Soul Axiom

I didn’t mean to buy this game. You see, there is a
popular metroidvania game called Axiom Verge out, and- yes, it’s
embarrassing, but I apparently was in too much haste to check the store
page of what I was buying and ended up buying Soul Axiom instead. The
perils of the Steam Sales strike us all. Still, I bought it, so it’s in
my library, and that means it’s a backlog game.

went in knowing absolutely nothing about what to expect, and I left…
knowing pretty much exactly the same amount. Charitably, Soul Axiom is a
game that plays its hand close to its chest; less charitably, it’s a
game that just kind of does a load of stuff and you’re just kind of
there for it.

Ostensibly I
guess it’s a first person puzzle game, though one where the puzzles are
very gentle- rarely being more complex than interacting with a specific
object in order to open the path. Later on there are special abilities
granted such as the power to disintegrate objects or to rewind time, but
these also rarely add much; if you can use a power on an object it
usually means you have to, and having interacted with it at all is
usually enough to solve the puzzle. As a result it becomes more of an
interactive story rather than a game, which is a fine thing but only if
the story is worth telling.

well, that’s where it kinda falls apart. A sequence of surreal
non-sequitur landscapes isn’t doing much environmental storytelling even
if the narrative assures us one is being told. Nothing means anything
here, it’s not cohesive, it’s just stuff.

Fin or Bin:

towards the end there is a single unifying reveal which bridges the
connection between the dive bar, the desert, and the museum flawlessly,
but getting to that point is a journey of being shown some mildly
interesting environments and occasionally clicking on something within
them to get to the next one. It’s one step removed from browsing through
a background artist’s portfolio on Deviantart.

It’s worth noting that
there is a “rebooted” version now available (and the original has been
delisted). I played the original, and while I can’t imagine a remaster
could do much to improve things, I can’t say for certain that it didn’t.
The original, at least, will be going in the Bin.

(Steam (Rebooted Version))

Baba Is You


Many many moons past, I ran a youtube channel whose aim was to spotlight neat indie games and help them find an audience. This was before the indie boom, a time when Steam was still in its infancy and the spread of indie titles was limited largely to posts on forums via word of mouth. One of the games I featured was Floating Island Game, a point-and-click puzzler by Arvi Teikari.

Thirteen years later, and with that project long rendered redundant, it was a big surprise to see his name again as the developer of Baba Is You, a wildly successful puzzle game that has had people worldwide tearing their faces off in frustration trying to solve its devilishly simple but astoundingly devious puzzles. I like to think I had a small part in that success! It’s entirely possible one of the 6,000 people who watched that video went on to become a Teikari superfan.

Anyway, to get back to Baba, those devilish puzzles take the form of simple word-based rules. The game grid is populated with both objects and words referencing those objects. By pushing the words around, you can change the rules of the world, and thus the interactions of those objects. [Baba] [Is] [You] and [Rock] [Is] [Push] can be rearranged such that now [Rock] [Is] [You], and now you are controlling the rocks instead of Baba.

This is important because some objects will have multiple rules affecting them- ‘Baba Is Melt’ and ‘Lava Is Hot’ together mean Baba will die if they try to cross lava, but that doesn’t matter one jot if Rock Is You, because there isn’t a rule saying ‘Rock Is Melt’!

Simple in premise, then, but figuring out what arrangement of rules you need and in what sequence is where the brain starts to boil; the words all operate as moveable blocks and are prone to getting stuck in corners or against walls, and all the while you need to be careful not to disturb the ‘_ Is You’ rule for fear of knocking it out of place, deleting the rule and ending up in the existential nightmare of NOTHING Is You. Thankfully, you can quickly backspace one errant action at any time, all the way back to the very beginning if you need to, so mistakes aren’t at all punished.

Fin or Bin:

I was really worried going into this game. I know people far more intelligent and far more patient than I am who had to tap out for fear of their brains leaking out of their ears. But boy howdy, Teikari knows how to make a great puzzle game;
there isn’t anything quite like that “a-ha!” sensation when you stumble over the one set of rules that makes everything else click into place, and the puzzle arenas are tightly designed enough that you’re never left wandering around trying incalculable permutations of the same puzzle until you can brute-force it. For the first hour at least, everything was eminently solvable, however hot my brain got trying to get there. Baba Is Fin!


Games of 2021

Due to the inexorable passage of time, it is nearly the end of 2021,
which means it’s time for my yearly retrospective of all the games what I
gone done played like. Managed 40-odd games this year, down from last year’s 80-something, but y’know. Real life and stuff happened. Video games!

2021 saw me become a Twitch affiliate,
thus proving my sister wrong all those years ago- video games CAN make
you money!!!! It also saw me fail to start any of my intended projects.
How surprising.

2022 is the year of the Steam Deck, aka the Backlog Buster. I’m very
very excited to get mine- we’ll see next year if I’ve actually played
the damned thing or if I just put a load of emulators on it and then
didn’t touch it afterward.

To the list!

Pokemon Fire Red Randomiser Nuzlocke

Trailing off from the end of last year, our pokemon journey came to a
happy ending as we were declared Champion of Kanto. SugarHurt, Yellow,
Daddyama, Goggles, Bootsy, and Swampbert enter the hall of fame, and the
history books. A fantastic run and a great deal of fun, I can’t wait to
do it again some day.

Pikmin 3

This is Pikmin Perfected, striking the ideal balance between its two
predecessors, maintaining the pressure of the first game but in a much
less stressful manner. The bonus mission modes are all enjoyable too-
rare for me to enjoy these things but P3 got it right.

Fire Emblem Three Houses

Phew, alright. I’ve spent four hundred hours in this game so far,
currently halfway through my fourth run (of four). It’s fair to say I
have fallen utterly in love with this game. It was the subject of many
months’ discussion and debate with midgi who played alongside me, as we
unraveled the mysteries of Fodlan together. 3H is a vastly different
direction for the series and one they’re unlikely to replicate for
future entries. I honestly have lots of thoughts about this game that
exceed the scope of a write-up like this, but suffice it to say FE3H is
my Game Of The Year.

Touhou 18

Went in with high hopes, having enjoyed the demo a great deal. Second
half not as strong as the first half in my opinion, but still a lot of
fun. I like that ZUN was honest and said he didn’t actually put any
thought at all into how balanced the ability cards are, but it really
shows in Extra where you either get lucky with the random cards or you
lose. It’s a shame cos I like the Extra stage, but having certain runs
just straight up give me three extra lives makes it frustrating when you
don’t get that.

Yooka Laylee

Hmmmm, I kinda rushed my way through this one. A game that steadfastly
and deliberately refuses to learn any lessons since 1999, it’s really
hard to review this. The bad parts are deliberately bad, and they are
bad in a very authentic way, does that mean it was good??? I dunno.
Ultimately I had a little fun with it but almost equally as much
frustration, and I certainly didn’t even entertain the idea of 100%ing


(Some spoilers ahead) This was a tremendously effective and artistic
depiction of grief. The most striking part of the game for me was the
giant shadow bird- how Gris just utterly shut down when it first
appeared, nothing she could do about it. Much later in the game, Gris
has more powers and has grown and recovered so much, and the bird
appears again out of nowhere… and she’s just as powerless against it
this time as she was the first. It’s a striking moment because games
won’t usually do that and that is also true to how grief will suddenly
knock you down even so long after you feel you’ve recovered. I truly
wish they hadn’t included the collectible achievement items as it only
detracts from what is otherwise a great piece of art.


Pyre is still my favourite Supergiant game, but at this point if Darren
Korb handed me a bucket of broken glass and said “hey, I need you to eat
this”, I’d do it. GOTY (I’m allowed to have two, leave me alone)


Argh, it was a very very shaky Fin when I played it, and when I came
back to it I just… couldn’t. It’s a gorgeous game, but between the
horribly clunky interface, the poor camera, confusing directions, and
baffling progression system, it was too much work for too little payoff.
A real shame.

I hate this game

I love this game! Hahahahaha sorry. Some really neat parallel thinking
here, 100 rooms deep so it doesn’t outstay its welcome. Decent chiptune
soundtrack rounds off a nice little evenings-worth package.

Milo and the Magpies

Really enjoyed my hour with Milo, it’s another cozy fit for an evening. Very sweet and cute and charming. My BBLC writeup says it all. Strong recommend.

Kero Blaster

The main game is great. The unlockable extra story relies a little too
hard on bottomless pits and instakill mechanics and suffers as a result.
Cave Story still the magnum opus, but Kero Blaster is worth a punt if
you like retrostyle run’n’guns.

Metroid Dread

GOTY (I can have three! Shut up!). Goodness, the entire internet has
lavished praise upon this to the degree that I don’t know what I can
really add. I’ve only played through it once- I sorely need to get back
to it and start doing speedruns. Holy crap, what a tour-de-force.
Finally learning what became of the Chozo, after so long, and that WHOLE
end sequence that I won’t spoil. Damn! What a game!

Hollow Knight

I certainly wasn’t as taken with it as many seem to be, with a pile of
frustrations keeping me from LOVING it, but overall I did have a good
time with Hollow Knight. The boss fights are the main draw here, very
challenging but the controls are SO tight and well-tuned that they still
feel great to battle. only a few optional bosses crossed the line into

The Swapper

Enjoyable up to a point- it eventually became a little too
pixel-finnicky for my tastes. Execution became so precise that it was
hard to tell if I had the wrong solution or I was doing the right thing
but slightly off-position.


Haven’t gotten back to it yet since writing by BBLC post. It’s next up in line though!

Sin And Punishment

Another one I haven’t got back to yet. I actually haven’t even written
the BBLC post for it yet because I’m depressed! Oops! Maybe by the time I
publish this I’ll have put it out? [EDIT: I did! But I’m still two
behind ;_;]

Pokemon Shield/Moon/X

In an effort to combat seasonal depression at the start of the year, I
made it a personal mission to complete a living pokedex, and so scoured
all my old carts for blighters to port forward and fill any gaps. It was
a nice nostalgia trip and I got to see all my fantastic nicknaming
decisions across the years.

Master of Orion 2

I’m telling you, it’s going to be on this list every year until the end
of time. This year, I streamed it for the first time, hoping to catch a
few flies in the web. Don’t think anyone took the bait, but my offer
stands, I’ll buy you a copy if you have a genuine interest in trying it.

Touhou obviously

I think I played all of them at some point this year. Someone made a
neat package for the first five titles that makes it super easy to run
them and They Just Work, which was very cool. I’ve played them before
but the emulation was atrocious at the time, was nice to see them in
proper glory. Th01 is really weird.

Donkey Kong Country (diddyspin)

I only technically played this. It was for a project that hasn’t
seen the light of day yet. I wanted to start it in the summer, but alas
it didn’t work out. I’m still figuring out how to do this. We’ll see if
2022 is the year.

Ocarina of Time

It has aged far more significantly than a lot of people are willing to
admit, and the fan-patcher is pretty much required at this point. It’s
still great and has an impressive command of atmosphere for an early 3D
title. The music in the Spirit Temple still gives me shivers.

Final Fantasy 5 Four Job Fiesta

I ran the FJF
four times this year! First time was the Corona Two event raising money
for covid treatment, a cause dearer to our hearts now than it was the
first Corona event. I then ran the main event in the summer raising
money for the PCRF and we raised over $100, which is FANTASTIC, and to
celebrate I did a second run off-stream just for my own enjoyment.
Finally, to celebrate the release of the Pixel Remaster, we ran it again
in November, which is technically a different game but I’ll lump it in
here. The PR version is probably the best version out there, although
we’re still figuring out all its foibles and exploits. Hopefully by the
next summer event, it’ll be fully explored. PR is the version I’ll be
using from here on!

Pokemon GO

As mentioned earlier, this was part of the effort to battle seasonal
depression by completing a living pokedex. It also had the advantage of
giving me an excuse to go for a walk in the cold, which definitely helps
the brain. I’m not a big fan of the way the game works, but it did what
it needed to do.

Wonderboy 2

I love this weird old game, nostalgically and otherwise. This year I
wanted to try to recreate a glitch I remember my brother stumbling on
when I was a wee babby, with limited success. I was able to replicate it
using memory modification to force the issue, but obviously he didn’t
do that back in the day. Still a cool game that I recommend people give a
try. It’s pretty difficult but save states mitigate all of that.

Fire Emblem 7

Having run a Girls Only stream of FE8 last year, I wanted to do it again
with my favourite of the FE titles. It’s a lot more challenging in this
game as you don’t actually GET any combat-ready girls for quite a long
time (in the main game at least), so I allowed use of the main Lord
Eliwood as well. It’s not like he’s some super powerful unit who would
break the challenge, so I didn’t mind that small allowance.

Chrono Trigger

Another game I played for the stream to share it with people who NEEDED
to know. Chrono Trigger is widely heralded as one of the best games ever
made, and I don’t disagree with that assessment. It simply gets so much
right, and what it doesn’t get right is charming enough that it’s
forgivable. The love and effort and thought put into every single facet
is palpable.


SIF is a game that means a great deal to me, but its heyday is long
past. SIFAS is a game that I wanted to try again having bought a new
phone that can actually handle it without crashing, but I still just
don’t really get it. Regardless, you’re probably going to see both of
these games on next year’s list.

Metal Gear Solid 2

This is a game I played hundreds of times as a teen, and I’m very
familiar with it and have a nostalgic fondness for it. Going back to it
these days it’s a little hard to recommend, too busy trying to tell a
completely nonsensical story to linger on the actually fun parts of the
gameplay. It seems like you spend just as much time skipping cutscenes
as you do playing the game. It’s also just as guilty as the others in
its treatment of women and the general sense of grossness is far more
off-putting as an adult. What I’m saying is, I had fun with it but I am
not at all going to try to convince anyone it’s good. It was a very
important game in the history of such things, and an important game for
me, but I don’t think anyone going back to it will have a good time.

Grand Theft Auto Vice City

Not the re-release. Every so often I get the urge to fly across the city
in a helicopter to the tunes of VROCK radio station, and the rest of
the game is fun enough that getting to that point isn’t too much of a
chore. But really, just flying over the city, between buildings and
under the bridges and over the beach, all to a fun 80s rock
soundtrack… it’s hard to beat that feeling.

FE3H Girls Only

Still working on this, of course- it’s a long game! We’ll be playing
this well into 2022. I really hoped playing this would gather a bigger
audience, but oh well. As long as the audience I do have is having fun,
it’s worth it.

Touhou Danmaku Kagura

Touhou rhythm game! It just seems like such a no-brainer, taking a
series known for its killer original soundtracks AND the absolutely
uncontrollable fanbase producing endless rearrangements, and making a
rhythm game based on that, doesn’t it? Alas, me and gacha games just
don’t seem to be compatible, especially this one. Top marks for not
tying progression to gacha rolls- every single song is available to play
from the start, and you can ignore the mobage aspects entirely if you
want- a very cool touch that garners many bonus points, and I’m sure was
one of ZUN’s stipulations to secure his cooperation. But then there’s
no sense of progression, and that’s a killer for me personally. Events
are also handled weirdly, the prize being an exclusive card for a girl
who wasn’t featured in the event… I stuck with it for a while but
eventually realised I was just playing it because I felt I should be,
rather than because I was having fun. That’s when it’s time to stop.

Kokurase 2 + 3

Chapters two and three of a cool RPG maker game, this is unfortunately a
story that is likely never to be finished, as no translation studio
seems interested in picking up chapter 4. Chapter one is a closed story
worth playing by itself, and the next chapters were good for what they

Final Fantasy 4

The Pixel Remaster of my personal favourite FF game, this absolutely
blew my socks off. Soooo much better than the 3D remake and for my money
the GBA remake too. That remastered soundtrack is just phenomenal. I’d
love to share this on stream some day.


This gamecube game was universally panned at the time of release and I
was always fascinated by it, so having discovered a recent love of aquatic mammals
I took a look. Good gravy, it’s truly abysmal- an utterly fetid turd of
a game. The attempts at humour are pathetic, feeble and embarrassing.
Holy Dooley, it’s worth playing for all the wrong reasons.

Metroid Fusion

I wanted to play through this before Dread to catch back up with the
story, but I was too slow and ended up finishing it AFTER Dread instead,
so now canon states Samus forgot her computer was called Adam for some
reason and had to relearn it. Fusion is great. I understand the
criticisms but it’s great.


This year I sold all of my inventory, intending to quit wholesale, and
instead discovered that selling all my junk was actually quite
liberating and brought back some sense of the Old Days of TF2. Plus I
made $100 of steam credit towards my Deck! I still didn’t get that one
hat I’ve wanted for nine years though. The botpocalypse brought ruin to
the Halloween event, with spinbots everywhere, but they all spam an absolute tune over the voice chat so I didn’t mind.

Diddy Kong Racing

Both the N64 and DS versions, which I guess are technically different
games. The DS version really suffers badly with touchscreenitis. The
second race isn’t even a race, it’s an autoscroller! I quickly jumped
ship back to the N64 version, which is wayyy too easy except when it
isn’t, in which case it’s wayyyy too hard. Very odd balance.

Baba Is You

Haven’t made it back to this one yet since my BBLC stream, but I kind of
want to save it for my Steam Deck. It feels like such a great fit for a

Donkey Kong Land 2

On the recommendation of Supper Mario Broth, I gave the Gameboy version
of the best DKC title a go. It’s pretty good, surprisingly authentic,
and I keep tripping myself up remembering where the secrets are only to
be reminded that the level design has been altered for this version and
the things I remember being there are in fact no longer there. Quite
tricky to unlearn such things.


Ninja Pizza Girl
Final Fantasy Adventure
Bit Trip Runner
Soul Axiom

Sin and Punishment

This game is amazing. I don’t necessarily mean amazingly good, but I’m not at all trying to say it’s bad either. Look-

There is just an incredible amount of stuff just constantly happening in this game and I can’t follow any of it and it feels great. Utterly baffling cutscenes featuring some of the most ludicrous technobabble spouted as though it were common sense, psychic messages from ghostly apparitions of a man’s eyes, telekinetic children throwing fragments of battleships around, a playable character who screams “NOOOO!!!!!!!” every time she as much as gets a papercut, an annoying mascot character who is apparently super important to the plot, a lead character who suddenly becomes a giant antagonist, and all of this in about 30 minutes punctuated only by explosions and boss fights.

Treasure, one of my favourite developers of all time, who as far as I can tell have never made a single mis-step, somehow created this absolute fever dream of an on-rails shooter. All the usual Treasure hallmarks are here and yet it also feels utterly alien, like they just took every single idea they had and put them all together at once; the controls are ludicrously complicated and yet somehow seem to work, much like learning to pilot the helicopter in GTA Vice City, the plot throws itself around like a luchador who doesn’t have time for things like worldbuilding or establishing shots, the sheer audiovisual clutter never ever ceases, except to show you the next war machine you have to explode.

I haven’t got a clue what I did for the hour I played this game, but I came away from it a changed- nay, improved– person. I was a giggling mess by the end, long giving up on any hope of comprehension.

Fin or Bin:

Are you serious? Of course I want more. I feel like I touched the heart of madness and it changed me in ways irrevocable. It felt great to just switch off and let Sin And Punishment take me wherever it is we were going, and it’s a journey I long to Finish. Treasure always know what they’re doing, even when it’s beyond the ken of us normal folk; I trust them to get me where I need to be.

(Available on Nintendo 64 Online Expansion thing whatever it’s called)


Phew. It’s metroidvania season on BBLC, apparently, with several of them popping up in a row despite over 60 other games to choose from. I love the genre when it’s done well, but playing them together in quick succession makes it super easy to lose track of which protagonist has which powers… and which button shoots the gun. Argh.

But never fear, because although ~Pixel Art Metroidvania~ has become de rigueur across the indiesphere, Iconoclasts came before the trend- and wins bonus Beebs points for being my favourite genre, “solo indie projects by one person with more talent passion and drive than I can muster for anything”.

Pixelart (especially when branded “retro”) is often used as an excuse for ugly or lazy art, a trope which thankfully is disproven wholly by Iconoclasts’ bouncy, highly animated sprites, full of colour and character and making an artform out of showing a lot with a little. It’s uncommon for me to comment on the artstyle before the gameplay, but it’s unavoidable here- it’s immediately eyecatching and a joy to just watch, before you even pick up the controller.

It’s not all skin deep, either; Iconoclasts’ developer has some pedigree in the indie scene, with a catalogue I regrettably haven’t played any titles from but recognise as bastions of the scene in the early ‘10s- Noitu Love and its sequel Devolution among them. Konjak’s been doing this for a while and it shows, Robyn’s movement coming quick but never loose, and even the tutorial boss having a neat environmental quirk that sets it apart from just a tanky enemy.

Fin or Bin:

Reviews with anything negative to say typically pan how dialogue-heavy the game is; it’s not something that bothered me in mt hour, nor is it something that usually bothers me in a game even when it is a problem, and if that’s the worst Iconoclasts is going to do, I will gladly take it with a big ol’ spoon. Nah, this is my jam, I’m all about this kind of thing. I feel very stuck in my ways, but a big passion project is just always going to win my heart. I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to get stuck into one of your games, Konjak- maybe I’ll add Noitu Love to my backlog after I Finish this one.


The Swapper

From the store page and general atmosphere, I was worried the dice had given me yet another Metroidvania in quick succession. Thankfully, that’s not really the case.

Rather than being an exploration/puzzle solving hybrid, The Swapper is instead both of those things but strictly one at a time. Our protagonist, Mr. T Swapper, can create disposable clones of himself with wanton disregard of any ethical quandary such an act might inspire. These clones mimic his movements precisely (…mostly), allowing access to places otherwise out of reach. Provided there is line-of-sight, he can also swap consciousnesses with the clones at any time, allowing for some pretty neat chain-traversal puzzles.

Each puzzle room is entirely self-contained, but you have to find them first. The exploration is easily the weak point, here, much the same as it was with Stealth Inc– it kinda feels like a chore to wander the derelict space station when the puzzles are so neatly packed, many of them taking up a single screen and putting the space to full use.

Still, the exploration phase does ask for some jammy tricks, such as creating a vast and utterly inhumane ladder of other selves to climb, each body falling inevitably to its death as you swap higher and higher. …Probably best not to think about it.

Fin or Bin:

The exploration was what killed Stealth Inc for me in the end, but The Swapper hasn’t reached that level yet. The controls are very slippery and sometimes you’ll get caught on a little piece of geometry that will displace one of your clones, undoing a whole chain reaction. There’s lots of potential reasons to Bin this one, and I did worry a few times during my hour that I wasn’t going to have the patience for it. The puzzle rooms themselves are just too good, though, tightly packed and smartly designed, with that glorious “a-ha!” moment never too far away. A Fin, then, on the power of that alone. Tentative, but I want to see what other atrocities the game will ask of me in search of solutions.


Hollow Knight


It’s described as a metroidvania souls-like, and already it’s been compared to three different games before having a chance to speak for itself. Lets take those separately, then:

Hollow Knight is an exploration platformer (that’s the ‘vania) in a sprawling world that gradually opens as you gain new abilities (that’s the metroid), which absolutely refuses to pull its punches and deliberately excludes some modern home comforts like automatically-populating maps (there’s the Souls).

Of the comparisons, I’d say calling it a souls-like is the most unfair; where the Souls games delight in giving the player as miserable a time as possible, Hollow Knight is never cruel; the aforementioned maps can be bought with relative ease and the upgrade to have them automatically populate is earned early into the game (entirely skippable if that’s your speed), and the combat is entirely unrestricted by stats or gauges. Indeed, your success here is entirely based on your confidence and your skill level, and while Hollow Knight expects a great deal of both from the player, success and failure are never out of your hands.

At least, that’s usually the case. Hollow Knight’s aesthetic is very dark and dingy, which is absolutely beautiful, but comes with problems. Visibility suffers as a result, especially given the extravagant use of particle effects; many times I’ve struck an enemy to resounding applause of bright orange sparks, only to find once the smoke has cleared that the enemy was charging at me again and I’m about to take a hit with no recourse to avoid it. It’s highly frustrating, but I’m willing to own that one as likely user error- I typically fare poorly in dark games, having Binned a couple purely because I just couldn’t see a damned thing, while other players don’t seem to have that problem. Regardless, it’s one I’m willing to push through.

Fin or Bin:

It was perhaps a mistake to play Hollow Knight so immediately close to playing Metroid Dread, as the two games have enough in common that I’m confusing one with the other; no aeion dodge or double jump in Hollow Knight, alas (at least within its first hour). Also, I’m not at all jazzed about one particular Souls holdover- dying means losing all your currency and having to go get it back, essentially forcing you to retread the same path even if you want to explore somewhere else. I hate it when games punish failure in persistent ways- the main reason I don’t like roguelikes (except Hades).

Nonetheless! Hollow Knight is just too damn good. The controls are so, so sharp and the exploration so, so smooth. It might take me some time to get to it, but I’m not Finished with Hollow Knight yet.


Streaming new games every monday at 2pm EST!



Always, I wanna be with you, and make believe with you, and live in harmony harmony oh love~

…Sorry. There’s really only room for one rainbow-dazzled retrotastic endless runner in my heart.

Commander Video returns to us, a populace undeserving of his glory, in this entry in the BIT.TRIP series. For those who missed it, the BIT.TRIP series was something of an event in the late 2000s/early 10s- an entire catalogue of games set to release one after the other, each with a different style of play, dripping with 8-bit aesthetic and telling the vague story of Commander Video’s rise.

Sequels to the series have dropped the BIT.TRIP moniker and fully transitioned into the world of modern graphics, losing the magic somewhat, but I remember the originals held a lot of attention as an expansive indie project in the days of WiiWare, right around the time the indiesphere first exploded. The only title I played previously to RUNNER was BEAT, an interesting and brutally difficult variant on the traditional Pong/Breakout formula set to catchy beats and a fun artistic flair where the graphics became lower and lower-fi as you inevitably failed to meet its challenge.

Ultimately for me, RUNNER’s fun is undone by a few poor design choices. Its genre is ‘endless runner’, but it’s not entirely correct to call it such; RUNNER is split into levels, with each level playing the same way each time- rather than a barrage of randomly generated obstacles to react to, the levels are static and can be learned over time. There’s no room for error, with a single mistake- no matter how minor- sending you immediately back to the very start of the level. Reacting to the same obstacles time and time again becomes very tedious very quickly, especially given the musical design tends towards slow-build crescendos, resulting in the opening 30 seconds of each stage being incredibly sparse of challenge.

Fin or Bin:

This is one of those frustrating “almost” games; with just the inclusion of checkpoints, or a health bar, or a lives system where you can make a couple of mistakes before being dumped back to the start, RUNNER would be a good time. The simplicity of the genre means you’re left with very little control over proceedings, and are at the whims of the game when it comes to how quickly challenges approach; dealing with one obstacle a second sounds very frequent until you’re put through it time and time again getting through the easy part of the level so you can practice the hard part again. Jump, wait, jump, wait, jump, wait… It’s boring, and that makes it frustrating. And the worst part is, after all this time, I still haven’t figured out a smart way to include a BIN.TRIP pun in my closing.


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Metroid Dread


With one month shy of 19 years between the release of Metroids Fusion and Dread, I’m fairly certain this is currently the longest I’ve ever waited for a sequel to a video game (Half-Life 3 is, at the time of this post, at 14 years and counting). It’s also a very, very rare instance of a game I bought on release day, heading out immediately after work to purchase a physical copy. No waiting around on a digital sale event for this one; I had to own it and hold it in my sweaty hands. I think the last time I did that was Super Smash Bros Brawl in 2008, to give context to the weight of this moment. And so, yes, technically it entirely skipped the backlog and doesn’t count, but on the other hand I’ve been waiting for nineteen years so it totally, totally does count.

Yes, I am a terminal Metroid fan, abuzz with anticipation and speculation since the cheeky little hint found in Prime 3. But after all this time spent yearning, was it worth the wait?


Fin or Bin:

Sorry to keep it brief, but why be coy? The atmosphere is rich, the controls obey your thoughts more than your button presses, the movement is super-fast and satisfying, the world feels dangerous but not insurmountable, melee-counter on the move feels great, and the cheerful chimes of the EMMIs will join the opening piano trill of BOTW’s Guardians and the distant howl of Ravenholm’s fast zombies in the list of sounds that will immediately void your bowels. The sense of dread fear that permeates throughout the EMMI zones matches the SA-X from Fusion, an incredible feat in itself; making a player feel utterly powerless without frustrating them is a very delicate balancing act that the series has pulled off twice now. Also impressive is the design of these areas- somehow always funneling me to the correct destination even when I’m running in a blind panic without any thought to direction. Yeah, this game’s great. Can’t wait to Finish it, and then Finish it again and again until I’m finally fast enough for Metroid to take his helmet off at the end.