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:

 

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

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.

As you likely know, I love Artifex Mundi hidden object games. Recently they've put a bunch of their games on sale, so I've been snapping them up and sharing them on Twitch and my YouTube channel.

Similar to the last time I had a backlog, I've compiled the four most recent games I've streamed into a single post:

 

Demon Hunter: Revelation is the third in Artifex Mundi's Demon Hunter series. So far it seems quite promising as it leans into Gothic horror tropes, isn't as stilted as many of the others, and has decent puzzles that seem to fit well within the story:

 

Demon Hunter: Riddles of Light: The fourth title in Artifex Mundi's Demon Hunter series, this one is dorky as hell. Not in a so bad it's good way, either. This one just seems rather dumb. Also, if you dislike snakes, be warned there is a menacing cobra towards the end of the run. I do manage to clear it:

 

Artifex Mundi's Lost Grimoires series is generally solid, and Lost Grimoires 3: The Forgotten Well seems fairly middle of the road with some interesting alchemy puzzles. For some reason there isn't a hidden object game early on, though I do manage to find and beat one near the end of my session:

 

Artifex Mundi's Family Mysteries series is set in modern day, which is a treat as there are always fun gadgets to interact with, wires to snip, that sort of thing. Family Mysteries 3: Criminal Mindset is also excessively poor in the writing department, with stilted line deliveries to boot. If nothing else, you need to watch this for the really stupid chemistry process used to create a corrosive acid to dissolve a lock. Then stay for the scene where you're abandoned outside a locked building on your first day of work and need to fix a video telecom system to get inside (versus, I don't know, banging on the door?). It's a riot!

 

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

Paradise Killer looks and feels sort of like Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - on acid. The game is nonsensical and has you investigating a gruesome supernatural murder spree.

Talk to cartoon cutouts of the suspects and witnesses, collect gems to purchase fast travel and some other things, and apparently encounter some mature content if you turn on the toggle in settings. I assume this doesn't refer to the blood and viscera but rather nudity, but so far all I've encountered is a blue dude with a censored symbol over his junk (even with Mature set to On). Once you collect enough evidence, you supposedly end up in a trial and get to the bottom of this bizarre crime.

Not sure I'll continue, but I'm at least a little curious where this will go so maybe, eventually, I'll pick this back up:

 

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

As you may know, I'm pretty conflicted about Destiny 2. On the one hand, I love short breaks shooting enemies with tight controls, playing solo in a multiplayer world. However, I find the grinding systems far too involving and even something as simple as kicking off a new campaign demands an hour plus of my time. I was going to pass on The Witch Queen but after earning $110 in Microsoft Rewards this week and seeing the 4000 point Rewards bonus for this DLC, I caved.

I also read several glowing reviews and thought I might enjoy it. And I did, up to a point.

The game offered me several false starts, insisted I learn new upgrade mechanics before jumping in (and making it hard to understand what I needed to do and clear the message to proceed), and finally a server error at the top of this stream (my third try) caused a reset. I also spent some time looking for the start before finally getting into the new chapter. As usual, it can be hard to know where to go so you'll see me grapple with this from time to time (I die so you don't have to!). I also meant to cut the feed around 38 minutes but it kept going, so this is closer to an hour. It took me another 20 minutes to finish the level and get to where I could save and quit.

Oh Destiny, why do you torture me so?

 

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

I sometimes enjoy interactive movie games for their bad acting (She Sees Red) and occasional really good acting (5 Dates). Telling Lies (free at the moment on Xbox Game Pass) falls in the "surprisingly good" category though after half an hour, I have almost NO IDEA WHAT THIS GAME IS ABOUT.

But I do like that it has Kerry Bishe (Halt and Catch Fire), Alexandra Shipp (Tick, Tick... Boom), James Scully ("Forty" on You: Season 2), Angela Sarafyan ("Clementine" on Westworld), and Reed Diamond (Homicide: Life on the Streets, Dollhouse), among others. The way it works is you surf keywords that are indexed across what seems like a hundred or more video clips stored on a stolen hard drive. What you find depends on how you process the material.

It took me a few minutes to figure out that some clips were starting in the middle or even at the end, you can fast-forward and rewind to get to the parts you care about, and you can search on words in the subtitled text - making this a potentially deep rabbit hole:

 

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

I basically took a year off from Cyberpunk 2077 even though I was quite enjoying parts of it. I didn't realize it would take so long for CD Projekt Red to get their stuff together and optimize it for my Xbox Series X (as well as PS5, PC, and other platforms). I spend some time in this clip reviewing the in-game change log.

I decided to hold off on reallocating my skills points, because who wants to watch that?! Instead I did a mid-game story mission as Johnny Silverhand (which seemed unskippable where I picked back up in the game) and then a little side quest analyzing a braindance. There's some car driving but no combat as I want to level back up before trying anything dangerous.

There is some mild adult content in this clip, so be forewarned:

 

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

Forza Horizon 5 - Playing Horizon Arcade

I've seen a number of "how to"/getting started guides for Forza Horizon 5 but they generally miss the mark. As someone who played Forza Horizon 4 pretty much every day for 4 years (and all of the other games in the series), I understand how things work pretty well and - despite its many flaws and bugs at and well after launch - I find myself continually drawn to this evolved open world of driving and racing.

There is a LOT going on in Forza Horizon 5, so this is a bit longer than your usually tips article (feel free to skip to your area of interest). There's something for everyone, so boot it up and give it a try. When you want to know more, come back here and learn how to get the most from it.

 

Rev your engine
First up if you're new to the series: There's a bunch of stuff you need to do before you can start unlocking the full game and all of its fun little side paths. Follow the tutorial until you unlock your first house, and then things will start to open up.

Once they do, here's what you need to know to succeed regardless of your preferred path:

 

Forza Horizon 5 - Turning on and off Rewind
To rewind, or not rewind... The rewind feature can be turned off and on in settings under Difficulty at any time. I personally try to avoid rewind as it's a crutch and can ruin you for other racings games. Better to live with your mistakes except: when doing a very difficult challenge (say, a race against difficult drivatars where one small error could lose you the race) or trying for a bonus board in a hard-to-reach place. There are many races where rewind will hurt you, such as The Trial, or it's unavailable, such as The Eliminator, Horizon's Battle Royale.

 

Find your favorite car. Then find another. Build a fleet of well-tuned vehicles in different classes. When you get a new car that looks like it's worth a whirl, take it for a short test drive. Odds are the car will handle poorly. Maybe it's hard to keep straight when accelerating, or it goes to pieces when you veer offroad. Go to your home or a festival site and get a tuning using Find Tuning Setups (this is where having a 5 million+ buffer of credits at all times comes in handy).

Forza Horizon 5 - Tunings

Look for a tuning that is rated highly and/or has characteristics that you like. For example, GRIP. Most cars do really well at races if they grip the track well, and some grippy cars even do pretty well off-road. Grip isn't ideally suited to drift challenges, but for an all-purpose vehicle that does well in most situations it's usually what you want. That said, if your car isn't handling well, go back and find another. If you've been saving up your credits, you should have no problem buying 2-3 tunings for a dozen or so cars. And parts often overlap different tuning setups, so future tunings for the same car may be cheaper.

Once you've tuned your car, select a new design that reflects you and then mark it as a favorite so you can find all of your tuned vehicles quickly. Use the Y button when viewing your cars in the car select screen to see only favorites and any other filters you need to home in on the vehicle that suits a given challenge.

 

Getting credit (and XP, points, etc)
Know your currencies. There are five core currencies in FH5:

Credits - Hoard at least 2 million at all times in case you need to buy a car and upgrade it. I aim to keep 10 million just in case I need a pricier vehicle and upgrades for it.

XP - This is your overall level and how other drivers will identify your experience with the game. Once you hit a cap, the level will cycle back to 1 and you will gain a subscript number. So if someone is level 10, they just started out, but if the 10 has a small 3 next to it, they are very advanced in the game.

Accolades - These points are earned by completing accolade challenges, which pop regularly at first and sometimes deliver bonus rewards (before you go on a car spending spree, see which ones you might get for free by doing a mini challenge). Each milestone gives you a token to unlock another festival event under Horizon Adventures (I recommend Rush, so you gain access to lots of PR Stunts, and save Street Scene for last as this can be pretty tough).

Forza Horizon 5 - Horizon Adventure
Did I say there were only five currencies? Horizon Adventure tokens make it six, though they only persist early in the game. Pick the events you enjoy most first (Apex for Road Races, Baja for Dirt, and Wilds for Off-road). Eventually you will earn them all and then unlock entry in the Hall of Fame.

Forza Horizon 5 - Skill Points

Skill Points - These car mastery points are earned by banking style points from doing stunts out in the world and can be used to unlock bonuses on individual cars. Save your points for the cars you use the most. Assuming it's the same as Forza Horizon 4, expect there's a cap of 999 points - so once you break 900 you might start spending these a bit more regularly or you'll stop accumulating them whenever you tap the cap.

Forza Horizon 5 - Forzathon Points

Forzathon Points (FP) - These are perhaps the most coveted and hard to earn points in the game, and can be spent on rare vehicles, emotes, and clothing items in the Forzathon Shop (don't waste them on wheelspins - you'll get plenty of these for free). Check the shop daily as sometimes they change out mid-week, especially around holidays.

Earn FP by accessing the Festival Playlist.

 

Playing the playlist
Forza Horizon 5 - Seasonal Playlist
Regarding the FP points in this section, these are the standard amount earned. If you buy the house La Casa Solariega, all of your FP are DOUBLED. Plus, you'll have a home you can fast travel to for free that's centrally located (see next section for more on that).

Here's what a typical playlist contains (these vary weekly and by season):

Daily - These earn you 10 FP plus a Playlist progress point. Oh, did I say there were six currencies? Really there are seven - though Playlist points expire at the end of each 4-week season.

Weekly - You'll need a specific vehicle each time. Use it to complete the three challenge steps and earn 80 FP and 5 Playlist Points.

The Trial - This won't unlock until you gain entry in the Hall of Fame (just keep progressing and spending festival event tokens until you have them all... and then collect enough accolades to crack the Hall of Fame). This is the toughest thing in the game, and I avoided it for years. Now I'm beating it routinely. Not because I'm a great racer; I'm OK. But because I understand how it works. You're racing "unbeatable" drivatars so it's critical you have a great tune for your car. It may take several tries. You will probably need better racers than yourself to win, but always remember it's a team sport. Do not team kill - if you run a fellow racer off the road, you will fail. If a faster racer on your team wants to pass, let them by. Try to keep ahead of as many opponents as you can but do not overreach beyond your skill or you'll likely fail. I ran one race recently where everyone playing was in it for themselves, and we lost. A little later in the day I was teamed with a bunch of pros and we won it easily in two races. Do not quit if you fail the first race; sometimes this is the hardest one and the other two are much easier. Also, you can win with just two people but the pressure will be on for you to perform. Oh, and if you miss a checkpoint, never use rewind. Wait to be reset on the track. If you rewind, you may still miss the marker on the second try and you'll be even further behind.

Seasonal Playground Games - These team-based challenges like Flag Rush, King, and Infection can be tough but stick it out and you'll earn the points regardless of whether your team wins. That's right, this is one of a few places where you get a participation reward!

Horizon Rivals - This earns you 4 Playlist Points per week (so really 16 across the season) so it's worth doing. All you need to do is post a clean lap on the specified track. Your first lap usually sucks, so do one more with a running start... and if you bump a wall, keep going until you get a clean run.

Horizon Tour - This one also grants you a participation ribbon, so always do it. It's just three co-op races. Just be sure to match the specs. In some cases you may need to wait for an Anything Goes round to randomly pop up so you can drive a specified vehicle.

Seasonal Championships - There are three of these each week, each with three races in the series. To win you need to beat Highly Skilled Drivatars, so this one of those times you might want to turn Rewind back on. If you aren't coming close, try another tune or even another car. Look for recommendations online if you're stuck. These aren't generally required to get most of the playlist prices but if you want the big seasonal prize, you'll need to do 3-4 of these per month (maybe pick one a week?) and then complete most of the rest of the challenges. Oh, and I've lost progress when I've quit and come back, so I'd recommend you beat all three races in one sitting, just to be safe.

Horizon Open - These vary wildly, but sometimes you only need to complete them which means, yes, a participation ribbon!

PR Stunts - These are usually pretty achievable with the right tune for the specified car.

The Eliminator - Usually you only need to be in the top 30 to earn the playlist rewards, which isn't that hard. Get a decent car and avoid other players until you get down to 30 or fewer drivers remaining. If you sit still, you won't be visible on the mini-map. Higher level cars aren't always better - stick with a good multi-purpose (on road and off) that you can drive. I hate Battle Royale games, and I actually got to 2nd place early on and then won one right after I published this guide. Near the end, all unfinished head-to-head races are cancelled and the remaining cars are pitted in a free-for-all to a distant finish line. In the event I won, I beat one much faster car, won that car, and used it to get to the final checkpoint first, using roads when they aligned with my target (as the car wasn't as good off-road) and risked collisions with rocks only when needed. I overshot the goal, turned around, and quickly jumped on it before anyone else showed up.

Forza Horizon 5 - Horizon Arcade
Arcade - There are new Arcade events every 15 minutes: a drift challenge, and one from these categories: Air, Chaos, Speed, Wreckage. You'll get 3 Playlist Points per week for doing one, but each event completed grants you 30 FP. The game launched with this broken but it has since been patched to allow scaling of challenges to the number of players. If you are in an Arcade session alone and know you what you're doing, you can generally clean up in 5 minutes or less. If people join you, it can become tricky to finish if someone bails unless there are a decent number of people actively helping. Remember that these challenges are constrained by time, so taking extra seconds to back up for a speed trap run or super danger sign jump isn't usually the best strategy.

 

Why drive when you can teleport?
Forza Horizon 5 - Fast Travel home for free
Fast Travel for free - One of the houses you can get in the game, Buenas Vistas, offers you fast travel to any road on the map, but at a cost (10k in credits, regardless of distance). To bring down the price per trip (and eventually get it to free), smash fast travel boards.

Until you have free travel, know that you can always travel to a festival or home for free by selecting it in the Cars and My Horizon menu respectively (don't use the map as you'll get charged for it). At this writing, the game forgets your home nearly as often as it remembers it, so you may need to reset it periodically (easy to do when fast travel is free, but a nuisance when it's not).

 

Forza Horizon 5 - Photography
What else can you do in the game?
Forza Horizon 5 is bursting with creative opportunities If you're a graphic designer, you can create liveries (aka skins) for the cars. If you prefer level design, you can make Event Lab challenges and create Super7 challenge cards. If photography is your thing, you can spend time collecting the most amazing shots (though truth be told, I'm a former pro and find even my greatest and most entertaining snaps get little to no notice). And if you're mechanically inclined, you can build those fantastic tunes we need to beat the trickiest weekly challenges.

 

Join the club
If you're looking for low-pressure comradery, look up the Busy Gamer Nation (BGN) club once you get far enough into the game to join one. In FH4, our club nearly broke the Top 100 - but we're more about sharing clips on how to get that hard-to-reach bonus board, the odd glitch or stat, and occasionally bumping into each other in game.

Busy Gamer Nation club on Forza Horizon 5

Another Artifex Mundi hidden object game dropped on Xbox, so of course I grabbed it. Demon Hunter: Ascendance is pretty fun even if the story is as ridiculous as usual. The puzzles during this first stretch are mostly easy except for a sudoku puzzle with different colored eyeballs. That one took a few minutes.

If you're curious, give it a look:

 

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

Lost Words: Beyond the Page (free at the moment with Xbox Game Pass) had a writerly vibe, and I liked the idea of solving puzzles with words. It takes a few minutes to get the hang of the dynamic, controlling a character that runs across the page using words as platforms with one control stick while maneuvering a faerie represented as a glowing orb with the other.

Just as you get the hang of it, they drop you into a world where the things are more literal (if not literary). I got as far as a bell to announce my arrival and the game seemed stuck, or maybe I missed a clue. Still, this should be plenty to help you decide whether it's your cup of alphabet soup:

 

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

GrrlGotGame and I absolutely loved Shadow Man back on the Nintendo 64. This full remaster by Night Dive Studios, which launched recently on Xbox, PlayStation, and Switch (it's been out on PC), is a treat. It may still look a bit blocky but it sounds great and plays like butter. GrrlGotGame gives it extra props because the main character is left-handed, rare in videogames.

I didn't get too far yet but looking forward to further exploration of Deadside:

 

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

I have arachnophobia so I nearly gave Kill It With Fire a pass, but then they added it to Xbox Game Pass and I read some comments that killing spiders in the game is somehow therapeutic. Plus, I made it through the movie Arachnophobia and rather enjoyed Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor on my iPhone.

Alas, there are two strikes against Kill It With Fire: 1) The spider noises are truly terrifying. The whole time I played the game I was on edge and kinda freaking out. And 2) the inability to invert controls adds to the feeling of helplessness as I can barely aim at the little buggers when I do see them.

I do eventually kill some with fire, so that happens and is one for the plus column. This is a short video (which helps balance out the longer ones); I only made it 20 minutes:

 

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

If you follow me at all, you know I love Artifex Mundi hidden object games despite their often laughable voice acting and cheesy premises.

Queen's Quest 5: Symphony of Death doubles down on the bad acting and cheese but makes up for it by being free to play, at least on Xbox One and PC. There is a cost if you want hints beyond the first few, but I always go for no hints anyway (in past games, doing so would earn you extra achievements).

This is pretty decent walkthrough of the first section of the game, where you can see some of my missteps and how I ultimately figure things out:

 

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

We're big fans of Borderlands, and Tiny Tina is a beloved character in our home. Despite owning Borderlands 2 with all of the trimmings, I decided to nab Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep "one-shot adventure" even though we already own it as DLC, just to see if it's the blatant cash grab it's been made out to be.

$5 on holiday sale seemed about right even though it really ought to have been free to Borderlands players, or honestly everyone since a) it's really just an ad for Tiny Tina's Wonderland (as evidenced by the actual ad for Tiny Tina's Wonderland that appears at the start) and b) it's buggy. The game crashed as I tried to head to the second area of the game, which just happened to be right at the 30-minute mark.

That said, I don't recall it being this hard; I suspect I previously played it with a leveled-up character. I do get the hang of things before the end of my run - proving the adage that if you're dying a lot in Borderlands, you're not using the right guns:

 

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

When I heard there was a Guardians of the Galaxy game coming, I imagined the Avengers game but with Peter Quill and Gamora. Then the reviews starting rolling in, and I realized this might actually be fun. The game does spend too much time on prologue (just like every other AAA game these days), so I went a little long to capture a bit more actual gameplay. So far I'm not hooked but I see that this is infinitely more playable than I first expected. A nice one to chip away at, I think.

Apologies for the muted portion - Twitch decided I was violating copyright rules by simply playing the game. You didn't miss much; the opening song kinda sucked:

 

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




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