|« Best Graphics||
|Biggest Surprise »|
It’s easy to write Souldiers off at first glance as your average, run-of-the-mill pixel-art Metroidvania. However, the game isn’t “average” by any stretch of the imaginiation. The combat-heavy romp is an extraordinary experience in just about every regard. Big chunks of its 40-hour campaign are buoyed up by its large cast and a surprisingly character-driven narrative. The world itself is a treat, as beautiful to behold as it is intriguing to explore, with gorgeous landscapes and market towns giving way to such eclectic stages as musty desert pyramids and sprawling extraterrestrial sky ships. The game’s three distinct character classes also lend it an impressive amount of replayability, as the scout, archer, and caster classes truly play quite differently from each other.
Sadly, upon release, Souldiers might have shot itself in the foot. Reports of its unforgiving difficulty quickly started mingling with players experiencing all manner of technical issues, from inconsequential stuff to larger, game-breaking issues. Word of mouth spreads fast, and those first impressions may have sealed the game’s fate for some. Fixes were slow in coming, even delaying our own review of the game for several months. Come they did, however, not only addressing glitches and performance issues but also implementing tweaks to make the hardcore more manageable. By then, however, many people had moved on, which is at least part of how it has become our most overlooked title of 2022.
The original River City Ransom, a beat-em-up with RPG elements, had a great cult following on the NES, and River City Girls 2 succeeds it by capturing that spirit in all the best ways with gorgeous pixel graphics and similar city traversal. The combat is fast-paced and fun, the RPG aspects include levelling up and buying new abilities to get stronger, and players can spend their money in various restaurants and binging on all sorts of food. Returning main characters Misako and Kyoko make the story a fun romp, and the game throws in several references to the original River City Ransom and Double Dragon. One of the best aspects in River City Girls 2 is the option to play co-op, which makes the game twice as enjoyable as it already is.
Jump Over the Age’s Citizen Sleeper has gotten some mentions around the gaming sphere, but it still hasn’t received the accolades commensurate with its quality. Every part of the deep space cyberpunk survival sim has been laser-cut to showcase the dangers of corporate excess, the value of community, and the survival strategies that connect them. The protagonist’s unique existence as an artificial worker created to circumvent human rights legislation leads them to conflicts that are simultaneously fantastical and distressingly everyday. The soundtrack by Amos Roddy is lonely, but welcoming — a perfect accompaniment for drifting through space on a precarious station filled with inscrutable AIs, cutthroat gangsters, and plain ol’ folks just trying to make it another day.
by Pascal Tekaia, Elmon Dean Todd, and Zach Welhouse