Don’t Care Bear: Danganronpa Trigger Happy Havoc

Danganronpa is one of the most bizarre anime games I’ve ever played. The art style for the cutscenes is unique and adds to the surrealness of the experience. The story is intriguing. Right from the start of the game, it goes from 0 to 100 real quick. There are a ton of “what the heck” moments caused by both confusion and horror. Even for an anime game, it is weird. The best part of the game is the characters. They aren’t exactly realistic characters, but they are dynamic and memorable. The player gets invested so easily because of how engaging these characters are. This is what makes Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc such an unforgettable experience.   

Verdict

Danganronpa Trigger Happy Havoc (PS4): ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

I highly recommend this game. The story and the characters create a truly phenomenal experience. 

Dangonronpa is rated M, so while it may look like a happy school-life visual novel, it is not. There are a lot of gruesome moments. You have been warned. 

It’s hard to capture the vibrant weirdness of this game in a review. Several factors mesh together to create a vibe of ridiculous anime awesomeness. The music is intense, immediately recognizable, and creates the perfect emotional background to what’s occurring. The character design is fantastic. All of the characters have unique personalities, designs, and reactions. When cutscenes begin art styles shift abruptly. This adds even more drama. The gameplay is most definitely dated and at times frustrating, but this adds to the experience. Danganronpa is a great game because of its weirdness, insane story, and memorable characters.

You would like this game if

  • Like watching anime
  • Own a PSP or PS Vita and want to actually use them 
  • Enjoy wacky characters
  • Want a visual novel that’s not about the romance
  • Think murder mysteries are fun 

Plotline

There is a school called Hope’s Peak Academy. At this school only the very best are admitted. It doesn’t matter what skill it is, so long as you are the best. There is one exception, every year a lottery is held. The winner can attend Hope’s Peak Academy as the Ultimate Lucky Student. 

The protagonist of this game is Makoto Naegi, the Ultimate Lucky Student of the 78th class of Hope’s Peak Academy. He goes to school early on his first day. The next thing he is aware of is waking up in a classroom without remembering how he got there. He soon realizes something is wrong when he sees giant, heavy metal plates bolted to the wall covering up windows. Once he leaves the classroom he finds a group of fourteen people standing in front of a sealed entrance. After talking to them, it becomes apparent that these people are Makoto’s new classmates. They are in the same position as him, they don’t remember how they got there or why. 

This is when a strange talking bear named Monokuma shows up. He claims to be the headmaster of the school. Monokuma tells them that this place is, in fact, Hope’s Peak Academy and that they are to spend the rest of their lives here. Naturally, everyone is upset at this news. Which causes Monokuma to elaborate on the rules. There is a way to “graduate” and earn the right to leave the school. If someone murders someone else they will no longer be allowed to stay. Once this happens, an investigation and a class trial will commence determining who the murderer (the “blackened”) is. During the class trial, if the correct person is identified as the “blackened” then they will be executed. Then the rest of the students can return to their communal life at the academy. If they convict the wrong person, then the “blackened” gets to go free while all of the other students are executed.  

Now Makoto must try to survive while attempting to solve the many mysteries of Hope’s Peak Academy. 

Gameplay

Danganronpa, for the most part, operates as a visual novel. It’s always in first-person view. You explore rooms by panning the camera and selecting items to examine and people to talk to. When you leave rooms you can freely roam the halls to navigate to different areas of Hope’s Peak Academy. You have an electronic handbook that serves as the menu system. The most important thing to remember is to use the map. The map can be used to fast-travel and to see where all of the other students are. 

There are story sections where you can only scroll through dialog and can’t control what’s happening. However, you will have several days in between events called “Free Time”. During this time you can choose to hang out with the other characters. You can even give them a present after hanging out with them. The dialog options you choose can increase or decrease their opinion of you. As you become better friends with your classmates you unlock more of their information in the handbook and it will unlock abilities that make class trials easier. 

Spoiler alert, I guess. Class trials do happen, meaning characters are going to die. That’s all the non-gameplay details you’ll get from me. The story and characters are the best part of the game and I don’t want to spoil it. 

Once a body is found an investigation is started to collect evidence. During the investigation, you interview classmates to figure out their alibis and what other information they may know. You also scan through multiple rooms to find evidence. The handbook is very helpful during the investigation because rooms that need to be investigated will be marked with an exclamation point. 

The class trials function as a giant group debate. People present evidence and make statements, assumptions, and ultimately conclusions based on the evidence found during the investigation. This happens as a mini-game. Everyone’s dialog will be moving across the screen. The evidence you gathered during the investigation becomes “truth bullets” that you use to shoot down the incorrect statements made by the others. You have to use the correct evidence with the correct statement to continue the trial. If you get it wrong too many times, game over and you will have to do the trial again from the beginning. 

There are also other minigames as a part of the class trials. They will be added in as time goes and the rules will always be explained before you start. One is a spelling game where you shoot the letters to fill in the missing blanks. I don’t know why it’s important to know how to spell “knife” to present it as evidence. Best not to question it. Then there is a rhythm game. My best guess, the purpose is to make people shut up by throwing off their groove. At the end of the trial, you will build your “closing argument” by placing the missing pictures in the comic book that sums up the events. It’s trickier than it sounds because there are more pictures than there are empty panels, and which picture is the right picture is unclear at times.  

Worst Parts

  • I like the minigames of the class trials and all, but they could get annoying sometimes. 
  • Getting the perfect present for someone only for them to die off. What am I supposed to do with this now? The perfect person is dead now. 
  • The game treats you like an idiot by repeating information multiple times. I am not a child, I am paying attention, you don’t have to tell me the same thing five times within ten minutes. 
  • I wish there had been more voice acting. I get that they had limitations when the game was first released and couldn’t have voice acting for every line. It still would have been nice as when the voice actors did a fantastic job. 

Best Parts

  • Telling people they’re wrong in the class trials. It’s just so much fun to dramatically destroy their arguments. 
  • The story is intriguing right from the start and it’s easy to get invested in figuring out why things are happening. 
  • All of the characters had so much personality to them. Admittedly, they were somewhat exaggerated and trope-heavy at times. Instead of breaking the immersion by being unrealistic, it made them fit in with the over the top, anime weirdness. They also got further character development throughout the events of the game. The Danganronpa characters are all unique and memorable. 
  • Hot pink blood. I know the developers did this to prevent the game rating from going higher than “M” but it adds to the surrealness of the art. 
  • The big plot twist at the end. I won’t spoil anything, but the mastermind is one of my all-time favorite video game villains. 
  • There’s a lot of shocking moments throughout the game. I appreciate that as it’s not easy to surprise me multiple times in a story.
  • When the dialog was good, it was fantastic! 
  • I really like the music in the game. It’s especially cool to see the audio equalizer in the corner. 

*Image does not belong to me. It belongs to the creators of Danganronpa.

The Turing Test of Time: Nier Automata

On the day this is posted I will get my preorder of Nier Replicant, the prequel to Nier Automata. So I figured this would be the perfect time to write a review for one of the best video games I ever played. 

Verdict

Nier Automata (PS4): ★★★★★★★★★☆

I love this game! This is in my top ten video games of all time. I recommend this game to everyone. As long as they are old enough to play that is. This game has some real dark moments that would emotionally scar children. I’m emotionally scarred, and I’m a jaded twenty-something!

The main characters are well written and experience significant character development as the game progresses. There are multiple events when the game subverts expectations or has events beyond what the player could have imagined. While playing the game secrets are uncovered by the characters and through them, the player discovers multiple concerning truths about the world. The combat is fast and engaging with multiple ways to change your playstyle. The scenery in the world is varied and atmospheric. The music is beautiful. Nier Automata is a masterpiece!

You would like this game if

  • You like hack and slash combat
  • Enjoy story-rich games
  • Want to have an existential crisis
  • Appreciate character development 
  • Enjoy moments of cute quirkiness and weird “What the Heck?!!?” scenes
  • Need a good cry

Plotline

Quick Note: Nier Automata is a part of a series of video games connected by lore. Luckily you don’t need to have played the other games to understand the story. After beating the game I looked up the extended lore. If you’re interested you should check out this video explanation. I’m intentionally not going to mention years and specifics about the timeline. Two reasons for this: One spoilers, Two it’s complicated and I don’t want to screw it up. 

In the distant past, an alien race invaded the earth with their robotic minions, called Machines. To defend themselves from the Machines humanity used androids as their soldiers. While the androids were fighting the Machine armada, all of the surviving humans fled to a colony on the moon. Now the androids and the Machines have been engaged in a constant battle for the dominion of the planet on behalf of their respective creators. 

Nier Automata takes place in the distant future of the earth. The battle between the androids and the Machines has lasted for thousands of years. Now there is an organization with a station orbiting the earth called YoRHa. This is a group of elite military androids. The story follows the YoRHa androids 9S and 2B as they are sent to earth to combat the machines and scout for military intelligence. While completing their missions for YoRHa and the android resistance on earth, 2B and 9S learn more about the Machines and the long-hidden truths of the war. 

Gameplay

This is important. You reading this with full attention? Good. This game has five endings. The first time you play the game and reach the first ending, you might think that’s all there is. Wrong! To get the full story and experience you will have multiple playthroughs. If I explain more it will spoil the experience. So just trust me on this, whenever you think the game is over it’s not over. You can also get multiple joke endings by being stupid or ignoring what the game wants you to do. 

Nier Automata is an action RPG. Combat is divided into two sections, hack n’ slash and bullet hell shooter. The shooting sections occur throughout the game whenever the characters enter their flight units. Those are always pretty simple, dodge bullets and shoot the enemies that are shooting at you. When you are wandering the world you encounter Machine enemies that you dice to bits with whatever weapons you have equipped. Some weapons are slow and hit hard and others do less damage with fast strikes. Dodging is important in this game. If you perfectly dodge attacks time will temporarily slow down and you get a chance to deal extra damage. You also have a friendly, floating pod companion. All hail the pod! Because these guys can shoot endless bullets at all enemies and have a big laser for whenever you want to blast someone real good. While you can change the pods charged attack nothing feels as effective as a giant laser. 

Out of all of the different characters you play as in Nier Automata, only 9S can hack enemies. If you hack them successfully it will either deal a great deal of damage or destroy them instantly. It’s overpowered. Sadly the hacking mini-game isn’t nearly as much fun as hitting everything with swords. The hacking segments are geometry bullet hells. Just keep moving and shooting and you’ll win. 

Character’s stats and abilities can be enhanced and changed by adding computer chips. They are androids after all. As you play the game you will find chips in the environment, earn them by completing quests and using materials to build and upgrade them. These chips can do everything from increasing movement speed, increasing attack/defense, and enable auto-heal. Read the default chips carefully before you remove anything. Remove the wrong one, and it’s instant death. 

Worst Parts

  • There are a lot of side quests, some of them are good/important story-wise yet they can be easily missed. They should have been part of the main story or should have had an indicator or something. 
  • At certain points during the game, it was hard to find things. Not a big deal but the trial and error were tedious at points. 
  • I won’t put spoilers here but I cried at the ending and one point early on the third playthrough. When I say crying I don’t mean a few stray tears. No, I mean grab the tissue box and pause the game. Because I couldn’t see the game through my tears! It was so sad!! Which is great, but also curse you developers for making me feel!
  • The 9S hacking mechanic. It wasn’t bad, and I enjoyed it sometimes. The shooting mini-game just isn’t as much fun as cutting everything down with swords. 

Best Parts

  • All the joke endings in the game. They were so much fun to accidentally get by being stupid. Later I ended up getting all of these joke endings by following a guide. 
  • Pet the pod! You can pet your pod whenever you want by clicking the touchpad of your controller. I love that you can do that. Your combat buddy deserves all the love and affection. 
  • There’s a character named Jackass. Looks like I never outgrew childish middle-school humor.
  • 9S!! My precious boy deserves to be protected and happy! 
  • After beating the game you can jump to different parts of the story to replay what you want and do side quests you might have missed. This was super helpful in getting all of the joke endings to the game that I missed. 
  • Combat. It was fast, responsive, and all-around a good time.
  • Befriending wildlife. I don’t know why they added it in the game. But who cares? I can ride a moose!
  • Music, the music in this game is so amazing! It sets the mood of climactic battles and important story moments. 
  • There are a lot of quirky moments in the game. At times it was funny. Other times it added to the characters and the environment. 

*Image does not belong to me. It belongs to the developers of Nier Automata

Pocketful of Sunshine Monsters: Pokémon Sun

I may not have owned any consoles as a kid (read about that here), but even I knew about Pokémon. Growing up late ‘90s early 2000s Pokémon had a part in kid culture. There were trading cards, a tv show, and then there were the video games. I only saw a handful of episodes on Cartoon Network. It looked cool, if not odd. 

Later on, I had forgotten about it. I was a busy college student. However, a few of my friends started talking about the new Pokémon Sun and Moon games coming out. It made me remember the series and I decided to finally try it out. I bought myself a used 2DS and got the game when it was released. Pokémon Sun became the first Pokémon game I ever played. 

Verdict

Pokémon Sun (2DS/3DS): ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

Nostalgia Bonus, Pokémon Sun (2DS/3DS): ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

The Pokémon video games series is well known for being formulaic. Add some new pokémon, create a new region, and make new characters then recreate the story of an 11-year-old becoming a pokémon trainer. While graphically, the games improved over time, the gameplay and overall story were repeated over and over with little changes. To be fair, the newest games Pokémon Let’s Go Eevee/Pikachu and Pokémon Sword/Shield made significant improvements in gameplay with how random encounters worked, but the story is relatively the same. It’s not a complaint, just an observation. After all, I enjoyed playing Let’s Go Eevee and Shield. 

Pokémon Sun at least provides a more logical reason for the entire journey. The island challenge is a well-known cultural coming-of-age ceremony. Normally there isn’t much of a reason for your journey, it’s just what you do as the main character. I also got invested in the sci-fi elements of Pokémon Sun. The fact that another dimension exists in this game was really interesting to me. Out of the three Pokémon games, I have played, this is the one that has the best story. This is why I think Pokémon Sun is still worth playing. Not for the gameplay, but for the story and setting. 

You would like this game if

  • You like animals. 
  • Want the gameplay of rock, paper, scissors taken to the extreme.
  • Are a collector at heart
  • Want to play a chill game that doesn’t require much effort or brainpower.
  • You have played so many Pokémon games, now you just want that sweet, sweet nostalgia. Ahhhh….. So comfy….

Story

Like all Pokémon games, this is a coming-of-age story. The main character and their mom move to Melemele Island, one of the Alola region islands. Alola is Pokémon’s version of Hawaii. When you get there you learn of the island challenge, a series of challenges set by the trial captains throughout all of the islands. You and a local boy named Hau, decide to undertake the challenge together. After all, no Pokémon game is complete without a rival. The two of you meet a girl named Lillie and her pokémon Nebby. Nebby is a unique pokémon that is often targeted by kidnappers looking to exploit him. Naturally, you help her out and become friends. 

Along the way, you encounter the local gang, Team Skull. This gang is made up of the people who quit the island challenge and now exist to cause trouble. They aren’t the only group you come across. While completing the island challenge, you are introduced to the Aether Foundation and its president Lusamine. The Aether Foundation aims to shelter pokémon when they are threatened. When visiting the Foundation’s base a strange dimensional wormhole appears and an unknown pokémon emerges from it. Despite your best efforts it retreats before you can defeat or capture it. This event adds a new layer of intrigue to your quest. What exactly are these extra-dimensional pokémon? Why are they appearing? Continue your journey to find out!

Gameplay

The gameplay of Pokémon Sun is very simple. It’s like the game was designed for kids instead of the twenty to thirty-somethings that make up the bulk of the players. Weird huh? You play as a spunky 11-year-old girl or boy starting their journey to become the very best like no one ever was♩. You travel along the paths to get to new towns and islands. In towns, there are Pokémon Centers and Poké-Marts. You can buy items at the Poké-Mart. Pokémon Centers are where you can get your pokémon healed. As you travel and defeat trial captains you progress through the story. You can freely interact with the environment and the people in the world. People will always talk to you and at times give you gifts. There are hidden items scattered about so it’s important to explore. Sometimes you will encounter an obstacle in the environment. Later on, you will acquire a skill that will enable you to get past these obstacles.

On the paths between towns, you encounter wild pokémon and pokémon trainers. The wild pokémon are in the patches of tall grass along the trail. When you enter the tall grass you can see rustling where there is pokémon. Once you walk around in the tall grass for a few seconds you will encounter a wild pokémon! You can either defeat the pokémon for EXP or try to catch it. There are other trainers along the trails. As soon as they see you they will challenge you to a pokémon fight. You can try to avoid them by walking around them but it doesn’t always work. Beating trainers in combat is how you earn money. I know it doesn’t make sense. Video game logic… don’t question it too much. 

The combat in this game is turn-based. Every time you encounter wild pokémon, trainers on the paths between cities, or do a trial challenge you will enter combat. You can have a total of six pokémon on your team. The pokémon in the first row will be the one that you start the battle with (by default that is your starter pokémon). Once the battle starts there are several things you can do: attack with one of your pokémon’s skills, use an item, switch your current pokémon for a different one on your team, and when facing a wild pokémon throw a pokéball to attempt to catch it. After your turn, the opponent has their turn. Most of the time they choose to attack. Sometimes trainers will use an item or switch pokemon but not very often. 

This battle system is easy to abuse. Every pokémon has a type or combination of types. Each type deals extra damage to certain types and takes heavy damage from particular types. For example, a fire-type pokémon is “super effective” against grass-type pokémon and is weak to water-type pokémon. If you abuse this system and constantly hit enemies with their weaknesses it makes battles a cakewalk. Note: if you are trying to catch a wild pokémon you don’t want to defeat it. Instead, you should try to lower its health then try to catch it with a pokéball. 

Worst Parts

  • Random Encounters. It would have been nice to know what pokémon was in the grass before running into it. At least you have the option to run past most areas where they spawn to save time. Not a bad mechanic but it does get tedious. 
  • It was easy to beat the game. I know, it’s a kid game. But still for the most part it was easy to breeze through challenges by picking out the optimal team then abusing the type matchup system. I’d like a little more challenge. I think Pokémon should add a hard mode.
  • All of the dang trainers along the paths. I just want to get to point A to point B. Can’t we do this later? I want to explore right now, not grind. 

Best Parts

  • Catching and naming pokémon. Some of them are so cute! There’s also that collector’s drive that makes it very satisfying. 
  • Poking fun at the logic of the world. Ah yes, I am 11, time to start my journey! Navigating dangerous wild areas, traveling to new cities, and taking down the local gang are all things that I, an unsupervised child, am capable of. All to become a master in animal fighting rings. 
  • Customizing your character’s style. 
  • Z-moves. They are flashy extreme anime moments of the game. 
  • Trading pokémon with friends. It was always interesting to see how they named the ones they caught. 

*Image does not belong to me. It belongs to the Pokémon Company, Game Freak, and Nintendo.

Petty Reviews: Monster Hunter World

I’ve seen Monster Hunter World many times. I always thought the game looked really pretty. The box art, in particular, is fantastic! There’s something epic about playing as a small human trying to take on massive, powerful creatures. I never got around to buying it though. There were always other games that I wanted more. Also, there were the games I already owned that I still had to play through. Lucky for me, Monster Hunter World was one of the games included on the Playstation Plus Collection. Since it was the low, low price of free, I thought I would give it a shot. 

I knew going into this that I wouldn’t be committing to a full playthrough right now. I have other games to finish, on top of having the rest of life’s endless hectic to-do lists. Instead, I decided to play just far enough to experience the combat. I wanted to see what the game was like. So I played through the introduction and the first quest. It wasn’t very long but it was long enough to put this game at the bottom of my priority list. 

There wasn’t one big thing that I hated in Monster Hunter World. Instead, several annoyances just piled on top of one another. None of these irritants is game-breaking. However, I didn’t feel like expending the time and energy to adjust to the controls. Maybe eventually I’ll return to this game if I ever finish all my games on my To-Play List. 

One of the first things that you have to adjust to in any game is their menu system. In Monster Hunter World there is a whole lot of things to look at in the game’s menus. It was hard to easily discover what was important, not without paying close attention to what you’re reading. There is too much information all at once, most of it irrelevant until you make more progress in the game. The text of the menu is a little annoying to read because the font is small. Maybe that’s not a problem on PC? It was certainly a problem on the PS5, playing on the couch several feet away from the tv. There are way too many pop-up tutorial windows to read. They had similar problems. Both have small text and a lot of information all at once. 

The gameplay itself felt odd. It had controls I wasn’t used to. I was playing with the PS5 controller. In most games X is attack but not in Monster Hunter World. In this game attack is Triangle and Square (or Circle? can’t remember). It felt awkward to play on the controller. Fighting felt clunky and unintuitive. I did not feel like an epic warrior that the art portrayed. My character was just as clumsy as I am. I ended up choosing to use a long-range option because it felt a little less awkward than the melee weapon options. The use of the trigger buttons to aim and shoot felt familiar to me after playing shooting games like Borderlands 2 and 3. Sadly while I found this easier to get the hang of, for what little I played, it’s not as much fun as swinging around a big sword.  

Another nitpick about the gameplay is that I can’t jump. The character automatically interacts with the environment. This is fine but not my preference in an open-world focused on combat and exploration. It would have been nice to have that additional freedom while running around. Especially since the beauty of the environment is the big selling point in this game.  

If a game’s story is engaging enough and the characters are likable and well written, I will be willing to overlook a lot of flaws in a video game. It’s why I like playing older games as well as modern ones. The experience is worth the frustrations. Unfortunately, Monster Hunter World doesn’t have much of a story. It is a basic setup. The main character belongs to a hunter guild and goes to a new area to do their job. The characters weren’t interesting, except the Palicos they are perfect. Character development and story are meant to be in the background. Instead, the focus of Monster Hunter World is the environment and the creatures you have to fight. That would have been fine by me if the gameplay was up to par. I didn’t start this game for the story, I wanted to see giant monsters and try to bring them down. Instead, it was a struggle to adjust to the basics of playing the game. 

Monster Hunter World has the potential to be a fun game. For me, the time and effort it will take to adjust to the controls and figure out how the mechanics of the game work aren’t worth it right now. This game would have been better for newcomers if they had gradually opened up menus and abilities based on story progression. The story itself is lacking, borderline boring. The game provides the bare minimum as a framework for how the world works and the main character’s motivation. Surprising how a world with such fantastical creatures could be so bland. 

*Image does not belong to me. It belongs to the Monster Hunter World developers.

The Worst Game: Sonic Boom Rise of Lyric

Sonic the Hedgehog has a long history in gaming. The characters of this franchise are equally recognizable as Mario’s characters. When they first came out both Mario and Sonic games were considered fun classic 2D platformers. As technologies advanced they both created 3D games. Unlike Mario, Sonic’s transition to 3D platforming didn’t go so well. Some 3D Sonic games have game-breaking glitches and bugs, stories that are bizarre in a bad way (Looking at you Sonic ‘06), and broken speedy tracks that can cause motion sickness. While Sonic fans argue about which games are good, Sonic Boom Rise of Lyric is a true gem of a game universally hated by all players. 

Verdict

Sonic Boom Rise of Lyric (Wii U): ★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

This game is a hot mess. It’s a buggy, unfinished beta test. I would never recommend this to anyone. Don’t waste your time or money.

Sonic Boom is the only Sonic game I have ever played. By the time finished that game I had a newfound hatred of Sonic. I never wanted to play another game with “Sonic” in the title. I still don’t want to play any Sonic games. To this day it is still the worst video game I ever played. It’s broken, the story is bland, the graphics have noticeable problems, and the characters are annoying. 

Despite all this, Sonic Boom has a special place in my memory. Back in the fall of 2015, my boyfriend (now husband) and I had just started dating. Take a wild guess at the first co-op game we ever beat together? Correct, Sonic Boom! Yes, I married him anyway. He wanted to play this game to experience all the glitches, bugs, and brokenness of this game. Naturally Shaggy wanted someone else to experience all this with him. So he picked me. And you know what? It was a really fun time. While playing the game we talked about how bad it was, made fun of it, and actively tried to see how we could break the game. The game was so spectacularly bad that playing it with Shaggy was a unique experience that we both ended up enjoying. At the very least, it made for some weird and entertaining date nights. 

You would like this game if

  • You like playing bad games and watching bad movies to laugh at them.
  • Are a big Sonic the Hedgehog fan who loves the characters so much they will overlook everything else. 

Plotline

It’s been so long since I’ve played Sonic Boom. The plot was bland and forgettable. Give me a few minutes to read an online summary to refresh my memory. Right now all I remember is fighting Dr. Eggman, Metal Sonic showing up multiple times, and some time travel stuff.

After reading the Wikipedia summary, it turns out I summed up the plot in one sentence. Yay? You would think I’d remember the giant snake called Lyric who is part of the game’s title. But no, it was that forgettable. 

The game starts normally enough, Sonic and the gang are fighting against Dr. Eggman. Suddenly they come across a doorway with ancient carvings of what appears to be Sonic and Tails. They get ambushed by Metal Sonic and are forced to go through these doors. There they find a giant evil snake called Lyric who remembers Sonic beating him a thousand years ago. They escape and find out that this big snakey boi tried to build an army to take over the world. A rebel of Lyric’s so-called army helps Sonic and friends travel to the past to defeat Lyric. Thus closing the time loop. Then in the present day, Lyric joins forces with Eggman to defeat Sonic. Once they find out the good little critters attempt to stop these villains. 

Gameplay

Sonic Boom had several different types of gameplay. It didn’t do anything well, but it did do a lot. Each of the four playable characters has different fight styles and tricks. Combat is so easy that it doesn’t matter which one you main. There are puzzle sections in the game with fixed camera angles. In these sections, you have to play as different characters and go through their sections. Each section requires unique character skills to progress forward. There are open-world exploration sections. You wander around trying to find things in an empty, buggy overworld. Whenever enemies show up you punch them with whatever character’s gimmick you feel like using. Then there are the running sections that Sonic games are famous for. These Hotwheel tracks on cocaine are filled with obstacles and enemies to destroy or avoid. It’s during sections like this where “Gotta go fast” is taken to the extreme. 

Worst Parts

  • Playing the game.
  • Motion sickness. I’m not even joking. There were a few sections of fast-moving chase scenes along tracks that were so jarring they caused motion sickness. Not just for me either. Shaggy experienced it too. 
  • “BoUNce PaD!!” every single time you used a bounce pad. Never have I wanted to murder talking animals more than while playing Sonic Boom. 
  • I’m not sure how a story about time traveling to defeat a humungous megalomaniacal snake and his army could be boring. Somehow Sonic Boom made that happen. 
  • The world around Sonic is pretty much empty of life except for the characters that show up in cutscenes. It’s rather eerie. Did they all die? Are they the only ones to ever exist in the first place? 

Best Parts

  • I broke a cutscene! I was playing Knuckles and somehow I ended up significantly farther ahead than my husband (I forget who he was playing as) on one of the speedy tracks. I got to the end, triggered the cutscene, and Knuckles was the only one of the four main characters standing there! The rest of them were invisible somehow. Because despite not being able to see them, they still said their lines! We laughed so hard at that. It was so funny! Most memorable part of the game. 
  • Mocking the game while we were playing it. 
  • Breaking the game. Both accidentally and on purpose. 
  • Telling gamer friends this was the first game we beat together. Their reactions are hilarious every single time.

*Image belongs to Sega, screenshot from Sonic Boom Rise of Lyric game.

For Nook the Bells Toll: Animal Crossing New Horizons

Animal Crossing New Horizons was an interesting gaming experience. It’s different than all of the other games I’ve played. Most games have enemies to fight or avoid, puzzles to solve, a story to discover, hidden secrets, world-building lore, and an actual ending. Many times I play games for the exploration, the stories, the achievement of completing quests, and the sense of victory with defeating difficult opponents. Animal Crossing looked at all these hallmarks of video gaming and went “Nah, you don’t need all that and I’ll prove it.” 

Verdict

Animal Crossing New Horizons (Switch): ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆

  I played this game consistently for a month. It came out right in March of 2020 and seemed to be a perfect solution to the first Covid lockdown. I had more time on my hands than I knew what to do with and this was the perfect time killer. Cute, happy, chill, New Horizons was fun to play. It didn’t have any pressure to progress the plot or become a higher level. I could just meander around my little island with calm music and just leave behind the tense uncertainty that was the beginning of the pandemic. Despite all the Player Two limitations and the badly designed menu system I did enjoy the game and probably at that time would have highly recommended it. Then I would remember how all of the little things and not-so-little things annoyed me. It became more common for me to get super frustrated with multiple parts of the game. Later on, I became resentful that I didn’t get the same experience that my husband had as Player One and the one with the Nintendo Switch Online subscription. Until it eventually ended with me feeling burnout. New Horizons didn’t feel like a game anymore but as a set of chores. I put it down and never picked it up again. 

When I first made this review I had it ranked a 6/10 because it is charming in its own way. It has a good atmosphere. The time mechanic, while at times frustrating, also made it unique and added to the experience. Despite all the good things about New Horizons, it ended up making me feel very burned out. I enjoyed the game initially but now I never want to play it again. This made it difficult for me to settle on a final score. 

Eventually, though it just felt that all the time I was investing in this game wasn’t worth it. Progress became too expensive to be worth my time and effort. The game itself has such a low amount of storage that it felt like it was actively blocking my progress. The main part of this game is collecting and designing your home and island. Then eventually you get too many things to store the only option was to place them where you didn’t want them or to sell them. The only way was to build a bigger house which takes a lot of money after a few upgrades. There wasn’t an easy fix. Pretty soon everything started to look cluttered and I just didn’t like it but couldn’t do anything to fix it. That’s when I realized it was just an endless cycle of get more things to create a bigger and better little world. It felt pointless and endless. That’s when I discovered the true end, the only way to win Animal Crossing New Horizons is to put the game down and never look back.  

You would like this game if

  • You dream of buying a house but know it’s not going to happen anytime soon.
  • Want the satisfaction of completing chores but don’t want to do your own. 
  • Love interior designing and landscaping.
  • You want to make things organized and pretty with fun themes and unique items but you don’t have the time, money, or motivation to do it IRL.  
  • You like cute cartoon animals.

Plotline

Does this game have a plot? Did I miss it or something? I mean as far as I can tell the only plot is you wanted to move away from home to an island. Then you collect villagers to join your new little community. Technically you do have the goal of getting KK Slider to your island to perform. Once that happens the credits roll. Congratulations, You win! Nothing changes on your island. Are these even spoilers? Because I don’t think this deserves my *Spoilers* warning.     

Gameplay

New Horizons is a game where you run around on your island with chill music in the background. You pick up weeds, catch bugs, fish, chop wood, talk to villagers, recruit people to live on your island, and develop your home and island. The controls are very simple and the game walks you through how to play. There are two currencies, Bells and Nook Miles. The main currency you use to buy house upgrades and to develop your island is Bells. You earn Bells by harvesting items from the environment and selling them. It’s a capitalism simulator! As you do activities in-game you will unlock Nook Miles. These can be used to buy certain items and upgrades.  

What sets Animal Crossing apart from almost all other games is that the in-game time is set to the calendar and clock of your Switch. Time in New Horizons progresses exactly the same as real-world time. This is a key mechanic as certain types of bugs and fish can only be caught at specific times throughout the day. Also throughout the year, some special events occur and last for a certain number of days or weeks. These events have unique items to collect and craft. Often there will be a new character that shows up during these events. Since there is so much tied to the time and date in-game there are some people who change the calendar and clock on their system to “time travel” to abuse this system. This game-breaking technique does have consequences. Weeds will become overgrown on the island. The villagers will be salty about you for being away for so long. I’ve never done this so I haven’t experienced what happens firsthand. 

Worst Parts

  • Not being able to craft multiple baits at once. This gets so annoying when you are trying to catch rare fish. You already have to go through all the trouble of finding and digging up clams then have to spend more time making it one by one! It made it very monotonous.
  • There isn’t enough storage in your home. Normally it shouldn’t be such a big deal in most games. In Animal Crossing though, you are more or less encouraged to hoard all the items you get to make themes in your home and place decor in an orderly fashion. Most items you sell can be bought again but it goes against my inner collector to get rid of them only to buy them again later. 
  • Player two not having their own island. Instead, it’s only one island per system and whoever starts the game gets to do all the “plot-important parts”. I didn’t even get a tool blueprint until a patch occurred later because I wasn’t Player one. I think this is a big oversight for families and for people who share the system.  
  • Multiplayer isn’t free. You have to have a Nintendo subscription and I don’t have one. My husband does and it felt silly for both of us to buy it. Part of the fun of this game is showing off your island and visiting other people’s islands. It’s a core of why this game is fun, visiting friends and seeing what they made. This never should have been an extra that isn’t included in the base game. 
  • The burnout I felt near the end of playing. 

Best Parts

  • I’ll be honest and say I really love the Doom Guy and Isabel memes. It’s both adorable and hilarious. Whenever I saw Isabel in the game being helpful and doing the morning announcements I always pictured her laying waste to unholy monsters with Doom Guy. Which considering how she has to work with people and keep a happy face on I think she deserves a little stress relief. 
  • The music in New Horizons is truly phenomenal! It’s very calm and relaxing. The music truly adds to the atmosphere. 
  • Animal Crossing is just very cute. All the little chibi animals, with their nonsense language UwU! 
  • Filling up the museum is satisfying. It was a lot of fun to see what you caught on display like that. Also since the game shows the name of the player who donated the specimen it was always fun to be the first one to donate something. It became a bragging right between me and my husband about donating first, especially if it was rare. 
  • Blathers is also just a really sweet character. He makes you want to donate to the museum. It’s also so much fun to see his reactions to the fossils, fish, and insects. Especially the insects, poor guy with his phobia. His factoids are always interesting too. 

Angry Beans: Fall Guys Ultimate Knockout

Normally I hate playing battle royale video games. For me to say “I like Fall Guys it’s pretty good for an online battle royale game” is a big indicator that it’s pretty darn good. In Fall Guys you don’t directly eliminate your competition. Instead, everyone competes in a series of mini-game stages until only one player is standing victorious. I find this more engaging than the typical gameplay of simply shooting your opponents and trying not to die. There are multiple games with unique rules and challenges. This motivates you to keep on playing to see and beat all the different stages. Fall Guys makes you have a desire to win against the game instead of just trying to be the best player.  

Verdict

Fall Guys Ultimate Knockout: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

I recommend it to people who want a quick video game experience or to those who like playing battle royale games. 

To put my rating in perspective the only other exclusively online battle royale game I’ve played is Fortnite. I only played one round of Fortnite because my husband handed me the controller while his character was plummeting to the ground and said “Here”. Then he walked too far away for me to give it back. So I played a round. It was okay. I survived for a while before being shot by someone. I just thought it was boring. If I was going to rank Fortnite I would give it a 2/10. I just don’t like battle royale games.  

You would like this game if

  • Enjoy playing battle royale games
  • Like colorful mini-games
  • Have a little bit of time to kill
  • Want to show off cosmetic swag
  • Think that trolling people is fun 
  • Playing platforming games is something you like

Plotline

Battle royale games normally don’t have much of a story. Fall Guys is no different. What it does have is a setting. These games are set up as part of a competition being broadcasted to the masses. You play as a sentient jelly bean with arms and legs in five rounds of games with a total of sixty bean people. After each round people are eliminated until only one remains and awarded the crown. Still no matter the ultimate win or loss of each player they are brought back to the starting menu to do the same thing over and over again. According to the lore; you are trapped, forced to perform in these games in an endless cycle with no escape. It’s a rather dark setting for such a colorful, cheerful game. Try not to think about it.    

Gameplay

The gameplay is pretty simple. There aren’t any items you can pick up or use. The four things you can do are run, jump, dive, and grab. That’s all. It sounds simple. It should be simple but it’s harder than it looks. Mainly because the character doesn’t control well. They are clumsy, occasionally unresponsive, and they fall down…. a lot. The second big obstacle is the other players. They knock you around and get in your way. Some people actively troll all the rest of the players by actively hindering progress; standing in your way or grabbing you. Those people are the worst. These two factors combined can make Fall Guys frustrating after a while. This is why I don’t play this game for longer than a half-hour. I get too ragey. 

Each round of play has five rounds with different mini-game stages. Fall Guys has a variety of stages. These stages all fall into one basic category obstacle courses, team games, and survival time trials. Obstacle courses are pretty straightforward. All you have to do is navigate the course and cross the finish line over the elimination threshold. In team games, players are divided into two or three teams and the losing team is eliminated. In the survival stages, you just avoid elimination until the timer runs out or until a set number of players are eliminated. As the round loads, you see snapshots of possible stages scroll past. When one is selected there will be a short period before the start with instructions displayed. Then the round starts and you try your best. As you continually encounter stages you learn how to do better making it easier to win. Still, there is be a lot of luck involved in this game, especially in the team stages. There is never any guarantee of success in Fall Guys.   

As you play the game you earn currency called Kudos and gain Fame. As your fame rises you unlock cosmetic rewards and crowns. The Kudos and crowns you earn can be spent in game on outfits, colors, patterns, and emotes. Part of the fun of playing Fall Guys is dressing up your bean person then showing off your fancy outfits. 

Worst Parts

  • Other people. They get in the way and sometimes intentionally troll you. Playing fall guys has made me curse humanity multiple times. 
  • Team games, some are better than others but you don’t have as much control over the outcome of whether or not you pass or fail a game. 
  • Cosmetics items are kind of expensive.
  • Load time before matches begin. It sometimes takes a few minutes to get enough players to start the game. That’s just how multiplayer online games work but it’s still a test of patience. Especially if you are playing multiple times in a row. 
  • The bumbling jelly bean you play as is designed to move awkwardly and be clumsy. It’s in the title. Fall Guys, so you fall a lot. It can get frustrating when it feels like you have to fight against your character on top of the game itself and the other players. 
  • I haven’t won yet. *Sigh* It’s very sad. 

Best Parts

  • Fall Guys is very colorful and the music is upbeat. The game creates a whimsical vibe, which is unique as most video games have more serious tones. 
  • Playing levels for the first time is fun as it presents a unique challenge.
  • Beating levels for the first time., Kind of obvious I know, but it is always a rush.
  • It’s a good mindless activity. When you don’t have a lot of brainpower available Fall Guys is a good game to play. It’s short and fun and doesn’t require much thought. This is probably the main reason why I keep coming back to play this game now and then. 
  • Buying cosmetics. I’m a collector at heart and my primitive monkey brain says to buy the shiny things. 
  • The quest to finally win a match of Fall Guys. I have made it to the final round a few times. The challenge is engaging. I’ll admit that my competitive nature does also keep me trying to win. 

*Image belongs to Mediatonic developer of Fall Guys Ultimate Knockout

Taming of the Sheep: Catherine Full Body

Catherine Full Body is one of the most bizarre video games I’ve ever played. That’s why I love it. It’s a setting so odd it just doesn’t seem like it would work, yet somehow it does. The entire game revolves around an unlikable (at first) main character going through a midlife crisis of sorts. The central theme is the choice between settling down or choosing the freedom of an untethered life without responsibility. Like a soap opera, the main character has relationship problems with three different women. All aboard the love square! The player’s choices determine what choice he makes and which lovely lady he successfully or unsuccessfully romances. It’s a video game though, so a love square isn’t enough. Clearly. Add in a terrifying supernatural nightmare world and you have yourself an anime. Game. I meant game. 

Verdict

Catherine Full Body (PS4) ★★★★★★★★☆☆

I highly recommend it for those who like weird/unique stories and are open to nontraditional gameplay.  

Catherine Full Body is a very unique and fun game. Characters have stylish designs and unique personalities. The story starts out weird and only gets weirder. I wanted to keep playing to find out what the heck is going on here. Not to mention that with a love square being the driving force of the plot of a video game is just unheard of. Other games may have some type of romance options while not having it be the core of the plot. Even games that do have romance as the main focus start at the very beginning of entering a relationship. Catherine Full Body is unique in that the main character Vincent Brooks starts the game being in a stable long-term relationship and then the conflicts begin when he is faced with decisions regarding what he really wants from life and a romantic partner. Then you have the gameplay of  a supernatural nightmare world where survival is climb or die. It’s puzzle-based with a clear sense of progression as you climb higher to escape your doom. The difficulty level also increases naturally. As the game goes on it introduces new obstacles and gimmicks, the tower gets bigger, the blocks seem to fall a little faster, and then the boss levels happen to add a whole new tense chase. 

That said it is definitely not for everyone. Despite not being explicit, the game has very sensual and sexual themes. Usually done well but sometimes a bit over the top. It’s rated M for a reason. Catherine Full Body is also very Japanese, with completely weird and wacky shenanigans. So it is very unapologetically an anime game. Which is not everyone’s cup of tea. There isn’t any combat in this game. All the gameplay that isn’t wandering around and talking to people is trying to climb a crumbling tower by pushing blocks. It is a puzzle centered rush to the top before the time runs out. While there is an easy setting these stages can get frustrating and requires a degree of strategy.  

You would like this game if

  • Are driven to find out why things happen and what happens next.  
  • Enjoy learning about characters’ backstories and motivations.
  • Either enjoy playing time sensitive spatial puzzles or at least don’t mind playing them.
  • Like watching anime.
  • Aren’t offended by sexual/sensual themes.
  • Want replayability. 13 endings to get. 

Plotline

It starts with this surreal opening, a stylized animation begins of seemingly random movie-like events. As the camera pans out the player realizes that this sequence had been on tv and the logo Golden Playhouse appears. Then a woman with epic hair and a sultry voice introduces herself as “The Midnight Venus Trisha”. She proceeds to set the scene appearing as a host introducing a drama. Creating a unique feel of being simultaneously an audience member watching the main character while still having choices to control the flow of the story. 

Our main man Vincent is hanging out with the guys at their favorite bar The Stray Sheep and whining about his problems. Currently, he faces tough life decisions regarding his relationship with his long-time girlfriend Katherine. Katherine wants to settle down. She begins bringing up topics like marriage and starting a family. Vincent is an indecisive mess of a man wibbling between his love of Katherine and his fear of commitment. As he mulls over the thought of possibly ending his relationship with his more successful girlfriend, a young scantily-clad blonde woman joins him at the bar. Her name is Catherine. Aggressively flirty blondes and alcohol don’t seem to mix well because the next morning finds Vincent waking up with an undressed Catherine in his bed. If this love triangle wasn’t enough, we are quickly introduced to Rin, a kind and lovely aspiring musician. Vincent helped Rin escape from some unknown pursuer and set her up with a job at his favorite bar. 

If trying to navigate this new love square that is his life now wasn’t bad enough Vincent also has terrifying nightmares every night. Rumor has it these nightmares plague unfaithful men. Now cursed, every night Vincent dreams of being surrounded by strange talking sheep and is forced to climb an endless tower. What do these strange dreams mean? Over several nights our overwhelmed protagonist sees news stories of men dying from unknown causes and begins to connect the dots. Now Vincent must not only figure out what he is doing with his life and finally try to communicate to Katherine, Catherine, and Rin but he must find the truth of these supernatural dreams. 

Gameplay

While Vincent is awake cutscenes occur to advance the plot and the player spends time at the Stray Sheep. What you do in the bar affects the overall story. Your actions can trigger movement on a “mysterious meter” to lean towards order or chaos. This meter and the way you respond to certain events will determine what ending you get. There are multiple endings so if you don’t like what you wound up with you can always go back and make different choices. 

At the bar, you can talk to all the characters there. When I say all of the characters I do mean all. You can talk to your three homeboys, the bartender who only goes by “Boss”, Erica the sassy waitress, friendly cinnamon bun Rin, the two old ladies sitting in the booth behind yours, an off duty cop, and random strangers who are sitting at the bar minding their own business. During the evenings at Stray Sheep Vincent will periodically get texts from Catherine and Katherine. The player is free to read and replay or ignore the texts as they please. Since this is a bar you can order drinks. Finishing drinks affects the nightmare half of the game. With the most twisted logic, the more drinks Vincent has the drunker he is, the drunker he is the faster he moves in the nightmare realm. There is one last thing you can do. I personally never spent much time on this as I had more fun drinking and talking to people but to each their own. There is an arcade cabinet in the bar you can play. It is the same tower climbing gameplay as the nightmare section but instead of climbing for your life you just try to rescue Rapunzel from her tower. 

Once Vincent leaves the bar he returns home to his crappy apartment, goes to sleep, and ends up in a nightmare world. Each night the player as Vincent must ascend the tower by moving around blocks so he can keep climbing. While climbing the tower continually falls away layer by layer. If you don’t move fast enough or get knocked off you fall to your death. The old cliche of “die in a dream and you die in real life” holds true for this game. Luckily each night has stages with checkpoints and a safe place where you can save the game along the way. These safe areas look church-like with pews and sheep loitering about the place. You can talk to these sheep or continue right to the confession booth. In the confession booth, a disembodied voice talks a bit and you answer his question. Answer how you want but know that the answers have an effect on the “mysterious meter” and eventually what ending you get. As you keep playing new mechanics get introduced and the levels become harder. There are even bosses that add new difficulty in not just climbing to the top to escape but also avoiding direct attacks. Boss levels are interesting as the bosses are usually representative of Vincent’s fears. Before starting the game you choose the difficulty settings of the nightmare levels and which mode, classic or remix, you want to play. Good news is that these choices can be changed at any point during the game and don’t affect the story. 

Worst Parts

Pet Peeves and Annoyances:

  • The camera during the nightmare sections can be funky sometimes and makes it really hard to climb around behind blocks.
  • Encountering sheep on various levels outside of the safe area. They get in the way and are just generally there to make the climbing puzzles harder. However they can also knock you off and kill you! Doesn’t happen much but it’s very frustrating. You can also push them off which is good. As long as you don’t mind some murder. I have done this one or two times and always felt kind of bad. In the end though when it comes down to me and that sheep both fighting our way up, I absolutely will save myself 100% of the time.  
  • Vincent. I have never hated playing a character more than this man! He is just an indecisive, sweaty, anxious mess! So many of his issues with Katherine, Catherine, and Rin could be solved if he just talked openly and honestly. BUT NOOOO! Of course he can’t do that. I know he is like this as a starting point to contrast what you make him. Still, Ugggh.
  • The arcade cabinet mini game is just reusing the gameplay from the nightmare section in a less stylized way with lower stakes. I only played it once to see what it was. It felt really unnecessary. 
  • You can’t talk to everyone and do everything available in one night at the bar. Almost every action causes some amount of time to pass. The other patrons at the bar come and go making it impossible to talk to all of them. It’s kind of a good and bad thing. It’s good in that it’s more realistic but also sad because I can’t talk to everyone.

Best Parts

Little things I came to love in Catherine Full Body

  • When you order a drink the male narrator with his deep, soothing voice gives you trivia about your drink of choice. Honestly one of the more addicting parts of the game.
  • Cutscenes. The cutscenes are really good in this game. It’s basically like watching an anime in snippets. Animation quality is also pretty top notch. 
  • Every single time you move a block a narrator says, “Edge”. Starts off mildly irritating but soon it becomes this background reassurance that I didn’t screw things up. I don’t know how to describe it. It just became this comforting constant little background noise. 
  • Trisha is a beautiful mysterious queen. Her hair…. is just so fabulous! I love her hair so much. 
  • 13 different endings! I got the Katherine Good Ending. Which was fine by me, I wanted to play through and see what one my choices got without trying for a specific ending. In the future I definitely want to go back and play again to see the rest of the endings.  
  • All the vibes of the Stray Sheep. Someone needs to make this a real bar ASAP
  • Vincent actually has character growth. Player’s choices shape his personality as you work towards the end. 
  • Whenever you answer a confessional booth question a pie chart is displayed after with percentages of how other players answered it. For some reason it’s fun to see how other people answered questions. 
  • There is a game mode where you can play as Joker from Persona 5! This makes me exceedingly happy as Persona 5 is one of my favorite games of all time. 

*The picture with this post does not belong to me it belongs to Atlus (not sure I needed to put this here but just in case)