Another year, another game of the month. Well, folks, the good news is that this year has nowhere to go but up. While it’s never good when a game we scored a 3.5/5 makes the cut, it’s not like January was all, bad. A few indie surprised popped up to wash away our post-Christmas binge and even a PSP game was in the mix. By far the game that held our (and by “our” we mean Geoff Thew) attention (and by “attention” we mean we mean “every waking moment”) the most, however, was HuniePop. Oh how HuniePop delighted with its great mix of puzzles. Yes, puzzles and nothing else.
Dying Light isn’t the game to end all games, but it’s a solid offering from Techland and WB Games. Combining the deadly combination of zombies and parkour leads to some tense and interesting chase sequences, with Harran’s open world feeling like it was built around player traversal first. Dying Light hits its highest highs during its spectacular side missions, which feature miniature narratives that show the incredible potential its world had. While that potential wasn’t reached (Dying Light is certainly not without its problems), we finally know what a zombie version of Far Cry would look like. You hear that, Ubisoft? Now you can take zombies off of your fan surveys.
HuniePop has flawless curves that make things get harder and harder as time goes on. We’re referring to the difficulty of its puzzle segments, of course. Puzzles are pretty much the only reason to play HuniePop, after all – we certainly didn’t get anything else out of the game – and thankfully, its match-three gameplay is deep and complex enough to sustain you for hours on end (or at least upwards of 20 minutes). With clear, well-crafted UI, it looks as good as anything from PopCap or King, too. There’s some other art in the game as well, and it probably looks nice, but we… uh… we couldn’t tell you. We haven’t looked at it. Yeah.
If you’ve never played a Hyperdimension Neptunia game before then the fact that there’s so many titles in the series, not to mention these more recent remakes, might seem a bit ridiculous. It’s only once you play them that the realization of how goofily endearing each entry is reveals itself. Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 2 on Vita may be the best way to jump in as it’s both a lovely remake and something that’s easy to play in short bursts. The storyline revolves around Gamindustri, a world where everyone loves games and each video game company has cute mascots to represent consoles. Unfortunately, these mascots have been held captive by an evil game piracy group and it’s up to the little sisters of each mascot to save them. It’s an incredibly silly concept that is fully explored through a lighthearted, enjoyable narrative. And, yeah, the actual mechanics of battles and dungeon crawling are great too. There’s a good amount of strategic thinking required to defeat towering bosses and make your way through to the conclusion.
It’s hard to say what’s more of a throwback – Brandish: The Dark Revenant’s hardcore dungeon-crawling gameplay, or the fact that it was released on the PSP in 2015. In either category, though, it represents the best the game industry has to offer – a challenging, methodical game with a level structure perfectly suited to portable play. Nihon Falcom’s signature charm shines through here as brightly as it does in any Ys or Legend of Heroes game. If you’re the sort who aims to explore every nook and cranny of a dungeon in your search for loot, Brandish will keep you enthralled straight up to its pulse-pounding conclusion.
Citizens of Earth might not be a perfect spiritual successor to Earthbound, but it’s a good-looking, charming and hilarious second-runner – not unlike its naïve protagonist the Vice President of Earth. It differs from its bumbling hero in that it is surprisingly smart, with a cavernously deep battle system that allows plenty of room for experimentation. Every NPC in the game is either a recruitable party member or an enemy (if not both) and you can spend hours just traveling around and completing quests to enlist new citizens. Even if they don’t have names beyond their professions, each and every character has a strong, likeable personality, including the outlandish enemies.
As an added bonus, our editors named their personal favorites:
- Steve: Citizens of Earth
- Matt: Dying Light
- Jahanzeb: #IDARB
- Lee: Dying Light
- Beck: Dying Light
- Geoff: Brandish: The Dark Revenant
- Bradly: Brandish: The Dark Revenant
- Jake: Citizens of Earth
- Alex: Saints Row: Gat out of Hell
- Dermot: Gunman Clive 2