I’m having a hard time nailing down my final thoughts on this game. On one hand, I love mice and rats and enjoy any game where they are the protagonist. Exploring the different neighborhoods from the perspective of a mouse is certainly fun. The lack of a jump button feels a bit restrictive, but it works when you accept that a real mouse is going to do a lot more climbing than jumping, anyway. And I do like the overall theme of the game, where you are helping these electrical spirits bring happiness to the townsfolk. However, I think the electricity theme hinders the game too much. Being able to take shortcuts through electrical wiring is neat, but the fact that every quest boils down to “turn the power back on” is kinda lame. The game starts with a mouse who wants to help people, and it would have been far more interesting to explore that idea as a regular mouse and not a mouse with electrical super powers.
The sub-quests that you must complete to fix each electrical box are equally silly. Some quests are basically just mini-games, after all. I liked the quests that involved searching the city for clues, though. That is still the best thing about this game: going around the city, looking for stuff. There are over a hundred little, blue light bulbs hidden throughout the game, and even when their locations are obvious, how you reach them isn’t. Those moments definitely elevated the experience for me. I found myself having a lot of fun when I put the main story on hold and just hunted down light bulbs for a while. But as soon as I focused on an actual quest again, I couldn’t help but think, “This is so dumb…” Ultimately, if you like wholesome video games, then The Spirit and the Mouse has enough going for it to come recommended. Just make sure you set aside time to look for hidden light bulbs.
I’m not normally one to buy a game the day it comes out, but it was hard to resist the allure of My Little Universe. And so I basically played through several patches that altered the difficulty of the game on a day-to-day basis. The biggest improvement that took place was that dying no longer reset your character’s level back to zero. As of today, you only lose one level and, subsequently, one level perk. The update was ultimately for the better, but it significantly changed how I approached the game. I mean, yeah, you still don’t want to die, because the random perk you lose might be the best one. But you don’t have to be nearly as careful anymore. This is supposed to be a casual game, after all, so it makes sense that it shouldn’t be too punishing. And most perks are simply nice-to-haves, anyway. The only perk I was ever devastated to lose was the pacifist perk that prevents monsters from outright attacking you. Because, if I have one complaint about this game, it’s that there are too many friggin’ monsters.
I adore everything else about My Little Universe, though. This is a “numbers go up” resource gathering game at its core, but damn if it isn’t satisfying to continually spend those resources to physically expand the game world. Each planet starts out as a tiny, little island, but as you mine and chop and collect resources, the island quickly grows to the point where you can easily get lost looking for your way around. As a single-player experience, I could see this getting old after a while. The required resource count can be a bit ridiculous at times, forcing you to backtrack to get more wood or coal or what have you. As a co-op experience, though, it’s fantastic. Particularly in dungeons, one player can forge ahead (perhaps the player who has the pacifist perk) while the other player hangs back and keeps the resources stocked. There’s a great balance in the co-op gameplay, and it’s become one of the best games my wife and I have played together in recent memory.
This was a somewhat uneven, but overall great, season of Only Murders in the Building. It has a strong beginning and end but kinda drags for several episodes in the middle. I don’t recall Seasons 1 and 2 ever having such a slump, though Season 3 is still better than Season 2. The reason it drags is no mystery, either. Season 3 spends too much time on relationship and theater antics and not enough time on the murder. I get that a long-running show will want to flesh out its characters and give them more to do. It’s important to see how they’re trying to make a living outside of what the podcast brings in. But the investigation should never be the B plot, because that’s the glue. For much of this season, however, the podcast trio aren’t even working together. Oliver and Charles are so wrapped up in the play they’re putting on that Mabel has to do most of the heavy lifting on her own for a while.
To be fair, though, this is the season where Selena Gomez’s acting finally grew on me. She was a little wooden in Seasons 1 and 2, which might have been by design, but she loosens up a lot more in Season 3. It helps that she doesn’t have to act against Cara Delevingne anymore, an actress who has zero chemistry with anybody. They really overcompensated on the casting this time around. You get Meryl Streep, Paul Rudd, and Matthew Broderick as newcomers. No wonder Selena Gomez had to step up her game! There are no weak links in this show anymore; everyone is great. And I appreciate that, like Bunny in the previous season, they spent time humanizing the victim after so many episodes of bad-mouthing him. It’s a fun murder mystery that doesn’t glamorize the murder, and it’s character-driven enough that, even if the final reveal doesn’t impress you, at least you can still enjoy the ride to get there.
This season almost felt like a return to form. Some episodes were really good, some were pretty awful. I guess I’d rank it alongside Season 3 in terms of quality. It’s at least better than Season 4, which made all sorts of mistakes. Having Colin Robinson back in his normal body was, of course, very welcome. And I’m glad the show finally had the balls to go through with Guillermo becoming a vampire. Well… half-vampire. He was pretty much stuck in human/vampire limbo for the majority of the season, which might have been a cop-out, but it worked given his Van Helsing blood. And I liked that he immediately had a change of heart after going full vampire and wanted to give up his newfound powers. It was a good finale… and could/should have been a series finale. There’s nowhere to go but down in Season 6.
See, while Guillermo’s vampire storyline was entertaining, it often took a back seat to “wacky” shenanigans. The episodes that didn’t work really didn’t work and felt like the same gimmicky nonsense that other shows start relying on when they’ve run out of ideas. You have an episode where Colin Robinson runs for local office, an episode where the vampires teach a community college night class, and an episode where they have to fill in for the news anchors on the local news. It’s all so dumb, and you have to buy into the “these characters are great no matter what” mentality to find any of it funny. The other recurring themes with Nadja’s hex and The Guide’s pathetic attempts at weaseling her way into the group are equally unfunny and annoying. And yet I fear this is all we’re gonna get from this show now that Guillermo has decided he doesn’t want to be a vampire anymore.
Aka could have used a little more structure. It’s never very clear what you’re supposed to do. You start the game on a new island with an urn of your war friend’s ashes and the mission to spread these ashes on the highest mountain peak. It doesn’t take long to find this mountain and complete the quest, though, at which point, you might think, “Okay, now what…” I get that Aka is a casual game, so you could theoretically spend the rest of your time doing whatever you want. And by whatever, I mean farming. But the farming aspect has very little payoff. It’s not like you can sell the produce, so the main goal of farming is to make dragon food to fulfill an optional quest about baby dragons. Unfortunately, you have to make a lot of dragon food to get anywhere with this quest. You will most likely have exhausted everything else there is to do long before then.
So the real objective in Aka is actually to help several ghosts who are byproducts of the war. I do like how such a seemingly cute game on the outside has a fairly dark story about war and death. Many of the ghosts you meet are people you failed to protect in said war, after all. Once you realize the ghosts should be your focus, it’s not a terrible gameplay loop to track them down and meet their demands. It’s just a little annoying that the ghosts only come out at night, leaving you with nothing to do during the daylight hours. I mean, yeah, there’s always the garden, but gardening sucks. And most other quests boil down to repetitive busywork, like cleaning up the same three types of garbage on all four islands. Again, the game gives you the tools to play indefinitely, but it fails to also give you any reason why you would want to.
Kena has a bit of an identity crisis. The art style and overall presentation make it seem like this is going to be a chill, accessible adventure game. The actual gameplay, on the other hand, is surprisingly combat-focused with intense arena battles that can’t be fled. In the first hour, I was already dying a lot and eventually had to bump the difficulty down. It doesn’t help that the parry, a skill the game requires you to know, is simply too hard to time correctly. Combat takes some getting used to, but you can unlock new skills and upgrades that make it easier to get by. You receive a bow pretty early on, for instance, and that alone helps significantly. I totally get how someone would abandon this game within the first few hours, as I was tempted to do, but powering through eventually paid off. Sure, I never fully enjoyed the combat, but I found a rhythm that worked, and the non-combat sections kept me hooked.
The adventure side of things comes with its own asterisk, though, because the world is not as open as you might think. I’ve never seen so many invisible walls before. But even within its limitations, there are plenty of secrets to find. While many of these secrets only reward you with hats (or money to spend on… hats), just as many rewards level up your combat skills. Given how difficult the combat is, there’s definitely incentive to spend time exploring your surroundings. I also quite liked the premise, that you are this spirit guide who has to clean up a destroyed village and help the deceased residents move on. The game expends its best emotional arc too soon, though, with your first quest being to help a spirit come to terms with failing to protect his younger siblings. The second quest falls flat in comparison. Still, I enjoyed the game overall, but you do have to temper your expectations and accept that this is not your typical adventure game.