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John Walker

6 days ago

Feature: A Dim Bulb

Torchlight 3 review: A disappointing and dreary return

At the end of the first of three acts in Torchlight III, there's a boss character who repeats two of the same barks over and over. One is "This should be fun." The other is "Let's make it interesting." I couldn't help but hear both as the ignored voice of a quiet developer at the back of a Torchlight III planning meeting.Torchlight III feels an…

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3 weeks ago

Feature: Nearly the game they said it would be

No Man’s Sky’s Origins update is almost very nearly the game I want it to be

No Man’s Sky promised the universe, and delivered a video game. At the time, on the game’s initial release in 2016, it looked like it might be a reputation from which Hello Games could never recover. Yet in the four years since they’ve worked and worked and worked, releasing update after update, building an expanding and iterating, even reinventing, without ever charging early adopters an…

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4 months ago

Feature: Cock Of The Walk

Bulletstorm is best when it’s being offensively stupid, not stupidly offensive

2011's Bulletstorm feels like such an oasis of violence and childishness in these current times of nu-puritanism. As someone who was there at the era it harked back to, reviewing games in the late '90s, early 2000s, it feels odd to now be almost nostalgic for those days of wanton unpleasantness, when being rude had yet to be classified as a war crime under the…

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Feature: Greaves Bodily Harm

Call Of Juarez: Gunslinger might not be a masterpiece of Brechtian Estrangement, but it’s a bloody brilliant shooting gallery

I am extremely generous to games, although mostly in my memory. My recollection of Call Of Juarez: Gunslinger is of a genre-busting, frame-breaking piece of Brechtian Estrangement. A first-person shooter that played with concepts like verfremdungseffekt, the unreliable narrator and the Rashomon effect, it was a text that... Yeah, no John's memory, it's just a super-fun shooter with some silly storytelling bits.

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Feature: Smashing stuff!

Kingdoms Of Amalur: Reckoning, the MMO for misanthropes, barely needs updating at all

I have long described Kingdoms Of Amular: Reckoning as one of my favourite games. It has also been a long time since I checked. And as you can see, despite its status in my gaming life, I still can't spell its name correctly. AmAlUr. Am-ah-lure.With the very welcome recent announcement that its most recent owners, THQ Nordic, are remastering it, I thought I'd return to…

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Feature: Genealogical thinking

Rogue Legacy is still the most approachable roguelite of them all

I'm not going to tell you how dreadful I am at Rogue Legacy. If I did you'd never invite me to play with your group in the playground again. But I am going to tell you how much I still enjoy playing Rogue Legacy, despite seemingly having failed to improve at it over seven years of playing.With Rogue Legacy 2 possibly coming this summer, it…

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5 months ago

Feature: A bridge not far enough

Poly Bridge 2 review

I'm so interested in how expectation affects our experience of games. Whether it's from over-ambitious promotional materials, peculiarly unhelpful reviews, or completely misreading the game's description before buying it, what we're hoping for before we start really colours how we receive the game. I was convinced that Poly Bridge 2 was a goofy physics puzzler, something somewhere between Totally Accurate Battle Simulator and Crayon Physics…

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Feature: The Hidden Curse

I don’t think my dad could ever Escape Rosecliff Island

I have a mystery that will likely never be solved. After my dad died in 2016, one of the more peculiar things I had to do was go through his computer, log him out of everything, and close down various accounts. Which included Steam. Looking in his library on there, there were three games that sat atop his "most played" list, with hundreds of hours…

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Feature: Maul In The Family

Might it already be too late to remake 2002’s Mafia?

It was with raised eyebrows that I met the news of 2K's plans to re-release all three Mafia games. With the second and third already out, but neither game worth playing at all, it is the first that creates intrigue. This long-loved, but very long-in-the-tooth 2002 mob-me-do, seems like such a fascinating prospect to see given an overhaul. But might eighteen years since its release…

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Feature: The forgotten ARPG

You forgot all about Nox, and should probably put that right

Twas but a few weeks ago I was lamenting the lack of tangiable story and motivation in Action RPGs, as I wrote about one of my all-time favourites, Titan Quest, observing that the entire genre offers only two-thirds of a game. Then, as I browsed the archives on GOG.com, I spotted a game called Nox. I've seen the name a bunch of times. I recognised…

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Feature: Misadventure

Bookworm Adventures has been erased from the internet, and I want to know why

There's been a murder. And no one seems to have noticed. One of my favourite ever games, released during the peak of PopCap's glory days, is simply gone. Not just no longer on sale, but seemingly erased from history, from the current timeline. Bookworm Adventures (and it's sequel), the adorable word-spelling combat game, has been Shazammed right out of existence.

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6 months ago

Feature: Definitive Defenestration

Gunpoint is perhaps the least judgmental game ever made

Right, disclaimers up front for this one. I've known Tom Francis, developer of Gunpoint, for at least fifteen years. I remember when he was hired as Disc Editor ("What's a 'disc', grandpa?") for PC Gamer, I've eaten homemade pizza round his house, and felt cool because I already knew him when he was all super-famous at GDC in 2014. I can in no sensible way…

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Feature: Great Zeus

Titan Quest is two-thirds of a game, but exactly what I need

I wrote a different introduction to this one. One about how odd it is that Titan Quest should be a game I so frequently return to given its being the antithesis of much of why I play games. But while I'll get to that, I need to begin with the real introduction:I'm really struggling. This situation, this lockdown, it's triggering my mental health issues in…

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Feature: GOAL IN !

1987’s Rainbow Islands boasts more great ideas than most modern platform games

First and foremost, yes, Rainbow Islands absolutely did come out on PC. Taito's 1987 sequel to the far more ubiquitous Bubble Bobble eventually reached our waters some 17 years later via Empire Interactive's Xplosiv label. All but another 17 years later, I felt absolutely compelled to give it another play, driven by the fondest childhood memories of spending countless hours in its super-colourful world.

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Feature: Aim for an iceberg

Starship Titanic really isn’t worth dredging up from the bottom of the Santraginus V sea

I find Starship Titanic such a sad thing. It was Douglas Adams's last work of fiction, and it was a truly terrible one. This masterful creator, the man who brought us The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy in all its forms, spent what would turn out to be his last few years working on a fundamentally broken videogame. Not for lack of ambition, certainly. In…

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7 months ago

Feature: Put your bigfoot in it

Sam & Max Hit The Road is a sparkling gem that no longer fits into modern settings

As I continue my coughogeddon-inspired journey into comfort gaming, my next intended destination was Day Of The Tentacle. I've always loved it, ever since my dad bought me the prism-shaped box it so ridiculously came in. I've replayed it so many times, most recently last year four years ago when the Remastered version came out. (FOUR YEARS?) I adore it. But as I started it…

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Feature: Move your silly buttocks, you fool

I still love The Dig despite just about everything

I love The Dig. While I definitely played it in 1995, I've almost no memories of that. But the last time I played it in 2011, I rediscovered a LucasArts adventure that felt like something truly special, something unique in their oeuvre, and something that hit the sweet spot of the science fiction I most enjoy. In this difficult period, returning to it sounded just…

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Feature: Islands Of Terror

King’s Quest VI is as good as the King’s Quest series got

I'm never one to shy away from criticism. I am the sort of brave, intrepid fellow who takes it on the chin, and uses it to begin introspective journeys in search of clarity and truth. And it is for this reason, as you will see, that I have returned to the 1993 version of Sierra's King's Quest VI.

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Feature: Dungeon Mastery

Legend Of Grimrock still brings the gaming generations together

Legend Of Grimrock is a very special game to me. Hell, it's a very special game, full stop. It's splendidly well made, brilliantly designed, and absolutely captivating with a minimal number of tools. Look at the unsightly joy it inspired in me. But personally, it's also a game that feels like a direct line to my late father. Not least because he wrote about the…

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