Alex Darbyshire, York
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is an excellent game, definitely one of the best on the Switch platform, and has an awful lot going for it in terms of game feel. The soundtrack is magical, serene and sorrowful, the visuals are gorgeous, and the choice of making Link much more squishy was a great choice. Perhaps I’m nitpicking, but this game does a lot of things that I feel aren’t perfect, or at least I struggle to understand why.
The shrines in the game, which do contain some cracking puzzles, all share the same music and textures. This is mostly a complaint about atmosphere, but elongated over dozens of hours, the problems seem to stick out all the more. Many of the sidequests also felt like there was something missing. That something is genuinely engaging goals.
For how big the world is, there’s an awful lot of lists to complete, it all blurs into one beige ludic mess. There are exceptions, many of the puzzles to unlock the shrines themselves are very creative and actually take thinking, something actually pretty fresh for Zelda puzzles - but these are few and far between.
Like I said in the intro, I do love how frail Link is at the beginning of the game, it really makes the world feel hostile. The run to catch up to the very strong enemies is super satisfying and fits with the theming of the game excellently. It just all happens too fast. That, or the game is too long; HowLongToBeat lists the full play time at about 180 hours, which includes the hundreds of Korok seeds, but at only about 40 hours on my save file, and I haven’t died to an enemy in the overworld in ages. The difficulty curve just drops off too fast.
The one exception to this is the ‘Tests of Strength’, which really vary the difficulty, with some incredibly tough encounters just turning up in fairly safe areas. These nasty automatons add a very Witcher III element to the game: preparing to take on these things is super satisfying, and victory feels good in the same way a Soulsborne boss does.
I appreciate that this entry may actually piss a lot of people off, but it’s how I feel. Sometimes you just have to be salty, and this game just isn’t as perfect as fans claim it is. It certainly has a lot going for it, and I hope they polish it further in the coming sequel.
James Troughton, Newcastle upon Tyne
600+ hours and a helluva lot in the original flash game, Binding of Isaac is a money-well-spent time-sinker with near-infinite replay value due to its rogue-lite nature and unbelievably number of item combinations and randomly generated runs.
In this Legend of Zelda inspired dungeon crawler, you grab items, fight bosses, and make your way deeper into the depths, the womb and, eventually, Seoul itself, as well as a big, TARDIS-like chest. You fight Satan, your own mother (twice), a fetus and plenty of other horrible abominations, which have a stellar aesthetic and great movesets that are embellished by the bullet-hell combat.
With such an immeasurable amount of replayability, challenges galore, mod support and inspiration drawn from only the best of places, Binding of Isaac makes for one of the most fun games you can buy, so nab it on your Switch, PS4, Xbox or phone - whatever floats your boat.
George Boatfield, Harrogate
I’m not normally in the habit of playing games out of sequential order. Yesterday’s OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Ollywood was a rare exception, but I think it’s fair to say that I wasn’t expecting much of a story to tie the experience together with the original game. Today, I’ll be looking at Steamworld Dig as, after being enamoured with its sequel on the Switch two years ago, it’s another one of those exceptions.
The game is all about digging down into a mineshaft to gather supplies and upgrades wrapped up in a metroidvania formula. The original game uses procedural generation for much of the layout, and while this was a clear step down after coming from the tailor-made structure of the sequel, it often still resulted in compelling mining runs.
Of course, Steamworld Dig is yet another choice in this list that has been inspired by my PS Plus game collection, and I really need to reiterate just how valuable of a service it is. While PS Plus offered a litany of smaller indie games through the early years of PS4, admittedly of varying quality, I’ve found some real gems. Now, it’s as good a time as any to start building up a library given that high-budget efforts such as The Last of Us: Remastered, WipeOut Omega Collection and Outlast 2 have all graced members recently.
So really this diary entry doesn’t just serve as a recommendation for Steamworld Dig, but also Steamworld Dig 2, the rest of the excellent games in that series and, most of all, the curated games library that PlayStation Plus offers.