Backlogged: Ghost Song

Developer: Old Moon

Platform: PC

Time to Finish: 10h 25m

I’ve known about Ghost Song for a while now. Brother has been following it for years, even played a few demos, and, quite frankly, I didn’t think it would ever come out. At one point the entire game engine was scraped and the game was built on another. But at the beginning of last month, Ghost Song released after nine long years in development. I was happy that my friend would finally be able to play the game he was so looking forward to but I didn’t have much of a desire to play it myself.

Brother finished up the game and was looking for someone else to play through it to discuss. I saw that it was available in the Humble App and since I was picking up the Humble Choice already, I decided to give it a go. I almost immediately bounced as I was met with Dark Souls style punishment for death, losing nano-gels (souls) and losing a chunk of health that needs to be repaired with more nano-gels. This isn’t my typical genre and I was probably going to be dying a lot.

I started a new game on the Explorer difficulty which does away with all the annoying Dark Souls mechanics. It also makes “Certain other adjustments”, I went digging around the Steam discussion boards to figure out what those might entail. It looks like the other major difference is that enemies don’t scale with after each ship part is found. Otherwise, it doesn’t seem to be much different.

Things I Liked:


Lorian is the moon on which the game takes place. It’s beautiful. The world feels like a living painting. From it’s desolate surface littered with robots and crashed ships to it’s depths littered with more robots, some people, and some very large bugs. All of it is dripping with atmosphere. As you learn more about the world the eerier and more beautiful it becomes.

The lore of Lorian is also fantastic. The moon is surrounded by a static field that crashes ships and makes it impossible to leave. The lore is all delivered through dialogue in bits and pieces. As you explore you’ll meet a host of other robots, creatures, and people, all of which will drip feed a bit more information. I don’t typically like this approach to storytelling but it works in Ghost Song as it’s tied with exploration. The more of Lorian you discover the more information you get.

The Crew

The main story focuses on The Deadsuit after it wakes up in the middle of Lorian with no recollection of who it is or how it got there. After a few hours, The Deadsuit encounters Roper who is the captain of a ship that’s crash landed. They made a camp around the ship, Gambler, and are trying to figure out how to repair her and get past the static field.

The crew is a group of interesting characters who aren’t all what they appear on the surface. Which is a good thing because you spend a lot of time talking to them. My favorite was Raven, an android who was badly damaged in the crash and spends most of the game deciding on how to build her new body. There’s some thought provoking conversations that take place between The Deadsuit and her around identity.

The Module System

The majority of items you find during the game are modules. These are slotted in to the Deadsuite and have passive bonuses. They can cause your gun to overheat less, they can give you super armor for a short time after dashing, add extra projectiles to the blaster, and a whole bunch of other useful things. You are limited in the amount you can equip by their power consumption. You’re able to use more as you level up the Deadsuit and increase it’s power level. By the end of the game I had six or seven equipped at any given time.

By the time I finished the game there were still a lot left that I hadn’t unlocked or found. I wasn’t going out of my way to get them but I was exploring every room I came across. There’s a ton of variety and different combinations to try which adds some nice replay value.

Blaster/Melee Mechanics

One of the more interesting mechanics in Ghost Song is the synergy between the blaster and your melee attack. After a certain amount of use the blaster overheats which lowers it’s damage and rate of fire. However, the overheated blaster increases melee damage. This isn’t something I’ve seen before but it makes sense, hitting something with a hot gun barrel would hurt more. There are modules you can find that increase or decrease the rate at which the blaster overheats so you can fine tune your combat style. I found myself favoring a little extra blaster time but still utilizing the overheat feature for burst damage.

Explorer Difficulty

If you look around the internet of reviews for Ghost Song you’ll see a wide range of opinions on the games difficulty. Some think the game is too easy and the punishments for dying are out of place because you don’t die that often. Some think the game is too hard even on the easier exploration mode. I land somewhere in the middle.

I don’t have much experience with this style of game so I found it challenging even on Explorer. But I never found it too challenging that I wanted to give up at any point. I died a lot in the beginning but as I got more familiar with the combat and the controls the game did become easier. It still took me a few tries on every boss but it never felt like I wasn’t able to beat them. Even so, I feel like the punitive mechanics for death aren’t needed. They don’t do anything to heighten the experience or the gameplay they’re just frustrating. I’m glad there’s an option to turn them off.

Things That Could Have Been Better:

The Deadsuit

The Deadsuit is our main character. It wakes up on Lorian without any recollection of how it got or what it is. It’s mysterious, yes, but it’s also hard to connect with or care about a main character without an identity. I think it would have been better if we slowly learned more it as the story progressed like we do with the rest of Lorian. As it is, there’s one specific place, kind of out of your way, you need to get to and watch a very short scene to get any kind of resolution regarding The Deadsuit.

The Music

There are maybe one or two tracks that stand out and convey a feeling of an alien world but most of them are kind of boring. The soundtrack feels too mellow for a game where the majority of the time you’re blasting alien lifeforms apart and fighting bosses.

The Story (Spoilers Ahead)

After this picture, the rest of this post contains spoilers for the end of the game.

I found the setting so interesting but the story itself fell a bit flat for me. Before you ask, yes, I got the “good” ending.

I get that there needed to be a reason for the player to explore the map and that’s why we’re tasked with finding ship parts for the stranded crew. The crew was probably one of my favorite parts of the game but there isn’t much else going on story wise. There are a few side quests that you can follow but the majority of the map is empty of any other story threads. Which is a shame considering how interesting the setting is.

Like I said before, you won’t get much of a resolution to the Deadsuit’s identity unless you find a specific spot on the map to trigger a very short cut scene. Getting there requires getting all four jumps, one of which is hidden away behind a secret trader. I only knew about this because Brother told me about it.

On top of this, you also need to be paying close attention when talking to the crew, specifically Pasha. Up an to that point, I had figured out that the Deadsuit contained a ghost of someone from the crew but I didn’t know who exactly. There’s a couple things that hint at this including finding the escape pod and a scene where Pasha says you seem familiar.

I got to the end of the game, saw the scene with Pasha and the Deadsuit and felt like I was missing something. The scene played out like it was suppose to be some big emotional reveal but I came away from it feeling pretty indifferent about it. It wasn’t until I talked about it with Brother that I realized that Charley was Pasha’s sister and that’s who the Deadsuit was. I either missed this key bit of information for not paying close enough attention or missing a couple conversations with Pasha when I turned in two ship parts back to back and forgot to talk to her. That’s on me and I’m not holding it against the story. it’s a nice ending. Far better than the default ending which explains nothing and rolls the credits.

At the same time the ending is very human for a game that takes place on such an alien world. I would have proffered if the Deadsuit was a denizen of Lorian before the it was destroyed and was learning about their past while helping the crew. Even better, on a moon that crashes ships, why not have Deadsuit be the consciousness of a ship that was destroyed on the planet. The other ships it encounter constantly think it’s a ship. I guess, in a way,it it’s a ship for a ghost.

It does leave some questions t

Backlogged: Before Your Eyes

There are very few games that have left me thinking about them long after their done. In fact, only two come to mind: Journey and SOMA. I think Before Your Eyes might just join that list. I finished it two weeks ago and I’m still mulling it over. As such, I wanted to forgo my usual format and just write down some thoughts.

This is definitely one of those games that should be played blind so I won’t get into much of the story here. I will say, much like Journey and SOMA, the story will take you through a whole spectrum of emotions before the end. I do, however, want to talk about what makes Before Your Eyes unique. You play it by blinking.

The Ferryman, asking you to blink at his hand.

To fully explain that we’ll need a little story context. You play as a soul who is fished out of a river by the Ferryman. The Ferryman will help you pass on but he needs the story about your life first. So he’s sending you down memory lane to relive moments in your life both big and small. There is a catch, at certain times when you blink, you jump forward in time. It could be 5 minutes or it could be 5 years.

Your blinks control everything other than moving the mouse to look around. After a short calibration of your webcam to determine when you blink you’ll use them to make decisions, interact with objects, and to advance the story. For the most part, this works without issue. Sometimes the camera detects a blink when you move your head to much which can be frustrating but I also have to wonder if it adds to the experience. Sure it’s annoying to have dialogue cut off or a scene end before you want it to but that’s also happens when you blink on accident. It’s kind of the point. One of the core themes is time is fleeting and we can’t always stay in the moment even if we want to. Some things are just out of our control. You can opt out of blink detection and use left click but I don’t think the experience would be quite as impactful that way.

I have never been a big fan of first person perspective. It makes me feel like a camera that sometimes has hands and not a character in the world. However, combined with the blinking mechanics and a full voice cast it made for a very immersive experience. Maybe the fact that your character doesn’t move helped it feel more natural. My play through lasted just under 90 minutes and I was completely engaged the whole time. I don’t know many games I can say that about.

The only part I found immersion breaking were certain parts when you’re asked to close your eyes to hear a conversation better. When it works it’s a very cool effect but it didn’t often work. My webcam didn’t do a great job of figuring out when I closed my eyes unless I squeezed them shut. Even then it was hit or miss and a little uncomfortable.

An hour and a half feels just right for this game. Any more and my eyes would have been very tired. Looking at some achievements there are story points that I didn’t see in my play through and more choices I could have made. I would like to revisit this and see how those choices play out but I don’t think I’ll ever have that first play through experience again. I’ve seen people ask “What game would you erased from your memory so you could play it for the first time again?” this would definitely be one of them.

And yes, you will be acutely aware of how often you blink by the end of it.

Backlogged: Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk

Platform: PC/Steam Deck

Time to Finish: 61 hours

Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk is a first person Dungeon Crawler RPG in a similar vain to Wizardry or Entrian Odyssey. If you’re unfamiliar with this style of game, typically, you lead a party of adventures, usually your own creation, through a series of dungeons fighting monsters, challenging bosses,finding items, and discovering secrets.These dungeons are typically you discovered one grid square at a time. If you’re playing a really old one you’ll have to pull out some graph paper and make your own map.

The first time I encountered this style of game was when I played Etrian Odyssey IV on the 3DS. It was probably one of my favorite games for that system and I put many, many hours in to it. Ever since, I’ve kept my eye out for games of this style. I’ve put some time into a few, mainly Stranger of Sword City and StarCrawlers, but nothing has really captured me in the way that Etrian Odyssey IV did. Until I played Labyrinth of Refrain and I think that’s because this is the perfect type of game for a handheld system. Yep, I’m talking about the Steam Deck again…Seriously though, for a game like this playing stilling at my desk and playing it on my PC feels like overkill. It’s much better suited for playing on the couch downstairs.

The story follows Dusk Witch Madame Dronya and her 10 year old assistant Luca as they arrive in the town of Refrain. Dronya has heard of a magic well here and the labyrinth beneath it that houses powerful magic artifacts. Dronya has come to explore the Labyrinth and find it’s secrets as well as collect valuable items to appease the towns Mayor. As the player, you lead a brigade of adventures down the well and map out the Labyrinth.

Things I Liked:

The Setup

Typically, in these types of games, your party is either never mentioned or if they are addressed in the story it’s as a collective and not the individual members. To explain this out of the way, in Labyrinth of Refrain, you are a magic book. I don’t think I’ve ever played a game where I was a book before!

You see, the labyrinth under the city of Refrain is filled with a sort of miasma that would kill a human if they went down there. So to solve this, you, the Tractatus de Monstrum, are thrown down the well along with a party of puppets infused with human souls. You use your abilities as a magical book to lead the party through the dungeons.

I like this for two reasons. One, because it solves the whole, how are you leading a party of 10+ people around who are never addressed by any of the characters. Two, because it separates you as the player from the story in a way that I haven’t seen before. 

The Tractatus de Monstrum is a character mentioned by other characters but what you’re doing in the labyrinth isn’t necessarily part of the main story. You’re kind of a side character doing the dirty work while the story takes place around or without you. I found this to be a really interesting perspective to play from.

Dark Themes

If you glanced quickly at the store page you might get the impression that this game has your typical JRPG setup. It’s colorful and has a bit of goofy music in the trailer. However, this is not a happy game.

From the start Madame Dronya and Luca’s relationship is toxic at best and down right abusive at worst.You get the impression that Dronya doesn’t really want Luca around and all Luca want’s to do is make Dronya happy. Dronya herself is selfish and power hungry using anyone or anything to get what she wants and just mean spirited in general. Often times making Luca miserable because she can. At the start of the game she kicks a lamb that Luca has found down the Well…

There’s also a subtly and implied horror throughout that I like here. There is a ton of disturbing things happening that are never outright shown.

For example your puppet soldiers will sometimes get hit for a super critical hit called a Gore hit. They make a really awful sound when this happens because they lose a limb. You don’t see them lose a limb but the sound helps emphasize how horrifying that is. Couple that with the fact that there’s a human soul in that puppet solider and all you can really do is fix them up and send them back in to those situations where it’s bound to happen again and again.


There’s something very addicting about mapping out a dungeon square by square. As long as the map draws itself that is…I found myself in the classic “just one more floor before bed” situation multiple times. There was always another undiscovered section to find, a short cut to unlock, or a chest to got back to once I found a key

There is a lot of backtracking to be done. I didn’t find it a chore to do as there was always a reason to do it or a reward for going back. At a certain point you unlock an ability to destroy some walls in the labyrinth which makes traversal easier and opens up a lot more areas. As the story progresses you unlock abilities that make back tracking even less of a hassle.

The Storytelling

The story is told like a visual novel with 2D characters standing around not moving in scenes while text scawls along the bottom. Everything is fully voice acted and voice acted well for that matter. There are some times where you’re asked to make a decision but these are few and far between and I’m not sure they have any bearing on how the story unfolds.

This style of story telling works for me and my preference for listening to a story rather than watching it. There’s a lot that’s done with just sound a dialogue to make the story come to life just like an audio drama.

Things That Could Have Been Better:

The Battle System

With the option to have a ton of characters fighting in your party with multiple classes and styles I didn’t thing the combat system would be the weakest part of this game.

In 90% of battles you won’t even have to use skills other than the occasional heal. The only time I really had to use more than healing spells were boss fights. Most fights I just pressed the button to have the party use basic attacks and we won in a round or two.

Gore Hits

Gore hits are super critical attacks that cause your puppet solders to lose limbs. Their health is permanently decreased until you repair them back at the base. If they lose the arm they attack with they won’t be able to use their main handed weapon unless you change their dominant hand in the character menu. If they lose their head they are insta-killed.

On top of that, puppet parts are expensive and I found myself running out of money most of the time just repairing puppets. It was also annoying to just get back in to a dungeon and the first fight one of my puppets are gored and their total health is halved.

I wouldn’t mind this system as much except Goring an enemy doesn’t really do anything other than more damage. Sure you Gored a boss for 35k damage but they barely felt it and then Gore you back an now your tank has less total health than your glass canon DPS. It’s a bit frustrating for sure.

The Final Boss

If you look at the Steam reviews you’ll see all sorts of mentions about how the game is easy except for the final boss. I didn’t find this game that easy on the normal difficulty there were definitely a few bosses I needed to level up for or take on a few times before I beat them. But the final boss amps up the difficulty a ton.

There is an item you can get that makes it a bit easier, as in your party will get wiped in five turns instead of two. My problem was I was finding it difficult to cast the spell that makes the boss easier before it either KO’d or silenced my spell casters.

At this point, I was 60 hours in and just wanted to see the end of the story. So I put the difficulty down to easy and still lost half my party before finishing…

Final Thoughts:

Clocking in at just over 60 hours this is by far the longest game I’ve played in years. The last one being 59 hours in Tales of Berseria in 2020. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Labyrinth of Refrain. The story was intriguing and the labyrinth was fun to explore.

I didn’t like the combat all that much but maybe that’s because I didn’t take the time to really dig in to the various systems too much. There is a whole lot that you can optimize and create to make your party stronger but I didn’t feel like you really needed these systems until the final boss so there wasn’t much of a reason to learn them.

Every boss battle and every new floor meant more story for me and that’s really what drove me to finish the game.

Backlogged: Wintermoor Tactics Club

Platform: Steam Deck

Time to Finish: 14.1 hours

Wintermoor Tactics Club is a mix of Strategy RPG and Visual Novel tacking place at a boarding school in the 80s. The story centers around the “Tactics Club” which is a D&D club (or Curses & Catacombs as it’s named in game). You play as Alicia, a member of Tactics Club who just wants to play C&C with her two friends Jacob and Colin. The principal of the school has other plans. He announces a mandatory snowball fight tournament to find the “Ultimate Club” on campus. The catch? Any club that loses must disband…forever!

I picked this one up in this year’s Steam Summer Sale. Every once and a while I’ll get the urge to play a turned-based, strategy RPG and I have very few in my library. I was also looking for more games to play on the Steam Deck. I’m happy to say I played through this entirely on the Steam Deck and didn’t run into a single issue.

Things I Liked:

The Strategy Parts: Wintermoor Tactics Club is split up into two parts. There’s the visual novel aspect where you walk around campus talking to people and doing side quests and there’s the strategy parts where you’re either playing a battle in the Curses & Catacombs campaign or participating in the snowball tournament.

Each character has their own set of skills that you can employ to beat each mission. Each mission is scored on different elements such as how many characters died, how many turns you take, and how many special powers you’ve used. I found myself replaying encounters a few times to try and get a perfect score.This made the strategy parts feel more like a puzzle than an one off battle.

The Side Quests: There are a ton of side quests to do between battles and the snowball tournament rounds. These are given out by characters around campus and usually have you find another character or an item on campus to complete them. These are totally optional but doing them does unlock perks for your characters, some of which are pretty powerful, so their worth doing. Each character around campus has their own personalities and you run into the same people over the course of the game. I found myself running the side quests just to learn a little more about each person.

The Soundtrack: I appreciate a game with good music that sets the tone for the game and really meshes with the setting. While it’s not a soundtrack I’ll probably listen to on it’s own but the music fits so well with the quirky, lightheartedness of the game.

I drew that myself…it’s suppose to be a horse!

Things that Could Have Been Better:

The Mission Scoring: Like I mentioned before, each battle is scored on different facets like damage taken, turns taken, and characters knocked out. One of the categories I was constantly missing was number of Tactics Powers used. Tactics Powers are special abilities that each character has that either do a lot of damage or add a lot of utility to the fight. There’s a “Tactic Points” bar that fills up after 5 normal attacks (there are some perks that make a character generate 2 tactics points but I didn’t use those much). Once the bar is full you can use a tactics power. The problem I kept running in two was that missions wanted me to use 2 or 3 Tactics Powers per fight and I only usually needed one to beat it. On the one hand, it did make me think about encounters differently as I tried to use multiple tactics powers. On the other, it felt like I had to draw a lot of fights out just to satisfy this one requirement.

Final Thoughts:

Wintermoor Tactics Club bridged a gap for me that I didn’t know was there. Before, I was playing mostly exploration games with little to no combat. It had the same lighthearted themes and style as those more casual games but also offered a more challenging game play experience. After finishing it, I find myself leaning more towards playing some more mechanically challenging single player games.

Backlogged: Omno

Platform: PC

Time to Finish: 4.5 hours (100% Complete)

I first saw Omno thanks to a demo in one of the Steam Next Fest event. The demo wasn’t very long but I liked the way it looked and played. I stuck it on the wish list where it sat for a few months. When the Steam Summer Sale rolled around this year, Omno, was a strong contender for a purchase. At the time, I was looking for more casual exploration games which Omno looked to fit the bill. When it came time to finalize my purchases I wasn’t as excited to play it over other games so I passed on it.

I was pleasantly surprised to find it in this month’s Humble Choice.

Things I Liked

The Puzzles: As I’ve mentioned before, I like puzzle games when they’re on the easier side of the difficulty spectrum. There are orbs in each level to collect that require you to solve a puzzle. These tend to be jumping puzzles which test your platforming more than your logical thinking abilities. In fact, I’m suprised at the platforming skills needed to complete some of the later levels. It’s nothing crazy but more than I was expecting from a game like this. It was fun to figure out how I was suppose to get somewhere and then figure out how to execute the platforming correctly.

The Visual Syle: The world is gorgeous. I couldn’t stop taking screenshots the whole time I was playing. Just wondering around the world I found some great opportunities to take a picture. The cuteness also provided some good shots.

I couldn’t help but notice as I traversed the world that this would look great in VR if it were first person. The art style has a chunky, cartoonish, look that seems to work well with VR titles. To be clear, this is not a VR title, but I would totally play a first person version of it in VR.

The Minimalist UI: I like a UI that doesn’t get in the way. Especially in a game like this that wants you to focus on the world around you. There are a few menus in Omno but they only appear when called up. Aside from a few interaction prompts the UI is almost non existent during gameplay. This made taking all those screenshots even easier!

Things That Could Have Been Better:

The Story Glyphs: Going in to this game, I thought it would be more like Journey. It just had that kind of look to it. Journey is incredibly good at telling it’s story through the world around it without any text. Omno has glyphs scattered around each level that are pieces a story.

The story tells of a tribe on a pilgrimage to a door of light that will lead them to a better world. It’s unclear if these messages were left behind for the player character to find or if they’re the player character’s own thoughts as they progress through their pilgrimage. They’re written in a sort of flowery, prose that I’m not too keen on.

There are also, stone carved murals throughout the game that, more or less, tell the same story but in a simpler, and in my opinion, a better way. I would have liked to see more of these as they felt like they were more a part of the world than the floating, esoteric glyphs.

Backlogged: Summer In Mara

Platform: PC

Time to Finish: 25.6 hours

After I finished up Yonder I was looking for a similar game to play. Prideful Sloth has another game called Grow and while it looked interesting it wasn’t quite what I was looking for. So it was off to the internet to see what other people were recommending. I kept coming across recommendations for Summer at Mara. It had no combat, a vibrant art style, some farming, some exploration, and a lot of fetch quests. Sounds like Yonder to me!

Summer at Mara just happened to be on sale at the time I was looking for something new to play. I thought about waiting for the Steam Summer Sale but $10 was a good price point for me. It helped that it was bundled with the OST and one of their other games, Deiland, which is Deck verified.

Things I Liked:

Story: Unlike Yonder, Summer at Mara’s quests are much more story heavy. There is a main story which revolves around the main character, Koa.

Koa, lives on an island in the middle of the ocean with her grandmother where they run a little farm together and take care of the island. Unfortunately, after the tutorial, Koa’s grandmother passes and she’s left alone on the island. She repairs her grandmother’s old boat and sets off to explore the rest of Mara.

There’s a whole host of supporting characters along the way. Each have their own sub plots and lengthy quest lines that intermingle with one another. I found these side quests much more interesting than the main story line and loved seeing all the characters interact with one another.

Quests: There’s just something about this that tickles my brain in all the right ways. This is another game full of fetch quests. You’re either bringing an item from one character to another, growing or crafting items a character needs, or going out and finding someone who sells the needed item. I found myself saying I’ll just do one more quest before I save for the night..over and over again.

Exploration: The exploration aspect of this game is done just right. At first you’re only able to sail to a few islands around the main town. As the story progresses you’re given the opportunity to upgrade the boat which opens up a bit more of the map. There are a few quests that can’t be completed until you find the right crafting material so every time I unlocked more locations I had a reason to visit each one to find the right items.

The map isn’t that large either. It never felt like a pain to get from one end to the other once I unlocked all of the locations. Once I built up enough money I was able to use the fast travel system to get around even faster. This is more of a convenience than a necessity and I would have been fine without it.

Summer Vibes: The colorful graphics, the island settings, the music, and the writing all make this game feel like a summer vacation. It’s so bright and cozy. The perfect game to play for the summer and probably even better to play in the winter.

The Flow: The more I got in to this game the more I started to developed a routine for each day. Summer in Mara has an energy and time which work together to limit how much you can do in a day. My daily routine was to harvest crops that were ready, plant new ones and water them, feed the animals, set out to the main town, Qälis, to buy more seeds and sell items as needed, run around doing quests until about 17:00, then return home to feed the animals again, craft anything needed for quests, and sleep.

Things That Could Have Been Better:

Controller Support: This seemed like it would be a good game to play with a controller. I was playing with an Xbox One controller until I unlocked the boat. When I got in the boat I was pretty confused why I couldn’t get the boat to move. Up until then, everything had been working flawlessly. As it turns out, the right bumper is suppose to be the button to sprint and accelerate. I wasn’t aware that there was even a sprint option until that point.

Apparently the fix is to start the game and then connect the controller via Bluetooth. Unfortunately, my computer doesn’t have a Bluetooth receiver. At least the keyboard and mouse controls weren’t bad.

Backlogged – Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles

Platform: PC/ Steam Deck

Time to Finish: 12 hours

I was expecting to write more posts about Yonder than I have. I had so much fun playing it that by the time I got around to writing about it it was over. Quite suddenly, I might add. The main quest actually isn’t that long consisting of only 5 or 6 quests that need completed. It’s gated a bit by the number of Sprites found but overall, if I was just doing the main quest, I bet I could finish it in two or three hours.The rest of my time in Yonder was spent doing side quests, finding sprites, clearing murk, occasionaly picking up lost cats.

I bought Yonder in 2017 on release and put about 8 hours in to it before bouncing. I don’t remember why I stopped but it was probably because something new and shiny came along. But it’s a good example of why I don’t get buyers remorse for games I buy and play for only a little bit. Eventually there will be a time and a place where I want to come back and play said game.

Yonder is the game I needed right now. It’s an colorful exploration game with no combat, no real lose conditions, and repetitive but satisfying content. It’s a game I was able to play in short bursts or for long periods when time allowed. It was also a great game to throw on a podcast and wander around or fish. There’s nothing ground breaking here but it is a nice little world to explore and if you really like doing fetch quests this is the game for you.

You’re not wrong Interlade Troll….

Things I Liked:

Map markers every where!

World Exploration: This game’s world map takes inspiration from recent Ubisoft open world games. The map is littered with icons and question marks pointing out Points of Interest. Most of the quests have big markers on the map and mini map of exactly where you need to go. In case, that’s not enough, there’s also a big blue line you can summon to point you in the right direction. Now this might all sound like a negative but when you’re looking for a game where you can turn your brain off it’s a big ol’ positive.

It also helps that the world is easy to get around on foot and it looks great! There were only a few instances where I couldn’t figure out how to get somewhere right away.

The Halloween event in Bobbintoff.

Changes with the Seasons: There are seasons in Yonder and things actually change when the seasons change. And I don’t mean just the weather. Animals migrate to a different area or leave Gemea entirely for the season. There is a Halloween event in Bobbintoff at night in the Fall. Even the lost cats only appear in certain regions in certain seasons.

One of the night time teleports. Not so active in the day.

The Fast Travel System: The more hours I put in to the game the more I appreciated the “fast travel” system. I put that in quotes because it isn’t all that fast but I think it was done well.

There are Sage Stones in every region that lead to a central hub where other Sage stones can be accessed. Sometimes the stones are conveniently placed near a town but most of the time they’re in the middle of nowhere in the region. There are teleports scattered throughout that are portals from one particular spot to another. Some of the teleports are only active at night and some are only active during the day. I didn’t use these too much, I would go in them just to see where they led.

By far the best system was the farm teleports. Once a farm in a region is unlocked, a Traveler’s Knot can be crafted out of vine and stone that will teleport you to that farm. The farms are usually in pretty convenient places to access towns, crafting houses, and regions without farms. I used these the most.

But traveling through Gemea on foot isn’t all that bad. It helps that the total map size isn’t all that large. I found it big enough to find the fast travel methods useful but not so big it was a slog to go on foot. Traveling on foot also has the added benefit of finding treasure chests, tree planting plots, and cats I may have missed the last time I traveled through the region. Traveling in general never feels like a chore.

When’s the last time you saw blogging mentioned in a game?

Things That Could Have Been Better:

Here’s a handful of berries for your manufactured goods.

The Barter System: I see what the intention here is and it is a unique system. You aren’t able to offload extra items in exchange for currency so wealth can’t be horded as easily. Inventory can fill up quickly if you’re adverse to outright destroying an item. Each town’s trader carries different stock, usually related to the Guild in that town and the stock is refreshed and items rotate every day. These traders are also want some items more than others and will pay more for items they need and less for ones they have.

The problem is, nothing is so expensive it can’t be bought with a few stacks of fodder or sticks. Items that are picked up relatively often while traveling. As I got further in the game and needed some more big ticket items to craft, I upgraded to trading berries since no matter where I went, except Mocha Bay with the Chef’s Guild, they were worth 50 value. My farm produced them like crazy so I was never strapped for cash.

Sure, I could have engaged with the system the way it was meant to be but I didn’t find crafting enjoyable enough to make items just to trade for slightly more than a couple berries.

Or maybe food is just scarce on the island.

My feeling exactly…

Crafting: The crafting system is your standard collect materials to make a thing, craft more materials, and use those materials to craft a bigger item. I don’t mind that as a crafting system as it’s really common. The thing that made that particular crafting less enjoyable was not being able to pin materials needed for one of the bigger crafting items as check list. Instead, I found myself constantly having to craft a couple smaller parts and check the big ticket item continuously until I made enough to make the big item.

Now maybe I just have a bad memory for these things and this isn’t a big deal to most. But in a game where everything else has a checklist, it would have been nice to have one for crafting recipes.

How Does it Run on the Steam Deck?

It run’s great! The whole reason I started playing Yonder is because it was one of the first Steam Deck Verified titles that caught my eye in my library. Out of the box everything ran smoothly, all of the cut-scenes played. I didn’t limit the frame rate at all or make any performance tweaks. As a result, the battery usually only lasted two to two and a half hours. Plenty of time for me when it comes to playing on the Deck.

I only encountered on issue while playing on the Deck. I loaded up the game one day and it would start but immediately freeze once I got in to the game. I only had one save at this point and was panicing a little bit. Luckily, when I booted up the game on my PC everything worked fine. I immediately made 2 other save files and didn’t run into the issue again.

Backlogged – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge

Time to Finish: 2.5 hours*

It’s always nice when a game that I’m looking forward to comes out unexpectedly. I’m not sure how long ago I put this one on my wish list but it has been a while for sure. Every few months I would see it on the list, click on the store page, and see that it still didn’t have a release date. Eventually, I just forgot about the whole thing. Until Thursday when I got a email from Steam that it was finally out. Which I found a bit odd as most things seem to release on Tuesdays.

As a child of the late 90s and early 2000s, I will always have a ton of nostalgia for the Turtles. It was one of my absolute favorite Saturday morning shows. Right up there with Power Rangers and Pokemon. Surprisingly, I don’t remember actually playing a TMNT game until I played Turtles in Time with Greg a few years ago on the SNES. There have been quite a few over the years but recently the IP has been used to either make mobile games or cameos in other games.

Things I Liked:

The Arcade Style: My cumulative experience with arcades and arcade cabinets come from the following places: Chuck E. Cheese, Mini Golf/ Go Kart Places, the occasional bowling alley, and those trendy Retro Gaming bars that are so crowded you can’t play anything. If you stuck this game in a cabinet with a CRT TV it would be right at home in any of those places. And probably in an actual arcade as well. This game knows exactly what it is and executes perfectly on it. Gameplay, Music, and graphics come together in one nostalgia fueled arcade dream.

The story mode may be short but it is perfectly paced. Any longer than the two and a half hours it took ups to beat and I’d say the game was overstaying it’s welcome.

The OST: Speaking of the music, this game boasts a fantastic soundtrack. You can listen to it in it’s entirety on Spotify and other music streaming services. Again, everything about it fits the style of the game perfectly from the stage music to the original songs. Some of my favorites include Mutants over Boradway!, We Ain’t Came to Lose, and Outworld Stamgeoids!

Multiplayer: It just works. Anytime I don’t have to fight with in game invites and google how to troubleshoot multiplayer issues is amazing. This was just a simple Steam invite and go situation. While I only played with Greg, I am curious to see if you can run a local multiplayer game and invite online friends in as well. I’m thinking this could be perfect for friends who don’t have the game to Parsec in and play with us.

Controls: Simple yet satisfying. There aren’t a lot of fancy combos to memorize and the inputs are very responsive. There is enough complexity to not feel like it’s just button mashing without the controls getting in the way of having fun. The few characters I’ve played feel different enough from each other that they feel unique even with the simple controls.

Replayability: We played through story mode on the easiest difficulty and it took us about two and a half hours to complete. That sounds short for a $22 game but any longer and I think the game would have outstayed it’s welcome. There’s also an Arcade mode with limited lives and continues that we haven’t gotten the chance to play through yet. Plus there are extra collectables to find in each level that we didn’t go out of our way for. I have a feeling this won’t be a one and done title for me.

It’s also on Gamepass if you find it too short to own.

At the end of these, I usually have a Things that could have been better section. I find myself unable to come up with anything this time. It was a perfect experience for me from beginning to end. I only wish I had 4 more friends to play it with and take full advantage of the 6 person multiplayer!

*I played story mode on the easiest difficulty with one other person. The Story mode may take longer on higher difficulties.

Backlogged: Sizable

Time to Finish: 2.4 hours

I got Sizeable in the Yogcast Jingle Jam 2021 bundle. A bundle I bought mostly to pick up Wildermyth and support charity. It also came with a few titles that had been on my wish list for year but never got around to buying. Sizeable was not one of these.

I was in the mood for a puzzle game and decided to look through my steam library first before going out to the store. A decision I should make more often than I do. That’s where I found Sizeable waiting for me. It seemed to give off the vibe I was looking for at the time.

Things I Liked:

The Simplicity: *Sizable* is a simple puzzle game. The goal is to find three pillars on the map. You’re able to shrink and grow most objects on the map and move them around. Some of them interact with each other or need to be placed in a certain spot or be a certain size. For example, on some maps, there is a pillar hiding in the trees that you won’t find until you shrink the tree and it falls out. I’m surprised this isn’t a mobile game as well. It seems like it would be a nice little game to play on a phone or tablet.

Collecting Turtles: In addition to the pillars, there is a hidden turtle in each level. They very in difficulty, from hiding in plain sight to secret compartments in the level. I found it fun to hunt for each turtle in the level before I moved on.

The Length of the Game: Overall, *Sizable* has a good chunk of content for what it is. There are 50 levels, each with their own theme and 10 extra secret levels. These are unlocked by finding all of the turtles. It doesn’t overstay it’s welcome but I wish it was just a little bit longer

Things That Could Have Been Better:

The Difficulty the Puzzles: I wish the levels were a bit longer. They don’t really vary in difficulty. Once you’ve done a couple of levels you’ve seen all the different ways to interact with the maps. I like my puzzle games easy but I feel like adding just one more pillar to find or an extra turtle on each level would give just a bit more playtime. With that said, some of the secret levels have interesting interactions. You can also play without the hints for the pillars on top if you wanted to. The game defaulted with them on so I left them there.

Backlogged: The Pedestrian

Time to Finish: 4 hours

I picked up The Pedestrian from the Steam sale this year. It’s been sitting on my wishlist for a while and I had an itch to play a puzzle game. What caught my eye with The Pedestrian was that the puzzles appear to take place on street signs. As it turns out, it takes place over all sorts of signage: From Street signs to bathroom signs to blueprints.

Things I liked:

The Difficulty: I like puzzle games a lot but I don’t like when they get so hard I feel like I need a guide on another monitor just to play the game. The puzzles start out fairly easy and do get progressively more complex as they should. While I’d get stuck every now and then on a particularly challenging puzzle, I always felt there was enough information to figure it out. Whether that be something I overlooked or leveraging a mechanic in a particular way. I never felt stuck to the point of frustration.

The Mechanics: The Pedestrian is a 2d puzzle platformer. Each part of the puzzle takes place over multiple signs and you can connect the signs in various ways to get the stick figure out of the exit door and on to the new puzzle. You can move the signs around to make more connections between them. Some connections that don’t work at a particular angle will become available when the sign is moved. Breaking connections after you’ve started moving the stick figure will, in most cases, reset the puzzle. As the game progresses, a few more mechanics are added on. Some levels need you to connect the electricity between wires to open up new pieces of the puzzle. Some signs let you jump to another sign without a door. And some signs can be painted green so certain obstacles in the level aren’t reset when breaking a connection. I really enjoyed figuring out how the whole level fit together before I sent my stick figure out to the exit.

The Visuals: The mix between 2d puzzles on signs and complex 3d scenery in the background made this game feel very unique. The music mixed with the slightly cartoony backgrounds made me feel like I was playing a Pixar short.

Things That Could Have Been Better:

Then Music: This isn’t to say the music wasn’t good because that’s simply not the case. I wanted the music to play more frequently than it did. The pauses in between the music felt slightly too long and there wasn’t much background noise in between. It lead to a bit of awkward silence, especially if I was stuck on a particular puzzle for a while.

The Length: The Pedestrian is a short game and while it doesn’t wear out it’s welcome I wish it was a bit longer. Just when I was getting a handle on the more involved mechanics of the puzzles it ended. I will most likely replay it in the future!