For the week of February 19 through 25

Click here to see the games I played last week

Eight weeks of trying a different game are now complete. This is the first week where I managed to try multiple new games released in a single week. I’m starting to finally get more games from 2024 onto the list, but we’re still featuring a few older ones, and mobile games are still getting their fair share of attention. I didn’t include this week’s Epic Game Store free game, Super Meat Boy Forever, as I did play the original on Xbox Live Arcade many years ago.

An early cutscene from Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Feb 19 – Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

In 2023, after getting into Elden Ring (although I never finished it), I began trying out a few more games that land in the “Soulslike” genre. In the past, I only really dabbled with Bloodborne for a bit, and Jedi: Fallen Order is the only one of those kinds of games I finished to completion. Sekiro was always one of those games that interested me but I didn’t get a chance to try it until now.

Going in, I didn’t know much of the story or concepts. I ended up putting in about three hours but I feel like I haven’t made any progress. While its parry-based combat is really interesting, I feel too weak against most mini-bosses. I haven’t gotten a chance to fight an actual boss, so I’m worried I will be destroyed in seconds.

With this week’s announcement of the expansion to Elden Ring, I’m tempted to go back to that one and see if I can play through its main storyline before Shadow of the Erdtree launches this June. Sekiro is a game I could see myself returning to when looking for something different.

Flying over Vegas from Rainbow Six Vegas

Feb 20 – Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas

The first-person shooter genre of the 360/PS3 era is a huge hole for me. There are a lot of games released between 2006 – 2010 that I just missed out on. The Rainbow Six Vegas Duology is at the top of the missed-out list. 

Going into Rainbow Six Vegas, I thought the entire game took place in Las Vegas and that each mission was dealing with a different terrorist act happening at different locations over a day or a few days. The first section of the game takes place in Mexico, and it is a pretty lengthy mission. While It does kind of explain the reasons for the eventual shift to Las Vegas, it didn’t grab me as much as I had hoped.

I don’t see myself finishing this game. It was nice to try it out, but there are aspects of games from that era that I’d prefer to stay back then. At the same time, I do have Vegas 2, and maybe that’s the one that would be more enjoyable for me. I wouldn’t mind trying that out in the future.

Two screens from the early days of 80 Days, one while visiting Athens, the other on a ship

Feb 21 – 80 Days

Like most people, I’m familiar with the famous story “Around the World in 80 Days”. However, I never played the game based on that tale. I was pleasantly surprised at how much fun this “game” 80 Days is. To be fair, the only gameplay is making decisions in your attempts to travel around the world in those 80 days. However, the storytelling and interactions are really enjoyable.

I didn’t finish my run around the world, stopping my adventure as I entered the Black Sea on my way to India. But, if I’m on my phone and need something to play while traveling, this feels like a great distraction.

Playing a Full House in a run from Balatro

Feb 22 – Balatro

A lot of people have been talking up Balatro over the last few weeks. This is a run-based card game that uses elements of Poker. Your objective is to play cards using poker scoring to earn credits to progress further. 

Along the way, you can unlock additional cards, modifiers, and other boosts that can help you earn more money. Since each subsequent hand requires a higher and higher score to advance, playing the right cards and attempting to have the highest possible multiplier is key.

What’s most enjoyable is that there is so much variety in your runs. Like with standard Texas Hold ‘Em, you have Small and Big Blinds, but instead of a dealer turn, that turn throws in a match modifier that forces you to play a certain way. Sometimes it might be where you can only play one hand and your score must exceed the requirement. Or, you might not get any points if you play a Spade. It might put a dent in your great run, but it’s a nice challenge that gets you to play a certain way.

In all honesty, this is my favorite game released in 2024 thus far. Until I do a complete run, I see myself returning to Balatro until I do.

A religious like image from Return to Grace

Feb 23 – Return to Grace

I enjoyed Fort Solis last year and I’m surprised at how many “walking simulators” are out there. Return to Grace just hit Xbox Game Pass this week but launched last year on PC. This is another walking simulator with some light puzzles. At the same time, this adventure is short, lasting about three hours. While I enjoyed the journey, there were a few small issues that perplexed me.

The first, like Fort Solis, is the inability to run. You’re stuck with walking, so moving around in certain areas takes longer than it should. The second is the game’s poor saving system and lack of warning. If you for whatever reason need to quit playing, the game doesn’t warn you that you’re choosing this option or that your progress won’t be saved. You just quit out. If you do this at a point where there hasn’t been a save for a while, then you’ll have to replay that entire section.

This happened to me during a point in the game where you need to visit a few different rooms in a section of the facility. I needed to stop playing but I had no idea that doing so would result in me losing about a substantial amount of progress. I had to replay the entire section, including listening to a lot of dialog again, so I was very frustrated by this.

A dunk replay from NBA Infinite

Feb 24 – NBA Infinite

I got a notification that NBA Infinite launched on mobile and I wanted to give it a try. It’s been a few years since I played NBA Live Mobile (yes, I work at EA) and I did not like NBA 2K Mobile through Apple Arcade. NBA Infinite is a bit different than those two. It focuses more on individual players but incorporates a leveling system common in mobile gaming.

I ended up playing around five or so matches. All matches thus far are 3-vs-3 where each team features three NBA players and so does your opponent. You’re only able to pick from the players you have in your collection. For me, that meant I played every match with my Rookie-Season Kevin Durant, which I managed to upgrade to an 80 overall. 

The gameplay is fine, but since I was playing with and against Bots, I can’t say just how good the game is with others. I noticed the AI was hogging the ball a lot and calling for a pass while wide open was regularly ignored. Matches are fairly short, either first to 11 or short-timed matches, so that’s a strong point to the game. The upgrade system feels deep, so if you do invest the time and effort, you can probably build some very strong players.

Driving in an early section of Pacific Drive

Feb 25 – Pacific Drive

Another significant release for this week is the game, Pacific Drive. There was a lot of talk about this sci-fi mystery game and the concept was enough to get me to buy it. I’ve played for about an hour thus far. There is a lot to grasp in that first part of the game. They do a good job at onboarding you, but there are still things to do and discover.

I often forget to put my car in park, which has led to some comical moments for me as I chase my car. There are a few environmental objects that have also caused me some trouble, and I still don’t know their connection to the game. I’m looking forward to learning more.

This is also a run-based game, so you’re expected to die or start again. I’m not entirely sure how that works in the story, but I suspect I’ll learn that soon. For now, I don’t have much of an opinion on the game, but I do like what I’ve experienced thus far and I want to see where it takes me.

That wraps up this week. It was nice to get two notable releases on here. I enjoyed playing both and will want to spend more time with them. Although it wasn’t featured here, I finally finished Yakuza 6: The Song of Life, so I’m able to move on to other gams in the Like a Dragon franchise. Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth is on my “to-play list” but I still need to go back and try Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name, which I will most certainly include in a feature blog post.

For next week, I won’t be playing Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth as I still have yet to finish Final Fantasy VII: Remake. With Yakuza 6 out of the way, I can focus more free time on FFVII, but considering I’m probably only halfway through it, I won’t be done before Rebirth’s launch on the 29th. I did download the Demo/Starter for the upcoming Unicorn Overload, so that is probably a game I’ll try out this week.