Games I Played in February and March 2023

Games, Review

Over the past couple of months, I’ve continued to love playing games on my phone using my backbone controller. The controller works great. and there are so many fantastic games available through Gamepass Cloud Streaming — this, combined with the fact that using my PS5 means I have to sit in an office chair in another room, rather than curled up comfortably on my couch, means that I’ve been opting for playing games on my phone.

Anyway, here are all the games I played over the last two months.

Signalis start screen, showing some of the anime style art.

Signalis is a survival horror game developed by rose-engine. In the game, you play as Elster, a Replika technician of a small scouting starship. When the ship crashes on an unknown planet, Elster awakes from her cryochamber (at least that’s what I assume it is) and begins to look for her missing Gestalt partner, Ariane.

The majority of the game is played in a top-down, asymmetrical perspective as you explore the ship. Opening doors lead to dark rooms, where there lurks other members of the ship who have been hacked to turn violent. With very limited bullets and few medical kits available, traversing through the rooms is a tense experience. With the tight quarters of the levels often made it difficult to safely maneuver around and run away enemies rather than kill them. So, I often found myself poking into a room only to immediately flee back to the closest available safe room. 

A safe room in Signalis, where you can save the game and store or reacquire supplies.

The slightly pixelated visual art style is darkly beautiful, and the game unfolds the story primarily through messages and notes found in the various rooms of the ships. However, it does occasionally jump cinematics with stunning anime style art, which unfold in rapid dream-like sequences that hint at more than explicitly relate the story. 

The game occasionally moves from third person to first person perspective in moments that feel like a mixture between a memory or a dream. The sudden perspective shift is unsettling in the best of ways, helping to build the tension between wanting to progress through the game, while also being afraid of what might happen if I do. 

By the end of the game, I’m not sure that I had a handle on the story and what exactly was behind all these strange event. It’s an ending that feels slightly confounding and not at all clear — but in a way it was fine, I was okay with it, since uncertainty fits in with the themes of cosmic horror within the game.

However, I’ve recently learned something new about the game — apparently, when you complete Signalis for the first time, the game is not actually over. In order to continue the story, you have to start the game over again, which unveils more about this world and its characters.

The game doesn’t really provide a hint about having more content. Though, the idea of more information being discovered in a restart fits within the context of the game world and how the characters store and access their own memories.

In other words, I need to jump back into Signalis to see what else the game and story might have in store for me. I’m definitely fascinated by this bleak and terrifying world, and I would love to know more about the characters.

Vampire Survivors.

Vampire Survivors is a rogue-like bullet hell game created by solo-dev Luca Galante. Until I heard about this game, I didn’t even know “bullet hell” was a game genre — but so many people recommended this game I knew I needed to pick it up.

The game includes no story and features a classically pixelated art style. As the player, you’re dropped into a level with a basic weapon and no control over the rate of fire. All you control is your character as they move around the map — and you collect gems along the way that allow you the purchase power boosts that help you slay the growing number of increasingly difficult enemies. Ultimately, the goal is to survive as long as possible, but no matter how good you are, the game always knocks you flat at the 30 minute mark, when the grim reaper arrives to take the player out.

The game is delightfully addicting. It does require a bit of grinding to get past the 10 minute mark, but I found that after that I was able to progress fairly well. I’ve completed the rounds on the first level several times and have started to unlock further levels with new challenges. Since there are still many skills, characters, and levels to unlock, I’ll be playing this one off and on for a while to come.

Side Note: All of the games this month, I played on my phone through the Gamepass Cloud Streaming — but Vampire Survivors is the only one that really started to chug while playing. Despite it’s simplistic art style, the hundreds (if not thousands) of enemies on screen at once really slow things down. I’ve heard that one of the best ways to play the game is on the Steamdeck — something I’ll have to find out at a later date, since I currently can’t afford to buy one.

Fallout: New Vegas start screen.

I’ve played Fallout: New Vegas (from Obsidian Entertainment) many years ago, but never completed the game. I remember when I first played it, I found myself growing bored with the storyline — a bummer since Fallout is one of my favorite game series of all time.

Recently, however, I’ve watched a few folks playing the game and I started to long for the post-apocalyptic feels of a Fallout game, so I jumped back in.

And I’m so glad I did. The world of Fallout is sepia brown and bleak, but what I love about this series is being able to find those side characters who make the radiated landscape come alive. Some are generous and want to try to make the world better, some are greedy and selfish, and others are just struggling to stay alive.

Playing the New Vegas, I dove into the RPG elements and gameplay a little differently than in the past. Rather than trying to keep all my stats well-balanced, I leaned into intelligence and perception, making it easier for me to build up my hacking and lockpicking skills early on. This meant that I wouldn’t be as strong — so instead of hoarding anything and everything I could as I was exploring, I chose to be more picky about what I picked up and what I left behind. This

On a side note, thanks to my character’s high intelligence, I was able to get ED-E right away — and I love her so much. She is my friend, and I will never let her go. My only regret is that I can’t have both ED-E and Rex at the same time. I would gladly give up my human companion in order to travel with both of these little creatures at the same time.

Anyway, I’ve been having a blast with New Vegas, exploring the world at large. I love all the towns and communities and characters — as long as it is outside of the New Vegas strip itself, with its complex casinos and gambling and so on. Maybe it’s just that I’m not much of a gambler and these kinds of things don’t hold much interest for me in the real world either. I don’t know.

At this point, I’m deep enough into the world that I want to see how it plays out. So, I’m definitely going to keep playing — especially since I want to see what happens to all the communities and characters of whom I’ve grown so fond.

Cropped view of Outlanders.

Outlanders is a strategy community-building game from Outbox, which is available through Apple Arcade. The player acts as the leader of a small community, building homes, and establishing resources in order to meet certain goals. Since I last played the game, the developers have added a number of new levels and challenges. The game presents a relaxing challenge, with art, music, and sound effects that I find soothing.

My experience with table-top RPGs is limited, but recently I played through a session of Fiasco (from Bully Pulpit Games) with some game writing friends — and it was such a lovely and hilarious experience. In Fiasco, the players use dice to select character traits and the connections and conflicts between those characters. Then, the game story is co-created by each of the players (instead of being directed by a DM) — and as the title implies, things go wonderfully and terribly wrong.

I didn’t take many notes while playing, just letting myself immerse in the experience instead. Playing Fiasco with this fantastic group of writers really drove home how much the enjoyment of an RPG can be impacted by the players themselves. And this experience was so wonderful that I will definitely be looking forward to playing some more TTRPGs in the future.

If you would like to also know about the books, movies, and shows I enjoyed, the rest of my culture consumption will be coming on my main website soon.