you say it. Conversations don't pause to give you a chance to figure out what to say next--like an actual conversation in real life, Riley will have to regularly respond to express interest. During conversations, small thought bubbles will appear above Riley's head as people talk to her, giving you a chance to choose how you speak your mind. Wait too long and these dialogue branches eventually fade away, but speak up too soon and you may interrupt someone just before they absent-mindedly say something that creates a more compelling path in the conversation. In this way, saying nothing at all is just as valid a choice as saying something.

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Master Detective Archives: Rain Code Review - Blame It On The Rain

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I have to hand it to the development staff of Rain Code: They are very skilled at completely upending your expectations from the get-go. I certainly expected to be shocked and surprised, given that these are the minds behind the beloved Danganronpa series--they know a thing or two about throwing players narrative curveballs out of nowhere--but even I wasn't expecting what happened after about 30 minutes of introduction. I wanted to put the Switch down and give a little "Well done!" clap. It's a bit of a shame, though, because after that, none of the other cases ever reach the same high, despite some great moments. That's Rain Code in a nutshell: It can't quite reach the greatness of what came before it.

Rain Code begins with a young man waking up in some sort of storage room. All he can remember is that his name is Yuma Kokohead and he's got to catch a train that's headed to Kanai Ward--a corporate city cut off to most of the outside world, shrouded in perpetual, neon-lit darkness and rain, run by the Amaterasu megacorp, and controlled by the militarized Peacekeeper force. It's not long after he boards the train that he finds out why he's going there: He's part of the World Detective Organization, which is sending several agents in to investigate Kanai Ward's ugly secrets. He also soon discovers why he has amnesia: It turns out he made a deal with a death god for special powers and offered up his memories in exchange.

That death god, Shinigami, mostly hangs around in the form of a tiny ghost that only Yuma can see. It reads his thoughts and makes sarcastic comments until there's a mystery to be solved, which is when Shinigami stops time and transforms into a buxom demon maiden to whisk him away to mind-palace Mystery Labyrinths where things get buck-wild. Here, he must battle logic monsters, evade dastardly false-solution traps, and unlock doors with Evidence Keys that Shinigami barfs up in a shower of rainbows. And also maybe crush thought barriers riding Shinigami as a giant kaiju. And play Pop-up Pirate with her in a barrel on the beach. Yeah, it's all just a little weird.

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