Hempuli Oy’s Baba is You came out last month and has received nothing but praise, since. Baba is a puzzle game that is about re-writing the language of the game itself when you (Baba,Baba is You, remember?) move blocks of words. The developer, Arvi Teikari, is behind a ton of other games.
I think one of my absolute favourite things about this, beyond being a completely original and utterly brilliant puzzler, is how meticulously balanced it is in terms of offering progress. The difficulty curves up in each set of levels, getting pretty steep toward each groups’ end, but it unlocks the next set before you’ve completed them all. The difficulty of the next group dips back down again as it also introduces new rules, meaning that even if you’ve become completely stuck in one place, there’s likely somewhere else you can continue playing. Offering both super-difficulty and progress is all too rare, and something to celebrate.
There’s a new competitor in the Battle Royale genre of multiplayer-only survival shooters, Apex Legends, from Respawn. It’s a free-to-play Battle Royale-style shooter with a risky system that lets you revive your teammates by retrieving an object at the box they leave behind, and a middle-click option on your mouse to let you mark items, enemies, and other important objects on your HUD that you would otherwise have to manually call-out.
The good news is that Respawn are some of the original Call of Duty developers, so the shooting feels good, even though this game lacks the wall-running and mech-suits from Titanfall.
Apex Legends also has different character classes. The first of which drops a healing drone, for example.
There are only 3-player squads in Apex Legends, are no other modes besides a short training mode that doesn’t really explain the now-traditional Battle Royale mechanics of the shrinking battlefield and dwindling players until there is one winning team.
I had a lot of thrilling moments in Apex Legends, mostly around reviving and respawning squadmates. Death isn’t necessarily the end in this game: even if you get killed, your squadmates can pick up your ID tags within a short window and bring you back at respawn points scattered about the map, as you spectate and bite your nails. It’s a feature you wouldn’t see in most battle royales, but it makes total sense in a squad-focused game, and adds great tension to every fight. You can be dead but still rooting on a friend. You could be alive and wonder if your squadmate’s killer is camping their body, waiting for you to come claim their ID. You can make it to a respawn point and stand there activating it, totally exposed, praying you don’t get shot in the back.
No matter what you’re doing, the ping system is just such a great tool for communication. In some cases it’s better than voice chat: you can highlight a specific object, like a door or a gun, and tap middle mouse to make your character say something about it. They’ll call out the name of a gun you might not know. You can double-tap to signal an enemy’s nearby and that’ll show up red for your teammates. After someone pings an item, if you pick it up, a prompt will pop up on your screen to thank them for pointing it out. In the world of horrors that is online gaming, it’s so pleasant (and, honestly, weird) to have a built-in courtesy button. Saying thank you: Somehow, just as thrilling as shooting a guy.
Unfortunately, like most free to play games, Apex Legends has loot boxes and different currency systems. They mostly seem to be for aesthetic choices, like weapon skins, but there are also new characters to unlock with unique skills you won’t get to play without ponying up with either real money or through another currency that might be earned in-game. The free-to-play business is as sad as ever, and many games that cost money up-front have these systems anyway.
There’s a freely-downloadable prologue on Steam for Windows that lets you play those upgraded Hitman (2016)’s campaign missions, if you have access to them, as well as redone training missions from Hitman (2016) that include the new features like vegetation you can hide in.
I loved Hitman (2016) for all its quirks, it’s the best goofy action game where you can dress up and get shot for pulling a fire alarm. Although this game drops the episodic format, Hitman (2016) 2 ( 2018) still includes the scheduled elusive targets that were the reason I returned for many more silly one-off assassinations every month.
Mumbai is like a better version of 2016 Hitman’s Marrakesh, with large, bustling crowds that border more restricted areas that, crucially, are more enjoyable to traverse. A construction site that doubles as a movie set is a particular standout, with a clever placement of guards that ensures that—even with the right disguise—you’ll need to take a circuitous path or scale the unfinished elevator shaft. A great Hitman level forces you to adapt and respond as you go, and Hitman 2’s environments excel at providing the routes and options needed to adjust your plan on the fly.
Hitman (2016) 2 (2018) is available now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Steam for Windows at $60 all the way up to an eye-watering $140 for the ridiculous edition that includes a briefcase with a rubber duck inside.
There was a version of the previous Hitman game for Linux and macOS but I haven’t seen anything promising those ports for this sequel.
The only game I know of where you can brawl, race R.C. cars competitively with teenagers, help punk rockers with their imposter syndrome, and sing karaoke, all in 1980’s Tokyo, is out on Steam for Windows. That’s just a few months after I, and no doubt many others, bought it for the PlayStation 4 while thinking “Yakuza 0 will never come to Windows.”
“…Yakuza 0 is one of the most eccentric, idiosyncratic and downright charming games around. It deftly moves between drama and humour, between story and action, between arcade action and lengthy, well written pulp dialogue about a man who is incredibly good at punching. There’s simply nothing else quite like it, and it’s well worth your time.”
One thing I find particularly frustrating in Steam is being inundated with curator recommendations from Gamer Gate supporters like Total Biscuit, well the good news is that you can ignore them now. Of course, Valve has made this incredibly frustratingly only accessible from one page, and only when some algorithm decides to recommend that you follow that curator. That’s also the only place to undo ignoring that curator, despite each one having individual curation pages.
Ignoring a curator will ensure that Steam will no longer recommend that curator on your home page. You can take that one step further by ignoring all the top curators recommended by Steam, which will cause Steam to stop recommending any curators at all. It’s a fairly small change, but potentially handy for dedicated Steam users who don’t especially care what other people think. A Valve rep described it as “part of our ongoing efforts to refine the services and features of Steam.”
Subset Games’ FTL was a huge hit for anyone looking to get into the realm of managing spaceships in difficult times. Their follow-up, Into the Breach, looks a bit closer to Final Fantasy Tactics or Advance Wars, which are all the good kinds of wars.
If you’ve played FTL, you’ll remember the very particular kind of clammy-palmed panic it’d conjure as you’d face another seemingly no-win situation. Into the Breach will bring that feeling right back, and it’s wonderful.
As a bonus until the 6th of March, Subset is offering a copy of FTL if you buy Into the Breach through gog or Humble instead of directly on Steam. It’s $15. Subset has also planned that the game will hit other platforms, but right now it’s only on Windows.
It can be pretty frustrating to find out that something you want to fix is difficult or impossible to repair. Glued-on screens cover batteries that are all custom fit inside small cases that prevent curious people from learning how things work and fixing problems with their devices. Iconoclasts from Joakim Sandberg takes that a step further, it’s a world where a mechanic, Robin, finds that her profession is outlawed. Your mission is to get Robin and her friends together to fix things in what looks like a bit of a metroidvania side-scrolling action-adventure with a Metal Slug-y vibe to the art.
Iconoclasts is a fine game, offering both satisfyingly sharp platforming and shooting, and some really smart puzzles. It’s enormous too, packed with secret areas and other stuff to discover. And although I found the humour a little glib and childish at times, it tells its heartfelt story well. A lot of Metroidvania games go for a bleak, downbeat atmosphere, but Iconoclasts is infectiously vibrant and sunny, even if the story does occasionally venture into dark territory.
Changhan Kim: There are a lot of different issues but everyone else that released a battle royale game mode made their own thing, but it was Epic Games that made this game that is similar to us that has similar elements, and that’s the concern, that it was Epic Games.
We use Unreal Engine to develop PUBG, and we pay a large amount of royalties based on the size of our success to Epic Games, and Epic Games always promoted their licensing models [saying] “We want to support the success indie developers”, and [Bluehole is] this indie developer that has been the most successful one using the Unreal Engine this year, and that’s the problem that I see.
I’ve also noticed the Link having a positive impact on my terrible attention span. When I’m playing at my desk I’m forever alt-tabbing to check Twitter or any number of stupid distractions. And I’ll usually last an hour in a game before quitting and doing something else. But camped out on the sofa, my attention doesn’t wander as much. I pay more attention to what I’m playing, and play it for longer, which is a discipline I thought I’d lost.
However someone who uses the C key to crouch is not welcome, and they do not deserve our respect. The C key is the bastion of fools, and as a community we need to shame its use.
I don’t disagree with his conclusions, it is uncomfortable to swap to the C key from WASD, and I’m probably going to configure more games to use the ctrl key for crouch as I have been one of those degenerates who goes with the default, but this is coming from someone using sentence case in the title of an article. Come on.