For the Week of April 29 – May 5

Click here to see the games I played last week

I’m going to keep this week’s intro shorter than usual. I’m all over the place with the games I tried this week, with three enjoyable 2024 games that I want to play more of when I get the chance. I also finally played a game I’ve been itching to try for years.

Krill, the hermit crab from Another Crab's Treasure looking at a potential grappling section

April 29 – Another Crab’s Treasure

I thought that Another Crab’s Treasure would be a fun, light-hearted, and easy take on the Soulsborne genre. Yes, this is a very cheeky game but it’s far from the easy approach I was expecting. But, even with that, I was having a lot of fun and was genuinely looking at how to improve myself while repeatedly dying over and over again against the game’s first boss.

Thus far, I’ve only just gotten the grapple hook and begun venturing past the first area. It took me well over an hour to get to that point but I suspect more seasoned players of these types of games got there in half the time. I recently heard through a podcast that the game has some accessibility options that make the game extremely easy. If it’s possible to turn it on and off at will, I think I will want to see how that turns out.

Even if that isn’t the case, I still would like to get more time with the game. I enjoyed Elden Ring a few years ago. I spent a lot of time with a few more Souls-like since then, so this could be a nice change of pace and the catalyst that gets me to dedicate more time to the genre.

An early section of The Rewinder

April 30 – The Rewinder

The Rewinder dropped recently on Game Pass and I wanted to check it out because it sounded interesting on paper. A mystery adventure game where you’re trying to solve/prevent deaths from happening. Your character lives in the underworld, so they can interact with both the living and the dead.

The game is very slow-paced. The first chapter is fairly straightforward with no way to progress without solving the puzzles in a specific order. The “life-changing” mechanic is interesting, where you look for clues and then try to influence a character’s decision to alter the course of history.

This is a story based on Chinese mythology, so it might not appeal to a wider audience. Also, the pacing, which feels normal for an adventure game might feel too slow to keep regular people engaged. While I don’t mind the pacing, I just didn’t find enough mystery in the first chapter to make me want to play more. If I wasn’t doing this project, I could invest a bit more time to give it a better chance.

Agent Carter looking at a supernova from an early section of The Bureau: XCOM Declassified.

May 1 – The Bureau: XCOM Declassified

This is another one of those “cheating” games that I’m finally “trying” for the first time. I saw a version of this iteration of XCOM at an E3 (I think it was 2011). I’m pretty certain I got to play a bit, but can’t recall for sure. I’ve wanted to try this game for many years, even after reading the very mediocre reviews it got when it was finally released in 2013. I’ve owned The Bureau: XCOM Declassified for a while, buying it when it was practically being given away on Steam (it’s regularly 80-90% off). Now that I’m playing it, I can see why it got harped on when it launched, but it feels alright.

Playing it now reminds me so much of the other shooters that came out during those years. The one game it reminds me a lot of is the 2003 game Freedom Fighters. Both are squad-based shooters where you control one character but can direct others to assist you in combat. I also see elements of the early Gears of War games, where there are some interesting set-pieces and the reliance on working with your squad to progress.

But, the AI squadmates are pretty unremarkable and you do need to herd them while in combat. At the end of the first mission, my character, Agent Carter, had killed 50 aliens while my partners Nils and Kinney combined for 13. They don’t do much unless you direct them to. When you’re thrown into hectic situations, needing to also manage how they play is annoying. I wish that I could direct them to an extent but then they were smart enough to do more damage than they did.

With how busy I am trying a different game every day, I’m not sure I will be able to return to this one. Again, after the first mission, I don’t hate the game. It’s just that I am not yet at the point where I am compelled to see where the game takes me next. 

The overworld of Cat Quest 2 as our characters walk by The Catpital

May 2 – Cat Quest II

I am a dog person, but that doesn’t mean I won’t play a game cat-centric game. To be fair, in Cat Quest II you control both a cat and a dog, so this isn’t strictly a feline-centric game. I never played the first game, so I can’t comment on the changes/differences in the second game. But, while I’m enjoying the simple action and cute graphics, the leveling feels off in this action RPG.

In the hour I spent with the game, the story moved at a nice pace, but my characters were not. I got to a level 15 recommended part of the story but my characters were still only at level 10. I thought I could wander around and complete some side quests or fight foes on the overworld. But, even then, I still wasn’t leveling up at a fast enough rate where I would feel comfortable in battle. 

I know in some action RPGs, the level isn’t a hard rule and is often just a recommendation. But on the overworld, there were enemies at Level 15 that were causing me problems. If overworld foes at level 15 were causing massive damage and I leveled up my armor to the most that I could (no more money), then that feels like a problem.

A few of the plants that have bloomed early in Botany Manor

May 3 – Botany Manor

When I first saw Botany Manor appear on Xbox Game Pass, I was certain this was just another simulation game. This would be a game where you grow plants in your home. What I didn’t know was that while yes, you’re growing plants this is more specifically a puzzle game. 

You begin the game in a room where to get out, you need to improve the air quality. You do this by growing your first plant. You learn the simple mechanic of adding soil to a pot, using the required seed, and then giving it some water to start the growing process. But you need to get that plant to fully bloom and that requires having it be around the right temperature. To figure that you, you need to look for clues.

The clues are all in one room for this first plant, so it’s easy to walk around and start getting the details you need. Once you’ve completed that first challenge, you walk towards the Manor in the game’s name. Now, you’re wandering the first floor, gathering clues and learning how to grow more plants. I spent most of the time walking around, solving the second plant you get access to. I began the third seed, which I somehow managed to get sprouted but I still have work to be done.

I quite like this game and want to spend more time with it. There is a lot of examining around and trying to piece things together. The sequence in which you grow plants is linear but getting the answer does require sleuthing. Details are scattered across the manor and you will need to look around and read the information carefully to solve each plant puzzle.

My hero fighting off a wave of Orcs in Orcs Must Die 3

May 4 – Orcs Must Die 3

I remember playing a preview build of Orcs Must Die back in 2011. This was probably around the time that the tower-defense genre, started to die down in popularity. I liked the concept of a 3D dungeon protection game with a quirky animation style and feel. So, coming into this third game, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But to be honest, it feels nearly identical, which makes it hard to set it apart.

I went through the first few missions. The concept is simple: place defenses along a path to prevent Orc monsters from reaching a rift and destroying it. The missions I played didn’t pose too much of a problem, so I wasn’t feeling any sort of challenge. Again, I didn’t notice anything different from the game I played almost 15 years ago. 

For a free game through the Epic Game Store, this was a fun little treat for the hour I played, but that’s all I need. We don’t hear too many of these types of games anymore. On the Steamdeck or mobile, this would be fun to play on the go, but it just didn’t have the staying power to keep me playing.

A cutscene from Indika, featuring the main character.

May 5 – Indika

Where do I begin? I want to keep my first impression of Indika to a minimum. Let’s just say, there is a lot here that I wasn’t expecting and I am certain there will be more of those moments that will take me by surprise. 

I never finished Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, but I thought Indika was a Russian interpretation of that game. A woman dealing with inner demons, just with less focus on violence and more on puzzle-solving and a large serving of Russian-orthodox symbolism. But after my first hour of this game, there aren’t many puzzles to solve, but a lot of “WTF?!”

This is a game I will finish. I have to see where the rest of the game goes. So many things are happening to Indika (the character) that I need to see how it all shapes. If I share my thoughts, I worry that I will spoil the game and ruin the experience. Let me stop here and perhaps I can talk more about this game at a later date when more people have played it.