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))



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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Final Fantasy Adventure

Originally branded under the Final Fantasy license, this is actually one of the Of Mana games. That license didn’t exist at the time of its localisation, and while later games dropped the Final Fantasy moniker, this one has held onto its mixed lineage through rereleases. This odd assortment of circumstances made the Collection Of Mana seem quite bizarre to those unfamiliar with the history, but I suppose Squeenix were mostly targeting nostalgia-cash with that release.

Despite being a separate beast, FFA wears its lineage with pride; a great many of the graphics are lifted wholesale from Final Fantasy 3 (another game with a complicated history); the aptly-named Dark Lord, our antagonist, uses the dark knight sprite, ‘Man’ is a repurposed red mage, and even deuteragonist Girl is FF3’s Elia in greyscale.

The similarities end with the graphics however, as the gameplay is more akin to a prototypical Link’s Awakening; protagonist Boy swings his bladed weapon of choice in a 90-degree arc roughly corresponding to the direction he is facing to beat monsters and gain experience points. I say ‘roughly’ as there is no way to target the lower right quadrant on his range, a fact which repeatedly screwed me over. This, along with many other odd annoyances and retroactively-bizarre design choices give the game a distinct “first steps we don’t really know what we’re doing” feeling; niggles that would be ironed out in generations hence are here in their roughest form, forgivable in a time when no one knew better but very chafing to go back to.

Fin or Bin:

Ultimately I found the experience more frustrating than fun, a theme which seems to run through the whole series. Seems like the Of Mana series just isn’t for me. Still, the OST is splendid as ever, even rendered through the Gameboy’s dinky little speaker. I’ll hold onto that while I place the rest in the Bin.

Turok (Steam Re-release)


Not going to be able to review this without stepping on some peoples’ toes. Let me start by saying- it is entirely valid to enjoy a game purely based on nostalgia. Whether you have fond memories of playing it back when it came out or it’s a game you return to once a year, it doesn’t matter at all how objectively good that game is- it only matters that you love it, and continue to have fun with it.

I genuinely believe the above, and I’m certain I have some old faves myself that no one in their right mind could possibly have fun with in a modern light. This medium changes and grows and adapts at an incredibly rapid pace, far moreso than any other media; it’s okay to drag your janky old fave along for the ride.

So. That said.

I do not have any nostalgia for Turok’s first adventure on the Nintendo 64. The closest I came to it was passably positive mentions in old games magazines. I wasn’t able to make the purchasing decisions at the time and the person who was didn’t care for games like this, so it never crossed my path. I played it, therefore, with an entirely fresh palate.

It’s fair to say that between the poor signposting, wonky jumping physics, uninspiring combat, teleports sending me to a position in front of and facing away from enemies who are immediately able to attack me, and an awful checkpoint system that sent me back to a previous level, I didn’t have any fun here.

Fin or Bin:

These are, of course, all trappings of the time, or so I’m led to believe. Regarding it with modern sensibilities, though, it leaves a lot to be desired. For my nostalgic fix of older-skool FPS, I’ll fire up Half-Life; Turok, unfortunately, is going back in the pre-owned games Bin.


Ninja Pizza Girl


Commissioned by the Australian government as part of an anti-bullying campaign, Ninja Pizza Girl carries with it an important message. Having never been an Australian teenager, and certainly not in today’s technological climate (camera phones only becoming the norm a few years after I left that environment) I am not qualified to pass judgement on it’s effectiveness in this regard, and so any commentary made below is only in regards to the game itself, rather than its cause.

That said, then, it’s an unusual combination of endless runner and platformer, offering multiple paths through a level so long as you do not stop moving, ever. Gemma, a Pizza Girl who is also a Ninja (sadly not a Girl who delivers Ninja Pizzas) has to deliver her precious cargo within a strict time limit while actual ninjas try to stop her. I’ve got no idea what’s happening in Australia but bloody hell.

Getting knocked down by a bully interrupts Gemma’s flow and also subjects her to their harassment and jeers, sapping away at her self esteem. If it gets too low, she can’t function and needs to spend precious pizza-time psyching herself up, usually ending in a failed mission and a cold pizza. The theme of bullying runs through the story and dialogue in a fairly gentle way, and psyching Gemma back up is as simple as mashing the jump button or buying her some chocolate for self-care between missions.

One mis-step I identified is in the way the game handles difficulty. There’s sliders for how hard you want the game to be, and if you slide it all the way to the easiest mode, an achievement pops up stating “no judgement here”… which kinda felt like a judgement. While it’s absolutely correct that people should choose whichever difficulty they are going to have the most fun with, calling attention to someone choosing the easiest mode feels patronising at best and mocking at worst. “Hey, no judgement here, you can play on loser baby mode as much as you want!” doesn’t seem to line up with the game’s overall message.

Fin Or Bin:

The movement is fun once you get going but there is a tremendous amount of momentum to contend with when you turn around or start moving from zero, with Gemma accelerating at the pace of a truck. Ultimately it’s got a good message behind it but not one that will resonate with me, and the game itself isn’t my cup of tea. Recycling icons appear throughout the game as collectible pickups, but this one’s skipping the recycling and going in the Bin.


Nimbatus- The Space Drone Constructor


I’m one of the small minority who actually really enjoyed the Gummi Ship parts of Kingdom Hearts. Yes, the interface was clunky and there was basically zero benefit to building anything beyond the standard design, and after a certain point in the story you never needed to use the ship again as you could just teleport between places. Still, for this Star Fox veteran, the chance to build your own ship (yes, entirely out of guns) was too much to pass up, and I always left the experience sad that there wasn’t more to it.

Ostensibly a roguelike, Nimbatus’ main game mode sees you traversing the galaxy gathering resources with which to build bigger and better drones, all while being chased by the Corp, who inevitably will catch you and kill you and you’ll have to start all over with nothing to show for it. Normally that’d be a Bin by itself, but it turns out Nimbatus’ developers are super cool people who also included a Sandbox mode with huge customisability, which essentially lets you play the main game while removing the permadeath mechanic. The breadth of options available in sandbox mode are praiseworthy and let you tweak pretty much every facet until you find the game you want to play. You can, of course, also play in full sandbox mode, with every item and upgrade available to you immediately with no cost or penalties, for those of us who just want to build the biggest scariest spaceship imaginable.

Drone building is fun, but there needs to be a purpose to it, and that’s where Nimbatus lets me down. All the planets and missions are procedurally generated, which I typically dislike. It’s used in games like this to ensure no two planets are the same, but in practice it often results in every single planet feeling the same. The story is no different here- when you’ve recovered one black box, you’ve recovered them all, and there just isn’t enough variance to engage me.

Fin or Bin:

But the planets aren’t the fun part, building a giant spaceship entirely out of lasers and rocket engines is the fun part! And that’s what I did, for the last 20 minutes of my hour. I did enjoy it, but I’ve done it now, and I don’t really see much reason to come back and do it again. For a player who enjoys receiving scraps and putting together the best machine they can out of the scatter there’s a lot of fun to be had here, but for me it’s time to disassemble all the parts and put them back in the Bin.

(Steam) (Comic – Awkward Zombie “Gunship”)



The vertical shooter is my bread and butter. Ikaruga, the Touhou series, and former BBacklog Challenge title eXceed 3rd are all games I regard highly, and have sunk many many hours into each. I always get excited when one comes up on the BBLC (Mushihimesama is on there aaaaaa). You would think this fervour would survive a 90-degree spin clockwise, but somehow horizontal shooters always leave me cold.

I’m not sure why. My best guess, having moderate experience with both, is that vertical shooters tend to focus more on bullet patterns, while horizontal shooters are more about enemy placement. The difference is narrow on the surface, but greatly change how the game is approached. A game focused on bullet patterns is played far more defensively, while one focused on enemy placement needs an aggressive approach.

Sorry, Revolver360, for using your entry to muse on the minutiae of game sub-genres; the truth is, I just don’t have much interesting to say about you. Thankfully, as I’ve said many times before, this is a blog more than it is a review site, so I’m allowed to do that.

Because, yes, Revolver360 looks like it should be 120% up my alley. A shooter with a gimmick (the entire game world can be revolved around the X axis to move impassable bullet patterns out of the way in three dimensions), but I just could not get into it. I had similar feelings for it as I did for Astebreed, in that most of the time I was just holding down the various attack buttons and moving around and the rest of the game seemed to play itself, although thankfully R360 keeps the anime nonsense to a minimum.

Fin or Bin:

My own leanings aside, Revolver360 succumbs greatly to the trap of style over substance. It’s visually very striking, entirely in shades of blue except for vital enemy bits, but that comes at a seriously high cost- I very often lost my own position on the screen and everything else was just kind of a blur of Things Happening. I was quite disappointed by Binning this one, as I fully expected to love it, but unfortunately it just wasn’t meant to be. 


Hyper Light Drifter

It’s been about 2
weeks since I played Hyper Light Drifter, and I’m still struggling
to put my thoughts down in a write-up. Time to just bite the bullet
and do what I can, but the problem is there’s just so little to
actually talk about.

Well, lets get the
obvious out of the way; it’s very pretty. Hyper Light Drifter is a
pixel-art Zelda-like, but before you start booing and jeering and
pissing, you need to consider the context; HLD was one of the first of
its kind, releasing far before the boom of such games. It’s not
fair to judge it for being one among an endless deluge of the same
thing when it was the first drop to drip.

It is, however, fair
to judge it for being absolutely devoid of substance. Alright,
minimalism is cool when used well, I am fully on board with that
concept. But HLD goes beyond minimalism- a whole bunch of stuff
happens in a tremendously long opening cutscene which tells us
nothing at all but features a lot of cool stuff that probably would
have been fun to actually play through, and then we are thrust into
the action.

The HUD implies we need to collect triangles to
make a square, which will then do something, or maybe it won’t? You
see, HLD’s ‘thing’ is that it tells its story without words.
That is awesome when done well in a story which can be told this way.
Here, it falls completely flat and I just have no idea what I’m
doing or why.

Which means we get
to make it up ourselves! Our protagonist, Tom Cruise, is the Hyper
Light Drifter- which either means he drifts on hyper-light, or he is
a light drifter who had too many Red Bulls, or he is a drifter who
weighs very very little. The triangles are fragments of the megaverse,
and collecting them all will make him Supreme Overlord Of All
. It’s a game where you play as the bad guy. Whatever.

Fin or Bin:

I just can’t help
but feel I’m missing something. It’s very pretty and seems well
executed, tremendously slippery camera notwithstanding, but after the
hour I tried to think of how I felt about my time in the Tom
Cruinverse and I realised I felt absolutely nothing about this game
at all
. Now, part of that’ll be the depression, but really- HLD
didn’t give me a single thing to acutally care about the entire
time. A whole bunch of stuff happens and then off you trot. The real
kicker, the cheeky icing on the cake, is it has the temerity to give basic
combat tutorials in fully written english, thus defeating its own
presentation from the first moment.

But still, that
feeling of missing something persists, and so into the Recycle Bin it
goes, ready to be given another chance when I have the time to
really, really get worked up into a lather about Tom Cruise. Watch
the first hour here!


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No video for this one- Twitch was having network issues and I couldn’t get a stable connection for more than 5 seconds before it cut out again.

But don’t worry, you didn’t miss much. I don’t have a clue what happened at pretty much any point of my time with it.

Ostensibly, Astebreed is a game I should enjoy. A visceral, fast-paced shooter with lots of enemies and even more explosions, plus screen-filling bosses to humiliate. And, yes, it’s probably quite a spectacle to watch, but…

Watching is all I was doing. I just held down the Shoot button, and the Sword button, and the game just… played itself around me. The sword destroys enemy projectiles and takes down pretty much all foes in one swing, so all I had to do was just sit in the middle of the screen watching my robot-guy flail around like a lunatic while everything exploded all around him. This was interspersed with utterly baffling anime cutscenes which seemed to cram an entire series’ worth of shonen into 12 seconds; one such cutscene saw a reunion, a betrayal, a redemption, and a declaration of vengeance, all within 5 stills.

Fin or Bin:

It all coalesces into a completely baffling soup of explosions and melodrama and at no point did I feel like I was in control or even really necessary. It felt like I could tape down the Shoot and Sword buttons and go make myself a cup of tea, and come back to a completed game- the benefit of which being I get to skip all the hammy theatrics, and also have a cup of tea. It doesn’t really count as a fin if the game finished itself, does it? I had good hopes for Astebreed, but into the Bin it goes.


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