I picked up the game Night Trap: 25th Anniversary Edition pretty much on a whim when it was on sale on the Switch eShop. I was intrigued by its use of video and its reputation as being something of a cult classic, so I decided to check it out despite its mixed reception.

I didn't really know anything about the game other than a little bit about how it stirred up a lot of controversy on its release, apparently for "promoting gratuitous violence and sexual aggression against women". It turns out the game is a campy take on a horror B movie and features nubile teenage girls looking forward to a fun weekend in a house with many secrets. The gameplay itself is very similar to the Five Nights at Freddy's game in that you're tasked with monitoring an array of video cameras and you have to press a button at the right time to trap baddies who pop up all around the house. I found the game to be good fun, and from today's perspective everything is so cheesy and the violence is so cartoony that it's hard to imagine how it could have traumatized any video game playing children of the time of its release in 1992 on Sega CD. In terms of beating the game you basically have to memorize (or take notes about) which locations baddies appear at and at which times, and there are certain key moments you have to catch where the characters converse about changing the active color code of the alarm system.

Apparently there are quite a few endings, and this special edition has an array of unlockables based on getting all the endings and triggering other specific events in the game. I didn't bother with any of that, and completing the game will take you at least several playthroughs. A full playthrough only takes about half an hour, and beating the game should only take you a few hours. You'll get a game over if you let too many baddies slip by or if you fail to save any of the characters, but the game has a handy restart system if you get about halfway through. Since you're only catching snatches of dialogue here and there, even when you're forced to restart the experience is a little different every time since you're focusing your attention on different parts of the house all the time.

Overall I actually enjoyed the game, although the "young teenage girls as victims" trope is somewhat problematic in this day and age (although to be fair, there are a couple of male victims thrown in the mix as well, and we're left to assume that the majority of the baddies you're tasked with defeating are male). The gameplay is novel and the story has some funny twists, and the game doesn't overstay its welcome (it also features a banger of a theme song, haha). I kind of like campy B movie stuff and don't mind simplistic gameplay, but more demanding gamers will probably want to skip this one.

It looks like I was a slacker and didn't blog about a Dance Dance Revolution game in 2020. In the past few years I've been skipping around the series and after playing 2005's Dance Dance Revolution Extreme 2 I'd skipped ahead to the 2007 release, Dance Dance Revolution Hottest Party on Wii and two September 2008 releases, Dance Dance Revolution Hottest Party 2 (also on Wii) and Dance Dance Revolution: Disney Channel Edition. This time around I went back to the game after DDR Extreme 2, which was Dance Dance Revolution SuperNova, on PS2.

As usual, the differences to the core gameplay are minor to all but the most diehard DDR players. The mission mode has a different setup than in the DDR Extreme games. Rather than select missions to tackle, instead you navigate through a series of planets. On each planet you're given a set of songs and a set of missions that you can tackle in any order (e.g. "Complete 4 songs on the Beginner difficulty level with an A or higher"), some of which overlap. After you complete a certain number of them you unlock the "Showdown", a series of four or five short challenges, of which you have to pass a certain number of them to receive a "VIP Card". A VIP Card will unlock the next planet, and the mode continues in the same way. There also EX Showdowns and Diamond EX Showdowns that are unlocked when you complete more missions on a particular planet. I didn't spend much time trying to be a completist in this mode and have pretty much just done the minimum required to progress to the next planet. The tracklisting is pretty much par for the course, and when you encounter songs in this mode you unlock the opportunity to buy them in the in-game shop with points you earn playing through songs. This shop also includes other miscellaneous aesthetic bonuses, such as characters and differently shaped arrows.

It's a bit sad to think I'm starting to run out of DDR games to play, especially considering that it's been a decade since they've released a new version for consoles. Still, I'm not sure I'd ever be able to be skilled and athletic enough to 100% any single entry anyway, so I'm sure there's plenty more gameplay to be had from DDR games I've already played. As for what I'll tackle next, I'll probably go back to one of the Wii games I haven't played through yet before coming back to DDR SuperNova 2.

I spent a ridiculous amount of time trying out every feature in Pokemon Y a while back, so when Pokémon Sun came out I wasn't in a big rush to get it. Eventually I did, and it's taken me more than four years to finally finish the main story. Even though critics raved about the games I found the updates to be incredibly minor. The Pokemon games aren't known for being super innovative from generation to generation, but as with my playthrough of Pokémon Pearl I found Pokémon Sun to be an utter snoozefest (on more than one occasional it literally put me to sleep!).

It's a little difficult to pinpoint exactly what makes Pearl and Sun so dull compared to other iterations, such as Black and White and X/Y. I think part of it is is that there weren't that many new Pokemon (only 81 apparently). Introducing Alolan forms of Gen 1 'mon was a lot of fun, and I also liked that a lot of the new Pokemon had unique dual typing, but the story bored me to tears, and trials pretty much just felt like regular gyms. Looking over the list of new features the games included there's nothing much that grabbed me, except the stuff with the Ultra Beasts which had interesting-looking designs, but that's pretty much all in the post game.

I don't really have high hopes for Pokemon Sword and Shield, although the setting looks fun and it will be interesting to see how the series takes advantage of the added horsepower of being on a console rather than a handheld. I actually already started checking that out even before finishing Pokémon Sun, but I can't say I'm that eager to jump into more of the same old formula I've been playing for decades now.

I've really been getting through the Switch eShop games these days, ha. I'd enjoyed both Gunman Clive games on 3DS back in 2015, and so I was interested in the developer, Bertil Horberg's follow-up, Mechstermination Force. Horberg described the game as a combination of Shadow of the Colossus and the Contra games, and that description is spot on. Basically you're tasked with battling 14 bosses, many of whom you'll have to climb your way up to defeat.

I like the Contra games in general, but I'm not really too big a fan of boss fights, so I was already sort of only cautiously optimistc about the game. There's a lot to like about it. The hand-drawn aesthetic of the visuals are good, and all the familiar weapons from the Contra games are here. You have to earn enough of the in-game currency to unlock them and many of them aren't that useful, but once I'd unlocked the spread gun I was pretty happy to make that my default weapon. You cycle through the weapons with one button, which is a little awkward, but the shoulder buttons are needed in order to latch onto metal surfaces. Climbing works pretty well in general, but I found the jumping and running to be really floaty and too light. The weapons are fun, and even though the bosses are well designed in general, a lot of them just feel like generic giant humanoid or animal-inspired robots and don't have much personality. A notable exception is a trio of robots who gang up on you and who have much more entertaining attacks than the others. The music is a little on the bland side, and, also like the Contra series, I found the game dragged on when playing solo: the fights just end up taking too long. Co-op is another story, though, and with a buddy the game is way more fun, and it's easier to make progress. Rounding things off, there's a cute little Easter egg feature where you can romance the NPCs who hang around the central hub between missions, and to extend the game's longevity there are also 4 possible stars to earn for each battle (3 for target times, and 1 for getting through completely untouched).

For a lot of players the game will probably take you a few hours to get through, but I guess I've gotten soft in my old age because it took me a good while longer than that. Overall I enjoyed Mechstermination Force while it lasted, although I'm hoping Horberg is more on the level of the Gunman Clive games in terms of the fun factor.

I'm always on the lookout for great indie games, and The Gardens Between has been on my list of games to check out for a while. I'm not sure where I first heard about it, but I got it on Switch eShop and this has turned out to be one of my favorite games of the year thus far. The game's setup becomes apparent soon after you start playing. You play as two characters, a young boy and a young girl, and rather than control them directly most of the time you're just rewinding or fastforwarding time so that they move along predetermined paths. In each stage your goal is to climb the stage to carry a glowing orb to a stand at the top, and your actions are quite limited. You can rewind or fastforward or stop time, and you can also have the boy ring chimes you come across to cause certain stage elements to change, and you can have the girl set down or pick up the bag that holds the orb. The game is all about figuring out the right order of actions to get past the various obstacles thrown in your way. On paper it sounds like the mechanics would be a little too simplistic, but the gameplay is very enjoyable and, like a visual novel, is about close observation and experimentation rather than fast reflexes.

The gorgeous graphics and sound design suffuse the game with an air of nostalgia and also melancholy that in themselves make the game much more memorable than most other indie games. Being able to set your own pace and take as much time as you need to solve each stage's puzzles add to the laidback nature of the game, and although the game is on the short side (a full playthrough shold take less than a few hours) and doesn't quite explore all the possibilities of the game's interesting mechanics, it's still a wholly satisfying experience and leaves you wanting more. I'm definitely not the only one eagerly looking forward to what The Voxel Agents come up with next.