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: The Sims 4

A simulation game in which you create and control or observe the lives of virtual humans (“Sims”) in a simplified version of the modern Western world. Sims can learn skills, make friends and enemies, start families and have children, go to school and get jobs, engage in various hobbies, and more - either under their own autonomous decision-making or under the direct control of the player.

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Capsule Review: Quarantine Circular

A conversational game about first contact with an alien race and the ramifications for humanity’s chances of survival. Play control rotates between a few humans and even the alien, and each has their own goals to accomplish mainly through dialog choices. The game is a semi-sequel to Subsurface Circular with a similar format and apparently set in the same world, but they stand separately and can be played in any order.

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Capsule Review: Car Quest

A 3D collectathon platformer where the player character happens to be a car. The simple gameplay and story, vaporwave-like visuals, and relaxed soundtrack suggest the game is intended to be a chill experience, but lack of polish and backtracking-heavy design make it increasingly frustrating as the map opens up. A car-based platformer is something I’ve wanted ever since Jim Sterling asked why 3D Sonic games didn’t use driving controls in 2011, but Car Quest doesn’t take full advantage of the premise.

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Capsule Review: Night in the Woods

A character-driven narrative mystery game with occasional platform/rhythm/adventure game elements. Play as Mae, twenty-year-old college dropout returning to her hometown of Possum Springs and reuniting with her family and friends and confronting how things have changed. Gameplay is mostly a matter of exploring the town, talking to inhabitants and passers-through, and deciding which friend to spend the evening with on each day.

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Capsule Review: Go Vacation

A sports minigame collection set in an island resort. Activities range widely from table hockey to skydiving to playing a glass harp, connected by a surprisingly rich hub world to explore and featuring a surprising amount of customization in the form of outfits, vehicle skins, a variety of dogs that can follow you around, and a villa for the player to lay out and furnish.

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Capsule Review: Dust: An Elysian Tail

A 2D action RPG Metroidvania that feels like it’s set in an animated movie, because it basically is. Play as the amnesiac Dust exploring varied environments and fighting monsters to find answers and help people out along the way. While not everyone likes the an art style (which is somewhere between Vanillaware and The Secret of NIMH) I found it beautiful.

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Capsule Review: Kamiko

A short and simple retro-styled game that feels like an essentialized homage to Zelda dungeons. As any of three shrine maidens, progress through a series of four levels defeating enemies and solving simple puzzles to reach and cleanse four gates which also act as save points. Once you’ve cleansed all four, fight a boss and proceed to the next level.

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Capsule Review: Stardew Valley

A life sim that casts you primarily as a farmer growing crops and raising livestock but also features fishing, cooking, crafting, mining, combat, and romanceable NPCs. The game is heavily influenced by the old Harvest Moon or Story of Seasons games, and is presented in a similar three-quarters overhead pixel-art style.

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Capsule Review: Human Resource Machine

A puzzle game tasking the player with writing simple programs to manipulate numbers. Eleven different programming commands are available as building blocks for conquering forty one increasingly-complex challenges. Most puzzles also have optional goals to optimize your program’s line count and execution time. The experience is lightly wrapped in a shallow but ironic story that has your program executed by a human office worker doing pointless work to climb a corporate ladder.

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Capsule Review: Ikachan

A bite-sized pixel-art underwater Metroidvania starring a squid. Swim to explore your environment, get new abilities, and do favors for sea urchins. It’s a solid foundation that feels more like a proof of concept than a finished game, clocking in at about an hour and leaving most of its ideas undeveloped.

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