We're back with Issue 6 of Now Playing at SUPERJUMP! We've asked our global team of writers and editors to chime in with what they're currently playing, obsessing over, thinking about, and looking forward to in the coming weeks. Click each author's name to see their entire portfolio, and the links in the text will let you find out even more about them. So enjoy, and we'll see you back here each week for more recommendations and odes to the games our team loves!
James Burns (SUPERJUMP Editor-in-Chief)
At the moment I'm playing Alan Wake II (after briefly pausing Super Mario Bros. Wonder for fear of completing it too quickly!) I'm torn when it comes to Alan Wake II for one simple reason: I'm a chicken. I love horror and horror games, but I get super anxious when playing for extended periods. So I have to take regular breaks. I didn't read much about Alan Wake II before jumping in, so I wasn't quite prepared for Silent Hill-level horror (which I mean as a compliment, just to be sure).
Nevertheless, I'm forging ahead. I'm still pretty early on in the game (I'm roughly about 6 hours in) and I've absolutely fallen head over heels for this game. Alan Wake II feels like the ultimate distillation of everything Remedy does well. Its utterly bizarre, fourth-wall-breaking, self-referential narrative effortlessly dovetails into satisfying combat mechanics and a simple-yet-incredibly-awesome "investigation" system. Just when you think Alan Wake II has exhausted its special brand of creative insanity, the whole experience turns on its head again; but this never feels jarring, because there's a solid artistic identity and self-consistency that anchors even the most outlandish elements.
I can feel myself straying too far into review territory here, so I'll stop rambling. I'll conclude by saying that Alan Wake II is already one of the most remarkable games I've played in several years. If it continues one-upping itself to its conclusion, then I think it could easily be my Game of the Year (yes, even in the face of SMB Wonder and Tears of the Kingdom - that's how stunning this experience is).
I just started playing both Dishonored and Yakuza: Like a Dragon, and I’m enjoying exploring the tonal differences between these two games. Dishonored is great for its stealth mechanics and dark, steampunk vibes, while Like a Dragon brings a sense of chaotic joy with its humor, drama and gameplay that delves into the delightfully silly at times.
I beat Ratchet and Clank for PS4 this week after getting the Platinum trophy in Spider-Man 2. The first Ratchet and Clank game I ever played was Rift Apart and I thought it was awesome. I remember seeing the games growing up but never played them. Anyway, I'm aware Ratchet & Clank for PS4 was a remaster/remake/revamp of sorts, and taking that into account, I still had a fun time. The humor was my favorite aspect and I liked seeing some of the same weapons from Rift Apart in this game. I also thought it was cool to see the original versions of the characters in their original way in the series and compare them to their alternate versions in Rivet's universe from Rift Apart. Even though I went backward in the series, I'm glad I got to see the progression and can see why both games are so highly regarded.
I'm playing through Twofold right now. It's a visual novel about a non-binary character called Olive Penn. They're going through a tough time at college and need extra credits from special classes and joining clubs. But their two club options have a sort of messy relationship with each other. It's not quite bad blood but a friendly rivalry (at least, at first). It has this very relatable atmosphere and so I've been really immersed in it though I've barely started playing. I'm especially curious about Olive's psychological perspective due to how much they've been pushed against a corner. The insecurity is palpable so far.
So, I picked up the Atari 2600+ and it has sent me down a rabbit hole of hunting old 2600 cartridges. The thing is, Atari is also releasing new titles for the console. Yes, completely new releases and not just reproductions of older games. The console looks great, the old joystick feels authentic, and the simple games simply melt into your brain's cognition.
I just finished the remaster of Baten Kaitos, which was a pretty good if not completely traditional RPG. I'm still mystified that it was remastered before Xenosaga.
I've been playing The Last Faith, a 2D Souls-like Metroidvanai, and while I adore the graphics, music, voice acting and overall gameplay, the near-total lack of direction when playing the game makes it tough to recommend to anyone but die-hard fans of those two genres. I fully admit this may be a "me" problem as I don't play too many games like this, but I don't truly believe that after having put in 75 hours and apparently not being near the end of the story.
The game plays beautifully, the combat is enjoyable, and the art direction is fantastic, but when you have to go back and forth across every area multiple times, not to use new powers or abilities (as is the point of a Metroidvania) but just looking for a pickup you may have missed in order to possibly advance the story, it all becomes a bit too much, and I'm at my wit's end with some of the design choices made by Kumi Souls Games.
I picked up Sea of Stars and I've been slowly making my way through it. I like it, but I think it's sort of middling; there's a very blunt quality to its writing and worldbuilding that feels at odds with how rich and textured its visuals are. At its best, there's this really geeky, ebullient quality to its environments, and I can feel the devs' joy in getting to put all of these cool locations and characters in the game. But it feels more like a grab-bag of ideas than a coherent world. It's just a sequence of beautiful-looking spaces to move through, with combat and traversal that's just active enough to engage the brain, but not hard or deep enough to really make me feel anything more. It hasn't been marketed as a cozy game, but it is totally a cozy game to me: it's breezy and smooth to play, wonderful to look at, and rarely challenging on an emotional or gameplay level.
[Editor's Note: One of our favorite things is when our team engages in a back-and-forth about a particular game, which Leah and Brandon did this week, so we're adding this in to give a peak behind the scenes at SUPERJUMP and the related conversation. Enjoy!]
Brandon - Ultimately I was pretty disappointed in Sea of Stars. Like you said it's very middling; outside of its pixel art, there's nothing original or interesting about it. Doesn't help that the combat is essentially the same few moves for the entire game. I finished Psuedoregalia last night which might be one of the best-feeling platformers I've ever played
Leah - Yeah, it reminded me of how it felt when i played Okami earlier this year - both games are really sold on their visuals, more than the uniqueness of their gameplay or systems. which is fine! games are at least partially an audiovisual medium, so focusing on aesthetics is totally valid; and Sea of Stars is so unbelievably gorgeous and colorful that i'm still enjoying the experience, just as a collection of dioramas. there's just not a lot else that's there.
Brandon - Oh man I love Okami though. I'd argue the panting mechanic is pretty unique, especially for the time
Leah - It's a cool idea, but I remember reading that they designed the painting around the game's graphical style and not the other way around and I really, really felt it when I played. i feel like there were a lot of directions they could have taken the painting that they didn't really explore - like, the painting actions are almost all contextual variations on the same action (draw a line) and it felt to me like it should allow for more creativity and nonlinearity than it actually does. it's definitely more of a unique gameplay feature than anything in Sea of Stars, though.
That's a wrap for this week's Now Playing at SUPERJUMP!
Thank you for checking out the veritable treasure trove of games our team is playing right now, and be sure to check back next week when we're back with more. Happy Halloween and keep gaming, my friends!
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