Category Archives: One-Shots

One-off articles about games, cultural phenomena, anime and anything else that isn’t getting the Cover Game treatment.

My Big Sister: Blood-Red Pixels

I’m not sure exactly when a lo-fi pixel art aesthetic came to be associated with horror games, but I’ve always rather liked the juxtaposition between supposedly “primitive” visuals and the primal emotion that is fear.

We can probably trace the whole thing back to classic NES survival horror RPG Sweet Home, but it seems to have become particularly popular with the indie sphere in recent years, with titles such as Lone Survivor, Home and various rereleases of Corpse Party all fully embracing the “retro horror” aesthetic.

My Big Sister, a pixel art horror adventure for all the current major platforms, follows this mould, but does a few interesting things all of its own. So let’s take a step into the darkness and see what’s going on!

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Horizon Chase Turbo: Top Gear Returns

Many people assumed that the advent of the true 3D polygonal racer spelled the death of the traditional, “vanishing point” racer.

After all, why would you ever want to play a technologically limited game where you simply slide from side to side on a track without actually turning when you can spin your car around, go the wrong way and attempt to cause as many head-on collisions as possible? Or race in “true 3D” too, I suppose.

Well… you know… because it’s fun. And thankfully a number of developers in recent years have remembered that. And so we’ve ended up with loving homages to the past such as the Kickstarter-funded Slipstreamand the subject of today’s article: Horizon Chase Turbo. Let’s take a look.

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Fairune 2: It’s Exactly What It Looks Like

After the first Fairune successfully proved that you can make something that looks convincingly like an action RPG into a two-hour puzzle adventure, the natural next step for creator Yuumi “Skipmore” Kimura was to go bigger.

With that in mind, Fairune 2 is a considerably expanded affair over its predecessor, but maintains the same compelling, enjoyable and oddly relaxing blend of light action RPG elements, item-based puzzle solving and mind-bending navigation brainteasers.

If you’re coming straight from the first one, it might not subvert quite as many expectations as that one did — in that it’s a lot more of “the same” — but it is similarly delightful, and a pleasure to explore. Let’s take a closer look.

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Saboteur II: Avenging Angel – Dropping the “J”

1985’s Saboteur! is a well-regarded title in the ZX Spectrum’s considerable library of games — and, as we’ve seen, it still holds up surprisingly well today.

Two years later, creator Clive Townsend brought us a full-on sequel that was an extremely noteworthy title for a number of reasons — and, just like the original Saboteur!, this can now be played in enhanced form on modern systems.

So grab your shuriken and hop on your hang-glider — we’re going in.

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Fairune: It’s Not What It Looks Like

Fairune is a game that, at first glance, could be mistaken for an homage to the original The Legend of Zelda, the early Ys games or perhaps even Hydlide if you’re a real hipster.

It’s a top-down open-world game presented in chunky pixel art, in which you defeat enemies by simply running into them. You collect items which allow you to access new areas or provide you with new abilities, and your ultimate aim is to explore the whole world thoroughly until you locate three plot-critical doohickeys, at which point you descend into the final dungeon, rescue the three equally plot-critical fairies, kick the snot out of the Big Bad and then relax, safe in the knowledge of a Job Well Done.

However, it does just a few things a little bit differently to what you might expect from that description. And those little differences are enough to make it a unique experience well worth your time.

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Saboteur!: Full Spectrum Ninja

The 8-bit home console era is, at this point, pretty well documented; how many times over the years have we seen an article or video purporting to tell “the story of Super Mario Bros. 3” for the umpteenth time?

But what about the 8-bit microcomputer era? For one reason or another, this has always remained much more niche-interest, with far less in the way of online historical explorations and even less in the way of reimaginings, remakes and rereleases.

Here’s Saboteur!, a Nintendo Switch and Windows PC rework of a ZX Spectrum game from 1985 — put together by the original author, no less — and a title I’ve found myself surprisingly wrapped up in since downloading it from the eShop for 89p a couple of weeks ago!

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Summer Daze at Hero-U: Corey Cole Talks Kickstarter, Characters as Puzzles and More

While the idea of the “gaming auteur” is a relatively recent concept thanks to modern creators such as Hideo Kojima, Taro Yoko and Goichi Suda, those of you who have been gaming for as long as I have will doubtless be able to name some “big names” from much earlier in the evolution of the medium.

Many of these names were associated with Sierra, a company established at the very dawn of computer gaming history in 1979 that became primarily known for its adventure games — though this was far from the only type of software they put out.

One of Sierra’s most beloved franchises from “back in the day”, was Quest for Glory, a series of five games that offered an engaging blend of point-and-click adventuring, role-playing game mechanics and a pun-tastic sense of humour. These were the creation of Lori Ann and Corey Cole, a married couple who, between them, displayed considerable flair for both game design and entertaining writing.

In 2018, the Coles brought us Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption, a long-awaited spiritual successor to Quest for Glory that featured the pair’s iconic blend of good humour and solid design. Now, in the year of Quest for Glory’s 30th anniversary, development has begun on a new Hero-U title, so I took some time to chat with Corey about its influences, what the pair learned from the previous game, and how we can expect to be enjoying our Summer Daze at Hero-U.

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