Oh my god, it’s November. Don’t ask me how or why. I don’t make the rules and I have no answers. What I do have, however, is a solid list of game recs for your weekend.
This week we’re playing a couple of recent hits, a neat first-person dungeon crawler, and a certain well-known series that’s had a movie adaptation recently, among other surprises.
Play it on: PS5, Xbox Series X/S, Windows (Steam Deck YMMV)
Current goal: Finish the (amazing) story
I wasn’t ready for just how Alan Wake II would just swoop into my life and take over both my time and my thoughts. This game has been giving me such absolute joy despite being a pretty intense horror experience when it wants to be.
Alan Wake II is especially appealing to me as a horror experience as it doesn’t force me to contend with exhausting, screaming, body-horror antagonists. If you love survival horror but often tire of just how gross it can be, you may want to give this game a try.
Wake’s shadowy “Taken” are unsettling all on their own (be they the more fleshy ones found during Saga Anderson’s campaign or the tricky shadows found in Mr. Wake’s side of the story) with unpredictable movements and strange lines of dialogue. The sound and visuals, intermittent jolts of jarring imagery full of screaming faces and abstract visuals, startle, excite, and terrify me in ways that I probably need to talk with a therapist about.
The game also challenges me to think about resource management and careful aiming. Every shot counts, and it’s very easy to waste ammo if you’re not careful. It’s the kind of real-time, stress-inducing challenge that I love and am always ready for more of. — Claire Jackson
Play it on: Windows (Steam Deck OK)
Current goal: Stop wasting all my silver on heal potions
It’s beautiful when folks who grew up loving video games start making their own, spinning out fresh, oft-strange takes on touchstones from the past. That’s on my mind this week as I play Lunacid, a first-person dungeon actioner serving up a fresh mélange of grimy PlayStation aesthetics, Dark Souls, and most of all King’s Field. (It’s also kinda queer, and has amazing music.)
After choosing from nine classes (pick Forsaken if you want maximum suffering) you awaken in a dank pit of the damned. All you can do is start exploring the caverns ahead in hopes of someday finding an exit. It took me about an hour to start enjoying myself, but once everything began clicking I happily delved deeper for four hours straight.
With grody dithering and low-poly everything, Lunacid evinces a mastery of 32-bit PlayStation aesthetic. It looks like you remember King’s Field looking, while in reality FromSoft’s PSX dungeon crawls were far more primitive. Nowhere is the game’s modernization so apparent as in its controls. Whereas King’s Field barely managed “plodding” at its absolute peak, Lunacid always hums along at 60fps and, provided you level up your speed stat, lets you sprint around like a gazelle. This feels terrific on an Xbox pad.
Which stat should I level first?
Speed! Just trust me. IMO spend at least your first 10 levels just juicin’ that until movement starts feeling sweet. Shinobi starts with 15 speed, which makes it far and away the best class early on, for me. I uh, didn’t stop until 53…maybe I have a problem.
Perhaps Lunacid ’s ultimate cred as a child of King’s Field comes from its lack of concern over jank. Its simple combat isn’t too terribly evolved over the formula FromSoft first put forth in 1994. Everything’s less sluggish now, but ultimately you’re just a camera orbiting stiffly moving beasts that possess a mere handful of animations apiece. Bayonetta this is not.
Just as the mechanical spartaness of King’s Field ultimately works, so too does Lunacid’s. It doesn’t attempt to replicate complex “AAA” Dark Souls-level action, nor should it waste resources trying. Instead, it champions some of Dark Souls’ other strengths: mood, exploration, quirk, loneliness, and charisma. All qualities Dark Souls inherited from King’s Field, now in good keeping with a new generation of creators. — Alexandra Hall
Play it on: Switch
Current goal: Find out if the home stretch leaves me impressed
When I like a Mario game, I aim for 100 percent completion. I just love seeing what diabolical challenges Nintendo comes up with for the toughest levels and most difficult goals in its flagship platforming series, and throwing myself against them again and again until I finally emerge victorious results in a tremendously satisfying feeling of accomplishment. Thus far, however, Super Mario Bros. Wonder has done little to light my fire.
Sure, I love the expressive new art style, but rather than feeling like a bold new idea that reinvigorates 2D Mario platforming, the Wonder Seeds that change up each stage when you find them strike me as more of a grab-bag of small, shallow ideas. Hardly enough to make this the next great Mario game. Meanwhile, the level design has done little to get my pulse racing.
Still, I have a ways to go yet. (I got sidetracked by Alan Wake II.) It’s still totally possible that in the stages ahead, Nintendo will demonstrate the brilliance that’s characteristic of its best games. It’s totally possible that I’ll encounter stage design that makes me feel the same thrill I always felt upon getting to World 8 back in the original Super Mario Bros. It’s totally possible that Nintendo is saving its best Wonder Seed ideas for the late game, and I’ll see those change up levels in ways that strike me as truly inspired. I’m rooting for you, Wonder. Now show me what you’re made of. — Carolyn Petit
Play it on: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Switch, Windows (Steam Deck OK), macOS, Android, Meta Quest, Google Stadia
Current goal: Make it through night two
I’d like to believe that I always thought Five Nights at Freddy’s was stupid, even when I was a 15-year-old obsessed with Markiplier, but I was a 15-year-old obsessed with Markiplier, so probably not. In revisiting the lo-fi survival horror game after watching the new, boring, but financially successful movie adaptation, I was surprised to find that I don’t even think FNaF is stupid now.
It’s the slack-jawed embodiment of “simple, but effective.” All you need to do is survive a series of five increasingly dangerous nights, checking a network of security cameras, flicking on the lights in the hallways, and making sure your power never runs out. If it does, you’re more susceptible to the game’s homicidal Chuck E. Cheese animatronics. And, if you’re like me, you’ll scream so loud it hurts your throat.
Like FNaF’s simple gameplay, I have a simple goal in playing it this weekend; I’d like to safely make it through night two. I know there’s an easy way around it, but I’m trying to avoid jogging my memory by looking at guides—I want to savor the pure horror. — Ashley Bardhan
Play it on: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Windows (Steam Deck OK), Android, iOS
Current goal: Vibe out while I get some laundry done
As my ‘current goal’ eloquently states: I’m hella behind on laundry. To my credit, my apartment doesn’t make it easy to stay on top of such an essential daily task, seeing as how my six-unit building has one single washer and dryer that run on coins. So, should I succeed in puppy guarding the basement laundry room, I’ll be playing developer Demagog Studio’s atmospheric puzzle platformer Golf Club Wasteland to help pass the time.
Part of why I’ve decided to pick up Golf Club Wasteland this weekend is because of the neat post-apocalyptic radio station that plays while your little astronaut guy uses the world as his golf course. Not only does it inject the game with a comfy vibe, but it also doubles as a pseudo podcast you can listen to while you mulligan failed strokes. I happen to be caught up on my IRL podcasts so I’m slightly desperate for new sources ofof people talking to listen to while I complete menial tasks. Plus minigolf kinda rules. I promise I’m fun at parties. — Isaiah Colbert
Play it on: PS5, PS4, Switch, Windows (Steam Deck OK)
Current goal: Reach Eluria Tower
Star Ocean: The Second Story R came out November 2 and it’s everything I wanted and more. The remake of Tri-Ace’s original PlayStation sci-fi fantasy RPG is a perfect dose of late-’90s nostalgia and modern gaming comforts. I’m playing on Switch OLED where the 2.5HD art looks incredible and the timeless soundtrack has been lulling me to sleep each night. Star Ocean has always been in the shadow of Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, and Shin Megami Tensei/Persona, but Second Story, for all its faults (of which there are plenty) hangs with the best of them. Hopefully the remake will help more fans realize that.
And despite having beaten the game multiple times in the past, there’s still plenty I haven’t done. I’ve never, for example, recruited the magic-assault-rifle-toting Opera and her archaeologist boyfriend Ernest before. I always opted for Ashton, the sellsword haunted by twin serpents. He looks really cool and has tons of awesome ninja attacks, but he shatters like a glass cannon in boss battles. I’m pretty sure 90 percent of my time playing Second Story in the past was just spent trying to keep him from dying. Not this time. Next stop, Energy Nede. Then onto the Cave of Trials. — Ethan Gach
And those are our picks for this weekend. What games are you looking forward to playing?
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