PowerWash Simulator

From the outside, this game was a laugh when it came out last year. Are people seriously playing a power washing simulator? It’s popularity was in no small part due to it dropping on Xbox GamePass. The head scratcher wasn’t necessarily that people were playing it, but that they were saying it was great.

PowerWash Simulator is indeed just that, a cleaning simulator. Why not? Every simulator feels as though it has covered the rudimentary going ons of life. Simulators are popular and few stand out at the top like Farming Simulator and Train Simulator World. You approach every map with the goal to clean. Things are dirty like they’ve been sitting at the bottom of a lake. Starting with the simple power washer you can approach the dirt however you like from one side to the other or start in the middle. You can choose between different power wash models that offer stronger power, and attachments that allow for you to get into those hard to reach high spots.

One of the high points of the game is how beautiful looking it is. When you wash an area you don’t always know what exactly the colours are beneath the dirt, It wasn’t until the Playground level that I went from liking the game to loving it. In this level you when you wash the foam ground you get to see the colours come forth as if the playground was brand new again. Like an archaeologist discovering the past I was taping into my nostalgia and remembering playing on playgrounds similar to those. One of the down points is also in the game’s beauty because if you miss any specks of dirt it’s hard to complete some sections when it all looks clean to you.

This game has the most on point “ding” in gaming. Every time you complete one piece in a map to one hundred percent you are met with a “ding” chime similarly to the sound when you get a playstation trophy. Each time it gives you a slight endorphin rush for the next one, so you may think you are ready to call it quits for the session and instead find yourself finishing the map instead. Some of the bigger levels do feel daunting as they could take hours to finish, but I would suggest to split those up into smaller sessions because you do feel a bit of fatigue on the levels that span hours.

The Tomb Raider DLC is great. You get to go over Lara Croft’s Manor, her obstacle course, the Manor’s Maze, and finally the Manor’s Treasure Room. As you clean these maps you get messages from Lara’s butler Winston and Lara herself, making it feel a bit more engaging with the world. I did notice after every five minutes or so on these maps there would be a brief pause before the game continues playing again. Perhaps something that will be ironed out in the next update, or simply an isolated incident only I’m encountering. The quality of the Tomb Raider DLC is much better than I expected and seeing what’s to come with the Final Fantasy 7 DLC has me excited. I would love to see more of these post Final Fantasy 7, and I’m more than willing to purchase them because I don’t know how they could be just giving this content away for free.

This is a game I’ve spent the last couple of weeks engaging with as a relaxing game between other games. There is something to PowerWash Simulator that is hard to identify as fun, and maybe it’s not fun as much as it is a form of relaxation. What is the difference to something like this as there is to piecing together a jigsaw puzzle? PowerWash Simulator is a game to unwind with after a stressful day. I love that this game exists and will continue to be enamoured with it as they continue to support the game with further DLC. Give PowerWash Simulator a shot. Play it with some music, a podcast, or perhaps an audiobook. This is the universal simulator for everybody and with simple controls it’s made for everybody.

Robert Ring

Available on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox X/S, Nintendo Switch, and PC.

Labyrinth of Galleria: The Moon Society

Dungeon-crawling RPG’s are becoming an ideal genre to relax to. It’s a genre that is slipping into the mainstream, just like the soulsborne genre before that. There’s something special to furthering the depths of a dungeon not knowing what’s coming and slowly exploring every inch of the map. Some are more action orientated like Hades, while games like Slay the Spire require intellect. Most use randomised elements that make every match feel different, although you never get a true sense of accomplishment like you do when conquering a level completely. Labyrinth of Galleria: The Moon Society lets you learn the entire map over subsequent delves into the dungeons with so many layers combined in a unique and gratifying story.

The story begins with Eureka, a young noble woman who travels to Galleria Mansion after finding a job posting. After the witch, Madame Marta takes the chance on Eureka she gives her the job as her assistant. The two both answer to the Count of the manor who is seeking rare artefacts hidden underneath the grounds. Madame Marta sends Eureka along with her lantern Fantie to explore the labyrinth underneath the manor left behind by a previous owner years ago. She’s not sure how far it goes, but after finding the catalogue of Curios d’art the Count of the manor sends them out to collect them all. Every time Eureka hits an obstacle stopping her progress Madame Marta will find a solution for her to further her exploration efforts. Between each delve you meet new characters that become allies and a story that is seemingly much darker than the cheery disposition each character is conveying. In the later half of the game things are upturned in an unexpected and shocking way that will keep you hooked.

Labyrinth of Galleria: The Moon Society has a lot of content and game mechanics that are revealed with each map allowing you to go deeper into the labyrinth. The labyrinth is a massive puzzle that you must uncover step by step as the map is completely blank. In the beginning the path you carve out is very linear, and then you learn the spell Wall Break which lets you break down walls. After learning this skill your fundamental thinking of how to play this game changes. You find key items behind walls that are only accessible by breaking them down. Eventually you will have more obstacles that will require new skills and open up new ways to explore. From jumping over big crevices, to being able to hold your breath for longer under water. In the labyrinth you fight by using puppet soldiers. These puppets are given souls to come to life and you can customise their name and stats. You then allocate them to covens which allow for special move-sets and bonuses. You start off with a maximum of five puppets on you, until you unlock more covens allowing for you to hold up to forty.

The systems in combat can be overwhelming to learn, and I’ll say I’m still learning things I didn’t know. The more understanding of the combat you have the more you appreciate every battle, especially ones during boss battles that can wipe you out quickly if you are not well prepared. That leads to the difficulty, the game is not a cake walk or a sprint. You need to take your time and level yourself up sometimes before continuing. Each area has a helpful guide of what level you should be before taking it on. Even if you choose to go to an easier world, being the easier difficulty you still need to be careful of being overwhelmed by the difficulty spikes.

The art style is beautiful and juxtaposes the cutesy cutscenes with the gritty dangers of the labyrinth gameplay spectacularly. The character animation is great and something that is always a trademark of NIS games, as well as their deep RPG systems that let you level up your stats to intense heights. Considering the absurd amount of puppets you can have at your disposal it would have been ideal to have more choices in character portraits, as you will have multiple of the same character and can only change their portrait colour. The music is fittingly reminiscent of Disgaea games and goes well with the darker tone the game possess.

The game is being marketed as having fifty hours of gameplay, however I would say if you do finish it that quickly you are very skilled and have left a lot of areas unturned. There is a ton of content in this game that could have you even double the marketed time. The game was originally released in Japan over two years ago and in that time they have given the game a full English voice cast. The voice over is very well done and brings life to the characters. It would be great to see these localisation efforts have a quicker turn around time in the west.

Overall, Labyrinth of Galleria: The Moon Society has a wonderful story with the deepest DRPG systems I’ve encountered. There is strong competition in gaming this year and this game may not find itself in the hands of everyone, but will be a surprise hit for gamers that do take the plunge. Hopefully the series continues and acts like a sister series to NIS’s mainstream hit Disgaea. This game is great up on the big screen, and feels at home on the handheld. I played much of it on the Backbone through remote play and hours would fly by laying on the sofa. Of all the NIS games I’ve played this is one of my favourites, and one of the best. May it leave its hooks in you too.

Robert Ring

Review copy provided by NIS America.

Available from February 14th on PS5, PS4, Nintendo Switch, and PC.

Fashion Police Squad

In all the years I’ve played Wolfenstein 3D, and Doom I never considered that this would be a game. Sure those games were reskinned by modders, and one was sold as Super 3D Noah’s Ark, which was officially licensed by id Software too. Fashion Police Squad in some ways is a successor to games like id Software’s original first person shooters. It’s a blast that feels like it’s from the past.

Fashion Police Squad is a retro first person shooter comedy. You play as Sergeant Des and you target crimes against fashion. Your targets range from grey dull suits, to socks with sandals, and even baggy jeans. To deal with these targets you use your arsenal of weapons dependent on the crime like shooting colour at dull suits, to shooting gnomes at socks with sandals, and using a whip on baggy jeans. Weapons will only work against the right crime, so you will be switching on the fly. A lot of the comedy is in the form of corny dad jokes. It’s humorous at the end of a firefight when each enemy has turned fashionable and there are words above them like “SEXY”. There are thirteen missions and each will take around fifteen to twenty minutes.

The first level is hilarious as you jump into a fresh feeling retro game with a comedy gimmick. This goes away quickly for the next few missions as the level design feels bland and repetitive. The early missions look the same, and you are just learning new enemy types. These missions act like a lengthy tutorial. Once you get halfway through the game every level is well designed and looks dramatically different from the rest, the story grabs you and you feel compelled to do the next mission. The second half of the game is so much fun it’s as if they had gone back to the first level and padded the beginning to extend the playtime. The bosses are innovative and spoof other popular games. The whip is the saving grace for this game feeling different and exciting. You use the whip as a grapple hook and traverse sections like that. This could be the difficulty spike that makes it harder for some players, but there are difficulty settings you can change to lower it.

There is nothing groundbreaking about Fashion Police Squad. I liked it. The best thing about the game is how much it feels like an old school first person shooter. If you like the retro pixel art aesthetic from the game and FPS’s you should like this game. The main annoyance of the game comes to certain sections where you are forced to swap your weapons constantly to defeat waves of enemies. By the end of the game I would be interested to see the developers make a sequel that plays with the following generation of game technology. Prices are all over the place with games these days on the PlayStation Network, however this one gets it’s price point right.

Available now on PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and PC.

Robert Ring

A Space for the Unbound

This is an experience that will stay with you.

A Space for the Unbound is an adventure game with an incredible narrative. This game is heart warming and heart wrenching. The story delves deep into a fantastical world with creatures that feel like they come from the mind of Guillermo del Toro. Like a Guillermo del Toro story this game takes you through the wringer of grief, and the lengths one will go to in avoiding the feelings associated with it. From gripping twists and turns you become enthralled with the characters, the townspeople and the small town.

The heart of this story surrounds Atma, and Raya, two high school sweethearts as they question their futures when asked to write them down for school. Instead of taking it seriously they chose to make a bucket list of simple things to do first. Before they can really get into the bucket list, they are met with supernatural powers. Atma finds he can “space dive” into peoples minds, much like Inception, where Atma can fix the mentality of a character by helping their inner thoughts find their peace of mind. Raya’s power is much more powerful and can alter the state of reality. They both see the consequences of their powers, although Raya finds herself easily abusing her powers. It becomes a race against time as they must use their powers to stop the supernatural power that is threatening the world. To save the world they will need to help the townspeople, and in turn themselves.

The narrative will stay with you and still there is so much to love about this game. The townspeople all enrich the story, and meeting them through the different time periods you experience lets you see each charter’s growth. The pixel art in this game shines, there is so much character and personality given in such a simple art style. I love the music, it’s another example of this game going the extra mile. All of these things serve to make this game an instant classic, one that won’t be dated even if you are playing it thirty years from now.

In the first couple of chapters the game felt like an easy going adventure game, no real challenge or head scratchers. Well, that changed during the second half of the game where there are a couple of puzzles that require some thinking. The same goes with the combat. The combat is rhythm based inputs that are simple at first, but ramp up substantially. This was notably hard when trying to complete a bucket list item. For the most part I respect the increase in difficulty, it felt like the game was always able to keep you on your toes, and it never felt tiring. This game would have been amazing even without the combat, and collectables.. now I feel like it would be great to see in more adventure titles. Unlike most adventure games this is not a bite sized game it is rather lengthy, somewhere around ten to twenty hours to completion.

Every year there is a film I typically champion for the year that people should see, one that I adore and want more people to experience. A Space for the Unbound is that game I will be talking about for the rest of the year for audiences that appreciate a game like this. This game would make for an incredible twelve episode Anime or similar show. Overall, this is a game that should not be missed.

Robert Ring

Available now on PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and PC.

A Splash of 2023 Titles to Look Forward to

2022 was a year of casual gaming for me. I didn’t play many of the big titles of 2022. I just didn’t have the bandwidth between fatherhood, work, and the economic stresses we’re all feeling. With the minimum amount of games I did play however, it’s hard to think that any game could beat Return to Monkey Island for 2022.

This year we will be receiving not one, but two new Yakuza games. First off is Like a Dragon: Ishin! Set in 1860s Japan at the end of the Samurai era. This title is a remake although the original was never released worldwide so it will be a fresh title to many of us. The original was well received. Looking at how well they remade Yakuza and Yakuza 2, it’s sure to be a success. Like a Dragon: Ishin! is slated for release on February 21st for Playstation, Xbox, and PC. The second Yakuza game is Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name, and will be released later on in the year. It is said to be a smaller experience than the lengthy Yakuza games we are used to so I would imagine around the length of Yakuza 6. The game takes place after the events of Yakuza 6 and you will once again be able to control Kazuma Kiryu. The story takes place between Yakuza 6 and upcoming 2024’s Yakuza 8. No set in stone date for this title yet, though you can look forward to it on Playstation, Xbox, and PC.

When the Resident Evil series remade Resident Evil 2 to critical acclaim, I was excited for the eventual Resident Evil 4 remake. It felt like it was going to be a long way off.. and now we can count the days. My excitement for this title is met with a bit of hesitation, not for the quality, instead for my nerves. I didn’t finish Resident Evil 2, or Resident Evil 7 because it filled me with fear. Resident Evil 8 was the sweet spot for me. Regardless, Resident Evil 4 is one of my favourite games of all time so I will push through the tension and tears for this stunning looking game. It’ll be interesting to see if it will replace the existing Resident Evil 4 for those of us that adore it. You can look forward to Resident Evil 4 (2023) on the 24th of March for Playstation, Xbox, and PC.

Remember when Telltale Games shutdown. The management of that company seemed to have brought on the downfall of the studio. The amazing stories the team were working on were stuck on a problematic engine that would be filled with bugs. The games needed to be stable at least, not streamlined with promises of further games in the pipeline. It sounds like it ended up a mess. Luckily a group of creatives from that defunct studio pulled together to create Dramatic Labs and with it their first game, Star Trek: Resurgence. I love the Star Trek IP so I hope the game is great and the storytelling is exceptional. This could be the make or break for this new studio, so I have faith in them with this project. We shall find out come April on Playstation, Xbox, and PC.

Judas might be the most anticipated game of them all for next year. From the mind of Ken Levine we have a new.. well it’s a Bioshock game isn’t it? No, it does look like one. We may have the offical Bioshock sequel announced sometime this year and have it similarly competing, as we saw with Callisto Protocol and Dead Space remake. I am hyped for this. Narrative is what I’m coming to a Ken Levine game for, and it looks to bringing fantastic gameplay too. I’m surprised how much of a glimpse we saw. I thought we would almost get a splash screen with just the title, so it is likely going to come out sometime this year. We can look forward to seeing this game come to Playstation, Xbox, and PC.

There has been a relentless amount of Pinocchio adaptations recently. Guillermo del Toro’s recent Netflix adaptation is flawless and the first in many years to substantially change the source material.. that is until I saw Lies of P. The title alone is perfect, it’s subtle and then once understood makes complete sense. The atmosphere alone in this game is striking, with environments I’m eager to explore. There’s a lot of mystery I’m excited to uncover and it may be the first souls-like I finish if it succeeds to live up to the hype. Lies of P will be coming to Playstation, Xbox, and PC sometime this year.

Those are just some of the titles I’m excited to play this year along with many more.

Are any of these games on your most anticipated list?

Robert Ring