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Capsule Review: Lumines

A falling-block puzzle game where you must group like-colored blocks into rectangles to clear them away. Every so often you switch to a new song and corresponding visual skin, and the speed of the song determines the speed at which blocks are cleared away. Slower songs make it easier to rack up large combos, but also leave more time for the board to overfill and end the game.

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Capsule Review: Lumines: Puzzle Fusion

A falling-block puzzle game where you must group like-colored blocks into rectangles to clear them away. Every so often you switch to a new song and corresponding visual skin, and the speed of the song determines the speed at which blocks are cleared away. Slower songs make it easier to rack up large combos, but also leave more time for the board to overfill and end the game.

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Capsule Review: Little Inferno

A satirical game where you burn things to get money to buy more things to burn. It’s a send-up of games that use compulsion loops and energy mechanics to keep players playing and paying, illustrating the unhealthy cyclic nature of the behavior they incentivize. It’s implied that children are rewarded for burning things in order to keep them warm since there’s a bit of an ice age setting in - but that this ice age is due to all the smoke in the atmosphere from everyone burning things.

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Capsule Review: Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist

A short exploration game that playfully deconstructs narrative power-fantasy games by casting them as elaborate stage productions and putting you backstage in one. Both the scale and the humor are magnified by the game leaving a lot to your imagination, keeping up a frantic pace during which a lot goes hilariously wrong, and setting up a few gags that pay off later leading up to an ironic ending.

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Capsule Review: To Be or Not To Be

Shakespeare’s Hamlet as a comedic choose-your-own-adventure. The text is clever and fun to read, as to be expected of writer Ryan North. I really enjoyed my first playthrough, where I chose the Shakespeare-official options to familiarize myself with the normal story. I wasn’t able to stick with the game much longer after that, though, because the UX is inexplicably bad for repeat plays.

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Capsule Review: Splatoon

A colorful third-person shooter with a strong and consistent punk aesthetic. The main draw of the game is the online arena-based competitive multiplayer which tasks you with painting the area with your team’s color of ink and only incidentally with shooting up the opposing team members. Since you’re essentially using water guns with fairly short range, combat is kinetic and intimate.

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Capsule Review: The Beginner's Guide

A narrated exploration game which is also a meditation on a particular type of unhealthy fan/creator relationship, exploring themes of hero worship, difficulties of the creative process, and imposing our own meaning on others’ work that reflects more on us than on them. It’s a message game, aimed at an audience you may or may not be a member of, but either way it’s skillfully done and you’ll likely be thinking about the game long after the hour and a half or so it takes to walk through it.

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Capsule Review: Gone Home

An exploration game that has you exploring your family home to find out what’s happened in your year abroad and where your mysteriously-absent parents and sister are. The story is told through objects, found messages, and a series of audio logs. The central arc is about your younger sister, but other relatives have stories too and they all revolve around the importance of being true to yourself and of finding people who accept you that way.

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Capsule Review: Glitchhikers

A meditative mood piece that for twenty minutes or so simulates the experience of a lonely late-night drive where nothing seems real but everything seems profound. The game is carefully crafted to create the right atmosphere - from the tail lights ahead that you can never quite catch up to, to the simplified and nearly-automatic driving that feels like highway hypnosis, to the dreamy insomniac quality of the radio music and DJ, to the slow heavy blinks of the player character.

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