Having foolishly decide to give real life sports a try, I’ve been nursing a fractured ankle for the last few weeks, which is not a phrase I thought I’d be writing at 41. My doctoral expertise in seventeenth century culture has proven to be totally useless (as per usual), so I’ve survivied on a diet of Ibuprofen and no sympathy from my family. However, that just means more time for video games! As per usual, myself and Nurse Miguel have been busy checking out more lesser known titles for you all. So, without further ado, to the clinic!
Blue Rider – PS4, XBO, Switch, PC
Blue Rider has some charming gameplay, but you’ll need to dig through some poor visuals and rough controls in order to find it. The game is a twin-stick shooter where you move a floating battleship with your left stick and turn it around to aim the gun with your right stick, but I still felt thrown off by the way my titular blue rider handled.
Turning it with the right-stick produced a slow and lurching result with a slow start-up and ease-off that doesn’t suit twitch twin-stick shooting at all. The movement of the craft was floaty and slippery in a way that seemed counterintuitive to the type of game I was supposed to be playing. The game is pretty easy on its own, so the added challenge of manoeuvring the slippery ship made Blue Rider a pretty engaging little treat, despite a rocky start.
Bendy and the Ink Machine – PS4, XBO, Switch, PC, iOS, Android
As much as I love horror games and films, I haven’t played or seen too many because I’m just so sensitive to the scares. Wild demonic imagery and gory jump scares will leave me scrambled for days, so it’s usually atmospheric games or games with a subversive art style that I find myself being able to fully appreciate without scarring my psyche!
Bendy And The Ink Machine is one of those games.
You play as an animator of old school cartoons who is revisiting his now abandoned animation studio. The entire game is rendered in a unique art style with lots of browns, sharp cartoony outlines and pure black inky goo. It’s a unique art style that still manages to help create a tense and slightly disturbing atmosphere, as you explore the empty warehouse and hear all the concerning sounds that litter every corner of the rooms.
Gameplay consists of item-scouring and puzzle solving, but in the segments that I played, I was pretty consistently engaged by the pacing of the game and the effective scares. If you need a new horror game and want something unique, Bendy is worth checking out.
Pipe Push Paradise – PS4, XBO, Switch, PC, iOS, Android
If you’re someone who loves those old-school Flash Player pipe-pushing puzzle games, Pipe Push Paradise is a must play. If you’re an absolute idiot who’s terrible at even the most basic pipe puzzles, like me, Pipe Push Paradise will do nothing to change that.
Anybody can appreciate the aesthetic of this game. Cute, teeny characters drawn in a pastel paper-craft style are accompanied by relaxing ocean waves and calming, gentle background music.
But holy macaroni, these puzzles are hard! Playing the game consists of just pushing pipes around. Push ‘em at a certain angle and they’ll rotate around, too. Hard as I may try, I found myself reaching my limit early on in puzzles that the game mockingly labeled as “Medium” difficulty. If you’re a dunce like me and can’t figure these puzzles out whatsoever, there aren’t really any resources for you. No training, or tips, or visual examples. Pipe Push Paradise is ruthless in its simplicity, and only proper fans of the genre will be able to appreciate it fully.
Nairi: Tower of Shirin – Switch, PC
A cute adventure game with a nice cartoony aesthetic, Nairi suffers from not really knowing who its audience is. The aesthetic and item fetching puzzles of most of the game are ideally suited to a younger generation, but there are a surprising number of more risqué comments and a turn towards infuriatingly obscure logic puzzles towards the end.
There is a really promising setup of class struggles and religious debates beneath the furry characterisation and animal types work well to represent social status, but most of the time is spent moving from one stretch of dialogue to the next. The result is a game that attempts to combine several genres without really succeeding at any. The world set up is interesting, but it feels too confused to fully recommend.
Tsioque – PC
Continuing the adventure theme, Tsioque is an unashamedly old-school point and click adventure that has a visual aesthetic partway between Monkey Island and Dragon’s Lair. Charting the adventures of a princess locked away by an evil wizard with a mysterious origin, Tsioque moves from a slow start to blossom into a charming and enjoyable game. It isn’t the longest adventure you’ll find, but there is plenty here to tickle your fancy if you can forgive the misstep of the first puzzle. Clicking multiple times on an item with no real visual indication is not a good first impression and I’m not sure how it passed testing!
The animation and backdrops are consistently excellent and the story develops nicely, with a final act that packs a real emotional punch. I was also pleasantly surprised to receive an actual physical copy of the PC version, complete with big cardboard box and manual (plus art book and mousemat). This level of love and detail is shared by the game itself and Tsioque deserves to be enjoyed by adventure game fans of all ages.
Atari Flashback Classics Vol. 3 – PS4, XBO
I never had an Atari back in the day, so approached this collection with no nostalgic memories to gloss over the simplistic graphics and controls. Having said that, I am a fan of retro games and collections in general and was keen to take a look at a period of gaming that was new to me. Unfortunately, the titles in Volume 3 of the Atari Flashback series would mostly be best left to historical obscurity and have little to recommend their being played nowadays. The package as a whole is fine but I can’t see this appealing to anybody outside of older players looking to revisit their childhood.
Most of the games are basic to the extreme, and this collection compounds that by including numerous ancient sports titles that are almost incomprehensible. One of the American football titles didn’t seem to respond to my controller at all. Games like Asteroids and Centipede, both here in their 5200 versions, are still great, but there are many other ways of playing better versions of them. Adventure II from the Atari 2600 is an interesting blast from the past, but there is nothing here that made me want to play again after a few minutes.
There you go, six more games from beneath the hype. A real mixed bag again, but some stand out titles to be sure. I’d recommend staying away from Atari Collection, but the rest all have something to be enjoyed. A tie this time between Tsioque and Bendy and the Ink Machine for top tip.
See you all again next time when I should once again be as powerful and fully operational as the second Death Star.