Article By: Michael Savich
Hello, Michael Savich here, a writer for the Goucher Eye. As the local cyber-hipster, I play a lot of smaller, quirky games that nevertheless deserve a shoutout. The idea here is that if you see a game that interests you, you should feel free to look it up online and read a full review from one of the major video game news outlets. Who knows? You might find a new favorite.
It’s been awhile since I’ve done one of these. In case you’ve forgotten, for these review roundups, I use a simplified rating system, that basically corresponds to how strongly I think you should check out the game in question.
- Green— A game that is fascinating, a title which deserves to be recognized.
- Yellow— Game isn’t broken, but it fails to stand out from the crowd for one reason or another.
- Red— Don’t buy this game. Don’t even look in its general direction. Avoid eye contact.
This time around, I wanted to do a focus on platformers. However, there have been so many great releases lately that this time around I’m doing a two-parter. Part two will be posted next week, so be sure to check in them for even more reviews!
Celeste (PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, Xbox One, Switch) $19.99
It is said that in the faraway land of Canada, there is a mountain that forces one to face their fears. In Celeste, you play as Madeline, a young woman who is determined to make this perilous climb, no matter what the cost. And it is perilous— on my way to the top of the game’s titular mountain, I died no less than 1015 times. But Celeste is such a joy to play that it didn’t bother me one bit.
The moves at your disposal are rather simple: you have your jump, your wall-jump, the ability to climb any surface (until you run out of stamina) and a midair dash. This small set of tools pair with the game’s demanding level design to create something that is beautiful in motion. What Celeste lacks in raw ambition (there is little in this game that hasn’t been done before) it more than makes up for with a near-flawless execution and a killer soundtrack. If you are a fan of challenging platformers, you owe it to yourself to make this climb.
Owlboy (PC, Mac, Linux, Switch) $25.99
While most platformers have you navigate from left to right, the world of Owlboy is surprisingly vertical in the layout. Thankfully, you play as Otus, a young owl gifted with the ability of flight. Unfortunately, Otus is not as gifted when it comes to combat, and must lug around one of his gun-toting pals if he wants to deal damage of any sort. The union of flight and gunning gives this otherwise Zelda-inspired game an infusion of twin-stick shooting action.
All that being said, the most striking thing about Owlboy is that throughout the 5-10 hour campaign, there doesn’t seem to be even a moment of filler. This game has been in development for 10 years(!!), and it seems a large part of that was figuring out what not to include. The end result is a compact game that is dripping with detail, from hilarious dialogue to a ridiculous number of animations, as well as a plethora of secret areas to uncover. Pair that with a story that is intriguing and at times subversive, and Owlboy has the trappings of a modern classic.
Dandara (PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, Xbox One, iOS, Android) $14.99
In Dandara, gravity is just a suggestion. Though the titular heroine can’t walk left or right, she can jump from floor to wall to ceiling, just about any kind of surface really, and adhere to it as if it were the ground. Moving through the world of Salt entails darting from surface to surface, pausing only to fire blasts of energy to keep the relentless enemies at bay. This control scheme was designed to work equally well with a touch screen or a controller, and indeed the game has launched simultaneously on just about every platform an impressive feat, to say the least.
The agnostic design of the terrain is both a blessing and a curse. At times the lack of gravity calls to mind the best moments of games like Super Mario Galaxy, with puzzles that involve riding spherical mechanisms or clambering across the underside of some terrain. However, the world can be a bit labyrinthine at times, and an abundance of one-way paths makes it very easy to waste time going in loops. This isn’t helped by a map that doesn’t provide you any indication which way is “up”, which is cute at first but gets old real fast. These quibbles aside, Dandara does prove this unorthodox control scheme can be just as versatile as the traditional “Metroidvania” games that inspired it.