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Eliwood8 last won the day on June 4

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    Grandmaster Tactician

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  1. From Giant Squid, the developers of Abzû, comes another stylish yet minimalist adventure game. Originally released on other systems back in 2020, Switch players can now explore this world of vivid colors, sprawling forests, and archery-based puzzles in The Pathless, all with an emphasis on fluid movement mechanics. It makes for an intriguing little game that is surprisingly repetitive through its short run time. You play as The Hunter, an archer who has traveled to the edge of the material and spiritual worlds to investigate a dark curse that threatens all. There she meets a god-spirit in the form of an eagle, who tells her to release four other god-spirits from the cursed influence of The Godslayer, who seeks to consume their power and destroy the world. From there, storytelling isn't a priority in The Pathless, or at least not cutscene-style storytelling. This game is more about ambiance and peppering in light lore elements through bits of information that you can collect. However, their scattered, optional nature and the lack of other NPCs or significant scenery—outside of forests and ruins—does make the lore feel inconsequential. You're not likely to get pulled into this game from its world-building. You may get pulled in due to its exploration mechanics, though. Fast, fluid movement is a focus of The Pathless. You can sprint on land for a limited time thanks to a stamina gauge, but if you shoot floating targets you'll recover stamina and gain a burst of speed. You'll automatically lock on to nearby targets so you don't have to execute fancy trick shots, just keep shooting arrows to maintain your stamina and momentum. The sense of speed is definitely satisfying, though the simplicity of hitting targets does make the exercise feel a little pointless—you're literally just pressing ZR every couple seconds as you run. Still, cruising through the environment thanks to these bursts of speed is pretty fun. Your goal in each region is to free the resident god-spirit, and to do that you'll need to collect spirit tokens. You'll complete various puzzles scattered throughout the environment to earn tokens, then take them to glowing towers to activate them. The puzzles vary quite a bit in terms of difficulty and engagement. Some can be tricky and satisfying to solve, but many are simply time-consuming as you activate various switches to line up the correct arrow shot. While running through the environment is fast and fluid, walking around to move switches into the correct positions is slow and plodding. Sometimes you'll even solve the puzzle early but actually executing the solution drags on and on. The upside to all of this is that there are more tokens than you need available in the area, so if you're truly not enjoying a puzzle you can simply leave and tackle a different one. That freedom of choice nicely reflects the game's freedom of movement. The caveat to all of this running around though is the cursed god-spirit roaming the land. In each region you'll need to be wary of the giant red cloud of evil energy that wanders around the environment (and also teleports sporadically). If you're caught in the cloud you'll need to survive a quick stealth challenge to escape, otherwise you'll lose a bit of the energy you've collected over the course of the game. It's cool to have a roaming threat in the area—there are no other monsters or enemies to speak of—but the stealth sections are almost antithetical to the game's other themes: all you can do is slowly walk to avoid being spotted, and oftentimes the god-spirit will stumble into you anyway and there's little you can do about it. It's a boring, unsatisfying threat that is more of an annoyance as you avoid the red cloud while exploring or sometimes run away from it entirely in what feels like just a way to waste time, not challenge the player. Boss fights are also a bit mixed. There's definitely a thrill to them as you chase down each god-spirit boss and shoot arrows at their giant glowing weak points (classic), but for some reason these fights are really long in The Pathless. After the chase sequence you'll need to shoot the weak points again in a smaller arena battle, and then there'll be a third phase to contend with as well, sometimes another slow stealth sequence. The fundamentals of shooting the weak points never change though and these drawn out boss fights completely overstay their welcome in The Pathless. It's also a bit surprising that a relatively short game can have such long, tedious gameplay moments. It only takes roughly five hours to finish The Pathless, or at most about ten hours if you're chasing down every piece of lore you can find. Even across that short amount of time though, there are some unfortunate repetitive gameplay moments. In terms of presentation, The Pathless is stunning, though its performance on the Switch isn't doing it any favors. The limited but vivid color palette makes for a stylish visual design, even when the environments are pretty open and empty. Sadly though, poor frame rate on the Switch doesn't let the game shine quite as much as it's clearly meant to. The soundtrack meanwhile is pretty solid. Though the music tends to only really pick up during boss fights, even the more light exploration tunes add a ton to the ambiance. The Pathless is a brief and stylish adventure that turns running from objective to objective into a satisfyingly speedy endeavor. The gameplay loop grows repetitive entirely too quickly though, with almost nothing to distinguish the four main areas of the game. Still, if you're looking for a game that takes the thrill of exploration and scrunches it down into a quick one-afternoon or one-weekend experience, The Pathless offers a fun and fairly simple journey. Rating: 7 out of 10 Spirits
  2. Sorry to hear that DL, hope everything's okay with your family. If it's just the three of us we'll probably postpone Smashdown, but I'm still up for playing for a bit tonight if you're interested, @TKrazyO and @TheBarkinHyena
  3. I'm available for tonight. I'm way out of practice though and have pretty much only been eating/breathing Tears of the Kingdom lately. Though PB, you said you might not be in town today?
  4. More than just a romantic subplot in a larger story but also not a dating simulator game, Haven dances around typical video game romance tropes to tell a genuine love story. Perhaps more importantly, this isn't a game about two people wooing each other, but two people that have already found one another and are working hard to stay together. It creates an engaging setting but the thin gameplay elements leave a lot to be desired. You play as both Yu and Kay, swapping between the two while exploring and controlling both in combat (Haven also features local co-op). As the game begins, they are exploring an idyllic if somewhat barren planet made up of floating islands, but you quickly learn that they fled here to escape the overbearing control of their futuristic society. Now they'll have to lay low and survive on this strange world to build a new life together. Your enjoyment of Haven 100% hinges upon how much you like Yu and Kay as a couple, because if you aren't quickly invested in them as characters their romantic dialogue will feel clumsy, cheesy, or outright lame. They're both written as lovey dovey and quirky, and while some of their lines might be authentic to a real couple, it comes off awkward to read. To be fair, it's admirable to even have that attempt at authenticity in a game, but it can make some of the dialogue a slog, which is tough when the whole point of the game is a love story. The gameplay blends exploration and combat with RPG progression, though nothing feels particularly polished here. Yu and Kay are able to glide over the surface of the planet thanks to the power of Flow. You can follow these glowing blue lines to build up Flow charge or just skate over the ground in a smooth, ice-skating-like motion. This free-flowing movement is great in wide-open spaces but becomes a hassle when you need to navigate any small, narrow areas or are trying to carefully adjust to move to the side and pick up an item. Still, the gliding mechanics can be a lot of fun when you have the freedom to use them, but they just don't evolve much over the course of the game. On each floating island you'll need to clean up "rust," a red, dangerous Flow artifact, and cleaning it up is as simple as gliding over it. Doing that over and over though, island after island, leads to a pretty repetitive experience. There is exceedingly little variety between islands, and you don't gain much in terms of new abilities. The only thing that tries to spice things up is the combat system, but this can also feel pretty basic and repetitive. You control both Yu and Kay simultaneously, so you can set each one to melee attack, ranged attack, or shield, then you can pacify the monster you're fighting once their health is gone. Some enemies are vulnerable to melee, some to ranged attacks, and some you'll need to time your attacks appropriately to do real damage. The problem is the game does a terrible job of explaining these mechanics, and your healing is quite limited—early on you'll basically need to retreat back to your spaceship to heal—so combat just feels clunky. There's almost something interesting here with the combat mechanics, something that juggles two characters timing attacks appropriately and defending each other, but Haven never really develops its combat system properly, and what is here is confusing and muddled. Haven also has a rough go of it on the Switch. The load times are far too long given that there's a loading screen between every single island. The game is also pretty unstable, even years after its initial release. Crashes, random blank screens—it's hard to just play this game at times. Thankfully the game frequently autosaves at least, but it's still disappointing to see such regular technical issues. This isn't a terribly long game, but even across its 10 hours or so it can get to be pretty repetitive. There's not much in terms of side quests aside from clearing every island of rust, or picking up little artifacts that add more dialogue back at your home base. And although there is RPG progression that levels you up as you play, it's extremely straightforward and simply makes your attacks better and your health higher. Haven is definitely the type of game meant to be played in small, short bursts sporadically, because playing for any extended length of time shows how monotonous the gameplay can be. The presentation is perhaps the saving grace of Haven, specifically the audio. The music is pretty killer and has a perfectly sci-fi aesthetic that almost makes the endless gliding around worth it as you listen to an electronic soundtrack that is airy and energizing. The voice work is also okay, though even decent acting doesn't always make the clunky dialogue work. The stylish color design of the game also makes for a perfect alien world, but the repeating environments and creatures result in a pretty lifeless environment. Haven puts all its eggs in the relationship basket, leading to some overly simple, repetitive gameplay features that make even a 10 hour game feel like a slog at times. There are good ideas here too, but they just don't get the polish they need to shine. Only players truly invested in Yu and Kay's love story will likely enjoy gliding around empty island environments over and over. Rating: 5 out of 10 Floating Islands
  5. I swear the game planned it when this happened to me (minor equipment/ability spoilers in the video below):
  6. Sometimes the protagonist of a game is a great warrior foretold by destiny, and sometimes it's a little grape. Garden Story takes the basic elements of an action-adventure game and weaves it together with a cozy little quest featuring walking, talking food that is just as much about combat as it is gathering materials or growing crops. The result is a charming, light adventure that is a bit too simple at times, but is always wholesome. You play as Concord, a young grape who is made a Guardian in order to help stop the spread of Rot across the Grove, your homeland. By journeying to each of the four towns in the Grove and helping various citizens—including other sentient foods as well as frogs—Concord will hopefully save everyone. It's a charming plot and takes some surprising turns near the end, and frankly having any turns at all in a story like this is surprising enough, since it very easily could have been a completely straightforward plot. Still, as is the case with the game as a whole, there's a nagging feeling that the story could have been more than it is and doesn't do enough to flesh out the Grove or its inhabitants. Garden Story plays like a top-down action-adventure, and very early on you gain a pick to use as a weapon. The game is divided into day cycles, and each day you're given two or three tasks to complete, which either involve defeating Rot slimes, collecting materials, or completing other basic tasks to aid the community. At the end of each day you'll sleep to save your progress then tackle new tasks for a new day. This job structure is novel but quickly becomes just a time-consuming chore. The tasks are never challenging and sometimes they truly do feel like ways to waste time, such as when you need to collect materials that only drop one at a time, which is further complicated by the fact that you can only carry so many items at once, so you'll frequently be tossing away the less valuable clutter in your inventory. There's an unfortunate lack of variety to the tasks as well, making them feel repetitive quite quickly. It's a cute way of integrating Concord's quest to help the community into the gameplay, but it's not a rewarding gameplay loop. Combat is much the same: simple and easy to pick up but never evolves over the course of the game. The main issue is your stamina meter, which limits how frequently you can attack. At first you can barely take a couple swings of your pick without needing to wait and recover, but it's not a terribly engaging combat loop, it just makes combat feel drawn out and gives you no opportunities for strategic variety. It doesn't help that there are only two or three types of enemies in the whole game, so again it will feel repetitive extremely quickly. The boss fights are more engaging at least, but there are only a handful throughout the game. Even when you do unlock more weapons, they're all so similar that it's not really worth playing with anything other than the tried and true pick, especially since you need to upgrade each weapon individually, which takes a lot of time and resources. One of the more successful aspects of Garden Story though is the skill system, which are called memories here. Memories unlock by completing set requirements—defeat X amount of enemies, complete X amount of tasks, etc.—and each new memory can be equipped to grant some bonus effect. The most basic simply grant stat boosts, like more HP or stamina, but others can have more unique effects, such as giving you a burst of speed after you use a healing potion (called dew in Garden Story). It's a neat way of presenting and equipping skills, and there are quite a lot to unlock over the course of the game. Granted, not all of the skills are terribly useful—some are so specific that you'll probably want to stick with the more general ones like stat boosts—but it's still a fun and novel skill/upgrade system. There are a few other features in Garden Story that frankly feel a bit like padding, but if you want to spend more time beyond the 10–15 hours it takes to finish the story they do add some further length and variety to the game. Aside from basic side quests you will also eventually unlock the ability to build objects, which is only used as a story requirement a few times and then becomes purely a cosmetic feature. Gradually, you can unlock the ability to craft things like streetlights or other town features and place them in specific open areas in each town. Again, it's a totally cosmetic, time-wasting feature but it's something to keep you occupied if you want to spend more time in the Grove. And granted, the Grove is a very cute place to hang out. The pixel art is utterly charming, most of all due to the cute little inhabitants of each town. There's a relaxed, light-hearted energy to the whole game that is perfectly captured in the simple, friendly art style. The soundtrack is also a definite highlight of the adventure. It perfectly exudes the cozy vibes that define the game. Garden Story is a cute, chill adventure that is ultimately a little too relaxed. The combat, exploration, and gathering mechanics simply don't evolve over the course of the game, resulting in some disappointingly repetitive gameplay loops. But if you want to spend time in a bright, cozy game that has the elements of action-adventure without ever actually feeling demanding, Garden Story is a charming if flawed experience. Rating: 7 out of 10 Gardens
  7. Not to get too highfalutin right out of the gate here, but there are few things that tap into the human experience like gathering around a campfire to swap stories. Whatever medium it's in, the art of storytelling connects people, whether it's a personal story or an enduring folktale. Where the Water Tastes Like Wine seeks to tap into that collective experience by setting you loose across the continental United States to collect and share stories. It's a beautifully unique concept that unfortunately does not translate well to a video game at all. You play as a wanderer who, after a bad poker hand against a surprisingly well-dressed wolf, is tasked with collecting stories across Great Depression-era America (though the timeline is iffy—you'll also encounter people and stories clearly from a 50s/60s beat poetry aesthetic). Your main goal is collecting the personal story from sixteen key characters. To do that though, you'll need to collect other stories to share with the key NPCs, which causes them to open up to you and share more of their stories. Where the Water Tastes Like Wine is a story about storytelling, and it's a really cool concept. The stories you share are set loose on the world and will change and grow in the process (which in gameplay terms means they'll be more effective at getting the key NPCs to open up to you). It's a fun way of showing how stories evolve and change, how storytellers and listeners add and subtract what they want out of a story to better align with their desires or expectations. The initial stories you find are simple or basic happenings: a chance meeting on a road, a creepy abandoned farmhouse, a sad story of a family trying to survive, etc. Over time though, these stories evolve into larger-than-life adventures, ghost stories, and tall tales. On top of all this, the key NPCs' stories delve further into personal tales of survival, heartbreak, and social issues that are distinctly American. It's a really fascinating concept for a game. The actual gameplay, however, is kind of a mess. It's understandable that this kind of game would be a bit more of a slow, thoughtful adventure, but Where the Water Tastes Like Wine is a painfully slow game. The vast majority of the gameplay involves walking across America, stopping only to pick up a new story or sit down at a campfire with a key NPC. And you walk. Very. Slowly. There are a few options to speed things up but they're imperfect solutions as well: trains are expensive, hopping a train without paying can result in you getting beaten by the authorities, hitchhiking is inconsistent and cars only travel in set directions, and finally whistling while you walk very slightly increases your movement speed but you have to play a little button tapping game the whole time. The experience of playing the game is legitimately boring. Then there's the story exchange system with NPCs. When you're sitting at a campfire with someone, they'll ask to hear a story from your travels, and they'll hint toward what kind of story they want to hear—thrilling, funny, sad, etc. The problem is, your stories aren't organized by their type at all, you have to remember them, and there are over two hundred stories available in the game. Sure some will be obvious—ghost stories are usually scary, for example—but a lot of others are confusingly categorized. You can only tell so many stories during a campfire encounter and you can't tell the same story twice, so it's really on you to keep track of these categories even though the game provides no UI or organizing system. You can also only "equip" so many stories when you sit down at a campfire, and there's no in-game system for reminding you if you've already told a story or not. Sorting/swapping stories is terribly unintuitive, not to mention that all of the menus in the game are a bit clumsy to navigate. Perhaps most annoyingly, you have to share stories with a specific NPC multiple times before his or her personal story is complete, so you have to just do the same thing over and over again. Simply put, Where the Water Tastes Like Wine is far too long for how slow and repetitive the gameplay is. If it were maybe five hours long it would be a still flawed but novel story about storytelling, but at twelve to fifteen hours it is truly a slog. Most frustratingly, because of the issues mentioned above, it's a hard game to pick up and play gradually over several weeks since you'll likely forget which stories you've already used, or what category they're in. To be fair, I understand that this isn't necessarily the point of the game. It's a relaxed, meandering experience more than a "video game" challenge, but that experience is just boring more often than not. The game's visuals are somewhat mixed, but the audio department at least does a great job. The 2D artwork seen when you're finding or sharing stories has a beautiful rustic charm to it. It's simple and has a raw, scrawled vibe that nicely matches the tone the game is going for. While you're exploring though, the graphics switch to a 3D view of America that leaves something to be desired. The views are expansive but bland, and certainly doesn't help the monotonous feel of the gameplay. The soundtrack, however, is undoubtedly the highlight of the game. The Americana vibe of the music perfectly suits the wandering adventure you're on. The songs are really the only saving grace for the long periods of time where you are simply walking. And in a neat touch of regionalism, the appropriately titled Vagrant Song will have a slightly different style depending on where you are in America (Southern, Midwest, Northwest, etc.). It's a cool attention to detail that honestly should have been carried over to more aspects of the game. The voice work is also pretty solid overall. The narrator has the most lines and is a definite standout, and while not all of the NPCs have stellar voice work the overall quality is decent. There is, however, one baffling audio decision in the game: the whistling that helps you move a bit faster plays over the soundtrack, and doesn't even match the tune or rhythm of the underlying song. It's such an obvious missed opportunity that it's honestly baffling how the developers ignored matching up the whistle and soundtrack. Where the Water Tastes Like Wine is a clever concept that does not translate to an entertaining video game. The gameplay loop of collecting and sharing stories sounds decent enough on paper, but in execution is such a slow, tedious slog that it drains the game of what little energy it has. A strong soundtrack and decent visual style aren't enough to lift up the poor UI design and unsatisfying busywork of sorting your stories and remembering which have been used. Despite having a neat kernel of an idea, Where the Water Tastes Like Wine doesn't evolve into the enduring folktale that it wants to be. Rating: 4 out of 10 Stories
  8. If we're not doing a Smashdown I guess I'll just play TotK all weekend.
  9. Ikenfell takes place in a school of magic, and we're going to breeze right past any comparisons or references to a certain famous school of witchcraft and wizardry and get right to the heart of this game. With retro pixel art graphics, a cozy soundtrack and a battle system rich with strategic opportunities, Ikenfell balances a classic RPG formula with engaging combat. The cute graphics belie a surprisingly challenging adventure though. You play as Maritte, a girl who journeys to the Ikenfell school of magic because her sister who attends the school, Safina, has gone missing. Maritte is an Ordinary (not a mage), but within the opening moments of the game strange magical abilities awaken within her, and she'll have to battle her way through a school that has become overrun with odd magic to rescue her sister. The story moves along at a brisk, almost mechanical pace—find a new clue, meet a new friend, then explore another part of the school—but the emotional core of the game certainly deserves praise. This is a charming cast of characters who all have their flaws and foibles, and gradually open up to one another in touching ways. There's a lot of realistic representation of personal struggles and coming to terms with identity even within this fanciful magic setting as well as strong LGBTQ+ representation, and it's very easy to grow attached to these characters over the course of a 15 hour or so playthrough. The star of the gameplay in Ikenfell is the battle system. It's turn-based and tactical—characters act based on speed, meaning some could even act twice before another acts once—and takes place on a 12x3 battlefield grid. Characters can move around the battlefield and every attack (or spell) has a certain range or area of effect, so positioning yourself well is key. You may also want to group your characters up so you can cast AoE healing or buffs. At the same time though, this might leave you open to enemy AoE attacks, so there's always a strategic gamble in positioning your characters. Ikenfell also uses a timing system similar to Mario RPGs—by hitting the A button at the right time, you can boost the damage of your attacks or reduce the damage of incoming attacks. These aren't just minor bonuses either. For some spells, missing the timing means there's no effect whatsoever, and with most spells you'll more than double or triple your damage output. It's a wonderfully fresh battle system that makes every encounter engaging, whether it's a long, drag-out boss fight or a simple skirmish with normal enemies. You can't just rush forward mindlessly lest you put a character in a dangerous position, and you have to learn each spell's timing to put them to the best possible use. That added level of engagement makes every battle nicely rewarding, which is especially nice since Ikenfell doesn't have random encounters, so facing an enemy or trying to run around them is always a choice. That said, the timing system might be a double-edged sword for Ikenfell. The extreme difference between a miss and a success can be pretty frustrating, especially early in the game when your healing options are so limited. A successful block might reduce damage down to 1 hit point, but a fail might deal 5 points, a huge chunk of your max health early in the game. It's always tricky encountering a new enemy as well, when you don't know the right timing for all of its attacks. All of this is to say, the difficulty is perhaps not quite balanced perfectly, which may turn off players who don't click with the timing system right away. The good news though is that there are difficulty options to make battles easier. For one, you can just turn on an instant win option to let you basically skip through any encounter. The other, less extreme option is to turn on semi-auto or full auto modes, which automatically give you a "nice" or a "great" rating on any timed button press, respectively (nice increases/reduces damage a bit, great does it a lot). These still feel somewhat like bandaids or at least overpowered options to make the game easier, and the core gameplay should probably have been balanced instead, but they're great options for anyone that just wants to see the story. There is also, naturally, a bit of exploring to do in this RPG. It's not the most elaborate, but there are some fun environmental puzzles here: flip the right switches to open a path, collect the keys, etc. The exploration side of Ikenfell is undeniably light compared to the rich combat system though. There also isn't much in terms of side quests here, which is unusual for an RPG and feels like a small missed opportunity—it's a school of magic, there are endless possibilities for side adventures. The game's retro pixel artwork looks a bit like every other retro pixel art game out there. Most enemy designs are pretty basic and the scenery can feel flat—character portraits in particular are surprisingly repetitive, simple designs—though some of the little touches in animation are particularly charming, like one character swaying her arms back and forth while talking. The soundtrack however is excellent and perfectly captures the energy of the game: cute and cozy at times balanced out with adventurous, mysterious moments. Ikenfell is a charming and engaging bite-sized RPG, perfect for fans of the genre that want a game that won't eat up dozens upon dozens of hours. The strategic combat system and timing mechanics do mean that this isn't quite an adventure for novice players, but if you're able to overcome the high difficulty spikes, you'll be rewarded with a heart-warming RPG. Rating: 8 out of 10 Spells
  10. No worries, haha. And I did read The Bone Shard Emperor since that last post! I'm really enjoying how this whole fantasy world is coming together, great balance of magic and mystery. I haven't gotten to the third book yet but I probably will sometime this year.
  11. I guess that puts us in the Fallen Hero timeline. At least we have A Link to the Past and A Link Between Worlds to look forward to.
  12. - Kirby's Dream Land (Switch - Game Boy) Killing a little time playing some classics. I knew this was short and simple but I guess I forgot just how short! Still fun though. - Kirby's Dream Land 2 (Switch - Game Boy) Never had this game as a kid so playing it now feels much more fresh/novel. It really is impressive how much of a leap this is over the first game though. - Cult of the Lamb (Switch) The cute but gruesome style is fun but both halves of the gameplay are a bit flat. - Figment 2: Creed Valley (Switch) An enjoyable but ultimately too safe sequel—I would've liked to see it do more new stuff compared to the first game. And sadly Figment 2 runs pretty poorly on the Switch, which is definitely a bummer. - God of War: Ragnarok (PS5) The ending wasn't quite what I expected/wanted it to be, but overall still a great game. I probably like GoW 2018 better, but just because the experience was fresher then.
  13. The important thing is we had the Courage to keep trying…we just didn't have the Power to win or the Wisdom to quit.
  14. Oh boy I totally forgot about this Splatfest, haven't even picked a team yet! But yeah I'll hop on for a bit tonight if we all want to go Team Courage. Might be a little after 10pm your time, more like 10:30pm—not sure what I'm doing for dinner yet.
  15. In 2018, developer Bedtime Digital Games released a charming and surreal adventure on the Switch that let players journey through a mind plagued by nightmares. Now players can return to that world of personified thoughts with Figment 2: Creed Valley. But while the core story is once again an emotional tale, the game's performance on the Switch puts a damper on the whole experience. You play as Dusty, the personification of courage and the same protagonist from the first game. With the help of your bird pal Piper, it's your job to deal with nightmares in the mind, which usually means giving them a good whacking with your wooden sword. This time a two-headed jester is causing havoc in Creed Valley, so you'll need to get to the root cause of the problem and clear up the mind. Like the first game, Figment 2 strikes a nice balance between adventure game and thoughtful reflection on mental health. The themes are perhaps a bit less heavy here in the sequel, but the ultimate message of self-care and self-reflection is one that will easily resonate with anyone, even if it's delivered in a somewhat saccharine way at times. Indeed, the banter between Dusty and Piper is a lot of fun—and packed with puns—but can also be so on-the-nose that it can come off clunky. Still, overall it's a smart and entertaining story that goes beyond the usual "save the world" adventure plot. The gameplay is a blend of action and puzzles across a linear and fairly short runtime. Exploration is normally limited to following the one available path that will reward you with a key that opens up the next area, and occasionally you'll need to beat up some enemies. Combat is quite basic with just a couple of basic sword attacks and a dodge roll at your disposal, even through the end of the game, and more frustratingly your moves feel slow and clumsy. It's not uncommon for enemies to hit you while you're still winding up or recovering from a swing, which is especially a problem when you're surrounded by enemies. There are also only a couple of enemy types to encounter. Battles are thankfully rather short, but it still would've been nice to see more depth to the combat system. Boss fights, at least, add a lot more engaging gameplay and personality to Figment 2. These bigger battles tend to focus on dodging waves of attacks, kind of like an isometric bullet hell shooter, as well as incorporating puzzles into the battle—e.g. the boss might not be vulnerable until you solve a little puzzle in the environment. Most importantly, Figment 2 is a musical just like its predecessor, so boss fights are accompanied by lyrical songs (and there are a few other tunes scattered throughout the adventure as well). Though there are only a few boss fights in the game, these musical numbers are a blast and add a ton of bizarre, surreal charm. The puzzle side of Figment 2 runs a wide but somewhat shallow gamut. The basic ones simply involve finding the right keys, but there is also a good variety of challenges to keep things interesting, including a maze filled with smaller puzzle challenges and even a miniature detective story. It's awesome to have these unique challenges available, but most of them are also pretty simple. A bit more depth to the puzzle gameplay would have gone a long way to rounding out the Figment 2 experience. Furthermore, I ran into a couple of glitches involving puzzles that required restarting the game, which is definitely a bummer to encounter. Even outside of those glitches though, Figment 2 runs pretty poorly on the Switch. It's especially a shame because the surreal, abstract representation of the mind is gorgeous from a design perspective and provides a unique, distinctive visual style to the game, but the frame rate just cannot seem to smooth itself out. It's constantly and noticeably stuttering which spoils the beautiful visuals as well as the timing of moving and fighting. It's just disappointing that the game isn't more stable on the Switch. The audio side of the presentation doesn't disappoint, at least. As mentioned the musical numbers are excellent, and the rest of the soundtrack is great as well. There's also a ton of voice acting that really completes the characters' personalities. As mentioned Figment 2 is quite short, clocking in at under five hours. There are optional memory spheres to collect, and finding a requisite amount unlocks a memory for a bit of backstory, but it's a pretty small reward and finding memory spheres usually isn't much of a challenge anyway. There's also a local two-player mode where another player controls Piper. She only provides some light support so it's not quite a full-fledged co-op experience, but it can still be nice to get a friend in on the adventure. Figment 2: Creed Valley doesn't push itself far beyond its predecessor, but that still means it's an enjoyable adventure through the mind filled with surreal scenery and fabulous musical numbers. The gameplay remains a bit too shallow, both in terms of combat and puzzles, but the game's personality buoys the experience. Unfortunately the game really struggles to run smoothly on the Switch though, so it might be best to give Figment 2 a shot on a different platform. Rating: 7 out of 10 Memories
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