Following on from the ranking of the games I played in Q1 2021, here is my list. I’ve started slowly working through trying to play every single Sonic game, and I got an Xbox Series S in this period as well.
I also played a fair amount of demos from the Xbox Summer Fest, which you can read about here. As these are not full games, I won’t be including them in these rankings.
35. The Witness (PS4, via Play at Home)
A puzzle game with an interesting concept where figuring out the logic behind a puzzle is important to figuring out – the game doesn’t tell you, just displays symbols. The “puzzles” are a series of lines and you have to trace a pattern from beginning to end, following the rules of the puzzle if you have figured out what they are. These puzzles are found dotted throughout a lovely looking island.
Unfortunately, some of the puzzles have an artificially increased difficulty by simply making them difficult to see (especially some of the final ones), and these are not fun at all. Combined with this are large issues with contrast, colour and audio perception.
Lots of colours have black dots on the path, however as the puzzles are in various forms of light, different colours and sometimes issues like in-game glare, the black dot will be on a very dark path and are almost impossible for me to see. Some puzzles also require working things out in relation to colour, with some poor colour choices that make it impossible for colourblind people. There are no accessibility options whatsoever. An option to show numbers (or lines doing different ways) in different colours would completely solve this.
This meant I had to keep a guide handy for when I met a puzzle that I couldn’t see properly, partly because the game focuses too much on looking nice than it does on being able to be perceived correctly.
34. Sonic Labyrinth (GameGear, via Emulator)
An isometric maze/platform game made for the Game Gear and it’s quite poor. The object of the game is to find three keys hidden in the level and then make your way though the exit. With it being isometric, is means that the entire game is spent going diagonally, which D-pads weren’t designed to do constantly. Your one move is a spin dash, where you charge up for a more powerful one.
After three acts, you fight a boss which involves avoiding attacks and then spin dashing into. It’s a fairly short game, but some levels are confusing and involve doors that connect to each other differently (so come out of one and go back and you’ll be somewhere else).
33. The Falconeer (Xbox Series S, via Xbox Games Pass)
A flight combat game where you fly a giant Falcon. And it’s just really tedious. Controls feel wonky and unresponsive and the combat is simple to the point it’s not fun. You have a standard gun and a missile type thing which is just “press Y to hit a few random nearby targets”. There’s no exciting chases to get a lock-on for missiles like most games of this type, and there’s no melee attack utilising the massive talons of the falcon.
This is also an open world game, where you fly between small islands and shoot stuff. Most of the open world is ocean and the only interesting feature on the map is a sort of “canyon” in the water (which they call “the maw” and nobody knows why it exists). There’s no interesting set pieces or mission variety (the most interesting thing I experienced was one mission where you had to wait for two people to fight before joining in, but it just meant twiddling your thumbs for 5 minutes).
The story is fairly light, you pick a character out of a bunch of options, but you have to do this for each chapter, as each chapter follows a different faction. It’s difficult to get invested when your generic chosen character gets replaced – and especially as chapters and with a mission where you face an unbeatable enemy and it doesn’t finish until you die. And because you only ever see people on the giant birds, there’s no sense of scale – it comes across as tiny people riding regular birds.
32. Totally Reliable Delivery Service (Xbox Series S, via Game Pass)
Me and my fiancée enjoy silly co-op games with crazy physics, but this one just didn’t click with me at all. The “bad” physics in it just feel like broken, badly coded physics and not the “silly fun” type of games like Human: Fall Flat. Driving was not fun at all, and the actually delivery part of it just felt annoying, like it just got in the way of messing around.
There was some enjoyment from how bad and broken the game felt, but it was more laughing at the game and not the same kind of fun of other games in this genre.
31. Knack (PS4, via PS Now)
The gameplay feels like a NES-era game, but for all the wrong reasons. Your attacks feel delayed, there is a notable period of time when you can’t move after a dodge and the homing attack knocks you back and stops you doing anything for ages, couple this with enemies that can kill you in a couple of hits and it’s just frustrating, most deaths feel like they’re not your fault and some of the checkpointing means you’ll have to re-do fights constantly. The one good thing about combat is a good variety of enemies, but a fair few will probably kill you straight away and a few times until you figure out their trick (which doesn’t feel satisfying, just makes the whole game feel like you’re just re-doing the same segment over and over with the hope of getting lucky.
Everything outside of combat is very basic. There’s some simple platforming, although with some very bad camera angles at the time. Knack will sometimes do the platforming in a little cutscene, which feels very pointless and means that some of the coolest moments are when you’re not actually doing them (this is the same for bosses). There are some “puzzles”, if you can call them puzzles, and exploration to find hidden stuff by smashing similar-looking holes in walls.
The main mechanic – Knack collecting more relics and getting bigger – is extremely underutilised and is not a gameplay mechanic in the slightest. Sometimes relics will make you slightly bigger, sometimes they’ll just fill your health and sometimes they’ll cause a big increase. You have very little control over your size, it’s all entirely down to what the level designers wanted you to be at that stage. This takes all the enjoyment out of the idea as it doesn’t feel earnt, and then Knack will choose to get rid of parts in cutscenes and between levels (leaving behind a heap of these supposedly powerful objects behind as though they are meaningless). There are sections where you can absorb other items (like ice), but again, this is entirely when the game wants you to. There’s no choosing some over the other, mixing types or anything like that, it just seems like a completely wasted idea.
It’s kind of fascinating, because it’s an absolutely terrible game, but is technically well made.