Though Ganryu 2 has plenty of highs between its excellent visuals and strong fundamentals, some of its more questionable design choices and unfortunate number of glitches ensure that building the level of trust needed to master the game and fully appreciate the intent of its developers will be far too difficult for most people to consider. I definitely enjoyed it, but I also can't see myself trying to master it in its current state. Knowing that my controls could suddenly stop working or level progression could break down at any moment and ruin my run is enough to deter me, which is a huge shame as someone who very rarely lets glitches get in the way of their enjoyment.
Gate of Doom
I know I’m playing armchair game designer here, but I really feel like Gate of Doom would become something great with just a handful of changes. Increase the default movement speed, rebalance some enemy damage output (or just give players full health when respawning), make magic usable in boss fights, and make the power-up items permanent and you’d have a much more reasonable game that actually feels like a proper blend of action and RPG elements. As it is now, Gate of Doom wears the skin of a D&D campaign and does so very well, but when you actually get your hands on it, it just feels like a less polished and poorly balanced take on contemporaries like Gauntlet, Cadash, and The King of Dragons that were all doing the same thing more effectively, to say nothing of the excellence that the Capcom D&D games would achieve just a few years later.
Honestly, I didn't expect much from this game before I turned it on. I’d never heard of it, its box art is pretty ugly, and the developer didn’t exactly have the strongest of careers. But I gotta say, Rat Attack! is a solid game! It takes a simple, tried but true concept and throws so many wrinkles and wrenches into it that it becomes a chaotic yet considered cacophony of hazards, ideas, challenges, and triumphs. Qix is the kind of concept that’s hard to add onto, but I think this game does a really good job of expanding on the idea. Having to juggle dozens of rats while keeping hazards, power-ups, and pad locations in mind makes for a surprisingly tense and exhilarating experience.
Shin Megami Tensei: Synchronicity Prologue
Synchronicity Prologue is a delightful surprise of a game! Team Ladybug really didn’t have to go this hard and provide one of the most concise and enjoyable indie Metroidvanias for a marketing campaign. It’s commendable how well this game manages to capture the essence of Shin Megami Tensei while adapting it to an entirely different genre AND making it more accessible to people than most games in the series tend to be. It’s not quite as mechanically extravagant and refined as Touhou Luna Nights, but I’d go as far as to say that it uses its license far better than Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth does, it's one of the most successful SMT spin-offs in terms of its execution, and that it's one of Team Ladybug's best games!
Austin Powers Pinball
Austin Powers Pinball is an experience that's so minimalist and unremarkable that it almost feels pointless to play. It offers nothing that other pinball games don't and it doesn't make proper use of its license during a time where people were hungriest for it. But beneath it all, it has a degree of value as a fascinating cultural artifact of a time long past and that's pretty groovy in its own way...
Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny
Disgaea 6 is a game stuck at a crossroads, conflicted between two different experiences it wants to convey. Its story is one of the strongest in the franchise, offering entertaining characters with a heartfelt message about overcoming hardship that resonates strongly and is concisely told. On the other hand, it also wants to be as approachable as possible, providing a method to allow anyone to breeze through the game and witness the story even if it means betraying the themes of said story and offering shallower gameplay to the dedicated fans who have been there since the beginning...
Disney’s Chicken Little
Chicken Little falls in between the extremes of licensed game quality and that's the most unfortunate place for it to be - too dull to recommend playing, but also rarely funny enough to get an accidental kick out of. Its GBA version fares better, being a simple but competent platform with a stronger focus on platforming and more consistently enjoyable design.
Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood
Earthblood has such a specific goal in mind, an ethos so at odds with where video games currently are, that it was destined to get critically panned. It's hard to say whether developer Cyanide intended to cater to a niche of people yearning for the days of the PS2 and Xbox 360 or if they were really just that out of touch with modern expectations, but I'm thankful regardless of the reason, because this is exactly the kind of game I miss...