Moon: Remix RPG Adventure

Moon: Remix RPG Adventure is such a wonderful artifact, a vibe-y, cordial experience that does more for games about non-violence than many of the titles published in the twenty-three years since it’s release. Finding a non-violent solution to a problem has become a cliche design metric, often distilled to a dialog tree or similarly simplistic branching choice. Here we have the full thrust of the game geared towards saving the bodies and souls of so-called monsters. The adventure game pace may be a bother but Moon must now, with its availability and enchanting new translation, be considered vital RPG canon.

Anodyne 2: Return to Dust

The first Anodyne was such a strong little title. Perhaps, it was too much bias of what made the first title sing that causes me to feel so uninspired by the second. Anodyne 2: Return to Dust has dungeons with thoughtful details, sharp composition, and grounding pixel art. However, they are accessible only through tedious, “zany” conversations held in the 3d overworld. Where the first game was withholding and aloof, this title is only too eager with its quirkiness. It’s not complex, it’s burdensome. One has to play Psychonauts in order to play Link’s Awakening. The chores ruin the treat.

Final Fantasy IV

Sometimes, Final Fantasy IV will pull a Smart RPG move and act as though it struggles with its own balancing when really it’s just turning certain battles and sequences into a puzzle. A test of your knowledge where your understanding of the mechanics allows you to work out how it wants you to do things. Other times, it really does simply fall apart and the game doesn’t know how to get you to the next melodramatic personal sacrifice without doing some chores. Does this mean I don’t understand Final Fantasy IV? Yes. Do I think it’s my own fault? No.

Dishonored: Death of the Outsider

Dishonored: Death of the Outsider is a breezy encore to Dishonored 2 which removes more than it adds. No chaos level, no void magic upgrades, no ship buddies! Turns out I really miss having Hypatia and Sokolov hanging around the Dreadful Wail. I want to love it, I WANT to want an arcade Dishonored 2. But no chaos means no meaning to my choice of approach. My options for taking out my targets are simply to kill or K.O. but they’re all leaders of an evil blood cult so it’s not a difficult one. It’s all so light, so airy.

Outer Wilds

The Outer Wilds has the generosity and judiciousness of a teacher. It goes absolutely all the way with every single concept and it delights in your curiosity as much as you do. It feels like falling. I’m an expert pilot. Paid for that knowledge with a thousand deaths which is normal here. I often die smiling knowing that next time I’ve got the understanding for one more hurdle. This time around I went the long way, but next time I’ll know. Yes, I have seen the end of this game. But I still have questions, the world is so big.

Void Bastards

Void Bastards is a game whose production began in the 2000s and from the humor to the “comic book” art style it feels it. The corporate satire is sort of Douglas Adams meets OSHA. However, the loop, the harsh rhythm, the weapons, the maps, the dangerous environments, and the sheer terror of zecs kept me absolutely hooked. Something about the incremental progression and micro-choices works for me the same way 400 hours of Animal Crossing did earlier this year. I had a rough August and this title stuck around when others didn’t. Bottom Line: Void Bastards makes depression worth it.

Cosmic Star Heroine

This little gremlin of a title has one of the freshest and most delightful battle systems I’ve ever seen. Moment to moment, turn to turn, you feel like a chess master plotting out all your buffs, debuffs, and heavy moves. There’s nothing mechanically to waste your time. Seriously, there are no consumables and even dead party members get XP. Unfortunately, the rest of the experience is a mess of immature characters and bland story, and world design. Cosmic Star Heroine is also quite conservative (Government bad but cops good!) Skip the embarrassment of the content and play it on hard.

Anodyne

Whoever made Anodyne is smart and deserves your attention. This game is Ray Bradbury presents Zelda. I won’t speculate on the literal story content, however, the mechanical story this game tells is solid, brilliant, and loving. Anodyne is Link’s Awakening delicately refracted through the prism of a teenage diary. The colors, the uncertainty, the moment with the fisherman! The world, not exactly hostile, is merely as confused and prone to lashing out as you are. It’s fun! I move from one screen to another, I sweep, I climb, my eyes scan. The landscape of Anodyne is a bittersweet heartbreak adventure.

Carrion

The delight of fluid movement and the necessity to roleplay make a perfect feedback loop in Carrion. Every moment is pure John Carpenter, pure tense, bloody, slapstick malice. I emerge hungry and inhuman from a vent, I encounter an unexpected group of prey with guns, I am shot. I slither-fly through the nearest vent to regroup. Soon I pick them all off. As I devore them the last one raises up on one elbow, I can almost hear her snarl “I’m not dead yet motherfucker” as she levels a pistol. An instant of crushing violence and, well, you are now.