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 couldn’t take poring over reviews and videos and getting started guides anymore and ordered the Elden Ring Launch Edition before it became any harder to come by – my justification for being too weak-minded to wait for my work bonus to hopefully arrive at the end of this month as was originally planned (after I’d told my myself I wasn’t getting it at all because I don’t like open world games or Souls games)! Anyway, too late now, and worth every ounce of guilt! It’s jaw-dropping, staggering, bewildering and way above my pay-grade, but I absolutely love it so far! I’ve gone for a Confessor character, with paladin-type magic and fighting combined, and I’ve had such a good time tip-toeing my way around its opening hours, getting to know its systems, exploring every glorious nook and cranny and trying not to get myself into too much trouble before I’m ready for it. And I can confirm that it’s not bad at all so far!

Slightly less stressful, after being surprised at how engaging it was when I was just about curious enough to download Far: Changing Tides on Xbox Games Pass last week, I’ve now finished it, and what a fantastic surprise it turned out to be! It’s a melancholy puzzler that rewards observation, whether in its sometimes large-scale set pieces, or in the extensive and mostly meditative journeys that link them. There were a few occasions when it bit off slightly more than it could chew, both with movement mechanics and also graphically, but on the whole it’s a stunning game in a Journey kind of way, and the above to below water transitions never ceased to thrill!

Over the past few weeks I’ve now also put many, many hours into wonderful bullet-hell shooter Mushihimesama on Switch, learning its mechanics and patterns inside out on its novice mode, and now working my way up to the original arcade mode, which seems to be a great way to approach it. Its insect world is as beautiful as it is dangerous, absolutely teeming with life even before the insane trappings of one of these games comes along to totally overload both the screen and most of your senses! I planned to spend most of this month on this, and possibly beyond, and it was a good plan so far!

As much as I adore Hollow Knight, some of its pre-boss checkpointing really wound me up – having to go through some prolonged repeated approach over and over just to get battered over and over drove me nuts, but at least there was the eventual pay-off of learning it, beating it and having the story move along. Not being Hollow Knight, but a pixel-art, rogue-like action-platformer, I was okay with having no such tortured luxuries in Skul: The Hero Slayer on Xbox Game Pass, happily starting the whole thing from scratch every time I took a big boss battering; it just took a bit longer to work out and beat, and such is the nature of these things that you know you’re making progress regardless. And then finally you crack it and the boss goes down, the story moves on and there’s all sorts of new areas to explore until you die and it all begins again, so you head back again, but hang on a minute… the boss is back, and the story hasn’t moved on, and you quickly realise that while progression might be persistent, the events that unfolded after the last time obviously aren’t! And after weeks of enjoying a dabble on most days, it was deleted even more quickly. Maybe I’m getting the game all wrong, but for me that’s completely unnecessary, and such a shame because it rendered a really fun game instantly unnecessary too.

Lots of words about a game I’m not playing anymore! I did quickly play through the Kirby and the Forgotten Land demo on Switch though, because I’m a sucker for a demo even if I’ve never understood the appeal of Kirby. Ultra-polished and highly accessible 3D gadding about as you’d expect though, and definitely worth a download so at the very least you know what everyone that does understand it appeal is going on about!

Conversely, the new Triangle Strategy Prologue Demo, also on Switch, isn’t the kind of thing you want to get sucked in by when you’ve got a fresh copy of Elden Ring on your hands! It’s a massive, turn-based narrative tactical JRPG that’s as heavy on the mechanics as it is on the drama, which is classically over the top! It’s a great-looking game too, with a striking HD-2D art style that evolves a familiar Final Fantasy Tactics or Advance Wars layout with a more modern Octopath Traveller kind of vibe. Which also nicely sums up the gameplay, at least to this amateur in the field. For the time being, that’s how I plan to stay too – it’s great, but by necessity at the moment it’s also something for a rainy day!

Just to close on something a bit more retro, last weekend I played SNK’s arcade shoot ‘em up sequel Prehistoric Isle 2 for the very first time. And unlike the original, which I’ve played a fair bit of on the SNK collection on Switch, I really, really clicked with this! Within a few hours, it was one credit to the third of six stages, then once I was in the zone the rest came with a few more credits. Not the most challenging arcade game by SNK standards, maybe apart from the mid-boss(es) and final boss on the last level, which just dragged on a bit, but it’s a stunner at times, as well as being a real thriller too. Very happy to have found it, and I might well cover it in more detail here sometime soon!

In the meantime, coming up next week we’ve got no less than two new old game reviews! First up an arcade favourite of mine, all the way from 1982, finally returns with Bagman Strikes Back on Commodore 64. Then we’ll be looking at The Mandarin on Amstrad CPC – not The Mandalorian, but The Mandarin… See you there!