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  • The cast of Severance, looking unsettled at something off-camera.

    In Mike Judge’s 1999 cult comedy Office Space, there’s a scene where Ron Livingston’s Peter - a programmer working a tedious corporate job - visits a hypnotist. “Is there any way that you could, sorta, just zonk me out so I don’t know that I’m at work, in here,” Peter asks of the hypnotist, pointing to his head. “Could I come home and think that I’ve been fishing all day, or something?”. That’s basically the high-level concept for brilliant sci-fi comedy show Severance, right there. Not wanting to spoil any more than I absolutely have to, I’ll present you with two facts up top. 1. It features a touching queer relationship between John Turturro and Christopher Walken and 2. It’s some of the best television I’ve seen in the last few years. Throw in some Stanley Parable, Control, Gilliam’s Brazil, and some more meta undertones of general musing on gamified reward loops, and you’ve got Severance.

  • Crossing an eerie bridge holding an axe in Harvest Hunt.

    We have been cursed with a terrible devouring monster. Each harvest, one villager must don the ceremonial, mildly magical mask, and enter the fields alone, to gather the precious life-giving ambrosia before the beast can befoul it. For five nights you must do battle, or evade its ravenous clutches.

    Those of you who have known your own Devourer are surely thinking: Only five nights per year? Luxury. Harvest Hunt is good, though.

  • Jack shoves his favourite manga in a robot's mouth in Mullet Mad Jack

    In one of the better gaming trends of the last few years, we appear to have entered a golden age for booting the crud out of doors. There’s Deathbulge of course, but also the upcoming Anger Foot, Abiotic Factor, and a load more I’m sure. There was also literally Door Kickers, but that was ages ago. Anyway, the latest game to put a hinge-disrespecting protagonist front and center is also my current obsession: the excellent Post Void/Hotline Miami-type beat, Mullet Mad Jack. It’s a very fast, very silly FPS about shooting robot billionaires that takes its aesthetic from 80’s anime and PC-98 games. I’m not sure what else you need, honestly.

  • Grown fat from strength in Destiny 2's Duality dungeon.

    In a twist of fate I've mentioned in some recent Destiny 2 news posts, I am fully back into Destiny. Former vidbud Liam and I used it, initially, as something we could do while catching up on life. But now? Now we're all in. Liam has created a spreadsheet of things we're ticking off to prepare for the upcoming expansion, and I think it's the perfect summation of what the game is to us: something that makes no sense at all and yet something that makes our brains hum with happiness.

    And what we've found with Destiny, in all of its bloat, is that we haven't explored for a single second since our return. Everything is accomplished through menus, making it quite Starfield-esque, which is terrible… but also good. We can't make sense of it and we don't think we ever will.

  • An idyllic village scene in Of Life And Land

    I love building games, but it's not that often that put one down and feel particularly tempted to get straight back into it again. Of Life And Land is one of those, but thankfully not so much so that it threatens to consume my every waking moment.

    It quietly does several things in a modest little way, that are all the more impressive for its lack of fanfare. The core one though, is that it takes the kind of simulationist foundation normally reserved for the punishing Dwarf Fortress derivatives or gnarly logistics games, and builds on them an approachable, gentle, even philosophical game instead. In a word: it's lovely.

  • A close-up of a battle-damaged capital ship in Homeworld 3 against a backdrop of floating wreckage

    Supporters only: Nando's does difficulty better than videogames

    How do we solve the easy/normal/hard problem?

    Have you played Homeworld 3 yet? I have. I thought it was *gestures at review*. I bring it up because, as is often your way, the readership commented me into thinking about something I’ve been wanting to cover: the outdated relic that is the easy/normal/hard difficulty trifecta. "Ohoho," I warbled chuckilishly. "I shall craft a blistering manifesto, sharper than the apex of a Toblerone on the roof of your mouth when you try to eat it as god intended. I will solve this problem." And then I thought, "Actually, no. That sounds hard." So, instead, here are some wazzock-tier ramblings.

  • The protagonist of Biomorph, a strange almost insectoid creature, who has taken on a red aspect from an enemy they've killed

    Supporters only: Biomorph is one the best of its genre, of 2024, and maybe all time

    If only you could morph to the monsters

    There are exactly one million metroidy rogueishy action platform games and that is okay. There's no such thing as too many of an entertaining thing in a world with, god I dunno, at least thousand humans in? Maybe more? Who knows.

    They are rarely my thing, though. I try more than I really want to, for you, and games like Biomorph give me the energy to keep going through the many that leave me indifferent. This isn't one of my grudging admissions that a subgenre isn't all bad; it's a game that I can't even think of a way to complain about.

  • A badminton net, with a green curtain in the background.

    Supporters only: For two years, Kento Momota had the best game in the world

    Ten years in development

    Last week, I watched one of my favourite badminton players Kento Momota play his final match. As he stepped off court for the last time, I found myself welling up. He doesn't know me - of course he doesn't - and I don't know him. But for ten years I'd watch him at every opportunity and see him grow into one of the all-time greats. For me, his retirement wasn't only devastating in the sense he was a great ambassador for the sport: a positive soul, a good speaker, a hard worker. No, it also spelled the end of us being able to witness something impossible to replicate, a 'game' of badminton uniquely his. And for a magical two years, he had the best game in the world.

  • A shelf of books from the rearranging game A Little To The Left. They are all out of height order and this needs to be addressed.

    Like with getting fancy polyhedral dice sets full of all glitter and wool, buying and owning are two different hobbies when it comes to books. I think this has gotten worse (if that's the word?) with the increasingly popularity of BookTok, the book-centric community on TikTok. It's really mobilised young people towards reading (which is good) but in some cases drives a consumption for consumption's sake approach, where one must have read new books to talk about, one must take no breaths between reading, and one must read an astonishing number of books in the smallest amount of time possible (which I think is bad).

  • A teaser image of a Helldivers 2 mech firing a gatling gun in a sandy desert.

    Regular Nic Reuben enjoyers, should such people exist, will remember I wrote a supporter post a few weeks back about wanting to spread my personal gaming fun time out among new and exciting games. And by ‘spread it out’ I mean maybe play 15% less Total Warhammer. As is often the way of things, I followed what I thought was prudent advice, and now there are bugs everywhere. Big bugs. Also, robots. Helldivers 2, it turns out, is really quite excellent. Who woulda thunk! Everyone else. Everyone else woulda thunk.

  • Hades 2 screenshot of Apollo.

    My older brother (as opposed to "big"; my younger brother is my big brother, because he's built like the kind of hearty giant in a JRPG who laughs a lot and carries an anchor as a weapon, while my older brother is a loathsome scribbling wizard like myself) is a gamer in a very normal sense. He was way more online when he was younger, and is the one who got me into the games of Lucasfilm, Troika and Blizzard, but these days he plays the games he likes a lot and does not read specialist websites that tell him why he shouldn't like them. He used to play loads of League Of Legends, but the game he was most into more recently was Hades. This is because he studied Classics.

    I won't tell you how many years its been since he was at university, but for many years - and still sort of now, to be honest - "liking Apollo" was a key part of his personality. It's interesting, therefore, to text him about Hades 2. Partly because he wasn't even aware it was happening.

  • A pitched sci fi battle taking place in From Glory To Goo

    It's not, strictly speaking, a goo. From Glory To Goo's enemy isn't a sinister gunge, but that minor disappointment didn't last long.

    Its monsters are individual, blobby little (mostly) purple nasties, but they act as a flood anyway, taking great exception to your base and the resources it pipes back and forth (much like in Creeper World), but coming mostly in waves like They Are Billions. But the thing with FGTG is that there's always a little bit more to deal with than you think.

  • The character running along a cliff in Distant Bloom

    Despite my desire for a real life herb garden, I don't really like farming or gardening games. Distant Bloom could be an exception, except I'm not sure it even qualifies as either, really. It is a little bit about exploration, a little about very light puzzles, and mostly in its heart, about cleaning up and making everything pretty.

  • A promotional image for Russian adventure game Indika, showing a young nun looking at the viewer while surrounded by yelling older nuns.

    Indika is a good game about a good nun, and I’ll talk about why in a sec, but first - a complaint. ‘Low’, ‘Medium’, or ‘Ultra’ graphics settings? Really, Indika? Where is 'High'? Where’s it gone, eh? This isn’t cute when Papa John's do it, and it’s not cute now. You’re lucky you’re an extremely interesting game, Indika. Let’s talk about that instead.

  • A liminal space with a green slide and white tiles in Pools.

    I gave that Pools game a go recently - you know, the first-person traipse through some liminal spaces that happen to be pool themed. At one point it was trending on Steam and since then it's garnered loads of positive reviews, with people saying it's unsettling and drips with atmosphere. Reader, I do think it's quite atmospheric, but I do not think it's all that unsettling. If anything, I find it a bit dull, in a way that's semi-frustrating. Am I missing the liminal space-liker bit of the brain a lot of people have? Am I an anomaly here?

  • A cleaned and stocked freshwater tank in Aquarist

    A couple of weeks ago I told you about an aquarium-having simulator that is as detailed as it is janky. I was charmed by Aquarist and it's basic-asset using weirdness, and I intended to write a lot more about it. But our adventures in fish keeping are stalled because, well, when something is adorably janky it might turn out that the jank gets in the way of you progressing or playing the game. In the real world, a bug stops me progressing past a very early point of the story. In the world of the game, my father has locked me in his fish basment and will not let me leave.

  • Apex Legends' caustic in a clown skin

    Supporters only: Unpacking the cursed digital object that is Steam’s clown reaction emoji

    But doctor, I am mostly positive!

    I don’t want to strike sweaty terror into anyone’s gentle hearts here, but I’m beginning to suspect lately that the friendly clown emojis I keep seeing as reactions to Steam user reviews aren’t actually a colorful kudos to the writer for being a chucklesome and whimsical individual. I’m starting to fear, actually, that this one icon of a behatted japester may have been widely adopted as an oddly hostile way to single out dissenting opinions, rapidly accelerating the Steam reviews’ grisly metamorphosis into something that more resembles a clout-farming social app than anything with pretensions towards facilitating helpfulness or self expression.

  • Screenshot of teammates in Lethal Company.

    Supporters only: Lethal Company is as much about protecting the mundane, as it is a horror game

    They should put my new coffee grinder in there

    I think the stronger your interest in white goods becomes, that's how you know you're transitioning from a youngster to a slightly oldster. The first thing I did recently when I stepped into my friend's house was compliment him on his new washing machine. "A Samsung! Nice dials on this, eh?", I said as I twisted the dial and it pleasantly bumped from mixed to delicate wash. What can I say? I appreciate the mundane and the useful.

    And from the times I've played Lethal Company, I've come to think it's also a game about appreciating the mundane, too.

  • The Grey Warden in Dragon Age: Origins fights a giant darkspawn ogre

    Supporters only: Watching Civil War made me want more games with black and white stances on morality

    I can't think of any good modern examples!

    I went to see Civil War this weekend. I liked a bunch of it, didn't like a bunch of it. One thing I thought was very obvious is that it sanitises its titular conflict of any political context. On the one hand, I understand this as part of the theming, said almost directly into the camera by Kirsten Dunst's photojournalist character: as journalists they're there to observe, so other people ask questions. On the other hand, the civil war being between the government and the Western Forces, an alliance between California and Texas feels extremely "Republicans buy sneakers too", if you ask me.

    It made me think about the Fallout TV show. One of the things I like about it is that it doesn't pretend The Brotherhood Of Steel aren't absolute mad lads (pejorative). Like, they're clearly not good news, and there isn't any attempt to make them seem like they are - just that they might seem that way from the point of view of a traumatised child being rescued from a fridge like a tiny Indiana Jones. Many of the video games I like pride themselves on offering choice to the player, but in reality they smooth over any bumps in the road to make the choices appear equal - rather than telling the player they are choosing between bad and good.

  • Putting together a gingerbread house in a 3D puzzle in Piecing It Together

    Supporters only: Piecing It Together gave me a timely little island of calm

    Good thing I got my pieces

    It's been a while since I snuck my diary into a column, huh?

    Long-term readers might have discerned that I haven't been well for a very long time. I have various ailments, of which we all suffer, and it turns out that a mere five years of clinging on by your fingernails sometimes leads to some actual treatment for... all of them. Wild.

    So while there've been a lot of interesting looking games in the shortlist lately, these last few weeks have been entirely too interesting for me personally. Piecing It Together is nothing more or less than 3D jigsaw puzzles. I've never even liked jigsaws, but it turns out that was exactly the kind of game I needed.

  • High-scoring cards popping off in a Balatro screenshot.

    While trying to keep vaguely up on both games discourse and terminology over long periods of time, I frequently find myself noticing terms enter common usage, get used a bunch, then fall out of favour again. I think this is partly because games discourse is cyclical, and partly because writing and talking about the same things a lot means that when a neater phrase for something complicated pops up, it gets assimilated quickly. Mostly, though, I think it’s because of my brain doing the thing where, say, you notice a yellow car on a walk and then see dozens of them. I was going to write a car make there but I don’t know any. Uh, (looks at monitor), Asus? Do Asus do cars? The 1994 Asus Gremlin. What a ride!

  • The protagonist in Ants Took My Eyeball standing atop a strange bug-shaped machine

    Supporters only: An action platformer about getting an eye back from ants affirms my belief that games need a Ronseal approach to their titles

    Ants Took My Eyeball is about a man who has had his eyeball taken. By ants.

    I sometimes struggle with what to write about for supporter posts (a contender this week was "why does Fallout the TV show insist Walton Goggins' character is from California when he talks like Foghorn Leghorn?"). And then we got an email about a game called Ants Took My Eyeball and I was like "Man, games need good names more often." I played the Steam demo for Ants Took My Eyeball (which is a 2D action roguelite where you go into an anthill to fight ants, who took your eyeball) and I very much liked the design, weapons and idea, but not the controls so much. Not my cup of tea, but have a go of the demo. But you know what got me to play an action platformer roguelite when those games aren't really my cup of tea? That godamn name is what!

  • Fighting a big frog monster in Carpathian Night

    Supporters only: Carpathian Night Starring Bela Lugosi takes Castlevania back to basics

    And they call it Bela Notmuche

    "Very little Bela Lugosi" is not a criticism I ever expected to level at a game. It's not entirely unexpected considering he's dead, but I'm still grumbling at you, Carpathian Night Starring Bela Lugosi.

    It is, as it appears, an unabashed homage to Castlevania, but with none of the -vania, making it much more like the original (or the game boy ones, and possibly a few others in the series I don't know about): a straightforward, linear platform game about whipping monsters and not stepping on spikes. Ten a penny, right? But CNSBL captures it so well that it had me looking up old game boy tunes it vaguely reminded me of.

  • Geralt prepares to fight guards in a The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt screenshot.

    Supporters only: Fantasy games have a weird relationship with regional British accents

    Whose epaulet is that pauldron?

    Nationalism is obviously weepingly dull, even when it’s not being genuinely harmful, but the UK does have a few special things you can’t get anywhere else. Nik Naks, for example - the only crisp without at least one inferior flavor in the multipack. If I’m even vaguely patriotic about anything, though, it’s the sort of colloquial variety for such a comparatively tiny landmass that means you can drive an hour in any direction and get in a guaranteed fistfight with a stranger over what one of these is called*:

  • A magnificent aquarium with freshwater fish in Aquarist

    Supporters only: I am obsessed with this detailed but very weird aquarium sim

    Right click to throw away

    I know some of you will quibble with the headline, so let me confirm straight away that, yes, technically Aquarist is not a game simulating being an aquarium. An aquarist is someone who builds and manages aquariums, which is your principle task in the capital A Aquarist game. It recently left early access, which is sort of unbelievable because it's very janky in the most adorable way. You can tell it was made by someone who bloody loves aquariums, but taken at face value the career mode tells a strange tale indeed. For example, you have a very unsettling father.

  • A couple of serfs fertilising the fields in Under The Yoke

    Ever since Lords Of The Realm, I've had a soft spot for feudalism sims. Although faux-medieval games are common, there aren't all that many about regular people and regular concerns. Even LotR was increasingly about battles and armies as it went on, rather than the unique management parts.

    But in Under The Yoke, you're just a serf. You want to make something of yourself, but it's about a regular person managing his life, not some unlikely "adventurer", whatever that means. So you'll mostly be toiling, and foraging, and genuinely having way more actual skills than us superior modern folk. And despite some UI issues and rough edges, it's weirdly compelling.

  • The Gambler model from Kingdom Death Monster

    As a valued RPS supporter, you’re likely aware that you possess legal ownership of the fleeting thoughts I have right before falling asleep at night. It’s actually in the T&C, right under the bit about Horace’s claim on your organs. Good news: such interruptions are plentiful, and so too will be content. Here's my latest:

    Am I doomed, I asked myself, to live in wishful longing for the myriad gaming experiences I could have had if I didn’t tend to get obsessed with a few specific games, both digital and tabletop, that take up all my leisure time?

    Obviously I didn’t phrase it like that. It was more like ‘whawhaohhnoo’.

  • A pitched battle in desktop twin-stick shooter Windowkill

    Supporters only: I hate that I sorta hate twin-stick shooter Windowkill

    I can feel the window's pain

    Windowkill is the most inventive arcade shooter I've played for years.

    It's twin-stick shooting in a tiny window that temporarily expands in that direction when you shoot its edges. You have to actively manage and maintain the play space itself for that to even be an option. Soon static monsters appear in their own isolated windows you'll have to shoot your way towards (their attacks can cross the void between), and before long there are the horrible hateful little blue bastards who sit there passively, soaking up shots and never attacking but actively pulling the edges of the window towards them.

    It's a clever and great little thing and I sort of hate it as much as I like it.

  • Barret, Cloud and Tifa rendered in retro polygons in Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth

    Supporters only: Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth’s minigames are each a new sensory organ for its many novelties

    But also, screw the chicken quest specifically

    So, Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth, eh? I liked it a lot. 150 hours a lot. I big cried at least twice and welled up, much like a well, many other times. As much as I’d like to wax emotional about the plot and characters in an endless lifestream-of-consciousness ramble, articles need both headlines and subjects (truly an act of conspiratorial violence targeted at my personal dadaist instincts). So, let’s talk about just the minigames, because I think they’re wonderful for all sort of reasons that might not be immediately apparent. Naturally, big spoiler potential ahead if, like me, you consider everything you haven’t experienced in the RPG game a spoiler.

    I think one of OG Final Fantasy’s 7 best tricks is how it doesn’t just dish out its strangest distractions as a palette cleanser to the main meal of its action and drama, but actively works them in as an indispensable part of the menu. It also does this all without a shred of shame or self-consciousness, resulting in a cinematic video game with no inner turmoil or resentment toward either part of that equation - a characteristic I feel is suffered from by many of the games for which FF7 lead the way. Take the Gold Saucer. It’s an excuse to dick around and ride motorbikes, sure, but it’s also an essential story beat while the party takes time to relax and enjoy each other’s company away from the stress of travel and battle.

  • The Celestial Witch ready to expand the coven on the character select screen of WitchHand.

    Graham wrote about WitchHand last month when the game came out. He compared it to Stacklands, and I can see where he was coming from. It's a cute, deckbuilding strategy game where you're a witch building up strength to take on some horrible void-y demon-y things. It has much higher stakes than Stacklands, but most importantly, you summon cat familiars in it, and they go 'meow!'