I've loved Supermassive Games since 2015's Until Dawn, and continue to pick up every game they release in The Dark Pictures Anthology. I was on the fence about The Quarry, but decided to bite down on it thanks to their stellar cast and creepy summer camp killer vibe.

I went a little long to clear the full prologue:

 

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As photography games go, Beasts of Maravilla Island isn't bad. It's just not particularly great, either. Your photography captures wildlife, but also can unlock new areas as your flash activates certain plants (ignoring the fact that a flash isn't really necessary with so much natural light). You'll climb giant vines and whistle to attract shy creatures.

The story is pretty weak, and it's no Pokemon Snap, but it'll do as a fun distraction:

 

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Beyond a Steel Sky looked like a Fallout/BioShock-type sci-fi dystopia game, but it plays more like a comic book story with adventure-style mechanics. Which isn't the worst thing, maybe, but so far it falls well below the bar of my expectations.

The opening cinematic goes on FOREVER, and then there's one brief interaction before the achievement pops indicating you've completed the tutorial. So far the game is mostly talking, examining, and using items in your inventory. Not much exploration, and combat may be non-existent.

Just saying, check out this video before you buy and make sure it's what you want:

 

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I honestly thought that Stray would be my new favorite game. It starts out great! You nuzzle other cats, drink from a pool of water, jump everywhere, mewl. It's beautiful, fluid, and endearing.

After the first 20 minutes, all of that changes with a run-and-avoid-enemies puzzle. As far as I can tell, there's no way to throw them off when they are on you (UPDATE: You hit the Circle button!) There are no partial progress checkpoints (as I got pretty far a couple of times). And it takes 20+ seconds to reload following each death. After earning my 9 Lives trophy and then some, I finally gave up. My only advice is to move around a lot (as I did my best dodging this way) and hope you are better and/or luckier than me.

Honestly, if this is the way the game is going to go, I'm regretting the $30 purchase:

 

OK, so maybe I jumped the gun. I don't play PS4 games too often, and I can never remember the icons on the controller buttons (I always press Square when it says X). I also didn't realize the circle within a circle appearing on me meant to hit Circle (maybe if it was the color of the controller icon I'd have gotten it right away). So I gave this another go, streaming the next 30 minutes from the run-and-avoid section. So glad I did! It's got everything: exploration, easy but rewarding puzzles, and great moments in cat-dom.

Would recommend:

 

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As you probably know, I'm addicted to Forza Horizon 5. In preparation for the Hot Wheels expansion, I went back to Forza Horizon 3 to see what I was in for.

It did not really prepare me for this expansive map in the clouds and brand new game dynamics: magnetic track, ice track, the new "G-Forza" meter, and history of Hot Wheels story challenges - all of which you can sample in the video. The main thing that's similar is the progression system, which starts out with B-class events and unlocks faster vehicles once you reach a target number of medals collected.

If you can't see the video in your country, apparently it's due to the soundtrack (which is intrisically part of the gaming experience) - sorry about that:

 

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My dentist was short-handed recently and performed my cleaning service personally. She said that she finds teeth cleaning very zen. After 30 minutes with PowerWash Simulator, I think I have some idea of what she means. Cleaning a van and then part of a backyard (including a dog house and Resident Evil-inspired umbrella) was very relaxing, once I got the hang of the controls. It took me awhile to figure out I could use a step stool for a higher angle, and even climb on top of things.

Consider this a first-person scrubber, and you're the grime fighter:

 

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Far: Changing Tides is reminiscent of side-scrolling puzzlers like Limbo and Inside, but, you know, on a boat. Apparently, it's a sequel to Far: Lone Sails. All I know is that it showed up on Xbox Game Pass, sounded like fun, and I tried it.

So far, it's a little dull but makes up for it with game mechanics you need to figure out as you go and that occasionally surprise you. It's also quite beautiful despite its rather drab color palette.

Give it a look and see whether it's right for you:

 

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I Am Dead is my kind of game. You probably know that I'm addicted to hidden object games, notably those from Artifex Mundi. This is something else, developed by Hollow Ponds and published by Annapurna Interactive (my favorite purveyor of indy gems).

The premise is that you are dead and trying to summon similar spirits by identifying the objects they connected to in life. You plumb the memories of the living and then go on a quest to find the items you revealed by zooming into container objects in search of something lost or hidden. It's pretty cool, once you get past the prologue, and the story is amusing.

If it weren't for COVID, I'd probably have found this at PAX West 20 and made it my game of the show:

 

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Road 96 is not a game for me, at least right now. A little background: our son recently had a breakdown and attempted to run away. He's getting help and doing much better, but the trauma remains and the way this game promotes running away is especially triggering for me at this time.

The story seems OK (there's an oppressive regime, so there's a reason for the run to the border), game mechanics are basic, and the story weakly attempts some wackiness. But it is definitely not the game for me or my family.

What's your take:

 

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I'm not a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan. I never watched the shows, movies, or played the arcade game. I decided to try this one because it had good buzz and it's free on Xbox Game Pass.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge is... fine. I played on easy, so I only died once on the second level. It came in well under 30 minutes, but more often I go over so this can help even things out a bit.

Take a look and see if it's your slice of pizza:

 

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Lost in Random looked like an intriguing premise (a world ruled by dice rolls), and I almost bit down on it when it came out. Instead, I waited and it recently showed up in Xbox Game Pass Ultimate (via EA Play).

I'm glad I waited. The game is interesting, but seems pretty rudimentary in terms of actual gameplay. The story is kinda basic too. All in all, it's OK for free but not sure I'll buy it

But, hey, take a look and judge for yourself:

 

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Fans of this channel know I'm a Forza Horizon fan from way back, but may not know I'm also a fan of mini-car racers dating back to the Re-Volt public beta for Xbox Live in 2002. Alas, no game to date has scratched that itch (though Mad Tracks came close).

So I decided to bite down on Hot Wheels Unleashed. It tooks some time to figure out which bundle to get but I finally settled on the Collector's Edition for Series X/S as the Ultimate Stunt Edition for Series X/S was omitted from the sale, and I opted not to get the original Xbox One edition (as Smart Delivery is also not an option and DLC is not interchangeable).

I spend some time opening boxes to get new cars, exploring the bonus content, and winning pretty easily most of the time at the Easy skill level (which I'm likely to bump up). That said, I do play as both a Batmobile and a Barbie Dream Camper, and there are some close calls.

Not quite my dream game, but not bad:

 

For more like this, follow my Twitch channel and find archived streams in my YouTube channel.

You might not know this, but I cannot play realistic war shooters. Fantasy shooters like Halo and Borderlands? Love 'em. The exception to the rule: Sniper Elite. We got totally hooked on Sniper Elite 4. Even GrrlGotGame beat it, and she despises stealth games. The game was seriously addictive, and boasted some of the best killcams in gaming history.

Now Sniper Elite 5 is out, and it's free with Xbox Game Pass. The game seems to carry that torch forward. The main difference I noted so far: You no longer need to press a button to mark an enemy. Just hover over them a few seconds with your binoculars and they are forever trackable. The rest should be very familiar to fans of the series:

 

For more like this, follow my Twitch channel and find archived streams in my YouTube channel.

After my last stream, I needed something light and redemptive. Alba: A Wildlife Adventure looked like just the ticket. You play a small girl documenting and preserving wildlife on an island. The photo element is very much a Pokemon Snap knockoff. You save a dolphin. Simple acts such as picking up trash lead to animals returning to their roosting places.

Yup, this is just what I needed about now:

 

For more like this, follow my Twitch channel and find archived streams in my YouTube channel.

Don't Be Afraid is a horror game that GrrlGotGame got hooked on, and now she's roped me in. Let me start by saying this game is MESSED UP. Very dark. You play as a kidnapped child trying to escape an adult who has you captive and surrounded by freaky mannequins, pools of blood, and who knows what else - watch the video for a taste. Oh, and things move around on you, so expect some jump scares.

I had a little help navigating the first section, or else it would have been doubtful I'd have made it as far as I did. Also be warned: There are no mid-level save points, so you need to clear a section to preserve any progress:

 

For more like this, follow my Twitch channel and find archived streams in my YouTube channel.

Even for an Artifex Mundi game, 9 Clues: The Secret of Serpent Creek is BAD! The art, the acting, the story! And if you hate snakes, this one's gonna be a no for you. The only thing that's innovative are the hidden object puzzles with blanked out clues, and even those are super easy.

There were reports of a game-breaking bug in the Xbox version when I bought it, and I vowed to avoid the path to the cemetery until I had collected the hatchet. However, at 24 minutes in, I instinctively clicked on the log blocking the path before I could help myself! The good news is that the very next day, the game required a patch and when I (much later) located the hatchet, I was able to progress my game just fine. If you want to be super safe, note the location of the log and just ignore this area completely until you unlock the manager's room off the hotel lobby.

And if watching this video doesn't cure you of the desire to buy it, this game is for you:

 

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We played the hell out of the original Alan Wake on Xbox 360, so I knew I would eventually bite down on Alan Wake Remastered for Xbox Series X. It's both better and worse than I remember it. The graphics are significantly upgraded, though they sometimes still fall into uncanny valley territory (which I guess sorta works for this story?!). Movement is janky, so you'll be bouncing around and then suddenly reorient into a prerendered scene, or fall off the world instead of vaulting a fence.

Still, it's fun, has a great story, and the combat mechanics are solid:

 

For more like this, follow my Twitch channel and find archived streams in my YouTube channel.

Persian Nights 2: The Moonlight Veil, the sequel to the ridiculously entertaining Persian Nights: Sands of Wonders, is another silly but fun hidden object game.

You'll quickly unlock an adorable little pet that... burns things? Also, it's unlicensed and you're in trouble for having it, despite the fact that your city is under siege and it's helping you save it from marauders.

Forget it, Jake, it's Artifex Mundi town:

 

For more like this, follow my Twitch channel and find archived streams in my YouTube channel.

As a connoisseur of Artifex Mundi hidden object games, I've found wide variances in quality and style. Generally I've enjoyed games with a steampunk setting most of all, and Skyland: Heart of the Mountain seems to capture it well with airships, gears, crystals, harpoons, and lots and lots of bespoke tools.

The story so far is mostly meh, though I expect there will be some intriguing twists as evidenced by the mysterious interaction at the end of my run (no significant spoilers):

 

For more like this, follow my Twitch channel and find archived streams in my YouTube channel.

We're big Borderlands fans from way back (as evidenced by some of our many posts and podcast endeavors, including our 2010 Game of the Year review - our first segment with in-game audio). Recently I streamed the Tina Tina one-shot, Assault on Dragon Keep, so it's no surprise Tiny Tina's Wonderlands was a day 1 purchase.

The first 15 minutes is prologue and setup, and the last 5 is mostly clean-up, so there's about 30 minutes of core gameplay here including the first boss fight. I expect I'll be playing a lot of this over the coming weeks as there's a lot to do and many ways to play it:

 

For more like this, follow my Twitch channel and find archived streams in my YouTube channel.




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