- Link's Awakening (Switch) — This is easily the cutest Zelda game to date. And with some of the best diegetic sound I’ve experienced in a game. It respectfully doesn’t change up much from the original, providing mostly a facelift, which is all it really needed.
- Castlevania III (NES) — A classic that, until now, I had not played through to the end. The level design is expertly crafted such that a difficult scenario, at first attempt, feels impossible, and through some repetition patterns are unveiled, leaving you washed in the glow of solution discovering excitement. The soundtrack contains some of the absolute best the series has to offer.
- Undertale (Switch) — Silly, weird, playful, funny, odd, surprising, thoughtful, unique.
- Untitled Goose Game (Switch) — What a wonderful jerk this goose is.
- Katana Zero (Switch) — Katana Zero is visually stunning. The tiny characters and environments pack a ton of detail with richly decorated scenes, moody colors, and carefully crafted animations. The gameplay, on the other hand, while occasionally rewarding, requires a bizarre level of precision that frequently results in annoyance. Despite its shortcomings, it’s the mysterious story that kept me coming back for more. After hours of play I got used to the gameplay and mechanics, and eventually got into a rhythm. There is a richness to this game, in terms of story and mechanics, both of which grew to be increasingly interesting the deeper I progressed.
- Return of the Obra Dinn (Switch) — It has a retro look not well tapped into yet and a unique twist on the mystery and puzzle genres. It's just not for me as I found the task before me to be daunting and stressful, rather than fun.
- Cuphead (Switch) — It’s exactly what I expected: looks great and is really hard. At around the 7th or 8th boss I got frustrated and switched to some other games. After taking a multi-week break I returned, and this time, grinded my way to the end. Defeating a boss in this game is incredibly gratifying, and I felt accomplished when I KOed that last baddie.
- Odallus: The Dark Call (Switch) — It's rough around the edges. This was not the retro style game I was looking for.
- Control (PS4) — After a few hours my feelings are mixed. It feels unpolished and clunky at times. The battles are repetitive and lack a sense of thrill. Thematically, in terms of the story, it is something that interests me. I just don’t quite enjoy how it is being executed.
- Retro City Rampage (Switch) — I was expecting a GTA 1 / GTA 2 clone and was pleasantly surprised to find something much, much deeper than that. It oozes 80s nostalgia, and mashes up classic characters in unusual and surprising ways.
- Contra 4 (DS) — Contra 4 looks great and is extremely challenging, much like the original (more challenging than the original, in fact). Even with the extra life code I found myself getting destroyed.
- Little Sampson (NES) — Wonderboy meets Mega Man. A diverse set of playable characters and level design makes for a game that sadly was not experienced by the breadth of audience it deserved.
- Blaster Master Zero (Switch) — Poorly crafted level design with meaningless dead ends makes this a hard to love game. Bosses exhibit repetitive patterns and are extremely easy to defeat. While it retained my interest enough to see it all the way through, I can’t recommend it. It’s one of those games I played at a friend’s house on the NES originally, so the nostalgic value is what kept me going. The remake is mostly a face lift with a few other minor improvements, and my biggest beef is in the level and boss design, which carries over from the original. The caves you explore as Jason often have useless dead ends, and at times are completely devoid of anything to discover (you literally just find health and weapon refills that you don’t need). And the bosses can be obliterated with extreme ease. The dialogue is also cringe worthy. It was nice to revisit a childhood game. It just doesn’t have good bones.
Quick reviews of games. Short and sweet.
Brian Riggsbee is a program manager and designer, living in San Francisco CA. He enjoys practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, creating art, gaming, chasing adorable dogs, and spending time with his wife.