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))

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.



Yep, I’m still here. I have just woken up from a 5-month Fire Emblem induced coma, having done what I said I wouldn’t and finishing all three routes (the fourth I am saving for a Girls Only stream to come in the near future). But 400 hours later I awoke to the stark realisation that other video games still exist and, somehow, my backlog has grown by about 15 titles. And so I played Gris.

I struggle with artistic media, games included. The sort of thing that is open to interpretation and has occluded or indefinite meaning, or is steeped in metaphor and tells not a narrative story, but an emotional one. There is, of course, absolute merit in such productions, I just often struggle to interface with it- I’m a very literal person and, while I’ll happily enjoy a story told to me, expecting me to infer the story via emotive gestures will often fail to find its mark.

Gris is a story about grief, and starkly so; even I can pick up on that. It feels deeply personal and tells, without words, a journey through an emotion that often defies written description.

The game is absolutely gorgeous, every frame of the animation coming as though being hand-painted directly onto the inside of my screen, and ultimately there’s the rub; I found myself wondering why I was playing video game Gris, instead of watching short animated film Gris.

The story unfolds largely through background elements that pass by as
Gris walks in one direction or the other, sometimes for minutes at a

During these passages my only purpose is to hold the direction button down and watch the world pass as Gris processes her emotions. Occasionally the path is interrupted by a gentle platforming section, and every so often there is a non-functional collectible hidden behind a small challenge. The art and story are such that these gameplay sections feel truly discordant with the narrative being told; sweeping vistas that change and break and create as Gris moves through them are a metaphor for- no, wait, sorry, I have to go back over that bit again, I just saw a sparkly thing and I need to figure out how to get it.

Fin or Bin:

Indeed, the collectibles feel like they were placed in order to justify Gris’ existence as a video game, but it doesn’t need gamifying to be a game; I feel the end product would be much stronger without the achievement-bait and with just the mild platforming elements in place to present Gris with hurdles to overcome. That said, it’s a very impactful piece of art, and regardless of its videogaminess is an experience worth Finishing.


Gurumin: A Monstrous Adventure


From legendary developer Falcom, primarily known for the Ys games comes… uh, this.

Parin, who is kind of a jerk, gets sent to live in a mining town by her wildly irresponsible parents who totally suck, and finds herself the only child in the village. Bored out of her mind, she eventually discovers a hidden town of monsters living in the shadows and alleyways, and immediately befriends them, as any of us would do. (Then again, given the alarmingly predatory dialogue from one NPC who is intent on dating her, I can’t say she’s made the wrong choice.)

I’m not sure if there’s a specific term that can be used to describe the design and eccentricity of the monster characters, so I’ll call it ‘late 90s/early 2000s low budget Japanese console game’ and you probably have a good idea of what I mean.

Her monster friends, it turns out, are under attack by Phantoms, which are like monsters except Bad. And so, Parin acquires the legendary sword giant drill with which to combat the phantoms. No one in town has a problem with this.

The spirit of Falcom is prevalent throughout Gurumin, but it seems to have been a B Team project. All the edges are just a little fuzzier and more rounded off than is typical for Falcom; the Ys games are most known for their lightning quick and precise combat systems, while Gurumin is definitely more of a ‘press attack until you win’ kind of affair. The platforming is questionable at best and everything just feels a bit janky.

Fin or Bin:

And yet! It’s fun. Lacking polish yes, and don’t think I didn’t notice repeated use of the same room layouts in the dungeons, but the core gameplay is fun enough that I want to play more. Falcom know what they’re doing, even when they’re taking it easy. Fin! Watch the gameplay stream here.


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Master Of Orion 3

Having covered Master Of Orion and Master Of Orion previously, it’s now customary to say the following:

Master Of Orion 2 is widely considered one of the best 4X games ever made, and is a game I’ll play a round of at least once a year. A sequel, then, while perhaps not reaching the same lofty heights, is surely going to expand on what made its predecessor so enjoyable, or perhaps be a graphical rehaul of essentially the same game, right?

Hah! Hahaha. No.

This is Orion for people who think accounting is a hobby. It’s 4X for people whose favourite scene in Star Wars is the senate meeting at the start of The Phantom Menace. It’s space exploration for those who put Excel in their Games folder.

The game lurched so hard into nitty gritty economic micro-management, they could probably feel the shockwaves in Antares. If fiddling with percentage sliders and calculating budgets is your idea of a good time, well!… then you should still steer clear of Orion 3, because its clunky interface and shockingly cheap presentation make it a chore to navigate even if you do have the foggiest idea what you’re doing.

It’s alarming how it somehow manages to look more dated than Orion 2- a DOS game which came out seven years prior. The building sprites are all gone, the diplomacy screens are barren (lacking both the retrofuturistic audience chamber aesthetic and the unique musical theme for each race Orion 2 had), combat is a disaster of tiny tiny 3D models across a vast playing field so that your ships are barely a pixel wide. I’m scandalised.

Fin or Bin:

I had some Beebs-brand fun with it, declaring war on an opponent I had no chance against and then angrily demanding they make peace with me, before making a motion in the senate (composed only of myself and them) to denounce them.

They rejected my motion. Into the Bin it went.


Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD


Well, isn’t this strange? I rolled the dice for this game about a week ago, and was just about to fire it up when Nintendo’s latest Direct, focusing on indie devs, started streaming. I sure was mighty spooked when the game I had just put off playing was announced during that selfsame Direct, I tell you h’wat.

Stranger’s Wrath is set in a different part of the Oddworld universe to previously-binned Munch’s Oddysee– a Wild West-inspired desert wasteland full o’ varmints what need haulin’ in. Enter, The Stranger- sadly not the same The Stranger from Bastion- whose bounty-huntin’ ways are gonna clean up this town.

Also much like Munch, Stranger seems to be a victim of its era. 3D engines were becoming more advanced and devs were increasingly experimental in the ways they presented their games- it was a real Wild West of ideas, if you like. Stranger here decided to mash up FPS and 3rd person adventuring with stealth action, and didn’t quite manage to get any of those parts right.

The ideas are very interesting, and I appluad trying something new. Stranger uses live ammunition, here defined as ammunition that is alive. Hunting bugs and other critters to use as ammo adds a prototypical survival aspect to the game, requiring the player to scrounge around in the dirt to find the right bugs to clear the next compound.

Stranger can also fight in the third person, with a quick punch attack and a slow headbutt attack to knock enemies out- at which point he captures them dead or alive to collect their bounty.

Trouble is- Stranger is very fragile, and although there is ostensibly a stealth element involved, it’s not really implemented well. You can only hide in tall grass, with walls not providing any visibility cover, and enemies are so densely packed in some areas that the stealth element doesn’t come into play at all, playing more like a typical FPS… except you can’t take many hits and capturing enemies takes a long time.

Fin or Bin:

UIltimately it just doesn’t feel very cohesive, interesting though its ideas are, and I wasn’t having a lot of fun- a crime carrying a sentence of immediate Binning. What tore it for me was actually the amount of times control was taken from me for minor cutscenes which, in moder games, would just play out ‘live’. Walk along a bridge- cutscene starts bridge collapses- okay, start playing again. The screenshot for this post is from one of the most egregious of these, with two crims arguing over which button is the correct one to set an explosive, before hilariously pressing the wrong one- an amusing moment, but nothing actually changes; the explosion doesn’t open up a new area or assist in a battle, control was taken from me solely for the purpose of a throwaway gag.

(Steam, and apparently soon on Switch!)

Lambda Wars

Couple of important things to note-

-It’s a community-made RTS mod based in the Half Life universe which is free to download for anyone who owns Half Life 2 (which, if you have a Steam account, is probably you), so regardless of any other opinions expressed here I totally think you should check it out.

-It’s also currently in Beta and constantly being worked on and updated, so anything I mention here might well be outdated within a short space of time. Again, I encourage anyone remotely interested in the concept to give them an hour of your time and try it out.

With all that being said-

Ostensibly, I enjoy RTS games. I like building a base, managing resources, constructing an army, and combatting an enemy. The trouble is I’m pretty bloody awful at doing any of those things, and will struggle against even a low-difficulty enemy. The end result is that I feel like I’m enjoying a game only to be absolutely steamrolled and end up not actually having a good time at all.

It bears repeating- these posts are not reviews in the traditional sense. My failure to have a good time with a game is not necessarily indicative of how good the game is(n’t). I cannot and do not intend to be objective on this blog.

You’ve likely inferred what I’m getting at. I’m going to Bin this, but I don’t think it’s a bad game. I think I’m a bad player. I’ll mention some things I noticed that may or may not sway you towards or away from the game-

The tech tree is shallow, leading to a very rapid match pace. You’re already in position very early on to start building up your forces and running skirmishes. I prefer a slower pace, but YMMV.

There also isn’t much single player content to enjoy here- no campaign mode, just PvE matches against scalable AI opponents. I’m pretty much exclusively a single-player kind of person, which is another factor leading to my decision.

Fin or Bin:

After two rounds of skirmish against an AI, I’d given it all the time I needed to. Almost apologetically, I’m Binning it, but if RTS is your thing, throw them some attention. They’re working hard on it.


Burly Men At Sea


This one’s not for me, but I think a few of my friends would have a good time with it, and it’d be a wonderful game to play with a young child.

A confusing and mostly-blank treasure map takes three Burly Men out to Sea for a low-stakes story book adventure. There are branching paths to take or not take based on your actions, and each run through takes about 20 minutes.

One very charming thing about the game, which sadly is no longer an option, was the ability to have the story you create printed as an actual book. That’s a really neat idea- it’d be cool to see that happen more often with child-friendly story games like this one.

Fin or Bin:

I finished one run, and I feel like that’ll do it for me, but I’m going to mark it as a Fin because I have positive feelings about it. The $10 asking price is pretty steep unless you’re likely to make multiple runs, though.


Pyrite Heart

Keeping this one short and sweet, like the game was.

Princess Ahri is dared by her brother to spend a week at a pleb school for plebs, in hopes she might learn some humility, and in doing so she falls in love with one of two outrageously handsome boys. As one does.

Both routes take 30 minutes, less if you skip the parts that repeat, so this was done within the hour. There’s a few choices to make but it’s usually pretty obvious which one is The Right Choice for the boy you’re chasing. Ahri herself is awful but that’s kind of the point.

Fin or Bin:

Ryuu best. Each story was very sweet, and it’s worth Finishing at least one of them.