Adrift in space, a ship faces a terrifying crisis: Some of its members are no longer human, and plan to take over the vessel to offer it to an otherworldly being known only as the Gnos. To succeed, these beings–the Gnosia–must kill the other crew members, one by one, and deceive the others into thinking that innocent crew are the enemy. Trapped in a terrifying time loop that only you and another crew member are aware of, you must protect the ship from the threat of the Gnosia–or, as fate might dictate, eagerly destroy everything for your sinister overlord.
If you’re thinking that this concept sounds a lot like a certain multiplayer game that’s become extremely popular over the last year, you’re not wrong–the similarities in concept between Gnosia and Among Us are undeniable. But Gnosia, which released a few years back on the PS Vita and only recently came to Switch in English, takes that concept and puts a very different spin on it. By utilizing a visual novel-like presentation, RPG-like mechanics, a great cast of characters, and a multi-layered story, Gnosia presents you with a very different take on the social deduction game–one that, despite some stumbles, succeeds quite admirably.
When you begin Gnosia, you meet Setsu, an unassuming green-haired crewmember who briefs you on what’s going on. Besides yourself, Setsu is the only other person on board who is fully aware of what’s happening: that everyone on the ship is trapped in a horrifying time loop where one or more of the crew–including you–have been infected by the Gnosia. Unfortunately, Gnosia infection can’t be determined visually, so each day, the crew votes on someone to send to cold sleep until all Gnosia are eliminated. With each loop, things change dramatically: the crew members on board, the amount of Gnosia, and what roles everyone plays. And sometimes, completely unexpected things happen beyond the control of even the humans or the Gnosia. With Setsu as your aide–and sometimes Gnosia-infected enemy–you must figure out a way to escape from this eternal hell by looping as many times as it takes to solve the mystery.
The Bravely series has always excelled at evoking the feeling of playing classic Final Fantasy-style RPGs, while sanding off some of the rough edges that may make those classic games less approachable to modern audiences. Bravely Default II, confusingly enough the third game in the franchise, maintains much of its predecessors’ retro charm–but it actually removes some of the quality-of-life features that made the first two such breezy nostalgic throwbacks. Instead of simply reminding you of the satisfaction of playing a classic RPG, Bravely Default II demands that you relive the entire experience, faults and all.
For the uninitiated, Bravely Default gets its namesake from its innovative risk-reward combat system. Along with your typical health and magic meters, you have Brave Points (BP). And rather than a standard Defend command, you can choose to Default, which both defends and banks BP for later use. You can spend up to four actions using Brave command, but if you don’t have enough BP banked you go into debt and skip future turns undefended.
This has always been key to Bravely Default’s battle system, and it remains essentially untouched here. The approach is a little less novel the third time around, but it still creates a unique wrinkle of strategic RPG battle planning. Do you go into debt to unleash a flurry of attacks or do some emergency healing? Do you bank first and take the damage for a few turns? Bravely veterans will fall right back into the habit, but nothing about it feels too complex that it should give newcomers trouble. And newcomers will be able to jump in here because, like Final Fantasy, Bravely Default II’s story is disconnected from any continuity. Four strangers come together as the selfless Heroes of Light to stave off certain doom–you know the drill.
When you die in 30XX, thus bringing your run to a premature and perhaps permanent end, there’s a good chance you will receive a message from the Bureau of Encouragement. In a roguelike platformer where death can feel like a crushing setback or at best wasted time, you would be forgiven for expecting to find comfort in such a message. A consoling pat on the back, some inspiring words, or at least a sliver of hope. You would be wrong. “Ooooh! So close…” says the Bureau of Encouragement. “Just kidding. That was terrible!”
I received a lot of messages from the Bureau of Encouragement because I died a lot in 30XX. But the Bureau was not the only regulatory agency to contact me in the aftermath of my demise. The Failure Board and the Department of Aggravation also got in touch to register their contempt at my performance. “Remember, you can stop whenever you have given up hope,” they laughed.
Despite their derision, I pressed on. Much like the classic action platformers from which it draws heavy inspiration, 30XX is a game in which defeat is never an ending but rather an opportunity to start over and try again. A roguelike structure is a smart complement to this life-death cycle and positions 30XX–even in its Early Access state–as an accomplished title, worthy of comparison to its 8- and 16-bit forerunners.
Capcom’s Ghost ‘n Goblins franchise has a very specific reputation. Whether you played the Arcade or NES version of Ghosts ‘n Goblins, Ghouls ‘n Ghosts on the Genesis, or Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts on the SNES, working through these games felt like pushing a boulder up a mountain or pulling teeth. A little over 35 years later, Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection remixes and revives those games into a platformer that looks new but, perhaps unsurprisingly, embodies that same boulder-pushing, teeth-pulling gameplay. Its modern flourishes soften the blow a bit from time to time, but Resurrection is still defined by punishing, borderline cruel tactics that game designers have long-since outgrown.
Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection is a new game, but it functionally retells the Ghosts ‘n Goblins story. The basic mechanical structure of the series remains intact, too: You run and jump from left to right, throwing javelins, knives, flaming potions, and other weapons at a seemingly endless onslaught of zombies, scythe-wielding skeletons, and winged demons. Famously, you begin the level clad in armor but lose some of it every time you take a hit until you’re inevitably hopping around in heart-adorned boxers.
Resurrection derives large chunks–level themes, sequences, and bosses–from previous games, most notably Ghouls ‘n Ghosts. Some of the series’ distinctive bosses and sequences are reimagined in Resurrection’s pencil-style art, which smartly breathes a lot more color and whimsy into a series that’s always felt more cheeky than spooky. Not every reference to the old games is pulled literally from an older game; some, like the now-towering gray cyclops from Ghosts ‘n Goblins, are more liberal reinterpretations. Even the enemies and sequences you can trace back to a specific point in a previous game are not identical to their predecessors, and it doesn’t feel like replaying a portion of another game, but it’s a potent dose of nostalgia.
It’s easy to identify many of Blue Fire’s potential inspirations. Its platforming, combat, and overall structure harken back to the sprawling maps and challenges of Hollow Knight, its handful of dungeons could pass for shorter versions of those in most Legend of Zelda titles, and its progression mixes many elements synonymous with From Software’s Souls series. But developer ROBI Studios struggles to bring all of these elements together in a cohesive fashion, and the addition of the studio’s own ideas to the mix weighs down Blue Fire’s otherwise exceptional platforming.
Blue Fire’s most prominent focus is its platforming, which permeates every action you take across its 12-hour adventure. You start with just a jump and a dash, and Blue Fire immediately makes great use of these limited mechanics by giving you a satisfying amount of control over your movements. The length of each jump or dash is tied to the length of a respective button press, which means you can easily cancel either action in mid-air and have greater control over your aerial movements. This in and of itself isn’t unique to Blue Fire, but the fine-tuned feel of movement makes leaping around each varied biome in its world a treat.
These basic movements are coupled with a growing repertoire of moves that you acquire as you progress, including movement speed boosts, wall-running, and double jumps. Blue Fire introduces these new mechanics gracefully; you have plenty of time to get to grips with one before being tasked to learn another. Eventually, stringing them all together feels like you’re conducting an elegant ballet in mid-air, accurately timing and weighing each button press with care to make sure you’re making pin-point jumps around areas designed to challenge these skills.