What game are you playing?

Funnily enough, I tend to argue Witcher 2 does Witchering really well - it doesn’t capture some of what Witcher 3 does well structurally (i.e. Geralt going around as a freelance monster hunter taking side quests), but it nails the preparation aspect from the books far better than 3 with how it implements the potions and meditation mechanics. It really feels like you have to know what you’re going up against (I vaguely recall an early quest in the first act involving finding a book to research the monster in question to find its vulnerabilities) and prep accordingly, with potions being something you apply before a fight during meditation and not something you spam in battle like in Witcher 3 (and IIRC Witcher 1, though it’s too long since I played that to be sure I’m remembering it right).

I have an amusing experience to relate: inspired by the world cup, I decided to pull Captain Tsubasa out of my backlog, which I recall Austin Walker mentioned some interesting narrative things at some point. I know nothing about the manga. But it sounded cool.

Late last night, I start the game and it drops you straight into a match with no context, just a brief cutscene. okay, I can roll with in media res. However, I’m not sure how to play. there’s no tutorial, just a few brief popups about controls. I’m playing this with my Xbox Adaptive Controller, which adds an extra layer with discovering the controls. I should add I don’t actually follow soccer or anything, I barely know the rules.

After quite a lot of struggling, I’m down 0-7 and I’ve probably spent about 45 minutes flipping back and forth from pictures of Switch/PlayStation control schemes, trying to map them to XAC, and the game. I’m thinking, “wow this game is really tough, maybe I need to score at least one goal and it will put me in a tutorial?” more struggling and then some breakthroughs, I learn how to dodge while dribbling the ball to retain possession. then I learn how to charge a shot while getting close to the goal, and finally managed to score one or two. at this point I had to restart the game to get back to the options screen and look at the controls in order to remap to my XAC.

I start the game again and it puts me back to this same match. still no tutorial to be found, after scouring the main menu. but I’ve got a better handle on the controls, and it feels more like I’m playing the game. at this point it’s after 1AM. but I kind of want to see it through and figure out how this game starts? so I push through and it’s a real back and forth, I’m scoring goals and so is the computer. we’re like neck and neck for a while, but I found one of the offensive players whose special moves feel easier to use, and I’m able to start racking up more points. at this point I’m starting to wonder how long a soccer match is… the score is something like 10-7. I’ve unlocked 5 achievements in this process. it’s around 2AM, and I rarely stay up this late these days. I’m honestly slightly delirious.

Finally I decide to alt tab and search for an explanation of what I’m supposed to be doing here, and discovered people talking about this as a bug. there’s a negative steam review from earlier this week with 5 hours clocked mentioning they can’t progress after scoring 25 goals. I turned the game off and went to sleep.

Early this morning I was kind of disappointed, because I’d actually started to enjoy it. So I did some more searching, and find a comment mentioning turning OFF game assists in the menu. I immediately booted the game up, try this, and discover the same match but this time with a hand holding tutorial that ends the match as soon as you score a single goal with the eponymous Captain. It takes all of 30 seconds. Mini dialogue scene, and then a full blown menu screen with another tutorial.

I don’t think I’ve encountered a bug this weird or bad in a while. But anyway, game seems neat, I guess I’ll play more this weekend

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Pentiment. Truly a narrative banger as foretold. It’s going to be sitting with me for a long while, and I’d have a hard time picking between it and Citizen Sleeper for my GOTY.

I had figured out much of the final twist by Act III and was just waiting for the font change, but when it hit, chef’s kiss

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Been playing through Pentiment as well and enjoying it, but quick question for other controller users: How do I “click” the red text that’s spoken? I like using controllers more than mouse/keyboard, but haven’t been able to sort that one out & I’m worried about missing context :grimacing:

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On an Xbox controller, I believe it’s bound to the view/screenshare button. Though I rebinded it to B because it was a pain having to click that button in the middle of every dialogue.

But just in case this makes you stumble too, something that confused me for a bit in the game - the only text you can ‘click’ at all is anything with a red underline. People’s names, places, certain holidays or book titles or laws. If only the text itself is red, I think that’s just to emphasize either prayer or blasphemy (since the only words that get this treatment are the names of saints, God, Christ, etc.). Wish it were a different colour, tbh.

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Insurgency: Sandstorm is on Game Pass, and it’s one of those tacticool shooters that I could never really justify purchasing on its own, but now it’s available to download I’ve spent a couple of torrid afternoons with the thing.

Insurgency splits the difference between a milsim and something like Call of Duty in an odd way that I don’t quite gel with. On the one hand, it has an extremely robust set of weapons with authentic handling models, a punishing player damage model, and deliberate movement. On the other, the maps and game modes don’t really take advantage of the unique qualities of the game they’re in.

A lot of the maps and modes wouldn’t feel out of place in Call of Duty, and even the no-respawn modes don’t feel as punishing as something like Counterstrike.

I must stress that it’s all decent enough fun. It’s definitely hard to go back to even low TTK shooters when you can run around these maps with a G3 on semi-auto that will punch through heavy armour. That increased lethality could create an intense atmosphere, even in the respawn modes, but it just doesn’t. I think I may have been spoiled by the couple of months I spent with Hell Let Loose, a game where you can spent 25 minutes shooting into a hedge and that’s tactically valuable.

Hell Let Loose really is my watermark for these types of games. These types of systems and mechanics just aren’t that interesting without the verisimilitude of conflict-appropriate maps and objective design to back them up.

Maybe Insurgency is just not that game and I should be playing Squad instead. I want a military shooter that scares the shit of me, but doesn’t require me to brush the dust off my orienteering skills. Is that too much to ask?

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…I played the entire game without knowing you could check underlined text directly (rather than looking it up in the glossary)

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Thank you for the info!! I caught on to the God/Christ/etc style text, but recently saw some new colored text and was a bit confused by that. Great to know!

I also think I’m playing this at a uhh much slower pace than intended. I’m about 4 or 5 hours in and only just now hit the plot point that someone described in the podcast as the obvious “very early” conflict… maybe I’ll stop checking every inch of the map each time the day changes!

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My partner and I played it more like that and wound up something like double the hour count on How Long to Beat. Without getting into anything specific, there’s often one or two easily missed conversations if you don’t do that run around. Some just seem to be flavour, some trigger “side quests” or important, yet optional, character development.

Editing to add: I think you can totally, viably play the game using the map markers to hit your objectives instead of scouring every inch of the map whenever possible, but just confirming you’re not totally wasting your time choosing to do the latter rather than the former!

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[Warning: I am about to engage in the demonstrably pointless pursuit of writing about the story in Pokemon games.]

Pokémon Violet’s final act is something I can describe only as Extremely Cool Anime Bullshit of the highest level. It’s genuinely arresting how good it is. I don’t have to put the old “it’s a good story for a Pokemon game” qualifier in front of it like I usually do for the previous “good” stories in the series. No, I would like to submit these games for your consideration among this year’s Narrative Bangers. Because while it doesn’t do anything particularly interesting with the form or anything like that, they managed to write a Pokémon game that ended with me shouting joyful obscenities at my TV screen as a series of wild twists and final reveals all came together into a rockin’ episode of a cool setpiece science-fiction anime. I truly did not think it was possible.

And listen, I understand that I am the only person in the world who cares This Much about the stories in Pokemon games. I can’t help it. As a player of games, my Things are, in order, video game narratives and Pokemon. Everything follows from those two poles. Normally it just means frequent disappointment with occasional moments of surprise (Gen V), or genuine joy (Gen VII, PMD) when they write something that, at least, is cohesive and makes me feel things. There are some inherent problems with fitting a narrative into a Pokemon game — because they were always linear, and the villainous team storyline just never fit with the main character’s storyline, and they just never got any of that right.

But it turns out, all they had to do was make it an open-world game you could go through in any order and then bring everything together at the end. That was all it took.

Final act spoilers, if you care about that sort of thing

Area Zero feels like a Nier Automata zone. The atmosphere of that place is like nothing Pokemon has managed to pull off since the Distortion World in Platinum — but it’s better, because it’s an actual area and not just a shallow series of traversal puzzles. And the little crew of pals you explore it with gives the sequence a lot of life — their banter feels real and genuine, like a group of people with very different personalities quickly becoming friends.

Speaking of which, the characters in this game! I love them. Nemona and Arven are easily the most developed a rival character in these games have ever been — they feel like iterations on Hau and Gladion from Sun/Moon, but with more dimension to their personas. And Penny rules. I guessed pretty early who she really was — the Team Star quest was pretty predictable — but it was such a funny and emotionally satisfying arc that that just made it better. When she sends out an Umbreon in her battle, I kinda looked at the game for a second wondering “are they actually going to give this girl a full Eeveelution team” — and of course they did.

That’s really it, I think. A lot of the final act of this game just feels like the writers winking at the camera and going “we know what you want and we’re going to give it to you.” And it works! The twist with Turo, the descent into Area Zero, the revelation about why your legendary pal doesn’t want to fight, the sheer setpiece spectacle of the AI Turo battle, and then! And then! The “Paradise Protocol” battle that sends out the other Miraidon/Koraidon, and, rather than putting it all in a cutscene, lets you navigate to your team and pick that “swap in” option with your own. I don’t know what else to say! It’s like the end of X&Y and the end of Sun/Moon got woven together into something that just works. It rocks!

The one thing I can say, that I have been saying from the start, is that the soundtrack really does tie everything together. Pokémon soundtracks always kick ass but this one is on another level. The Team Star themes are packed with escalating feeling and emotion, the area themes are all very atmospheric and give the different sections of this huge region their own distinct vibe, and each unique battle theme gives each character so much of their personality. My Narrative Banger comment is maybe a little facetious, but I do actually think the way S/V’s soundtrack contributes to all its narrative beats is worthy of a lot of love. At the very least, this is Pokémon’s narrative banger.

So, anyway, I take back what I said before, about this being a promising, incremental step for the series. These are probably the best Pokemon games GF has made. The only argument otherwise is performance-based — which is a real problem, but, in the end, kinda just pales in comparison to how fucking good these games are. I genuinely may do what I used to do as a teenager with unlimited time on my hands, which is buy the other one and play it all again.

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I’m not quite as effusive in my praise of Scarlet’s story as @diglett, but by the generally low standards of Pokemon stories, Scarlet and Violet actually have a tale to tell (even if they save most of the juice for the final act). I rolled credits on it…Friday, I think. It’s still Pokemon. I love it.

The “raid” mechanic for this game (four Trainers take on a super-powerful Pokemon, like the last game) goes about as well as you might expect when you’re playing a game with potentially young kids who don’t have the type chart memorized, but sometimes your tiny little fairy with a 220 pound (100 kg) hammer lays the smackdown on a 6’7" rock t-rex and all is right with the world.

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Spent the day searching out the overworld legendary quartet in Violet and just had to come back and say that these designs absolutely rock too. I enjoyed the Tapu quartet from Sun and Moon, but those designs (as with a lot of the Ultra Beasts) seemed a bit far from the vibe that Pokémon generally goes for. I think that was intentional there, and it worked with what those games did, but these are a really good middle ground between making these kinds of unique, evocative, menacing beasts, while still making them feel like the specific kind of creature that Pokémon usually are. Like they’re all animals of a sort, but there’s something eerie and odd about each one, whether it’s my personal favorite, the snow leopard with swords for teeth, the little goldfish that is also basically a full-on volcano, the stone bull with a big cauldron on its head, or the extremely eerie vegetation/rot snail.

Also, they’re all dark types! Over nine generations there has been literally one dark-type, non-event legendary (that being Yveltal, which is probably my favorite legendary design in the whole series). Two if you want to count Darkrai, since while it was an event 'mon in the games it’s probably as iconic to a general fan as anything else from Gen IV. In any case, they basically doubled the amount of dark-type legendaries in one generation, and they all rule. Their theme is great too, makes the battles with each of them very creepy and intimidating, especially if you find them blind.

As I type this, I realize we don’t actually have a thread for these games, so I may just go make one tomorrow so I can stop spamming this thread with thoughts.

We finishing games over here! In addition to hitting potential GOTY contenders like Pentiment before the year is out, I’ve been taking advantage of the winter lull in work and trying to cross games off my backlog. Over the last couple of weeks I finally finished Horizon: Forbidden West and Marvel’s Spider-Man.

With Forbidden West, I did my typical “I’m going to replay the original before the sequel, then get tired of the sequel halfway through because it’s too similar”. And in Forbidden West’s case, too long. The six month break I took probably dented my overall impressions of the game because if nothing else it totally interrupted the flow of the story, but I’m definitely cooler on this one than Zero Dawn – a game which remains a high point for me from last gen. I’ll talk anyone’s ear off about how the “what happened in the past” storyline in that game is an all-time bit of sci-fi storytelling, one which hit just as hard when I replayed it.

I don’t think a sequel was a doomed idea: I was also much higher on the ‘contemporary’ setting of Zero Dawn and thought there was a lot to explore in Aloy’s world even if the central mystery had been solved. I think Forbidden West kinda delivers on that, doing cool stuff like rehabilitating the game’s own definition of the Tenakth tribe, who were ‘savage cannibals’ in Zero Dawn… which turns out to be a racist caricature shared by the Carja, that game’s ruling empire.

I’m less sure about the new mystery and how it handles what turns out to be the game’s antagonists. Big ol’ spoilers behind the break:

Forbidden West Antagonist/Big Reveal thoughts. Spoilers!

While Zero Dawn absolutely primed the setting for both the Odyssey space mission and life extension treatments for the ultra wealthy (even late in that game, Sylens is keeping an open mind that Lisbet could still be alive), it’s a fucking wild development to have a bunch of immortal billionaires show up from another solar system. I still can’t decide if it’s handled well or not, but even aside from that, I think I have a weird meta thing about how much I enjoyed this being a story about people who do not have a connection to the pre-apocalyptic past. Ted Faro destroying the Apollo database and erasing human history was still somehow one of his greater crimes despite also erasing life on earth, but the way Forbidden West reintroduces so many ancient actors into the setting feels like it threatens to take the story in the direction of “how do we restore the past” rather than “how do we live in the future”.

I don’t hate Aloy as a character by any means, but it doesn’t help that she constantly patronises the various tribes she runs into with this “I know better than you” attitude. ‘Oh, you think your fields are fertile because you worship the Land Gods? No bro they’re just ploughing machines.’ With FW folding more and more characters into the category of ‘people who understand the past and the machine world’, there’s a lot riding on how it handles them interacting with the tribal characters who don’t have that information. Both “we have to re-educate everyone” and “there’s something magical about this primitive way of life” are fraught with issues so it’s an increasingly difficult line they’re going to have to walk.

Quick Forbidden West weapon wheel rant. No spoilers.

While I’m here? I hope to hell they re-imagine how these games handle inventory and weapons. All the God of War gear system discourse was front of mind as I came back to Forbidden West and boy, it really makes God of War’s system look flawless. A million bows, outfits, upgrades, all of which offer barely perceptible percentage based stat differences and a constant grind for materials to craft them – but the worst offender has to be the weapon wheel. Rather than just unlocking different ammo types for your bow or even bow type, Horizon insists on tying ammo types to specific weapons, resulting in tons of redundancy. If you want to make sure you have ready access to, say, regular, fire, and ice arrows, that might be spread across three bows, all of which have regular arrows in addition to their specialities. This was also a problem in Zero Dawn but is exacerbated by FW adding multiple new ammo types. By the end of the game most weapons have three ammo slots, you can carry six weapons, so I had like 18 increasingly tiny segments on my weapon wheel in which to try and juggle access to as many damage types as possible with as little redundancy as I could pull off. Truly a nightmare system.

I also beat Spider-Man! This one I last played in January so the gap was even longer, but that wasn’t even my first attempt at playing it - I had a go back in late 2018 or early 2019 and kinda bounced off it. I feel like a lot of people really loved this and I just didn’t quite see it. It’s a very good take on Peter Parker/Spider-Man, I enjoy how it’s pulling from the ‘older Peter’ you see in comics but hardly ever on screen, but I kept finding it becoming repetitive no matter how fun swinging around the city was. Throw in the fumbled cop/prisoner/private military corp stuff and I just kept cooling on it, but the late game prisoner takeover of New York really took the wind out of my sails earlier in the year and I fell off it. I don’t need the media I enjoy to exactly match my politics, there are plenty of problematic police procedurals and thinly veiled examples of military propaganda I can absolutely enjoy, but something about the way this Spider-Man handles all that just failed to sit right with me.

Still, it’s the holiday season, and I remembered I’d been planning on playing the seasonally-set Miles Morales game and I wanted to catch up… which wasn’t too hard because I only had a couple of hours left in the story, once I got a grip on the controls again. I think it somewhat comes together again for the finale, and I’m now playing the DLC before making the jump to the next game.

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After the first (half?) hour of Callisto Protocol nearly making me swear it off as a 4/10 miserable mess with misleadingly interesting intro (and prologue podcast?), suddenly the game became a more palatable 6/10 as it hit the second act, then a 6.5 or even 7 particularly in the Mine section, then back to a 6 when the big bad + ending turned out to be jugheaded corny sequel/DLC bait right out of a forgotten 7th gen AAA game. Somewhere between RAGE 1 and Prototype’s ending.

I don’t think about most games in number score terms very often, but something about this game made it impossible not to.

Still, lot of people say it falls apart by the last few levels, but besides the ending it was still leagues better than the glacial vapidity of the first act’s impression. Even the wheelspinning story just maintained the same level of triteness as any other sci fi game I’ve played with aimless tropey writing, just with mercifully shorter cutscenes than that often comes with. Guess it’s just been a while since we’ve had one of those.

All in all, an uneven 6/10 average with zero post-game content (some will get patched in nearly 3 months from now, lol) and best played on Easy, because the unclear balancing and bizarre expectations of the janky combat work better on Easy. Seemingly so much better that I thought (at its best) it felt like PS2 era light genre experimentation with decently readable animation priority, while many other people feel it becomes a broken unmanageable mess. Still, at the end of the day it’s a technically impressive mediocre game with above average sections and untapped potential.

…And I’m now on my second playthrough, this time on Hard, and having a blast breaking shit after learning how to cheese every mechanic. I telekinesis’d the second enemy type out of its jumpscare-and-despawn intro, melee juggled em up and made em crispy.

After struggling to find the motivation to pick it back up for most of a week, this is all I’ve played or wanted to play in the past two days.

I blame this on three things:

  1. Starving for fresh exorbitantly budgeted third person action horror. Even a middling entry in a fresh IP hasn’t happened in a long time.
  2. I’m Canadian, and Canadians are programmed by the state to enjoy questionably produced mid science fiction and media in general with profoundly pedestrian writing.
  3. For a sense of my replay value barometer, the game i’ve played through the most times in a short timespan next to Dead Space 1 is… Fable 3.

Recency bias and a short, potentially <6 hour completion time sure can stir up inexplicable hyperfixation even this much later in life I guess.

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Thoughts on Spiderman’s story:

I thought the writing on that game was weirdly inconsistent. When it’s good it’s great- I thought the whole Dr Otto arc was great. I loved how they played with what the player knew vs what Peter knew, and the performances were top notch. Norman Osbourne is great here as well, and I thought the sequel set-up stuff was fun.

Most of the rest of it just sets up something interesting and doesn’t even really try to pay it off. The Mister Negative arc is set up around a contrast with May, who is the person closest to Li and that results in… literally nothing. So May’s death is only for a cheap moral dilemma which isn’t set up or foreshadowed at all. MJ wants to be an equal partner to Peter- given her burgeoning career success this could have gone places, but apparently all she wants is to put herself in mortal danger without Peter getting worried, because that’s the way she feels equal to a guy who can survive being thrown through a building.

I’m not the biggest comic nerd, but I thought one of the neat things about Miles was that he didn’t come from direct tragedy, and that he had parents to provide emotional support and conflict both. If you change the character by killing his dad you better have something to say, and maybe it does in his own game? Here it once again feels cheap, and takes something that makes Miles stand apart.

A little ranty, but the game was so good in so many ways that it makes the flaws that much brighter.

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Mostly agree with your takes! I was more positive on the handling of MJ, but until you mentioned it I literally forgot they killed off Aunt May, and not because it happened in January or something – I played that segment like three days ago. Otto/Ock was pretty good (though it ventures into territory a lot of superhero/villain stuff veers into with the ‘disability/disease/infirmity leads to villainy’ facets of that arc) and I’m interested in what they do with a presumable future Goblin arc. Miles I don’t have the deepest take on; like you, I’m kinda waiting to see what his own game does with his story. I did actually read the original Ultimate Spider-Man comics where he’s introduced but that was so long ago I have zero memory of the details, but I thought Into the Spider-Verse incorporated elements of the ‘Spider-Man tragedy’ into his backstory in a way that felt like it echoed Peter Parker’s journey without just being a knockoff. So, I’m not dead set against the way they’ve done it here, but I hope they pay it off by giving him his due in the spin-off/sequel.

:100:

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I bought Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure All Star Battle R and I kinda regret it.

I’m going to preface this with this review I found on Steam:

If you are a Jojo fan, It is worth it, But if you’re a fighting game player, This one is definitely Garbage.

This game is fun from a fan perspective but it feels like you are fighting in a swamp. I think everything but the fighting in this game is great. The combos are ridiculously simple to a fault where you accidentally burn meter because it’s just spam punch when you have meter. Input feels so slow and it’s easy to get frustrated against some of the AI.

Jojo’s needs it’s Digimon Rumble Arena aka a platform fighter that’s serviceable and fun to play with friends with a few drinks but no one is taking serious the balance. Jojo’s characters are doing all sorts goofy stuff with stands and harmon that it would fit so well in a PS2 era platform fighter.

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I grabbed the Eyes of Heaven game for like $10 on a PlayStation sale and felt basically the same about that one, too. The JoJo’s fan in me enjoyed the little bits of unique dialogue and special moves that came from odd team battle pairings. DIO and Dio Brando are one of the funniest fighting game teams I’ve seen, but it wasn’t exactly… fun or good to play. :sweat_smile:

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So, I decided that I should probably play Pentiment before we start the end of year review period here, just so I have a chance of having a game from 2022 to talk about.

So far, about halfway through the first day, I’m almost sold on things. There’s some interesting interface things - the game revealing to me that the script/font used for each character reflects Andreas’ view of their social position, not their “actual” position, by changing the font for one character mid-conversation as Andreas re-evaluates them was good - but I’m already feeling like some of these same interface flourishes might drag over time. I also have terrible anxiety about what things make time pass and what things don’t - I think that maybe just objectives do that and I can do anything I want as long as the objective happens, but…

Also, I can already see that some people are going to whine about some topics being discussed in a “too modern way”, even though I know enough about the period to know that it’s all pretty historically accurate so far.

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Longer post on Dark Souls 3 coming soon but as the year winds down I wanted to jump on here and give a strong recommendation for We Are OFK. The game got a pretty lukewarm reception I believe but I’ve found it to be one of the most well written, funny, and moving games I’ve played in ages. I still have one episode to go, but even if it doesn’t nail the ending its worth playing for eps 1 - 4.

The characters in this game feel and act like real people in a way I’ve rarely seen in a game. They’re funny in the way a group of friends is funny with in jokes and call backs that spring from lived experiences. They can act selfishly and ignorantly but it never feels calculated or singularly defining. And they have relationships outside of the core group of four with their own histories. oh also the music is fantastic throughout.

If any of this sounds appealing and you’re a fan of narrative / music games in general I highly suggest giving it a shot. Its also short, just over 5 hours split into episodes with displayed lengths and built in breaks. I’m gonna wrap it up tonight and will post some final thoughts next week on the ending!

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