Reviews

Reviews of the games we play, aiming to quickly encapsulate the game’s essence and quirks. Most games have an audience; our goal is for the review to make it clear to you whether you are part of a game’s audience - even if we aren’t.

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Capsule Review: Thomas Was Alone

A 2D puzzle platformer with strong characterization that creates a lot of empathy, despite the cast consisting entirely of colored rectangles. This feat is accomplished through quite good narration of pretty decent writing, paired with evocative visuals and an incredible soundtrack. Some of the mechanics support the narration, though they never really reveal anything beyond it, and mostly just present competent puzzle platforming.

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Capsule Review: You Must Build A Boat

Like its predecessor 10,000,000, a match-3 game with endless runner and RPG elements, where obstacles and enemies must be overcome by matching the right kinds of tiles, and other tiles grant resources that can be used to purchase upgrades between runs. But there’s a lot more spectacle and complexity going on between runs - you’re expanding your boat, recruiting allies and monsters, traveling between different areas with different enemies and different bonuses and penalties active in the dungeons.

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Capsule Review: The Swapper

An intriguing puzzle platformer that captures the feel of a Metroidvania but without mandatory backtracking, since every puzzle is solvable when you first encounter it. You don’t gain new powers - you learn new applications, though the game doesn’t provide much scaffolding to help you figure them out. The trophy design is terrible (there’s one each for ten impossibly-hidden text logs that add basically nothing to the story) and the game would have been far less frustrating with an undo or brief rewind function.

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Capsule Review: Antichamber

A first-person puzzle exploration game with a stark aesthetic. In this sort of plot-light puzzle game, the motivation to keep playing comes from a desire to see what interesting new mechanics and surprises will come next. Most of Antichamber’s surprises come from subverting expectations about the nature of space and reality, such as by having hallways rearrange themselves when you aren’t looking.

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Capsule Review: Pony Island

A runner game inside a puzzle game with some less categorizable bits in between, Pony Island is a lighthearted 2-3 hour experience that pokes fun at shady game monetization techniques. Despite casting developers who use these strategies as literally the devil, it’s much gentler than, say, Little Inferno’s commentary on the same topic.

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Capsule Review: Entwined

A beautiful but thematically incoherent game where you steer a fish and a crane down a tunnel through targets. Hit enough targets and the animals merge into a dragon which you fly around outside the tunnel for a bit, collecting color which you then use to skywrite briefly before moving on to the next level.

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Capsule Review: Braid

A puzzle platformer with gorgeous art and a beautiful soundtrack. Your main tool is the ability to rewind time, and several related mechanics are introduced over the course of the game. The various ways they interact force you to stretch your brain through a series of unbelievably clever puzzles, one or two of which will have you reaching for YouTube to understand what must be done.

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Capsule Review: rain

This game wants to be atmospheric and moody, and sometimes - briefly - it is. Other times the game supplies unnecessary text narration telling you how to feel. The puzzle platforming nearly always boils down to finding the shiny piece of the environment and hitting the interact button, with the only added complexity being time pressure via instant-death enemies.

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Capsule Review: HuniePop

A match-3 dating sim, because why the hell not. The match-3 gameplay is surprisingly deep and compelling, while the dating sim mechanics are serviceable at best and feel rote and shallow by comparison. Their interactions cause some unfortunate implications, such as it being mechanically to your advantage to stop dating a girl once you’ve slept with her.

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Capsule Review: A Bird Story

A well told and emotionally engaging short (an hour or so) story about a boy and a bird, wrapped in the language and logic of dreams and memories (and told with no dialog). But the sections where the player has control present such limited options and are over so quickly, it’s not often clear why the game bothers with them at all - this might have been better served as a non-interactive experience.

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