26th of March, 2021
Hello! Welcome back to our regular feature where we write a little bit about some of the games we've found ourselves playing over the last few days. This time: Puzzling curios, a SNES classic, and a loveable punchy robot.
Gyromancer, Xbox, PC
Some recent chat about the return of Puzzle Quest sent me back to 2009's Gyromancer, an attempt to jump on the original game's bandwagon that's notable for the names behind it: Square Enix and PopCap. It's also notable for being excellent. While not my favourite puzzle RPG of the Xbox Live Arcade era - that honour belongs, of course, to Capybara's mighty Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes - Gryomancer is a wonderfully refined and satisfying design.
It's basically an elaborate reskin of PopCap's classic match-3, Bejeweled Twist, with some Pokémon-style creature collection, levelling and battling layered on top - and fey, ornate, Final Fantasy-inspired artwork and story layered on top of that. It has to be said, it's an ugly clash of aesthetics, but a harmonious mesh of ideas. The cleverest thing about it is the way it builds an entirely single-player battle mechanic that's just you versus the board, so you're never waiting for an AI to take a turn and your greatest enemy is always just your own lack of foresight or elegance. You can pick Gyromancer up for pennies on Steam and it's also available - and fully backwards compatible - on Xbox.
Super Metroid, Switch
I think the move from NES to SNES was probably my favourite upgrade of all time. I can still remember bunking off school to read the Mean Machines that had the first reviews of Super Mario World, Pilotwings and, y'know, Ultraman. What I love the most, though, is that you could reinvent a series by just adding the word "super" to it. Isn't that the most honest approach to next-gen sequels anyway? The thing you love, but now it's super.
And I think Super Metroid might be the most super of the lot. I've been playing it on Switch for the last few days - fifteen minutes here and there, from one save room to the next - as a bit of a treat. It's perfect for this kind of sustained but breezy approach. A few seconds each time to remember how to jump and shoot and switch weapons. A few more seconds to remember where I'm headed now. And then back to it.
The atmosphere is still absolutely stellar. The smashed-up lab at the start, the slow reveal of a strange world below the surface of a planet, the bright colours that manage to seem lurid and odd when things get scary, and that wonderful soundtrack, pulling together menace and adventure from scattered beeps and hums. I am not entirely sure I've ever actually finished Super Metroid, but now it's always nearby on the Switch I am going to give it a proper go. Fifteen minutes here and there, from one save room to the next.
Torchlight 3, PC, Switch, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox X/S
I liked Torchlight 3 well enough on PC, but now it's on Switch I properly love it. Perhaps it's that the game has gotten through Early Access? Perhaps it's that I'm more willing to ignore the fort-building aspect as much as I can rather that try to fit it into a coherent whole.
Perhaps. No. Actually, it's that I am playing as a different class. Forged is a robot brawler, with a gun for a chest - I think - and a lot of options close-up. My favourite move is a flurry of metallic fists which not only rips through low-level foes, it also feels fantastic. A skill with a perfect blend of damage and visual flair. It sells the character!
Torchlight 3 was never going to be bad, but it did feel a little uninspired at first. I still don't get why I should be building a fort; now that Forged is here, none of that matters.