Game reviews

(CLICK HERE FOR A SORTABLE TABLE OF ALL OUR REVIEWS)

You can take a look at Tom Chick's Patreon page (the link is at the top of the page) for more than you'll ever want to know about this site's approach to reviews. But the overarching idea is that a review is an expression of someone's experience with a videogame. It is subjective. It is not advice. It is not a buyer's guide. It should be valuable to people who have and haven't played the game. Furthermore, our ratings using the full range of the 1-5 scale and they are simply shorthand for how much we liked a given game. You can find details here.

And we hope you'll participate in the discussion following any review! If you've taken the time to read our opinion, the least we can do is read yours as well.

Latest Game reviews

Sol: Last Days of a Star throws a graceful apocalypse party and everyone’s invited

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The premise of Sol: Last Days of a Star is that the sun is about to go supernova. She’s gonna blow any moment and you’ve got to beat feet, which is no mean feat, given that suns are a real drag. All that gravity, you know. Your only hope is to harvest sun energy to build up momentum to slip the fiery bonds of Sol.

The sun machine is coming down and there’s gonna be a party. Continue reading →

The astonishing cluelessness of The Crew 2

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The Crew 2 is a real surprise. Not at all what I expected. It’s actually astonishing. Maybe even breathtaking. It seems completely, utterly, stupenduously, jaw-droppingly unaware of why I played The Crew. It flagrantly violates the conventional wisdom that videogame sequels are better because game design is an iterative process. Design something, improve on it for the sequel, repeat. But The Crew 2 doesn’t feel the least bit iterative. It simply can’t compare to The Crew. It’s as if it never even heard of it. It’s not just one step forward, two steps back. It’s not even no steps forward, two steps back. It’s popping the clutch when you didn’t know the car was in reverse and plunging over a cliff. It is one of the worst open-world games I’ve played, and easily the worst caRPG I’ve ever played.

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Is Cultist Simulator for you? Take this quiz and find out!

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Please read these four selections from Cultist Simulator. After you read them, there will be a short quiz.

“It enters the world one limb at a time, questing like a serpent, cawing like a crow, throbbing like a vein. It will cuddle close against my leg, if I let it, and afterwards I will have to dispose of my shoes.”

“In the forest where the moon couldn’t go, the boughs of the trees were woven together like bandages or lovers.”

“His face is creased by so many wrinkles that his features lie buried amid shadowy pockets of skin. Still, the dwarf’s well-practiced habits have left telltale tracks of a welcoming rictus across his visage.”

“In the display cases of the impossible museum, I always see an apple white as snow and hard as marble. A golden beetle in a stern box. A coy geometry awaiting my touch. A black envelope bursting with spring. A brass opera-box for instruments of record and measure. A storm in a tin. I always wake before I see the aisle’s end.”

And now for the quiz: Continue reading →

Are the exotic new dangers of Pathfinder: Mummy’s Mask worth the hassle?

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It’s been a while since I’ve rooted around in an actual Pathfinder Adventure Card Game box. Four and a half years, to be exact. Oh, I’ve played plenty since then. Obsidian’s videogame version is a spot-on transliteration that’s arguably better than the tabletop version for how it streamlines out all the fussing with cards, and dice, and rules exceptions, and cards, and cards, and table space, and more cards, and cards that have to be kept just so, and cards, and looking up the rules, and also a whole bunch of cards. On the PC, all that stuff purrs quietly under the hood while you flip virtual cards, and huck virtual dice, and level up your characters as smoothly as if you were playing Diablo.

I say this videogame version is arguably better. But the operative word is “arguably”. Continue reading →

A new dawn rises in State of Decay 2

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Night of the Living Dead invented zombies. So what if the word zombie comes from Haitian mythology? So what if the concept was inspired by the “vampires” in Richard Matheson’s Last Man on Earth? So what if the theme is a variation on the 1956 Invasion of the Body Snatchers? When George Romero gathered some buddies to make a no-budget amateur movie in Pittsburgh, thousands of miles from Hollywood, he invented a new mythology. But it wouldn’t be fully realized until Dawn of the Dead. Years later, with a budget for better production values, with a larger crew on a more conventional shoot, with better actors, better effects, better cinematography, a better set, better distribution, and better marketing, he realized a fuller expression of what he created in his first movie. They’re both classics. But Dawn of the Dead is a timeless work of genre filmmaking and mythology.

State of Decay 2 is to State of Decay what Dawn of the Dead is to Night of the Living Dead. Continue reading →

The absurd intricate Pax Renaissance recalls how money saved the world

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If you play enough boardgames, you’ll pick up the shorthand to communicate the basics of any particular game. This one is worker placement with territory control, that one is a deck-builder with drafting, and the stuff in the back of the closet is a bunch of dudes-on-a-board Ameritrash nonsense. Of course, you need to mention the theme. Set collection in a medieval village, push-your-luck with elfs and dragons, screw-your-neighbor with spaceships, or points salad in ancient Rome.

You can’t do this with a Phil Eklund game. You just say “it’s a Phil Eklund game”. Continue reading →

Metal Gear Survive set to expire in 23 days

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While I’m waiting for State of Decay 2 — checking my calendar, I see it’s 23 interminable days to go — I’ve got another zombie survival game to indulge my resource scavenging, survivor nurturing, and base-building needs. It even acknowledges the Metal Gear Solid V shaped hole in my heart. It doesn’t fill it, but it’s clearly trying to kick in a little dirt. I suppose I should appreciate the effort. Anything to make the next three weeks seem a little shorter.

Wait, what game are we talking about? Continue reading →

Far Cry 5 is more effective — and relevant — than it knows

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I don’t hate the cultists in Far Cry 5 because they’ve brainwashed their followers, stockpiled firearms, bought up all the property, co-opted law enforcement agencies, dumped toxic waste into clean rivers, and installed a right-wing theocracy. Whatever. Cultists gonna cult. I hate them because they’re interrupting Ubisoft’s best open world since Far Cry 2.

I’ve come here to shoot, fish, drive around, blow shit up, and pet a mountain lion. I’m delighted with these parts of Far Cry 5. What a fantastic place to pursue happiness and bear arms, among this rogue’s gallery of people doing the same thing. But then I’m drugged and dragged into a mandatory cutscene.

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Hexplore It’s unique mix of dragons, dry erase markers, math, and maps that matter

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All right, let’s get this out of the way. The name “Hexplore It”, or “HEXplore It” if you want to get technical. Why would someone call this game that? Maybe it’s a warning that the map has hexes, but who’s still scared of hexes these days? I’m more scared of square tiles. Can I move diagonally? Does it cost extra? Why not? There’s less to remember with hexes. The Hexplore It developers went further, though. One of the faces on each die is marked with a HEX logo. Replacing the 6 on the d6 makes sense, since a hexagon has six sides, a six-sided die, fair enough. But how do they explain the 1 on the d10 being replaced by a HEX logo? And more importantly, why would a crunchy, in-depth, detailed, hardcore fantasy saga get a name that sounds like something inflicted on third graders forced to learn geometry? Fortunately, the folks who made this game gave it the subtitle “Valley of the Dead King”, which is a much more sensible name for a hardcore fantasy saga. They’re currently Kickstartering a sequel subtitled “The Forests of Adrimon”. Think of Hexplore It as an unfortunate prefix.

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Space Tyrant’s draconian grip on both space and time

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It takes an hour and five minutes to cook a frozen Marie Callender chicken pot pie. One of the curious properties of Space Tyrant, a sci-fi micro-grand strategy game, is how it reduces that time to about 20 minutes. Because there’s no way I put that chicken pot pie in the oven, sat down to play Space Tyrant, and have been at it for an hour and five minutes. That’s just not how time works.

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In Deep Sixed, no one can hear you scream at things that break at the worst time

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Dark Star was John Carpenter’s 1974 riff on 2001: A Space Odyssey. Imagine 2001 without Kubrick’s visionary serenity, where the astronauts are the hippies, stoners, and surfers a USC film school student would have known in 1974. That’s screenwriter Dan O’Bannon in the foreground as Pinback. To release a planet-busting bomb, he twists his arms inward to grasp two dials or levers. It doesn’t look very comfortable. He holds it for the countdown from 10, and then for the release, he sharply rotates his hands outward. It’s the gesture a magician would do to reveal which hand the quarter is in.

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The Thunderbirds boardgame to the rescue in a post-Pandemic world!

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The boardgame renaissance began about ten years ago when humankind finally invented good boardgame design. It had taken centuries. Previously, we had a bunch of roll-and-move junk, nerdyman wargames no one cared about, and old chestnuts like chess, Monopoly, and Settlers of Catan. Things like worker placement, deck building, and traitor mechanics hadn’t been invented yet. It was a dark time.

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That darn princess! It’s tough to be a Unicornus Knight.

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One of my favorite things about Spirit Island, my current favorite solitaire/co-op game, is how R. Eric Reuss’ design isn’t the usual solitaire/co-op paradigm. You know the paradigm from Pandemic, Arkham Horror, Flash Point, Zombicide, Dawn of the Zeds, Nemo’s War, and so on. Four bad things spawn, but you only have three actions to take bad things off the board. Now survive until the game clock runs out. It’s a rote exercise in plugging leaks that arbitrarily ends at some point and you either made it and won or didn’t and lost. The other alternative is punching something with a lot of hit points until you win. Sure, there are some exciting variations in the punching, such as the superhero decks in Sentinels of the Multiverse or the economic engines spooling up to cycle cards in a deck-builder called Aeon’s End. But it still comes down to punching a big bag of hit points.

Enter Unicornus Knights, a refreshingly unique solitaire/co-op game with its own paradigm. Want to play a cool game where secret destinies unite allies and enemies, interesting characters navigate a randomized map, and love conquers all? First, allow me to introduce Princess Cornelia, who is going to screw it all up.

Continue reading →