As the nights started to draw in, the team got comfortable on their sofas with a mug of hot Tizer and enjoyed some games. Onesies were optional.ÑÑ€Ð¾Ñ‡Ð½Ð¾ Ð·Ð°Ð¹Ð¼ Ð½Ð° ÐºÐ°Ñ€Ñ‚Ñƒ Ð¾Ð½Ð»Ð°Ð¹Ð½ Ð±ÐµÐ· Ð¿Ñ€Ð¾Ð²ÐµÑ€Ð¾Ðº
Rustler – Matt
Itâ€™s around this time of year that I sniff out and play some smaller games, ready to compile our annual â€˜Games You May Have Missedâ€™ feature. After seeing some favourable reviews, following the announcement trailer generating a mild buzz, I took a punt on a cheap copy of Rustler. So cheap, in fact, that it was almost certainly a misprice.
Rustler takes the concept of a medieval GTA â€“ as in, PSone era GTA â€“ and knuckles down on it. Horses replace cars, crossbows are used instead of guns, and hireable beatboxing bards stand in for radio personalities. If you gain a high wanted level, itâ€™s even possible to â€˜pimpâ€™ (read: respray) your horse to fool the cityâ€™s guards.
Indeed, â€˜tis a silly game, also borrowing heavily from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
While it isnâ€™t much to look at (cel-shaded visuals always look terrible when shrunken down or viewed from above) there is a surprising amount of depth to the combat, requiring you to block with a shield and dodge attacks. Missions usually feature a twist, forcing the thuggish lead to improvise. The fact that the cityâ€™s crass graffiti changes often is neat, too.
After making decent progress, unlocking some of the harder/rarer achievements along the way, everything suddenly came to standstill after finding a game-breaking bug. My medieval lawbreaker is now trapped in a quarry, unable to start the story mission thatâ€™ll free them from said pit. Iâ€™m hoping a patch is due, as I havenâ€™t quite got my tennerâ€™s worth of entertainment yet.
Incidentally, I also recently acquired a bargain-priced copy of the Zelda alike Ary and the Secret of Seasons hoping it may be a 2021 hidden gem candidate, only to discover it came out in 2020. Ah!
Dungeon Encounters – James
Square Enixâ€™s Dungeon Encounters is the sort of experimental RPG we used to see on the likes of the Nintendo DS, a system where smaller-scale titles from large publishers comfortably found a home. Its presentation is purposefully basic, allowing lead designer and creator of the famous Active Time Battle system Hiroyuki Ito to re-examine the RPG from its original dungeon-crawling roots.
This is a dungeon RPG stripped back to just the essentials, then – one where you move across a tiled environment and battles play out with the bare minimum of animation. But appearances are deceiving, as this is not a nostalgic game. While its traditional combat and party management are expertly balanced, itâ€™s Dungeon Encountersâ€™ inventive use of traversal that impresses the most.
Each tile maps on to a set of coordinates, and the game combines this abstract cartography with character movement abilities to unlock a series of exciting possibilities. You might see some unreachable tile on one floor, figure out its coordinates, then reach it later using an ability that lets you ascend upwards provided a tile exists directly above you in 3D space.
There are plenty of examples like this, and theyâ€™ve been getting more involving as I descend through the dungeon. Itâ€™s great to play a new RPG that isnâ€™t happy to rest on its laurels after the core mechanics are introduced.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart – Jake
I’ve not been wowed by the shift to a new console generation for quite some years – which I’m sure is as much due to my age, as the rate of technological progress. But I entirely bought into the hype about Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, and it’s revolutionary never-before-possible instant inter-dimensional travel. I don’t know why.
So no, it didn’t wow me, but I think that’s partly because the whole game is just such unassumingly good fun. For all the hype, travelling through rifts is just another tool, expertly integrated with the more traditional jumping and smashing and shooting and so forth. The speed of travel and lack of loading are excellent, of course, but when everything is so expertly crafted they don’t stand out.
This might be coming across as damning with faint praise. It shouldn’t. Rift Apart is staggeringly good, precision tooled to provide constant entertainment. It’s varied, with platforming and melee combat and all sorts of firepower and puzzle bits and all sorts. There’s levelling up and weapon upgrades, but they’re straightforward and understandable and not a confusing mess to administer.
Ratchet & Clank has always been like this: loads of ideas, brilliantly and seamlessly combined. Wow could be distracting, intrusive. Insomniac know better than that.