Review: Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War throws back to bonkers gameplay and silly storytelling

As ineloquent as this may sound, Black Ops Cold War is a weird game. It plays like a tug of war between the advancement attempts that Infinity Ward put forward in last year’s Modern Warfare and Treyarch’s own mechanical contributions to the series over the years. What results is a product that tries to have its cake and eat it too, except that Black Ops Cold War seems to want to eat multiple, different cakes. It’s a strange entry in the series that lacks polish and quality. Still, I have to admit that I am having a lot of fun with it, in the way I would with a flaws-and-all action flick.

Review: The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope recalls familiar horror tropes, to a major fault

With The Dark Pictures Anthology, it is quite obvious and explicit that Until Dawn developer Supermassive Games is attempting to muck about with as wide a spread of horror tropes as possible. It’s certainly an advantage for the ambitious project — there are countless horror cliches and gimmicks stuck in our collective minds. But in the midst of my first playthrough of Little Hope, the sophomore entry of The Dark Pictures, I questioned whether or not these tropes were worth having any affection over.

Review: The Jackbox Party Pack 7 is a mix of creative and overly complex concepts

One of the most endearing traits of any Jackbox Party Pack is how high-concept most of the games contained within are — you can explain the premise of these games to any novice and create unlimited hijinx. But with Jackbox Games turning in a new collection every year, more concepts are going through the pipeline, and the mass volume of them are diluting the ease of use of these packages. The Jackbox Party Pack 7 is undoubtedly fun, but explaining these concepts to new players is more of a challenge than ever.

Cloudpunk touches on gender and race with messy sci-fi allegories

It quickly becomes clear that Cloudpunk is trying to be forward-thinking with its allegories and commentary, with AI and androids becoming stand-ins for minorities, namely people of color and trans people. But despite apparently good intentions, the parallels and metaphors made become blurred and bungled together. In a way, this story is a demonstration on some of the fallacies of modern attempts at cyberpunk, with an aura of cynicism that is becoming tiresome.

Review: Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix proves nostalgia can only drive you so far

Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix is an anachronism of a video game, looking like it came from the 2000s while including characters from recent television shows. The first Nickelodeon Kart Racers, from 2018, was soulless and cynical, but I can say that the sequel is twice the game its predecessor was. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean much, as the first game set the bar so low that it’s below even Rock Bottom.

Lovingly Evil emulates the anxiety and ticking clock of conventions

Back in the day when in-person conventions were allowed, I would enter the floor with a sense of purpose. I was there to work, of course, gathering connections, networking with likeminded people, and attending panels. With limited time and so many moving parts on a given day, conventions would become draining, and with all of the personal interactions in between, it becomes clear that these events are a juggling act. Yes, we were all there for some form of career advancement, but we wanted to see people. These events were a mix of business and pleasure. People are seeking connections, but sometimes they may seek connections.

REZ PLZ Review: Live, Die, Platform, Repeat

In what is informally called the “splatformer,” player characters are expected to die numerous times through harrowing levels designed for trial-and-error. For REZ PLZ by Long Neck Games, death is not only an expectation but a requirement. This is a game that plays with the video game-y concept of respawning—though instead of presenting some sort of existential primer on impermanence, it comes off as a grisly buddy comedy.

Review: Liberated is a "Both Sides" Tale in a Period of Resistance

Playing Liberated amidst the protests and riots stemming from the recent police murder of George Floyd was profoundly unsettling. As I was playing this cyberpunk noir game on my Switch, I sat in front of my laptop, which displayed social media images of public demonstrations and the resulting police brutality. Meanwhile, in Liberated, I was playing as a cop, indiscriminately shooting members of a resistance organization.

Review: Wunderling

For whatever reason, fans of the Super Mario games have enjoyed engaging in absolutely ludicrous speculation and obscure fact-finding about their world and lore (i.e. the Peachette discourse, or Mario punching Yoshi). They turn the chirpy and innocent into the grotesque, and project somewhat dark implications into the behind-the-scenes goings-on in the Mushroom Kingdom. More often than not, Wunderling from Retroid often feels like a byproduct inspired by that absurd Mario conjecture, with the high-concept pitch being: what if there was a Mario game with a Goomba as the hero?

The Jackbox Party Pack 6 Review — Sustaining the Life of the Party

After five party packs from Jackbox Games, it is fair to say that we all “get” Jackbox at this point. Players are familiar with the tropes, the formulas, and the overall sense of humor of these packages, and these games have been around long enough that we can use previous games as references in discussing newer ones. This isn’t a hindrance to The Jackbox Party Pack 6, however, with a lot of ideas from Jackbox’s past cleverly reused, remixed, and repurposed for some fun new games.

Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair Review — Actually Quite Possible

It’s quite likely that just by its nature of being a 2D platformer, Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair interested me to a level where its 3D predecessor just didn’t. I was always more of a Donkey Kong Country kid more so than Donkey Kong 64, and even if Playtonic and Team17 downplayed comparisons to Retro Studios’ reboot of DKC, a number of overlapping elements had me sold. Couple that with a Breath of the Wild-like approach to its final level and unique ideas with the overworld and we had something that I thought could be a winner.

Sayonara Wild Hearts Review — An Enchanting Visual Album Full of Hits

Once everyone begins talking about Sayonara Wild Hearts in their own gaming social spaces, each person will undoubtedly be comparing it to different pieces of media that they like. It could be another video game, a favorite movie they have, or more likely, a music album that they adore. Regardless of what points of comparison people make, they’ll all be right in some way, whether Simogo intended the similarities or not. What’s important is that this “pop album game” will surely remind players of something that they personally love.

Untitled Goose Game Review — A Comedy of Errors

Out of all of the visual mediums, video games seem to be the medium that eludes humor the most. Sure, writers can put out a funny script and animators can make their characters do silly things, but the interactivity of gaming cries for the act of play to create comedy for the player. This Untitled Goose Game from House House could very well serve as an antidote for the lack of comedy in play experiences, even if it doesn’t reach its full potential.

Creature in the Well Review — Sure Plays a Mean Pinball

As I played Flight School’s Creature in the Well, the word “satisfying” kept popping to mind—but as I find that word to be overused in video game criticism and conjecture, I found myself reckoning with what that word really tells us about games. Was it the sights, the sounds, or perhaps the pace of gameplay that we find satisfying? For this pinball-like hack-and-slash, the answer was all of the above.
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