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: 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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Capsule Review: To the Moon

An interactive story wrapped in the style and presentation of a SNES RPG. For folks with the right nostalgia, this is a very effective format and I personally would love to see more like it. The premise is compelling - you play as a pair of technicians who can rewrite the memories of the dying to grant them their life’s wish.

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Capsule Review: Crypt of the NecroDancer

A rhythm-based roguelike where you maintain a multiplier by keeping your actions on the beat. This structure encourages you to rely on instinct and act quickly and is quite effective at creating flow - at least, it is when you know what you’re doing. To keep your multiplier, you have to make split-second decisions accounting for a decent amount of complexity and variety in monster movement and attack patterns.

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Capsule Review: A Dark Room

A text-based idle game from before those were everywhere, and for my money it’s still the best one. Unusually for an idle game, it has an actual story with an actual ending. It presents a very coherent experience - the sparse visuals and writing, the mechanics that make sense on the surface but are really dark if you think through their implications, and the environmental storytelling of the post-apocalyptic setting that you explore in roguelike sections that spice up the gameplay all come together to create a compelling atmosphere.

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