Ori And The Blind Forest

Ori and the Blind Forest is, by all means, an utter joy to play through. It has stunning detailed visuals that give life to a pulsating forest filled with beauty. It boasts a remarkable soundtrack packed with noteworthy tunes of gorgeous instrumentation. It tells an unforgettable story of a highly emotional nature. It offers gameplay that mutually encompasses the grand exploratory aspirations of Metroidvania titles and the excitement of focused platforming segments. And it sports a level of challenge that pushes players to their limit while hardly leading them to frustration thanks to a brilliant check point system. In its many ventures into the genre in recent years, it is arguable the indie scene has produced a few adventures that do better and are more impressive in a few of those areas. None of them, however, are as balanced in each category as Ori and the Blind Forest is. As a result, one can confidently say that the gameplay style it explores has never been used in a product that is so universally appealing.

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Untitled Goose Game

Yet, from a brighter point of view, the inevitable desire for more that will come when players get to the end of Untitled Goose Game is a testament to its greatness. Because, surely, the idea of being an obnoxious goose running around a village and unleashing chaos all over the place is, by itself, unique enough to catch the eye of anyone who bumps into it. However, concepts are ultimately only as great as their materialization, and, in the case of the effort by indie developer House House, it gains shape in a way that is smart, humorous, and charming. Untitled Goose Game is clever in the sandbox-like presentation of its gameplay, which turns the village into an empty canvas onto which the protagonist can paint masterpieces on the theme of being a jerk; it is hilarious in the combination of its visuals, soundtrack, and animation; and it is lovely because if there is one creature that can get away with being an asshole while still retaining its funny aura, it is certainly a goose.

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The Real Neat Blog Award

Browsing through my blogging history, I came to notice that it had been a whopping five years – slightly more than that, actually – since I last replied to one of those tags that travel around the WordPress universe every once in a while. Don’t get me wrong, it is not that I never appreciated the recognition or anything of the sort: I love it and I am quite grateful for it. It is just that I always ended up putting those posts on a pile of future pieces that I needed to get to, but then so much time went by without me sitting down to write them that I felt publishing a reply kind of lost its point. However, I guess that it is never too late to overcome a somewhat bad habit, and for that reason I decided to – for the first time in forever – answer the questions proposed by a fellow blogger who was kind enough to give this humble space a nod.

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Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3

Needless to say, absolutely none of those problems leave a considerable mark on the thick creative coat of Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3. Its release marks not just a moment of discovery, when Nintendo came across a gameplay format that would give birth to its most consistent handheld platforming saga; it is also the point when the Super Mario Land series gained a firm purpose. After all, while the two entries that preceded it felt like lesser products that were, for obvious reasons, having trouble to replicate what was being achieved on consoles; Wario Land drops those pretensions to the floor and proceeds to do its own thing. In a character that is the antithesis to Mario, the company uncovered a sidescrolling quest that was, simultaneously, similar to what the plumber was used to pulling off and also quite different in every way. As it turns out, that is exactly what the Game Boy needed: an adventure that could not be experienced anywhere else but on the small screen, and that only had to live up to the bar set by itself.

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Inside

As a whole, Inside may be a game that undeniably chooses to walk quite closely to its predecessor, Limbo; after all, it uses many of the same strategies to muster a level of tension and darkness that is almost suffocating. At the same time, however, it is able to move beyond it quite smartly, whether it is in the elimination of harmful level-design vices, in the expansion of its puzzle-solving component, or in the creation of an intriguing setting whose imposing questions are given answers that are haunting in their vagueness. Thanks to those qualities, Inside succeeds in being an experience that pulls audiences into its grasp due to a brutal atmosphere, but that convinces them to stay through the way its gripping gameplay and cruel setting are linked by an immaculate synergy that works towards simultaneously augmenting the impact each one of them has, creating a journey that is equally relentless in wonder and horror.

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Fire Emblem: Three Houses

The main problems Fire Emblem: Three Houses carries are certainly those that come forward due to its expanded focus on the franchise’s extremely valuable social component, a move that, on one hand, greatly increases its size and the impact of its plot, but that, on the other, turns a big slice of its gameplay hours into a chore. Regardless of that partial misstep, the title is nothing short of a major achievement in content and storytelling goodness; in those two areas, whether through three branches that display vastly different perspectives on the same general tale or via borderline infinite options of character growth, Three Houses offers more than anyone could have possibly expected, and it does so with the confidence of a property that knows – more than any other – how to mix heart and strategy into a stunningly uniform fabric.

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Luigi’s Mansion

The overall feeling emitted by Luigi’s Mansion is, consequently, that of a game that could have been thicker in terms of content if it had expanded upon some of its ideas; more specifically, on the somewhat underdeveloped puzzle-solving element it boasts. As it stands, nonetheless, it is a pleasant launch title that, although undoubtedly not quite on the same level as the games Nintendo usually releases alongside its consoles, does hold up very well. Its ghost-hunting concept is undeniably fun, and it leads to a rather unexpected take on the Super Mario universe; one that merges a dark atmosphere, cartoonish art, humorous animation, and good production values. What comes out of that blend is a game that is simple, entertaining, and charming. And those values, accompanied by gameplay elements that are quite unique in the industry’s canon as a whole, carry the lovable and unlucky Luigi to the rightfully earned starring role in a franchise that fits his quirky personality like a glove.

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Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem

Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem is, quite simply, a masterwork of the survival horror genre. It is a game as gripping as it is repelling, making players feel like moving forward even though they sometimes may not want to. And it achieves that fantastic duality through very original means, whether it is via a tightly connected plot that unfolds during two millennia, takes place in four distinct locations, and includes a dozen playable characters, each with their own struggles; or in a gameplay format that although featuring many of the staples usually seen in games of the kind, succeeds in feeling refreshing thanks to a chapter-based structure, a deep magic system, and stellar sanity effects that have the in-game protagonists as well as players going through heart-pounding hallucinations that make them question the very fabric of reality. And like that, even though it was developed far away from the halls of the company, Eternal Darkness presents a unique Nintendo touch that, in its case, is employed for the evil and disturbing rather than for the cute and whimsical.

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Super Mario Maker 2

Super Mario Maker 2 is a game that embraces each and every kind of player who has an appreciation for the franchise it celebrates: those who love Nintendo’s magical touch for coming up with some great platforming; the ones that like to perform speed runs or have their game-playing skills tested to their utter limit by ridiculously tough stages; audiences who find amusement in watching the gimmicks of automatic and musical courses unfold; and folks who want to experience what fellow gamers who like to wear their Shigeru Miyamoto hats will come up with. And that goodness comes in piles that are virtually endless. Although immensely entertaining for both the camps who lean towards playing or creating, the game comes off as particularly spectacular to fans who like to do a bit of the two. In that context, Super Mario Maker 2 is capable of orchestrating an infinite loop of excellence, for one activity inevitably feeds into the other, as creation leads to curiosity about what others are up to and going through some platforming fatally gives way to new level-design ideas. As a consequence, even if a few punctual improvements could have been made, there is no denying that the game succeeds in not just paying homage to what is perhaps the greatest gaming franchise of all time, but also to the fans who have been witnesses to its unlikely run of sustained greatness.

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Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc

In spite of being based on the same simple format employed by its prequel, one that is quite different from the mold that was used by most platformers of the era, Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc falls short from the excellence of The Great Escape. That does not mean, however, it is a bad game. Quite on the contrary, going through the artistic visuals of its worlds while accompanied by a solid uncomplicated mix of battles, light exploration, straightforward puzzle solving, and tight platforming is pure and relaxed fun. Additionally, the title’s more prominent focus on action, highlighted by the introduction of a scoring system, and the sheer challenge found in trying to maximize one’s performance in each stage will be greatly appreciated by those who enjoy fast-paced thrills. It is not hard to notice, though, that Hoodlum Havoc’s wilder tone, at times, gets out of hand, and that the general design of its levels, although aided by new gameplay-altering powers, is not as consistently inspired as that of its predecessor. Still, even if those traits stop the game from deserving either the classic status or of the universal recommendation awarded to The Great Escape, Hoodlum Havoc remains quite alluring and potentially fun to those with a love for 3-D platforming at its most basic and unpretentious state.

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