Togges Review

Togges is not your typical 3D platformer, and I love it for that. I can’t even remember the last time I played a platformer that had such a unique set of rules. Maybe calling this a platformer isn’t even correct, though it still feels like one. While you directly control a little vacuum-like robot that can freely move and jump around the entire level, you can only interact with things if you build a chain of blocks to the item or switch at hand. These blocks have a lot of restrictions on how they can be placed, though, and each color of block behaves slightly differently. Yellow, for instance, conducts electricity and stacks higher than other colors but also uses up twice as many “build points.” Thus, a big part of the game is seeing a collectible in plain sight and then figuring out how you can lead the blocks to it to pick it up.

In that sense, you could characterize Togges as more of an environmental puzzle game. And these environments are jam-packed with stuff to do. There are only seven levels/worlds in the game, but I’ve already put 15 hours in just getting to World 6, and I wasn’t even trying to do everything. Each level is its own, mini open world with three bonus sub-levels and a whole bunch of fruit and seeds to collect. And the fruit locations aren’t always obvious, either, as you sometimes need to complete a challenge to reveal them. If I have anything bad to say about Togges, it’s that some of these challenges are a little too vague. 15 hours in, and I still have no idea what to do with the “ghost fruits.” But if you like games that don’t hold your hand and games that let you explore at your own pace and games that aren’t afraid to be different, then you need to check this one out. It deserves so much more attention than it’s getting.

The Spirit and the Mouse Review

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.

My Little Universe Review

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.

Aka Review

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: Bridge of Spirits Review

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.

Kamikaze Veggies Review

My opinion of this game changes drastically depending on if you ask me about the first half of the game versus the latter half. Kamikaze Veggies starts out as a quirky, serviceable stealth/action game where you’re often forced to sacrifice one of your bomb-strapped soldiers to clear an enemy obstacle. You can even blow up your last remaining soldier to take down the main objective and still win the level, which is a really nice touch. I also like that you have limited funds and can only hire so many soldiers per level. Do you splurge on the better soldiers or fill up your team with short-fused expendables? Tough decisions. Oh, and the whole campaign can be played co-op, which adds some great strategic moments where one player can act as a decoy to distract a group of enemies. The game is a lot of fun in the beginning. And then it suddenly isn’t anymore.

The second half of Kamikaze Veggies really outstays its welcome. The last few levels in particular drag on for way too long. There is one level where you have to make your way across a moving train, and it feels like the train cars are never going to end. And then, of course, the level concludes with a boss fight… The concept of bosses feels so out of place given how the first half of the game was structured. Worse yet, many of the later levels have puzzles in them. Not cutesy environmental puzzles, either, but table top, Lights Out style puzzles where you have to figure out the order in which to turn switches on or off. These kinds of puzzles are infuriating on their own, so to have them disrupt the middle of a stealth/action game, in a level that feels like it should already be over, does not work. It is truly baffling that a developer would sabotage their own game like this. They had such a great thing going for them, and then they went… kamikaze.