These games. They’re, uh, they’re not good.
First, some transparency.
When Kyle and I review things for Pixel Die there are a few rules in place, but the main one is that we have to finish them in order to review them. For some games this can be ambiguous so it’s kind of a subjective thing, often requiring replays or specific conditions to be fulfilled. For others it’s clear, and if we can’t bring ourselves to get there for one reason or another then we just don’t review it.
So don’t consider these to be reviews. These are five games that, for reasons that will become clear, I can not properly review. That doesn’t mean I can’t talk about why. It’s time for me to hack up some bile, better out than in.
Godzilla: Tokyo Clash
How do you manage to make a kaiju game with plastic buildings that captures exactly none of the joy of being a big stompy monster wrecking a city? Tokyo Clash provides an unwanted answer to this unasked question: with stiff cardplay and an incredibly small city that gets demolished a quarter of the way through a game, then forces you to bumble in the ashes for the other 75%.
I am not exaggerating. One of the game end triggers is going out of your way to smash the itty bitty houses littered throughout the board, which are hard to see cardboard chits instead of buildings and give virtually no benefit compared to their larger plastic pals. As such everyone will rush to smash big targets, then each other, only to realize that the most exciting part of the game has already transpired and they’re not even halfway finished. Wheeee.
If the combat wasn’t so dull this could be excusable, but it’s awful. Defending yourself is entirely dependent on having cards that perform that exact function in hand, otherwise your deck gets pillaged for point cards. It’s unsatisfying to win and even more so to lose. It never feels like you’re playing as huge powerful monsters as much as the actual sweaty bumbling men in the suits, struggling to even stand much less do anything cool.
GTC is the only board game I’ve ever taken back to the store. No joke, Target said it was returnable so we did. It was missing a piece or two when we opened it so I feel no guilt whatsoever. Like Tokyo in the back half of a Toho film, this was a completely unmitigated disaster.
This is an early access game so it’s subject to change, but Golden Light was such a disappointment at its core that I can’t not include it here. You have no idea how painful that is to say because the presentation and storytelling is absolutely top notch, with bizarre imagery bombarding you from every angle and absolutely incredible sound design.
Unfortunately the gameplay itself is drudgery in roguelike form. Running is punished by everything on the floor immediately detecting you, fighting is actively discouraged as it makes your life harder long-term, stealth is a crap-shoot due to wonky hitboxes and iffy detection mechanics, and some runs are simply doomed due to horrendous rolls on items and their properties which are randomized on each play for reasons I will never understand.
Unlike the other games on this list though, I’m not giving up on GL. I’ll be checking in for its larger updates and giving it more hours upon release, whenever that is. I want to believe because I adore the meaty world this game creates. I just don’t enjoy spending time in it right now.
I love cube rail games. Short tactical brawls that are all about positioning, shared incentives with other players, and economic knife fighting. We’re seeing a lot of good ones get print runs lately, most notably Gulf Mobile & Ohio thanks to Rio Grande Games. Unfortunately not all of their selections were winners because they also dug around in Winsome’s bins and dredged up Southern Rails.
SR is exactly the kind of game you should never show a newbie to train games, lest you put them off forever. Most of the mercifully short duration is spent updating the tracks that display game info as opposed to actually playing. Unlike other cube rail games with shared incentives and parasitism the value of a share is at worst stagnant, so there’s no room to maneuver and tank a leading player. Were the game any longer it would be terrible, as it stands it’s merely bad.
A programming co-op so overcooked that it’s almost ruined. The core is a solid one – programming cooperatively without conversation – but it’s ruined by heaps upon heaps of ill-conceived rules, minigames, challenges, and hazards presumably intended to “game-ify” what could and should have been some nice light fun.
It starts off inoffensive enough, asking you to steer a roomba over dust bunnies and back onto its base. But soon after it introduces a flying robot with momentum that triggers every time certain cards are played along with mandatory quirks that yank it around, various types of incline that need to be figured into moves, and similar fussy obstacles that turn it from a game of quiet collaboration where failure is fun into borderline Sisyphean tasks where you spend more time processing the moves than actually making them. The game practically plays its players.
That doesn’t even touch on its various strange production and development problems. Standees that shatter the moment you take them out of the box. Insufficient tokens for specific scenarios. Wonky balancing between player counts. Miniatures intended to hold tokens that chew into the cardboard, marking pieces that are meant to be set up secretly. Plaid Hat went through a dark period during its Asmodee acquisition and QC’s issues feel like a direct result of that. I’m glad they’re free now.
The Textorcist: The Story of Ray Bibbia
Oh right. This. I’ll try to be brief because every second spent thinking about Textorcist raises my blood pressure.
Textorcist is a miserable game in almost every regard, the kind of thing that takes an entertaining elevator pitch and fails so badly in the execution that it makes you wonder how you even fell for the pitch in the first place. Combining bullet hell dodges that force you to remove your hands from home row with typing-based combat and QTEs simply, fundamentally, emphatically, does not work. Hunt and peck is no way for a civilized human to type, and yet that’s what’s required here to play even remotely proficiently. Add a heaping pile of 2000s Newgrounds-level writing and ceaseless grating EDM for a soundtrack, and you have a game so consistently unpleasant to play that I can’t even give it an ironic recommendation for bad game aficionados. And as a final note, how do you release a game about typing with so many dialog typos?
This is the least fun I’ve had with a functional video game this year. Doing literally nothing and being left alone with my thoughts would have been more enjoyable. I hate everything about Textorcist and wish I never played it, but I will never get that time back no matter how hard I try. Please spare yourselves the same.