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Hugh Likes Video Games: Hollow Knight

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Hollow Knight
Developed and Produced by Team Cherry
Played on Nintendo Switch

The Skinny: It’s as good as you’ve heard

Hollow Knight is a remarkable achievement of an indie game. It falls into a sub-genre colloquially known as a Metroidvania, which is to say it is a platforming adventure game with an emphasis on exploring one huge interconnected map, in which the player gains new abilities to reach new areas. It takes its name from the two best-known examples, Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. But Team Cherry’s achievement is more than just an imitator. And it is worthy of standing in that hallowed company.
The game sets you as a solitary knight descending into a lost civilization of bug people brought low by a strange infection. As you piece together the mystery of what happened and your own journey’s purpose, traverse miles of twisting interconnected corridors, meet dozens of charming NPCs, and discover untold secrets, all delivered in a gorgeous hand-drawn art style and brutal difficulty.
This game is tough, and it doesn’t hold your hand, but it usually doesn’t force you down a path, either. Once you get certain abilities, there are lots of paths and secret routes to uncover. If you get stuck at one boss, you can always find a new route and go a different way.
This game really nails (get it?) its aesthetic. The color palattes for each area are fairly simple, but paired with hand-drawn and animated characters and backgrounds, this adds up to a system where it’s always easy to tell exactly where you are in spite of the huge map. This also ratchets up the tension and messes with the player as they establish mood and atmosphere. Dirtmouth feels wind-swept and desolate. Greenpath is lush and vibrant. Deepnest is dark and terrifying. In fact, Hollow Knight manages to pull of a trick even most Castlevanias don’t in that I was legitimately frightened at several points due to a masterful use of darkness, tight corridors, and downright creepy sound effects.
Hollow Knight is a breathtaking modern example of 2D action adventure games, with clever challenges, tricky bosses, and charming characters. It is available from Steam and most major console eshops, and I highly recommend it.

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Hugh Likes Video Games: SteamWorld Quest

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Steamworld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech
Developed by Image and Form Games
Published by Thunderful
Played on Nintendo Switch

The Skinny: A lighthearted but mechanically deep card-RPG sort of set in the SteamWorld Universe.

Each SteamWorld title is a little different. From the dungeon diving of SteamWorld Dig to the Tactical gunplay of SteamWorld Heist, each is a charming and innovative little gem of a game. The latest game in the series, SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech, builds on that reputation.
A fantasy RPG, SteamWorld Quest is framed as a storybook being read in the main SteamWorld post-post-apocalypse setting. Like its predecessors, this game is short but deeply engaging. The hand-drawn art style and the snarky writing work well. There are lots of little sight gags and clever bits that only really work if as a fantasy story told in a world of steampunk robots. This seems counter intuitive until you meet the first mini-boss, a black knight with a birdcage for a head.
The card-based RPG combat, which are stylized punchcards, naturally, has a good balance of randomness as strategy. Each character has a deck of eight cards which represent attacks, spells, buffs, and healing. Characters also manage items, weapons, and equipment. In combat, you have a hand of cards pulled from all three decks, and play three cards a turn. Three cards from the same character creates a combo, with a variety of special effects. During combat, you have to build up steam by playing low level cards. More powerful abilities cost steam, so you have to balance your decks to be able to play better cards. As a veteran RPG player, I found it pretty intuitive, with a lot of depth and options over the five playable characters.
At around twenty hours, the game isn’t very long for an RPG but you can go back to previous chapters to grind for items, experience, and money, or to find hidden secrets. The story isn’t very complicated, but it is filled with charm and clever little references to games like Final Fantasy IV and other old-school RPGs.
SteamWorld Quest is a lighthearted but perfectly executed take on the card RPG. It’s available for PC and from the Nintendo Switch eshop.
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Hugh Likes Video Games: Gato Roboto

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Gato Roboto
Published by Devolver Digital
Developed by Doinksoft
Played on Nintendo Switch

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The Skinny: More Like Meowtroid, am I right?

Gato Roboto is an indie Metroid clone that lets you play as a cat in power armor. That is really all there is to it, and all you need to know to know if this is a game for you or not. The graphics have a black and white game boy-style look reminiscent of rouge-like shooter Downwell. This extends to the collectables, which are simply either health pickups or swappable palates for the visuals. The animations are quite cute and expressive, though. I love the way main character Kiki hops out of her humanoid mech and perches on its gun arm.
The game controls well, with a pleasant sensation of weigh when in the mech, and an option to explore tighter passages by getting out of the suit. Kiki the cat can also climb walls and reach places on her own that she can’t in the suit, with the tradeoff being that she can’t attack or defend herself, giving the game a nice mix of action and stealth gameplay.
The game doesn’t make you keep track of ammunition and save spots are rather generous, which streamlines the game. Traversal is pretty easy once you get the hang of the mechanics, but that’s balanced by some punishing boss encounters.
All in all, Gato Roboto is a short but satisfying little metroidvania with memorable and adorable characters. It’s available from Steam or Nintendo Switch eShop.
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Hugh Likes Video Games: Final Fantasy X Remaster

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Final Fantasy X Remaster
Published by Square Enix
Played on the Nintendo Switch

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The Skinny: The classic PS2 JRPG returns for the Switch, packaged with its quirky sequel

Final Fantasy X is one of the big high watermark JRPGs, the sort of game that doesn’t get made anymore, but is consistently being remastered and made available for digital rerelease. So when it came out for the Switch packaged with its sequel, I picked up a copy, to see how well it holds up nearly twenty years later.
Final Fantasy X is the story of Tidus, a star athlete magically transported from his utopian city of Zanarkand, and Yuna, a young summoner embarking on a pilgrimage. Ten years ago, Yuna and Tidus’s fathers fought and defeated a giant monster called ‘Sin,’ which constantly destroys the world, and cannot be killed by conventional means. Sin has returned, and the two youths find themselves on the same path their father’s took ten years before. Can they find a way to break the cycle, or will they be just another sacrifice?
The game plays without problems on the Switch, and looks gorgeous. I noticed some slowdown during cutscenes, and the sharp HD display makes the transition between pre-rendered and real-time rendered graphics more pronounced an jarring. I played almost exclusively in handheld mode, and it worked great.
The gameplay is just as strategic and engaging as I remembered, and while some of the voice acting and animation have noticeably aged, It’s still notable as the first steps Square took with this level of production.
The game also includes a code for the complete edition of Final Fantasy X-2, the games goofy, power-pop inspired sequel. I may review it later in a second blog post, but for now, I’ll say that it loads fine, and plays about as well as I remember, but after pouring eighty hours into the first installment, I am ready for a break.
You can find Final Fantasy X / X-2 Remaster from your local electronics shop, or digitally from the Playstation, Switch or X-Box online stores.
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Hugh Likes Video Games: Wargroove

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Wargroove
Developed and Published by Chucklefish
Played on Nintendo Switch
https://wargroove.com
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The Skinny: A turn-based strategy game with retro style and retro difficulty to match, but with some interesting innovations under the hood.

Wargroove is a strategy game with old school charm, and gameplay to match. On the surface, it takes most of its design and style from Nintendo’s ‘Wars’ series of games. These only came to the US as the Advance Wars titles, and have been absent for a decade, but they made a big impression on developer Chucklefish. If that name is familiar, they also published ConcernedApe’s well-loved Harvest Moon update, Stardew Valley.
Gameplay works like Advance Wars. Players take turns moving their units and capturing buildings to provide income, which lets them buy new units. The goal of each match is to either the enemy stronghold or defeat the enemy Commander, powerful units that each has a unique special ability, called a ‘groove.’ These each do something a bit different, from healing allies in a range, to creating new units, to attacks that do extra damage. They are a fun addition to the Wars formula, and are one of the ways the game really stands out. Also, one of the commanders is an adorable golden retriever, who is a very good boy.
The other way Wargroove differentiates itself is in its plethora of content and game modes. In addition to the standard single-player Campaign and multiplayer battles, the game offers an Arcade mode in which you can take each Commander through a series of five quick battles, a Puzzle mode, and even an impressive set of creation tools. The game lets players not just create maps, but also entire campaigns and cutscenes, and trade them freely through the game’s online modes. I haven’t been able to dive too deeply into it yet, but it is very cool and is supporting a new creative community.
Wargroove faithfully recreates the best of the turn-based strategy genre, but it also has the same flaws. Matches are long, and with two armies starting at opposite ends of a map and slowly building, they can take a while to get going. Also, this game is difficult. Updates have created more options for novice players, but you can still sink a lot of time into a map only to have to start all over again when the last wave of enemies gets a shot in on your Commander.
Wargroove is a charming and occasionally frustrating strategy game with old school feel and old school difficulty. If you’re up for the challenge, you can snag a copy from Steam or your choice of major console eshops.
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Hugh Likes Video Games: Super Smash Bros Ultimate

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Super Smash Bros Ultimate
Published by Nintendo
Played on Nintendo Switch

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The Skinny: The venerable nostalgia-fighter returns with a massive entry on the Switch

It’s no secret that I love me some Smash Bros. My first Hugh Likes Video Games review was for the last iteration of the series, specifically the 3DS version. And this version has, well just more of everything I love about the concept, with a giant roster of returning characters and stages, and lots of brand-new content as well. I actually hesitated getting this version, but I think Ultimate might actually live up to its title.
Ultimate does a lot of things right. The roster is particularly large, and the new additions, from Castlevania protagonist Simon Belmont to Animal Crossing’s helpful assistant Isabelle are a delight to play. While there aren’t a whole lot of brand-new stages, we get nearly all of the returning stages, with multiple layouts, so there is sure to be someplace to pick. Smash mode is easy to get into, and takes full advantage of the Switch’s joycon pairing capabilities to get a large group of players in quickly.
Classic mode returns with a twist. Each character has their own finely tuned campaign to maximize their nostalgic hit. For example, Ryu fights in a series Street Fighter-like stamina battles, while Richter only fights other Echo Fighters.
As clever and nostalgic as Classic Mode is, Spirits is where the game really stretches. Building on modes in previous versions of the game, Spirits turns Smash Bros into a giant nostalgia-fueled Action RPG. Traveling around a huge map, the player fights ‘spirits,’ essentially Nintendo characters that didn’t make the cut, in the guise of tweaked battles with specialized conditions. Winning the battle nets you that character’s ‘spirit,’ which you can equip and level up in a bunch of different ways in order to take on more powerful fights. These take the place of collecting trophies or stickers in past games, and they’re neat, but the game doesn’t give you as much information about these collectables as in past installments, which is a shame.
Overall, Super Smash Bros Ultimate is another entry in the series that won’t change the minds of non-fans, but is full to the brim with attention to detail and affection for the source material. I haven’t ventured into the dark woods of online multiplayer yet, but so far couch battles have been chaotic but a heck of a lot of fun.
You can download the game yourself from the Nintendo eshop, or find a physical copy at the usual suspects of video game retailers.
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Hugh Likes Video Games: Moonlighter

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Moonlighter
Published by 11 bit studios
Developed by Digital Sun
Played on Nintendo Switch
http://moonlighterthegame.com/
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The Skinny: The Daily Grind, in day job and dungeon flavors!

Moonlighter is an old-school dungeon crawler with a twist. The dungeons are randomly generated, with each room comprising a single screen, much like the original Legend of Zelda. Enemies don’t drop money or experience, but rather items tied to the visual theme of each dungeon. During the day, players can sell their findings in a shop simulator, setting their own prices, decorating their shop, and keeping an eye out for shoplifters.
Profits from the shop can be sunk into upgrading your equipment, inviting other shopkeepers who sell things like potions or decor, or expanding the shop itself. The gameplay loop has a nice rhythm, and I constantly found myself deciding to play just one more in-game day to reach a milestone I’d set for myself. The combat is quick and fairly challenging, but doesn’t vary too greatly from dungeon to dungeon. While enemies all have very different looks, they tend to do the same sorts of things. The turrets you face in the golem dungeon have the same sorts of attacks as the seed-spitting plants from the forrest dungeon, for example.
Moonlighter’s gameplay loop can get repetitive, but fortunately, it looks and sounds gorgeous. The high-res pixelated art is charming, and the soundtrack boasts a variety of catchy and evocative tunes as you make your way through the floors of each dungeon and stock your shelves. There isn’t much of a story here though, so if that isn’t enough to keep your interest, this may not be the game for you.
I enjoyed my time in Moonlighter’s tiny village, but I wish the game had given me a few more options in how I arranged and decorated my shop. The items were nice, but I’d have like to have been able to give the place a bit more personality.
Moonlighter is an old school dungeon crawling action game mixed with a sedate but engaging shopkeeping sim. The gameplay loop makes for a perfectly tuned combo in a charming world. You can pick it up for PC or through all the major console eshops.

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