Mini-review Roundup #1
Welcome to the first ever mini-review roundup! I am currently battling a swiftly-expanding backlog of titles to review, and I needed a way to handle the middling-to-bad games that aren’t good enough or remarkably bad enough to warrant a full review. So, as voted on by readers a few weeks ago, I’ll be bundling five extra-short reviews together every week to help stem the tide.
This week we’re looking at Curator Connect games, and a pretty unfortunate cross-section of them at that. I tried to pick out some of the more interesting-looking ones from the big list I’ve gotten from developers, but none of them really panned out very well. These are all going to be games you’ve never heard of and never needed to hear of, but hopefully you’ll enjoy this little romp through the halls of mediocrity. With that said, on to the reviews!
The warlord Kyurinaga has seized control of feudal Japan, and only the samurai Kaoru and his kung-fu pal Joe can stop him. Their journey will take them across dangerous battlefields, quiet forests, crumbling caves, and deep dungeons in search of the power to stop the evil shogun. The story plays out just about as seriously as I’ve put it there, except for the fact that all the characters are vegetables. It’s not every day you find a samurai epic played straight with produce, but here we are. It also doesn’t really work that well since the juxtoposition is never really explored and there’s only a few scattered bits of humor to lighten the mood.
Graphically the game is fine, and actually impresses at times with detailed cutscenes. But overall it feels like a title designed by an artist, heavy on visual flair and weak on fundamentals. As good as the art is the animations are stiff and hitch regularly. You control both characters at once but they’re glued to each other, and the occasional QTE-style horde battles only exacerbate the problems. Most of the game is straight platforming, with very few enemies to deal with and more puzzled solved by swapping between your two dudes. I was on board with this one until the difficulty spiked in the fourth level, owing to the finicky walljumps and some absolutely vicious enemy placements. Kyurinaga’s Revenge had potential, I admit, but lacks the polish and consistency to keep me invested.
FINAL VERDICT: Nah
HyperRogue is a top-down adventure set in some kind of infinite fractal hellscape. The world is broken into oddly-shaped tiles that you move across as new tiles appear and vanish over the horizon of your circular view. Progress is based on discovering new biomes and collecting whatever treasures they hold, like ice crystals in the frozen caves and spice in the deserts and rubies in the jungle. Biomes have their own gimmicks and enemies as well, which can force new tactics if tiles are collapsing behind you or your body heat can melt walls.
Death in HyperRogue comes when you get put into checkmate, i.e. you have no moves you can make that don’t end in your death. There’s nothing to the combat, just one-touch bumps to kill most things (and you), though later enemies can take more hits or move more spaces. It stays entertaining for awhile but the lack of variety in the graphics aside from colors starts to drag, and only gets worse when you realize there’s little variety or strategy to the gameplay, too. The final nail in this coffin for me was the nauseating effects of the fractal world warping around me, but if that won’t make you queasy you might get an hour or two of fun out of this.
FINAL VERDICT: Meh
Island Build Masters
From what I can gather on the store page, Island Build Masters is a mix of city building and third-person action, challenging you to rebuild a city and defend it from invaders. I don’t know if that’s the case, though, because I could find no way to get past the tutorial. It drops you onto a barren plain as a tiny robot, instructing you to open a chest, walk past some boxes, and defeat another robot. That other robot does damage to you just from being near it and most of your attacks don’t hit it, so every attempt ended in my death. And when you die, the game closes. Also I had to unplug my controller just to get to that point, because with it plugged in my robot walked endlessly to the left and locked up the camera. Maybe he was trying to escape this terrible game, which is what I’m going to do right now.
FINAL VERDICT: Nope
Have you ever played one of those puzzles in adventure games where you have to turn all the lights on, but each button toggles multiple lights? Well, now you don’t need to play through a good game to get those because Qubika is nothing but mashing buttons and flipping lights. Every level is a grid of red and blue squares, and clicking one switches it and the surrounding squares to their opposite colors. All you have to do is get the whole board red or blue to earn the privilege of doing it again in a more complicated sequence. The game tracks how many moves and seconds it takes you to solve, but honestly, who cares? This is the most basic, played-out form of puzzle in the world, so baseline that it’s practically unavoidable as parts of other games. I don’t know who would spend money for more of that, but for whoever might be lurking out there this is your jam.
FINAL VERDICT: Why
This is another fumblecore game in the vein of Surgeon Simulator or AmpuTea where you have a hand with entirely too specific controls to manage. Unlike those games, though, Wonderful Hand presents you with a museum of challenges to overcome and earn… things to unlock further challenges. These range from racing to the end of a room to shattering stick people with your bare hand. It’s more dynamic in terms of action than those games that seemingly inspired it… or it would be if the challenge rooms had anything interesting to do. In a game about wiggling an articulated hand around, why do I want to do footraces? And you’ll have to, because you need points to unlock further challenges and the only way to get them is to do the dumb races and boring box shoving. Maybe there are guns or glasses or other fun bits later on, but the first half-dozen challenges were boring as hell and the movement made me nauseous, so no more hand wonders for me.
FINAL VERDICT: Barf