Paralyzed By Choice

With each passing year, it’s become increasingly difficult to stay on top of every new game release. Between mainstream, “AAA” blockbusters, indies and all of the in-between, gaming continues to be an embarrassment of riches. While you don’t (and realistically can’t) play everything, for someone like myself who has a fairly broad range of interests, it’s nearly impossible to just pick one game and stick with it. Choice paralysis is definitely a thing and the first quarter of 2022 has had me paralyzed (mostly in a good way). With that said, despite wrapping-up another stressful busy work season (while dealing with a pinched nerve in my left elbow since March), here are the games I managed to roll credits on during the first quarter of 2022.

Game #1 of 2022: Mega Man V

At the start of each year, I typically play something old-school/retro as a sort of palate cleanser. I’ve been replaying classic Mega Man (MM) games from Capcom’s Mega Man Legacy Collection for the past few years and Mega Man V (MM5) was next on the docket. MM5 felt mostly unremarkable, although I still enjoyed revisiting the game. As the fifth mainline entry, you can sort of see the developer’s waning creativity. Some of the bosses felt phoned-in (Stone Man?) and the stage design, outside of a few, felt uninspired. Gravity Man’s stage was probably the most interesting mechanically with its inverted controls and upside down sections, but it feels like something that’s been done before in one of the earlier MM titles. MM5 feels even easier and more streamlined than MM4; extra lives are plentiful and drop frequently from enemies (or maybe I was just lucky), stages don’t overstay their welcome, checkpoints are mostly fair, and the bosses are surprisingly unaggressive (outside of a few).

There are also hidden letters to collect in each stage which spell out “MEGAMANV” and if you collect them all, you unlock Beat, which is a helpful bird that will assist you when called upon. Most NES/old-school MM games, in particular, are one and done experiences with few hidden items/collectables, so it was nice to see an attempt at adding an extra incentive for exploration and a keen eye (and the password saves your progress, too!). Just like MM4 before it, there are two “Wily Castles”, but again, the additional castle felt unnecessary and more like padding than anything else (although some of the stages were fairly challenging and well-designed). I completed MM5 with all of the letters collected without using save states or the rewind feature. It was a mostly inoffensive, forgettable MM title that felt more like an obligation and nothing else. Here’s to my replay of MM6 in 2023!

Game #2 of 2022: Colock Aquario

Clockwork Aquario, originally developed by Westone, is a 2D action-platformer arcade game that never saw the light of day until now. In Clockwork Aquario, you choose from three different characters (I’m not sure if there’s any gameplay differences, but the robot is very tall) and from there, you’ll tackle five stages which culminate in boss encounters. Along the way you’ll kill enemies in succession by grabbing and tossing them into each other (similar to Klonoa?), which will make them drop gems. Collect enough gems and you’ll gain an extra life, and that’s the gist of it. There’s Normal, Hard and Arcade modes available and the game gives you a set amount of continues that you can use for each difficulty, which I appreciated. Give me a set amount of continues in an old-school/retro game and I’ll work within those limitations until I improve. Clockwork Aquario’s visuals are bright and colorful and the sprites are chunky and detailed; the game simply looks good.

Clockwork Aquario surfacing from the cancelled depths…

I had no idea that Clockwork Aquario was a cancelled project, so it was wild to see it resurface in late 2021. I discovered the game from someone random on Twitter tweeting about how they thought it felt like it was a precursor to Klonoa: Door to Phantomile, so I had to play it. Apparently, releasing the game in the state that it’s in was quite the endeavor, too. I completed the game three times, two of which were on Normal and once on Hard, which included a 1-credit-clear run (1CC)! The sign of a good, old-school arcade game is if it’s both challenging but rewarding to complete a 1CC run of the game. Clockwork Aquario has its cheap moment or two (as it was originally supposed to be an arcade game, likely designed to eat your quarters), but it’s a short and sweet playthrough that can easily be mastered once you know where the enemy spawns are and you’ve got the boss patterns down. Clockwork Aquario wasn’t a mind-blowing experience, but I enjoyed it for what it was worth and I’d recommend it in a heartbeat if you’re looking for your 2D action-platformer, arcade game fix.

Game 3 of 2022: The Gunk

The Gunk, developed by Image & Form, is the first 3D game from a developer who’s mostly known for their 2D action-platformers. If you’re familiar with or have played any of the SteamWorld titles, you might be surprised to learn that The Gunk is from the very same people. The most impressive thing about The Gunk to me is the fact that the developers went from developing mostly 2D games to creating an extremely competent 3D action-platformer on their first attempt. The Gunk isn’t breaking any new grounds, but it’s a short and sweet romp through an alien world with a beautiful color palette and some impressive visuals. It also just feels good to suck-up the, well, gunk (it’s almost as satisfying as using the vacuum in Luigi’s Mansion or the F.L.U.D.D. in Super Mario Sunshine). Similar to Okami or Kena: Bridge of Spirits, you’re slowly rejuvenating the land by clearing black tar that has enveloped the planet. When you clear an area of all of the goo, plant life, fauna and colorful flowers spring back to life and it all feels visually rewarding, at the very least. The same can’t be said about the combat or enemy encounters, however.

Hopefully they’re off to their next adventure in The Gunk 2…

The Gunk is very, very easy. There are only a handful of enemy types and they aren’t very interesting to fight. While the combat encounters do add a bit more variety to the overall structure, the game is more about traversing the environment, clearing the gunk and solving simple platforming puzzles. Similar to their previous games, you collect materials which can be used to upgrade your character. There’s also A TON of scanning, so if you like Metroid Prime or any other modern-day adventure game that has a scanning mode (and there’s plenty now ), you’ll feel right at home here. With that said, there are a tons of missable scans, which makes getting 100% a potential nightmare if you’re not thorough (I’d recommend using a guide if you care about unlocking everything). I somehow completed the game with everything collected at 100% and a playthrough was about 5 hours, so it was the perfect length in my books. I can’t wait to see what these developers do next in a 3D space.

Game #4 of 2022: Olija

Olija, developed by Skelton Crew Studio, is a 2D action-platformer with some light Metroid elements. You’re the lord of a nation who’s failed his people, so you set sail on a new adventure only to be shipwrecked in a mysterious land due to a storm. A harpoon/spear of sorts is your main weapon and you can use it to combat enemies and traverse the environment; the spear simply feels satisfying to use. Visually and structurally, it’s reminiscent of Another World, the original Prince of Persia or any other PC-style adventure game, but Olija has more combat and exploration elements than most games in this sub-genre. The game takes the player to a handful of islands with distinct themes, enemies and ruins to explore. At a glance, the game might appear to be non-linear as you can choose multiple locations from a map as you progress, but it’s mostly a guided experience. There’s quite a bit to collect/discover too, but areas will lock you out of them once they’re completed, so it’s yet another game plagued with potential missables (the bane of my existence). Fortunately, the game isn’t very long and it’s fun to play, so a replay to mop up whatever you missed isn’t the end of the world.

One minor grievance I have with the game is that there are 40 ships-in-a-bottle to collect and they’re hidden extremely well. I love hidden collectables in games, especially when they’re tucked away as well as they are here. What’s frustrating, however, is that many of them are located in areas that become inaccessible once you complete the area. There’s no achievements/trophies tied to collecting these bottles, which makes me wonder what their true purpose is? Perhaps there’s a secret no one’s discovered yet, something the developers didn’t expect people to find. There’s one person on YouTube who speed-ran the game and they apparently found all 40. The game also deletes your save file for no apparent reason after you beat the game which I found disappointing and odd. I have no idea if the developers were trying to channel some NieR-esque narrative reasoning for doing this, it’s most certainly a questionable decision. I completed the game with 100% of the trophies earned, but I wish there was some sort of new game+ or reason to replay the game, but it’s a mostly one-and-done experience, one that I’d still highly recommend regardless of my gripes with the game’s structure.

Game #5 of 2022: Solar Ash

Solar Ash, developed by Heart Machine, is the 3D platformer follow-up to Hyper Light Drifter. In Solar Ash, you skate around a colorful void comprised of alien planets that have been devoured by a giant black hole. Similar to how I felt about The Gunk, Solar Ash is a huge jump from their previous game in terms of size and scope. Hyper Light Drifter was a top-down, pixel-based, 2D action-adventure game while Solar Ash is like some sort of amalgamation between Jet Set Radio and Shadow of the Colossus. It’s wild to see how talented some developers are once you see them jump from 2D to 3D. I love to see it and I want to see this trend continue, especially for certain indie developers who are becoming a bit more established (*cough* Yacht Club Games *cough*). Solar Ash is primarily a puzzle-platformer with a simplified combat system. You have a basic 3-hit sword combo and that’s more or less the extent of your arsenal. The enemies aren’t very interesting to fight either, but you can lock-on to airborne monsters and perform an aerial attack of sorts, although that’s not the focus of the game. The objective of the game has you speeding through the environment and destroying special nodes in succession, which releases a towering boss to defeat in each of the game’s main areas. Nodes are grouped in special areas and are treated like environmental puzzles. If you’re not fast enough traversing from node to node, they reset and you have to try again. This mechanic is carried over to the boss fights as well. These encounters are fairly epic though and they are clearly a tribute to Team ICO’s epic, but the way you tackle them isn’t super interesting nor does it really change as you progress.

One of my favorite things in games is when the camera pulls back to show you a more cinematic view.

While regular combat leaves a lot to be desired, controlling your character feels buttery smooth and it’s just extremely satisfying to control. It’s intoxicating to kick-up the puffy clouds behind you as you skate around the environments or when you land from a high jump, it’s like dancing on cotton candy. For whatever reason, Solar Ash also reminded me of a PS2/GC/XBox era 3D platformer called Scaler (shoutout to the 3 people out there reading this who might remember that game). Its aesthetic was somewhat similar (lots of neon greens/yellows in the color scheme) and you were rail grinding, A LOT. So, if you’re looking for your 3D Sonic/Ratchet & Clank grind rail fix, your needs will surely be met here. I completed the game on Hard difficulty at 100%, but there’s an unlockable harder difficulty and a speed-run to attempt in order to net the Platinum trophy. I can’t wait to see what these developers do next.

Game #6 of 2022: Adventures of Lolo

Adventures of Lolo, developed by HAL Laboratory/Nintendo, is a top-down, 2D puzzle game that predated Kirby. Your goal is to ascend the floors of a castle to save your partner who’s been kidnapped. The goal of each room is to collect every heart item/icon on the screen in order to open a treasure chest, which will let you proceed to the next floor. There are enemies/hazards along the way to disrupt your puzzle-solving plans, however. You can shoot an orb at certain enemies and use them to solve certain situations or push objects even. Some enemies are turrets and will kill you if you’re in their line of sight, so the game expects you to manipulate your surroundings in order to block enemy fire. The password system is generous too; each individual floor grants you a password and you can continue from that particular floor if you lose all of your lives. You can only move up, down, left or right as the game is essentially on a grid. You can, however, step slightly forward in-between two tiles and even push objects/enemies in a similar fashion, and you’ll need to master this technique in order to solve some of the late-game puzzles.

I miss game manuals.

I did hit a roadblock or two and I got to the point where I felt like I was missing some of the basics, so I actually googled a PDF file of the game’s original NES manual. There was a description in the manual for a particular tile type (flower beds) where, if I didn’t have this knowledge, I would never had finished the game. The things you take for granted when playing retro games on modern-day consoles. Adventures of Lolo isn’t an easy game and I can’t imagine myself as a kid completing this without assistance. I’m proud to say, having finally visited it as an adult on the Nintendo Switch, I managed to complete the game without the use of a guide or save states. There are apparently sequels to this game too and I’m hoping they find their way to NSO down the road.

Game #7 of 2022: Unpacking

Unpacking, developed by Witch Beam, is a 2D, top-down organization simulator where you simply unpack a person’s belongings and store things away. What makes it unique/interesting, however, is that you’re following someone’s life from childhood to adulthood and the only thing you get to see is their stuff. There’s no dialogue or any other context provided as to who this person is or what their life experiences have been other than their belongings. The items you unpack and put away tell a story that can become quite emotional once you realize what has happened. The game itself is both addicting yet exhausting. I’ve only ever moved once in my life and it was both unexpected and stressful, so I can’t imagine how chaotic it must feel to move multiple times during your life. Fortunately, this is a video game, so you’re not actually physically moving/organizing all of these things, although it would be nice to just point at a shelf in real life and magically have your game collection fill a bookcase.

A part of me wishes I could consolidate my collection to one bookshelf.

Unpacking has a lot cool little details that make it more than a “room management” game. Each item you place, no matter the surface type, produces a different/authentic sound. There’s also a bunch of special items you can interact with like TVs, computers and a radio. There are even numerous video game systems spanning multiple generations, for example, which once activated, will display a fake game on the TV created specifically for the game. By placing certain items next to each other or interacting with certain goods, you can also unlock stickers (tied to the achievements) which can be placed on your pictures in photo mode. I completed the game within a few short sessions with all of the achievements unlocked. Some of these achievements are pretty tricky too; I had the right idea for two of them, but their trigger sequence were relatively particular/strict, so I had to resort to a guide in order to earn them. These mini in-game achievements added some extra incentive to poke around the rooms if you’ve already rolled the credits.

Game #8 of 2022: Marsupilami Hoobadventure

Marsupilami Hoobadventure is a 2D platformer, developed by Ocellus Studio, and it quite possibly already wins the award for “Worst Game Title of the Year”. What is a Marsupilami and who goes on a Hoobadventure? Apparently, the character/name is likely based on the very same Marsupilami from the 1952 comic. Who knows. Similar to last year’s Kaze and the Wild Masks, Marsupilami wears its love for Donkey Kong Country (DKC) on its sleeves. The game is bright, colorful and takes you across three themed islands packed with hidden secrets, bonus stages and lots of goodies to collect. The game also has fairly decent controls and satisfying movement, surprisingly. The character movement has great momentum and you can even perform the “roll-off-an-edge and then jump” technique from DKC. You’ll need to incorporate this move (along with some damage boosting) if you’re going for the Gold medals in the time trials, too.

You can’t get anymore DKC than a dot-to-dot world map.

The level design is nothing to write home about, but it’s competent to say the least. They do a decent job of introducing new hazards and mechanics along the way, including the DKC-like barrel blasts and hidden alcoves obstructed by the foreground that you’d come to expect. Although it’s a completely inoffensive, by-the-books 2D platformer, there’s something familiar and comforting about playing Marsupilami. 2D/3D platformers are my bread & butter and sometimes I need a mindless, simple adventure to ground myself. There’s a decent amount of content in Marsupilami as well, but it only took me about 5 hours to 100% the game. It feels like a game that’s made to be someone’s first video game and while it’s certainly made for children, it’s also quite engaging for seasoned 2D platforming fans like myself. Don’t skip this one if you’re starved for a wannabe DKC-like or if you’re looking for a solid 2D platformer.

Game #9 of 2022: Effie

Effie, developed by Inverge, is a strange, fairy tale-like 3D platformer of sorts that was oddly hard to put down. It’s got shades of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and other action-platformers from the PS2 era. Comparing this game to BotW might be a stretch, but there are literally goblin encampments on the overworld comprised of wooden scaffolding and makeshift platforms. The structure of these outposts reminded me of Link’s latest epic and completing them nets you a relic, which are collectable treasures that give you some very-by-the-books worldbuilding and lore. The overworld houses three main levels and optional shrine-like challenges, which I believe can be tackled in any order. For whatever reason, the game also reminded me of Capcom’s Maximo back on the PS2 (only not as good). There’s a polygonal chunkiness to the character models and the environmental visuals harken back to janky PS2 era 3D action-platformers.

I hope we get a bit less red in the sequel…

The combat portions of the game have you defeating uninteresting enemy types with your shield and despite learning some new abilities along the way, it’s mostly a button smasher. The level design is decent but it’s nothing special. Each main area has some simple platforming sequences and light puzzle-solving. I completed the game at 100% with the Platinum trophy earned and it only took me around 5 hours, so it definitely doesn’t overstay its welcome. For the three people reading this who might be interested in Effie, be warned that the game locks you out of the main areas once you complete them (including the overworld) which will prevent you from collecting all of the hidden relics, although the “point of no return” is clearly marked. I can’t speak to why developers would design their game this way, but there’s nothing I dislike more than missables or areas that lock you out of revisiting them, especially if there isn’t a chapter select or new game+ options. At this point in my life, it’s rare for me to replay an entire game to 100% it, but I still enjoy getting the most out of a game if it makes it easy on the player. I didn’t love Effie, but I also didn’t hate it, so I’m curious what these developers will do next.

Game #10 of 2022: UNSIGHTED

UNSIGHTED, developed by Studio Pixel Punk, is a top-down, 2D Zelda-like with a twist. From afar, you might mistaken the game for Hyper Light Drifter or any other pixel/sprite-based retro inspired indie title as of late, but there’s much more here if you take a closer look. UNSIGHTED takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where time is of the essence. The world is inhabited by automatons/robots and their life source is slowly depleting with no real, efficient way to restore it. What’s interesting here is that the narrative ties into the game’s mechanics and overall structure. In UNSIGHTED, time is slowly ticking down to your death, but this also applies to every non-controllable character (NPC) in the game including shop owners, vendors and villagers. If their time’s up, they simply go “unsighted”, which turns them into monsters. While you can turn off this countdown timer within the game’s options, it’s meant to be played with the timer (and you should!).

During my playthrough, a ton of my vendors/townspeople turned “unsighted” and perished. My first death was a sweet, old grandma robot who sold me “cogs”, which are essentially passive accessories that grant you additional benefits like an auto-revive, increased damage and stamina, for example. I was in the middle of one of the game’s dungeons and became so laser-focused on solving a puzzle to the point where time was getting away from me. Within the game’s menu, you have a “Contacts” list which keeps track of each important NPC’s life expectancy. I swore grandma had more time on their hands, but before I knew it they were gone. The game auto-saves throughout, so there was no way to save & reload, even if I wanted to (although I didn’t). From my understanding, one hour in our real world does not equate to one hour of time in the game’s world. It was in this moment that I started to become more anxious about the stakes that were at play here. As I conquered each of the game’s five primary dungeons, more and more NPCs started to pass away and I couldn’t do anything about it, or could I have done something?

I nearly collected all of the treasure chests, but some are really hard to find…

To offset the time penalty, you can collect special dust items which grant either yourself or any other NPC an extra in-game 24 hours. For a good portion of the game, these dust items are finite, so you ideally want to save them for vendors who handle your upgrades and equipment. Each NPC has a relationship meter of sorts and the more dust you give them increases your bonds, which grants you a bonus item at max level and their continued service. There’s a constant sense of risk/reward here and although it can be stressful at times, it all feels satisfying/rewarding to engage with. Also, if you feel like your playthrough is going down the drain and too many people are dying, keep going. There’s a surprise or two to assist you along the way if you persist and progress far enough.

The game’s fixation on time made me reflect on my youth and how I spend my time as an adult more so than anything else right now. If I was in my late teens/early twenties, I would have kept playing this game until there was nothing left to unearth. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized I don’t have all the time in the world to do all of the things I want to do, whether they be life/game-related, and it makes me sad. I completed the game on “Action Girl” difficulty, but there’s still a ton of treasure chests to find, weapons to upgrade and a true ending to seek out and that’s in addition to extra modes like new game+ and a dungeon/boss rush; the game’s packed with content. I loved UNSIGHTED, it’s one of the best top-down, 2D Zelda-likes I’ve played in a long time. If you’re a fan of this sub-genre of sorts, make the time for this one.

Game #11 of 2022: Demon Turf

Demon Turf, developed by Fabraz, is a 3D platformer with an attitude. It nearly captures Super Mario 64’s move-set and controls; you’ve got your triple jump, sideways backflip and a long jump of sorts. It doesn’t feel as good as it does to control Mario, but it’s pretty damn close. Demon Turf is a collectathon through and through. Each level’s main collectable is a “battery” (think of them as Power Stars from SM64), but there are three cakes in each stage to collect as well. After you complete a world, there are alternative stages which are even more challenging and contain even more collectables. There is A TON of content here and the game asks you to complete a good amount of it just to see the credits roll. Speaking of which, that’s one of my main problems with the game. The developers ask too much of the player to the point where it seems like they really, really wanted you to see/do everything there is to complete. There are 56 batteries to collect in the game, but you need 50 of them to face the final boss in order to roll the credits. That’s asking the player to complete both the regular levels and nearly all of the challenging, extra stage variants that unlock after you complete a world. As Beebz would say, “That’s… a lot to collect, huh?”. Granted, I finished the game at around 15 hours and while that isn’t overly long, it’s pretty beefy for a 3D platformer. I just wish the game was more fun to play, though.

Sometimes there can be too much of a good thing…

Navigating the environments feels pretty good, but the level design is inconsistent, lacking cohesion and the combat arenas are just not enjoyable. Jumping on top of Goombas or throwing fireballs at them in Mario isn’t very interesting on paper, but at least it always feels good. The forced combat scenarios in Demon Turf ruin the stage flow (especially around a game that emphasizes time trials). The boss battles are really weird, too. They’re disproportionately difficult compared to the rest of the game and while it’s cool that they require you to use your new-found abilities in order to defeat them, they could have been executed better. The checkpoint system has its ups & downs as well. You can essentially plant a checkpoint flag anywhere in a stage, which gives the player the ability to customize the level difficulty, in a sense. I found myself forgetting to plant the flags when I really needed to because some stages were way longer than others and I would simply forget it was an option due to the inconsistency. I finished Demon Turf at around 55.5% of the game completed and while I enjoyed parts of the game, I’m not in any rush to come back to it.

Game #12 of 2022: PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate

PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate, developed by Q-Games, is a twin-stick shooter that originally released back on the PS3. Shooter Ultimate is a collection of the previous games, a greatest hits, if you will, but with some extra features. Although it’s an arcade-like, side-scrolling shooter at its core, the game is way more exploration-based and slower-paced than other games in the genre. Each level is comprised of 5 screens and there are 6 worlds. The levels last a bit too long for my liking, but there’s something extremely satisfying about saving all of the stranded people and collecting the hidden gems along the way. The game introduces new ideas/mechanics as you progress in attempt to keep things fresh too, but I found myself only managing a stage or two before I became tired.

The secret level was a pretty cool reward for collecting everything…

Some levels contain powerups that allow you to shied yourself from lava while another area lets you play with light sources in order to traverse pitch-black caverns. Each world also culminates with well-designed, challenging boss battles. I completed the single-player portion of the game at 100%, including the secret level for collecting all of the gems (which was fairly difficult). There are online leaderboards and even an online versus battle mode, which is dead by the way (does anyone want to boost the multiplayer trophies on PSN like it’s 2009 so that I can get my Platinum trophy?).

Game #13 of 2022: A Short Hike

I first played Adamgryu’s A Short Hike back at the start of the global pandemic in 2020 and it was one of the most enjoyable/pleasant gaming experiences I had at the time. I’ve been meaning to replay the game and go for 100% completion, so I bought the PS4 version on sale recently and decided a revisit was in order. Similarly to the feelings I had in March of 2020, there’s something about playing this game when the world is in chaos. We’ve entered the third year of the pandemic, but now we’ve welcomed a horrendously scary situation/war between Russia and the Ukraine to the mix. A Short Hike continues to be the perfect example of pure, distilled joy/escapism during troubled times and I’m extremely grateful for it. I said it before and it still rings true, A Short Hike feels as if someone took the tutorial/starting island from The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker and made an entire game out of it.

How I feel when I’m travelling and the plane lands safely…

There’s an immediate sense of discovery/progression here that’s hard to capture. A Short Hike is about low-key exploration, helping others and solving simple environmental puzzles. There are Golden Feathers to collect (which act as permanent stamina upgrades) and they allow the player to explore more of the just-big-enough island. The pacing is nearly perfect and the writing is simple, yet charming. It’s also a game that can be beaten within an hour or two, but there’s a decent amount of side activities, secrets to discover and items to collect, if you’re willing to take a detour or two  (which you should). I completed A Short Hike with the Platinum trophy after 6 hours or so, so there’s a decent amount of content here if you’re looking to spend more time on this lovely mountain of sorts. I’m hoping the developers have been working on something new because I can’t wait to see what they do next.

Game #14 of 2022: SOL CRESTA

SOL CRESTA, developed by Platinum Games/Hamster, is a sequel to the 1980’s cult-classic arcade shooters, Terra Cresta and Moon Cresta. The main gameplay gimmick/mechanic that separates SOL CRESTA from other arcade shooters is its formations. Once you’ve assembled your three ships together, you can collect formation chips which grant you the ability to transform into different attack variations. While it doesn’t seem like these formations are required to engage with on the lower difficulties, they definitely give the player the upper hand. These formations almost act like traditional screen-clearing bombs in other arcade shooters, but you have much more control over them. There are 5 formations total and the chips are color coded with a secret, powerful formation that becomes available once you unlock the others. Your ships are blue, red and yellow and there are special enemies/crates that can only be destroyed by the same colored firepower. There’s even special rings to fly through which grant the player more bonus points if you fly through them with the correct colored ship. Giant rocks/meteors, for example, are destroyed more easily with the yellow ship, as its missiles are drill-like weapons.

Nearly all of the difficulty-related trophies are Ultra rare…

I played through Normal difficulty stage by stage until I got to the final level. After I beat the final boss and the credits rolled, the game automatically loops you back to the start of the game on the next difficulty. For whatever reason, although I was exhausted from beating my head against the wall during the final boss on Normal, I decided I would keep playing until I lost all of my lives as my high score carried over from the previous run. Nearly an hour later, I played through the entirety of Hard difficulty in a sitting and unlocked Platinum Hard mode. I eventually ran out of steam by the second level, but I just couldn’t stop playing and I would have kept going if I had the energy for it. SOL CRESTA had its hooks in me and I finally understood how to play the game. Although there’s a ton of replay incentive in the base game, the “Dramatic” story DLC is a tough sell, however. For $10, you play through the same levels that are available in Arcade mode, but with a few extra twists.

If you like the boss/pilot chatter from Star Fox 64, it’s here in spades in the “Dramatic” story DLC.

For one, there’s Japanese VO and cutscenes that make an attempt at telling a story. It’s mostly anime, space opera nonsense, but it has the same banter/chatter you’d hear when playing through a mission from Platinum Game’s very own The Wonderful 101. The problem, however, is that unless you can understand the Japanese language, it’s nearly impossible to pay attention to the dialogue in the upper right/left corners of the screen. All of the dialogue is located underneath the character portraits and when you’re playing an intense arcade shooter, it doesn’t really lend itself to reading (unless you’re a master at hand eye coordination and multitasking). The game does only allow you to play through the story mode on Easy or Normal difficulty, so it never gets too intense (but it’s still challenging). It also appears that the story mode stages add additional slow moving, less enemy populated sequences during most of the cinematics, so they knew players couldn’t reasonably play & read at the same time. It still would have been nice to have English VO, but perhaps it wasn’t in the budget (although they did charge $10 for this, so what gives?). The final boss in the DLC is much more difficult than the regular game, so I’m glad I powered through and saw the “true” ending. SOL CRESTA is one of my favorite games of the year and it’s a shame Platinum Games has had such a poor image lately (due to Babylon’s Fall) because this game is genuinely good and worth your time.

Physical Game Pickups

The first quarter of 2022 made my wallet weep…

The first quarter of 2022 saw the release of many anticipated “AAA” releases, an endless onslaught of indies and all of the in-between. GhostWire: Tokyo, Elden Ring and Kirby and the Forgotten Land were probably my most-wanted games from Q1 2022, but I couldn’t help myself from picking-up a bunch of other goodies too. Despite having never finished a Pokémon game since Red & Blue, I picked-up Pokémon Legends Arceus against my better judgment. I’m 10-15 hours into Horizon Forbidden West and similar to how I feel about the first game, I’m liking it, but not loving it. Destiny 2: The Witch Queen was probably one of the best expansions Bungie has released in a minute, but I unfortunately had to solo the campaign on my own, which wasn’t very fun at times. The only three games I’ve yet to play/try out from the picture above are Triangle Strategy, Babylon’s Fall and Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin. I did not list my digital pick-ups here, but I have downloaded a few. There’s just way too much good stuff to play this year and the hits aren’t slowing down anytime soon.

My Limited Run Games (LRG) haul.

See you next quarter!

-Matty

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