Hostil (PC)

Well, if you're looking for a very pretty point-and-click adventure game that's over in twenty minutes you can do worse. I'm not sure how you can get much worse than Murder, though.


The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav (PC)

Chains of Satinav's handpainted scenes sure are pretty to look at, but they're wallpaper over a frankly underwhelming experience.

As a point-and-click adventure game, well, you can't die so that's one thing it does right. But the puzzles are... annoying, to say the least. For one thing, there's too much backtracking. At one point you have to walk back and forth between two characters on different screens to get answers to a series of questions about three times. And I figured out what I needed to do for an early puzzle, but the game wouldn't let me actually do it until I'd gone through some tedious dialogue. Also, Geron has a spell that allows him to break extremely fragile objects but I kept forgetting about it because "extremely fragile objects" actually meant "whatever the developers didn't feel like programming a puzzle for."

But hey, another thing point-and-click adventure games are known for is their storytelling, so how does Chains of Satinav do on that front? Well, there's the bones of an interesting story here. The protagonist is a bird catcher everyone shuns because they all think he was cursed by a seer as he was burned at the stake years ago, and there's this lore about a harp that when played by a fairy brings chaos upon the world, and a demigod who was chained to a raft and set adrift in the river of time for defying the gods. And there's a bit where you need to go through a canyon only to find the place packed with orcs on some kind of pilgrimage. It's like the game kept teasing me with this adventure-filled world, but only let me glimpse it through the tiny windows I'd walk by while escorting two boring-ass teenagers on their quest to find David Bowie.

Oh, and the game uses the Wilhelm scream. Twice.

But what really killed the experience for me was the game's own apathy. When a traveling entertainer gets brutally murdered in front of him, there's no sound and Geron barely flinches. When Geron tells a merchant he intends to steal his shit, the merchant tells him to not even bother, then lets Geron continue wandering his ship's cabin. Even towards the end of the game when Geron finds himself in a magical realm where he can walk through paintings and perspective tricks actually shrink and enlarge objects, he barely reacts to any of it. Plus, the voice acting is phoned in and everybody sounds half asleep. It's like, nobody in this game gives a shit about anything, why should I?


Ralph Wrecks the Internet (PG)

Congratulations, Ralph 2, you managed make Pixels look like a respectable tribute to pop culture! Or maybe it just seems worse because I went into Pixels knowing it was a dumpster fire, while this caught me by surprise with just how fucking awful it was. And being a sequel to the decent Wreck-It Ralph isn't doing it any favors.

Following some shenanigans, Vanellope's Sugar Rush machine ends up broken and Ralph and she go online to locate the part on eBay before all the game's residents end up homeless. And I'm pretty sure the "idiots who don't understand an auction crank up their own bill" gag was overdone when The Golden Girls did it back in the goddamned 80s.

So now Ralph and Vanellope have one day to make enough money to actually pay for the part, and that means lots and lots of memes and pop culture references. First they try to steal an item from a GTA Online knockoff, but when that doesn't pan out Ralph turns to making stupid YouTube videos for ad revenue. I kept having to pause the movie and go do something else until I'd built up enough stamina to continue.

And then there's that scene of Vanellope running into all the Disney princesses and making fun of how screwed up their stories are, which might have worked in a better movie but after everything I'd put up with by that point it just made me want to peel my own skin off with my fingernails. And correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't believe Mulan was a princess? I forget how wealthy her family was, but she sure as hell wasn't the daughter of the emperor. And if she was supposed to marry Li Shang after the movie, again, he was the son of a general, not a prince.

For the last twenty or so minutes Ralph 2 decides it wants to try to have a point, something about how friends need space and learning to let go or some bullshit I didn't care about by then. Vanellope took a liking to that racing game from before and Ralph is afraid she's going to leave him for it, so he does something that torpedoes his arc from the first movie, Vanellope screams for a bit, there's a dead-eyed Ralph amalgamation, and a show of all the princesses combining their abilities to save Ralph in a display that might been amusing if I wasn't so fucking sick of everything by then.


Solo: A Star Wars Story (PG)

So, Han Solo was an Imperial soldier who ran away, went on to be an outlaw, tried to steal a macguffin power source, and years after getting away from the Empire gets pulled back into the conflict on the rebel side? Is Star Wars revenge-ripping off Balthier from Final Fantasy XII?


The Hex (PC)

This is from the Pony Island guy, so you know it's going to be a trip.

Six characters representing different game genres and tropes meet up at a tavern run by a wheelchair-bound old man, where they recount their adventures and how they wound up there. If you go in expecting a collection of six games you're going to be sorely disappointed as the the most fleshed out chapter is the space marine shooter, and even that's only one or two levels. The rest are heavily summarized, and one character's game was never even finished.

Instead, The Hex is a narrative driven game, with a heavy emphasis on the theme of user interaction. Not just playing the games, but posting user reviews, complaining about balance, modding games, and so on. And this wouldn't be a followup to Pony Island without a ton of mindfuckery, creepypasta, and fakeout glitches. In the final chapter we learn the connection between the seven characters, culminating in an ending that will probably have some people cackling in sadistic "Haha, fuck you, asshole!" glee, but was a little too dark for me.

And apparently the community dig up some easter eggs that lead to a secret ending that makes the whole thing even more unsettling. Hats off to you, Daniel Mullins, you twisted bastard. Sorry I keep confusing you with Edmund McMillen, though.


Hypnospace Outlaw (PC)

Hypnospace Outlaw takes you back to the glorious days of Internet 1.0 where spinning graphics, gaudy backgrounds, and autoplaying midis ruled the land and the church was accusing Pokemon of turning children into devil worshipers. But the game can't just be looking at crappy GeoCities pages in the late 90s, so you're a sort of Internet moderator looking for harassment, malware, copyright infringement, and other unacceptable content. Your bosses send you assignments to look for specific violations, which take you through the various stories of the page creators that set things up nice and juicy for when everything goes down the poo pipe at the end.

So it's a neat little story, but the puzzles can eat a dick. Is starts out fair enough, poking around a handful of sites flagging pictures of a cartoon fish (which I'm pretty sure would fall under fair use, but this game ain't going anywhere until you do what you're told), then moving on to a doucebag teenager harassing other users. Then you get to an assignment that requires you to install a piece of adware (in-game, not on your actual computer thank fuck) that will then pester you constantly until you pay in-game money to get rid of it. Eventually you're scraping together clues from several completely different pages trying to get into a file sharing service, and I never would have figured out the final assignment on my own (I'd actually found one of the keys to it during the file sharing mission, but had absolutely no idea what it was for). Also, requiring money to complete a game where money is limited (unless you find the minigame that rewards it, which I only did after consulting a walkthrough) is kind of a dick move, especially if you buy a pet - which you have to for one mission - and have to keeping paying $4 to feed it every five minutes while you're trying to figure out a puzzle. And if there was a way to put the pet into hibernation I sure as hell couldn't find it.


Gato Roboto (PC)

Holy shit, it's Blaster Master with a cat, people! BLASTER MASTER WITH A CAT!


... you think I'd have learned something from Cat Quest.

Well, that's a bit harsh, it's not as crushingly bland as Cat Quest was. But what should have been a fun little romp through HOLY SHIT, BLASTER MASTER* WITH A CAT becomes a needlessly irritating experience because the controls are bouncy, your jumps are hard to manuver, and your missile keeps recoiling you into trouble.

And can we stop with games that seal your file when you beat them? If your game has a point of no return, just put us outside it when we beat the final boss. Okay, technically Gato Roboto lets you play your file after the ending, but all you can do is bum around three rooms and get an easter egg.

* Yeah, I know it's supposed to be closer to Metroid than Blaster Master but come on, you're in a mech you can jump in an out of. Let me have this one.


Kirby Triple Deluxe (3DS, E10+)

It's a Return to Dreamland expansion pack for the 3DS. It looks the same, it plays the same, you get a powerup that lets you wreck up the end of a level from time to time (only it's a super suction instead of a super weapon), the final boss keeps doing that "This isn't even my final form!" thing, and I swear some of the music was carried over. But the hardware is different, so the Wii controller shakes have been replaced with gyroscope bullshit. Because what I really need while lying on my back in bed is having to tilt the system to roll a gondola along its track, or spin it around to aim at tiny targets while still trying to see what the fuck I'm doing on screen.

And because this is the 3DS, 3D gimmicks are shoveled in with all the grace of a hippo on a skateboard with one wheel missing. What this means is several level elements come towards the screen, including as trains, spring-loaded hands, or a rotating wall. Or enemies with attacks that slam Kirby himself against the 3DS screen, which is actually a pet peeve of mine - I'm not as down on it in a Kirby game as I would be in a serious game splattering blood or rain on the screen, but I can do without the constant reminder that there's a piece of glass or plastic between me and the action.

I have a nitpick with the actual gameplay. As with most other Kirby games, there are hidden treasures found in paths off the main one. But several times I'd come to a room with two doors practically next to each other, one leading to a collectible while the other takes you further into the level with no way to get back, and you have no idea which is which. Usually I'd assume the further door was considered harder to get to and take that one, but this wasn't always the case.