Time for our regular quick-fire reviews and impressions of what’s been on the go this week, old and new and a bit of both…

I only started playing Far: Changing Tides because it’s new on Game Pass this week and was vaguely curious; I actually own its predecessor, Far: Lone Sails, on Epic or Amazon or something too, but I’ve never been fussed. And wow! I’ve really enjoyed its meditative, melancholic, post-apocalyptic puzzling, which is incredibly hard to put down, especially when you’ve just worked out what’s been staring you right in the face for the last ten minutes while you had no idea where to go next! Real looker too, with its 2D platforming working mostly perfectly in its pseudo-3D environments, and the seamless transition from above to below water never fails to impress. Not sure how long it lasts, and I’m not sure how long I will as this isn’t usually my thing, but I’m enjoying it so far!

Next up, Total War: Warhammer III, which is my very first Xbox Game Pass for PC experience! And actually, going back a very long time, Total War was one of the first games I ever owned on PC. I’m not the nerd I was back then though, and certainly not the nerd I was when I was into Warhammer in the late eighties, so this empire building, real-time strategy nerd-fest was always going to be a bit of a struggle now! I had a good few hours with it though, and it’s very welcoming until it all gets too much. Not the best-looking game ever either, but if it’s your thing there’s an epic waiting to be experienced here!

After spending probably dozens of hours on Batsugun last month, I got to the point where I was happy with being able to clear it in a handful of credits, so decided to move on to another of YouTube’s Schmup Junkie’s schmups for beginners, and this week I’ve spent most of my gaming time on Mushihimesama on Switch. I think this began life as the Xbox 360 version of the arcade original, which significantly introduces a novice mode to this bullet-hell big-hitter, and is a perfect entry point to its more challenging original mode as well as learning some ins and outs of the wider genre. It’s absolutely stunning too, with its gloriously unique insect-ridden forest floor setting and marvellous audio. And I’m already seeing the end in a few credits, so I reckon I’m even starting to make some progress with this schmup stuff!

After last week’s NASCAR stinker, I thought we’d look at another one, this time with Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires, which has a new demo available on Switch. I go even further back with Dynasty Warriors than Total War, and the original game would probably even be somewhere around number 133 in my all-time favourites games list, but this one certainly isn’t! Technically it’s a mess, stuttering all over the place with a sub-Mario Sunshine camera that can’t keep up with the stripped-down action. Everything is slow and underwhelming, and when it occasionally isn’t it’s almost impossible to wrestle any life out of the stodgy controls. I can’t even recommend wasting the time needed to download the demo and see for yourself. If you want one of these, by chance I was messing around with Xbox Cloud Gaming and One Piece Pirates 4 was offering cheap Microsoft reward points so I had a go at that, and while it’s not especially sophisticated in any way, it is at least a load of fun if you do want a bit of Musou!

If you’re after a worthwhile demo though, there’s a five hour Cyberpunk 2077 trial on Xbox and probably elsewhere, and now it’s been mostly fixed I thought I’d give it a go to try and remind myself I don’t like open world games and therefore really don’t need to buy Elden Ring… It’s good though! Still people walking through parked vehicles and grass growing inside buildings, but nothing that outrageous anymore that you won’t get hooked on both the main characters and the story within a couple of hours. Classic one more mission syndrome too! For a while at least – there’s so many mechanics and so much going on that I’d had my fill for now after my time was up, but if it ever comes to Game Pass or is even cheaper than it is currently, I reckon I might have another to and see how long I run with it. But while it did remind me that I don’t like open world games, Elden Ring still remains an inevitability, so now I probably need to play Bloodborne again to remind myself I don’t like those games either!

We’ll round off this week with Rainbow Islands, the endlessly cheerful sequel to the endlessly cheerful Bubble Bobble…until you get to the stupid spider boss, at least! I’ve been exploring PC-Engine Super CD recently – mostly shoot ‘em ups – but I’d never played this version before so couldn’t resist, and it seems pretty much arcade-perfect; in fact, the music might even sparkle a little more than the original’s! It’s obviously a classic, and much like its predecessor, there’s enormous depth to its scoring mechanics, with certain actions unlocking items that then collecting will unlock further items and so on, but in exactly the same way, you should never let any of that get in the way of the joy of playing!

Before we part, I want to quickly mention Bitmap Books’ new epic, Go Straight: The Ultimate Guide to Side-Scrolling Beat ‘Em Ups. It launched last week, and it’s a beast! The quality through its 450+ lavishly illustrated pages is outstanding, and there’s way more beat ‘em ups covered than you’d have believed existed, going deep into familiar stuff like Double Dragon, Golden Axe, Final Fight and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, as well as delving into the more obscure brawlers like Denjin Makai, Shadow Force and Gaia Crusaders. Just make sure you’re sitting comfortably because it’s enormous, weighs a ton and you won’t want to put it down! I might review it sometime, but to get a feel for it take a look at my recent review of their Game Boy: The Box Art Collection, which does a similar thing.

And with that, we’re done here, apart from just mentioning that next week we’ll be also going deep into something ‘em up ourselves, with the happiest shoot ‘em up ever created, Star Parodier on PC-Engine. See you there!